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Day 12 - Canal du Midi, done
March 14, 2010                          Toulouse-sud to Toulouse-nord                           12 miles
The top canal shot is the end of the Canal du Midi.
The swordplay occurred in a Toulouse park.
The cars in the Place du Capitole were of exceedingly high horsepower.
Restaurant du May sign in Place du May.
Foot of page: The bikes are City-owned rental bikes that users can return to any of a number of locations
the start of the Canal latérale ŕ la Garonne.
Place du Capitole
Restaurant du May
Today was a another great day with a sting in the tail. The sting was my accommodation for tomorrow night, which occupied me for hours in the evening. Accommodation, or rather the lack of availability in the right place, currently makes tomorrow's hike look like it's going to be a bruiser.

I found three hotels on the first three miles today, reminding me that walking into a big city without booked accommodation is a sure bet compared with heading into the boonies (tomorrow) in the same situation.

The canal today changed to distinctly urban. Joggers and bikers were everywhere. I saw more of both today than on all other days combined. The day was sunny but it started at its customary zero-Celsius (plus or minus a degree or two) - and never quite warmed up as forecast. Early in the morning, I thought I saw a moving boat, but it turned out to be a liveaboard starting his engine for whatever reason. I had not seen a single moving boat on the entire Canal du Midi by the time I reached its end at 1 pm. Of course, the weather hasn't been remotely right for pleasure boating. I expect there'll be a burst of activity in the spring. I'm reminded of Seattle when boating season "opens" on a declared semi-official day at the end of April.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Toulouse, itself, is a rather special city and reminded me, today, of . . . Toulouse. I have previously visited on business, and once with Jennifer. Leaving the canal to avoid the unbsalubrious clientele who hang around it in the vicinity of Gare Matabiau, I carved a way through this now-prosperous modern city, still with its beautiful old sections, starting near le grand rond (large traffic circle) and adjacent gardens where city dwellers were practicing some form of Japanese swordplay, while chickens freely-ranged the park. I swung left to visit Place Thomas Wilson [Woodrow to most], which is pretty well the town center. There's nothing quite like visiting a foreign place that you've previously visited with a loved one to bring a lump to the throat.

After that, it was le Capitole and the beautiful square it's in. On one side of the square is the Crown Plaza Hotel, where I once stayed and helped dispose of an aerospace problem with some U.S. and European engineering colleagues. Close by is Restaurant du May (no relation), which I've visited twice before. This time, I lunched from a sandwich shop on a salmon, tomato and mozarella baguette, which I thought they spoiled by crushing and toasting into whatever they here call a Cuban.

Taking a right, I passed by St. Sernin basilica, an impressive structure considering its 12th century completion. Being a Sunday, there was a crush of people in a street market on several nearby streets. It held me up for a while. But, if you've ever asked "where does a backpack-wielding hiker walk?", one of the answers is "in a street market, anywhere he likes". There's something about that mound of backpack that keeps people at bay.

Next I passed through a Moroccan part of town, just north of the basilica. Back in "the office" as my coffee-drinking retirement friends call our hang-out, they'd asked me how I would react if spat on as an American. Well, I've been wearing my hat with its stars, stripes and eagle motif, and no one's done that yet. In fact, they've greeted me with warmth. All the same, I admit to passing through this part of town just a little briskly.

Then, it was past Parc Arnaud Bernard and its Japanese tea garden, and on to the Canal du Midi just east of the les Ponts Jumeaux which are a collection of bridges just yards before the canal ends. Three canals have their junctions (and ends) right here in a turning basin. The Canal du Midi enters from the east, a short Canal de Brienne from the south that links to the Garonne, and the Canal latérale ŕ la Garonne to Bordeaux that enters from the north. This last is"my" canal from now on. Somehow the French have managed to make the road traffic work through the three canals and the Garonne itself. I'm told that Toulouse traffic has improved since they built their underground Metro. Their innovative "rent a bike" service may have helped a bit too.

Yesterday, I said I'd summarize some of the distance and time statistics today, but that will need to wait. Hobson just made a fool of himself again with a new question.

"Daryl," he asked, "about the baguette roll maneuver . . ."


"I was wondering how you knew I was going to spill the mackerel and wine sauce down my coat and on to my sleeve."

The guy is an infernal nuisance sometimes, and just has to be quieted. "We're done with that subject, Hobson," I replied. "You've already made a fool of yourself once."

All the same, when Hobson wasn't looking, I sniffed my sleeve.
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