Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, September 20, 2021

We Head South (in the car)- Sept. 11-18 (Pt. 1)

 The original plan for last year was to head down the Saone/Rhone Rivers to the famous Canal du Midi in southern France. Obviously that didn’t happen and there wasn’t nearly enough time for it this year so, hope springing eternal, we decided to spend a week in the area this year with an eye to making the trip next year. We have also heard that it can be difficult to find winter moorings so we wanted to make ourselves known to the the various marinas so that when we contact them next year for a place they’ll have a vague idea of who we are.

The canal starts near the end of the Rhone River and heads west to the city of Toulouse. From there it becomes the Canal de Garonne, alongside the river that gives it its name. There are several connected waterways; the Rivers Lot and Baize and the canals Rhone a Sete, de la Robine and Montech.

Cathy Jo’s painting tasks complete and my chores under control, Saturday we headed off to Beziers, right at the eastern end of the Midi for a four day stay.

The city is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Nazaire, built beginning in the13th and 14th centuries, overlooking the River Orb, which flows below the hill.

My photoshop skills aren’t up to removing the crane 

rebuilding portions of the old city walls and the bridge.

The cathedral features a monumental altar.

Our apartment was the first floor of a large house on the side of a hill just outside the medieval city. The view from our porch to the west included the hill of Languedoc.

We really liked the quiet, peaceful setting…except for Sunday morning. It turns out it was the first day of hunting season. It sounded like a war zone in the trees below us starting shortly after 7 am.

On Sunday after visiting the port at Bezier we got our first look at the famous Midi oval locks and the famous Midi hireboat traffic (it is epic!). Just outside of town is the Fonserannes staircase, a set of 6 locks rising about 13.5 meters.

At the bottom of the staircase.

Stuffed with hireboats.

Entering the second lock going up.

Monday we headed out to the Mediterranean coast as we needed some boat supplies. There are no chandleries in the Briare area and there was a huge marina with many stores in nearby Agde so we spent the day at the waters edge. We concluded our business early and spent the afternoon driving around, lunch in Marseillan. It was very windy and we read later that 9 people drowned along the southern French coast in the choppy conditions.

A hireboat heads out into the Etang de Thau, waters protected from the open Med.

Tuesday we began our marina visits, touring Capestang, Castlenaudry, Homps and Carcassonne.

Besides having the lowest bridge on the Canal du Midi (We measured. We’ll barely fit through) Capestang features the Collegiate church of Saint Etienne.

Wednesday we checked out of our apartment in Beziers and made our way to a chambre de hotes (a bed and breakfast) in St. Nicholas de Grave, a small town near Moassic, for a two night stay. Our wonderful host, Severine of the delicious breakfasts, welcomed us to Au Coeur des Elements after a day on the road visiting ports in Castlesarrasin and Montauban, with a side trip to the village of Lautrec.

Lautrec was one of those happy accidents. We were motoring along when we say a roadside sign for a Village Étape. Just another beautiful medieval village, this one with a windmill.

The view from the hill.

A typical building in the village.

We were just 10k from the town of Moissac with it’s marina, and an hour from the junction of the Baize and Garonne Rivers at Buzet sur Baise. Those two were on our list for Thursday.


  1. Lovely to see where you went, but what sad news about those who drowned! I absolutely love Moissac. It's a beautiful town and the canal running parallel with the river is just a piece of magic. I would so love to go there by boat. Wonderful photos, you two! Thank you for another great post.

    1. And thank you for spelling Moissac correctly.I realized after I posted that I butchered the spelling of the town.😱

  2. At some stage, we'd like to chat in detail about your current experiences seeing as we are (hopefully) a season behind you in our intent to foray southwards. Meanwhile, we're following this discourse with even more interest than normal while waiting, and hoping, for bitingmidge to illuminate his travels north.

    1. We'll be back to the States Sept. 28. Maybe sometime after that we can arrange a virtual get together...

  3. Moissac was where we gained our ICC certification from a course by Iain Noble. It's certainly on our list of possible winter spots.

    1. We weren't really clear on the details but apparently some camping car company is taking over operation of the port and changes are afoot.

  4. So nice to follow your trip. Love the midi, the town names bring back memories of boating on the Midi back in the 80s🤪. Also lively to see our penichette going out into the Etang.

  5. Also I believe our neighbours have a holiday house in Moissac, they left two weeks ago. It appears if you own a holiday home you can get a travel exemption….go figure!

    1. I'm not even going to try to figure!
      The tree situation is a tragedy, though. They've had to cut down a great number of the plane trees that made that beautiful canopy due to some disease. Everything is being replanted but of course it's going to be years before it's back to what it was.


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