An occasional journal of the Life of Reilly

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Toulouse, France: Canal Journey, Part One


Getting started on the Canal du Midi
It is possible to cross southern France by boat, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, on the Canal des Deux Mers (Canal of the Two Seas).  The canal has two parts -- the portion east of Toulouse is the Canal du Midi, built in the 17th century, and the Canal latéral à la Garonne, built in the early 19th century, is the west portion.  And there is a paved bike trail along the almost flat trace of the route, virtually the whole length of the canal. Along the waters edge are the evenly spaced trees planted to keep the banks in place, and we followed these guideposts of the Canal du Midi out of Carcassonne.

Unfortunately the paved trail petered out into a single-track dirt path that we had to push our bikes to get through.  We had found the one section that has not yet been upgraded, so we whipped out our trusty Michelin maps and navigated to the town of Avigonet on traditional roads.  We found our first municipal campground, empty but for a couple of camper vans, clean and charming.

One of the locks on the canal
After a very chilly night (high-30s, max).  But at least there was no wind. And we were off on the official trail, completely separated from traffic, cruising on the most even grade a cyclist could pray for.  The only interruption were locks, spaced every few kilometers, with their station buildings, each one with its own unique character.  Operators would magically appear from somewhere whenever a boat approached the lock.  Barges were parked along the banks.  Some were small, but most were big, wide, shallow affairs.  They had the appearance of full-time occupation, with bikes strapped on the railings for the owners to pedal into local towns wherever they may moor along the canal. 
Old and new view from our campground in Avognet

Another fine morning on the canal

Signs like these with the names of the locks and distances were posted at regular intervals

The old trees are just starting to bud leaves, and they must provide nice shade in the summer
Some of the more tidy barges on the canal
Sweet boat!
As we got closer to the city of Toulouse, the barges got a bit more scruffy with a look like they have not moved in a long time.  We approached from the southeast and through an area of industrial and office parks.  It was near noon and the Canal du Midi path was congested with office workers out for an hour jog or cycle.  Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France and the center of its aerospace industry so there were lots of desk jockeys getting out in the fresh air on a sunny day.  With no camping options near the city center, we opted to stay in a hotel for a couple nights (yeah, Ibis!).  Once we left the trail to get to our hotel, we had no problems getting around in another superbly bike-friendly city.

We had a day to explore the downtown, and opted to look at the many fine old buildings, the cathedral, and take in the Musée des Augustins. A few images are offered here...

Building on a slice of a lot

Colorful!

Basilica of St. Sernin
Basclica window and shadow

More interesting buildings


A bit of French anxiété

The museum is housed in a former 14th century monastery

Meticulous painting restoration -- they both were tuned into iPods

Interesting display of Romanesque pillar ornaments

The Red Room

Gargoyles in the cloister, oh my!

The museum garden in the former cloister
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1 comments:

Frogworld said...

Hi Guys! Learning so much from your wonderful trip. Fantastic photographs and truly interesting comments! First time through school, I was a French Literature major, so this is filling in the blanks! Must be so great to cruise along next to the canal. Also found Carcassonne quite an amazing place. Love those turrets. Happy riding and wishing you wind-less days and warm nights. Hugs, Bonnie

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