Cabinet of Curiosities – Sixth, and final, Day

It’s my last day.
I wake up to an overcast sky; quite a relief after three days of unforgiving sunshine – no need for the protective lotion today. Thinking back over the week, and revisiting my daily blog I realise I’ve touched on only a fraction of the curiosities I had intended to put into my Cabinet. The truth is that I’ve been so taken with the physical reality of being here, with its constantly shifting spectrum of sensation, that I’ve had little time for cerebral contemplation. It just goes to show the futility of detailed planning; I’ve long since learnt on these trips to “go with the flow” and trust my instinct.That said, however, I must try, in the remaining hours, to cram as many idiosyncratic items in the Cabinet as possible.
Let’s go back to Homo Sapiens – an endlessly fascinating and curious creature. For a start he (no gender significance) is bi-pedal. That in itself is a curiosity; imagine the geometry of a tall person, and the continuous and subtle adjustments to balance which need to be made to remain upright. Other curiosities include: our lack of body hair (a startling contrast to all other primates; our limited ability to swim (difficult to understand in the context of Survival of the Fittest); and the unusually long dependence period of our offspring (again, making us, one would think, very vulnerable). And then, the almost miraculous properties of our skin: elastic and flexible, but with structural rigidity; amazingly sensitive to touch; waterproof when needed; and with a remarkable ability to heal quickly when damaged. Our physiology has undergone many adaptations to make us “fit for purpose”; do you realise, for example, that the 300 million alveoli in our lungs provide a staggering 100 square metres of surface area for the efficient absorption of oxygen?
Above all, of course, there’s our brain. Its striking enlargement in comparison with other primates opens up boundless possibilities for abstract reasoning, language, introspection and emotion, with an appreciation of beauty through the development of art and music. And then, of course, curiosity; without it, where would be the fields of science, technology, philosophy and religion? Homo Sapiens, a truly remarkable and miraculous creature, must take pride of place in my Cabinet. Anyway, enough of this for the moment; I have to get to Montpellier.

I used the dreaded word! Having spent the week having to get nowhere, today is different; for once, the destination is more important than the journey. Horror of horrors – it gives the day an entirely different feel.
The first part is grey and dull. I take my time along a number of long straight roads, with an industrial backdrop, into a fresh but warm headwind.
Once I’ve left Sete I enter an expansive landscape of inter-locking lagoons now imbued with a hazy sunlight.

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A short detour to a beach-side tourist office confirms that there should be a series of cycle-ways taking me generally in the direction of Montpellier Airport – a peaceful, if uninspiring start to the day.
Glancing to my left, I spot a flock of pink flamingos

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Not surprising, I suppose; after all, we’re no more than 20 miles from the Camargue.
Detouring into the village of Vic-la Gardiole I discover a Sunday market in full swing

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Its function as a meeting point is clearly as important as its function for retail.  I enjoy a late breakfast consisting of a pain au chocolate, an eclair and a fruitjuice. Sounds revolting? Delicious!
The sun now comes out – it’s getting warm, almost hot. Many local Sunday cyclists are now out and about, probably on the way to the beach.
I pass a Muscat Domaine – one of my favourite dessert wines. I never knew it comes from around here.

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A few miles further on, a bizarre sight: half a dozen men engrossed in model aeroplane flying. If you look closely, you might make out the mini air-sock or even the scaled down runway.

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I’m not sure that photo worked!
All, though, is not what it seems. 100m down the road I come across a memorial plaque – this was the site of the original Montpellier Airfield (1920 – 1926) and is preserved to commemorate the early pioneers. Perhaps, not so bizarre after all.
At Lattes I encounter another, this time mega, market. I’m in good time, so stroll around and enjoy a delicious snack of fish mouth-bites, deep fried in a spicy batter. It has a name, but I forget to make a note.
From here to the airport is entirely uneventful. After checking Daisy-May and panniers in, I start writing up today’s blog.

Distance                                 27.3 miles (a short day)
Av speed                                9.2 mph (I’m being lazy)            
Elevation gain                      278 ft

For the whole trip
Distance                                  274 miles
Total elevation gain              15,388 ft
Average speed                         9.9 mph

Oh yes- my age?
Well, 2450 has a surprisingly small number of prime factors: 2x5x5x7x7.
If you play around with these, you will find only a small number of possible permutations for the ages of the family. In fact, after you have eliminated all those that are biologically impossible, you will find that only three remain. The vicar, being a good mathematician, would have reached this stage quickly.
Having a good eye for a pretty woman, he eliminated one immediately.
The remaining two (ages for the mother) were very close together – hence his difficulty. When, however, he was told that he was the oldest person present, he knew their ages immediately. This last piece of information must have been a discriminator. Logically, there is only one age the vicar can be!
As I said before, in a few weeks, I will be 17 years older than the vicar.

