Week 33: Canal du Midi, France to Toulouse

We decided that our tour of France, this time would involved heading northwest from the Mediterranean to Toulouse via the Canal du Midi – or as much as we could with a 7.4 metre long (8 metres with the bikes), 3.1 metre high (with the Satellite dome) 3850 Kilogramme Motorhome!

We set off from our campsite at St-Jean-Pra-des-Cants and headed to Marseillan Plage, where the Canal du Midi enters the Etang du Thau, technically the end of the route but we’re heading back along it to Toulouse. From here we headed to our campsite in Colombiers, via Agde and Beziers.

The town of Colombiers, is right on the Canal and the campsite about a five minute walk. After a relaxing evening we decided the following morning we would cycle along the canal to Beziers via les neuf ecluses de Fonseranes (the nine locks of Fonseranes). These locks allow the canal to rise 21.5 metres over a distance of 300 metres, and having travelled through Neptune’s Staircase at Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal, we felt we should visit.

The weather wasn’t favourable again today, the wind was so strong, but we managed to stay on the cycle path and arrived at the Locks.

From here we followed the new (nineteenth century) section of the canal to the Basin at Beziers, having crossed the Aquaduct. Next we headed up to the old town, passing the statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the Chief Engineer of the Canal, then cycled up to the cathedral, and the Palais de Justice. We found the coloured letters of Beziers and a Promenade named after one of the Priests who was martyred in an Islamic terrorist attack in 2016, feeling a little somber, we headed back through the old town over the old bridge (Pont Vieux) and negotiated the one way system, with normal traffic, back to the Locks and lunch.

We cycled back to Colombiers and beyond to the Malpas Tunnel, before returning to the town and having a mooch around. This is one place we will add to the list to return to.

Wednesday morning, having cycled into town for bread, we headed off following the route of the canal up to Carcassonne and Castelnaudary, before arriving at our stop for the night at Le Lac de La Thésauque.

On the way, we met a total of seven Convoi Exceptionnels having had to pull up on someone’s driveway, as directed by the outriders, and subsequently reverse back onto the busy road, to allow three of them to pass! The remaining four we passed in larger towns of parked up in laybys! We passed the Obelisque de Riquet and followed the canal as close as we could.

After spending the night at Le Lac de la Thésauque , where we had to change pitches as the ground was so soft, we didn’t want to have to require a tow out (again), we set off towards Toulouse. We found a lovely little campsite, Camping les Violettes in Deyme, just off the canal and after lunch, we sorted out the bikes and headed off along the canal towards Toulouse, we didn’t think that we would reach it as it looked too far away on the map, then just as the rain started, we were in the city – hiding under a bridge waiting for the rain to pass.

Once it passed we had a little cycle, then headed back to Nortia, before the rain fell again. We had limited battery power left too, so they needed to go on charge and we would cycle in another day.

Friday, batteries charged we headed off south down the canal, but it wasn’t as interesting as the ride north, so we decided to head back, Just as we decided that we saw a creature in the canal, we assumed it was an otter and watched it swim to the river bank. We carried on to the next lock, before turning around and on the return, the creature was on the canal bank, a beaver! A quick stop and sorting out the phone and we were able to take some photos of it in the water. We’d not (to our knowledge) seen a beaver in the wild before!

Saturday, we have decided to head to another campsite north of the city. The campsite in Deyme, was lovely and so well placed – it is an ideal stop over if you’re heading south as just off the main autoroute to the Med, Spain and Andorra or just if you’re passing. We knew there was a car wash further up the road too, with a gantry, which would allow us to clean the roof – something we haven’t yet been able to do and knew we really should – we have a solar panel and satellite dome on the roof, both benefit from being kept clean! An hour later and the lovely Nortia was back to white!

We carried on the the campsite we’d chosen, Camping le Rupe, just outside the city and were lucky to have our lunch outside in the sunshine, after a busy morning, we chose to relax in the sun and plan our stay. We had decided we would go and see Concorde! Toulouse is the capital of French Aviation and the home of Airbus. A short cycle ride away from the campsite is the Aeroscopia Museum.

Sunday morning and chores completed and a quick lunch we set off to the Museum. It is located in the suburb of Blagny, next to the main Toulouse-Blagny Airport and as you cross over the Autoroute there is one of the two Concordes they have in the Museum. We parked our bikes, put the batteries and non-essential bits in the lockers provided and headed into the Museum. Along with the Concordes, there are also an Airbus A300B, an Airbus Super Guppy (used to transport the space shuttle landing stages from California to Florida, an Airbus A380 and an Airbus A400M. You can actually go onto one of the Concordes and the A300B.

As a quick note, there is Motorhome Parking available in the car park and you need to have your passport to visit Let’s Visit Airbus, Driving Licences are not accepted and it’s not open on Sundays. It is a great Museum to visit though.

Tomorrow, we’re heading into the city, so you can follow our journey there and beyond in our next post. As always, thank you for reading and following our trip.

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