Tips & Advices

Canal du Midi Cruise – What to Count on While Barging the South of France -The Planet D

We have all the time dreamed of taking a barge by means of the canals of the South of France. I bear in mind studying a travel book once I was younger a few couple who barged their means by means of Europe and I’ve had that on my bucket listing ever since. When we had the chance to drive our personal houseboat on the Rideau Canal final summer season in Canada, we made a degree to place Europe on our journey itinerary subsequent. So when Le Boat requested if we needed to self-drive a ship and cruise the Canal du Midi this summer season, our reply was a convincing, sure!

Cruise the Canal du Midi Tips and Advice

Since we had already taken two Le Boat cruises in Canada, we felt like seasoned specialists upon arrival on the Le Boat headquarters in Homps positioned 90 minutes south of Toulouse. We whizzed by means of our 40-minute boat introduction and set off for our 6-day cruise down the well-known canal.

Dave learns concerning the boat

You don’t want any boating expertise to drive a Le Boat houseboat. When you arrive on the marina, a consultant will stroll you thru the boat’s controls and present you methods to drive it. There are limiters on the pace so you’ll be able to solely cruise at a most of 10km per hour and there are many bumpers on the boat to maintain you from crashing into the canal partitions.

Transfer from Toulouse to Homps

Canal du midi France Transfers
Our Transfer to Homps

Le Boat’s Canal du Midi headquarters are positioned in Homps which is a 90-minute drive from the airport. Le Boat arranges transfers and airport pick-ups to take you from Toulouse to Homps, they usually achieve this in fashion.

My brother and sister-in-law met us for this journey, so after spending 2 days in Toulouse, we went again to the airport to fulfill them and our drive to take the switch to our embarkation level.

Homps, France

Homps is the jumping-off level for Le Boat Vacations alongside the canal and it’s right here that we advocate spending a minimum of a day to get the whole lot to ensure that your cruise. There are loads of eating places alongside the canal and there are a number of resorts and condo leases. Homps has been catering to Canal du Midi barges for years and is the proper place for eating, looking for provides and enjoyable.

canalu du midi cruise jardins d'homps
Jardin d’Homps Pool

Taking our personal switch from the Toulouse airport, we arrived on the stunning Jardin d’Homps BnB within the village only a quick stroll from the Canal du Midi. This pretty property is about in a quiet tree-covered courtyard with a swimming pool, terrace, and scrumptious breakfast.

Canal du Midi En Bonne Compagnie Homps
Dinner at En Bonne Compagnie

It was then off to our first night time of eating on this historic waterway at En Bonne Compagnie. This pretty tavern had a unbelievable ambiance with wonderful service and meals. What a option to kick off our journey. We may have spent greater than a day right here enjoyable on this quiet city, As one resident from England who bought property right here stated, “It’s like Tuscany without the crowds.” They got here on a canal tour years earlier and liked it a lot, that they moved right here! But alas, we solely had at some point earlier than our boat journey started.

Preparing for a Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal du midi France Homps
Lovely downtown Homps on the Canal du Midi

There is a grocery retailer on the town the place you’ll be able to replenish on meals and drinks. Our guesthouse proprietor warned us that there weren’t loads of choices for meals within the coming days, so we must always get the whole lot we want now.

The BnB proprietor was form sufficient to take our baggage and provides to the Le Boat check-in workplace, so we discovered a pleasant place within the shade to attend to be checked in and eventually get on our means.

Canal du midi France Le Boat Office Homps
Le Boat’s Reception in Homps

One of crucial items of recommendation I may give you for procuring is to buy loads of water. The south of France can see insufferable warmth in the summertime, and through our journey, the temperatures rose to 42 levels Celcius. (107 F). We couldn’t drink sufficient water to remain hydrated. Luckily, our Vision 3 boat had a full-size fridge, so we had loads of room to maintain issues cool.

