We have all the time dreamed of taking a barge by the canals of the South of France. I bear in mind studying a journey e book after I was younger a few couple who barged their means by Europe and I’ve had that on my bucket listing ever since. When we had the alternative to drive our personal houseboat on the Rideau Canal final summer season in Canada, we made a degree to put 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 season, our reply was a powerful, sure!
Cruise the Canal du Midi Tips and Advice
Since we had already taken two Le Boat cruises in Canada, we felt like seasoned consultants upon arrival at the Le Boat headquarters in Homps positioned 90 minutes south of Toulouse. We whizzed by 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. When you arrive at the marina, a consultant will stroll you thru the boat’s controls and present you the way to drive it. There are limiters on the velocity so you’ll be able to solely cruise at a most of 10km per hour and there are lots of bumpers on the boat to hold you from crashing into the canal partitions.
Transfer from Toulouse to Homps
Le Boat’s Canal du Midi headquarters are positioned in Homps which is a 90-minute drive from the airport. Le Boat arranges transfers and airport decide-ups to take you from Toulouse to Homps, they usually accomplish that in model.
My brother and sister-in-regulation met us for this journey, so after spending 2 days in Toulouse, we went again to the airport to meet them and our drive to take the switch to our embarkation level.
Homps is the leaping-off level for Le Boat Vacations alongside the canal and it’s right here that we suggest spending at the very least a day to get all the things to ensure that your cruise. There are lots of eating places alongside the canal and there are a number of accommodations and condominium leases. Homps has been catering to Canal du Midi barges for years and is the excellent place for eating, purchasing for provides and enjoyable.
Taking our personal switch from the Toulouse airport, we arrived at the lovely Jardin d’Homps BnB in the village only a quick stroll from the Canal du Midi. This pretty property is about in a quiet tree-coated 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 pretty tavern had a unbelievable ambiance with glorious service and meals. What a means 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 without the crowds.” They got here on a canal tour years earlier and beloved it a lot, that they moved right here! But alas, we solely had someday earlier than our boat journey started.
Preparing for a Canal du Midi Cruise
There is a grocery retailer on the town the place you’ll be able to top off on meals and drinks. Our guesthouse proprietor warned us that there weren’t rather a lot of choices for meals in the coming days, so we should always get all the things we’d like now.
The BnB proprietor was variety sufficient to take our baggage and provides to the Le Boat examine-in workplace, so we discovered a pleasant place in the shade to wait to be checked in and at last get on our means.
One of the most necessary items of recommendation I may give you for purchasing is to buy lots of water. The south of France can see insufferable warmth in the summer season, and through our journey, the temperatures rose to 42 levels Celcius. (107 F). We couldn’t drink sufficient water to keep hydrated. Luckily, our Vision 3 boat had a full-dimension fridge, so we had lots of room to hold issues cool.
We ordered a picnic bundle which gave us a number of necessities to start our journey. This helps with important objects 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 is going to get you thru a day or two in case you forgot something.
Below we’ve got supplied some packing important suggestions 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 our boat stroll-by and lesson, we cruised for only a couple of hours to attain Puicheric.
When we docked, we had been grateful for having shopped in Homps as the city was a bit of a hike. We had two bikes, however there have been 4 of us, and since we simply obtained on the boat, we determined to chill out and make dinner on the deck. Using 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 recommend spending two nights in Carcassone as that is the largest metropolis with the most sights. Castlenaudrey has rather a lot of facilities as effectively and you may catch the prepare again to Toulouse from right here after Le Boat for those who don’t need to spend cash on the switch.
Activities 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 rather a lot, however we quickly realized that the smaller villages alongside the canal, actually don’t have rather a lot of sightseeing or issues to do. When planning your journey, take the stops into consideration.
Besides the cities of Carcassonne and Castlenaudrey, there wasn’t rather a lot to do. If you need to see sights 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 advise 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.
About the Locks and the Canal du Midi
If you learn our Le Boat expertise on the Rideau Canal in Canada, you will notice that cruising the canals in Canada it is rather 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 inside the locks that transfer up and down with the water so you’ll be able to 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 round the cleats at the prime of the lock. This means you will need to tie up above the lock and let that particular person off earlier than you’ll be able to undergo. This makes it much more time-consuming in contrast to the Rideau Canal.
Do You Open and Close the Locks on the Canal du Midi?
Before occurring the Canal du Midi, we had heard that we would wish to hand crank the locks ourselves. This was not the case on our route between Homps and Castlenaudry. For most of the locks, a lockkeeper is there to function the controls for you. The solely factor you want to do is catch the ropes at the prime whereas the captain drives in. And then one particular person have to be at the entrance and the again of the boat to maintain it regular with the ropes.
However, there was one portion of the canal on the means into Castlenaudry, the place the passenger had to function the opening and shutting of the locks. The locks are automated, so all you could have to do is press the button and comply with the directions.
An necessary factor to word is that on this stretch, the locks are about 1km aside, so it’s a large day of going by locks. We discovered that, as a substitute of having the captain cease every time to drop one of us off earlier than every lock, the particular person conrtolling the locks as a substitute cycled forward to be ready for the boat to enter.
When I noticed the boat approaching, I pushed the inexperienced button to open the doorways. This made the complete 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 round the cleats. I then pushed the button to shut the doorways and fill the locks. They held onto the ropes to hold the boat regular, and as soon as the lock was crammed, the doorways opened mechanically. I then rode forward to open the subsequent lock.
So our greatest tip for this portion of the journey is to have a bicycle on board.
If you didn’t lease a bicycle from Le Boat, you’ll both want to stroll forward throughout that portion or have the captain drop you on and off earlier than every lock. We extremely really useful renting at the very least one bike. Besides, a number of of the mooring areas are positioned out of city or the grocery shops are far out of your boat, so having a motorcycle was an enormous bonus.
