Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Canal du Midi à Vélo

{Along the Canal}
We spent the first day of Easter holidays riding our bikes along the Canal du Midi. It is something I've always wanted to do back when the Middlest would have been in the baby seat and long before we even moved here.

Ms Butt Bumper and Baby Bumper went with us so that's three grown-up bikes--two with baby seats--and two big kid bikes. We rode the easy path between Homps and Argens-Minervois in around an hour. It was fairly easy riding and the big kids had no trouble navigating even the more narrow paths. I tell you this because I had a hard time finding detailed information about routes and paths for riding with children.

{Homps & the Tricolor}

The Canal du Midi, a UNESCO heritage site, with its canopy of plane trees, relaxed holiday makers and green-gray water winding through the lower portion of France didn't begin life as a tourist destination.The history and construction of the canal that links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean dates back to Leonardo da Vinci's 1550s when the renaissance master visited at the request of King Francis I to find a way to transport goods from ocean to the sea without the month long dangerous journey around Spain. It wasn't until 100 years later that Pierre-Paul Riquet put a plan in action. Construction began on the canal in 1666, finishing up nearly 20 years later.

{Homps Lock}
Canals are man-made rivers, cutting across land and defying gravity by making water flow uphill using locks. The Canal du Midi starts from an altitude of 132 metres (433 ft) at the Atlantic, climbing to 193 metres (633 ft) at its summit before dropping to sea level when it reaches the Mediterranean at Sete. To do this uphill climb water is stair-stepped through 91 working locks. We saw three on our bike ride--the Homps Lock, Ognon Lock and Pechlaurier Lock. The lock houses, where the engineer who works the lock used to live and maybe still does, remain.

{Lock Lesson}

The lock house at Pechlaurier has a small stand selling local wine by the bottle and ice cream by the cone. We met a foursome of Kiwis there, the women out of the boat, holding it securely with long ropes while the men steered and one hopped off to buy a couple of bottles of pink. What a holiday--cruising slowly along a portion of the 150 mile canal, easing your way through the locks whiling away the day playing cards, drinking wine and stopping off for delicious food and some sight-seeing.

We stopped in Argens-Minervois for lunch at a perfect outdoor restaurant, La Guinguette (tavern) and then Ms Butt Bumper and I rambled around a bit through the old town and cemetery not seeing a single other person while Mon Mari watched the kids play in the park along the canal. I've got more photos for you coming this week.

{Lunch at the tavern}

If I tell you that I was so happy I cried a little bit would you think I'm weird?
Riding in the shade in a happy little row like ducks, the Baby saying 'I'm happy!' and the big kids pedaling away full of energy and youth gave me purest feeling of joy and contentment.
Yes, so happy that I actually cried.


  1. Ah, it's what life is all about! Glad you had so much fun enjoying the gorgeous weather. And I love that you are such a sooky sap!

  2. I forgot to ask mrs. Butt Bumper how it went, so nice to know it was so good!

  3. Glad you had a lovely day. We had a lovely holiday in 2006 near Beziers and spent a great day walking some the Canal, so peaceful. Have you seen the UK chef Rick Stein's tv series where he takes a boat from Bordeaux to Sete? Rick Stein's French Odyssey (there is a lovely cookbook that goes with it).

  4. I'd like to do some cycling along the Canal du Midi too. Thanks for the heads up on location.

  5. Biking with friends and family always feels special to me too. It's something about the breeze on your face and the extra speed of the bike. I've been having so much fun riding around Paris on the velo and would love to try a trip on the Canal. Thanks for sharing your pics and info!

  6. I heard about the Canal du midi before, but I have never seen it. I would love to cruise it one day, sitting in the sun with my knitting. Water always gives me a feeling of calm and relaxation.

  7. Get it. So happy you have tears sliding down your cheeks. Have felt more of that in the last 2 years than I remember in the other 43. #Bliss, lady. Soak it in. xo

  8. Aw, I went back to this a second time to feel your pleasure. Then I realized my comment on the post after this one was kind of meant for this one as well. Lovely outing indeed!

    We're just now back from the US and I'm all about being outside...in this fine weather.

  9. This is one of the places I have never seen (being French it's really shameful) I wanted to make do it by boat. It's wonderful when we are happy and actually are able to pinpoint the strange feeling :)


It makes my day to read your comments. They're an answer to my floating words in blogland.