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A question for Sarastro

Brunswick, Maine
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400 posts
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A question for Sarastro

A question for Sarastro --

You obviously have a lot of experience traveling the canals of France, and I would greatly appreciate your advice. My family of 5 (our children are all teenagers) are thinking of one last canal trip together next spring before our oldest goes off to college -- this time on the Canal du Midi. Three years ago we had a fabulous trip on the Burgundy Canal, renting from Locaboat. My husband particularly liked the Flying Bridge design of the boat we used, so we are interested in going again with Locaboat. We also want to do a one-way cruise, and I see from Locaboat's website that the one-way option they offer is from Negra (near Toulouse) to Argens. What do you think of that section of the canal? I really don't know the area and wondered if you could share your experience with us. We are not afraid of locks (we did about 60 in a week on the Burgundy Canal), but we really aren't interested in traveling a canal that really has just one lock after another.

Thanks!

Paris, France
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for Paris, Loire Valley
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1. Re: A question for Sarastro

While I have traveled the Canal du Midi 3 times, I have not been on the canal east of Castelnaudary. In fact the section of the canal west of Bram and east of Castelnaudary is a bit underwhelming with few compelling sights and far too many locks. Of course eating cassoulet in or near Castelnaudary is an experience not to be missed and itself worth the visit to this region.

Within the last few years, several companies have opened up routes east of Castelnaudary. I checked the Locoboat website and their routes in this area do indeed contain a large number of locks. After our last visit to Burgundy along the Nivernais canal (and its 70 odd locks) we decided to try the Camargue (2 locks in one week, a real vacation). We grew to love the Camargue and shall be leaving in little more than a week to spend a month there.

I agree that the Locaboat Flying Bridge is a wonderful design, without a doubt the finest looking sailing vessel in anyone's rental fleet, but if you have not yet traversed the Canal du Midi between Bram and Béziers (the sweet spot of the canal in my opinion), this should be your next voyage. This segment has about 40 locks and has many noteworthy features. Note: avoid le Canal de la Robine. It has few facilities and even fewer points of interest.

Again, checking Locaboat's website, they do not offer a one week cruise that covers the best of the Canal du Midi. Their two week cruise from Lattes to Négra really would be an impressive voyage covering all of the highlights the south of France has to offer (though I should prefer this voyage in the opposite direction). Having said how much I like Locaboat's craft, that would not preclude my checking into Crown Blue, Connoisseur, Nicols, or Rive de France. All of these companies offer first class accommodations.

If you really want to stay with Locaboat and visit a bit of both the Canal du Midi and the Camargue, make arrangements for a one way voyage from Argens to Lattes and then get back with me for hotel recommendations along this route, particularly if you enjoy oysters.

Argens to Lattes - 16 locks and much to see.

Paris, France
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for Paris, Loire Valley
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2. Re: A question for Sarastro

Sorry, the first sentence should read:

While I have traveled the Canal du Midi 3 times, I have not been on the canal west of Castelnaudary

The first sentence, second paragraph should read:

Within the last few years, several companies have opened up routes west of Castelnaudary

Apparently the magnetic variation on my personal compass has surpassed all previously known outside limitations.

Brunswick, Maine
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400 posts
25 reviews
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3. Re: A question for Sarastro

Thank you for sharing your experience with me. This trip is still in the gestation phase, and I'm sure I will be calling on your for more advice as/if it starts to take shape. Thanks for your help!

Brunswick, Maine
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4. Re: A question for Sarastro

Sarastro,

I was just checking out the Locaboat website again, and I think maybe you were looking at Agen (west of Toulouse), instead of Argens (near Narbonne) as the terminus of the route. The route runs from Negra, which appears to be just east of Toulouse, to Argens, which is just above Narbonne. That appears to include most of the section between Bram and Beziers. Does that change your opinion of the Locaboat route? If we were organized, we could probably travel past Argens to Beziers, then back to the base at Argens before giving up the boat. Then we would get to see Beziers and places nearby as well. I might have this all wrong, but if not, I'd love to hear your opinion of this route.

I see that the Negra-Argens one-way has 44 locks, which is very manageable to us. The Argens-Lattes route has just 16, fewer than 3 a day, which I'm afraid we might find too few. I get the impression that the scenery between Argens and Lattes is more watery and wide open, and less wooded and contained than, for instance, the Burgundy Canal was. Is that a correct impression? If so, I think we would prefer the more "canal-y" canal section to the flatter area. But this is all still very much a work in progress!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Paris, France
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for Paris, Loire Valley
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5. Re: A question for Sarastro

EminMaine

You are correct. I was indeed referring to the Argens - Lattes segment. That was not the only error in by post:

<<<Argens to Lattes and then get back with me for hotel recommendations along this route, particularly if you enjoy oysters.>>>

The intent here was to recommend restaurants - not hotels. One should be careful about making posts late at night.

After checking my navigation charts of the canal, if you choose the Negra-Argens route, there is only 1 lock (just east of the Locaboat base in Argens) between Argens and as far east as Colombiers. If you arrive a bit early at Argens, you could easily travel eastward to Ventenac and Le Somail and return to the base in Argens. If you arranged for a 10 day rental (sometimes available) you could easily make Colombiers and return. I should not venture farther east than Colombiers because of the time required to pass through the 6 locks of Fonsérannes (near Béziers). My only concern in reference to this route is that the section between Negra and Bram contains 36 of the total 44 locks of the entire route and in my opinion this early segment is no more picturesque than the flatter area east of Béziers.

One of the reasons I enjoy the segment east of Béziers is the crossing of the Etang de Thau, the city of Sete, the walled city of Aigues Mortes, and access to the back side of the sea ports Palavas-les-Flots and Le Grau du Roi. If you enjoy eating mollusks, one of the world's largest oyster beds is in the Etang de Thau and you navigate past several miles of them. It's quite a site, that and the flocks of Flamingos which seem to take flight every afternoon. Admittedly, the segment Argens-Lattes is watery and wide open but what a contrast with the woody canal segment one departs leaving Béziers.

Which ever segment you choose, I am sure you will enjoy your voyage.

Hope this helps.

Brunswick, Maine
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400 posts
25 reviews
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6. Re: A question for Sarastro

Yes, it does help. It makes me wish we could take 2 weeks to do the whole thing! We will have to think about it, and if we succeed in putting a trip together, I will hope to be able to pick your brain again for restaurant suggestions.

Many thanks.

7. Re: A question for Sarastro

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