Day 8 : La cite d’Agde to Beziers

So. Lou Pescadou.

The food just kept coming. I’m not joking it was just huge course after huge course.

I take back what I said about all French. There’s loads of Germans here and I heard somebody say ‘prego’, must be Italians. There’s Americans here too.

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Anyway to the food. No joke the first course by itself would’ve been fine.

Delicious fish soup. But it just kept coming and coming. They have a portion control issue here. I’m a Yorkshireman. Don’t put food in front of me. I’ll eat it.

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I don’t really want to talk about food though. I had a pretty rough night last night. Felt dreadful, I thought I’d overindulged, but couldn’t figure out how. Then I realised something more serious was up. It was food poisoning. It had to be the raw seafood. Last time I got food poisoning it took exactly two days to kick in so that fits. It was probably that bloody sea snail or whatever you call it. [What is the name for it? It’s the thing that comes in the shell you can hold to hour ear and hear the sea]

I threw up a couple of times in the night but eventually felt better. Just like last time.

When I got up I felt surprisingly OK. I’d decided I was getting the train again but once I got a banana and some orange juice down me I felt up to it. It was only a couple of hours ride.

I set off, life felt good, it was so still and not a cloud in the sky and it was about 25 degrees.

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I eventually got to Beziers. Then the strangest, yet funniest thing all holiday happened to me.

I cycled through the park before dropping my bike off. I got this really funny long stare off this middle aged French woman.

When I got back to the shop Timo, the nice Dutchman at Relax Rentals, told me I had  big rip in the back of my shorts. How did that happen? They were OK this morning.

How embarrassing I thought. That explains the strange look. Oh well I’ll never see any of those people again. I packed my stuff from my panniers back into my bag but thought I may as well discard the shorts. I nearly put them in the bin at the shop but then decided that wouldn’t be a very nice parting memory of the Englishman with the blog who’d ridden the canal.

So I went back to the park to read my book for the remaining hour until the airport shuttle arrived. I ditched  the shorts in the bin. They’d been really handy, they were knee length and had lots of pockets in, but I’d been cycling in them the past two days, they were visibly damp around the posterior, ripped and generally a bit worse for wear.

I then went on the hill and started reading.

This park was full of whackos. There was more than one person talking to themselves. One of them started shouting out to himself then soon after took a piss in clear view of everyone.

Then the French woman who’d given me the look appears in the distance at the bin. She starts going through it!

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[Can you identify this woman?]

Then she gets my sweaty ripped shorts out. I felt violated. Had I left Anything in the pockets? No I’d checked them it was OK. What on earth.

THEN she started holding them  up to herself trying them on for size. Oh my god. I burst out laughing uncontrollably and covered my mouth. She hadn’t seen me. She was stood there shamelessly holding them up to herself for ages. This was hilarious. Then she starts looking at the rip, as if to see if it was repairable – surely not it was huge. But clearly she thought it was because she opened her bag them put them inside. I was in shock but found it funny more than anything.

It’s been a great trip. However, the lasting memory I’ll have of France and cycling the canal is the thought of that woman walking around in my shorts. It’s cracking me up just thinking about it now.

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Day 7 : Sete to La Cite d’Agde

Last night I decided I’d done enough cycling. I know this is only a short trip. A family friend just cycled across Africa, my brother once cycled the length of France after university, as did my friend Aiden.

But I’ve reached the furthest point now and I’ve seen 98% of the canal. I’ve just bypassed a few kilometers when I went to the coastal past of Agde.

I’m heading back to the old part of Agde for my last night then to Beziers on Friday go drop the bike off then catch the plane. I’d decided I could justify the skipping the two hour ride from Sete back to Agde and just take the train.

Anyway when I phoned the hotel I’m staying at in Agde and I couldn’t check in till two so that all went out of the window.

Sod it, I’ll cycle back, stop off at the beach on the way. Top up my squady tan (arms, face and neck), check in then explore Agde.

It all went to plan, the beach was amazing, and I passed another street market

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[They would be perfect for an onion necklace]

Then on the way to Agde the great cycle path on a pretty major dual carriage way just stops without warning. No signs, no indication of what to do next. It has a habit of doing that. Where the heck do I go now. I’m not turning back, it was about 2kms from the other turn off.

