Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, August 8, 2022

Continued Hot, July 19-28

 France’s unrelenting heat wave and drought continued. We ended up traveling in the morning and then around lunchtime finding some patch of shade we could tie up in for the afternoon and evening. If it was a really good shady spot, we might spend a couple of days. Bonus if there was swimming. We can’t complain too much, though. The canal is still open and running freely while due to lack of rainfall over the last 4 years the entire canal system of northern France has been shuttered. People are stranded from their winter moorings and you may have seen on the news that some French villages are running out of water.

You may also have seen some coverage of the tree problem on the Midi Canal. When built in the 1600’s, the canal was lined with plane trees, a type of sycamore. Since 2006, thousands of the trees that used to form a kind of green tunnel over the canal have become infected with a fungal disease, canker stain, that kills them. The only solution is to chop them down and burn them. The waterways authorities and their partners have undertaken the monumental task of replanting trees along the canal banks (read about it here. The movie is a pretty good explanation. English subtitles.)  but, as all these new trees are still pretty small, major parts of the formerly lush green tunnel are pretty barren.

That also means moorings that provide some shade are a little sparse in some sections.

After the flight of locks at Fonserrannes, the next lock is almost 55 k away. This is the Grand Bief, twisting and turning across the countryside to maintain its level; pretty advanced construction techniques for the 1600’s.

Tuesday morning we left our moorings just before the Malpas tunnel a little after 9 am. We found a good spot along the bank just before Capestang so we could make a quick trip to the nearby grocery store and, after squeezing under one of the lowest bridges on the canal, made our stop for the night in a shady spot about 4 k further on. Wednesday morning we put the bicycles over the side and made a quick trip back to town to visit the market (we bumped into John and Gill from Millie there) and the Saint-Etienne Collegiate Church, built beginning in the 13th century by the archbishop of Narbonne on the site of an old Romanic church. Never really completed, construction stopped and started for over 200 years. 

The church has some beautiful stained glass windows with a couple in the roof, something we haven’t seen before.

On our walking tour we also came across this great example of some trompe l'oeil on the side of a building.

Thursday we traveled about 16 k. We had intended to moor somewhere before the entrance to the canal that travels south to Narbonne (we’ll make that trip next year) but couldn’t find a suitable spot. We ended up at the abandoned Port Minervois. There used to be a restaurant/snack bar and small trip boat there but they are no more. It is right next to la Cesse river so we could get in a little swimming to break the heat. And we weren’t the only ones that knew about the swimming hole. It was hireboat madness!

This swimming hole is right under the canal which crosses on that bridge.

Saturday we found our next mooring just after the village of Roubia but first we had to make a brief stop in Ventenac-en-Minervois. There is a cave cooperative right next to the canal so we could replenish our wine supplies.

Roubia is about halfway between the towns of Peraza and Argens-Minervois so on Sunday it was bike ride time.

We visited the church in Peraza and were impressed by their collection of statues.

And from the park above town we got a good view of the countryside.

It was about 6 k from Peraza to Argens-Miervois and its hillside chateau but we couldn’t find a way in to the castle.

Monday we traveled 11.5 k and did 7 locks, including 2 double locks, and settled in for the night in the village of la Redorte.

While walking around town we saw a blown up copy of an old postcard that gave us an indication of activities on the canal when it was first built.

Lots of wine!

We were tied up about in about the same place as that barge on the right.

Our friends Kevin and Eleanor on Milou showed up there too so we had a great evening apreo session. It’s also a very popular spot for hireboats as there’s available water and electricity. We had lots of company.

Wednesday we put in a longer day, only about 11 k but 9 locks, including 3 double locks and one triple to find some shade about 2 pm out in the countryside near the town of Marseilette.

Thursday morning we pushed off at 9 and about 1145 were tied up just after the flight of locks into Trebes. We wanted to have lunch at the Moulin de Trebes waterside restaurant. That task complete (beautiful setting, excellent service, adequate food), we managed two more locks and just before 4pm were tied up. Our next stop would be Carcassonne, just 7 k but a few locks away. That was Fridays job.


  1. Looks like you’ve found some lovely places on your journey. So sad about the plane trees as they were beautiful and offered so much shade. Good to see you manage to find some anyway plus good restaurants and some friends! Oh and we envy you the swim.
    Love that trompe l’oeil too.
    Happy travelling love from Pete and Sara xx

    1. It's especially sad when you realize those trees were 400 years old.
      Carcassonne was great and we plan to spend more time there when we return next year.


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