Monday, the first day of our final week. Mondays are market day in Mirepoix and Mirepoix market is one of those not to be missed. For retired folks en vacance, we left pretty early (about 10:45 AM) to catch the action.
Mirepoix is a fascinating place, both architecturally and culturally. Architecturally it is a 13th century bastide town with a fabulous arcaded market square. Surrounding the market square, forming the arcades, are 13th-15th century timbered buildings, some of which are relatively colourful, shunning the grey and beige colours perhaps more commonly used. Culturally, it seems to be home to goodly collection of older hippie types many of whom are also very colourful, shunning the grey and beige colours perhaps more commonly used. When the market is in full swing with its stalls sporting colourful umbrellas, the place is a kaleidoscopic feast for the eyes. [Ed: What!?]
For a change of pace in the afternoon we chose a cycle ride along part of Le Canal du Midi. We are no strangers to canal engineering in England, with its network of inland waterways built for industrial transport. I believe these were largely built in the Victorian era. The Canal du Midi, though, is an engineering marvel having been started (and completed) in the later 1600s. One of the major tricks seems to have been supplying the canal with water, the canal being relatively high in places. Its highpoint is actually fed by water from Les Montagnes Noires (the Black Mountains). Channelling these waters to the canal required a supply canal, La Rigole, itself 50-60kms long, to be built.
We began our cycle ride at the point where La Rigole meets the tree-lined Canal du Midi. It would have been very peaceful but for the fact that, presumably for similar reasons (i.e. it’s flat), the A61 autoroute takes the same route as the Canal du Midi and thunders alongside it for some of its length. Nonetheless, the noise is so constant that it becomes a background drone and the brain can shut it out – almost.