Canal du Midi

The historical Canal du Midi runs through the heart of the Languedoc in the South of France.

Not only is the Canal du Midi a scenic waterway, but it also holds an amazing story about French History and the construction of the Canal du Midi.  The construction of the Canal du Midi has certainly influenced the flavours of the Languedoc these past 300 years.

Less well known than neighbouring Provence, but equally charming, Languedoc is a renowned winemaking region that produces more than a third of the grapes in France.  Wine production was traditionally rooted in producing volume, but saw dramatic changes in quality in the early 1990’s.  Winemakers from Bordeaux, Burgundy and even Australia came to the Languedoc seeking more affordable vineyards for experimenting with their trade.   To some extent, this movement influenced how long-established Languedoc vignerons and producers made changes and are now recognised as for producing top quality vintages.

But Languedoc is not all AOC wines, open air markets and foie gras. It’s home to some of Europe’s oldest and most breathtaking castles.  The Medieval fortified Cité of Carcassonne is a must-see for travellers in the region.  The hilltop town of Minerve is beautifully scenic and historically fascinating.   Whether you’re inspired by good wine, sunflower fields, charming villages or Medieval fortresses, Languedoc will not disappoint.

Argeliers

From the Athos’ home mooring in charming Argeliers port, located at the southern edge of the Haut-Minervois, you’ll enjoy champagne, gourmet canapés, and a four-course dinner under the Plane trees and overlooking an 18th century stone bridge. We'll use Athos' comfortable minibuses to drive to the Medieval Château at Carcassonne in the morning, where our guide will walk you back through time in an unforgettable tour of the fortified city. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the romantic setting and to explore and shop for Languedoc specialties and souvenirs.

Minerve

We next moor at the quaint village of Capestang in view of the lovely, flood-lit Collegiale St. Etienne cathedral. In the village of Bize Minervois we’ll visit the Oulibo and taste a variety of organic olives and olive oils accompanied, of course, by a glass of rosé. A short drive up the Gorge de la Cesse takes us to the dramatic hilltop village of Minerve, in the heart of Cathar country and an historic point where Cathar Christians of the 11th century were attacked during the crusades.

Fonserannes

Our mooring at the Fonserannes overlooks the staircase locks, the Orb River and Beziers. From here we’ll visit a French market in the charming town of Narbonne. We’ll also explore an excavated original Roman road, take-in the Roman Museum and enjoy a cafe au lait while blending in with the town’s lively cafe scene. The week’s cruising highlight is the Fonserannes, the seven staircase locks at Béziers. Fonserannes has eight lock chambers and nine gates, allowing the Athos to be raised a remarkable 21.5 meters in a distance of just 300 meters.

Pezenas

At our mooring just outside the village of Portiragnes, the paved tow path and romantic scenery make a lovely spot for walking or cycling. From here we visit the market town of Pézenas, taking in the “Hotels Particuliers”, mansions whose striking architecture is unique to this town. Theatre lovers will enjoy the guide’s stories about French playwright, Moliere, who once stayed in Pézenas with his theatre group, l’Illustre Théâtre.

Marseillan

En route to Agde we cruise past the estuaries of the “Petit Camargue”, a bird watcher’s paradise with exotic species like Pink Flamingos, African Rollers and Bee Eaters. At Agde, a spectacular seafood lunch awaits! We’ll dine while floating on the open waters of the Étang de Thau, Europe’s largest mussel and oyster park. There’s no better way to follow an oyster lunch than by cruising to the nearby Port of Marseillan for a tour of the Noilly Prat Vermouth distillery, with a tasting of course.

 
  • Carcassonne
  • Minerve
  • Bize
  • Narbonne
  • Pézenas
  • Mèze

History

The Canal du Midi was constructed by Pierre Paul Riquet and more than 12,000 workers between 1667 and 1681. The 240 km canal joined the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, opening up a prosperous trade route. But, the Canal du Midi's fame was short-lived. When the railway came to France just 150 years later in 1832, canal traffic declined. Today the Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and tourist attraction, though still a hidden gem.