To win is Toulouse, A solo travel story. 

I was up and away early today to explore Toulouse, I checked for the top sights and noticed a Japanese garden that was nearby. It was only a ten minute walk and worth it for a morning stroll. 

I found the now familiar canal du midi where it meets the river in Toulouse and crossed over ready to hit the …………….. gallery. It was boiling hot again today so a leisurely pace was required, my mosquito bites from Beziers were also going nuclear so I had to cover them with plasters. Bloody tiger mosquitos, I’d definitely recommend taking repellent if you’re heading here. 

The grounds of the gallery are beautiful, I checked out a few bits but I was slightly confused on how to get in to the main section. After trying a couple of doors that were locked I found a terrace overlooking the river and sat down for a bit to enjoy the views. 

I planned a route through the City that would take me to sone of the top sights and also past a well rated Vietnamese place. My first stop was the Basilica of saint-sernin, this huge church was built in 1180 as part of an Abbey and it’s the largest Romanesque church in Europe! 

It’s pretty big! It also is a very pretty building and really dominates this area of Toulouse. I continued walking through the main part of the City and was enamoured with the little streets filled with restaurants and interesting street art. 

The main square with it’s Capitol building is a top sight in Toulouse but unfortunately there was an event on while I was there which obscured much of the majesty of the place. 

I walked through a couple of small parks in the centre of the City including Charles de Galles park and took a quick detour to check out the Couvent des Jacobins. Similar in look to the Basilica it is most famous for housing the remains of the philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. 

Toulouse has so many museums and gallerys you could spend a couple of days visiting them, I wasn’t so fussed on going inside when the weather was this good as I passed a couple on my way to get another church, the cathedral of St Etienne. 

I was a bit church weary by this point, not being religious probably doesn’t help though. I was hungry and excited to eat Banh Mi, the big Vietnamese sandwich with french influence that was a favourite of mine in Vietnam. 

I found this place using foursquare and it just so happened that it was on my route. Le Kiosque MIO is a little shack woth outside seating selling various tasty Vietnamese dishes located in the beautiful surroundings of Allees Forain-Francois Verdier. A wide leafy boulevard leading to my next destination… the royal gardens and the garden of plants. Two huge leafy parks filled with fountains, statues and waterfalls. 

It was great, a peaceful and shady spot to cool down in the heat. I sat on some grass for a while here watching the world go by and trying to catch up with writing this blog. 

Heading back towards the river I decided to take a slow stroll along the length of it up in the direction of my hostel. 

I was starting to fall in love with Toulouse and it’s laid back atmosphere. Cafes and bars line every street and little square and the river is buzzing with people all the time it seemed. 

Tonight I was going to finally eat out at a restaurant on my own, I got changed at the hostel, and sat out on the balcony enjoying the last of the heat before heading out. 

Unfortunately I don’t think I really captured the City by night, but I walked back through some of the little squares where people were now doing salsa dancing and everyone seemed to be eating al fresco. I ate a at a pizza place and realised why solo travel on a budget doesn’t allow for eating out. It cost the same as my last 3 nights meals! 

I did however get to experience another majestic Toulouse sunset, a fitting end to a satisfying day of exploration. I was looking forward to my next destination: Andorra, the small country high up in the Pyrenees. 

Cracking on in Carcassone

I was up and about early, walking back to Beziers train station. It was hot even at 8am and I knew I was in for another scorcher. I had pre-booked my ticket online for 14Euro for first class! It was only 50cent or so extra so thought I’d splash out. 

The train was only marginally delayed and I was soon on my way, watching the French countryside roll past as we trundled along. We soon arrived in Carcassone and I checked my maps before heading in the general direction of the famous citadel. 

Passing over the canal du midi again, along a leafy boulevard, and over a lovely square. I hit a bridge over the river. From here I got my first glimpse of my destination. I was super excited to explore it, but first I had to drop my main bag off at a hotel. 

I was using Nannybag for the first time and it was so useful, you can leave your bag at a participating hotel for around 5E and it was really easy. 