We ordered a picnic bundle which gave us just a few necessities to start our journey. This helps with important objects like espresso, milk, sugar, butter, bread, salt & pepper, olive oil, just a few bottles of water, juice, coke, and a few native wine and beer. It additionally contains snacks like chips, peanuts, biscuits, and croissants. I like to recommend ordering this as it’ll get you thru a day or two in case you forgot something.

Below we now have supplied some packing important suggestions for cruising the Canal du Midi.

Our Route on the Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi Cruise Map
Canal du Midi Route – Map courtesy of Le Boat

Our route alongside the Canal du Midi took us from Homps to Castlenaudry.

Day one was a brief day of cruising. After checking in, unpacking, and going by means of our boat walk-through and lesson, we cruised for simply a few hours to achieve Puicheric.

When we docked, we had been grateful for having shopped in Homps because the city was a little bit of a hike. We had two bikes, however there have been 4 of us, and since we simply acquired on the boat, we determined to calm down and make dinner on the deck. Using the barbecue we made dinner and sipped wine from the South of France as we watched the solar go down.

We had a six-day itinerary to get from Homps to Castlenaudry and that was greater than sufficient. Our stops included

  1. Homps
  2. Puicheric
  3. Trebes
  4. Carcassonne
  5. Prexoria
  6. Castlenaudrey

We counsel spending two nights in Carcassone as that is the most important metropolis with probably the most sights. Castlenaudrey has loads of facilities as properly and you’ll catch the practice again to Toulouse from right here after Le Boat for those who don’t need to spend cash on the switch.

Activities on the Canal du Midi

Canal du midi France Activities
Homps, France

We had visions of stopping at vineyards and olive groves throughout our time on the Canal however sadly that didn’t occur. We thought we’d be going sightseeing and exploring quite a bit, however we quickly realized that the smaller villages alongside the canal, actually don’t have loads of sightseeing or issues to do. When planning your journey, take the stops into consideration.

Canal du midi Cuise France Carcasonne

Besides the cities of Carcassonne and Castlenaudrey, there wasn’t quite a bit to do. If you need to see sights and have excursions, this isn’t the journey for you. The attraction is being on the boat.

For our route, if you would like excursions, we recommend spending two days in Carcassonne and planning from there. We couldn’t guide wine excursions, sightseeing, and even taxis from our boat and wished that we spent two nights in Homps and two nights in Carcassonne.

About the Locks and the Canal du Midi

Canal du midi Cuise France Locks
Inside a lock on the Canal du Midi

If you learn our Le Boat expertise on the Rideau Canal in Canada, you will note that cruising the canals in Canada it is extremely enjoyable as Parks Canada works the locks. Cruising the Canal du Midi takes much more work. The Rideau Canal is way more environment friendly with traces contained in the locks that transfer up and down with the water so you’ll be able to merely loop your ropes round them from the boat.

The distinction is when cruising the Canal du Midi locks, one individual should get off the boat at every lock to be there to take the ropes and loop them across the cleats on the high of the lock. This means you will need to tie up above the lock and let that individual off earlier than you’ll be able to undergo. This makes it much more time-consuming in comparison with the Rideau Canal.

Do You Open and Close the Locks on the Canal du Midi?

Canal du midi Cuise France Lock Keepers

Before happening the Canal du Midi, we had heard that we would want handy crank the locks ourselves. This was not the case on our route between Homps and Castlenaudry. For a lot of the locks, a lockkeeper is there to function the controls for you. The solely factor it is advisable do is catch the ropes on the high whereas the captain drives in. And then one individual should be on the entrance and the again of the boat to carry it regular with the ropes.

However, there was one portion of the canal on the way in which into Castlenaudry, the place the passenger needed to function the opening and shutting of the locks. The locks are automated, so all you must do is press the button and comply with the directions.

An vital factor to notice is that on this stretch, the locks are about 1km aside, so it’s a enormous day of going by means of locks. We discovered that, as a substitute of getting the captain cease every time to drop considered one of us off earlier than every lock, the individual conrtolling the locks as a substitute cycled forward to be ready for the boat to enter.

When I noticed the boat approaching, I pushed the inexperienced button to open the doorways. This made the entire expertise very environment friendly.

