Imagine gliding slowly along a tree lined canal, cool shade, sunflower fields on either side of the canal, passing through picture perfect villages, and pastoral scenes painted by many artists over the years … and at the end of the day, an afternoon snooze or a slow stroll through a charming village to find our daily baguette, perhaps topping up with a Margret de Cannard and fresh salad ingredients, a barbecue accompanied by the local vin blanc or vin rouge. That’s what we’ve been doing…..living the dream.
After crossing the Etang de Thau, and holding my breath in anticipation of entering the world famous Canal du Midi, UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s an inauspicious start. This Canal joins 2 seas, the Mediterranean, the other side of the Etang, and the Atlantic. It was the dream of Monsieur Riquet in the 1600’s, who after many years of talking, was finally supported by the Sun King Louis XIV. 12,000 workers over 14 years hand dug 240 km, built 63 locks, 126 bridges, 105 aquaducts and the world’s first canal tunnel – not to mention the 45,000 trees that were planted to stabilize the banks and provide shade. In the 17 and 18 century this canal was a highway, until the advent of the railway in the mid 1800’s.
We enter the Canal du Midi after about 7 hours crossing this vast lake or Etang, from the Mediterranean
Old and abandoned boats line the start of the canal, dilapidated buildings creating an unkempt feel… a very disappointing start to this world famous canal
And then the trees… and my heart lifts. The Plane trees are so much a part of this canal. These beautiful trees have been hit by a fungus and many trees have been cut down. Happily more trees of different varieties have been planted… Sunflower fields on either side for as far as the eye can see..
An aquaduct, one of 105 on the Canal du Midi. I still love the feeling of crossing over a river and looking down at swimmers or boaters below
The view from the aquaduct as I turn my head the other way – Entering the city of Beziers.
The “Sept Ecluse” a Staircase of 7 locks rising up 20 meters. Astonishing! Monsieur Riquets engineering design. Well, how do you get to the top of a hill otherwise?
From the top looking down. This “ladder” attracts fascinated tourists. Béziers in the distance
Exiting the last lock..
A simple salad dinner with un verre du vin blanc et vin rouge, our daily baguette, lathered with “crystals of salt” in the butter, it’s too hot for anything other than a salad
The towpaths are used extensively by cyclists. Sojourn is often greatly admired.
The worlds first Canal tunnel, thanks to Monsieur Riquet’s engineering once again
Through the tunnel, the rock apparently very difficult to have blasted through
And we arrive at Capestang, where Rob faces his greatest challenge – getting through the notorious Capestang Bridge. Sojourn in the distance
In Capestang we take a tour of the ancient Church. This entails climbing up a few hundred steps
The Cathedral, the walls showing the difference between Roman and Gothic style
The views from the top
To prove we were at the top!
One of a few draughts boards on the stone floor, created by bored soldiers on watch duty
I love that farms are so close to the villages, and so much a part of daily life
Whoohooo… and we did it, through the Capestang Bridge by a few centimeters…this entailed Rob steering as close as possible through the middle of the bridge to prevent our wheelhouse corners from being damaged- what a Capitainerie!
Looking back….The humpback bridges were built small to save money. Building Costs had escalated, and Riquet despaired about the canal getting finished. Sadly, he died 6 months before the Canal was filled and in operation.
And as we leave, looking at the church we climbed to the balcony of. Some saplings yet to grow and provide the highly desired shade the canal is renowned for
Our country mooring at hamlet (un Ville of less than 500 inhabitants)
Our view across the fields, horses grazing peacefully
Our reward- a meal at Le Chat qui Peche- The Cat who fishes.
I opt for a Cassoulet, White beans with hunks of Duck and sausage in a rich sauce…. no words
We listen to George’s Brassens on vinyl while savouring every mouthful
Pretty village of Argeliers
Water system running through the village
Magical pink Evening… no enhancement of colours in this photo… as it was
Along this stretch of the Midi, many of the Lockeepers offer their creative carvings and artistic sculptures for a fair price. Many creative pieces! Almost like our own
Passing through this picture perfect village…
Another engineering feat of this canal
A very important part of most days is walking or cycling to get our daily bread. Here is Monsieur Boulanger bringing out his creation – chocolate mousse gateaux. and Madame serving a customer with undivided attention
Releasing the ropes, and we’re off again…
The oval shape of the Canal du Midi locks. Sharing the locks on this day with a lone French man and his boat. Through s few double locks.
Just so pretty…
Wild mooring. No lights, no noise.
A beer at the local bar of this hamlet, one of the locals there before us…
Walking “home” I’m followed by le chat..
And meeting two Lyonbergers walking their caretakers
Of course, a snooze at the end of the day, or perhaps during the day…