Hotel Barging on the Canal du Midi
Since the Roman era, a link between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic had long been on the minds of those wishing to avoid a trip around the Strait of Gibraltar. Charlemagne considered it in the 8th century and François I and Leonardo da Vinci talked about it in 1516, but it took a wealthy salt tax collector in the 17th century to bring it to pass.
Pierre Paul Riquet (1604-1680) of Béziers supplied the vision, the drive, and even part of the financing for the Canal du Midi. In 1666, an edict by Louis XIV proclaimed that construction could begin. Seven million cubic meters of earth were excavated for the project, and today it provides the backdrop to many unforgettable French canal holidays.
Of course, it wasn’t really built for boating experiences – it also enabled more efficient goods transportation, added to the mobility of the French navy and was also intended to bring glory to Le Roi Soleil, Louis XIV, the Sun King.
The Canal du Midi covers 150 miles and includes 328 structures such as locks, tunnels, bridges and aqueducts. The 63 locks include double, triple, quadruple and sextuple staircase locks – you’ll see all of this and more on French canal holidays.
Few things have changed about this waterway since its creation. Lock gates are steel rather than timber, an aqueduct was built to create a waterway over the River Orb, and a “water slope” was built at Béziers to allow boats to avoid the sixrise staircase. Besides this, it completely retains its heritage, and in 1996 it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The high quality of construction here is responsible for making the Canal du Midi the oldest of its kind in Europe still functioning. It remains not only functional, but of high quality, making it the most popular waterway in France and perfect for luxury French canal holidays.
Cruising the Canal du Midi on your next trip? Here are our best picks along this iconic waterway. Read More