At occasions, you’ll need a bicycle to purchase some extra meals as shops had been a bit of a hike from the boat. While eating places and bars are positioned immediately or inside strolling distance of the docks when in Homps, Trebs, Carcasonne, and Castlenaudry, there are occasions if you’ll be a number of km from the city. Plus, there are biking paths all alongside the Canal du Midi, so for those who get into your dock early, it’s your decision to get on the bikes to take a look round.
On Board Grocery Pack
As we talked about above, we extremely suggest ordering the grocery bundle to get you began on the boat. You will certainly want to do purchasing, 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 things together with the aluminum foil which is nice for cooking on the barbecue. Make certain to order your grocery pack 7 days prematurely to have it on board if you arrive.
It is up to you the way a lot you need to buy. There are lots of locations the place you’ll find a way to dine out however at the very least for the first evening, you want your individual meals on board. And we extremely suggest having breakfast, snacks, lunches, and sufficient meals for a pair of dinners on board.
We purchased meals for all of our breakfasts, lunch, and for 2 dinners. The finest recommendation we may give is to plan your meals forward of time and determine how typically you need to eat on the boat. You can’t take the meals with you, so in case you have a transparent thought for every meal, you should purchase meats and cheeses, pastries and dinners for the length of your journey.
Packing Essentials for Le Boat on the Canal du Midi
Cruising the Canal du Midi happens in the summer season months in Southern France, so anticipate sizzling climate. Pack the normal summer season-particular 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 palms, plus, they’re typically slimy. We used these gloves however I believe waterproof work gloves can be higher. See these on Amazon.
The Canal du Midi is just not clear, boats are allowed (really inspired) to dump their bogs immediately into the canal whereas driving. We can attest that many individuals even dumped their black water whereas docked as the scent wafted into our cabins. Since you might be dealing with ropes which might be frequently falling into the water, put on gloves when tieing up and doing the strains. And wash your palms typically.
Another 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 had to go underneath low bridges. Sun hats are a should. Bathing fits usually are not wanted as you can’t swim in the Canal du Midi. This umbrella seems to be like it might have been excellent to have at the captain’s chair.
Sunglasses and binoculars are a good suggestion as effectively. Le Boat in each Ireland and Canada provided binoculars however these waterways are on rivers with open lakes and also you want to discover buoys and markers. Binoculars usually are not wanted on the Canal du Midi since it’s only a straight slim canal so that you don’t want them to navigate, however it’s good to find a way to take a better have a look at the passing surroundings.
Also, I extremely suggest bringing a pair of board video games or playing cards for evenings and it’s a good suggestion to pack transportable audio system to your music.
Portable fan – I’ve a USB-operated fan that’s handheld and that helped me rather a lot after I was overheating. I’ve all the time suffered from a Thyroid dysfunction and Graves illness, so my thermostat has by no means been nice. With the nonetheless sizzling air on the Canal du Midi, I used to be struggling. My transportable handheld fan helped me rather a lot when the warmth was too intense.
Choose Your Boat Wisely
Le Boat has a number of totally different types of boats. If your finances permits, we advise reserving the Horizon Lines or Premier boats. They are the latest and run the finest. We have pushed the Horizon fleet in Canada and Ireland they usually actually are the prime of the line.
On the Canal du Midi, we had a consolation boat Vision 3. It didn’t deal with fairly in addition to the Horizon and you may anticipate a number of issues to go flawed on the older boats. For instance, our air-con stopped working so they’d to give us a transportable unit to use. And our battery died, so we had to swap out boats half means by 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 fear about being stranded. They will all the time be there to assist.
For inexperienced boaters, The Horizon Line is superb and these are the boats we suggest in case your finances permits. Our Horizons 3 and 4 boats turned on a dime and the thrusters had been so highly effective you’ll be able to cease rapidly to keep away from any collisions.
Our Vision 3 boat in France took a whole boat size to cease and the thrusters weren’t as highly effective. This boat took extra talent to maneuver.
This is very true with the winds on the Canal du Midi. We had fairly a bit of expertise by this time, however we noticed folks going into locks sideways, hitting different boats, and being blown away whereas docking. With the newer fashions, that is much less possible. So, for those who don’t have rather a lot of boating expertise, we advise sticking with the new and better-finish fashions.
Extremely Low Bridges on the Canal
Also beware, that there are rather a lot of low and slim bridges all alongside the Canal du Midi. We booked a big three-bed room boat and it felt nearly too massive. If you aren’t snug driving by slim passages, we advise renting a smaller boat. Le Boat has boat sizes that match any consolation degree they usually can go as small as simply having two passengers.
Going by the low bridges could be a thrill, but it surely additionally turned tiresome. We may by no means put our cover up to get aid from the sizzling solar, we had to duck every time we went underneath a bridge in order not to hit our heads. (this may be actually severe, so we had been frequently reminded one another to duck when approaching), and it was all the time a bit disturbing that we’d hit the sides.
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 velocity. In Canada (and Ireland – extra on that cruise coming quickly) we loved the large open waters and fewer locks in contrast to the fixed slim channels and abundance of locks on the Canal du Midi.
That mentioned, my sister-in-regulation beloved going by the locks and mentioned that her favourite half was having the expertise of going by the locks.
As the captain, Dave discovered that having to pull over frequently to let folks was a bit disturbing and I discovered that having to get off the boat a number of occasions a day was a bit of a chore. I’d have most well-liked to keep on the boat to chill out and revel in the surroundings. But, for those who love to work and have a activity throughout your travels, you’ll love the Canal du Midi.
Going on the Canal du Midi is a good way to discover the extra off-the-overwhelmed-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 perfect place to think more and hurry less.” I like that.