Travelled : 40 miles to Negra by camper car then 32 kilometres to Castelnaudary by penichette, traversing 16 ecluse (locks)
Visited : Toulouse, Negra, Villefranche-de-Lauragais, Castelnaudary
Stayed : Toulouse and along the banks of the Midi-Canal.
Our travels through this part of the Pyrenees is drawing to a close. We have spent a wonderful night at the unofficial Aire on Col de Tourmalet. We wake to find the ponies wandering the parking area have been replaced with alpacas of all things. They are walking between the campers and cars looking very inquisitive.
The cyclist are starting to pull into the car park already. They arrive in there vans and begin getting their bikes ready for today’s torture test. Its a sight we have seen repeated every morning after we spend the night on a mountain top car park. Their arrival signals our time to leave before they start downhill and we have to dodge them all the way down.
Soon enough we are out of the Pyrenees, onto the motorway. It’s a couple of hours on the freeway or double that on the back roads, so we have opted for the tollway to get it over and done. There is nothing particularly interesting on our track today and we probably would not choose to go to Toulouse other than Negra being the stepping off point for our Midi Canal adventure. Although we note that Toulouse is the home of Airbus main assemble plant and we see several very unusual aircraft flying around.
Toulouse is not a very camper car friendly city and it is a city. Our stay in Toulouse has been at a very expensive, rather ordinary municipal campsite in a very drab suburb. But we got some washing done, took the Hymer to a lave-auto or car wash and gave it a polish as well. Our other task has been to do some grocery shopping for our first few nights for the six people.
All those tasks complete we head for Negra, a small village on the Midi-Canal about 30 kilometres from Toulouse. We have hired a 14 metre penichette, a French barge for two weeks. It proves to be comfortable for 6 people. With a displacement of just under 12 metre tonnes it will keep us busy going through the locks but with plenty of room to sit around or lounge. It has three double births, three bathrooms and an additional separate head. We made all the hire arrangements through UK and Europe Travel, a Melbourne based company we have used before and we recommend. I will put some exact costs down later, but just to give you a ball park the cost per couple was less than A$3000 for the fortnight all inclusive, except food and drink.
We arrive in Negra with time to spare and get about trying to find our boat and organise the food and drink on board. Jenny and Dave (Pam’s sister and brother in law) and our neighbours Gaye and Colin give us a call from the local train station and the Hymer becomes a people mover. Our next little drama is going through the handover process and signing away any rights to sue Locaboat for anything and where off.
We quickly settle into life on our penichette, the ‘Pigasse’. Over the next few days we pass numerous little village, learn to master moving the Pigasse through the locks and travel through the beautiful Midi Canal and the thousands of plain trees that line it’s banks. We stop at Villefranche-de-Lauragais, Castelnaudary and Bram. Ride our bicycles into town and wander around, before finding the supermarket and stocking up for the evening. Maintaining a steady supply of beer and wine our only a logistic challenge.
Michael and Pam