Canal boating in Languedoc
Languedoc may well be the best place in the world to go canal boating - with three canal systems weaving their way through hundreds of miles of beautiful countryside. The Canal du Midi is the most famous of the three - and the longest. It stretches between Toulouse in the west to the Mediterranean near Agde. During the summer, canal boats ply their way up and down the canal, past the many locks (where lock-keepers sell local delicacies), under a canopy of plane trees, past pretty stone villages and old bridges. Canal boating is a great way to explore Languedoc, as there are many places to moor and get a bite to eat, or explore the surrounding countryside.
Canal boating east from Toulouse, through Languedoc's fields of sunflowers, you enter into the Minervois wine region, with its superb red wines. Carcassonne is the next city on the canal boating route, dominated by its famous medieval fortress. From there, the plane-tree-lined canal meanders slowly under pretty stone bridges, past traditional villages until you reach Beziers, another small city with a pretty town centre. From here, your canal boat gets closer to the sea, where at Agde it enters Languedoc's 'Etang de Thau', an enormous salt-water lake. This is where the Canal du Midi becomes the 'Canal Rhone Sete', heading past the seaside towns of Sete, Palavas and Carnon and up in to The Camargue, a huge marshland populated by flamingoes, wind bulls and white horses. Eventually, you reach the walled town of Aigues Mortes, and continue on to the border with Provence at Beaucaire - from which you can visit Nimes and the Pont du Gard.
So where should you start and end your canal boating journey in Languedoc? Well - classic Canal du Midi boating territory, with its plane-tree-lined banks and pretty bridges, is really between Trèbes and Capestang. Languedoc is greener and less built-up here - so your canal boat experience will be a more relaxed and traditional one. Once you approach Beziers, you hit suburbia and general sprawl - so it's not quite as pretty. But there's more in the way of shopping and city life to enjoy from your canal boat rental. Canal boating in the Etang - between Agde and Sete, feels like you're almost in the sea - with wide open vistas and fishing villages in the distance. This canal boating area of Languedoc is great for seafood, and Marseillan, Meze and Bouzigues are all very charming. Palavas, Lattes and Carnon are to be avoided - although they, again, are quite lively. Then you're into the Camargue of Languedoc, which again is a very different canal boating experience, with its salt mountains and vibrant bird life. So - lots of diverse canal boating to choose from in Languedoc - but the choice ultimately is yours...