France,  Travel,  Uncategorized

Canal du Midi Day 4: Carcassonne to Homps

Sunday. I woke to the sound of church bells ringing and opened the windows to take in the magnificent view of Cité de Carcassonne. What a fantastic little hotel. My room was really comfortable and the continental breakfast of bread, cheese, ham and croissants was a delicious way to start the day. Did I mention the cool coffee-making machine? That was incredible too. I shared a table with Bob and Micki (who bore a remarkable resemblance to Davina McCall). It turned out they would be staying at the same bed and breakfast as me in Homps, but soon after that would veer off the Canal du Midi and head towards Narbonne, on route to Barcelona. Still, when you’re travelling solo, it’s always reassuring to meet people who you may connect with along the way, for a little moral support or brief companionship.

The weather forecast promised showers and windy conditions so I left straight after breakfast, heading over the old bridge on my journey west to Homps about 43 kilometres away. I remembered the route back to the Canal du Midi like it was yesterday (it was), navigating the city streets with ease without the torrential rain to hinder my progress. Within ten minutes, I was back on the towpath.

With fewer trees providing a guard of honour for cyclists, this section of the canal had a completley different feel. But the flowers lining the route were plentiful and the scent from the tree blossom was intoxicating. By midday, I arrived at Trèbes in time to buy a delicious pastry from Boulanger Patissier Dominique Jose Cabrera. Boxed up, it was easy to save in my panier, just in case there were no restaurants open on a Sunday in Homps. Impressed with my cast iron willpower, I then stopped at a small café to have a coffee and plan the next part of my route.

The quayside was busier than I had expected for a Sunday. Locals were drinking coffee and buying fresh produce from a pop-up farmers market. The produce looked delicious including asparagus the size of small leeks. Had I been camping, I would have filled my paniers with fresh vegetables, rather than pastries.

By 2pm, the weather took a turn for the better and I slowed down a pace, enjoying the warm sunshine as I cycled happily past vineyards and agricultural land, stopping far too often to take yet another picture-perfect photo. Although travelling by canal boat looks tranquil (I’ve done it, and it is), the cycle path affords far better views, with elevated sections over long distances that reveal more of the landscape. And on a bicycle there is also no need to navigate the multitude of locks along the route.

As I approached Homps, I stopped at a small business on the canal bank to buy a coffee and some delicious cherries – straight from the tree in the owner’s back garden – another back up plan that would come in handy over the remaining days’ cycling.

Five kilometres later I arrived at my destination. Unfortunately, the GPS led me a merry dance. I was lost. So I stopped on a bridge over the canal to get my bearings when who should arrive but the French cyclists. They were stopping for a drink before continuing on another twenty kilometres to Le Somail. What luck! We spend a happy half hour chatting before saying our goodbyes once more.

I finally found my bed and breakfast accommodation for the evening. Le jardin d’Homps was tucked away down a narrow street behind the church. Unassuming from the outside, inside it was an incredible building with a traditional interior that had been tastefully renovated by the owners, from the grand wooden staircase that wound its way around the large hall, to the quirky doors of the dining room that opened up onto the lush patio and garden area.

It was straight out of the pages of a style magazine. I was in deluxe B&B heaven.

My spacious room was exceptional with highly-polished wooden floorboards, two floor-to-ceiling French windows that opened up onto a small balcony overlooking the secluded garden, and an absolutely enormous bed with crisp white bed linen. Tasteful period furniture and contemporary artwork completed the look. It was straight out of the pages of a style magazine. I was in deluxe B&B heaven.

There was also a swimming pool. The hotel owner said I could take a swim but I would need to be ‘courageous’, adding that it was freezing.

Being English, I jumped straight in.

He wasn’t wrong. But after 43 kilometres in the saddle, it was exactly what I needed.

Follow my adventures on Day 5 here.

Let’s go
Le Jardin d’Homps
21, Grand Rue
11200 Homps

+33 (0) 4 68 75 30 76
+33 (0) 671 89 15 70 (mobile)

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