Week 34: Toulouse to the Île d’Oléron via Bordeaux

Monday and it was raining in Toulouse. We had wanted to cycle in to the old town and have a mooch around, but it was that fine rain that will soak you in seconds., so instead we sorted some chores and then headed out to the Supermarket and Garage to fill up with food and LPG (GPL in France).

Tuesday and the sun came out, so we got out our bikes and headed along the Canal de la Garonne to the end of the Canal du Midi, The point where the two meet (along with the Canal de Brienne) is called Ponts Jumeaux (Twin Bridges). We can now say we have been to both ends of the Canal du Midi, although some deem the Canal de la Garonne to also be part of the Midi – known in full as the Canal Entre Deux Mers.

We cycled along the Canal du Midi (we actually thought it was the Canal de Brienne!) until we headed towards the Capitole. We stopped in the square opposite the Capitole, where there was a market and ate our lunch, before heading off to see some sights, including the Monument aux Morts, les Abattoirs and the Pont Neuf, before having a random cycle around and returning to the campsite along the canal.

Wednesday, we left Toulouse and headed along the Canal de la Garonne towards Bordeaux. The landscape changed several times and we passed fruit trees and polytunnels before heading into the vineyards and chateau landscape of the Bordeaux region. We only passed three Convoi Exceptionals, and we didn’t need to drive up any driveways to escape from them! We stopped for the night outside Bordeaux in Créon.

Thursday morning after a short stroll to the bakery for bread, we set off to Bordeaux and a campsite on the outskirts in Bruges. After a quick alfresco lunch in the sun, we went on a short cycle to the city, just to have a brief look. We cycled along the river bank to the Pont de Pierre, along the opposite bank to the amazing Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, before cycling back over it and back to the campsite. The Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, was opened in 2013 and has a horizontally rising platform to allow boats to pass under. We had gained a couple of ducks as friends today, although they did get a tad too nosey!

Friday, we set off into the city on our bikes for a proper look and after cycling to the river bank, we headed to the Place de la Bourse – with its square and buildings on three sides (although part of the building was covered for renovations) and its reflecting pool – closed for the winter. Next, we headed to the Cailhau Gate and the Opera building, along with the Big Bell of Bordeaux. We then cycled off on our own random route, before heading back to the river and the campsite. Along the river we saw a barge transporting part of an Airbus A380. Today on the campsite we have another little friend a small black cat who tried to come in to see us!

Saturday, we headed off again towards the coast and stopped in Arcachon. We are going to be travelling up the west coast and this seemed like a good place to start.

Sunday, we started our day with a trip to the Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe. We parked up and started the trip to climb it. We think that the whole of the local community and their friends had decided to do the same – it was so busy. After removing our shoes we climbed almost to the top, looking at the amazing views across the bay, but thought we’ll come back another time, when we are more prepared – we needed to take a lunch basket and water to be able to appreciate it better. We also had a ferry to catch across from the peninsula at Point de Grave to Royan.

The ferry to Royan is a brief crossing about 25 minutes long, but it did feel a little choppy – a little like the Solent on a bad day, so not terrible. We carried on to the Île d’Oléron and the campsite we had chosen for the night, but being out of season there was not a lot open and even the one we had chosen, had no-one available to see, so we headed along to another we’d found. The landscape on the island had changed to oyster farms and vineyards. The weather has changed and it’s now drizzly and grey.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue our journey along the west coast. We have a vague idea of where we’re going, but next week we’ll share with you our trip. Thank you for reading.

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.