I’m a lucky guy. I just spent a week with good friends on a canal boat in the Languedoc wine region in Southern France. Captain Matt steered us through lazy historic villages, under very tight bridges and through 32 locks. I worked the lines and Yolanda played navigator and worked some magic in the kitchen.
After a bit of a snafu in getting to our appointed boat, we began our journey in Carcassonne, one of the oldest fortified cities in France and a World Heritage Site. It sits up on a hill like Cinderella’s castle, and because of its overwhelming cuteness, is packed with tourists.
It is also the region of Cassolet, a delicious pot of beans with duck, sausages and other goodies. We are going to make this at home!
After a couple nights at dock, we launched and headed toward Trebes for a nice lunch and a stop at a rockin’ wine store to stock up. The canal section just past Trebes was one of the most beautiful parts of the canal. Here is Captain Matt, our fearless leader.
Our first night out we docked at the quiet village of Marseillette. Jeff made a fabulous dinner of rustic chicken thighs and green been salad. We slept with a cool breeze blowing through the night.
The Canal Du Midi began construction in 1666 to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea as a trade route. There are 65 locks from one end to the other over 150 miles, most manned by a lock tender who lives in a charming house at the lock. There are many small villages scattered along the route, and nearly every one has a winery or a what they call a “cave.”
We spent the next night at Le Redorte where we dined at the only dockside restaurant. We were amazed how few commercial endeavors were there, given the nunber of boats along the canal and their need for services and provisions. That night the girls dreamt up our retirement scheme, called “Studs and Suds,” a canal boat laundry attended by tan, hunky Frenchmen who wash your clothes as you float along sipping the finest Minervois.
We stopped briefly at our eventual end base at Homps to refuel and to attend to our broken bimini. It was a casualty of our first day as we skimmmed the underside of a very low bridge. Luckily it was able to be repaired and we were on our way! Yolanda cooked a nice dinner of pasta with roasted veggies and a big salad, accompanied by a rose.
Next stop: the lovely town of Argens Minervois, followed by a visit to Paraza and a pass by Ventenac en Minervois.
That day I decided to bike along the tow path to experience the canal from the ground. Along the way I climbed over a berm to the vineyards beyond and grabbed a beautiful, fresh bunch of grapes.
I met up with the boat at Le Somiel where we celebrated Yolanda’s birthday. We were impressed by an enterprising fellow who operated a floating 7-11, French style, where you could buy everything from a t-shirt to foie gras. We ordered pastries, to be picked up for breakfast.
Things got a little crazy that evening when Matt busted out the disco ball and we hummed along to old rock n’ roll favorites. You will see more of that later…
The following day we turned around to head back to our base camp at Homps. It was a hot, cloudy, rain-spitting day right up until we docked, and then the sun broke out.
We had a special dinner for our last night on the canal – so good I fell off my chair! Seriously, there was a hole in the deck and I managed to get one leg caught in it and down I went. Embarrasing.
All good things must come to an end, they say. To hell with them! It was a spectacular trip and we know that there will be many more journeys with our pals to far-off, interesting places. Next stop, Paris!