So off I went, lifting my bloody heavy bike over the barrier down through a ditch and some prickly bushes, adding some scratches to my already scratched up arms and legs. Then onto a dirt track, oh the joys of cycling holidays. They’re so full of highs and lows – I was in heaven on an empty beach half an hour ago. It’s over 30 degrees and I was just thinking to myself that I’d not got hot and bothered and my limited supply of clothes were pretty fresh. I was now drenched in sweat. I bet the Belgium’s never went off piste like this.

Eventually after driving through thick slippy gravel for 10 minutes I managed to find the road I wanted and found my way into Agde.

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It’s a bit rough round the edges here and the hotel is pretty below average. But at least I was able to hand wash my clothes and dry them with my homemade tumble dryer that was surprisingly effective

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Now I’m going to Lou Pescadou which was on Rick Stein’s French oddeysey. They have great fish soup apparently.

Let’s hope I get in. I’ll report back tomorrow.

Day 6 : Le Cap d’Agde to Sete

The new town has grown on me. There’s a cute little beach and the port is lovely.

There was also a proper French market in the morning.

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I dodged the expensive hotel breakfast and went to the depot de pain and got myself a pain au chocolat and an orange juice then sat on the harbour and watched the world go by.

My destination today was Sete, after trying to find my way out and failing I went to l’office de tourisme and they gave me an excellent route back up to the canal on cycle paths all the way and then through a nature reserve.

After I got back onto my map the canal kind of finishes, and there’s a lake. At the other end of the lake the the canal continues again. There’s a section I’ve missed which I’ll do tomorrow when I return to Agde old town.

The cycle path goes right next to the beach for a long way, it’s flat and sunny… life felt amazing.

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Eventually I got to Sete. I really like it here. It’s an old town. A perfect balance between a working town and a touristy place. I don’t know if it’s because I’m slightly out of season now but there only seem to be French people here. Lots of them on holiday. I don’t like it when a place gets overrun with non nationals.

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The hotel is the best yet and considering I’m on the coast now, reasonably priced. Less then £50. Thanks again to Relax Rentals for doing the leg work.

I had a nice walk around the town, it’s really hot here. I’m always fascinated by the amount of pharmacies in Europe. They must get ill a lot, or perhaps they’re all hypochondriacs. I thought they all had a great diet and the French paradox. Anyway the flashy pharmacie signs said it was 29, 34 on another and 39 degrees on another. They can’t be very accurate. Either way it felt a lovely temperature to do some sight seeing without being cooked.

Right I’m off for some more seafood. I might have moules frites for lunch tomorrow. Yum.

Day 5 : Columbiers to Le Cap d’Agde

It was a bit cold in the hammock, without a sleeping bag. It was also a bit noisey, a couple of birds, and some other wildlife. But I felt quite safe in my cocoon. I put my earplugs in and off to sleep I went. I probably only slept for 4 hours but I didn’t mind an early start.

It’s nice seeing the sunrise and there’s just something nice and still when you’re out in the morning.

The weather is now really pleasant. I’m actually only round the corner from where I started but there’s still a decent bit of the canal and coast to see beyond here.

I feel bad that I didn’t explore the countryside more, but I think I made the right decision, this is supposed to be a holiday after all. 

The thing about us English is that the weather at home is so miserable most of the time that we need the sun to shine on holiday. I was telling this to Gerhard who’s from Stuttgart. He didn’t get it. After living here for a few years he later told me he now understood 🙂

I set off early and headed back to Beziers.

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[The staircase just west of Beziers]

I thought I’d pop back to the bike hire shop, Relax Rentals (big plug for them http://www.relaxrentals.fr) who have been amazing. The equipment I’ve got is excellent, and there are no hidden charges. They’ve also lent me a really good map that’s been invaluable. The Belgians taught me a lesson the other day. I’ve been following it since. They kindly booked me a hotel, printed out some maps and advised me what lay ahead.

I set off down the canal and it was bliss. It’s beautiful down here, more touristy but consequently the path was excellent. Cyclists are treated really well over here (and the rest of Europe). The cycle lanes are scenic and not just A to B. You’re also not a second class citizen like at home. The cars give way to you and no-one complains when you’re on the pavement or cycling through  pedestrian area. I kept expecting  Gendame to tell me off but it never happened.

I was heading for Agde, there are two parts the old town on the canal and the new town next to the coast. They’re actually quite far apart. I had a quick look at the old town. It’s on a big river. I really liked it.

I headed down go the new town and didnt think that much of it first. No character. I seriously thought about turning back to the old town but then I found the beech and life felt great again.

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After  night in the hammock with a pizza, I decided to restore balance in the force with a nice hotel and a posh seafood meal recommended by the friendly receptionist.