Now I was free from the shackles of my bag I went straight up the hill to Carcassone citadel. Marvelling at the towers with their bright blue conical roofs. It started as a Gaulish settlement in the 3rd century before the Romans decided to fortify it. 

Now it’s half winding alleyways half tourist filled restaurants and shops. The best tip I can give is to buy your tickets to walk the walls from the tourist office, there’s no queue here compared to the regular ticket office in the grounds of the main castle. 

My first stop in the citadel was the church, there were monks singing inside which really added to the atmosphere. I left feeling very calmed, and began to explore all the winding streets. I walked around the perimeter and found a cute little garden area beneath the bridge into the main castle. 

I was excited to get up high onto the walls so passed through the barriers and went straight up to my left onto the walls. The views over the City and countryside were excellent and the wind was a nice cooldown from the 35°c heat. I passed through towers and looked down into the citadel, gaining a different perspective of the place. 

After a couple of hours wandering round the Citadel I decided to go into the City and possibly walk along the canal again. I walked back down the hill and crossed over the river on a pedestrian bridge. I checked google maps for the little brown circles that indicate places of interest and headed up the Boulevard Barbes. 

It was a lovely tree lined pedestrian street with fountains, the portail des jacobins, a gateway inro the old city, and the Sant Michel cathedral. 

I could see a green space on the map at the end of the Boulevard so I decided to continue walking towards it. As I got closer I saw that it was a walled garden of some sort. Walking around the walls I found the gateway and walked in to quite a creepy old garden. 

It was pretty cool, with an old abandoned church under a load of dirt and rocks and a big Jesus statue located right at the top. 

I love little finds like this, wandering around discovering things that aren’t the stereotypical sights. I passed through the town which has some nice streets, and headed up the canal again. Big boats cruised past and cyclists/joggers/dog walkers passed me by as I took in the beautiful scenery. 

My plan was to walk up until the canal came close to the river, and walk back down towards the Citadel to pick my bag up. After missing the turning off for the river I finally made it and enjoyed the leisurely walk in the sunshine back up to the hotel through gardens and parks. 

I picked my bag up and said goodbye to Carcassone, an absolutely beautiful place which definitely lived up to it’s hype. The citadel alone is worth it! 

My next destination was Toulouse, the trendy student City near the Pyrenees mountains and the Spanish border. I had only really decided to stay here for the onward journey to Andorra but after doing some research I was looking forward to it.
I was staying in a hostel near the river and one of the main sights in Toulouse, the Basilica of saint-sernin. I arrived late on and after checking into my shared room I decided to head straight to the river and see what was going on. I couldn’t believe how busy it was when I got there, teeming with people sat eating, drinking, and laughing everywhere along the riverbank. 

Seeing everyone having fun in the warm evening made me a bit sad that I didn’t have anyone with me to enjoy it, the one time solo travel really bothered me on this trip. 

I sat in a gap between some groups and watched a gorgeous sunset over the river. At this point I was starving so once the sun was down I went in search of food, I was craving something unhealthy and cheap and found the perfect thing…kebab and chips! 

I was ready for bed after a lot of walking about, and when I got back there was nobody in the room, so I got in bed and slowly dozed off. I had a full day to explore Toulouse and wanted to make the most of it. 

Beziers and the solo traveller. 

So after a bit of a work change I have more flexibility to travel than ever before! So I decided to test out solo travelling my destination? Southwest France, incorporating Carcassone, heading into Andorra for a Pyrenees hike, and finally a quick stop in Barcelona. 

Budget airlines do really cheap flights to Beziers, my starting off point. With sights such as the cathedral and canals I couldn’t wait. Packed up and ready to go, I grabbed a burger and pint in the airport. The flight was all cloud up until we got to the South of France, when beautiful sunshine lit Beziers up as we flew overhead. It’s a quick and easy bus journey direct from the airport, and even at 6pm it was hot hot hot! 

The bus drops you off at the train station, and unfortunately my cheap hotel was about a mile or so from the centre. So off I trekked, sweating in the evening heat but loving the views of impressive churches and a huge arena on the outskirts. I dropped my bags off at the hotel, had a quick shower to freshen up and, with no buses available walked back to the City centre. 

