Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cruising experience in the Canal du Midi

As I mention in an earlier post, this companies advertise the canal trips as a very easy, no hassle experience, just like driving your car. Well, steering a barge is not actually that easy, the bottom of this boats are flat and they require constant attention or they would start going to port. If the wind is blowing, which is very common in Canal du Midi it gets a little challenging. I don't mean by this that it is impossible to do it. There are thousands of people doing it. But having a little experience makes the adventure more pleasant.

Thanks to Jim experience, we girls; responsables of holding the lines while the water was pouring in the closed locks; didn't hurt our hands. He put the boat in forward or backward (depending if we were locking up or down) gave it a little throttle and voila! the boat stayed in place.

The landscaping in this area is breath-taking. We were surrounded by wineries, castles, farmland in general and the people, despite what most other travelers think, were outgoing, friendly and welcoming.

The food was to die for. We did stop at a grocery store and got breakfast and lunch food, but dinners we always did out of the boat. You go to Europe to experience the culinary culture.

Nicoise Salad (Capestan)

Gazpacho and apps on the boat 

Duck prosciutto and arugula on the boat

Catalan melon and prosciutto with cracked black pepper on the boat

Desserts (Le Sommeil)

Grilled fish (Le Sommeil)

Salmon tartare (Le Sommeil)
Sardines in a Michelin restaurant in Narbonne

Duck and figs 

Almond pastry dessert
We did not run into anybody and certainly our trip was accident free; but we did see people getting hurt because of trying to rush, not holding on to the rail of the boat, while their inexperience captain pushed the throttle too hard, or jumping off the boat to the back of the canal without checking the firmness of it.

There are many companies that one can rent boats from. The one we used is called France afloat. We liked their steel barges the best. They are comfortable and they have them in different sizes. We chartered a 42 feet long, which was easier to handle. They won't ask for a captain licence, but they require to do a test drive. The bigger the boat the more they ask (like the licence) and also rent it with a captain and crew. Our boat had 2 cabins, 2 heads and a settee in the main salon. It could accommodate 2 couples and a single person. The boats are British built, so adapter for the outlets are needed, and asking for the inverter for the 12 volt is recommended, since it was not on board, but it was available upon request. I do advise to book the bikes ahead of time or get there with enough time to get them on board. The boats don't come with bicycles. And don't get there late, like we did, you need all the time to explore and enjoy your experience in the Canal du Midi.