Cycling the Canal du Midi

Across Southern France from Toulouse to Sète

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ISBN
9781852847845
Availability
Published
Published
10 May 2017
Edition
Second
Pages
192
Size
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
Weight
220g

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Guide to cycling the Canal du Midi in southern France, 240km from Toulouse in the Haute Garonne to Sète on the Mediterranean Coast. The flat, picturesque route is divided into five stages, each around 50km long. Includes detours to sights close to the canal as well as longer excursions, including Narbonne, Minerve, Carcassone and Béziers.

Seasons Seasons
Suitable all year round. Busier and hot in summer, but with lots going on; ideal temperatures but higher average rainfall in spring and autumn; quietest in winter, but with Christmas markets and fairs.
Centres Centres
Toulouse, Carcassone, Beziers, Sète
Difficulty Difficulty
Suitable for all abilities - flat and car-free along the canal with optional slightly hillier excursions by road if desired. Described in five stages to fit within a week's holiday.
Must See Must See
Historic towns and cities: Ancient Greek Agde, Roman Narbonne, Toulouse, the 'Rose City', Carcassonne's 12th-century fortified Cité. Real French culture of La France Profonde, including myriad local festivals. Varied countryside with a wide range of animals and plants.
ISBN
9781852847845
Availability
Published
Published
10 May 2017
Edition
Second
Pages
192
Size
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
Weight
220g
  • Overview

    This guidebook describes a 240km cycle ride along the length of the Canal du Midi in southern France. Starting at Toulouse in the Haute Garonne and finishing at Sète on the Mediterranean Coast, the route is divided into five stages of about 50km. It is a flat, car-free and picturesque route mainly on the towpath, and is suitable for all abilities.
    The guide is written for those who want to explore the canal and visit attractions along the way. There are lots of optional detours to sites of interest near the canal, as well as six longer excursions, including fortified Carcassone, Roman Narbonne, Vendres lagoon and the Portiragnes marshes. Detailed route descriptions are crammed with additional information about points of interest passed, and 1:200,000 scale maps clearly show the route for each stage of the way.
    Begun in 1666 the Canal du Midi is one of the world's most picturesque waterways and a World Heritage Site. This is 'La France Profonde', a region rich in history and culture, as seen in the grand homes and chateaux that grace the water's edge, and the fascinating Cathar strongholds of Carcassone, Lastours and Minerve.
     

  • Contents

    Contents
    Introduction
    Regions of the canal
    History
    Wildlife
    Culture
    Cycling the Canal du Midi
    When to go
    Getting there and getting around
    Accommodation
    Food and drink
    Your bike
    What to take
    Cycling the towpath
    Health and safety
    Weather
    Maps
    Money and communications
    Using this guide
    The Canal du Midi
    Stage 1 Toulouse to Port Lauragais
    Stage 2 Port Lauragais to Carcassone
    Excursion 1 From Criminelle lock to St-Ferréol reservoir
    Stage 3 Carcassone to Homps
    Excursion 2 From Trèbes to Lastours
    Excursion 3 From Homps to Minerve
    Stage 4 Homps to Béziers
    Excursion 4 To Narbonne and Port la Nouvelle
    Stage 5 Béziers to Sète
    Excursion 5 To Vendres salt lagoon
    Excursion 6 Across Portiragnes marshes to Sérignan

    Appendix A Stage planning tables
    Appendix B Accommodation
    Appendix C Useful information
    Appendix D English–French glossary
    Appendix E Further reading

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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews
    The definitive English language guide to this fascinating canal ride

    Eight years on from the publication of the original, an updated version of the definitive English language guide to this fascinating canal ride is very welcome. Conveniently beginning in Toulouse, the Canal du midi passes through a region with a tumultuous history and, as ever in France, distinct identities and cuisines. Declan Lyons’ guide will not only allow you to plan and keep you on track, it will also inform and enthuse. Yet, take note of his advice; there’s more to following a canal than might be expected and things can get very hot.

    The Canal du Midi is a wonder of early modern engineering, pre-dating most UK canals by a century. Work commenced in 1677 to connect the Haute Garonne, at Toulouse, with the Mediterranean Sea, at Sète. As the
    author says, the chief engineer, Pierre Paul Riquet, did not intend to create a fabulous 240km cycle track, but did a pretty good job. A route for the touring cyclist, not the racer; to be savoured rather than rushed.
    On that note, there is very good guidance on the condition of the towpath for cycling. Some sections are barred to cyclist - though few and far between - and some others are rough and offer some challenging riding, despite being designated as cycle routes. Other sections have a very good surface. Sometimes sudden availability of funds may lead to major improvements. Updates, when reported, can be found on the relevant page on the Cicerone website. In the meantime, you’ll need to follow the author’s advice on what bike to take and when to follow road alternatives.

    Rail connections along the way seem to be pretty good, so getting to and from Toulouse and Sète, or to a nearby airport, should not be a major problem. More significant will be the time of year to ride the route. Autumn or spring may be better than summer. However, all that useful advice can be found alongside details of accommodation, cycles on trains, mosquitoes, dealing with the heat and, of course, where to find that plat de jour and vin rouge at lunchtime. Appendices include distance charts and a contacts for all sorts of
    accommodation, cycle repair shops and tourist offices. Together with Cicerone’s mapping, your 3!$.95 would
    seem to bring you everything you need in one place; one that will fit into a jersey rear pocket or atop a bar bag with ease.

    The final appendix covers further reading. Prominent here are books on the Cathars. The canal passes through towns and villages that predate it by many centuries. Some had their origin in the ancient past, but many became victims of a brutal crusade undertaken by the Papacy and the French monarchy against Cathar heretics during the middle-ages. Even after this, the region was torn apart during the hundred Years War between France and England. Together, the crusade and the war helped cement French authority in the south of France. Yet, even today, the Midi is different! You’ll get views of mountains, scrubby garrigue and marshy lagoons… as well as following a fine piece of industrial archaeology.

    To aid exploration, the author does not stick to the towpath bee-line. Six excursions are included in the guide, taking in nearby sites, for example to Narbonne and Port-la-Nouvelle (82km). Narbonne was a Roman town, but the author spends a paragraph on Charles Trenet, a singer born there. For some, his songs embody happy sunny days in the south of France. A very appropriate point to recommend this guide and wish you a happy, relaxing, easy-going journey.

    Reviewed by Steve Dyster, Seven Day Cyclist

    A gold mine for any traveller

    The Connexion

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Lyons

Declan Lyons

Declan Lyons has a lifelong passion for cycling and touring. He was bitten by the bug when, as a teenager in the 1960s, he explored the wilds of Connemara on a rusty three-speed Rudge bicycle. Since then he has toured extensively in Ireland and further afield, including regular trips from the Channel to the Mediterranean. Declan is an advocate of cycle touring – taking time on his cycles and relishing the nature, history and daily life all around. He has toured the region between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean extensively.

View Articles and Books by Declan Lyons