The Canal du Midi in France is three hundred years old. It skirts the sunny, shining shores of the Mediterranean before meandering inland through ancient villages, Roman fortifications and famed vineyards. The Canal du Midi is famous for its beauty as it is lined with beautifully planted plane trees and crossed by pretty arched bridges. Adding to the charm of this canal is the Mediterranean weather and pace of life that is so relaxed; magical enough to let you open up and see your life from a totally new perspective as you cruise along.
Canal du Midi is the ideal place whether you want to simply relax on the deck with a cool drink, enjoy the scenery passing by, or cycle or walk along the scenic tow paths. As you look into the distance, you can see the Pyrenees where nearby are the vineyards that stretch for thousands of square miles. You can enjoy private wine tastings at chateaux en route, locations that vary with your choice of barge.
History of the Canal du Midi
Built under the reign of Louis XIV, the Canal du Midi has great historic importance and remarkable beauty in the south ofFrance. It connects theGaronneRiver to theMediterranean. To do so, the canal is 240 km in length and runs from the city ofToulouse down to the Mediterraneanport ofSète. The actual purpose for building Canal du Midi was to be a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, avoiding the long sea voyage around hostileSpain,Barbary pirates, and a trip that in the 17th century required a full month of sailing.
The Canal du Midi was opened officially as the Canal Royal de Languedoc on May 24, 1681. It was designed and built under the supervision of Pierre-Paul Riquet, a rich tax-farmer who bankrupted himself in the personal undertaking and died destitute in 1680, just months before the canal was opened to navigation. Riquet was not alone in the undertaking. In fact, 12,000 workers toiled for fifteen years to create this great canal.
The Canal du Midi is built of 328 structures consisting of locks, aqueducts, tunnels, bridges, etc. and constitutes a major example of hydraulic engineering of the modern age.
As you cruise along the Canal du Midi, you will discover an amazing blend of ancient Gallo-Roman and traditional influences reflected throughout this region of historical importance. The Cité of Carcassonne in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France is a great attraction. The walled city ofCarcassonne is a region you would love to explore as this is the most complete medieval fortified city in existence today.
Canal du Midi meanders through a vast region of diversity ranging from rugged, rural Languedoc regions to the sun-drenched, azure blues of the Mediterranean. Within this vast region, you will find a land of poetry and of proud people devoted to the soil and of course the wine … a passion they will share with you in private tastings of the local Minervois and Corbières wines.
Cruising along the Canal du Midi, the village of Minerve is yet another region you must visit. It offers a magnificent view with its unspoiled natural setting, its bridge and its houses perched on a rocky mountain. The village of Minerve is known for its Palaeontology and Archaeology museum. Besides, Minerve is a favorite place for walkers with its natural bridges and real tunnels dug into the cliff.
Several barges cruise on Canal du Midi and you can choose one according to the regions you want to explore. Canal du Midi, Paul Riquet’s masterpiece of engineering, is and will always remain a great place to visit and explore. No wonder, it has been recognized as the world heritage site by UNESCO.