Barge Cruising: Canal du Midi, France
Nick and Sandy provided instructions on how to fly to Carcassonne from London. However, a more novel and stylish way to arrive could be on your own barge on the Canal du Midi. You can charter a whole barge, but it doesn’t come cheap. For a 6-passenger barge for 6 nights, the rate is about €20,000.
However, if like most of us you don’t have that kind of spare change, the next option would be to join a cruise. These barge cruises operate all over France, and Europe, and offer a more intimate and relaxing way of seeing the country. The barges generally carry from 6 to 12 people.
The Canal du Midi is a lovely and peaceful waterway that winds through the south-west of France. Built in the 17th century, it is considered an engineering marvel and in 1999, it received recognition by UNESCO and was added to the list of World Heritage Sites. The Canal du Midi starts from the shores of the Mediterranean and meanders inland through ancient villages and Roman fortifications towards the famed region of Bordeaux. It is now used for pleasure boating between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean between Bordeaux and Sète. Lined with shady trees and greenery, the tow paths are now used for cycling, jogging and leisurely walking.
The south-eastern part of the canal, between Toulouse and Marseillan and close to Sète, was called the Royal Languedoc Canal. The 200-km north-western portion, between Toulouse and Castets-en-Dorthe (near Bordeaux) was called the Garonne Lateral Canal, as it tracks the Garonne river. Originally called the Canal des Deux Mers (the canal of two seas), it was later renamed as the Canal du Midi.
I’ve checked out a couple of these cruises and they promise delicious regional specialities and lots of French wine. If you need a holiday to really wind-down, this looks like it. Trips like this would certainly require good weather as there’s not much else you could do during a wet day. Friends of ours have been on a couple of the French ones and raved about them. Another thing to add to our To Do List!