We were only in Orleans to break our journey overnight, so the following morning, the rail strike seemingly having been resolved, we caught the local train up to the junction station at Les Orbrais and changed there for Toulouse - a process that was less convenient and involved more stair climbing between platforms than the "rail replacement tram" had done the previous evening. Our six-hour journey to Toulouse took us along the edge of the Massif Central and involved crossing a number of rivers, including the Lot and the Dordogne. We glimpsed the occasional lock - but no boats - and for the last few kilometres into Toulouse ran alongside the Canal du Midi. All of this was unexpected as this was a non-boating holiday.
We had half-an-hour to wait at Toulouse for our next train but were surprised to find the station occupied by various groups of uniformed men - municipal police, riot police and what appeared to be the French army - all of them armed and some carrying sub-machine guns! Thinking that at least a major terrorist incident was taking place we attempted to get away from the station as soon as possible - via a side exit as the main one was blockaded by the uniformed forces. However, once outside where we could see what was going on it turned out that the the cause of all the excitement was a small demonstration of fewer than fifty (unarmed!) demonstrators protesting at the closure of a local factory.
We therefore decided to take a walk around such of the town as we had time to visit, but once outside the station forecourt what should we find - on our "non-boating holiday - but this :
Yes, that's right - a canal and a lock! I knew that the Canal du Midi passed through Toulouse, but had no idea that it ran right outside the station. In the time we had we saw no moving boats although tied up above the lock were a restaurant boat and one selling, of all things, lavender!
(As well as the restaurant and lavender boats you can just see in the photo the demonstrators - just about all of them - crossing the bridge on their march around the city). After that it was back to the station to catch our next train (delayed by 47 minutes due to "technical difficulties") on to Beziers, where there was no time to visit the staircase locks or the aqueduct, and, finally, to the small inland town of Bedarieux, situated on the unnavigable River Orb and therefore containing nothing of boating interest whatsoever!