January 1, 2011

June 2| Sète to Béziers

Empty, beautiful beach

Riding without much traffic along the Mediterranean … sometimes on a bike path, sometimes on a small access road, sometimes in view of the sea, sometimes of the dunes … if you don’t need hills, what could be better? Very soon after leaving the crowded town the wide, sandy beach was empty, with only a few people in sight. We stopped occasionally to walk on the beach or put our toes in the water and imagine Mediterranean Provence five hundred or a thousand or two thousand years ago.

First a working cargo barge, today a pleasure boat
In Agde we were too late for the covered market, but ate a second, larger breakfast, and bought more cherries, apricots, bread, cheese, etc. for lunch.  While grocery shopping, we met two English cyclists, on a tandem, riding the opposite direction from us. They had abandoned the Canal du Midi; its frequent tree roots made the tandem very awkward, and they returned to roads. We began riding on the Canal in Agde, and for some reason I still thought we might make better time, but it turned out to be slow, and beautiful, riding. It was soon clear that we would not have time for side trips if we wanted a day in Toulouse. And I did want that day. There were many beautiful boats on the canal. Some of the largest measured about 100 feet long and were first used as cargo barges, moving goods between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, stopping at cities enroute.

The canal crosses an aqueduct
The guide to the Canal that we carried was helpful for lodging, and we enjoyed the history, but unnecessary for directions. Reaching Béziers we again got predictably disoriented, but this time that gave us a good tour of the locks, which included two quite close together that seemed tall. It is an old city, dating from Roman times, and with a long history of religious and knightly violence, but we stayed only one night, so didn’t have time to explore. The Hotel de France was a bargain, with a pleasant room on the top floor overlooking city rooftops. We locked the bikes for free in their nearby garage. Leaving Béziers the canal itself crosses another river on an aqueduct.

36 miles. Route: Canal du Midi.

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