Now we have at all times dreamed of taking a barge by means of the canals of the South of France. I keep in mind studying a journey e book after I was younger a few couple who barged their manner by means of Europe and I’ve had that on my bucket checklist ever since. Once we had the chance to drive our personal houseboat on the Rideau Canal final summer time in Canada, we made some extent to place Europe on our journey itinerary subsequent. So when Le Boat requested if we wished to self-drive a ship and cruise the Canal du Midi this summer time, our reply was a powerful, sure!
Cruise the Canal du Midi Ideas and Recommendation
Since we had already taken two Le Boat cruises in Canada, we felt like seasoned specialists upon arrival on the Le Boat headquarters in Homps situated 90 minutes south of Toulouse. We whizzed by means of our 40-minute boat introduction and set off for our 6-day cruise down the well-known canal.
You don’t want any boating expertise to drive a Le Boat houseboat. While you arrive on the marina, a consultant will stroll you thru the boat’s controls and present you the best way to drive it. There are limiters on the pace so you may solely cruise at a most of 10km per hour and there are many bumpers on the boat to maintain you from crashing into the canal partitions.
Switch from Toulouse to Homps
Le Boat’s Canal du Midi headquarters are situated in Homps which is a 90-minute drive from the airport. Le Boat arranges transfers and airport pick-ups to take you from Toulouse to Homps, they usually accomplish that in type.
My brother and sister-in-law met us for this journey, so after spending 2 days in Toulouse, we went again to the airport to fulfill them and our drive to take the switch to our embarkation level.
Homps is the jumping-off level for Le Boat Holidays alongside the canal and it’s right here that we advocate spending at the very least a day to get all the pieces to ensure that your cruise. There are many eating places alongside the canal and there are a number of accommodations and residence leases. Homps has been catering to Canal du Midi barges for years and is the proper place for eating, looking for provides and enjoyable.
Taking our personal switch from the Toulouse airport, we arrived on the stunning Jardin d’Homps BnB within the village only a brief stroll from the Canal du Midi. This beautiful property is about in a quiet tree-covered courtyard with a swimming pool, terrace, and scrumptious breakfast.
It was then off to our first evening of eating on this historic waterway at En Bonne Compagnie. This beautiful tavern had a improbable ambiance with glorious service and meals. What a option to kick off our journey. We may have spent greater than a day right here enjoyable on this quiet city, As one resident from England who bought property right here mentioned, “It’s like Tuscany with out the crowds.” They got here on a canal tour years earlier and liked it a lot, that they moved right here! However alas, we solely had in the future earlier than our boat journey started.
Getting ready for a Canal du Midi Cruise
There’s a grocery retailer on the town the place you may replenish on meals and drinks. Our guesthouse proprietor warned us that there weren’t lots of choices for meals within the coming days, so we must always get all the pieces we want now.
The BnB proprietor was sort sufficient to take our baggage and provides to the Le Boat check-in workplace, so we discovered a pleasant place within the shade to attend to be checked in and eventually get on our manner.
One of the crucial essential items of recommendation I may give you for procuring is to buy loads of water. The south of France can see insufferable warmth in the summertime, and through our journey, the temperatures rose to 42 levels Celcius. (107 F). We couldn’t drink sufficient water to remain hydrated. Fortunately, our Imaginative and prescient 3 boat had a full-size fridge, so we had loads of room to maintain issues cool.
We ordered a picnic bundle which gave us a number of necessities to start our journey. This helps with important gadgets like espresso, milk, sugar, butter, bread, salt & pepper, olive oil, a number of bottles of water, juice, coke, and a few native wine and beer. It additionally contains snacks like chips, peanuts, biscuits, and croissants. I like to recommend ordering this as it would get you thru a day or two in case you forgot something.
Beneath we’ve offered some packing important ideas for cruising the Canal du Midi.
Our Route on the Canal du Midi
Our route alongside the Canal du Midi took us from Homps to Castlenaudry.
Day one was a brief day of cruising. After checking in, unpacking, and going by means of our boat walk-through and lesson, we cruised for simply a few hours to achieve Puicheric.
Once we docked, we had been grateful for having shopped in Homps because the city was a little bit of a hike. We had two bikes, however there have been 4 of us, and since we simply received on the boat, we determined to calm down and make dinner on the deck. Utilizing the barbecue we made dinner and sipped wine from the South of France as we watched the solar go down.
We had a six-day itinerary to get from Homps to Castlenaudry and that was greater than sufficient. Our stops included
We propose spending two nights in Carcassone as that is the biggest metropolis with probably the most points of interest. Castlenaudrey has lots of facilities as effectively and you may catch the practice again to Toulouse from right here after Le Boat should you don’t wish to spend cash on the switch.