Canal du midi Cuise France Lock Auto Stations
Controls to open the locks

When the doorways opened, Dave drove the boat in after which Jim and Janice tossed me their ropes so I may loop them across the cleats. I then pushed the button to shut the doorways and fill the locks. They held onto the ropes to maintain the boat regular, and as soon as the lock was crammed, the doorways opened routinely. I then rode forward to open the following lock.

So our largest tip for this portion of the journey is to have a bicycle on board.

Bicycle Rentals

Canal du midi Cuise France Le Boat Bicycle Rentals

If you didn’t lease a bicycle from Le Boat, you’ll both must stroll forward throughout that portion or have the captain drop you on and off earlier than every lock. We extremely really helpful renting a minimum of one bike. Besides, a number of of the mooring areas are positioned out of city or the grocery shops are far out of your boat, so having a motorcycle was an enormous bonus.

At occasions, you’ll desire a bicycle to purchase some extra meals as shops had been a little bit of a hike from the boat. While eating places and bars are positioned immediately or inside strolling distance of the docks when in Homps, Trebs, Carcasonne, and Castlenaudry, there are occasions whenever you’ll be just a few km from the city. Plus, there are biking paths all alongside the Canal du Midi, so for those who get into your dock early, chances are you’ll need to get on the bikes to take a look round.

On Board Grocery Pack

Canal du midi Cuise Le Boat Grocery Pack
On Board Grocery Pack

As we talked about above, we extremely advocate ordering the grocery bundle to get you began on the boat. You will certainly must do procuring, however this enables you for some extras corresponding to espresso, milk, butter, jam, olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper.

It additionally contains native wine, beer, lemonade, coke, water, and snacks corresponding to croissants, bread, biscuits, and chips. We discovered that we ended up utilizing the whole lot together with the aluminum foil which is nice for cooking on the barbecue. Make certain to order your grocery pack 7 days prematurely to have it on board whenever you arrive.

Shopping List

Canal du midi Cuise France Shopping List

It is as much as you ways a lot you need to buy. There are loads of locations the place you’ll be capable to dine out however a minimum of for the primary night time, you will have your personal meals on board. And we extremely advocate having breakfast, snacks, lunches, and sufficient meals for a few dinners on board.

We purchased meals for all of our breakfasts, lunch, and for 2 dinners. The finest recommendation we may give is to plan your meals forward of time and resolve how typically you need to eat on the boat. You can’t take the meals with you, so you probably have a transparent concept for every meal, you should buy meats and cheeses, pastries and dinners during your journey.

Packing Essentials for Le Boat on the Canal du Midi

Canal du midi Cruise Packing List

Cruising the Canal du Midi happens in the summertime months in Southern France, so anticipate scorching climate. Pack the same old summer-specific clothes like shorts and T-shirts, however one Le Boat-specific merchandise we can’t stress sufficient is to pack work gloves to man the locks. The ropes can actually tear up your palms, plus, they’re typically slimy. We used these gloves however I feel waterproof work gloves can be higher. See these on Amazon.

The Canal du Midi is just not clear, boats are allowed (really inspired) to dump their bathrooms immediately into the canal whereas driving. We can attest that many individuals even dumped their black water whereas docked because the odor wafted into our cabins. Since you might be dealing with ropes which can be often falling into the water, put on gloves when tieing up and doing the traces. And wash your palms typically.

Canal du Midi Cruise packing tips
Work gloves are a should when cruising the Canal du Midi

Another merchandise we want we had was a solar umbrella. We couldn’t put our boat cover up as a result of each few hundred meters we needed to go underneath low bridges. Sun hats are a should. Bathing fits will not be wanted as you can not swim within the Canal du Midi. This umbrella looks like it might have been good to have on the captain’s chair.

Sunglasses and binoculars are a good suggestion as properly. Le Boat in each Ireland and Canada equipped binoculars however these waterways are on rivers with open lakes and it is advisable discover buoys and markers. Binoculars will not be wanted on the Canal du Midi since it’s only a straight slender canal so that you don’t want them to navigate, however it’s good to have the ability to take a better have a look at the passing surroundings.

