A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Revelling In The Rigole

In the morning I continued along a flat, agricultural plain between 2 chains of hills. Cows grazed placidly. Dogs ran out barking from small farms (if their tails were in the air, you knew they were friendly). I passed field upon field of sunflowers awaiting harvest, their ripe and blackened heads heads all bowing to the south (the French for sunflower is tournesol which literally means 'turned towards the sun'). Tractors ploughed fields where the maize crop had already been gathered in.

After 18 km of these pastoral scenes I reached the charming bastide town of Revel. It was built on the usual grid pattern - with a central, arcaded square and a market hall (housing the Tourist Office) in the middle of it. This market hall is spectacular. In fact it's the biggest of its kind in France. The tiled and belfried roof was supported by enormous, fissured oak beams and pillars. It originally dates from the 14th century but was rebuilt after a fire. A relaxing evening was spent in the local gîte municipale. One of the volunteer hospitaliers (he'd just got married and was about to go on his honeymoon) entertained us with a repertoire of Jacques Brel and Georges Moustaki. I couldn't help thinking he was the spitting image of a young Frank Zappa ... or possibly an incipient Salvador Dali?

Next day I followed a delightfully bendy path alongside the Rigole, a man-made watercourse which drains the Atlantic/Mediterranean watershed. It was designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet, who also constructed the Canal du Midi - one of the great engineering feats of the 17th century - into which the Rigole feeds. Just before the confluence of the 2 waterways stands Le Moulin de Naurouze:

An Englishman and his French wife had bought Le Moulin de Narouze 10 years ago and were gradually restoring the whole complex. They'd opened a pilgrim gîte in one part of it - and there I spent the night. I'd walked 30 km that day and was very tired. My feet were beginning to hurt more and more - especially in the afternoons - and I knew that my plantar fasciitis had returned with a vengeance. Next morning I made my way down to the Partage d'Eaux, where the Rigole runs into the Canal du Midi:

This whole area is fascinating if you like canal boats, canal basins, locks and such things. Which I do. So I really enjoyed the ensuing 2 days' walk by the Canal du Midi, in the plane trees' shade, as I headed towards Toulouse, La Ville Rose, 50 km away ...

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