Travelled : 110 kilometres from Argens-Minervois to Frontignan, traversed 13 locks (ecluses)
Visited : Capestang, Beziers, Villeneuve-les-Beziers, Agde and Frontignan.
Stayed : Marina at Villeneuve-les-Beziers, Marina at Frontignan, on the banks of the canal other nights.
Departing Argens-Minervois we start on our second week on the canal. It also marks a change in the terrain and weather as we move closer to the Mediterranean coast. Whilst at Argens-Minervois we have added water and exchanged towels etc as a Locaboat (our hire company) marina is situated there. There are less locks to make our way through this section of the Midi, however one 7 lock set coming down the hill into Beziers is very interesting. Like a set of stairs for boats. In planning our trip we specifically decided on an eastern passage from Toulouse as most of the locks are downhill and much quicker to negotiate. We have been fairly lucky managing to squeeze through without waiting for more than an hour.
The canal now winds it’s way around the valleys, often well above the valley floor and you can catch glimpses of chateaus, churches and the odd ruin as we pass. It’s much dryer along this part of the canal, still it’s vineyard after vineyard as far as the eye can see. The canal passes through a 160 metre long tunnel as it passes through a hill in one section. It’s been hot and humid and we appreciate the dapple shade from the trees as we make our way toward the Mediterranean.
We have been eating in mostly, buying meat, cheese and bread from local markets wherever possible. We have been lucky enough to pick up a local open air market nearly every second day. They are a great opportunity to pick up a fresh BBQ chicken, hock of cooked ham or Jambon. These travelling vendors have the best cheeses as well. The mild Brie and Conti have become our favourites. Each time we seem to buy a bigger slab yet it’s gone the next day.
The villages and towns on this part of our journey have been more substantial. Both Beziers and Adge are very large places. Beziers is situated on the edge of an escarpment. We travel down 9 locks to reach river level (including the set of 7 mentioned earlier). It’s all uphill by bike from there. The cathedral Saint Nazaire is particularly worth a visit as is the park that winds it’s way up the hill from the railway station to the centre of the city. Adge was notable for its unusual round lock that allows access to 3 different canals. The centre piece of Adge is an old walled city built adjacent to the River L’Herault. The original base sections of these walls date back to 300 bc, when the town was establish by the Greeks.
Of the smaller towns Capestang which sits right on the canal has a wonderful old church of Saint Etienne with a tower dating back to 9th century. Capestang also had an excellent food market on the morning we visited. We also found Frontignan to be a particularly pretty little village. Everything appeared freshly painted and very tidy. We enjoyed an overnight stay on the marina and found a great little epicure with a fine selection of meats, cheeses and tasty little nibbles of local olives and the like.