Along the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is one of the treasures of France. It allows one to navigate by boat from the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea along the south of France. The river Garonne flows from Toulouse to Bordeaux on the Atlantic, and the Canal du Midi then continues from Toulouse to Carcassonne and on to the Mediterranean. The bike path starts in Toulouse close to the central train station along the canal to Carcassonne, however is only paved to Port Lauragais near Avignonet, about 40 km from Toulouse. Assaf and Joelle told us that every year they pave a little more, and hopefully one day it will be paved from Toulouse to Carcassonne. Since the Canal was built some hundreds of years ago, much of the bike path is lined with beatiful tall trees (and thus protected from the baking hot sun), as we see in this photo close to Toulouse. Notice the canal on the left, the tow path along the Canal, and the bike path.

Assaf and Joelle live in Ramonville - walking distance from the beautiful Port Sud on the Canal du Midi, about 10km south of the Toulouse train station. Our first trip was to travel along the bike path to the Toulouse station to check out the possibilities, and were delighted to discover that most local trains accept bicycles. Based on Joelle's recommendation we decided to spend the next day with our bikes in Albi - a beautiful town along the Tarn river housing the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

Digression - a day in Albi

Tuesday July 15 we left 6:00am touring the Canal du Midi towards Carcassonne. Our plan was to ride the Canal bikepath to Avignonet, and from there take the road up the hill to St-Felix Lauragais. The entire day we battled a severe headwind. It was so strong that even going downhill required hard pedalling - fortunately the tree lined ride was very beautiful, many diversions and stops at villages along the canal - Donneville (boulangerie), Montgiscard (coffee), Gardouch (epicery), and the many fields of Sunflowers. We also met people along the way to give us advice on how to proceed and where to go. This gentleman is busy explaining to Nili that in France it does not matter which direction you are travelling - you will always be up against a strong headwind.

We arrived in Avignonet, but were too tired to explore the village, so we rode past the windpower systems towards St-Felix, stopping on the way to eat delicious roadside figs and small red plums. Without the protection of the trees we found that some of the wind gusts were so strong that I watched how Nili was literaly pushed sideways, and we did a lot of walking. We finally arrived at St-Felix late afternoon - a lovely medievil walled village commanding a magnificent view of the surrounding areas. We were too tired to explore the surrounding area, and decided to leave the village of Revel and the beautiful mountain lake for our next time around. That evening we had an exotic dinner (including dishes such as jellied rabbit with onion jam - and that from the 'Simple' menu!) at the Auberge du Poids Public, and then crashed into bed.

We left St-Felix next morning at 6:30am riding downhill (thank heavens) and decided to get closer to the windpower systems, and passed an entire hillside filled with sunflowers. From there into Avignonet - another lovely old village with a 400 year old church and towers. We discovered the ubiquitous boulangerie, and relaxed in the main square for breakfast. From there we got back onto the Canal du Midi, and discovered that the gentleman was telling the truth - there was no tailwind! The wind had died down so we could still enjoy taking photographs (photo-1, photo-2) of the tree lined path, but it was a headwind nonetheless.

We finally arrived at the Ramonville bridge and made it! - exhausted but happy - we relaxed and celbrated Joelle's birthday with Ives and Maries.

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