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
      – 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
      – 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;


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


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.


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.


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.



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