Sun 16th June.
An excursion to Minereve.
I got off later than I wanted due to an alarm clock malfunction. Although today was Sunday, I had no way of knowing the day without checking, which I seldom did. It certainly didn’t feel like a Sunday.
My aim for the day was to take an excursion away from the canal into rural France, from this book about cycling on the Canal du Midi I bought in England. I’d barely glimpsed at the book the first time round and now with a bit more time, I figured I should do at least one of the recommended routes, otherwise the book would be rendered obsolete.
There were more excursions in the book, but I opted for this as it was the first to come up in this area. If I liked it, I could then do more if I wished.
Pacing along the canal through areas I recognised from weeks before was lovely. The was strong again and there were plenty of people out on the canal enjoying life.
As I was back on the canal and danger of immediate death through surrounding ignorance was vastly minimised, I treated myself to the iPod. First of I finished the Bradley Wiggins autobiography, which was good, well-read and an honest account of things from a decent bloke. Didn’t realise he was a Sir though. Then I got onto a few other podcasts. Podcasts were important as it provided a connection to things and interests at anytime. They also gave me a lot of food for thought, which was helpful as the canal cycling-although beautiful-was very monotonous.
I listened to the American podcast the truth, which I didn’t like, but stuck with for some reason. Then politics, a musical odyssey chosen by members of Animal Collective and by the end of the day, I was listening about Mussolini’s rise to power and fame in Italy and Europe, from a podcast I’d downloaded months ago, but never got round to hearing.
Homps was the name of the town where the excursion began. Olonzac was the first town where the circuit began. North to Minerve, east to Aigne, then back to Olonzac. Minerve was the focal point of the trip, due to its history.
Immediately, I could see from the age of the buildings why this author had chosen these towns for a detour. There were old, rustic and harked back to medieval France that I hadn’t seen much of throughout the trip.
Minerve alone was worth the trip. Parts of the city dated back to 400BC. It was undoubtedly something special and a unique place among French history. It was small, quaint and home to plenty of shops selling produce from the region, which is how Minerve became established through history as a base for the vineyards and produce in the area.
I couldn’t afford to buy the wine to try it myself and after having looked around, the best thing to do was to carry on an head back to the canal.
The sun was particularly strong, making this the hottest day of the trip to date. Perhaps Benoîts honey bees would produce this year after all. The sun combined with the slightly barren landscape all around reminded me of southern Italy. Although I hadn’t been, this was exactly how I imagined it to look and feel. It was tough going and a huge contrast from the torrential rain I had five days ago. Aside from the heat, I was experiencing some of the most intense winds I’d known, which made for a dangerous mix if you were low on water. Similar winds to those around the coast of Perpignan, which geographically close.
I got up to about 65kph on flat due with the tailwind, which was almost the top speed for the trip going downhill.
The excursion provided an insight to rural France that had been rare on the trip. When I began thinking about the trip from my London flat, I thought France would’ve been brimming with these rustic locations. But realistically, you had to know about these places and find them, rather than stumble across them as I hoped I would.
I went back through Olzanac where people had begun setting up outdoor tables in the streets for dinner. Then I went through Homps where I rejoined the canal.
I continued along a pristine blend of trees and water (and shade) before settling down in a field just off the canal. A tractor was working the fields and a curious white and red light became visible in the distance as it got darker. I got out in the middle of the night to go to the loo and the sky was completely clear. A bright sky of stars was still a novelty to me, as a rarely got up in the night and in my head was still used to the night skies of London, where you see more blue moons then stars.