Actions on the Canal du Midi
We had visions of stopping at vineyards and olive groves throughout our time on the Canal however sadly that didn’t occur. We thought we’d be going sightseeing and exploring quite a bit, however we quickly realized that the smaller villages alongside the canal, actually don’t have lots of sightseeing or issues to do. When planning your journey, take the stops into consideration.
Apart from the cities of Carcassonne and Castlenaudrey, there wasn’t quite a bit to do. If you wish to see points of interest and have excursions, this isn’t the journey for you. The attraction is being on the boat.
For our route, in order for you excursions, we propose spending two days in Carcassonne and planning from there. We couldn’t e book wine excursions, sightseeing, and even taxis from our boat and wished that we spent two nights in Homps and two nights in Carcassonne.
In regards to the Locks and the Canal du Midi
For those who learn our Le Boat expertise on the Rideau Canal in Canada, you will notice that cruising the canals in Canada it is vitally enjoyable as Parks Canada works the locks. Cruising the Canal du Midi takes much more work. The Rideau Canal is rather more environment friendly with strains contained in the locks that transfer up and down with the water so you may merely loop your ropes round them from the boat.
The distinction is when cruising the Canal du Midi locks, one particular person should get off the boat at every lock to be there to take the ropes and loop them across the cleats on the prime of the lock. This implies you will need to tie up above the lock and let that particular person off earlier than you may undergo. This makes it much more time-consuming in comparison with the Rideau Canal.
Do You Open and Shut the Locks on the Canal du Midi?
Earlier than happening the Canal du Midi, we had heard that we would want handy crank the locks ourselves. This was not the case on our route between Homps and Castlenaudry. For many of the locks, a lockkeeper is there to function the controls for you. The one factor you must do is catch the ropes on the prime whereas the captain drives in. After which one particular person should be on the entrance and the again of the boat to carry it regular with the ropes.
Nonetheless, there was one portion of the canal on the way in which into Castlenaudry, the place the passenger needed to function the opening and shutting of the locks. The locks are automated, so all it’s important to do is press the button and observe the directions.
An essential factor to notice is that on this stretch, the locks are about 1km aside, so it’s a enormous day of going by means of locks. We discovered that, as an alternative of getting the captain cease every time to drop considered one of us off earlier than every lock, the particular person conrtolling the locks as an alternative cycled forward to be ready for the boat to enter.
Once I noticed the boat approaching, I pushed the inexperienced button to open the doorways. This made the entire expertise very environment friendly.
When the doorways opened, Dave drove the boat in after which Jim and Janice tossed me their ropes so I may loop them across the cleats. I then pushed the button to shut the doorways and fill the locks. They held onto the ropes to maintain the boat regular, and as soon as the lock was crammed, the doorways opened routinely. I then rode forward to open the following lock.
So our largest tip for this portion of the journey is to have a bicycle on board.
For those who didn’t hire a bicycle from Le Boat, you’ll both have to stroll forward throughout that portion or have the captain drop you on and off earlier than every lock. We extremely advisable renting at the very least one bike. Apart from, a number of of the mooring areas are situated out of city or the grocery shops are far out of your boat, so having a motorbike was an enormous bonus.
At instances, you’ll need a bicycle to purchase some extra meals as shops had been a little bit of a hike from the boat. Whereas eating places and bars are situated instantly or inside strolling distance of the docks when in Homps, Trebs, Carcasonne, and Castlenaudry, there are occasions while you’ll be a number of km from the city. Plus, there are biking paths all alongside the Canal du Midi, so should you get into your dock early, you could wish to get on the bikes to take a look round.
On Board Grocery Pack
As we talked about above, we extremely advocate ordering the grocery bundle to get you began on the boat. You’ll positively have to do procuring, however this enables you for some extras resembling espresso, milk, butter, jam, olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper.
It additionally contains native wine, beer, lemonade, coke, water, and snacks resembling croissants, bread, biscuits, and chips. We discovered that we ended up utilizing all the pieces together with the aluminum foil which is nice for cooking on the barbecue. Ensure to order your grocery pack 7 days prematurely to have it on board while you arrive.
It’s as much as you ways a lot you wish to buy. There are many locations the place you’ll have the ability to dine out however at the very least for the primary evening, you will have your personal meals on board. And we extremely advocate having breakfast, snacks, lunches, and sufficient meals for a few dinners on board.
We purchased meals for all of our breakfasts, lunch, and for 2 dinners. The perfect recommendation we may give is to plan your meals forward of time and resolve how usually you wish to eat on the boat. You possibly can’t take the meals with you, so if in case you have a transparent concept for every meal, you should purchase meats and cheeses, pastries and dinners all through your journey.
Packing Necessities for Le Boat on the Canal du Midi
Cruising the Canal du Midi happens in the summertime months in Southern France, so count on scorching climate. Pack the same old summer-specific clothes like shorts and T-shirts, however one Le Boat-specific merchandise we can not stress sufficient is to pack work gloves to man the locks. The ropes can actually tear up your arms, plus, they’re usually slimy. We used these gloves however I feel waterproof work gloves can be higher. See these on Amazon.
