I finally managed to persuade my beloved to drive down to the Basque country over two days – so much less stressful. When I drove down on my own in 2014 I stayed in St Gaudin, but this time we stayed just outside of Toulouse in a delightful spot on the Canal du Midi. It’s not an area either of us knows particularly well, though we’ve previously stayed not too far away in Figarol, Carcassonne and Castres.
It’s a rich agricultural area bordering the Canal du Midi, a 17th century marvel of engineering and UNESCO World Heritage site, with plenty of pretty villages, some dating back as far as the 12th century. Spring was definitely in the air, though not as far advanced as on the Cote d’Azur. A recent wet spell had produced lush and verdant hedgerows with all manner of pretty flowers. My mother would probably have told me they were weeds, but they were lovely pink and mauve flowers. The Canal was devoid of boats, only a few ducks enjoying the solitude.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me take a step back. We had set off at a reasonable hour in the pouring rain and stopped in Lattes, just outside of Montpellier, for lunch at a restaurant that had clearly been constructed in the 70s. It had that all desirable small a la carte and a divine lunchtime menu, much enjoyed by the large number of diners – mostly business people and retirees. The dining room overlooked a splendid garden and pool, an oasis of calm and tranquility. The chef kindly adapted his recipes to exclude anything I’m not allowed to eat. It was superb. I had of course booked before we’d left home. You know I don’t like to leave it to chance.
We arrived at our overnight stop with plenty of time to enjoy a stroll (aka a very brisk walk) along the canal in search of dinner. We didn’t want too much to eat but, if my husband doesn’t eat three square meals a day, he’ll expire. Obviously, we’ve not been able to put this to the test, just in case he’s right! We found a small pizza restaurant in neighbouring Villefranche-de-Lauragais, village which has a splendid bell tower dating back to 12th century. The pizza place was doing a roaring local trade and I ate the best vegan pizza ever.
Our Chambres d’Hotes, highly recommended on booking.com, was part of a beautifully converted barn attached to the owner’s house. Our ground floor room overlooked the gardens and was not far short of the proportions of our own at home with a divinely comfortable bed. As usual I slept like a log and awoke to a fantastic breakfast. Definitely one to visit again, maybe on a weekend away as the area has some beautiful villages full of buildings with architecturally interesting features.
Not in any rush to leave, we responded to our outstanding emails before turning the car towards the Pyrenees. We were rewarded with clear blue skies, not a cloud in sight, atop brilliant snowy white peaks. The Basque country was only a hop skip and a jump away