SPLISH! SPLASH! SPLOSH!
THE WATERWAYS OF MIDI PYRÉNÉES
12th July 2013… The waterways of Midi-Pyrénées are an ideal destination for a relaxing boating holiday, with the largest network of rivers and canals in the South-West of France. There are many different methods of putting your exploring skills to the test. Whether renting a barge or a house-boat, staying overnight on a B&B on the water or simply taking a river or canal based excursion, the view from the water always gives a place a wonderful new perspective.
Canal des Deux Mers: the Canal du Midi and the Canal de Garonne
The Canal du Midi has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The vision of Paul Riquet in the 17th century, it snakes majestically along beneath the shade of great old trees. It’s fascinating past, its ports, harbourmaster’s offices, its locks and engineering structures make it a choice destination for river tourism in Europe. It stretches from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic with the help of the Canal de Garonne which covers the Toulouse – Atlantic leg. The two form one of the Great Sites of the Midi-Pyrenees – the Canal des Deux Mers.
Most villages surrounding the Canal are worth the detour such as Lauragais – a 13th century bastide town once the hub of the pastel- woad trade that helped enrich the region.
A Barge Trip along the Garonne River
The Garonne River is open to navigation where it crosses the city of Toulouse, another of the Great Sites of Midi-Pyrénées. The Garonne runs along the border of the ‘ville rose’. A barge excursion will offer you one of the most beautiful view point of Midi-Pyrénées’ capital city. The river links up with the Canal de Brienne beside the Bazacle ford. The shade of the tree-line Canal de Brienne is much appreciated by joggers and is also home to lively boat restaurants and nightclubs. It leads boats along to the Canal des Deux Mers at the Port l’Embouchure.
The Garonne was so prone to flooding and her banks so unstable that up until the 19th century only one bridge spanned it – the Pont Neuf in Toulouse, until metal suspension bridges were invented.
The Lot Valley
The Lot is considered to be one of the most beautiful rivers in the south of France and is navigable for 75 kilometres between Luzech and Larnagol. It used to be an important commercial highway transporting wood, wine and coal between Quercy and Aquitaine. It was replaced by road and rail links and so since 1991 a major rehabilitation programme has been in place to clean up the river, stabilise it and reopen the Massif Central to Aquitaine plain part of the course.
Agriculturally it has always been responsible for irrigating the Cahors vineyards – famous for the Black Wine. It also flows alongside two Great Sites of the midi-Pyrenees – Cahors itself and the enchanting village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.
The Tarn Valley
The Tarn rises in the Lozère and joins the Garonne at Moissac – a Great Site of the Midi- Pyrénées thanks to the magnificent 12th century Abbey and Romanesque cloisters. It passes under the spectacular Millau Viaduct (another Great Site) where from the river one has the most impressive perspective on a truly fantastic feat of human engineering. From Millau the Tarn runs through a series of very tight bends for 60 kilometers known as the Raspes – but even here the river is renowned for water sports such as canoeing and kayaking. The river irrigates the orchards of Montauban (home to Ingrès during his lifetime) and also crossing the red brick city of Albi where the Toulouse Lautrec Museum re-opened only in 2012.
The Baise Valley
This glorious waterway flows from Gascony, birthplace of d’Artagnan to Buzet-sur-Baise in the Lot-et-Garonne. The river can be explored on a gastronomic cruise or you can hire a boat from Condom, historical capital of Armagnac and it was on this river that casks of the amber nectar were transported to Bordeaux for export. Eventually this trade passed to the railways and roads and the river was closed to navigation in 1954. After over forty years it was partially reopened and now features some of the most beautiful boat excursions available in the Midi-Pyrenees. Do visit Condom whilst on your travels – with its imposing Gothic Cathedral and Museum to Armagnac.
In July, the Canal du Midi hosts “Convivencia”, a nomadic waterside festival, dedicated to world music. The “Convivencia” barges host musicians for concerts and waterside dancing. At each stage, music programming changes, with nevertheless a constant: the desire to discover artists from all walks of life, whether they come from the region or from around the globe.
For more information on the waters of the Midi-Pyrénées go to – www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.com.uk/home/things-to-see-and-do/activities-and-recreation/river-tourism
|Note to Editors: Whether you prefer to spend your time experiencing culture, pursuing an activity or enjoying typical French hospitality, the Midi-Pyrénées appeals to most tastes. Midi-Pyrénées is the largest region of south-west France. From Toulouse, The Pink City, to the banks of the Canal du Midi, the grandiose spectacle of the Cirque de Gavarnie or the Millau Viaduct, authentic villages oozing with character such as Saint-Cirque Lapopie and exuberant festivals like Jazz in Marciac, explore all the possibilities that Midi-Pyrénées offers. The region is easily accessible from the UK with direct flights from London Stansted to Rodez and from London Gatwick, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Dublin to Toulouse. For more information, visit www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk or call +33 561 13 55 12.
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