Dublin – Carcassonne – le Ségala
Thursday , 11.10.2018
lots of km
The Canal du Midi. The canal of canals. The story goes that Francis Egerton, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater travelled along the Canal du Midi on his gentleman’s tour through Europe. And thus got the inspiration to built a canal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. It was opened in 1761. And yes, it was a great success, it kicked off the canal mania, and there might not have been an industrial revolution without it.
But what faint memories Egerton must have brought home. Compared to the grandeur of the Midi, that was almost a hundred years old by the time the duke visited, the Bridgewater was not more than a muddy ditch. There was one aqueduct (hurray!), and not much else. The Midi is far away from being such a modest affair. It has got dozens of aqueducts, it has got 65 locks, a huge and elaborate feeder system, a tunnel, and hey, it has got the weather.
Now that my English readers are sufficiently disgruntled, lets go into medias res.
I have been toying with the idea of visiting the Midi for years. But in the summer it seems to be absolutely mobbed, extremely hot and a very long way to tow ARGO. But then Locaboat made me an offer that was hard to resist. A one-way trip from Lattes to Argens-Minervois, very cool, would take in all the major attractions. Maybe even a detour down the Émbranchement de la Nouvelle?
A flight was booked, a hire car hired, and two nights at a cottage by the canal and three nights in a cottage in the Pyrenees paid for.
Thus we set of at 3.00 in the morning to Dublin airport, enter one of Michael O’Leary’s finest, upwards and beyond to Carcassonne.
Before we get to the Midi, we have to talk about the Cité de Carcassonne. We arrive around lunch time, pick up the hire car, a Peugeot to the lads utter disgust (we all remember the Top Gear episode, where Jeremy pretends to be a Peugeot driver), and drive directly to the Cité.
As much as the Midi is the quintessential canal, the Cité is the quintessential medieval castle. But this is not a well kept secret, it is rather aggressively advertised in any travel guide from the Americas to the Chinas. Meaning: Even in the off-season the place is packed.
We look for a place to eat. Which is not difficult, while being really difficult. Practically every house in the Cité either hosts a restaurant or a tacky gift shop. Eventually we settle for pizza. Nothing too special, but al fresco, in the sun, in October. Makes it very special.
Then it’s a tour through the Citè and the castle.
Out into the countryside. We have booked an old cottage in the hamlet of le Ségala, right at the summit of the Canal du Midi.
The landlord has gone to great length to accommodate us and has booked a table for us at the restaurant next door.
Good food and wine. Early bed.