Every year, a friend of mine returns from his week-long cycling trip in France and revels us with stories of witty companions, intimate inns, delectable dîners and soupers, created by chefs and accompanied by savoury local wines. He is more calm, self-confident and comfortable with who he is than he was when he left, but there is no doubt the change is more profound. He has grown in some immeasurable way.
My friend does not travel to France for a ‘holiday’. He is not going on a ‘trip’. He starts in one place and ends up in another, physically, spiritually and emotionally. What he experiences is a journey. It is something I aspire to, every time I book a plane ticket.
The journeys I’ve chosen for this list have the connection to nature, and to self, necessary to enhance and facilitate such a transformation. They provide the promise of unlimited cultural, emotional, spiritual and physical changes for those of us who wish to use travel as a preventative tool against age-burdened stagnation. The Canal du Midi fits this description.
#1 – A Week on the Canal du Midi
The brainchild of Pierre Paul-Riquet, and Leonardo da Vinci 150 years before, the impressive Canal du Midi was inaugurated in 1682. It has 91 working locks and runs 240 km long from the city of Toulouse to the port of Agde, on the Mediterranean Coast. This connects the west coast of France, and the Atlantic Ocean, to the Mediterranean Sea.
Toulouse is an easy and inexpensive city to fly into. From there, or other towns along the canal, numerous companies rent out small self-catering bateaux (from old barges to motor boats) of various sizes: big houseboats for large families or quiet little paradises for two. A solo cruise might be that much more extraordinary. The boats run around 750 Euros a week.
The rental process is easy on the Canal du Midi. A temporary license is issued after a short training period. Evade July and August if you don’t like crowds. For those uncomfortable with piloting their own, larger barges are available.
The map above is from French Waterways. They have detailed information on boat types and routes.
This entertaining picture comes from Leboat.co.uk. They say the Canal du Midi route is their most popular.
Many miles of the Canal are lined with inns, cafés and shops, the perfect place to enjoy a stroll or ride a bike. Many thanks to Cris Boat for the picture.
Alpha Croisière has some good videos for aspiring cruisers. Even if they’re only in French, the images are self-explanatory. The rest of the information is in English.
If you’re interested in this journey, don’t hesitate too long. When I was the south of France, last year, there were rumours, floating around, that parts of the Canal du Midi may be shut down soon.
Want to read more travel-related posts? Solo Travel – Why?, Small Town Life In West Kelowna, Machu Picchu, Mount Haleakala and The Tibetan Plateau.
Copyright Monique Martel. All rights reversed.