Now at first I wasn’t so sure about Beziers, walking around as night fell I felt a little intimidated by the feel of the place. It was very quiet and there were lots of little streets which I tried to avoid as best I could. I walked across Allees Paul Riquet, a huge boulevard that cuts through the City centre. From here I headed down to the river Orb to catch a view of the cathedral all lit up on the hilltop this made me feel better about Beziers, it was beautiful. 

Oh I forgot to mention Beziers is located on a big hill, so lots of steep streets winding up to the cathedral. I took one of these streets to a pretty square with some nicely lit up buildings and, following a little street found myself walking beneath lovely coloured umbrellas. It was getting late now and being on my own I struggled finding somewhere to eat. So I walked back to the hotel and got some stuff from the vending machine… so spent the night eating and organising my full day in Beziers tomorrow. 

Seeing as it was such great weather I decided to walk along a stretch of the canal du midi, regarded as one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. It’s 240km long and runs from Toulouse down to the Meditteranean. 

I walked down to the station, picking up some food and drinks for the walk and quickly found the river. It was stunning countryside and I saw a majestic bridge going over the river. This was my starting point on the canal, climbing some steep steps up on the canal I started walking, enjoying the warm sun and peaceful tranquillity of the place. 

I was headed for the famous Fonserannes lock, where 8 locks and 9 gates allow a boat to rise 21.5m over 300m. Unfortunately I branched off left at the locks, followed a dried up old system of bringing the boats up, and didn’t find a way to cross back over further up! 

I tried to walk around but ended up back near Beziers so decided to explore the town. I stopped off by the bridge looking over to the cathedral, I think it’s even more magnificent in the day. Here I are my snacks, one of which was a weird seafood pasty which was actually really tasty! It’s called Tielle Setoise and it’s stuffed with a tomatoey octopus filling. 

I sat on a little park bench and marvelled at the views for a while before crossing the bridge over to the base of the hill. A steep climb upwards and I was back on the square I had found the night before. I headed straight to the colourful umbrella streets and wandered up and down them all with my face permanently looking upwards. 

It was so hot I needed to cool down so I got a couple of ice cold drinks from a little shop. Used my best Merci and Au Revoir, then linked myself down by the Eglise de la Madeleine, a pretty church and a nice spot to test before I hit the main site. 

The cathedral in Beziers was built in the 13th century, and you can see for miles from the viewpoint at the courtyard looking over the river. 

Inside glows with the stained glass windows colourful depictions, and for a donation you can climb up to the top of the cathedral tower. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted, going up the winding spiral staircases, the steps worn away by hundreds of years of use. However, the views once you get to the top are amazing. You get a 360° look at Beziers and the surrounding countryside. 

I spent quite a bit of time up here, the breeze was cool and there was enough to look at to keep me interested. 

Eventually I took the descent back down and noticed a couple go through a little door round at the front of the cathedral, I was so glad I followed them, finding a lovely courtyard which led to some gardens on the slope of the hill. 

I headed back towards the Allees Paul Riquet and spent some time relaxing in the nearby ‘poets’ park. Plateau des poetes is unsurprisingly dedicated to various poets and is seen as conducive for writing them. It has a few pretty fountains and gardens to walk around, and sculptures of poets dotted about the place. It also has a very grand monument at one of the entrances.

I had been out for 9 hours at this point, and had seen most of the sights I could find about Beziers, so I started the long walk back to the hotel. I arrived back and was knackered, so I enjoyed the aircon in the room, packed my stuff up and checked my itinerary for the next day. I was headed to Carcassone and couldn’t wait! 

As hunger drew me out of the room I realised there was a McDonald’s 5 minute walk away. Shamefully I stuffed my face with a blue cheese and bacon based speciality burger. Sat on a balcony loolimg over a busy main road, I was finding it difficult to go to a restaurant as a solo traveller, preferring to get picnic food or takeaway. 

Full to the brim I staggered back to the hotel, ready for an early train in the morning to make the most of my day in Carcassone.