Canal du Midi Navigation

Also, I extremely advocate bringing a few board video games or playing cards for evenings and it’s a good suggestion to pack transportable audio system to your music.

Portable fan – I’ve a USB-operated fan that’s handheld and that helped me quite a bit once I was overheating. I’ve all the time suffered from a Thyroid dysfunction and Graves illness, so my thermostat has by no means been nice. With the nonetheless scorching air on the Canal du Midi, I used to be struggling. My transportable handheld fan helped me quite a bit when the warmth was too intense.

Choose Your Boat Wisely

Canal du midi Choosing Boat
We drove a Vision 3 by Le Boat

Le Boat has a number of completely different types of boats. If your price range permits, we recommend reserving the Horizon Lines or Premier boats. They are the most recent and run the perfect. We have pushed the Horizon fleet in Canada and Ireland they usually actually are the highest of the road.

On the Canal du Midi, we had a consolation boat Vision 3. It didn’t deal with fairly in addition to the Horizon and you’ll anticipate just a few issues to go flawed on the older boats. For instance, our air-con stopped working in order that they needed to give us a conveyable unit to make use of. And our battery died, so we needed to change out boats half means by means of our journey.

Le Boat has emergency numbers and sends out technicians rapidly, so when one thing does occur they’re on it quick so that you don’t want to fret about being stranded. They will all the time be there to assist.

Canal du Midi Cruise Le Boat Choice

For inexperienced boaters, The Horizon Line is superb and these are the boats we advocate in case your price range permits. Our Horizons 3 and 4 boats turned on a dime and the thrusters had been so highly effective you’ll be able to cease rapidly to keep away from any collisions.

Our Vision 3 boat in France took a complete boat size to cease and the thrusters weren’t as highly effective. This boat took extra talent to maneuver.

This is particularly true with the winds on the Canal du Midi. We had fairly a little bit of expertise by this time, however we noticed folks going into locks sideways, hitting different boats, and being blown away whereas docking. With the newer fashions, that is much less seemingly. So, for those who don’t have loads of boating expertise, we recommend sticking with the brand new and higher-end fashions.

Extremely Low Bridges on the Canal

Canal du Midi Boat Driving tips

Also beware, that there are loads of low and slender bridges all alongside the Canal du Midi. We booked a big three-bedroom boat and it felt nearly too large. If you aren’t snug driving by means of slender passages, we recommend renting a smaller boat. Le Boat has boat sizes that match any consolation stage they usually can go as small as simply having two passengers.

Going by means of the low bridges could be a thrill, nevertheless it additionally grew to become tiresome. We may by no means put our cover as much as get aid from the recent solar, we needed to duck every time we went underneath a bridge in order to not hit our heads. (this may be actually critical, so we had been often reminded one another to duck when approaching), and it was all the time a bit aggravating that we’d hit the perimeters.

About Barging the Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi Cruise Barging

Cruising the Canal du Midi is on many individuals’s bucket lists. We loved it however felt that Canada’s Rideau Canal was extra our pace. In Canada (and Ireland – extra on that cruise coming quickly) we loved the large open waters and fewer locks in comparison with the fixed slender channels and abundance of locks on the Canal du Midi.

That stated, my sister-in-law liked going by means of the locks and stated that her favourite half was having the expertise of going by means of the locks.

As the captain, Dave discovered that having to drag over often to let folks was a bit aggravating and I discovered that having to get off the boat a number of occasions a day was a little bit of a chore. I’d have most well-liked to remain on the boat to calm down and benefit from the surroundings. But, for those who like to work and have a activity throughout your travels, you’ll love the Canal du Midi.

Canal du Midi Cruise Le Boat Driving

Going on the Canal du Midi is a good way to discover the extra off-the-beaten-path locations of France. It takes you again in time to journey at a slower tempo by yourself time. As one individual stated to us “The Canal du Midi is the perfect place to think more and hurry less.” I like that.

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