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Published: June 20th 2013
K - My usual caveat applies to this blog - traveling for several months is not vacation and things that you would appreciate on a 2 week holiday can be wasted as pearls before swine when they crop up in the middle of a 14 month trip. So........
I did not want to visit the South of France on this trip due to time constraints and also because although areas of the South of France are stunning it gets incredibly busy in the Summer and heat, traffic and tourists were not high on our "must-do" agenda. We had agreed (I thought) that our focus instead was to be on other less busy, areas of France. Moreover, I had just spent nearly 24 hours getting from the South of France up to Limoges to meet Mark and I wasn't sure why I would have done this if he was planning to come South after all.
Mark however was of a different opinion and he was driving so...... oops, look where we are...........approaching Carcassone. A mere 90 minutes drive from Montpelier, and pretty much the South of France.
Don't get me wrong, Carcassone is stunning. A picture perfect medieval castle
town with old streets and beautiful fortifications. However, it is also mobbed with tourists and packed with average restaurants and tacky shops. This is both our idea of hell and it is exactly why we try and visit beautiful places like this in the off season. Yes, you take a gamble on the weather but it is so much more pleasant in every other way. I am pleased I saw it but next time it will be in early Spring!
Our next stop was the beautiful Canal du Midi. Mark has fond memories of this area as he spent a college summer working on the canal boats here and his descriptions have made it a place I also wanted to visit....but maybe not at the end of June. The canal itself was beautiful albeit busy. The standard boat is apparently much larger than when Mark worked there and it only takes a couple on the water to detract from the serene beauty of the waterway. I am still interested in doing a trip along the canal but again we would definitely have to take a gamble on the weather and go in off season.
As Mark was now
strongly in nostalgia mode and I had (virtually) stopped resisting, we took a detour even further South to Mark's old boatyard at Portiragnes Port near Agde in Languedoc-Roussillon. En-route we stopped at Beziers to see the famous 7 Fonserranes Locks which was interesting.........if you like locks. Hee Hee. Actually it was quite interesting even for those with no interest in engineering at all.
However, perhaps inevitably 20+ years later the boatyard area was a lot more built up with caravan parks etc than Mark remembered and I felt he was a little disappointed to see the changes. Also unfortunately the traffic to get there was hideous and when we tried to find accommodation there was not a bed to be found. Oops - could this be because it was the end of June in the South of France?
Oh - did I mention that it was my Birthday the next day and apparently I was now going to spend it somewhere in the South of France? In a lay-by if I was lucky.
At this point after a full and frank conversation we came up with a new plan and basically just drove North. Every now and
Prevalent all over France but we kept forgetting to take photos
then we pulled in to a small town and tried to find a bed - and every time we were thwarted. It was after 9pm when we finally pulled in to an Ibis on the edge of an industrial park and managed to find a serviceable and empty room. And a pizza.
Next morning after a quick cafe and croissant we were apparently off to Orange, Provence, a place that I was assured I would enjoy and that Mark had always planned would be my birthday destination. He had just devised a cunning route to get there so I would not guess. Which of course I had not, not least because my list of destinations for this trip had not included Provence.
However, as usual the jammy dodger pulled it out of the hat and I enjoyed a memorable Birthday in a very pleasant Roman city. A relaxed afternoon of sightseeing followed by a gourmet dinner and then, in a typical balmy Provence night digestifs and live music in a nearby square until the early hours. Happy Birthday to me!
En route to Orange. It was so hot we didn't even try and taste wine!
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