Toulouse – Montpellier The 260 km Canal du Midi links Toulouse to Sète. (From Sète it is possible to take a ferry to Tangiers and a different continent). The quality of the surface changes dramatically on leaving the Department of Haut Garonne and different spending priorities become apparent! From Toulouse to Carcassone is some 100kms and is achievable in a day. Castelnaudary: One of the principal ingredients of the delicious local specialty ‘Cassoulet’    is evident in abundance along this stretch of the canal. From Carcassone to Béziers the Canal continues: One of the joys of cycling is the many interesting people you meet along the way and inevitably stop to chat to, all with their own interesting tales to tell. This elderly French couple had just struggled with their little boat in this huge lock (remember this Canal links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean) as the thousands of gallons wash in quickly to raise the water level, Madame in the boat holds one end of the rope whilst a few metres above Monsieur holds the top end from the bank to try and keep the boat stable. It is very physical, and quite hairy. They had just finished when we introduced them to the time delay camera! Their proposed journey was to a village on the Gironde North of Bordeaux, which is almost the open sea! They thought it would take them a further 3 weeks. I hope they made it OK. The quality of the Piste is rather variable, although the scenery and canal features remain stunning. Between Olonzac and Capestang our patience with the quality of the surface had become exhausted and we followed the local rural parallel roads. You can see the heavily tree- lined Canal in the left of the photo: At Sallèles the branch of the Canal to Narbonne forms the centrepiece of the Town dividing it effectively like a dual carriageway: And onwards through the beautiful countryside to return to the Canal at Poilhes, immediately West of Béziers, so as not to miss the tunnel at Malpas. Unbelievably the main railway at this point passes beneath the Canal and the tunnel. It is rather strange listening to the trains below. At Béziers the climb to the top of the Cathedral Tower is recommended. This photo shows the view towards Villeneuve-lès-Béziers with the Canal just visible on the right, and heading towards Villeneuve in the distance on the left. The Canal near Villeneuve-lès-Béziers:                                                                                                                                                                                                  In its last few miles the Canal  and the countryside already appear to be more Mediterranean. At Agde the roads are very busy but is possible to head around the North of the town through the country lanes. Between Agde and Sète the road follows a strip between the Bassin de Thau and the Mediterranean. And between Sète and Montpellier the strip between the sea and the Etangs becomes very narrow. And the Etangs are shallow for fishing either by man: Or by the large flock of magnificent pink flamingos!                                                                                                                                   And so onwards to Montpellier Photos do not do justice to the City and to capture the variable nature of the City would require a whole book on its own and a more capable photographer. A couple of night views of the old city follow. The band invited to play is intended to encourage custom to the restaurant on their right. The steps and people in the windows behind them are part of a large mural. We are watching from church steps in one of the many small squares in the old City. It makes a natural auditorium. It is symbolic of the quiet yet busy and vibrant civilised nature of the City. There are other sites within easy reach of Montpellier and Béziers such as the viaduct at Milau, one of the seven wonders of the modern world, photographed here from the Motorway service area North of the viaduct. And in the old town of Pézenas you can sample the original mince pie recipe introduced to Europe from India by Clive in the 18th Century, when he lived in the town. The simple, cheap but delicious Plat de Jour at lunch kept us going for the day. And we never felt far from home! We can thoroughly recommend such a trip to anyone. Bon chance et bonne route!