Scenic and serene, the Canal du Midi draws me with a magnetic-like force. Yes, this 360-km (225-mile) network of waterways is the epitome of remarkable engineering, as the series of channels and streams essentially join the Atlantic with the Mediterranean in southern France. Yes, it has well-earned UNESCO recognition. Yes, the Canal du Midi offers us an unparalleled blend of technology and artistic landscapes.
Well, I could go on with one ‘yes’ after another; but as much as I admire the incredible accomplishment of its creation, I am captivated by the pockets of peace, timelessness and history along the canal’s route. The movie Le Château de Ma Mère (My Mother’s Castle) derived from Marcel Pagnol’s autobiographical book offered me a healthy portion of the canal’s mystique. Reading of Thomas Jefferson’s trek along the canal provided another.
I wrote once before about an inviting ‘retreat’ set along the canal – Château Ventenac – and imagined a stay there and the delightful idea of slipping out of the château gate directly onto the canal path! I have researched boat tours and boat ‘hires’, and have had no trouble imagining some of the predicaments the latter folks encounter in their naïve undertaking of canal navigation.
Just as I encouraged others to ‘just GO!’ in my book Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris, I think the time to cease equivocating is upon us. We want to cycle beneath the trees, wave to passing boaters (and try to avoid laughing at those who might be inept!), take long walks in the early morning and dine at a canal-side restaurant in the evening – perhaps the Auberge de la Croisade near Argeliers. The Canal du Midi has moved to the top of our Bucket List and hopefully we will soon realize that magnificent experience.
Hopefully, I have inspired you to add a ‘canal touch’ to your next French itinerary. If not, the video that follows might do the trick!