I've previously mentioned that I'd been having French lessons. Sadly this term it turned out that the 'intermediate' class was far too easy and there weren't any more advanced options, so that ended up being refunded.
French learning continues with occasional Duolingo, working through the text book, and a few days in France in mid October... Not that I really needed an excuse for a holiday, having not taken any time off work since June. oops.
I went for the "spend as little money as possible" option - flights from Bristol to Béziers were £20 each way, and I stayed in an Ibis budget hotel (bed, bathroom, wifi, tv.. don't need anything else really!)
Beziers itself isn't especially exciting, particularly if you arrive on a Sunday afternoon when everything's shut and then go elsewhere in the daytime! I did spend several hours sitting the the park reading while waiting for the airport bus, which was nice and relaxing.
After 40 minutes of queueing at the station to buy a ticket (urgh, why?!), I hopped on a train to Carcassonne. According to something I read this is France's second most visited tourist attraction, and whether that's true or not it's easy to see why!
The citadel is on top of a hill (strange that), and has lots of towers of a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. It's very impressive. As you can see, the weather was lovely - blue skies and mid 20°s. Skirt and sandals weather. There were enough other tourists around to make me glad I wasn't there in high season, but not so busy that it was unpleasant.
Canal du Midi
For my other full day, I hired a bike and headed along the canal to les neuf écluses de Fonserannes (9 locks). As the name suggests, it's a staircase of locks. You can go on a tourist boat trip up and down them, or you can stand at the side watching and being eaten by mosquitoes. The locks are a lot more violent than British ones, which entertained me. Yay whitewater!
After watching the locks I headed back towards town, then continued along the towpath. Which was very pretty - canal on one side, vineyards and salt marshes (I think?) on the other.
I stopped in Portiragnes for lunch (a massive baked camembert, yum), then a few miles later reached the sea, at the out of season ghost resort of Portiragnes plage. It's as if normal people don't consider October to be beach weather, haha.
As there was nothing to do at the seaside, I took a few photos then turned round and headed back to Béziers. Total of 42km, at a very leisurely pace because the hire bike was not exactly built for speed (can you tell I've got used to my road bike?)
And as for practising speaking French - I tried! Often I got the usual "I speak French, they reply in English" thing, but that's ok. I also watched a lot of French TV in the evenings, including several dubbed/subtitled films. Oh, and I'm now the owner of half a pack of french antihistamines...