Sunday morning are strange things on these trips. You set off from your auberge all kitted up like you’re off to the moon, and the first ten people you meet are sandal-clad, sleepy locals carrying their baguettes back from the boulangerie and looking at you in wonder… And who can blame them!
Sunday had dawned cool and overcast – it was wonderful. As our lovely Dutch hosts walked us out to the garage cum store room to retrieve the bikes, we actually felt a smattering of rain! They smiled at our pleasure – it would really have been a joy to have a cool day’s cycling.
The first few miles remained overcast and we revelled in the cool air. We knew it wouldn’t last!
Soon, we were back on a Tarmac road and headed for the midway point of Ventenac en Minervois. The afternoon would see us leave the Minervois wine region and enter that of Corbière. Both produce fabulous wines – as we had sampled in Carcassonne.
The majority of places we pass through are hamlets whose names are not readily discernible. Castles on the skyline tease with their presence. But to stop is to lose precious time – and the clouds were burning off, and that familiar prickling heat was returning, so the photos have to be the record…
Approaching the village of Paraza we had a surreal experience. A man and his wife were chugging along in the same direction as us. She was driving the boat and he seemed to be standing behind her gazing up at the sky. I noticed that his gaze was focused on what I took to be a bird of prey, but as we got closer I could see he was piloting a drone – very accurately – about a hundred feet overhead. It looked expensive and I assume had a good camera. In effect he was getting two views; one from the cockpit of the boat, and the other of the whole landscape on his colour monitor!
And a couple of miles later, there it was:
But, of course, everyone else was out for Sunday lunch, too, so we had to settle for what we have come to call one of the ‘dusty cyclists tables’ out in the sun at the back of the place. The food was fine and a small beer each was all we allowed ourselves in the growing heat.
The afternoon saw a considerable change in the landscape. We had now swapped waterways, as the Canal de Rabine is a spur from the Midi to the once ‘coastal’ region of Narbonne; sadly, long silted up from its former Mediterranean connections.
The Rabine has long, straight sections which are a pleasure to cycle, as they are lined with local pine trees that offer good shade. The classic ‘Vincent’ cypresses having given way to the hardier pines as we approach the coastal lands.
©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.