Sunday, 4 July 2010

Canal Du Midi Cycling and Self Catering

You may or may not know that our gite in France is only 10 minutes away from the Canal Du Midi, a UNESCO world heritage site and a very popular holiday destination.

There are lots of reasons why the Canal Du Midi is so popular, the beautiful countryside it passes through, the wonderful cities on route to the Mediterranean coastline, the locks, the boats and of course the opportunity to ride along its tree shaded tow path knowing that you are never going to meet a serious hill that is going to sap every ounce of your energy. There are of course some mad fools who think that riding a cycle up a steep hill is fun and of course you can do that as well in this region; just not right next to the Canal Du Midi.

So what are the options for taking a Canal Du Midi self catering holiday in the South of France. You can of course hire a boat and navigate the canal from point A to point B and possibly back again. A very nice way to pass a week or two it has to be said, and many people do exactly that. Alternatively you can book a gite near to the Canal Du Midi, identify where you can find a 'location de Velos' near to the gite and take excursions along the canal for as long as you wish, 2 hours, 4 hours or perhaps a whole day if you like.

There used to be a 'Location de Velos' in Castelnaudary right next to the Canal Du Midi where you could hire cycles for the day, but this has sadly closed and the nearest location is now 'Velos Severac' which is close to the 'Poteries de Naurouze' on the free road between Toulouse and Castelnaudary . It is only 20 minutes from our self catering gite in Issel and they do provide a great service.

When the bike hire in Castelnaudary was still available, we took a little half day excursion from Castelnaudary, hired the bikes for 8€ each giving us 4 hours cycling time and set off to Le Segala, which is in the direction of Toulouse.

The first section of the tow path was actually a relatively new road, after which it changed to a hard core track and the final section was a dirt track but all of it in reasonable condition.

The route is 13km there and 13km back so just slightly under 18 miles in total. There is the bonus of a little cafe near the bridge at Le Segala where you can get a drink or an ice cream and relax for a little while to get your puff back. We passed by 5 locks following this route and some lovely scenery which is set to improve shortly when the Tournesols (Sunflowers) come into bloom. There was also a pottery on route called the 'Poterie NOT' which has a bit of history having been around since the 19th century and its a good place to buy an authentic 'cassole' in which to cook a cassoulet. I am not sure how you would carry your pots though, if you decided to purchase any, some of them were quite large.

Le Segala is about 2km further on from Labastide d'Anjou which is where you can find another 'Location de Velos'. So note this as an option to drive out to and put another northern section on your list of to do's.

This really was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and giving yourself 4 hours means you can comfortably ride from Castelnaudary  to Le Segala without killing yourself and with time to spare for chilling out at the cafe the other end. Or calling into the pottery for a bit of browse and perhaps making plans to collect some goods later.

You could of course have chosen to head South towards Bram and Carcassonne if you wanted to, or made that another days cycling, I think we might just be going to do that now we have discovered how much pleasure you can get from cycling the Canal Du Midi.

As a final note and a little aside, I got the distinct impression that not everyone knows what they are doing when boating on the Canal Du Midi. I don't think this counts as a navigating the whole of the canal. It should be end to end, not side to side. Nice try though.


You can click on any of the photos to get a better view from a larger picture.

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