8: First encounter with the Canal du Midi

Up and out by 9:30 and on the road again after our day of repose. Getting out of Toulouse was no problem, as the canal runs right through the middle of town and was only 5 minutes from the hotel.

Every day the landscape is more Mediterranean – which to me means that it looks more like California. Today the way was flanked by even more sunflower fields and quite a few fields of some type of grain (rye, flax??). And when we’re speaking of California… another thing that is similar here is the heat. Today it surely topped 90 degrees and it seemed that every time there was a slight incline, the tree coverage got thinner.

The architecture is now really the classic tile-roofed, plaster walled look that we know from the movies. Sometimes on the hill in the distance, there’ll be an old church or castle. Really beautiful.

The trail is markedly different from the trail along the Canal de Garonne. While the first 10-20 kilometers out of Toulouse were paved and nice, the rest of the way was not paved, which is not too bad in itself, but a few stretches were fairly rough.

Since we hadn’t stopped for picnic provisions, we made a pause in a village slightly off the trail. The restaurant (the only one in the town) was a “Boittins Gourmand” location, which made the prices higher than we really wanted to give out for lunch, but oh well, we didn’t have much choice. My salad was tasty, but I discovered that I’m not really a fan of Roughy (some kind of fish).

In the late afternoon we reached Castelnaudary, which had looked quite cute in all the brochures. We decided to try getting a room through the tourist office and it was a good thing – saved us the trouble of making lots of phone calls. All of the hotels were booked and we got a room in a B&B. While we were at it we booked a room in Carcassonne for the following night – which was a good idea since August 15th is a very busy holiday time.

Our B&B couldn’t be more of a contrast to our Gite in La Réole, which was the same price for oh, so much more. One toilet and one shower for all the guests and the hostess. Super.

After we showered and changed we took a ride around town (fun to ride with “naked” bikes). Vera was especially taken by the medieval feeling of the run-down back alleys. Actually, I think we both had expected a bit more of the town considering the flowery description in the brochures. It’s really just a quiet small town of 12,000 with not much more to offer than an 3-step lock and large ship-holding basin that makes for lovely photos (in the right light).

We stopped for dinner at an Italian restaurant and were thankful that the large family with 5 young children shied away from the terrace seats next to ours because of the rain shower (we were under cover of the awning and came through all dry). The crust on my merguez and onion pizza was disappointingly soggy but the flavor was good and Vera loved her Salade Nicoise, so all-in-all not too bad.

Early back to the gite and to bed.

Day 8

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