Canal du Midi
Pierre-Paul Riquet’s dream to link the Mediterranean with the Atlantic, thus avoiding the long sea voyage around the Iberian peninsula or painstaking overland travel, found great favour with Louis IV. Sadly, the king didn’t live up to his promises and poor Pierre-Paul finished up funding much of the ruinous construction work himself. He didn’t live to see his canal opened but it is fair to say that the Canal du Midi is one of the most outstanding engineering feats of its time. The achievement was recognised in 1996 and the Canal du Midi became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of several in the south of France.
It’s difficult to miss the Canal when touring around the southern Languedoc as it wends its lazy way through some of the loveliest scenery and the most important towns and villages in the area. The engineering highpoints are the Nine Locks just outside Béziers and the Round Lock at Agde. Water to feed the Canal comes from the Lac St Férreol situated in the Laurageais between Toulouse and Carcassonne.
Nowadays there is hardly any commercial traffic but the Canal is kept busy with pleasure cruisers plying up and down. You can rent a comfortable cruiser for the family or friends for a week or make a half-day cruise departing from Colombiers, Agde, Béziers, Vias or Portiragnes.
The Canal is very tranquil and the towpath is an excellent place to walk. Here you can take a stroll even in the heat of summer as the thousands of plane trees planted along its banks offer welcome shade.