Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Over The Top, Aug. 12-17

 We should have known better than to leave Friday morning. There’s a pretty big hireboat base on the other side of the summit, about two days away, and the hireboats usually have to be in either Saturday and Sunday. Traffic can get…fun. And the canal had been closed due to the damaged locks.

We left our spot on the bank around 9 and headed over to the port to refill our water tank, then it was off to the first lock of the day, 4 k up the canal. We arrived to find 2 of the bigger hireboats already waiting for the lock so we would have to wait; we wouldn’t all fit in the lock. Two other smaller hireboats were behind us and one of the boaters already in the lock, thinking one of the smaller boats could fit in pushed the red button (These are totally automated locks; there is no eclusier). Big mistake. You only push the red button when there’s a problem because it puts the lock out of service and a waterways technician has to come and reset it. Cathy Jo hiked up to the lock and used the interphone to call the VNF office and let them know there was a problem. We finally got through that first lock at 11:30. We arrived at the next double lock just in time to make it through before the lunch closure and, after the break, navigated the next three lock flight to find a spot for the night right above it.

It was just over a kilometer to the next lock so we were there when the light came on at 9 on Saturday, managed that double lock and then our last up lock on the Midi this year. We cleared the first down lock just before 11, tied up and threw the bicycles over the side. Le Pas de Naurouze is a very nice restaurant right at the canal summit and we wanted to make reservations for dinner Saturday night. Unfortunately they were complet for dinner but we could have lunch. Luckily for us, the menu is the same for lunch and dinner so we scurried back to the boat to change into more acceptable attire and had a very nice lunch.

I’m not a big fan of food pictures but this meal was very good and the service was excellent. It started with seared tuna fillets on a bed of cold ratatouille and crunchy green beans with peanuts on the top.

That was followed by roasted quail on a pastry crust coated with a red onion and strawberry sauce on a bed of creamy eggplant.

When the server delivered the quail she informed us that it was allowed to use our fingers, something not usually done in a French restaurant.

We had a very nice house merlot with the meal and a sorbet for dessert. Then we rolled back to the boat, luckily very close by.

Sunday we took a long bike ride up the Rigole de la Plaine. One of Pierre Paul Riquets great ideas was to use water from several streams in the Black Mountain to feed the canal. He also had two big reservoirs built to hold water. The Rigole is the channel that brings this water to the summit pound of the canal. Because of this innovation the canal has not had the water problems of the canals in the north, although this year there has been some strain.

Part of the bike ride took us through what used to be a big holding basin for the canal but silted up soon after the canal opened. It’s now a giant park with an amusing “statue” of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

There’s also a giant stele erected as a monument to Mssr. Riquet.

Luckily, this part of the canal has not suffered too severely from the plane tree disease so the “green tunnel” still exists in many places.

Monday morning we set off, now going downhill, much easier in the locks. Unfortunately, just a couple k after the summit, the canal runs close beside the A61, a major freeway. Not very quiet and peaceful. Nevertheless we found places to moor the next two nights that weren’t right beside the highway, arriving Monday about 3 pm right after the lock in the small village of Negra and about 3:30 pm on Tuesday on the outskirts of our next big destination, Toulouse. 

Wednesday morning we just had one lock and about 12 K to get to the big city.

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