Midi cycle trail for retirees, for discerning gourmets and café aficionados


Painting by Manfred Killer, Munich 2018

 Discover France by Bike.....

A short while ago we were just teenagers longing to hold our own with the big boys; now we are x-genarians and wonder where all the years have gone. We survived the mid-life crisis with few psycho-scars, but we still had to prove the point. The short-term remedy was to cycle from ocean to ocean, not quite at the dizzy speed of the professionals, but with substantially less discomfort. In fact with a lot of fun on the way. We started at the Atlantic Coast west of Bordeaux, and we are going to call the Med the other "ocean". Poetic license and other mild exaggerations are the privilege of the elderly, even if also the brand of poor upbringing in the young.

Rooms with a viewThe old and the new

As two free spirits of the JDV team we decided to prepare the way for our clients along this classic trail, as far as we are concerned second only to "el camino" to Santiago de Compostella. So, along the Gironde, up the Garonne Canal and beyond to Toulouse, and down the Canal du Midi to Agde. The fascination of this trip lies in the particular history of the latter: construction started in 1667, more than a hundred years before the main wave of construction of European waterways of similar dimensions. And a substantial part of this canal lies within the western portion of JDV territory, "Languedoc-Roussillon" (a region now remodelled administratively by our restless French cousins to the eastern part of Occitanie).

It's best to take a mountain bike for this trip, because the UNESCO has long since declared this a World Heritage Site, hindering improvement of some of the tow path to cycling standard. But that all adds to the fun, as you jump occasionally from root to root, take a casual spill, drop your paniers, and then reward yourself at the next village bar or café, or treat yourself to iodine tincture at the local casualty centre. You can of course be devious (less foolhardy, though more energetic), by taking the secret country lane only a few hundred yards away, and enjoy the splendid rolling countryside. 

Carcassonne and the Aude 

So if you stick to the straight and narrow (and thus virtually flat alignment along the canal), enter JDV territory from the West at Castelnaudary where we plunged into a cassoulet and got our bikes repaired almost free of charge at a workshop for youth training. Then on to that gem of a city, Carcassonne where you can walk up to the citadel in a few minutes and assuage your hunger in numerous restaurants, such as Table de la bastide. Press on and over the canal bridge to Trèbes for a well-earned breakfast: try Loû Trèbes right by the waterway. Spend a minute in silence in memory of this months' victims of the Aude flooding.

 Peace in the midday sunAlong the tow path

We could ramble on about the delights of the chambres d'hôtes all the way along this trip, each one offering the opportunities for making friends for life; or on the gastronomic pleasures in making up for hard-lost calories along the way.  But we must stop somewhere, or our editor-in-chief will pull out her big scissors. Suffice it to say that we found our own solution to minimising the risk of hypoglycemia by taking along our own chef: Manfred is a master chef and pastry-maker from Munich, who could not resist combing the market places when there was a chance to cook himself. He also kindly contributed his impression of the canal vista (see the painting below). Theresa, his wife, spearheaded our search for accommodation: fully connected digitally between ear, handlebars and the world further downstream, she negotiated on the move with our hosts for each coming night.

This is the way to spend retirement. Stay fit, eat well, discover the South of France, and stay out-of-season in one of Karen's JDV properties for a week to recover, once you have seen the mirage of the Med ahead of you. Give her a ring for your September 2019 treat.

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