Thursday, August 31, 2006

Long haul to Narbonne

View To Narbonne in a larger map

I wake feeling fragile, and as I already have lunch packed, only breakfast lightly. Weather forecast is cool start, hot later, with mistral dying down.

The morning is almost too crisp under the plane trees, so I manage a good pace, about 13 kph over the paths, despite roots like sleeping policemen, or just knots that can catch a pedal, reaching the half-way mark by 11, where I stop for brunch, feeling recovered enough to be hungry. In terms of canal-side scenery, this is the most interesting, with all sorts of furniture - crossing over a river, various drains



and little villages that basked in the sun.

By 1pm, the canal path was replaced by road, and in places, was unshaded. Finally it came to a parting of the ways. I had no directions to indicate if the canal path was cyclable to and along the junction canal to the Robine canal in Narbonne, so at the hottest point of the day had to leave the shade completely.

Parting of the ways

The open road

This also took me out into rolling country, rather than the only gradients being up and over bridges I couldn't pass under, which comes as a shock to the system, as does the rather busy road I'm directed onto for a while; so I take a bit of a detour through narrow lanes to rejoin the route at Moussan. The terminal guidance to the hotel is a bit vague; and though I did what it said in terms of left and right, I'm not sure if this was the route I was meant to take. Anyhow, the canal was obvious, and from there the hotel was signed, and it was just a short push.

The guy on reception was surprised that I'd arrived as early as 14:30; but my bag was there, and the room had a much needed air-conditioner. This time the room had hot water, but I didn't feel like fighting a shower curtain, and did a flannel wash and feel much better, and doze for an hour or so to make up for last night.

Going out, the heat is oppressive. I recce the restaurant I'm supposed to be eating at in the Rue Droite (the road helpfully marked on the Google map I'd printed), then to find the station, which is about 10min from the hotel. The other restaurant is in the Place des Jacobins, which isn't on any map, but I find it by random walk; though I'm not impressed when I do. There is a nice looking crêperie close by which I earmark instead, and then go back to the room via Monoprix for lunch tomorrow.

The Jardin de Narbonne in Rue Droite is not functional at 19:45, so I do the crêperie anyway. It was still not functional on the way back to the hotel either, as I amble back via the prettily illuminated streets.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

At Carcassonne

I wake up early, so go for a stroll along the canal, and then take a cruise

LaDouce lock house

Lock house at LaDouce — one of a series

back a couple of locks, rising 2m (LaDouce), then 4m (Herminis) before turning around.

Stroll up to the old town and take more photos


The other end of town

Pick up a light late lunch, and sprawl & read on the grassy bank in front of the hotel

Outside the hotel

Shade and shelter from the mistral

which I do for much of the rest of the p.m.

The whole 50cl bottle of rosé is a bit too much, and having crashed about 10pm, I wake at 1am with a cold sweat, before falling back into broken sleep until about 6.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

To Carcassonne

View Castelnaudary to Carcassone in a larger map

Breakfast is served early, and there's nothing to stay for, so start ambling at about 8. The route is easy and obvious; and the sections that I've been warned are “unmaintained” are not bad - just smooth bare earth. Better than the off-road bits on the cycle to work. However I do meet a post van going the other way, and later get stuck behind a slow moving Rives de France van.

Later the path dwindles to a handspan wide bare trace in the grass, but never as near the water as keeping to the right on some of the maintained bits would have left me. The last stretch in the deep cutting in Carcassonne is push/scramble only, except the last stretch as it reaches the station.


Start scrambling here — or zig-zag over the canal by road

By now the sky has cleared, so as it's not yet noon, I park the bike and do an orientation wander, not very efficiently, find some lunch, and eat it in the breeze and shade near the hotel. Mid afternoon I check in to this rather Edwardian place, to find that the art deco style shower only offers the choice of cold and freezing. Ugh.

Make a quick walk into the old town to scout it out, and generally decide what to do for the stay-over tomorrow.

My God, it's full of tourists!

My God, it's full of tourists!

Monday, August 28, 2006

To Castelnaudary

View Tolouse to Castelnaudary in a larger map

The journey starts with the usual casting around to reconcile two different sets of instructions and reality, to get out of town on the correct side of the canal for a path that wouldn't just end miles from a bridge. Hint:-

Canal Path

Canal path - a GR path on the map

Though the day started bright, but the time I'm leaving Toulouse, about 10am, it's dull, and there is dampness on the wind. The cycling is a grind with what wind there is against me, and the canal path is boring going — even when I can see past the screening bushes, there's a main road, or fields of ripening sunflowers



There is a sprinkle of rain after lunch, but it then gradually becomes brighter, but breezy (and warm and sticky, too).

