Over the Bastille Day Long weekend, we spent 3 nights boating along the Canal du Midi. We rented a houseboat and cruised 24 miles from Narbonne to Homps.
The Canal du Midi is an amazing feat of engineering, and runs 150 miles from the city of Toulouse (near our home) to the Mediterranean Sea.
Building of the canal started in 1668, and by 1681 it was in use. Today, it’s one of the oldest canals still in use in the world.
The natural environment along the canal is absolutely beautiful, and in 1996 the canal was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The boat we rented was set-up with bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen, so we could prepare hot meals and sleep comfortably on board.
The boat was surprisingly spacious, and on one day we had some friends and their kids visit us on the boat and stay overnight.
Dotted along the banks of the canal are Medieval towns, impressive châteaux, beautiful cathedrals, and little villages full of charm and character.
You're allowed to moor your boat almost anywhere along the canal, even if there is no official mooring. You can simply hammer stakes into the bank of the canal, and tie up your boat. We did this many times, and it meant we could jump off anywhere we fancied and explore what was around us.
Also dotted along the canals are many waterside restaurants, bars, and vineyards.
On some parts of our journey, there were vines planted on either side of the canal for as far as the eye could see. It made for some very pretty scenery.
The canal water is very calm, which makes for a very gentle and stable journey. Given we were traveling with a 2.5 year old, this made the whole experience much safer and stressfree.
One of the most interesting aspects of boating along the Canal du Midi, is navigating the lock system. The canal traverses undulating countryside, and the locks provide a means for boats to be raised or lowered to the correct water level.
There are 91 working locks along the Canal du Midi, and we navigated 16 of them on our trip. Each lock is a bit different; some of them are operated by a guardian, and others are manual.
Justin was in charge of driving our boat, while I helped us maneuver through the locks. My job involved jumping off the boat each time we approached a lock to tie it up, before racing to find the operating box for the lock. The locks are electric these days, and there are instructions at each lock explaining what buttons to push. It was quite an adventure!
Boating on the Canal du Midi is one of those experiences that encapsulates so many positive aspects of travel into one trip. The beauty of cruising along a lush waterway, the thrill of navigating your route, the physical challenge of maneuvering through the locks, and the indulgence of sun drenched vineyards set among ancient villages steeped in history. It was a great experience for the whole family, and one we'd love to do again.