Sunday, 14 June 2015
Distance 13 km
Duration 2 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 27 m, descent 17 m
Map 174 of the TOP 100 lime-green series
As promised, the breakfast was good. We descended at 8 am, the appointed hour, to find the waitress arranging the last of the offerings on a side table.
There were fruit juices, cereals, yoghurt, ham, cheeses, boiled eggs, toast, butter, jams and of course a basket of fresh bread and pastries on our table. She smilingly brought a pot of coffee, and refilled it later as we worked our way steadily through the delights.
None of the other guests had appeared by the time we left (9 am), but for us it was a late start, only made possible by the coolness of the weather.
The other favourable factor was the shortness of this day’s walk. We had the choice of going all the way to Carcassonne in one day, about 30 km, or breaking it into two short days, and since we had a day to spare before catching the train to Burgundy, we naturally decided on the latter.
From the back of the hotel, past some shining metal wine vats, we took a small road that wound through vineyards, then over wide, grassy fields and finally joined the D57 to cross the Aude and enter the village of Marseillette.
It was a fine looking little place on a ridge, with gardens and orchards stretching down to the river, and we knew there was a bar there, but for once we did not go to investigate. We were still almost drunk on the wonderful breakfast that we had just eaten.
This was where we joined the Canal du Midi, our constant companion for the rest of our time in the south.
We had spent a couple of days in 2004 walking on this canal (from Avignonet-Lauragais to Toulouse), and now we intended to walk another five days on it, adding up to a pretty good sample of what the canal had to offer.
It was a pleasure to find ourselves back on the shady towpath, with the water reflecting the regular pattern of the tree trunks on either side.
The branches sometimes reached out to meet overhead, and at other times brushed low into the water. The banks were thick with rushes, small yellow irises and other flowers.
In some places the trees had died and we were exposed to the harsh light of day, a consequence of a root fungus that had recently devastated the district.
After a while we met a young Dutch couple walking the other way, the first walkers we had seen this year.
They did not look in good shape, especially the woman, probably because they were carrying far too much weight in their packs, or so it seemed to our eyes. They said that they had planned to walk to Narbonne, but had now decided to give up at Marseillette.
The canal snaked its way along, following the contours of the land, and we began to see pleasure boats coming past, a fine sight but we did not envy them. Swinging along on the path was more to our liking than sitting in a boat.
Having passed a château and a couple of lovely old stone bridges, we arrived at the town of Trèbes, our destination for the day. It was only 11:30 am, despite our leisurely departure.
The port of Trèbes was lined with moored boats, many of them belonging to the hire company called Le Boat, whose big shed stood at one end of the harbour. Along the side, a line of cafés had a cheerful air and we sat down for coffee at the nearest one.
The camping ground was not far away, on the opposite bank of the river, and we were agreeably surprised that we only had to pay €10.10, after the extortionate prices of Sigean and Bizanet.
Not only that, but it was a very pleasant place, with tall trees, excellent showers and plenty of other campers. Our spot looked directly onto the green waters of the Aude. The grass was patchy but we did not need a lot of it for our tiny tent.
The weather was warming up at last, and we pursued the shade around our emplacement until the sun sank into the trees.
At about 6:30 we went back over the bridge and plunged into the old town, which was the usual mass of alleys and squares. As soon as we left the main road, everything was depressingly grey and run-down.
Outside the church a group of drunken middle-aged louts sat with their beer bottles, and we were mortified to find that they were Australians (one of them owned a house here).
We made haste back to the bright bustle of the port, and wandered along comparing menus at the three restaurants, eventually choosing the one where we had stopped for coffee this morning.
We sat down at a table on the very edge of the canal, under an awning, and as it was too early to eat (7 pm), we ordered apéritifs.
While we were enjoying this lively scene, it began to rain and the waitress kindly advised us that the awning was not waterproof and we would soon need to move. However, before we had actually done anything the rain stopped and did not come back.
We began our meal with a couple of gigantic salads, fresh and delicious.
Then we had pasta – a tagliatelle carbonara (commonly known in these parts as a tag carbo), and a lasagne the size and weight of a paving stone.
Both were delightful and we were pleased to have more food than we could eat, as we had not forgotten the enforced slimming regime at Lagrasse. It was also remarkable value at €36.