Sunday, 4 September 2011

CASTLES AND CANALS

29th.August - 3rd.September

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny - hardly surprising after a very hot night, and having gotten within 4kms of the castle at PEYREPERTUSE it seemed silly not to go and have a look.....even if the 4 kms were almost vertical. The GF was anxious but a german next to us assured us that we would get the van another 2km up the mountain 'to where the coaches park'and then there was a path the rest of the way.. the road was fine, the parking area - which seemed to contain all the vans from the aire the night before - was fine and the path was steep,rocky and a bit of of a lung-buster but we got there and it was worth it for the views alone. The casle stretches out along a ridge with sheer drops all round and is remarkably intact. It was one of 5 built as a defense against the Spanish (the 5 sons of Carcassone) when the border with Aragon was this side of the Pyrenees,and with its visible neighbour, QUERIBUS on the next ridge, commands a series of valleys with spectacular views. It fell out of favour when the peace treaty of 12** settled the border along the centre of the Pyrenees and it lost its raison d'etre.

So from there we found a route back down the valley which avoided the road back over the highest ridges, much to the GF's relief, even if it was still a bit narrow and windy through some terrific gorges and the pretty road to CARCASSONE. Great camp site within view of the old walled city which was a 15min walk away. So good that instead of the intended 2 nights we stayed 5.
Walked into the old city on Tuesday and took a walking tour of the old walled town and the 'new' old town that was built to replace it down below, and ending on the banks of the Canal du Midi.......which made us think about cycling along it. Which is why we stayed. The tour was ok but a mite tedious as at every stop the guide gave a 10 min lecture in French and then repeated it in English and as it went on from 10am till 1.15 we got very very hot, thirsty and hungry. By the time it ended it was too late to go back for lunch so we had an excellent lunch at a brasserie under umbrellas in the main square and then returned to the site to spend the afternoon by the pool. The weather remained hot but a hot wind sprang up for 3 days which was very irritating and a short lived thunderstorm one evening. We cycled into town for more exploration......the castle is Very Touristy and there are more ways to separate the unwary from their cash than I can recall - it must be hell for people with young children.

A jolly good ride along the Canal du Midi, enlivened with the spectacle of watching a car being fished out that must have fallen in only a few minutes before we arrived. The Canal path is excellent and very well maintained and on the site we spoke to several people and families who were riding the whole length from Toulouse to Agde - an Argentinian, especially,with his wife and 4 children, aged 7-14, who had left the car in Toulouse and would be return from Agde by train after taking 5 days to cycle the complete canal. Will definitley investigate more about aires and campsites along the route.

Finally left CARCASSONE on saturday and went to MIREPOIX, a rather fine half -timbered medieval village, and then wasted a lot of time and fuel trying to find a decent aire for the night without success and so ended up at a campsite on the other side of the Black Mountains from Carcasssone having driven around 3/4 of a circle to get there. Camping Cerisiers de Jaure at St.PONS du THOUMIERS is very nice and on a Voie Verte cycle path so we shall explore a bit.

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