Portajohn Goes to Europe: Part VI, The Final Push

The last two days?

Part I, The Warm Up

Part II, Is This heaven?

Part III, The tour begins, almost

Part IV, Wherein we learn French culture

Part V, The Stones said it best…
Maybe I am wrong. In hind sight, maybe our previous days trip was the most beautiful. Does it really matter?  The next morning after our adventure to the sea we got off to a slow start, again searching endlessly for that mythical meal known as “breakfast”.  Once again, we loaded up on pastries and store bought sandwiches (and wine) and set off from Narbonne to Beziers, the final destination of our trip.  The plan was this, we would avoid the canal in the morning, and instead travel on local rural roads – this allowed us a few options – we could turn north instead of west for a while if we desired, or avoid a giant hill if one popped up.  This route proved to be stunning, as the rolling hills elevated us above the vineyards and afforded spectacular views.  We passed through a few small towns, always finding the wine cooperative (by odor or trail of grape juice) and eventually in the afternoon we decided to head back onto the canal, that damn horrible canal, because I wanted to see the tunnel that they carved out of the rock to allow boats to pass.

This was a great decision though, despite the horrible trail surface, because just after the Tunnel de Malpas we found signs for the Oppidum Enserune – which claimed to provide beautiful views.  For some reason I thought this was an old tower of some sort, but as we turned north the road turned up, very up. After a few switchbacks we felt like we had climbed well over 1000 ft (I am disappointed to learn that it was more like 200 ft according to Strava, though I may formally protest that!). The Oppidum has been inhabited for long periods of time, including from 6BC to 1AD.  Yeah, thats old!  And one can tell why it was a strategic vantage point for travelers, armies and whatnot.  Below the Oppidum is the Etang de Montady, formerly a salt marsh that has been manipulated by drainage channels and cultivated over centuries.  The radial pattern, a result of the drainage efforts, makes one think that perhaps it also served as a beacon to visitors from another planet.  We soaked in the view munching on sandwiches and drinking from our bottle of wine – then back onto the Canal as it wound it was way into Beziers, the home of the canals original owner and engineer, Pierreo-Paul Riquet.  Beziers was a somewhat busy town, though the historic center seemed relatively dead save for a plentiful supply of Australian and Kiwi tourists.

The following day, Tuesday, was our final day on the bikes, and we were faced with a big decision. Do we go all out and ride a long day from Beziers to Sete and back, or do we have a relaxing afternoon on the beach in Valras Plage? We decided that we ought to leave on a high note and hit the beach once more.  After retrieving our bikes from the hotel garage, stumbling through a conversation with the garage owner who only spoke France, we ere off.  I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves… a beautiful late afternoon picnic on the beach – how could we ask for anything better.

The funny thing though was, we realized that today was Tuesday, the end of our tour – but our flight home was… on Thursday?! Yeah. Somehow we messed up – what would we do for a whole extra day, and where would we stay?

Picture 5

Beautiful vista as we reached the crest of a climb on our way out of Narbonne

Beautiful vista as we reached the crest of a climb on our way out of Narbonne

No amber fields of grain to be found...

No amber fields of grain to be found…

Purple grapefields majesty...

Purple grapefields majesty…

The Malpas Tunnel

The Malpas Tunnel

At the Oppidium Enserune, with a view of the Etang de Montady

At the Oppidium Enserune, with a view of the Etang de Montady

The breathtaking Etang de Montady

The breathtaking Etang de Montady

I'll miss this guy!

I’ll miss this guy!

At the 9 locks that lower the canal into Beziers

At the 9 locks that lower the canal into Beziers

Valras Plage, a beautiful way to end our trip!

Valras Plage, a beautiful way to end our trip!

A sunset walk along the beach, and another race against the light to get back to Beziers - sunset seemed to last for hours this day.

A sunset walk along the beach, and another race against the light to get back to Beziers – sunset seemed to last for hours this day.

A few last moments along the Mediterranean.

A few last moments along the Mediterranean.

A toast to our adventure!

A toast to our adventure!

Time to leave

Time to leave

Our last few meters along the Canal du Midi

Our last few meters along the Canal du Midi

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