First stop of the day was at Montfernand, the site of one of the few remaining light beacons used by the Aeropostale. Aéropostale (formally, Compagnie Générale Aéropostale) was a pioneering aviation company. It was founded in 1918 in Toulouse, France, as Société des lignes Latécoère, also known as Lignes Aeriennes Latécoère or simply “The Line” (La ligne).
Aéropostale founder Pierre-Georges Latécoère envisioned an air route connecting France to the French colonies in Africa and South America. The company’s activities were to specialise in, but were by no means restricted to, airborne postal services.
On December 25, 1918, the company began serving its first route between Toulouse and Barcelona in Spain. In February 1919 the line was extended to Casablanca. By 1925 it extended to Dakar, where the mail was shipped by steamer to South America. In November 1927 regular flights between Rio de Janeiro and Natal were started. Expansion then continued to Paraguay, and in July 1929 a regularly scheduled route across the Andes Mountains to Santiago, Chile, were started, later extending down to Tierra del Fuego on the southern part of Chile. Finally, on May 12–13, 1930, the trip across the South Atlantic by air finally took place: a Latécoère 28 mail plane fitted with floats and a 650 horsepower (480 kW) Hispano-Suiza engine made the first nonstop flight. Aeropostale pilot Jean Mermoz flew 3,058 kilometres (1,900 mi) from Dakar to Natal in 19 hours, 35 minutes, with his plane holding 122 kilograms (270 lb) of mail.
Remember, this was long before the days of radio navigation. These beacons, strategically placed along the route, we’re the only means of navigation available. Imagine flying by the seat of your pants with only these beacons to guide you from Toulouse to Brazil! Holy cow.
Next stop was the central most point of the Canal du Midi. Built in the 16th Century (yes, you heard right) this is a canal the flows from this point in two directions, one way to the Atlantic and the other way to the Med. Pretty amazing accomplishment. Not only are the canal waters used for agricultural irrigation, but they are also home to many vacationing house boaters.
Then LUNCH! Probably the best cassoulet I have ever eaten. I am still full as I write this!
Next a quick photo shoot in the sunflowers. These are hard to find at the moment. Spring was so wet and cold that almost none of the fields have bloomed yet. VERY late!
Then on to Mirepoix, a medieval city that has gotten a bit touristy for my taste, but there were some lovely buildings there.
And finally to Chateau Guilem, a winery that donates every year to the AWG Gala and Wine Auction. It was nice to be able to thank them in person!