Friday, July 30, 2010
Day five - Carcossone and Homp
El got her day off to a good start by taking a dip in the hotel pool, apparently a little on the cool side. At first we decided we would drive south and explore further south of Limoux but after coffee and pastries in Pomas we decided to go north instead and check out Carcassone. The guide book said to not visit Carcossone in summer as it would be a zoo; it is apparently one of France’s three most visited towns. It was in fact a zoo but we have seen worse. Carcassone is popular because it includes a small walled city with a positively fairytale appearance. It looks like a film set except with lots of narrow winding streets now filled with little restaurants and souvenir stores. We were done in an hour and headed into the ‘newer’ part of town to wander about.
Here we had our first chance to admire the Canal de Midi, a masterpiece of engineering and the determination of one man to build a canal connecting the Atlantic. Completed in the late 17th century it is now most popular for leisurely one or two week boat holidays up and down its length from Toulouse to Narbonne. We tried to find a drive that would allow us to parallel the canal and did so as far as Trebes where we ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking one of the locks. We decided to make the canal our focus for the day and continued driving parallel to it until we reached Homps, a major staging area for boat tours. We were in time to sign up for a two-hour boat ride up the canal to see firsthand its locks in action along with other features such as flood spillways (kind of like the overflow hole in a bathroom sink) and an aqueduct that carries the canal across a small river. What makes the canal really beautiful is that it is lined on both sides with plane trees, which it turns out are more than decorative as their roots are what keep the banks from eroding. All quite fascinating and left us more than ready for dinner.
This is where our day began to fall apart a little. We had this idea that if you drive through any town of a certain size you are bound to come to restaurant. This is not the case. We drove through many towns before finally ending up back at Limoux where we had eaten the night before. This would have been tolerable if not for the fact that the town was having some kind international folklore festival with a major performance in the square that evening. I believe these are actually put on by locals who like to dress up and perform traditional song and dances from places that should have stopped doing that a long time ago. Tonight’s entry looked like wherever Borat was from. What we found amazing is that the whole town seems to come out to enjoy this kind of thing, although I am guessing that many are there not so much for the show as the attendant social scene.