That’s all ’till next year.
It’s been a good one – one of the best.
Thank you.

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Cabinet of Curiosities – Day 5

It’s been a long day, but a good one.
You may take it as read that the weather is wonderful, the scenery is wonderful – at least most of it – and the cycling is wonderful. Is there anything left to be said? Well let’s see.
Before I start, perhaps I should briefly revisit yesterday’s puzzle regarding my age; I know that at least one reader has expended a bottle of wine on it, so far without success. And he knows my age! So, in fairness, I will add one extra bit of information which I had, perhaps mistakenly, assumed you would take for granted. The vicar, who has an eye for a pretty woman, is not a complete idiot in judging a woman’s age. With children, however, being a vicar, he’s pretty hopeless. Focus on the mother.
You now have absolutely no excuse. Go to it! To assuage any guilt I might otherwise have, not to mention bottles of wine expended, I promise to include full(ish) solution in tomorrow’s (my last) blog

It would be remiss of me not to comment on the quality of the hotel I’m about to leave. It’s superb. The sense of style and the eye for detail are rarely encountered. No trouble is too much for the host and hostess; Some day I shall return with Mary. At breakfast I start chatting to two other (Belgian) cyclists. They have come from Sete (where  I’m heading) and are cycling to Bordeaux (not in one day!). They advise me not to go on the Canal du Midi. The surface is apparently appalling. I don’t need much persuasion.
Leaving Lexagnan- Corbieres I soon find the road heading north to Roubia. To my left, the Montagne Noire; behind me, quickly receding into the distance, the Pyrenees and to my right, not too far out of sight…….the sea! I pledge to swim in it before the day’s out.
More vineyards, fields of waving corn, and poppies.

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When I reach Roubia, by ignoring road-signs and instead following my instinct I find myself on a farm-road. It’s a beauty; fine for cycling, but no traffic.

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I soon reach Capestan, where I stop for elevenses – an Iced Tea and a kit-kat bar which I consume sitting in the village square, watching the world go by.
Have you noticed how every bar of kit-kat indicates an opening strip which tears beautifully down the first finger? Perfect design and engineering! It works every time. Just shows that good design does not have to be about sophistication and expense; just needs to focus on fitness for purpose.
Leaving the village, I cross over the C….du…..M without a sideways glance and navigate my way through a network of country lanes towards Beziers. On the way I encounter a “Route Barree” sign which, of course, I ignore. This ensures 10 miles of delightful traffic-free cycling.

Beziers is an intriguing and historic city. I park Daisy-May and stroll the streets. As with so many Cathar cities the cathedral/castle occupies a dominant position overlooking the plain below.

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Sorry about the finger!
It also boasts a Roman Arena which I fail to find, in spite of following signs – which suddenly disappear. On the way out of the city, however I do discover another arena which takes me by surprise.

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In case you can’t read it, it’s a bull-fighting stadium; I hope it’s not still used for its intended purpose. I suppose this part of southern France shares much of its culture with its close Iberian neighbour.
The remainder of the journey to Agde and on to Sete is pretty uneventful. At one point, however, I glance to my right and spot ………the sea! The atmosphere has definitely changed: gone is the freshness and pristine quality of the Pyrenees; in its place the redolent but slightly tawdry nature of the Mediterranean. I know which I prefer.
A series of long straight roads follow,  to be frank …..rather dull. Time is also getting on. It must be half past six and I’ve been on the road since half past nine this morning. A long day.
Suddenly, a beach to my right!

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The last time I encountered a Mediterranean beach on one of these cycling holidays was five years ago at the foot of the Camargue (the Norfolk Broads with flamingos!). On that occasion the weather was cold, windy and dull; certainly not fit for swimming. Now, I have no excuse – I swim in the Mediterranean! Not for long (about 20 seconds!), but I do swim. Pledge fulfilled!
I finally arrive in Sete at 7.15 and book into the first ok hotel I find. And my room has a bath – sublime, after 65 (yes 65) miles.
Later in the evening, when I’ve started on the pichet de vin rouge, I glance up at the telly and – crowning glory of the day – ARSENAL HAVE WON THE CUP!
It’s been a long day – but a good one.