The Canal du Midi will not be clear, boats are allowed (really inspired) to dump their bathrooms instantly into the canal whereas driving. We will attest that many individuals even dumped their black water whereas docked because the scent wafted into our cabins. Since you might be dealing with ropes which are repeatedly falling into the water, put on gloves when tieing up and doing the strains. And wash your arms usually.
One other merchandise we want we had was a solar umbrella. We couldn’t put our boat cover up as a result of each few hundred meters we needed to go underneath low bridges. Solar hats are a should. Bathing fits aren’t wanted as you can not swim within the Canal du Midi. This umbrella appears to be like like it might have been good to have on the captain’s chair.
Sun shades and binoculars are a good suggestion as effectively. Le Boat in each Eire and Canada provided binoculars however these waterways are on rivers with open lakes and you must discover buoys and markers. Binoculars aren’t wanted on the Canal du Midi since it’s only a straight slender canal so that you don’t want them to navigate, however it’s good to have the ability to take a more in-depth have a look at the passing surroundings.
Additionally, I extremely advocate bringing a few board video games or playing cards for evenings and it’s a good suggestion to pack transportable audio system on your music.
Moveable fan – I’ve a USB-operated fan that’s handheld and that helped me quite a bit after I was overheating. I’ve at all times suffered from a Thyroid dysfunction and Graves illness, so my thermostat has by no means been nice. With the nonetheless scorching air on the Canal du Midi, I used to be struggling. My transportable handheld fan helped me quite a bit when the warmth was too intense.
Select Your Boat Correctly
Le Boat has a number of totally different kinds of boats. In case your funds permits, we propose reserving the Horizon Traces or Premier boats. They’re the most recent and run the most effective. Now we have pushed the Horizon fleet in Canada and Eire they usually actually are the highest of the road.
On the Canal du Midi, we had a consolation boat Imaginative and prescient 3. It didn’t deal with fairly in addition to the Horizon and you may count on a number of issues to go fallacious on the older boats. For instance, our air-con stopped working so that they needed to give us a transportable unit to make use of. And our battery died, so we needed to change out boats half manner by means of our journey.
Le Boat has emergency numbers and sends out technicians rapidly, so when one thing does occur they’re on it quick so that you don’t want to fret about being stranded. They’ll at all times be there to assist.
For inexperienced boaters, The Horizon Line is superb and these are the boats we advocate in case your funds permits. Our Horizons 3 and 4 boats turned on a dime and the thrusters had been so highly effective you may cease rapidly to keep away from any collisions.
Our Imaginative and prescient 3 boat in France took a whole boat size to cease and the thrusters weren’t as highly effective. This boat took extra ability to maneuver.
That is very true with the winds on the Canal du Midi. We had fairly a little bit of expertise by this time, however we noticed individuals going into locks sideways, hitting different boats, and being blown away whereas docking. With the newer fashions, that is much less probably. So, should you don’t have lots of boating expertise, we propose sticking with the brand new and higher-end fashions.
Extraordinarily Low Bridges on the Canal
Additionally beware, that there are lots of low and slender bridges all alongside the Canal du Midi. We booked a big three-bedroom boat and it felt virtually too huge. For those who aren’t comfy driving by means of slender passages, we propose renting a smaller boat. Le Boat has boat sizes that match any consolation stage they usually can go as small as simply having two passengers.
Going by means of the low bridges could be a thrill, however it additionally grew to become tiresome. We may by no means put our cover as much as get aid from the recent solar, we needed to duck every time we went underneath a bridge in order to not hit our heads. (this may be actually critical, so we had been repeatedly reminded one another to duck when approaching), and it was at all times a bit demanding that we’d hit the perimeters.
About Barging the Canal du Midi
Cruising the Canal du Midi is on many individuals’s bucket lists. We loved it however felt that Canada’s Rideau Canal was extra our pace. In Canada (and Eire – extra on that cruise coming quickly) we loved the vast open waters and fewer locks in comparison with the fixed slender channels and abundance of locks on the Canal du Midi.
That mentioned, my sister-in-law liked going by means of the locks and mentioned that her favourite half was having the expertise of going by means of the locks.
Because the captain, Dave discovered that having to tug over repeatedly to let individuals was a bit demanding and I discovered that having to get off the boat a number of instances a day was a little bit of a chore. I’d have most well-liked to remain on the boat to calm down and benefit from the surroundings. However, should you like to work and have a job throughout your travels, you’ll love the Canal du Midi.
Happening the Canal du Midi is an effective way to discover the extra off-the-beaten-path locations of France. It takes you again in time to journey at a slower tempo by yourself time. As one particular person mentioned to us “The Canal du Midi is the proper place to assume extra and hurry much less.” I like that.