A week-long one-way cruise along an action packed section of the canal, taking in idyllic villages and the engineering marvels of the Malpas Tunnel and the Fonserannes Locks.
The small village of Homps, where Le Boat has a base, was for a long time an active trading port where barrels of Minervois and Corbières wine were loaded for their journey to Bordeaux. The waterside buildings testify to these bygone days. There is a grocery store, a small selection of restaurants, a wine shop and a café-bar in the village.
The village of Paraza has a café-restaurant, a grocery store and a lovely church, Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, which was once located in the path of the canal. Riquet had it dismantled and rebuilt where it stands today. Inside, the nave, the choir and the vaults are adorned with beautiful stencilled decoration dating from the 19th century. There are plenty of public moorings before and after the bridge. To the west of Paraza is the Répudre Aqueduct, the first ever canal-bridge built in France and the second in the world!
This tiny village is noted for its waterside wine cellar in the attractive canal-side Château de Ventenac-en-Minervois. Here, local wines can be sampled for free under the arches of its amazing vault. For €2 you can also tour the small museum, ‘Grenier des Vignerons’, which has a collection of tools for growing grapes and winemaking from the 19th century. There are two restaurants right by the moorings.
Before you reach Argens-Minervois, (or after you leave it if you are heading west), you can get some great views over the village by scaling a short but steep path at Pechlaurier Lock which leads to a look-out. The village itself is overlooked by the square towers of a 14th century château and is a lovely little place to stop, with its narrow cobbled streets to wander around. There are ample public moorings, and there is a grocery store, a café-bar and a restaurant.
The village of Roubia is very pretty with an old stone church and tower, and there’s a grocery store and restaurant in the village.
A 700m stroll along a tree-lined avenue and into town will take you to a handful of restaurants, a grocery store, a butcher, two bakeries and a café-bar.
Le Somail was once an important harbour for trade and served as a ‘lying’ stop for passengers coming from Sète or from Toulouse. Nowadays, it is a beautiful little Languedoc village, home to some nice restaurants, a couple of artist studios and a grocery store.
Capestang is a small market town with a good range of shops, including a supermarket, three bakeries, several café-bars and restaurants and an impressive 14th century church. The stone bridge over the canal has the reputation of being the lowest on the canal (the lowest is actually in Carcassonne). Its curved shape makes it quite tricky to pass under – so take it slow and steady.
The small, pretty town of Colombiers is a lively place and there is a pleasure port here with fresh water (you’ll need to buy tokens) and an electricity point. There is a supermarket, pharmacy and newsagents right at the port. After a 300m stroll into the village, you’ll find a lovely patisserie, more restaurants and a pretty church. Just to the west of the town you'll come across the Malpas Tunnel, the first canal tunnel in Europe.
The Fonseranes Locks
Aerial view of Fonseranes Locks, Canal du Midi
Just outside the city of Béziers you will encounter one of Riquet’s most ingenious engineering solutions, the Fonseranes Locks. It’s a staircase of locks, originally composed of eight chambers in a row, which allowed boats to be raised a height of 21.5m across a distance of 300m - one of many highlights of your boat cruise. Today, only seven chambers are still in service.
Béziers is the capital of Languedoc’s wine industry and birthplace of Pierre-Paul Riquet, who was responsible for building the Canal du Midi. Like all cities with a long history, Béziers is best discovered by ambling through its medieval streets, its bright squares and its leafy parks.
Port Cassafières is a small marina where Le Boat has a base with fresh water and electricity points.