Distance                       65 miles
Average speed             11 mph
Elevation gain               1324 ft

Cabinet of Curiosities – Day 4

Its been a fabulous day. You will see I’m running out of superlatives!
My decision, yesterday, to stay the night at Duilhac was entirely spontaneous. I had stopped to explore this delightful and historic village which sits serenely under the impregnable castle of Peyrepertuse. On returning to my bike, I noticed that I had parked it right next to a small hotel. This was opposite the equally picturesque Restaurante de Moulin.

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What more could I want? But was it too early to stop for the day? I resolved that if it was after 4 pm I would check in. At that moment, the church clock struck four!
Curious – but true.
One of the intriguing (and essential) elements of writing a blog is the knowledge that there is an audience out there. Maybe not large; mostly, perhaps, family and friends, but definitely an audience containing some complete strangers. Who are they? What are their likes and dislikes? Turning the question on its head, what do they know about me? How old am I? What are my interests; political views?
You see, I know that I don’t really play the game. As a once a year blogger, I have provided no profile; no photo. I must be a complete mystery. Or perhaps not.
For the observant, I must have dropped a number of clues on the way; for any psychologists amongst you, no doubt many more.
A diversion for the curious: in each post I will reveal one piece of information – but you’ll have to work for it!
My age?
Inside a church, there was a vicar, his verger , and a family of three – mother and two children. The vicar asked the verger, who knew the family well, how old they were. The vicar and verger were both good mathematicians and enjoyed puzzles. The verger replied that the product of the ages of the three family members was 2,450
The vicar pondered for a while, and said he could not solve it. The verger gave an extra piece of information: he told the vicar that he (the vicar) was the oldest person in the church. Ah, said the vicar. I now know their ages!
In a few weeks time I will be 17 years older than the vicar.
This will provide for the curious, a definitive answer.
Back to the journal
Leaving Duilhac I realise that, once again, I will require neither watch nor compass. With the second successive day of wall-to-wall sunshine my own shadow, will provide all the information I need. When I set out early in the morning, my shadow extends to twice the length of the bike. By midday, it tucks neatly within the bike’s “footstep”. Good enough to gauge the approximate time.
The descent to Padern is a beauty …..

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……. ten km or so without a single vehicle. This must be a delayed pay-back for yesterday’s long climb.
Heading towards the early morning sun and with a following wind I’m serenaded by the vocal virtuosity of the nightingales. Have you ever noticed, the noun “virtuosity” has no adjective – or, at least I don’t think so. Curious
At Padern I turn northward into the Torgan Gorge; uphill, and now with a strengthening head-wind. The scenery more than compensates for these adversities

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I take my time, passing through the picture-postcard villages of Maisons, Davejean and Felines Termenes. There seems to be no end to the beauty. Coming over the Col, I see beneath me the valley sweeping down towards Narbonne, and beyond that, the Mediterranean. I confess a tinge of disappointment. We’re coming down from the high Pyrenees – I shall miss them.
One last fling; part way down I turn westward and start climbing again.
A few miles of ups-and-downs (into what is now a howling wind) sees me arrive at the mediaeval cite of Lagrasse, complete with impressive Abbey. I stop for lunch.

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After taking a few photos I switch my tablet back to Strava – for those of you who don’t know, an excellent cycling app. I notice that the cycling time at that instant reads 03.33.33 (Three  hour, thirty three minutes and thirty three seconds)
Curious? Well, let’s see
Up to 05.55.55 (it would start to get complicated going further) there are 21,355 seconds. Of these, five would have similar readings to the one above. This means 1:4,271
I’m sure I’ve switched Strava back on at least 2000 times, and noticed nothing strange. We only notice coincidences when they happen; we ignore the countless occasions when it doesn’t. Curious? Not really, no. Perhaps slightly premature.
From Lagrasse I continue at a leisurely pace towards Lezignan-Corbieres my destination for the day. On the way I spot some Pyrenean “wild” donkeys

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It’s been a fabulous day …….and there are two more to go

Distance                   42 miles
Av speed                  10.4 mph
Max height                  1527 ft
Elevation gain            3451 ft

Cabinet of Curiosities – Day 3

It’s been a vintage day. Vintage in its commonly used sense – nothing to do with age.
It’s vintage weather; wall-to-wall sunshine, with a gentle cooling breeze; vintage scenery, as I head deeper into the Pyrenees; and a vintage collection of additional curiosities to place inside my cabinet.
Today, I have travelled to the end of the world. I will explain that later.