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I have to say it was posh and not really my thing. But even here they do the nice set menu thing ranging from 16 euro to about 45. I wish we had the same formula at home.

The Frenchman next to me really tasted his wine, I mean for like 20 seconds. He didn’t look like he was enjoying it, but he kept it in the end. I don’t see the point in it. I think it’s a tradition we should loose. I’ve never seen a bottle sent back yet.

There were a choice of starters. I wanted oysters so went for something that ended up being a raw seafood platter – except the prawns.

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I eat anything. At least I thought I did until I had my first seashell thing, what do you call it?? It really looked disgusting , but i had a go. When you pulled it out there was grime lodged between it and the shell, then the texture, rubbery and it had a boney thing in it, some grit, some slime. I didn’t go back for any more. That said I’ve been looking forward to the seafood since I got here. The nice thing about travelling across France slowly is that I’ve seen the transition from duck, duck and more duck. To duck and squid. Now its predominantly seafood which I’m liking. I’ve eaten as much duck in 3 days as I do in 3 months back at home.

Funny people the French. It’s the poshest place I’ve eaten in by a mile. A couple of chavs walk in sporting tracky bottoms and ear rings then they go and order this!

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Their body weight in shellfish. To go with it a nice bottle of Rose. Strange people the French, strange place…

Day 4 : Marsaillette to Columbiers

It’s got warmer and brighter but the wind is still persistent.

This part of the route has a few choices. There’s no big towns or cities and no obvious place to stop tonight so if I can finally loose the wind which I should then I might deploy the hammock.

Life was good. I had a simple breakfast overlooking the vineyard.

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The morning started well although the path is a bit bumpy in places. I’m really thankful for the suspension now.

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I came across this bridge and it was submerged. I’ve been though water before on a bike and learnt from my mistakes, it can be very slippy but there was only one way to go.

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It was OK in the end.

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I’ve decided to skip Narbonne in the end, I slogged on. I’ve been doing about 70k  day which doesn’t sound much in terms of road biking. But you can probably half the speed you do when you’re on rough tracks.

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In the end I made it to a nice little port called Columbiers. I rode past it a bit and found a great place to shelter completely hidden from view and setup camp…

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I’d finally lost the wind and it was about 20 degrees at night now. I had to pluck up some courage to sleep rough, its a bit frightening on your own but I was looking forward to it, and needed to justify buying the hammock!

Day 3 : Castelnaudery to Marseillete

I set off from le basin at Castel’ today…

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Picked up some pain and some tomate from a confused Frenchman who couldn’t understand why I only wanted one of his giant tomate and how he could keep the change. (I ended up with two).

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I’d been wondering where all the boats were, all I’ve seen so far is lots of cyclists.

However when I set off today the path got rougher and the lycra disappeared and there were boats a plenty.

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Before long I came across this flight (I think that’s right or is this a staircase?) anyway these things aren’t to be underestimated. It reminded me of the time I heroically saved my dad and Julie from drowning on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire (or another way to look at it is my mum and I nearly sank the narrow boat with mon pere and Julie in it).

The fruit from Victor Hugo market was very ripe now but I didn’t bother to top up my supplies as there are plenty of options if you’re opportunistic 😉

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You wouldn’t go hungry, there’s also canard and lots of award winning grapes.

I reckon about 90% of the canal is lined with trees so there’s no need to cover up.

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Although there wasn’t much sun around today, the weather is coming in off the Atlantic again the Black mountains and the Pyrenees funnel the wind through, and its pretty strong. I don’t know how long its going to stick around so I’m speeding ahead again to come under the influence of the med.

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The locks are generally a good place to stop and have a chat, although I wish they’d put cafes in more of them, considering the throughput here its unbelievable that I haven’t seen a shop yet en route, not even in the villages, they’re like ghost towns.

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Although I can’t complain when there’s views like this for lunch.

You probably won’t understand my reasoning behind this but I pretty much dodged carcassone, I’m here for the countryside Not not the cities. I had a quick look at the fairy tail castle, and concluded the rest of it is a bit of a shithole and got out if there to head for sheltered ground.

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I went through a lovely little village called Trebes with the intention of stopping the night, its full of tourists and touristy things, but no bloody hotels. I just don’t understand this place. Anyway in to the next village that has no tourists and there’s three. I opted to stay on a vineyard for 20 euros a night with breakfast and slept in a wine barrel. Random.

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