Castelnaudary to Carcassonne - Melo Vélo Meanderings - CycleBlaze

June 20, 2018

Castelnaudary to Carcassonne

In planning for the trip, this day was to include a short ride to Carcassonne so that there would be ample time to explore the medieval Cité.  We enjoyed a somewhat leisurely breakfast at our Airbnb, and were on the Canal du Midi track by 10 am.  As we experienced the previous day, the track narrowed and there were quite a few muddy and/or rutted sections.  Carolyn, who is a strong biker with some experience in cyclocross did a great job navigating the mud, ruts, roots, and rocks.  Me, not so well. At one point, Vivien George and I went down, and my momentum almost carried me into the Canal!!  We decided to get off the canal track and try the alternate roads. There was quite a bit of wind, and one close call with an impatient driver - not relaxing but we deemed it better than the canal route.  We stopped at Bram and cruised the market, then were back on D33.  Traffic increased as got closer to Carcassonne, and was a steady stream by the time we reached Villesèquelande.

Carolyn leading the way through ruts, rocks and roots
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Short stop in Bram to cruise the market
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We turned off D33 at Villesèquelande hoping to find a nice place to eat.  There was grocery store and pizza/restaurant right off the highway, much like a highway stop in the US - all you needed was a gas station!  We stopped to chat with another cyclist who had arrived here from Castelnaudary along the Canal track.  He indicated that the whole route from Castelnaudary was similar to what we experienced in the first couple of miles, and he opted to take D33 into Castelnaudary. We headed toward town, where a group of local lads informed us that the only place to eat was the restaurant out by D33 - but that it was a very good restaurant.  We headed back that way, and the guys were right - the food and staff were great and we had an enjoyable and leisurely lunch.  We debated whether to continue on D33 to Carcassonne or get back on the Canal track.  The wind and traffic were picking up - leaning me to favor the Canal route. I reasoned that the track would improve as we neared Carcassonne due to the number of tourists that might be interested in a day bike trip along the Canal. I even tried using the satellite setting on Google Maps and it appeared that the route widened. So off we went, back on the Canal du Midi for the last 10 miles to Carcassonne.

Unfortunately, the track was the same as before - although less muddy, it narrowed to a single track route following close to the edge of the winding canal.  After a few miles, the canal straightened out, the track widened and we were able to pick up our pace heading into Carcassonne.  Soon, we spotted the signs for Carcassonne and were heading up the hill to the Cité, the medieval citadel of Carcassonne.  Based on a recommendation made by Scott and Rachael Anderson in their Bilboa to Sète journal, I had booked lodging at the Best Western located within the walled city.  And how wonderful it was. The room was located off the garden/terrace area, where we were able to give the bikes a good hosing down to remove the mud that had accumulated over the last two days.  The room was air-conditioned, the beds and linens were divine, and after a long shower I lay down to nap while Carolyn explored the Cité.  She returned after an hour or so, and claimed I hadn't moved.  I think she was right!

Hey, it's single track!
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Canal bridge and widening track
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Signs for Carcassonne, and other destinations
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Feeling refreshed, we went out for dinner and a walk about the Cité.  At the moment, the Cité is the site of the 7th edition of IN SITU Heritage and Contemporary Art, which fosters dialogue and explores the relationship between architectural heritage and modern art. From one vantage point, the temporary work by Felice Varini, "Eccentric Concentric Circles" depicts a series of concentric circles. As one moves, the shapes split and create a variety of forms and perspectives.  On our walk, we found the focal point from which the bright yellow concentric circles could be seen, then saw the circles disappear and large yellow stripes appear on the walls and we moved away from the focal point. The artwork is located on the west wall of the Cité, along the access way to the port d'Aude.  We walked down to the bridge we had crossed on our way in where we had spectacular views of the lighted ramparts of the medieval Cité. Then it was up the hill, on foot this time, and a great night's sleep.

Susan feeling refreshed between the walls of the Cité,
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Carolyn about to break out in song and dance
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Eccentric Concentric Circles, a work by Felice Varini invited by the IN SITU Heritage and Contemporary Art initiative
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View of the Cité, with yellow shapes of
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Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 792 miles (1,275 km)

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Leo WoodlandYou may not have enjoyed your ride to Bram but you did better than the people who lived there.

In 1210, a particularly unpleasant man called Simon de Montfort set siege to the village and then invaded with his army. His men cut off everyone's nose and gouged out their eyes - all except one man, who was allowed to keep one eye so that he could lead the others out of the village.

And folk talk of the good old days...
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