We had approx 30 miles to travel today and then two nights in Castlenaudray as this was the place we were to see the tour for the second time. We headed out on the canal and then after 5k took a detour to an Intermarche’ for the days rations.
The Canal du Midi was the brainchild of one Pierre Paul Riquet and today we would be passing a monument in his honour. Not unusual as nearly every town on the canal has a Riquet street, building or square.
We would also pass the watershed where, theoretically we were no longer climbing from the Atlantic but were descending to the Med!
Another hot day we spent some time at the monument and had a break with an ice cream. The monument is in a parkland area and it was very pleasent whiling away 45 mins there. We arrived at Maison Du Cassoulet early to a sign on the door to say that it would be open at two but that they could be contacted across the street. Carol was duly despatched and came back with a porter who let us in and helped us store the Velos. We were soon sorted out and walking in the town. The tour was coming through the town in fact right by the hotel and preparations were well under way. It wasn’t hard to see the tour route as there were barriers and signs all over the town. We wandered around the town and settled ourselves in a small pizza parlour for our dinner and discussed our options for the next day.
We decided to have a look around the weekly market which was to take place the next day and then bike to a nearby village called Revel which was the tour finish and have a look around there.
After a good nights sleep and breakfast we headed out the door and almost straight into the market. The town was buzzing and stalls were busy selling everything from fresh produce to craft goods to mobile phone bling. We bought our supplies for the day and headed back to the hotel.
We were enjoying a pannier free ride until we hit the main road to Revel which was extremely busy. Luckily we spotted a cycle track and this took us right into the village. Near Revel the tour was tackling a cat 3 climb so I decided that I had to try it too. Carol headed for the town square and I continued on the cycle path climbing for the next 2K. I came to a junc at the top of the path and headed for a group of mobile homes I could see ahead. It appeared that I had found the top of the cat 3 climb and from what I had tackled on the cycle path I believed it so I headed down th the bottom, spun around and climbed back up the hurtled down again and headed for the square.
Revel had really pulled out the stops and the square was looking great.
I met Carol in the town sq and after food and drink we headed back for Castlenaudray. Once more we stuck to the cycle track but some road riding was unavoidable.
The market had all but gone by the time we returned so we went back to the hotel, got cleaned up and headed out for dinner. This time we headed down to the canal and had a sharing platter of Tapas on the La Cybele. It was very pleasent sitting as the temp cooled watching ducks and otters swimming by in the canal basin. We finished off our evening with a walk through the village and our biggest surprise of the trip so far!
Combined stats Distance 66.6
Time 7h 22m
Climb 2813 feet
Today was a very short day 28Km according to the canal map so we took things nice and slow in the morning with me nipping down to a local shop for our now obligatory fruit, nuts, sandwiches and water. I retrieved our Velos from the underground car park, dropping the D lock on my left foot in the process, and we loaded up and started on our way down the right bank of the Canal du Midi. It was busy within the city boundaries and the path was popular with biker, runners and walkers.
Once outside the city we settled down to a steady 9 mph on our first day on the Canal du Midi. The surface on this part of the Midi are still good and once more we made good time. We took our time but still reached Donneville well before booking in time. We spent some time looking for the horse in this one horse town and failing to find it headed to the local football pitch and sat and had lunch and a rest.
At the appointed hour we made our way to the Motel L’Enclos reception and were given keys and directions to our chalet.
Bikes, baggage bodies. We headed for the nearest Intermarche and bought food for that days evening meal and the next day’s pedal.
We ate outside as our clothes dried in the sun.
Stats. 13 miles
Climb 10 feet
We woke up feeling fully refreshed and once more took advantage of the bathroom facilities.
With a ride of only 20 miles on the agenda we decided to take as long as we could before booking out and if possible leave the bikes and bags whilst we had a look around the Bastide town.
The hotel was in Rue Gambetta one of the main streets in the traditional grid system. After chatting to the owner and being encouraged to leave our stuff and look around his town we headed out.