Before leaving Limoux, I stroll around the square and enjoy a grande creme (2.4€) and a pain au chocolate (0.5€) in one of the bars. A perfectly good breakfast for less than 3€. I wonder how much it would have cost in the hotel.

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I decide to head up the Aude valley, some six miles or so, to Couiza.
The downside of this plan is that the only route follows the main road.
As it turns out, the road is quiet, the slope relatively gentle, and the scenery extremely attractive. I’m almost tempted to have a “wild” swim.

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The weather is so pleasant that I jettison my heavy-duty cycling top for the famed light-weight gillet. (My family are the only ones who will understand this reference. Apologies)
As I approach Couiza I spot the famous, (or should that be infamous?) Rennes le Chateau at the top of an adjacent peak. A decision to be made: should I tackle the daunting ascent (maybe about 500 ft over 5 km) or give this one a miss? The decision takes me about 20s – up I go!
It was a “no brainer” really: after all, I’m not trying to get anywhere; and this nugget is an absolute must for my Cabinet. I take the climb easy, with a few pauses but no dismounts and soon reach the top.

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Those of you who have read the Da Vinci Code, will have no need of what follows; I haven’t read it and probably never will, but I do know something of its background.
In 1885 an apparently impoverished young priest, Berenger Sauniere, arrived in the village and lavished a fortune developing the church and its Domaine. No one knew where the money came from.
Some believe he discovered hidden treasure; others link it to the Holy Grail; Dan Brown, I believe, weaves an intricate plot of hocus pocus, involving, amongst other locations, Reims Cathedral.
The whole affair has been much researched, by both amateurs and academics, but still remains an unsolved mystery. Why is it that so many people would rather believe fantastic explanations than more prosaic, but infinitely more probable alternatives? Perhaps Sauniere just came into an inheritance; or had a secret benefactor. Conspiracy theories have a strange attraction. (Diana, moon-landing etc.). Human nature is curious indeed!
In any event, the view from the top is wonderful. Well worth the climb.

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It is this view that persuades me to completely (split infinitely!) change my plans; I had been intending to retrace my steps to Couiza and then head NE (towards the dreaded Canal du Midi); the view of the high Pyrenees entices me ever southward. What the hell!
Following a short steep descent from the Chateau, I meander across an upland plateau through wonderfully lush scenery – predominantly the green and red I remember from my Pyreneean adventure forty years ago.

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A tense descent follows, due to an appalling road surface – an unseen pot-hole could put me in hospital.
Then starts the great climb – I later discover to a height of 2,194 ft. I am now definitely in the Pyrenees, possibly for the first time.

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Part way up, I stop for lunch at the only bar in the delightful village of Bugarach. Drink, but no food! Oh well, better than nothing. As the only person in the bar (and possibly the whole village) I start chatting to the proprietor, who is keen to show that his English is better than my French. Not difficult!
He mentions something about the “end of the world”. Having now researched this, and I do remember this being reported in the media, I can store in my Cabinet an ultimate curiosity. In 2012 a large group of new-agers camped at the foot of the Pic de Bugarach (the highest mountain in the region) in the belief that it was inhabited by aliens living in a spacecraft. They thought that on 21st Dec. 2012 an apocalypse would consume the planet and that they, the “believers”, would escape on the spacecraft. The French police were so worried about the possibility of a mass suicide that they blocked the approach road! The locals, who smiled to themselves as the “believers” went up, must have enjoyed a good laugh as they traipsed down. There’s nothing so curious as folk.
After my serendipitous lunch, I continue up to the Col, 2,194 ft, only half a mile from the said mountain peak. No aliens, I’m afraid!

At the Col I overhear a small group of Australian women; approaching me, they ask if I speak English. Having confirmed that I was , in fact English, I ripost that they also speak “a sort” of English. They laugh.
They inform me they come from Perth.
A wonderful descent follows; I take in the Galumas Gorge and continue to Duilhac sous Peyrepertuse. I find it so enchanting that I book into a hotel. Serendipidy to the end!