A welcome bath on arrival at the otherwise undistinguished hotel, then recce for the other hotel where I have a dinner token. In the main square, they are tidying up after the weekend's cassoulet festival (supposedly invented here during the 100 years war, when the beseiged townsfolk put all their remaining food into one big pot).

There are lizards on the steps up to the high point of the town, and the footbridge over the canal; and a flaming rose sky on the way back from dinner.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Train to Toulouse

After taking an early night, I kept waking up in case it was time to get up, and gave up the effort of trying to sleep about 06:40. By a strange coincidence, the highlight of the day was 6h40m of train journey, starting 10:10.

I had finished breakfast and packing by just after 8, and, with not a lot else to do early on a Sunday morning, was at the Gare d'Austerlitz by twenty to 9. Even so, I had pretty much Hobson's choice of where to sit on the benches on the platform if I wanted to watch the board to find out which platform the train would be leaving from. So it was a case of sitting there while the swarthy guys with SMGs patrolled (not completely confidence inspiring).

The train was signalled half an hour before leaving, so it was no rush to get on, and the coach was comparatively empty.

On the journey, there was a church with a free-standing tower; and at Toury, the first of the many wind farms. After 1hour, cross the Loire near Orléans, and it's starting to brighten from a grey start, with flickers of blue sky.

There is a woman with a young black cat, just out of kittenhood, that wants to explore, and prowls a little on its lead, before spending a long time zonked on her lap, or sticking out a curious face into the aisle.

Half way point, Limoges, patchy sun, and we've swung around to east of south. 4h10m in, Brive le Gaillard, 3pm Souillac (where I stopped back in 2000), 3:20 Gourdon. Now definitely out into fair-weather clouds and sun, which is better than the most recent weather forecast. 15:45 Cahors, 16:13 Caussade, 16:28 Montauban. For the final ten minutes of the journey we are alongside the canal, with plenty of cyclists on the path, looking good for the morning.

Short walk to the hotel, cunningly hidden in a courtyard, in hot sun. Bike already there, so do try out. The front suspension is soft, which always feels worrying; and the tyre doesn't pump particularly hard — but it doesn't seem to be leaking.

Smarten up for supper, and wander into town. The low sun across the main square is in my eyes. Many places are closed for August and Sunday, and I start worrying that I'll have to back track to the McDo's; but in the Rue du Taur, I find a creperie, where I can sit out on the pavement, and enjoy a meal (blue cheese galette, crepe tatin, 50cl cider and mint tea).

Weather forecast suggests dull and showery tomorrow, but fine for the rest of the week.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Wake up with the sun, but, because I can, take my time getting up. Breakfast, then a long walk out past Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, taking the Champs Elysées for the first time — so I'm surprised at the commercial nature, more like Oxford Street west of Oxford Circus, but much wider. Beyond the Peripherique, it gets quieter and more run down light commercial, then nigh residential,before crossing the Seine.

La Defence

La Défense

I had been dodging scattered sprinklings of rain, and it was still gloomy as I tentatively crossed the deserted retail area at the near edge of the complex, and onto the first of the art installations

Arc de Triomphe

Public art at La Défense

but then it moved from hotels (flats, too? offices?) with more art, then a plaza before the Grand Arch, with more people around


Carousel at La Défense

and finally out onto the jetty to nowhere beyond

Grand Arch

End of the line

Having completed this axis from the Tuileries, I return over the Seine, then turn right down a pretty avenue, then into the Bois de Bologne, to Trocadero, and back in the rain along the Rive Gauche. All this time, Smart fortwos are everywhere, often 3 or 4 in sight at once.

Resupplied for the morning, I then take the obligatory supper at La Trappiste.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Annual French Cycling Holiday

An early start, with just a slice of the first home-grown apple pie of the season for breakfast. Getting to Cambridge station, I just miss a very early train, the next one to King's X is delayed, so catch on for Liverpool St. instead, which gets me in with plenty of time to walk.

At the Eurostar check-in I get the usual "travelling while bearded" hassle, so the equally suspicious looking guy doing the security spends absolutely ages looking at my bike repair bits, camping cutlery set and reading glasses case, and swabbing my bag down for gas chromatography.

