Canal de la Robine. Idylic but for the strong cold head wind. A traffic free route.
The 08:06 train from Sète to Narbonne departed on time. The SNCF ticket lady believed there were no trains beyond Narbonne until mid-day. She was wrong. At Narbonne, there was a train leaving for Port La Nouvelle in a few minutes. Time to panic. The ticket office was closed with a queue of 50 people outside it. There was a free ticket machine. The advice "don't panic" would be apt here. These SNCF ticket machines are temperamental at the best of times responding slowly, if at all to touches on the screen. Neil has now discovered that Port-La-Nouvelle is not hyphenated so abort that attempt and try again with Port La Nouvelle. It is on the second of two screens but of course you have to read the first screen to find out. Then the touch screen decided to select the station below Port La Nouvelle. Time is passing and another abort is required. Finally Port La Nouvelle gets selected and its time to select single tickets for one adult with no loyalty card and remember to press the Valider button. Now it's time to pay. In goes the card. It's accepted but the PIN gets rejected because the machine responded so slowly that I retyped one digit. That was a mistake. Abort the card. Put it back in. Re-try the PIN very slowly this time. It works and after a suitable pause, out comes the ticket. By now the train should have gone. Neil ran down the steps to reach one of the more distant platforms. A bit of stress improves one's French as Neil muttered Merde, Merde, Merde, Merde while running for the train. There was a happy ending. The train was retarded by five minutes so all was well. Neil was expecting to need a taxi to Port La Nouvelle so he saved about EUR 35.
The walk was simplicity itself. Leave the station and head north. Cross the river and head for the right hand bank of the Canal de la Robine. Don't use the footbridge. It takes you to the wrong bank. Today, there was no chance of error because the bridge was blocked by fencing that had blown down in the strong winds. Follow the tow path all the way to Narbonne, staying on the right. On the tow path, watch out for the occasional moped with man plus dog riding. It looked as though the dog was steering! In Narbonne, cut through the town to the station. You could stay on the canal and turn right just before the railway lines but you'd miss the shops including one that sold much needed bread and pizza. This walk follows the CR1 cycle route until diverting to the railway station in Narbonne.
But for the wind, this could have been an idyllic walk, off road and with fantastic views of the wetlands and a wooded island. The canal is unusual because for about half the distance, there are marine wetlands on both side of the cut. Nearer Narbonne, the imposing fortress was visible in the distance across the flat fens. There were pink flamingos in one of the pools. The wind was strong enough to pick up bits of canal water and throw them at you. This was not enough to get wet but quite noticeable. Walking was tricky, leaning into the wind to maintain balance. Of course it was more or less a head wind too.
The train home was calm and the ticket machine worked first time.
The hotel has air conditioning that heats as well as cools so now it's time to thaw out.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, Neil reaches the Canal du Midi.