3 Kids at Saint-Ferréol
Besides Cathares, another term that I would hear quite a bit of when travelling near Toulouse was Canal du Midi. SIL brought us to the Lac de Saint-Ferréol one afternoon so that she could invite us to lunch at the lovely Hotellerie du Lac. Really good food in a chic setting and believe it or not, the kids' menu offered a beef faux-filet and a dessert - for only 10 euros!
Hotellerie du Lac
Anyway, the hotel-restaurant was opposite an artificial lake with a (not-too-pretty) sandy beach. But you could swim in it and even do a spot of canoeing or kayaking if you wanted to. There was also a mini-tree climbing facility, mini-golf and sand pits for pétanque.
Lac de Saint-Ferréol
We took a walk after the rest of the family had canoed for a bit in the lake and ended up near a huge 17th century dam surrounded by a beautiful forest. And in its midst there was a little museum dedicated to the Canal du Midi.
3 Boys vs 2 Amazons (the latter won, of course)
Apparently the canal had been constructed by Pierre-Paul Riquet (born in 1609 in Béziers - the city whose population of nearly 20 000 was entirely massacred by the Cathar crusaders in the 13th century) to link the Garonne to the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France. This was to facilitate the transportation of wheat and wine between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The project was considered one of the greatest construction (génie civil) in the 17th century, opening up the way to the Industrial Revolution. Besides being an engineering feat, it was also an architectural wonder and work of art, with much pain taken to keep the various aqueducts, tunnels, reservoirs, bridges etc in some harmony with its natural environment. As a matter of fact, the Canal du Midi became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.
The dam at Saint-Ferréol was built to create a water reservoir that would aliment the Canal du Midi via "la Rigole de la plaine" - a small canal that would go all the way to the Seuil de Naurouze. The area around had also been landscaped with dense vegetation so that it actually became a tourist spot.
I stayed at the beach to look after our things and overheard a conversation among 3 women while I was alternating between looking at the sky and reading SIL's copy of Jane Austen's Emma. I've not read that book since I was 14 so it was a pleasure to read it again. Anyway, the conversation was mainly about how life was difficult financially for them and what they would do if they should win the lottery. So I put the book down and just stared at the sky thinking about what I would do if I should strike the lottery. Certainly something more interesting than what they proposed to do.