By that stage, breakfast is a distant memory, and the packed lunch has repacked to the bottom of the bag — so I go wild at the sandwich bar.

As my coach is all the way at the front of the train, I wear, rather than carry the big rucksack, and just sling it in the rack at the end of the coach, without sipping up the panel that covers all the gear. Mistake - the buckle on the belly-band snap must have caught on the rack, because it was stripped off by the time I tried to sling the pack on on the platform at Gare du Nord, and by the time I managed to scramble back into the coach, there was no sign.

Paris is bright and hot, not cool as per the forecasts I checked, and so by the time I've slogged all the way down St Denis, I'm soaked from the inside. This year I'm in room 34, and once the power is back, the lift working and the fire alarm in the hotel silenced, I can actually have a bath. If I keep one foot pushing the plug down into the hole, that is.

Seine at evening

Seine at evening

I go for a stroll, but I'm not very hungry, so wander through C&A's, finding that where they used to have silk shirts they now do polyester viscose (ugh!), and then pick up some juice at the Franprix next door to the hotel to have with a little bit of the packed lunch.

Charente Waterways

Monday, August 07, 2006


Yes, we now have curtains in the new dining area, and the old kitchen blind has been re-installed for the moment. And tomorrow, we should have flooring in the kitchen and carpet on the stairs and landing!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Getting my head examined

Went to be a subject for some research at the Autism Research Centre, which involved having an EEG done which watching a series of words or images which occasionally had something incongruous in them. Looking at my high ASQ rating, the girl asked had I been diagnosed with anything, like ADHD, to which I had to say that it hadn't been invented when I was a kid. But I wouldn't have been. The test for handedness is pretty ancient though, asking for things like which hand you use to strike matches with, rather than mousing or anything modern.

The actual test went on for a couple of hours, and I started to feel myself drifting, but with the EEG, they should be able to spot sleep patterns, I guess.

The electrode gel is sticky like old fashioned paste glue, and not nice in the hair. It doesn't comb out even when near dry and has to be washed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

ADFS Troubleshooting : Part 1

I've been having to do some work on Web SSO at work, and to start with I wanted to take a simple ADFS set-up (as per the MSFT step-by-step test rig), and put my own certificate infrastructure on — an Enterprise CA for the server identities and a stand-alone CA for the assertion signing, just to make everything as clear and under control as possible. This wasn't too bad to set up, until it came to kick the tyres and do a trial authentication.

UnauthorisedAccessException in the WebSsoAuthenticationModule.OnEnter method. After the authentication had happened and the Federation Server was sending the assertion back to the Web Agent. The error message was all about setting the process to have the appropriate access to “the resource”. What “resource”?

Server Error in '/testcode' Application.

Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.

ASP.NET is not authorized to access the requested resource. Consider granting access rights to the resource to the ASP.NET request identity. ASP.NET has a base process identity (typically {MACHINE}\ASPNET on IIS 5 or Network Service on IIS 6) that is used if the application is not impersonating. If the application is impersonating via <identity impersonate="true"/>, the identity will be the anonymous user (typically IUSR_MACHINENAME) or the authenticated request user.

To grant ASP.NET access to a file, right-click the file in Explorer, choose "Properties" and select the Security tab. Click "Add" to add the appropriate user or group. Highlight the ASP.NET account, and check the boxes for the desired access.

Source Error:

An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below.

Stack Trace:

[UnauthorizedAccessException: Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.]
   System.Web.Security.SingleSignOn.WebSsoAuthenticationModule.OnEnter(Object o, EventArgs args) +3352
   System.Web.SyncEventExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute() +92
   System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously) +64

Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:2.0.50727.42; ASP.NET Version:2.0.50727.42

Even Google didn't help.

Yesterday, I'd had a problem where the web agent opened the SSL connection to the FS, and the connection was dropped just as soon as the SSL handshake was complete; but that went away without any of my doing when I tried it this morning. So I wondered if there was anything wrong with the time-zones, which meant it took 8+hours for certificates to become valid?

Well, it turned out that they were all on BST, but the FS and Web Agent were about 10 minutes adrift. So I synched them all up. And suddenly it all worked. And if I set the Web Agent machine's clock slow again (or sufficiently fast), the error re-appears.

If it was the result of having an assertion signed too far in the future, the response of the infrastructure was rather out of order.