It’s been a vintage day.

Distance 42 miles
Average speed 9 mph
Elevation gained 4,764 ft.

Cabinet of Curiosities – Day two

It’s been a fantastic day! A day like a symphonic poem – unfolding and developing along the way; full of crescendos and diminuendi (Im not sure about the plurals!); providing a sumptuous feast for the senses.
Let me try to give you a flavour:
      – the weather starting grey and dull, but finishing in glorious
         sunshine;
      – an initial relentless (though gentle) climb from Revel into the
         Montagne Noire but then a number of long exhilarating descents.
         Maximum speed 34 mph!
      – a series of beautiful mediaeval villages, bursting with charm and
         character;
      – the intoxicating smells of early summer;
      – the kiss of warm air on bare skin, accompanied by a gentle breeze
      – following yesterday’s first and only sighting of a golden oriole, a
         flock of twenty of them (London buses?)singing in a roadside vineyard – no doubt a Languedoc, one of my favourite quaffable red wines;
      – the first glimpse of the mediaeval Carcasonne Cite glinting in the
      – sunshine;

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      – seeing the snow-covered peaks of the high Pyrenees for the first
         time. (I’m heading there tomorrow)

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Above all, a fantastic feeling of freedom: I can go where the fancy takes me; stop when I like; and all at my pace. Aren’t you envious? Canal du Midi, I scorn you; I shall leave you to the elderly antipodian lady-cyclists and organised walking groups – no insult intended. Why would anyone choose that when they can have this?

Yesterday, I described Revel as “understated”; walking around the square this morning in search of a grande creme and croissant I decide it’s actually rather pleasant, even in this dull early morning light.

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Climbing steadily into the Montagne Noire (eventually to a height of 2139 ft – Ditchling Beacon x 3) I ponder why occasionally pushing yourself physically, outside your comfort zone, can be so satisfying. Of course, in doing so you soon extend your comfort zone. There’s no denying, however, the sheer buzz you can get from extreme physical exertion. Perhaps it’s an evolutionary hangover – survival of the fittest

Have you wondered how curious it is that human beings will frequently avoid a relatively simple task because of some perceived obstacle; an obstacle which is often more trivial than the original task? Yesterday, for example, leaving Toulouse Airport I soon became aware the bike gears were playing up; however because the route was largely flat, the bike fully loaded and the higher gears were fine, I put up with it for two thirds of the entire day. Eventually, when the gradient steepened, I decided enough was enough; one minute to unload the bike and invert it; one minute to tweak the cable adjuster; and, hey presto, the job’s done. Without the low gears I would never have survived this morning’s climb. Curious indeed.

During this ascent I encounter a red squirrel and numerous slugs and worms crossing the road. Why is it that they do this in damp conditions? Curious. The descent to Saissac, a beautiful and charming village, is outstanding.

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And so, on towards Carcasonne and my first glimpse of the snow-clad peaks beyond. Along the way I find myself  singing the remaining words from yesterday’s brownie-point challenge: no “girls with peroxide curls”; no “black and tan flowing freely”; and definitely not “six in a bed by the old pier-head”; but plenty of “trees, scented breeze and fields of waving corn”.
Carcasonne Citadel is outstanding; a magnificent island fortress surrounded by nondescript sprawling suburbs. As you will know, in the 13th century, a Cathar stronghold until it succumbed to the siege and it’s citizens were betrayed. What was I saying yesterday about corrupt institutional church? And they were all supposedly of broadly the same faith!
The ongoing journey to Limoux is a joy. The shining sun and the beckoning Pyrenees make light of the second major hill-climb of the day.
Limoux is a gem, and I quickly find an unpretentious but excellent hotel.
It’s been a fantastic day.

Distance                                51 miles
Average speed                     9.6 mph
Max. speed                            34 mph
Max. elevation                      2139 ft.
Total elevation gained       4287 ft.

