The arrival of Gavin’s sister, Judith , from Canada provides the perfect opportunity for another bike trip, so here we are in the South of France. Béziers, our destination from Bristol, is the most delightful, tiny, airport set amongst acres of vineyards resplendent in lime green spring shoots. Once the bikes were freed from their packaging, tyres inflated and the inevitable puncture repaired we set off into the glorious countryside of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Some of the miles into the town of Béziers were traffic free along the towpath of the famous Canal du Midi, which links the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
After a very comfortable night with a lovely French lady in her Chambre de Hôte (B&B) we set off on a 58 mile (93 km) saunter through this wonderful country to the ancient town of Carcassonne, which sits above both the Aude River and Canal du Midi. The restored 12th century city with its enormous Chateau and Cathedral is enclosed in double crenellated walls and is redolent of its violent past. It is sobering to know that the earliest remains date back to Gallo-Roman times circa 450 B.C.
Having spent our first day in Carcassonne exploring the old city followed by a short ride out along the canal and back through timeless medieval villages; the second took in a 37 miles (59 km) ride to the village of Lastours. Nestled in the southern most reaches of the Massif Central. This stronghold of the, persecuted in the crusades, Cathar people is famous for the remains of its four circa 11th century castles. The views from the ruins are panoramic, it wouldn’t have been easy to approach unnoticed! The still snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees were visible in the distant south on this gloriously sunny spring day.
Tomorrow (Friday) we will leave our Gîte at Carcassonne and head south towards the Pyrenees. The cycling here truly is world class with a palette of, roadside, wild flowers; red poppies, snapdragon, oxeye daisies, forget-me-not and periwinkles, naming just a few, to add to the delight.