Flamingos and beavers

 There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Water Rat, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

I’m not sure which is harder to use, a French keyboard or the one on this iPhone. I’m beginning to wish I’d brought an iPad for the blog. Excuse any typos, I’ll sort them out later.

Anyway, two days on and I’m now in the centre of Toulouse, showered, refreshed and enjoying dinner in an Italian restaurant next to my hotel. The Novotel Centre Wilson in Toulouse opened 8 weeks ago and has a very nice carpet (ideal for cleaning the canal path dust off bicycle tyres) and an impressive new marble floor. I attracted a few strange looks as I wheeled my “velo” inside and propped it against the reception desk. Suprisingly, they not only let me have a room but gave me a free upgrade to an executive one – by far the best I’ve stayed in so far.

Yesterday morning I headed north from St Cyprien hugging the coast whenever possible and dodging the trucks on the busier roads when there was no other viable route. The resorts north of St Cyprien were much smarter, St Cyprien itself resembling a run down version of Weymouth. Beyond these were some idyllic French villages – real holiday brochure stuff and very quaint. At one point I was amazed to see flocks of flamingoes on both sides of me as I rode across a causeway just south of Bages. In my ignorance, I’d always assumed that they were tropical birds. There were skylarks everywhere too.

As I turned west towards Carcassonne the ride was very different. The main road was a traffic nightmare so I made strenuous efforts to avoid it, taking minor roads, some of them pretty roughly surfaced, through vineyards. I did Fitou and Corbieres yesterday, and perhaps some others that were not labelled!

I arrived in Carcassonne having travelled another 90 miles. I spotted an Ibis hotel on the way in and checked in without a problem to one of the smallest rooms imaginable – the receptionist apologised in advance. Arriving back after dinner, I met the “Ryanair refugees” as they had dubbed themselves – a bunch of Irish guys with no good way home today because French air traffic controllers were enjoying one of their hobbies again, going in strike.

The problem with the bike’s right hand crank was getting worse. The securing nuts on the cotter pin were at least holding good, but the chain ring continued to wobble and squeak. I had no idea how long this could go on before something significant happened.

This morning, after only a minor unintended diversion, I found the path alongside the Canal du Midi.

The start of my ride along the Canal du Midi in Carcassonne

This would take me to today’s destination, Toulouse, just over 60 miles away. A relatively short run. The whole day’s riding was amazing – I saw no more than another ten cyclists until I reached the outskirts of Toulouse. I did see a nuthatch and a couple of beavers – the beavers being another first ever sighting for me. (They turned out to be coypu – seek later post.)

The only thing marring the day, apart from some drizzly rain for an hour, was the bike’s technical problem mentioned earlier. I considered taking it to a bike shop in Toulouse but the truth was that it’s the 61-year old axle that’s the problem, and no bike shop was going to have one of those in stock. I concluded that my best bet was to fill the space between the cotter pin and the crank with the hardest version of Araldite, or it’s French equivalent. After checking into the Novotel at 4pm I scoured the town centre for the aforementioned adhesive but came unstuck. I’ll have to try again tomorrow, when it’s due to rain.

2 thoughts on “Flamingos and beavers

  1. Jenny April 4, 2012 / 8:00 am

    ….glueing the bike together now – not a good sign !!! anyway, I cycled with you for an hour last night during my spin class lol !!!!


  2. Vicki April 4, 2012 / 9:20 am

    A 'run down version of Weymouth' – is that even possible? 🙂
    Glad to hear you're still in one piece even if the bike potentially isn't!


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