Baziege to Toulouse: 25kms
I arose after a fantastic sleep – the bed was really comfy and the room really dark. I always know when I’ve slept well because I have vivid dreams. This night’s offerings took me back to 17 years old at my year 12 cello exam – why am I still dreaming that! I wrote morning pages and felt a sense of accomplishment. It is funny noticing others around me when I’m writing – they can’t resist talking and commenting on things and kind of forget that I’m busy writing. When there is no separate room to go to, it is a little tricky, but I’m getting better at kindly not engaging, and being focussed on the job at hand. I realise I am growing in confidence about going my own way, doing my own thing. Strong, independent woman. Those bells ring out again – très magnifique.
We all had breakfast together, but then I was a little slow with my packing. Bernadette and Philippe were already downstairs waiting with packs and boots on. I said goodbye to our hosts and I caught B & P up as they were buying things from yet another boulangerie on the way out of town. I bought another quiche for lunch – its turning into a habit.
We all walked together for a short time until we found our way back to the Canal du Midi, but then I walked more quickly with Philippe and Bernadette took her own pace. He is a reflective and considerate person, saying at one stage that “an elegant mind was more important to him than elegant trousers”. He certainly was an elegant-thinking man. We walked all day again between the canal and the A61. He said it was like having one foot in a dream and one foot in reality. I liked the way he looked at things – it reminded me of a student who told me about the Maori belief of walking through life always one foot in physical and one foot in spiritual reality. We were walking at a cracking pace, but it was extremely nice to be sharing conversation with such an interesting person. It was worth the pain, and it would only be for one day.
He also explained what a tourterelle was – I like to call it the Kate Bush pigeon, but in fact it is a turtledove, hence its gorgeous call. I referred to it in a previous post. Kate Bush is a long-time favourite of mine, and her little double album Arial, released in 2005, is a beauty. In it, Prelude features her son Bertie and birds …
The day is full of birds
Sounds like they’re saying words
The dove’s calls are then imitated in the tune of the song. I’d listened to this album over and over so that when I ventured to France in 2008 and was attending Orpheon Baroque School, I stayed in a friend’s beautiful house and each morning, the beautiful call, which I thought at that stage was only English, gently woke me. Little did I know that I would brush up against the same calls in France and indeed would learn more about bird language as I walked further.
There were not many photos today, as I was too busy walking and talking with Philippe for near to 20kms. It was a fast walk, and we arrived by 1.00pm. It was actually excellent to get there so quickly along the canal route. But the few photos I did manage to get with the combination of the overcast day, the watery canal and boats and the juxtaposition of the amazing graffiti art made for a spectacular entree into the bustling city of Toulouse; home of the A380. Another idea for this blog – Canal Boats of the Via Tolosana could include the evil eye, a day spa, a camouflaged boat and Samsara, no less. Happy trails full of bateaux de canal.
We tended to walk ahead of Bernadette, she was perfectly happy for that. Her pattern is to walk a set number of hours before stopping – I think it was 4 – so that makes about 16kms before a break. So we went quickly, and were then met by her when we had a break for morning tea, and again when we had just finished our lunch she met us again around 12.45pm. Getting up from our seat which proudly said “Revolution will come with education”, we saw her coming in the distance, so waited for her for our last few kilometres into the centre. At one point, the canal completely surprised me by passing over a road, or maybe given the age of the canal and the roads, the road passed under the canal. On the last little stretch to the centre we took a wrong path and ended up walking very close to the crash barrier of the road. Our way was littered with rubbish and it was really disappointing. But on the other hand the beautiful multi-story variety of buildings made a really great introduction and made me think I’d like to do a tour of the city if I had time.
Philippe had worked out where he was staying, and Bernadette was finishing here so was going to catch a train that afternoon back home to Lyon, so when we got to the road that veered off to the left, we availed ourselves of the public toilet, took some photos for memories, and said farewell to Philippe. I decided I would walk with Bernadette to the station partly because I hadn’t exactly decided what I wanted to do, and partly because I felt it was the right thing as it seemed she was a little uncertain of the way. The SNCF station is also on the canal so it was a simple quarter of an hour-ish walk there. She would most probably get a train within the hour, they run so frequently. Before we got there, we tipped our hats in homage to the statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the man who created the Canal du Midi (or the Canal Royal de Languedoc as it started out), standing overlooking the road towards the centre, which crosses the canal outside the SNCF.
I said goodbye to Bernadette, and walked outside of the station, meeting an Algerian man who kind of talked with me and wandered with me all the way to the Place du Capitole, after I asked him directions. It was an interesting discussion. He didn’t seem to like being in Toulouse and I asked him a little cheekily, why he stayed if it was so bad. I couldn’t really understand this. The Office de Tourisme turned out to be the first one that was less than helpful. It was no help with finding accommodation and they couldn’t help me with information about accommodation in Carcassonne either – pity. This is a fairly common issue. The offices only deal with tourism for their particular region, so even though you may be very close, it can be difficult to get information about the nearby towns without actually being in them. So I sat there and paused. What shall I do? The answer came: stay here tonight. OK.
I decided to walk the 15 minutes to the same place that Philippe was staying in – Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs. I’ll go tomorrow to Carcassonne. It was a pretty direct walk, and I found the place easily, passing by many buildings like Baziege, the brickwork is unique to this area. I would assume this is more Spanish style as there were now street signs on buildings in both French and Spanish. It made me realise the way is creeping closer to Spain.
I came to the auberge and a group of people sharing some laughs welcomed me in the foyer. I paid my money and they accommodated me in a room two floors up. There would be dinner tonight too – bonus! After getting up to my room (one I had to myself), then showering, and suspending my washing from the chair to the open window handle, and on a couple of coat-hangers I found in the wardrobe, I made my way downstairs for wifi access – only available in a computer room. The place is like YMCA hostel – but for young workers and over the afternoon, more and more gathered and hung out, chatted and watched soccer on the computers. The linoleum corridor on my floor was coincidentally being re-surfaced so I couldn’t go back up until 7pm, and unfortunately I forgot to bring a warm pullover down so I sat and shivered most of the afternoon, and kept closing the door as people walked in and out of the cavernous room all afternoon to keep the cool out. More and more young men and women came to access emails, and chat between themselves. It was a nice environment.
On the internet I looked at accommodation, and was getting very disheartened because there is a big festival tomorrow – probably the biggest of the French public holidays – Assumption – the commemoration of the departure of Mary from this life into heaven. National Holiday. I don’t know whether this augers so well for a visit to the most popular National Monument – La Cite, Carcassonne. Hmmmm.
I was continuing to feel frustrated about the lack of accommodation options in Carcassone when I happened across a site for the Notre Dame de l’Abbaye. I asked the woman at the desk whether she would mind ringing ahead for me. She was very helpful and said that yes, pelerins are accommodated and I just need to be there before 7pm. Perfect, and only 20 Euro. Great luck. Maybe a good place to research Cathars. Could I have been there before in another life?
I decided I would go to Carcassonne early tomorrow, to get the maximum time to look around and plan my activities. I had the most amazing ‘canteen’ meal that night for only several euros and it was nice because I caught Philippe and we had what would turn out to be our final chat. I overdosed on chocolate mousse – he gave me his. I said I would get up to say goodbye in the morning and we said goodnight.
Jacques writes late: “Carcassone is nice. Walk with Jacques, Marlies and Manfred. Left Toulouse yesterday with train to Isle Jourdain.” He’s still skipping the ‘boring’ bits!