Apart from missing Junction 24 on the M1 and taking another 18 miles to turn round the drive to East Midlands Airport was straightforward. Anna was happy to take me and the drop off was quite simple at this small airport. The flight was barely occupied.
I’m not sure why so many people have dropped out but it made the flight painless and my bike box was waiting for me on the carousel as I cleared Passport Control. Not often I can say nice things about Ryanair… I asked one of the Carcassonne Airport staff if I might reassemble it inside the terminal rather than outside in the sweltering sun. No problem. Happily the bike went together well and I was off… to Decathlon.
This is a sports good store. I needed a gas canister for my camping. From here I wandered in circles around the town before finding my hotel down a back street. This was to be my first experience of how the French control the virus. At best it’s ‘lip service’. I was asked to sanitise my hands and follow the inevitable tape on the floor. After booking in I found myself up 3 flights of stairs in a reasonable room. The hotel only had four guests and so why I had several hearty hikes up and down I don’t know.
La Cité is a perfect fortification in Carcassonne. I’ve been about three times previously but it was nice to visit again. There were a few French around but the usual British voices were not to be heard. We’re still not travelling. The economic hit to these tourists spots must be gigantic. Anyway I had some pasta and then returned for a workout up the stairs and off to bed.
At 8.10am I was ready for the off. Pleasingly the start would be flat as I headed east. Traffic was light and the odd British, Belgium or Dutch number plates were a rare sightings. It was idyllic cycling beside the Canal du Midi. However I was only on the gravel footpath briefly before taking the road that ran beside it. This tremendous canal construction feat dates back to the 17th Century and was built to connect the Atlantic (Gironde River) with the Mediterranean. It’s 240 kilometres long.
The bright blue skies were with me all day and the scenery was green and fertile. Vineyards were visible as far as the eye could see. The upshot of this flat run was 44 miles at 13.7 mph. That’s motoring in Touringville! I stopped for lunch in Capestang, a well known stop for the tourist hired canal boats that cruise the canal.
It was starting to become very hot. In fact unbearably hot. I suddenly found my self climbing for a couple of hours as the temperature reached a bewildering 44°C. I felt the energy draining out of me and my legs. Sacre bleu!
I knew it’d be hot but this was stupid. My destination was all about a campsite I’d found near a lake. That sounds exquisite but frankly it was the only one I could spot as I planned my route.
I really started to die on the bike. It wasn’t helped by running low on water. At this temperature you drink every 5 minutes: you have to. I carry just under 3 litres and replenish when I can. However sometimes there is no water to be found. To add to my misery the road continued to climb! At 6.10pm I’m worrying about finding the campsite when my favourite youngest daughter rang to discuss car finance. I may have been a little pre-occupied and grumpy (quelle surprise). Fortunately I’d found some water. I’m not sure if it was drinkable but it sure tasted good.
Not without quite a bit of ‘going round in circles’ malarky I got to the campsite and parted with €19.00 for my pitch. In fact the owner wanted €19.02 but decided to make the magnanimous Gallic gesture and write off the balance (as I didn’t have the correct change). The site had solar power to heat the water and operate the bathroom lights but there were no electrical sockets.
Let’s hope my iPhone and Garmin battery last until I can find a socket! I rang the ‘FYD’ and completed the conversation on the intricacies of buying a car. Frankly she’s frighteningly sorted and I had little to add to her forensic analysis. I mean who turns up at a car showroom with a laptop to run through the figures with a salesman?
The pitch was fine, the laundry was done and after some pasta I fell into a deep sleep.