30 October 2014

Narbonne Day Four took me out to the seaside at Port-la-Nouvelle

One my fourth and final day based at Narbonne I decided to head for the seaside at Port-la-Nouvelle, because that is where the railway line went.

Once upon a time Narbonne was on the coast and it owed its wealth and purpose to its port. Then the river got curmudgeonly and moved a few kilometres to the east and the port moved to Port-la-Nouvelle, i.e. new port.

I was looking forward to the short rail journey as on my previous journeys along that route to/from Barcelona I had enjoyed the scenery and I was not disappointed this time either. The line skirted with water all the way a lot of which was managed wetlands of artificial lakes and shallow rectangular bays which I presumed where there to harvest salt.

There were flamingos too.

Port-la-Nouvelle made Narbonne look large and busy. The station was little more than a halt and the station cafe that I assumed would be there was not to be found.

Walking the 300m or so in to town was like being on the set of 28 Days Later. I saw nobody else. This was a Thursday morning on a fine day and nobody was around.

There were a few faces once I got in to the centre of the town where a few shops were clustered for safety. Several of the cafes were closed which suggested that this was a tourist resort and I had arrived out of season. I did find a cafe that was open and managed to get a coffee but they had no croissants and even a trip to the local supermarket failed to produce any.

My breakfast plans were rescued by another supermarket further down the road and I sat down by the harbour to eat it.

The west end of the harbour, especially the south side, was mostly given over to pleasure boats and these were a pretty backdrop to my breakfast and the start of my walk.

Walking east towards the sea and the harbour quickly turned to industry. I stopped and watched one boat being loaded with what looked like coal by a crane with a Clam Shell Bucket. It looked like a very slow process and I wondered why they were not using some sort of belt.

The town (south) side of the harbour got quieter too and my expectations of finding somewhere nice to have lunch were beginning to erode, There were no more shops either.

At the end of the harbour there was a breakwater crowned with a lighthouse to stop ships running in to it. I was half tempted to walk out along it but only half as I was not sure that the view back would be worth walking all the way out to the end and then back again.

Looking the way there was a long sandy beach that looked strangely deserted given the warm weather. I am sure that Weymouth beach would have been much busier than this on an equivalent day.

I walked along the beach, south, a little way before heading to the line of buildings on the right of the picture. I was hoping to find a restaurant there. Not only did I find one but it was good and busy. It felt rather weird after an hour or so with seeing hardly anybody to suddenly find so many people all in one place and lively people too.

Judging by their familiarity with the staff I guessed that all the other people in the restaurant were all locals. They were certainly more interested in their food than in the view which enabled me to claim on of the seats outside facing the beach.

I had a relaxing light lunch with a drink and consulted my map. Port-la-Nouvelle was almost exactly rectangular and I has walked all along one of the long sides (north) and most of the way down a short side (east). That meant that the only sensible option open to me was to head west back towards the town centre.

The south-east quarter of Port-la-Nouvelle seemed to be devoted to holiday homes, though some were clearly occupied in October. These houses were arranged in strangely curved roads that seemed devoid of names so it was easy to get lost. Which I did more than once.

Helping me to get my bearings again were two artificial lakes that it was hard to miss, though I almost did. The lakeside properties looked nice enough though out of season the area was disturbingly quiet.

Port-la-Nouvelle was defined by water from the salt beds to the harbour to the sea to the lakes to the canals and ditches. In the absence of any notable buildings I used the water as my guide moving from one blue mark on the map to another.

There was not much else to see apart from a couple of holiday parks that confirmed the purpose of this part of the town.

Returning to the town I found it as quiet as it was when I left it. Still, there is nothing wrong with peace and I wanted variety on this holiday.

Knowing there was little or no hope of finding a restaurant open in the town, much less one that catered for vegetarians, I trekked back to the station, took a train back to Narbonne and went to the fresh food restaurant that I had been to on Tuesday, which I was relieved to find open after the disappointment the previous day.

I am not quite sure what I expected from Port-la-Nouvelle but with its harbour, beach and lakes it offered me a fine walk through different and interesting zones. My last full day on holiday did all that I could have asked for it, as had all the others.

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