Sunday, 30 March 2008

Canal du Midi - France - October 2007


In October 2007 we have cycled past the Canal du Midi, from Valence d'Agen until Sete.
We were lucky as the end of October that year was particularly sunny. The canal and the landscape surrounding it were truly beutiful at the autumn light. Late autumn seemed to us as the best period because:

- there are no crowds: we have only meat few pilgrims and some cyclists while in summer the channel is probably much more crowded
- the autumn light gives wonderful colours to wineyards around the channel
- you need no booking in advance

However in late autumn the rain is more likely and honestly it is not very entertaining to follow the channel when raining.

We have started in Valence d'Agen as we have friends there but you can start even in Bordeaux. From the traject we did the part Valence d'Agen until Bezier was nice. A little after Bezier the landscape is made of caravan parks and sometimes truly ugly.

The cycling path:
Most of the time you will cycle on a dirt path which follows the channel (chemin de halage). This makes you progress slower than on the road and one should take it into accound when planning. Some parts are in concrete. It is better to follow instructions as sometimes you have to change the side of the channel. We used the book Canal du Midi a pied a velo (http://www.amazon.fr/Canal-Midi-pied-v%C3%A9lo-Bordeaux/dp/2841823148) but it is only available in French.

Housing:
There are numerous B&B's on the way and we will cite some below.

Itinerary:
We have done the journey in four days and half.

1st day - Valence d'Agen - Toulouse (approx. 70km)
If you do not know the area and have time you should definately stop in Moissec and have little stroll in the town.
2nd day - Toulouse - Castelnaudary (approx 78km).
A long part of the road is in concrete and hence you progress very well. In Castelnaudary we stayed in a B&B at the port called "Le grand basin" (http://www.legrandbassin.com/). It's location as well as rooms, hosts and breakfast are very good.
3rd day - Castelnaudary - Carcasonne - Marseillette (approx. 78km)
This day we left the channel for a while at Castelnaudary to reach Saint Papoul. A village with a medieval monastry worth seeing (see our map).
Part of UNESCO world heritage, Carcasonne is a must!
In Marseillette we stayed in a B&B "Relais Occitan" (Le Beauvoir route de Capendu 11800 Marseillette). It is located a bit outside the village in an old wine warehouse. Very charming!

4th day - Marseillette - Beziers - Villeuve les Beziers (approx. 90km)
The seven channel locks just before Beziers are truly spectacoulous.
We opted to sleap in Villeneuve les Beziers rather than in Beziers which we found not very welcomming.
In Villeneuve we stayed in La Chamberte (http://www.la-chamberte.com/) a very charming fully renovated and tastefully decorated wine warehouse we can only recomend (the dinner is also very good). But be aware that it is not a low budget place.
5th day - Villeneuve les Beziers - Sete (approx. 50km)
Here we had to leave the path quite soon as it was disappearing and also we have done this part under quite heavy rain. The area around Agde is honestly not very nice, especially when deserted by tourists (as it is the case in autumn).
Total - approx. 370km

2 comments:

marianne said...

salut,
c'est les deux français rencontrés en argentine cet hiver, à tilcara et humahuaca! on se demandait si vous participiez au grand rassemblement des cyclotouristes qui a lieu en août à Verdun, auquel cas, nous vous aurions accueillis avec grand plaisir! A bientôt et surtout bonne continuation cycliste!! Marianne et Antoine

ulicnadan said...

C'est bien nous - mais nous n'avons pas d'adresse e-mial pour vous repondre :(
daniela