We visited the town square which has one of the oldest and largest covered markets in France. We also saw the statue of Grenades famous son Robert Marc the 1957 world roller skate champion.
On our walk around the town we found a fruit stall and bought our supplies for the day. After having a pain au chocolate we headed back to the hotel to pick up our gear and head out on our final day on the Garonne. Toulouse was our destination for the day. We were booked into the Kyriad, back to a motel chain only this one promised to be right on the banks of the canal! After our previous longer days the 20 mile just whistled by and in no time at all we had navigated the final part of the Garrone and had arrived at the meeting point of 3 canals marked by these tunnels.
We headed towards Toulouse centre and the Kyriad hotel. A rather grumpy receptionist dealt with us and showed us how to access the secure underground car park where we were to store our bikes. By now we were into a well known routine Bike, baggage and bodies then food!!! We had arrived earlyish and were not as tired as we had been on previous days so took ourselves out for a walk around the old quarter for sightseeing and food.
We found a street cafe with outside seats in the shade and settled down to peruse the food and drinks menus. After a while we realised that although the take away part of the business was in full swing no one had approached us to ask what we wanted, then a head appeared and took our order for drinks which duly arrived. As we sat a demonstration passed by with hundreds of cyclists.
With no response to our nods and waves from the waiter we headed into the cafe to order food and got the story in the cafe. The server behind the counter had been the only one to turn up for work and had held the fort alone all day and he just couldn’t be bothered waiting tables and serving the counter. We chose something “to go”and headed out into the sunshine. We walked along busy boulevards taking in the sights with no particular plan in mind when bang distracted by the food I somehow managed to tear my flip one of a pair the other being flop.
I hobbled back to the hotel and changed back to proper sandals and we headed out once more. We headed back to the old quarter and hungry once more had a sandwich and drink at a pavement cafe.
As the sun set we headed back to the hotel and bed.
Stats 19.5 miles
Climb 194 feet
After awakening from the dead we headed for the centre of the town and the Tourist Information office for news of Le Tour route and timings. We were staying in town all day to see the tour arrive and then heading down the Canal Montech to join the Garonne once more for the ride to Grenade.
We arrived in the town centre expecting tour fever only to be greeted with a small rash and some cursory signage.
We strolled around town and found the boulevard the caravan and the Tour would be coming down, there were small pockets of people and some tour souvenir stalls in evidence also food and drinks vendors were setting up. Most of the barriers seemed to be in place and the Gendarmes were pacing nervously back and forth in thier allotted piece of Tarmac. We found a spot likely to give us a good view, parked the bikes up and grabbed some lunch.
The tour is an amazing spectacle and those of you who are unfamiliar with the tour or perhaps have only seen the tv coverage might be surprised to learn that the entourage begins approx 2 hours before you even see a rider with a parade of official cars, police vehicles then “the caravan” a parade of sponsors vehicles throwing out mementoes to the crowd everything from shopping bags to haribos, hats to bandanas all thrown into the crowd and creating a massive scramble of bodies! Carol had seen the tour in France and Yorkshire and was well versed in bagging the free tat our haul for the day was 1 sun hat, 2 bandanas, 4 Madeleine’s, cocktail stirrer, 3 temp tattoos and a shopping bag. It was a hot day and some of the crowd dispersed once the caravan had gone through, we settled down for a wait and cast our eyes skyward as, often the first clue of the riders approaching is the sight of helicopters in the distance.
Soon we could see. Police and official tour traffic coming down the boulevard and it was’nt long before the riders followed. There was a breakaway then the main peloton and some stragglers over in minutes but the excitement of the crowd was amazing.
After the riders had gone past and the crowd began to thin we made our way back into the town and to the Canal Montech which would take us back down to the Garonne and onwards to Grenade and the Villa Léopoldine our hotel for the night.
