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Locks of Languedoc

The Locks of the Canal-du-Midi

sunny 30 °C

As we steam serenely along the Canal-du-Midi aboard Carmen we are greeted by a chorus of birdsong, and we watch ducklings scampering under their mother’s wings, while curious fish leap into the air to see what’s disturbing their watery world. This must surely qualify as one of the world’s most tranquil places…

However, the canal is home to several fleets of rental boats and many of the amateur skippers are more accustomed to tearing around the M25 in a Jag, or barreling down an autobahn in an Audi, than driving a boat. These speed merchants are so determined to get their money’s worth that they squeeze a fortnight into a week and all they hear is the roar of their own engine and all they see is a green blur. The only thing that puts a brake on these maritime mavericks are locks like these…
As the canal winds its way across Languedoc it gradually climbs a range of hills in a series of locks; each one a minefield for an unschooled skipper and crew. The entrances are narrow, the lock keepers are impatient, and the waters churn as the gates open and close. Here is David at the wheel of Carmen as she enters a lock….
Jim hangs onto Carmen’s ropes to stop her from crashing into the gates …
…then a wall of water cascades towards him, while Sheila takes a breather before cycling ahead to catch the ropes at the next lock. It’s great fun, though serious work – but, as Captain David says, “Someone has to do it.”

The gracefully curved locks, built in the late 1600s by Louis XIV’s stonemasons, are surrounded by pretty gardens maintained by the lockkeepers.

We have had many culinary delights on our trip, including Toulouse sausages, Collioure anchovies and Mediterranean sardines. And, in the town of Bram, we ate Gallette – giant round biscuits that purportedly represent the shields the locals used as weapons to fight off the Roman invasion.
Today’s lunch, taken in the wheelhouse between locks, was bouillabaisse with homemade bread, several Pyrenean cheeses and tapenades of olives and aubergines…
And tonight, in Castelnaudary, we will eat the famous Cassoulet.

Posted by Hawkson 10:38 Archived in France

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That bread looks absolutely fabulous and the bouillabaisse jumps off the page. I love the bicycle on the deck of the Carmnen too. Reading ahead to the next entry I felt sorry for you that the weather was deteriorating...... No really I did.

by Tom

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