Today I mostly strolled around the Carcassonne old town. It is nice but very small and it reminded me a lot of San Gimignano in Italy. I think I could've seen all of it yesterday had I arrived into town a little earlier, but oh well, I needed some time to settle down, and most importantly, calmly sample the French cuisine. Here in the Languedoc-Roussillon region their specialty is the Cassoulet au Canard (for recipe in English go here) which was not bad, not bad at all.
The other thing I needed to do while I moped around the towns (old and new, the old medieval town sits atop a hill and is about 1 km away from the new town as they're separated by the Aude river since historically the two towns engaged in some rather complicated political intrigues) was to figure out once and for all how to catch this Canal du Midi because first of all, I had no idea where it was, I was not too sure it went to where I wanted, and most importantly I did not know how "bikeable" it was. A friend of mine from work who had taken a trip along the Canal on a barge not too long ago and is quite familiar with the area had assured me that the canal was bike-friendly throughout, but my road atlas in spite of being at 1:200 000 scale which ought to be good enough for bike paths did not show any roads that stayed consistently on the Canal, and weaving in and out of it through side-roads and having to check the oversize and heavy 250-page atlas every 5 kms seemed a very unappealing prospect to me.
Luckily, two things happened. 1) In my meanderings, I found a postcard, with a hand-drawn map of the Canal, which marked the little towns it went through and through which, upon buying the postcard and examining it closely, I discovered that the canal went all the way to Beziers, a little northwards from Narbonne and closer to Montpellier/the direction I was headed (thus also prompting a minor modification of plans--I'll be biking to Beziers from Carcassonne instead of Narbonne, since Narbonne is only about, say, 60 kms away from here, and Beziers is about, let's say, another 30 kms from Narbonne, I guess, plus allow for say, 20 extra kms for Canal meandering as it is a lot less direct than the vehicle roads, which brings us to approx. 110 kms total distance, quite doable in a day, if all goes well, I think), and 2) I found a book in the only open bookstore in the old town today entitled "The Canal du Midi on a Bike". The book was all in French, so for this reason I examined it quite closely before deciding whether to buy it, and glad I did, because, guess what, it had NO maps (so no use buying it, then)!!
How is this a good thing, you ask? Well, because basically all the book really said was, oh, the dirt road here veers off a bit, make a right, but later left, and back onto the canal, and here's this beautiful little village with the pretty church of so and so, etc., which in essence made it quite clear that since the reader required no further instructions or maps to find their way around, the bike path must be obvious then. Obvious all the way to Beziers, right?
The next step in the sleuthing process of course then was to figure out where to catch/get onto this famous bikepath. Now, in Carcassonne I had passed through two bridges. One, from the train station onto the new town, crossing a waterway where lots of little boats were, and the other, dividing the old town from the new town and crossing a big river with a large....you guessed it, very appealing bike path to its flank. Which one do you pick?
No, my friends, this is not interactive blog post #2 (look at this post's title!), and besides I remember what happened last time I let you control my destiny, so I'll leave you in suspense until the next post when I let you know which one I took in the end. But, if you are the betting kind, feel free to wager your guess in the comments section. Greg, of course, you're barred from the betting pool due to "unfairly advantageous a-priori [Ed note: as well as a-posteriori !! :P] knowledge"!