We had eyeballed the Canal Montech on the way in unfortunately it wasn’t simply a matter of going under the road and along the canal entrance as there were very narrow steps impossible to manage with two heavy laden bikes. Luckily help was at hand and the lock master gave us very precise directions to the pathway leading to the basin and the canal path. These instructions included going through a very small tunnel and we both had to duck on our bikes to prevent banging our heads!
In no time at all we were winging our way towards Grenade. The hotel had been in touch and given us a door code and left our room key on the reception desk as I had told them we were expecting to be late. The villa was excellent and by far the best place we had stayed in. We stored the bikes in the garden outhouse and made our way up to the room gazing at the detailed cornices and paintings, many for sale, which adorned the walls. The room was excellent the bathroom huge and we made use of the shower and the bath before collapsing into bed. It had not been a long day but the heat combined with the need to get to the hotel after the tour had tired us both out.
Stats Distance 33.5 miles
Climb 342 feet
A long day in the saddle today made longer by the location of the hotel to the canal. The main reason for our visit to Montauban is to see the tour finish there tomorrow and with that thought in our minds we pedalled through what was our hottest and longest day so far. When we first planned the trip we had worked on an average of 50k per day but factoring in the distances to available hotels had not been part of that plan!
Today’s hotel was a Premier Classe on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Montauban with a Campanile next door. We booked in and the Asst manager helpfully stored the Velos in a secure container for us. At checkin we were advised to book a table at the restaurant as after 9 it would be exclusively for Le Tour personnel. Arriving at the hotel and seeing Tour vehicles raised the pulse a little.
We didn’t have the time or inclination to go into Montauban in the evening it had been a long hard ride and the first time Carol had rode 50 miles.
Climb 298 feet
We decided to take advantage of the eat all you can breakfast buffet to fuel us up for the first part of the day and also to pocket some stuff for Agen where we were in a self catering appt hotel.
We found our new route out of Marmande and were soon on familiar unclassified roads from yesterday. The canal was as we left it straight, green and tree lined. By now the fields of grapes had been replaced by apple trees as far as the eye could see and the trees were heavy with fruit. The cycling along the canal was mainly flat except when approaching locks and generally straight in fact you could almost set an auto pilot and just have a heat induced snooze as the bike trundled along bumping over the odd tree root.
We continued along the canal to Le Mas-d’Agenais where we had decided to stop for a break and have a look at this picture skew village. The road from the canal led straight uphill passed a shrine to la Velo and into the main sq which, unfortunately was being dug up along with half the roads in the village!
So we decided to resupply and have our break elsewhere. Down the hill and along the canal to the basin at Buzet a great place to stop and have lunch whilst we admired the boats moored there. The facilities vary greatly along the canal as do the prices Buzet was obviously one of the upmarket basins with Magnums at 3 euro and 50 cent! Having said that the facilities were excellent and there was a few Eurosworth of vessels moored up!
We had lunch and once again got on the bikes. We were beginning to settle into a routine now with quite a big breakfast, shopping either the night before or on the day for fruit and water with sandwiches for lunch and going out in the evening for our final meal of the day. Water wise we were drinking about five litres a day and that seemed to do us. Arriving in Agen we quickly picked up some signs for the appt hotel who had helpfully provided us with the code for the front door as we had expected to be later than we were. The receptionist showed us to the bike store which already had a selection of bicycles in it and after unloading our panniers and bottles we headed for the cool of our room. We walked around to a supermarket and picked up food and water for the next day and a sandwich for the evening which was quickly devoured. We then went out for a bit of sightseeing as the sun went over Agen.
Stats Dist 45.2 miles
Climb 894 feet
The story of the authors attempt at the round the world record on £8.84 and 100 miles a day!
One of the speakers I was unable to see at EdFoc this year and it is easier to imagine this book as a talk rather than a book. I first got the impression that I was reading a collection of bullet points from a powerpoint slide show.
As I got further into the book it got more interesting and was written with a bit more emotion not one for the I will reread this sometime shelf!