     

The Cabinet of Curiosities – on a folding bike

It’s been an intriguing day. Welcome to my Cabinet of Curiosities

“The Cabinet of Curiosities, also known as the Wunderkammer or cabinet of wonder, is both a precursor to the modern museum and a way of thinking about objects, knowledge, nature and artifice. The original cabinets of the Renaissance and after were in fact whole rooms, such as those of the seventeenth-century scholars and collectors Ole Worm and Athanasius Kircher. These cabinets housed an amazing diversity of things, both natural and artificial: animal specimens, minerals and crystals, ethnographic objects, fossils, works of art and mathematical and scientific instruments.
Artefacts from all times, places and disciplines might cohabit in the eccentric space of the cabinet; collections were organised but idiosyncratic, each one different and surprising in its effort to picture the world. Cabinets in the modern sense were also manufactured; these contained smaller objects, but were part of the same theatrical attitude to knowledge and its display. A cabinet such as John Evelyn’s, from the mid seventeenth century, opens onto an encyclopaedic and inquisitive vision of the world”

Ok, well here I am. On descending to Toulouse airport, the pilot informs us that the weather is “thirty degrees and fine”. THIRTY degrees – whoopee! On exiting the plane, I quickly realise I have mistaken this for THIRTEEN degrees – and it’s starting to rain. In fact, not dissimilar to Gatwick. Over the next six days I will use the reflective opportunities of solo cycling (this time on my NEW folding-bike Daisy-May – I’ll explain the name later) to ruminate on the curiosities and absurdities of the world we inhabit, selecting along the way my own idiosyncratic collection for this imaginary Cabinet. Each evening, assisted no doubt by “un pichet de vin rouge”, (tonight, rather a big one) I will attempt to preserve my rambling thoughts for posterity by posting a daily blog. You have been warned – anyone of a nervous (or discriminating?) disposition should perhaps leave now!

So, without further ado may I invite you ………. to step inside my Cabinet. Human Beings must surely rank as the most unlikely curiosity of all creation. After all, in a mere 2000 or so generations since emerging from the forests of Africa (yes – that’s all it is) Homo Sapiens has come to dominate every corner of the planet (except Antarctica), and successfully reach for the moon. And to think we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees! What is it that has made us so curiously successful?

Perhaps first, I can pick up a few loose ends from last year’s ramblings?
You may remember that I tried to address the BIG QUESTIONS? On the last day I considered the existence (or otherwise) of God; I concluded that in the absence of clear evidence one way or another I believe because I choose to. I believe it enhances my life. I hope you will indulge me if I recount briefly a spirited discussion on this subject I had with my family on Sunday. “There are 3000 gods – most people only believe in 2999 of them. Atheists go one further!” Good one Greg – thanks for that. However we all agreed that this does not counter the notion of a personal god. “Institutional church is either inept, corrupt – or both” Possibly true: but what of the many dedicated and inspirational individuals working within those churches? At the end of the day, we must make our own minds up. One way or another we are certainly the only creatures on the planet to have/invent a personal/universal god. Curious! Anyway, enough of that for the moment – back to the journey.
Getting out of Toulouse is a nightmare. For a start I have to find the Canal du Midi – a mere five miles, or so, away. This takes me at least 45 minutes – and in the rain. Things do, however, brighten up; the rain stops, the sun shines, and the canal tow path has a good quality surface. Now for the bad news: whisper it quietly, but the famous long distance route is rather ……. dull! At the end of the day, it’s just a canal: a big canal; with big locks; and big boats; but just a canal. In addition, and not surprisingly, it shares the valley with a 3-lane autoroute rarely out of sight and never out of earshot. All in all, rather disappointing. It reminds me of a similar disappointment five years ago in the Camargue; my son Richard describes this as the Norfolk Broads with flamingos! Actually, I think that is an insult to the Broads!

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I follow this for some 25 miles (at least this gets me out of Toulouse) encountering along the way an organised group of Australian pensioner cyclists (I overtake them!) and two organised groups of walkers, complete with hi-viz leader and tail-end-charlie

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Some good moments, however: banks of poppies; a constant accompanying chorus of singing nightingales; and – magic moment of the day – a fleeting glimpse of a golden oriole; the first I’ve ever spotted. After 30 miles, though, I’ve had enough and head north-east into the hills.
What a joy! The sun now shining I meander through “trees, scented breeze, and fields of waving corn” – a brownie point for anyone who can identify this quote – towards Revel. On the way I detour to visit a 13th century Cathar fort.

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At about 18.45 local time, I pull into this pleasant, understated town and find a perfectly acceptable two-star hotel. After a good meal (and that rather large pichet of red wine I mentioned earlier, I settle down to write this blog.
An intriguing day. I wonder what’s in store for tomorrow.

Distance travelled 49 miles
Average speed 10.4 mph
Max speed 31 mph