Travelled : 118 kilometres (Negra to Argens-Minervois) Traversed 65 Locks
Visited : Bram, Villesequelande, Carcassonne, Trebes, and Homps.
Stayed : Carcassonne city marina, on the banks of the canal other nights.
Our adventures on the Canal de Midi continue. Our first week now complete, most of the locks behind us we are now out of the low hills that lay between Carcassonne and Homps and onto the plains that lead to the Mediterranean. Now accomplish at traversing the locks we are a well drilled crew. We can scoff and make merry as we watch others enter the locks like the white ball in a pinball machine bouncing off the bank, walls, gates and other boats. How short is our memory.
The penichette has proven a comfortable fit for the six of us. It moves along very quietly and smoothly at around 6-8 knots. The beds are adequate for a good sleep, but not what you would call roomy. We have 3 bathrooms, a good size dinning area inside and an open lounge area on the rear deck. The galley is well stocked with a large cool store rather than a fridge. All the bedding, towels etc are supplied. Being stocked with beer, wine and fresh food our only concern. The small supermarkets have most of the essentials.
The weather has varied, from sunny and warm, overcast and windy and back to sunny again. A little drizzle for a few minutes one afternoon has been it for rain. As we have moved closer to the Mediterranean the mid-day sun has become hot. We appreciate the shade provided by the the plain trees that line the canal. As hot as it gets, swimming in the canal is not an option. The waters of the canal are polluted unfortunately by the hundreds of boat (and people) travelling or permanently moored on the canal.
We stop a couple of times a day and walk or ride into a nearby village and have a wander about. It’s an opportunity to stretch your legs, grab a baguette and get the feel of the area. Some are quite drab and lonely looking places, others well cared for, pretty and inviting. Vineyards and wine production is the key to the local economy it would seem. We pass vineyard after vineyard, hour after hour. It’s harvest time and we slow occasionally to watch some machine moving up and down the lines of grape vines shaking of the grapes.
Carcassonne is a highlight of this section of the canal. We spend a day in the Medieval City that stands on the hill above the modern town. We did an English speaking tour for an hour or so which was particularly interesting. The Medieval City was restored to its former glory by a patron some hundred years or more ago. While sections of the walls go back to the 6-8th century, most of the buildings, houses and Basilica date back almost a thousand years. You can wander the fifty towers that line the walls and along the parapets as you like. The stained glass in the Basilica was particularly interesting as was a group of Russian singers performing in there on the hour.
While we stayed in a marina during our stay in Carcassonne, we have agreed we all prefer to stay outside the towns and villages. It’s much quieter overnight and the aspect in the morning peaceful. The locks close at 7pm and we pull up nearby the next one we come across, drive a couple of steel spikes into the bank and tie up for the night. There’s no traffic, no passing boats as the locks are closed, it’s very peaceful way to spend the evening.