Don't fall in the canal! An adventure, but not a vacation
We had long heard of the idyll and relaxation of cruising on a self-piloted, private canal boat in southern France. The voices said: No worries about navigation, you can't get lost! Visit small French villages and see the lavender covered hillsides! Sample cassoulet! Sleep aboard! Slowly travel down the majestic and historic Canal du Midi. Enjoy fine wine while watching the world slip by.....
Abut 2 hours into our 5 day tour, we realized that this trip had little idyll and few moments of relaxation. Our itinerary took us across some 50 locks, each of which required careful navigation, maneuvering the boat with ropes, and waiting time to have the locks fill and empty. It was hot. It was smelly as the boats didn't have waste holding tanks! The charming villages were located many kilometers from the canal. There were few opportunities to chat with locals.
A sense of dread was settling over our little boat. After we'd navigated a couple of locks, however, we started gaining confidence. That was a mistake! The eldest member of our party, an old Coast Guard captain, fell into the lock at the end of that first long day.
We settled in for the long haul, puttering our little boat at 10 km/hr to towards our final destination. On our last evening aboard, we docked next to a luxury private cruise, with chefs and AC and someone else to drive. I have never felt such envy, seeing those truly relaxed passengers chatting and laughing. Next time? Staying somewhere that doesn't move!
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Oasis of peace
As me and my dog got off the train in Beziers, little did I know what revival I would experience in that city.
I was charmed with a big and spacious park and the tranquility of the place.
While we were resting in the shade on the grass, I remembered that in Nice my friend Richard had been telling me about Canal du Midi and that every French person has to, at least once in their lifetime, cycle along it.
I went to tourist office to get the canal map and later that afternoon I made my first kilometers along the canal.
Words fail to describe how happy and thrilled I was with what I saw. The path was right along the water with trees on both sides of the canal providing shade, and the atmosphere was soooo calm.
What thrilled me so much about the canal was the fact that there we were all one big canal community. Many people cycle in all directions, boats ply canal waters, everybody waves and greets each other.
Also, I had the opportunity to see the most varied range of bicycles. I had Onni in my trailer, while almost every other bicycle had children’s trailer.
And the cutest were the children who rode their own bikes with mini panniers!
After the crowds in the south of France, cycling along the canal was like a revival. Beautiful landscape, peace, quiet, tranquility, camping in golden fields and green meadows. Even bathing in the canal - I do not actually recommend it - but when there is no shower - what can you do.
French or not Canal du Midi is "must do"!