The towpath of the Canal du Midi runs 240km from Toulouse in the Haute Gargonne to Sète on the Mediterranean coast. It is a popular cycle route, being flat, mainly off road and very picturesque in places.
Eight of us cycled the route in late August - early September2010. Well, I say eight of us cycled the route, but it was a little more complicated than that because we also had a car and trailer. Six of us had travelled from UK to Montgey where Lesley and Allan live, and from where they run their much recommended watercolour holidays - tarnincolour.com
Allan, Lesley, Jayne, Paul, Libby and Annie cycled from Toulouse to Chemin de l'Obélisque. Mark and I drove the car to Chemin de l'Obélisque and cycled back to meet the others half way. We hadn’t been able to find anywhere suitable for all eight of us to stay that night, so we drove back to Montgey at the end of the day.
Libby and Paul, having left Toulouse.
My 27-year old Holdsworth touring frame had by now been re-painted and fitted out with more up-to-date components.
With 35mm tyres and wide-range gearing it was ideal both for the canal towpath and the hill climbing on days 2 and 3.
The plane trees provide plenty of shade along much of the route, making for a very pleasant ride.
Tragically, the plane trees along the length of the canal have succumbed to a fungal infection and all 42,000 will be cut down over the next 20 years. We feel so privileged to have seen them before the felling commenced.
Mark and I cycled from Montgey across the edge of the Black Mountains.
On the third day, Mark and I rode a 47 mile loop up into the mountains and over the Col de Salette at 886m. The early part of the ride was a long climb and the day finished in baking heat, riding past endless vineyards in the Minervois region. Shortly after we returned home, I heard a news report about a whole vineyard in Minervois being harvested by thieves during a single night!
Meanwhile, the six canalists rode from Carcassonne to Homps, where we all met up and stayed overnight at Le Jardin D'Homps.
Jayney going well on day 3 - 1st September - our wedding anniversary - ooohps... I was cycling in the mountains with Mark!
Day 4 saw Allan, Lesley, Paul, Libby, Annie and Jayne cycling from Homps to Béziers. Mark and I drove to Béziers, where we had to stop the car and trailer in a busy one-way street, unhook the huge trailer and push it up hill through a narrow opening into the car park of the Hotel Impérator.
We then cycled back along the towpath to meet up with the others.
Allan sketched each day. I couldn’t believe how quickly he could draw, and how expertly, too.
Have a look at Allan’s work from the cycling holiday, which can be found here and some later watercolour versions here.
Same procedure on the final day: Mark and I drove from Béziers to Sète and cycled back to meet the others.
Each day seemed to be hotter than the last, and the long stretch along the beach on the last day did not offer the shade that the plane trees had provided on previous days.
This was a really enjoyable and memorable holiday. Many thanks to Lesley and Allan for their hospitality, to Paul for doing all the driving to and from the UK, and to Mark for waiting for me at the top of those big hills!
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