Last week we had the pleasure of joining friends from Poulsbo, Karl and Kelly Hadley, Jim and Sharon Moore and the former Rotary exchange student Flora Midiou and her boyfriend Julien Plubel on a wonderful barge trip on the Canal du Midi in Southern France. Now I better understand the song from Camelot, “It’s May, the lusty month of May!”
Pastel violet masses of wisteria climbed the walls of many of the “ecluse” or lock buildings lining the canal. Bright orange poppies, yellow and periwinkle grinning iris faces, balloon clusters of creamy Queen Anne’s Lace bloomed along the grassy banks. Giant chestnut trees bursting with white chocolate frosted strawberry ice cream cone flowers dominated the walkways of the ancient villages. Pink with lemon tinged roses and cherry red peonies filled garden beds. Carefully ordered vegetable gardens sprouted onioins, cabbages, spinach, radishes.
Since 1996 the Canal du Midi has been classified in the list of World Heritage sites. The canal connects the Garonne river (at the Atlantic side ) to the Mediterranean Sea. Originally built between 1666 to 1681 to facilitate the wheat business, it is the oldest European Canal still in operation.
We began our tour in the village of Argens-Minervois after taking an approximately 4 hour train ride from Paris to Narbonne, spending the night there and the next morning taking another but very short train ride to the village of Lézignan-Corbières then taxiing to Argens. Our trip on the boat lasted a week. Captains Karl and Hugh navigated the waters and the rest of us learned to handle the ropes in the locks, drink much wine, sample the excellent local cheeses, ride bicycles along the canal. In the evenings we walked into the villages, ate delicious local dishes-a favorite of the group was a crepery, La Blé Noir in Carcassone, the walled city. Hugh and I were fortunate to be guided by Jim and Sharon Moore on a night walk through this 5th century village and through the magnificent castle atop. The Castle which reminds me of The magical Disneyland Palace was restored in the mid 1800 ‘s. It is filled with shops and restaurants, even hotels.
We left our boat behind in the town of Negra and took a taxi to Toulouse. In Toulouse our French guides Flora and Julien led us through the city.
We loved spending time with our friends and enjoying the Canal and the countryside of southern France. We did happily discover that after a week on the barge, our 450 sq. ft. Paris apartment seems very much larger!!! We like the shower too!
Here’s a link to a slideshow showing selected scenes from the trip: