Canal du MidiPort Cassafières to Homps ONEWAY

Port Cassafières to Homps ONEWAY

7 nights | 113.40km | 37 locks | Approx. 22 hrs 15 mins of cruising

Towards the western end of the Canal du Midi, the Embranchment de la Nouvelle branches off and leads you south to the attractive city of Narbonne with its wonderful spanish influences. On this itinerary, you'll also visit the working L'Oulibou olive grove, dine at a fancy chateau in Capestang, visit the very pretty village of Le Somail and taste the exquisite wines of the Paraza estate. The flight of six locks at Fonseranes will start your boating adventure on day 1 - you'll be 'lock perfect' in no time.

Suggested Itinerary

1

DAY 1 - Arrive Port Cassafières

0km | 0 locks | Approx. 0 hrs 0 mins of cruising

Arrive at base

2pm - 5pm

After you have arrived and checked-in, we'll show you to your boat as quickly as possible. Spend time settling in, freshen up and await your pre-departure briefing which will be given by one of our base technicians. They will familiarise you with the boat’s domestic systems and give you a hands-on demonstration of the boat controls and how to operate it. They will make sure you are comfortable and confident controlling the boat, as well as navigating the waterway, before you set off.

Explore Portiragnes Plages

6:30pm - 7:30pm

Walk down to east end of Plage de la Redoute (20 minutes) and then enjoy a pre-dinner stroll along the sand. You can't see any buildings from the beach so it feels wonderfully remote and wild. When you reach the Maui Plage Snack bar - exit the beach to find a cluster of restaurants to enjoy dinner at. (Note: If you need some provisions for breakfast, after dinner we suggest you walk back to your boat via the coastal road and then head inland along Av. des Mûriers (D37) where you find a Spar mini-market. However, you can leave your 'big shop' for tomorrow morning, becuase you'll pass a huge supermarket in Cers, just a little further along the canal.)

Dinner at La Côterie, Portiragnes Plages

7:30pm - 9:30pm

Enjoy dinner near the coast in this laidback local pizzeria. For bookings: +33 4 49 06 60 02 | la-coterie.negocio.site

Overnight in Port Cassafières

Breakfast on board

8am - 9am

Port Cassafières > Cers

9:30am - 10:30am

Approx. 1hr | 1 lock

Stock up on provisions at the supermarket, Cers

10:30am - 11:30am

The supermarkets is just 200m from the canal, but you'll need to cross a busy main road at a bridged intersection to get there - so please take care. Moor as close as you can to the concrete bridge. We suggest dinner on board your boat this evening, so make sure you get provisions in for this - the convenience store in Colombiers is quite small.

Cers > Villeneuve-les-Béziers

11:30am - 12:15pm

Approx. 0hrs 45mins | 2 locks

Moor immediately after passing through Arièges Lock

Lunch at L'Ecluse, Villeneuve-les-Béziers

12:30pm - 2pm

The chef here cooks traditional French cuisine, made with fresh and local produce, including oysters from nearby Bouziques. The 7hr slow-cooked lamb is the speciality and the dessert platters are worth saving room for. For bookings: +33 4 67 62 11 02 | restaurant-ecluse-beziers.fr

Cers > Fonseranes Locks

2pm - 3:15pm

Approx. 1hr 15mins | 2 locks

Keep on cruising past Béziers and as you exit Orb Lock, you will cross over the River Orb on the Orb Aqueduct - the largest aqueduct on the Canal du Midi with seven main arches measuring a total of 240m long, 28m wide and 12m high.

Ascend the Fonserannes Locks

4pm - 5:30pm

Approx. 1hr 30mins | 6 locks

One of Riquet’s most ingenious engineering solutions, the Fonseranes Locks. It’s a staircase of locks, originally composed of eight chambers in a row, which allowed boats to be raised a height of 21.5m across a distance of 300m. Today, only six chambers are still in service (the seventh gives access to the flight and remains permanently at the lower canal level while the eighth chamber is not used. 

There are strict times to pass through the flight. If you miss the allocated time, you may have to wait for most of the day, or overnight for the next timeslot. It will take about 1hr to travel through the staircase. Boat can ascend the locks between 10am - 11:45am (12:15 in peak season) and 4pm - 5:15pm (6:45pm in peak). This itinerary gets you here nice and early so you can get an early place in the queue. The locks are manned by lock keepers, who will squeeze as many boats into each lock as they can. They will operate the gates, so all you need to do is steer your boat into each chamber and keep your boat still using the lines. After you’re in the first lock, it is easier to send one or two crew members lock-side with the lines (when it is safe to do so) and keep them there for the duration. If you allow plenty of time and don’t allow yourself to be panicked or rushed, you will enjoy the experience. Just accept that progress will be slow.

