The Canal du Midi is world famous for boating holidays in France. Opened in 1681, the main course of the Canal meanders for 240km (150 miles) through glorious countryside, historic cities and famous listed sites. It runs through the departments of Hérault, Aude, and Haute-Garonne and has UNESCO world heritage status, recognition of the art and creativity of the engineers of the time of Louis XIV.
In recent years the Canal du Midi has become ever more popular for boating holidays. There is so much to see and do, so many fabulous places to stop off at that you might miss if someone who knows it well doesn’t tell you about. And that is the joy of The Ultimate Guide to the Canal du Midi by Andrea Hoffman & Hans Zaglitsch. It has all the practical information that makes for smooth sailing, maps, locks, top tips on how to navigate, the weather, history etc.
But it’s also chock full of insider information.
No matter which stretch of the Canal du Midi you’re on, this book will enhance your visit with tons of details you just won’t find anywhere else in this easy to read and use format. The best markets, museums, monuments. It includes food specialities, patisseries, boulangeries and vineyards . Where to enjoy the best views. On the Beziers to Argeliers section the authors recommend you stop at Etang de Montady, as saltwater lagoon. Moor up on the right bank they say to discover 6th century Iberian Greek excavations of a settlement and enjoy magical views.
They also include fabulous places to stop to eat out, to buy supplies. And off the beaten track villages… for instance on the Carcassonne to Castelnaudry section, a much loved part of the Canal, the authors suggest stopping off at the village of Villepinte and taking a 1km cycle ride for breakfast supplies. Not much to see here they say but go further down river just 1.5km and arrive at a truly pretty little village that’s well worth a stop for the views.
At some locks they recommend you aim to arrive for lunch as the lock keepers tend to wait to have 4-5 boats ready to pass through so you might have a bit of a wait. It’s this sort of detail that can change your boating holiday from great – to really great.
Clearly written and fun to read, The Ultimate Guide to the Canal du Midi gave me serious wanderlust and a hankering to head to the sun-drenched south, hop on a boat, and experience the freedom of slow travel, far away from the stress of daily life.
Canal du Midi: The Ultimate Guide by Andrea Hoffmann and Hans Zaglitsch is published by Adlard Coles, Bloomsbury Publishing and is out now (Paperback: £14.99)