Sunday, 17 June 2007

17. Canal du Midi

Toulouse - Carcassonne.:- A walk along the Canal du Midi in the south of France. I planned to do a short sharp 60 miles over 3 days, but my footwear was inadequate and I settled for a sore-footed but shorter distance to compensate. Distance:- 25 miles over two days. Going:- mostly on the towpath - now a cycle route thronging with BGV's - les bycyclettes de grand vitesse. Also a tremendous storm the night before made the unpaved sections somewhat soggy. Progress:- Walked 208 - to go 292. Photograph Hyperlink

The Canal du Midi.
Except for the towpath and the locks it's like walking a riverbank. The canal is not straight, but meanders gracefully through the Midi. There are tree lined banks with overhanging branches Watervoles plop in now and then for a spot of sculling; heron lurk for lunch in quiet sidings, warblers, including nightingale sing their socks off from the overhead boughs, and in the blue sky above buzzard and black kites spiral upwards on the wheel of a thermal lift.

.....down in the water the French bid for Olympic swimming gold in Beijing 2008 is forging full steam ahead.

A dead BGV -A mini-monument to speed.

Tales From The Towpath. As a walker you seem to be the lowest form of towpath life along the canal. The towpath is now in fact a designated cylcle path. The bicycle brigade assume full ownership. I was carved up and scowled at constantly. Put a frenchman in a pair of velcro cycle shorts with go-faster stripes down either side, and he thinks he's Eddie Merx on heat. After the cyclists in the peck order come the joggers, who also do a nice side line in scowling. It all made me feel quite humble. But at least there was some interest along the towpath.....

.....Ou est les bateaux?
Perhaps the strangest thing was the absence of boats plying to and fro. I saw only two all the first day. One was this traditional barge, of which there are many alongside the canal, almost all converted to houseboats. The other was a Norfolk Broads class booze cruiser - replete with bikini clad figurehead draped across the deck - tottymungous!


Everywhere you look in France there is graffitti. It's on the buildings, the walls, the signs, the bridges - everywhere. In Bordeaux my friend Ian has had his white van graffitied; and he's not alone. So don't stand rooted on one spot too long - or they'll do you as well!