From the southwest to southeast of France it is a piece of flat and fertile land by the foot of Pyrenee mountain. Plenty of rivers never stop flowing for ages from the mountain to irrigate the land and nourish the local people. A few hundred years ago, people built canals beside the rivers to facilitate trading. Nowadays, they are transformed into leisure purpose with private boats parked along the way and an excellent cycle path!
There are 2 main canals, Canal de Garonne (around 250km) from Bordeaux to Toulouse; and Canal de Midi (around 150km) from Toulouse to Narbonne. I was totally fascinated by the view along the canal, fallen leaves paved the road, red or golden colors, together with the reflection from the water, every shot that I took could be an oil painting!
The roads are wide, flat and paved, unlike the canal way in England which are so narrow (that i almost fell into the water), unpaved with stones and pit holes that you would expect a bumpy ride, not to mention the English plants are so malicious with thorns everywhere to puncture your tyres! Compare with my English nightmare, French canal is a paradise to cycle.
I stopped a night in Marmande where my host Benoit offered me a warm meal and a warm bed. We even had a movie night. He told me being a teacher in such a small town is boring, it is nice to have traveling guests to share stories with.
I continued to ride on the gorgeous canal, beside appreciating the scenery, i felt like doing something else, so i started to listen to my previously downloaded podcast. When I passed by some huge pieces of apple farm, those red and gigantic fruits are so tempting, after I made sure there were nobody seeing me, I went inside the farm (actually it is just beside the road) to pick a handful of apple!
Riding along the canal is so relaxing, that I forgot to maintain my pace, I planned to arrive Valence but it was getting dark quicker than I thought. I had to ride in the dark with my lights on for the last 10km. Couldn’t find a hidden park or cemetery to camp, I finally went to a hospital where there is a building with a little garden behind it,
It was a nice and quiet night, not too cold which gave me enough sleep. And it was my last night camping out for this part of my trip, the following 2 weeks I will be staying with friends or hosts. I would surely miss the time cooking in the wild and sleeping under the stars!
In the morning, there were some hospital staff walked by and didn’t say anything, until when I started packing, a doctor came and said hi and asked me some questions in French, I showed her my wound in my knee hoping to gain her some sympathy. It was fine, and I was glad to start early because I had 120km to catch up to arrive Albi before dark.
The road is still gorgeous and quiet. I just stopped for a quick lunch and carried on. Reaching Albi slightly after 5pm, I pressed the door bell of my friend Jeremie’s parents’ home. Here came a joyful lady welcoming me, I already felt like being home with Fabienne and Jean-Marie, and their daughter Adele! I met Jeremie through Couchsurfing in Hong Kong, he is French and decided to work and start his family in Hong Kong, congratulate him for just being a father! What’s interesting between us is that we were born in the same year, same date, even same time, What a coincidence!
Jeremie’s parents are both journalists, thanks to Jean-Marie’s idea to get me an interview from a newspaper, and next day my story was being printed on a French newspaper, how incredible! I never thought about being known in France!
Fabienne cooked wonderful meals and I totally enjoyed staying in her kitchen filled with orange color. I also tried my best to make a Chinese meal for them in return, but honestly I am not really a good cook. Well, at least they enjoyed it, thanks!!
I had two very relaxing day staying in Albi, walked around the town and saw the huge cathedral made of bricks.
The painting inside the cathedral showing the 7 sins is overwhelming, throughout the centuries it kept reminding people not to be drawn into sins but how many of them really care?
There is a famous French painter named Toulouse-Lautrec who was born in Albi, the museum showcased his post-modern paintings about various side of the society.
Behind the museum we can catch a view showing the other side of the river.
Fabienne even bought me a train ticket from Albi to Toulouse which costs only 5 euros, she wanted me to have another resting day for my knee wound to be healed. I was absolutely grateful to spend a few days with Jeremie’s family, and I am sure I will visit them again next year on my way back! Take care!
Bordeaux to Albi 295km