Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Tuesday 22 November – Narbonne

Where’s Colin He’s at an Aire in Narbonne (N43º10.846, E3º1.409), at a cost of €9 per 24 hours, including electric, but with an extra €2 charge for water and toilet emptying (making it unfortunate that, for the first time, we completely forgot to empty the toilet this morning when we had the chance to do so for free).

I was not far into my third circuit of trotting around the block in Marseillan Plage this morning, battling against the wind (which was nothing compared to the wind last night; no way would I have ventured out in that!), when drops of rain started to hit me. For a minute or so I thought it wouldn’t amount to anything and resolved to continue, which lasted until I got to the beach and saw the big lump of black heading towards land. An about turn was made and I upped the pace to get back to Colin. Ten minutes later water was positively streaming down his flanks, his roof was taking a battering and lightning was regularly flashing around us, with much rumbling following on. It was so dark it was barely possible to see the words on a page, without the lights on.

It lasted half an hour or so before brighter sky was seen coming up behind the storm, and as it reached us we suddenly found the impetus to go somewhere and see something. Sixty-six kilometres later (or maybe 68km, as we couldn’t obey the SatNav’s original directions of driving across a sports field to get to the Aire, and thus had to drive around), we were in Narbonne where, by taking our time over our late elevenses, we managed to roll it almost straight into lunch.

I’d read that there was a free bus that would take us into town, but then I looked at Google Maps and discovered that, using the Cycle Route which runs right past the front of the Aire, it's only 2km each way, so we walked. A short while later we found ourselves on the tow-path of a canal, and before we knew it, town was before us:

It looks like there’s going to be a Christmas market in the avenue to the right of the canal, and the tower beyond has been wrapped with a pretty ribbon

The obvious focal point of the town, from a touristy point of view, is the Cathedral, so over towards it we headed, turning a corner at one point and finding ourselves sudden thrust back from a few hundred years:

An historic dead-end road in an otherwise relatively modern French town

Finding that road to be a dead-end we backtracked and continued our circuit of the cathedral, coming across an information sign on our way which told us how so much of it came to be unfinished (rather than, as we first thought, built and subsequently ruined). What we didn’t find was an entrance, so we didn’t even have to consider whether to spend the €4 a head that the guidebook told us was required for entry.

Just out of frame to the right of this photo is a terrace containing a massively oversized bench. I so wanted to climb up onto it for a photo, but there was a group of college students there and I was wholly unconvinced that I could clamber up onto the bench at all, never mind elegantly, so I bottled it.

Continuing our stroll around the town, we came across four information signs about the happenings of 1907, and gathered that there had been some sort of an uprising in the town, but in the absence of finding more of the signs, didn’t know what it was about. Good old Google has since informed me that it related to demonstrations by local wine producers, which reached their peak in Narbonne in the middle of 1907. There’s a large amount of information about it on Wikipedia, and Google Translate makes a good job of converting it to English (although I’m not sure that the bit about the women with the crumbling buns came across quite right…).

Trying and failing to buy a slice of myrtille tart, so as to take a photo of it to post here for my sister’s benefit (I’ll keep trying, Kay!) – not to mention because I’m rather partial to myrtille tart, and after failing the ‘buying stamps at the post office’ test (big town centre post office, I couldn’t even start to decide which of the many counters, randomly dotted around the large room, I needed, so resolved to try a small branch elsewhere), we wandered our way back to Colin. Or not quite, as we went a little way past and to the big Carrefour across the road, which turned out not just to be a vast supermarket, but also a shopping centre. There we also failed to find a myrtille tart, so we made do with a platter of freshly made sushi and called it a day.

Our verdict on Narbonne is that it’s a pleasant place for an afternoon of wandering. And now, it’s time to look at the reference books to make a decision as to where to head tomorrow.

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