We’ve got at all times dreamed of taking a barge via 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 approach via Europe and I’ve had that on my bucket listing ever since. Once we had the chance to drive our personal houseboat on the Rideau Canal final summer time in Canada, we made a degree to place Europe on our journey itinerary subsequent. So when Le Boat requested if we needed 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 Suggestions 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 positioned 90 minutes south of Toulouse. We whizzed via 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. Once you arrive on the marina, a consultant will stroll you thru the boat’s controls and present you how one can drive it. There are limiters on the pace so you possibly can 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 positioned 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, and so they accomplish that in fashion.
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 no less than a day to get all the things to ensure that your cruise. There are many eating places alongside the canal and there are a number of lodges and house leases. Homps has been catering to Canal du Midi barges for years and is the proper place for eating, purchasing for provides and stress-free.
Taking our personal switch from the Toulouse airport, we arrived on the lovely Jardin d’Homps BnB within the village only a brief stroll from the Canal du Midi. This pretty property is about in a quiet tree-covered courtyard with a swimming pool, terrace, and scrumptious breakfast.
It was then off to our first night time of eating on this historic waterway at En Bonne Compagnie. This pretty tavern had a improbable ambiance with glorious service and meals. What a option to kick off our journey. We might have spent greater than a day right here stress-free on this quiet city, As one resident from England who bought property right here stated, “It’s like Tuscany with out the crowds.” They got here on a canal tour years earlier and cherished 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 possibly can replenish on meals and drinks. Our guesthouse proprietor warned us that there weren’t a variety of choices for meals within the coming days, so we should always get all the things we’d like 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 at last get on our approach.
One of the crucial essential items of recommendation I may give you for purchasing 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 package deal which gave us just a few necessities to start our journey. This helps with important gadgets like espresso, milk, sugar, butter, bread, salt & pepper, olive oil, just a few bottles of water, juice, coke, and a few native wine and beer. It additionally consists of 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.
Under we now have offered 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 via 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 chill out 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 most important metropolis with essentially the most sights. Castlenaudrey has a variety of facilities as properly and you’ll catch the practice again to Toulouse from right here after Le Boat if you happen to 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 so much, however we quickly realized that the smaller villages alongside the canal, actually don’t have a variety 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 so much to do. If you wish to see sights and have excursions, this isn’t the journey for you. The attraction is being on the boat.
For our route, if you would like excursions, we recommend 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.
Concerning the Locks and the Canal du Midi
For those who learn our Le Boat expertise on the Rideau Canal in Canada, you will note that cruising the canals in Canada it is rather stress-free 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 possibly can 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 high of the lock. This implies it’s essential to tie up above the lock and let that particular person off earlier than you possibly can 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 occurring the Canal du Midi, we had heard that we would want at hand 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 it is advisable to do is catch the ropes on the high whereas the captain drives in. After which one particular person have to 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 comply with the directions.
An essential factor to notice is that on this stretch, the locks are about 1km aside, so it’s a big day of going via locks. We discovered that, as a substitute of getting the captain cease every time to drop one in every 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.
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 might 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 robotically. 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.
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 really helpful renting no less than one bike. Apart from, 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 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 positioned straight or inside strolling distance of the docks when in Homps, Trebs, Carcasonne, and Castlenaudry, there are occasions while you’ll be just a few km from the city. Plus, there are biking paths all alongside the Canal du Midi, so if you happen to get into your dock early, it’s possible you’ll 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 package deal to get you began on the boat. You’ll positively have to do purchasing, however this enables you for some extras corresponding to espresso, milk, butter, jam, olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper.
It additionally consists of native wine, beer, lemonade, coke, water, and snacks corresponding to 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. Ensure that to order your grocery pack 7 days upfront to have it on board while you arrive.
It’s as much as you the way a lot you wish to buy. There are many locations the place you’ll be capable to dine out however no less than for the primary night time, you will have your individual 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. One of the best recommendation we may give is to plan your meals forward of time and determine how typically you wish to eat on the boat. You possibly can’t take the meals with you, so you probably have a transparent thought for every meal, you should purchase meats and cheeses, pastries and dinners at some stage in 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’t stress sufficient is to pack work gloves to man the locks. The ropes can actually tear up your fingers, 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 just isn’t clear, boats are allowed (truly inspired) to dump their bathrooms straight into the canal whereas driving. We are able to attest that many individuals even dumped their black water whereas docked because the odor wafted into our cabins. Since you’re dealing with ropes which can be frequently falling into the water, put on gloves when tieing up and doing the strains. And wash your fingers typically.
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 beneath low bridges. Solar hats are a should. Bathing fits are usually not wanted as you can’t swim within the Canal du Midi. This umbrella seems to be like it will have been excellent to have on the captain’s chair.
Sun shades and binoculars are a good suggestion as properly. Le Boat in each Eire and Canada equipped binoculars however these waterways are on rivers with open lakes and it is advisable to discover buoys and markers. Binoculars are usually 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 have the ability to take a more in-depth take 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 to your music.
Moveable fan – I’ve a USB-operated fan that’s handheld and that helped me so much 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 so much when the warmth was too intense.
Select Your Boat Correctly
Le Boat has a number of totally different types of boats. In case your funds permits, we recommend reserving the Horizon Traces or Premier boats. They’re the latest and run the very best. We’ve got pushed the Horizon fleet in Canada and Eire and so they 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’ll count on just a few issues to go unsuitable on the older boats. For instance, our air-con stopped working so that they needed to give us a conveyable unit to make use of. And our battery died, so we needed to swap out boats half approach via 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 are going to 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 possibly can 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 possible. So, if you happen to don’t have a variety of boating expertise, we recommend sticking with the brand new and higher-end fashions.
Extraordinarily Low Bridges on the Canal
Additionally beware, that there are a variety of low and slim bridges all alongside the Canal du Midi. We booked a big three-bedroom boat and it felt virtually too large. For those who aren’t comfy driving via slim passages, we recommend renting a smaller boat. Le Boat has boat sizes that match any consolation degree and so they can go as small as simply having two passengers.
Going via the low bridges could be a thrill, however it additionally turned tiresome. We might by no means put our cover as much as get aid from the recent solar, we needed to duck every time we went beneath a bridge in order to not hit our heads. (this may be actually severe, so we had been frequently reminded one another to duck when approaching), and it was at all times a bit hectic that we’d hit the edges.
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 slim channels and abundance of locks on the Canal du Midi.
That stated, my sister-in-law cherished going via the locks and stated that her favourite half was having the expertise of going via the locks.
Because the captain, Dave discovered that having to drag over frequently to let individuals was a bit hectic 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 chill out and benefit from the surroundings. However, if you happen to like to work and have a job throughout your travels, you’ll love the Canal du Midi.
Occurring the Canal du Midi is a good 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 stated to us “The Canal du Midi is the proper place to suppose extra and hurry much less.” I like that.