Fonseranes Locks > Colombiers

5:30pm - 6:15pm

Approx. 0hrs 45mins | 0 locks

After the Fonseranes Locks, there are no more locks on the Canal du Midi for 54km until just before Argens-Minervois - this stretch of the canal called the 'big pound'. So, no more locks for the next two days on this itinerary, until you turn off down L'Embranchement de La Nouvelle on 'day 5'.

Dinner on board, Colombiers

6:30pm - 9:30pm

After a busy day of boating and navigating the Fonserranes Locks, we'd suggest chilling on board your boat ithis evening. Preparing your own meal and maybe fire up the barbecue if your boat has one (or if you've added one to your booking)?

Overnight in Colombiers

Breakfast on board

8am - 9am

Colombiers > Malpas Tunnel

9am - 9:15am

Approx. 15mins | 0 locks

Just outside Colombiers, moor on the left just before the entrance to the maplas Tunnel

Explore the Oppidum of Ensérune

9:15am - 11:30am

Follow the path uphill, towards the The Oppidum of Ensérune, an archaeological site that offers a remarkable glimpse into the past, from the Bronze Age to the Roman conquest (6th century BC to 1st century AD). Follow the trail to discover the well preserved remains of the ancient village and 300 silos dug into the rock to store grain. The museum houses a fine collection of pottery and ceramics from excavations on this site.

This is also the best viewpoint to see the dry Montady Lake, which was once a marsh of stagnant water which once caused many epidemics. In the 13th century, the lake was dried out using 60 drainage ditches, which split this vast expanse of 430 hectares into the shape of a large shining sun. From the centre, an underground culvert, 1.3km in length, evacuates water through the hill of Ensérune, under the Malpas Tunnel, and away to the south.

Malpas Tunnel > Poilhes

11:30am - 12:15pm

Approx. 45mins | 0 locks

Begin by cruising through the Malpas tunnel, which passes under the hill of Ensérune and was dug, in secret, by Riquet. A few metres of digging in hard rock revealed very brittle sandstone, subject to slippage. So, work was stopped by the prime minister while he sent a royal commission to decide the canal’s future. Undeterred, Riquet began digging anyway and completed the tunnel in eight days. The tunnel is 173m long, 6m wide and 8.5m high – the first navigable canal tunnel in Europe. Note: There’s no room for passing other boats, so check that passage is clear first, and sound your horn before entering.

Lunch at Les Plantantes, Poilhes

12:30pm - 2pm

This highly-rated little restaurant is situated in at a leafy crossroads just a stone's throw from the canal. Sit on their cute kerb-side terrace, enjoy delicious French and Mediterranean cuisine and a receive a warm welcome from its New Zealand owners. +33 4 67 93 38 41

Poilhes > Capestang

2pm - 2:45pm

Approx. 45mins | 0 locks

Explore Capestang

3pm - 5:30pm

Capestang is a small market town. The Gothic St. Étienne Collegiate church was built in the 13th century by the same team who built the cathedral in Narbonne. It was meant to be a lot bigger and grander, but it was never finished, hence the rather ‘out-of-place’ grandeur of the stained-glass windows and other features. It is worth paying for a tour, which grants you access to the bell tower, from which magnificent views over the Cevennes foothills, the Pyrenees and the Oppidum of Ensérune can be enjoyed. This ancient Archbishop's Castle was the Archbishop of Narbonne’s summer residence and, while it’s not much to look at from the outside, it’s worth a visit to see the palace staterooms and a ceiling adorned with 15th century paintings.

Dinner at Château Les Carrasses, Capestang

7:30pm - 9:30pm

This old wine château from the 19th century welcomes you to its brasserie or terrace overlooking the garden and the surrounding vineyards. It is most definitely worth taking the time to get here if you want somewhere extra special to dine. The food is, without question, sublime. In the Château’s shop, you will find regional wines and homemade jams, tapenade, olives and crafts. Located 2.6km from the canal in Route de Capestang. Booking recommended. Call them and they will come and collect you from the canal upon request. +33 4 67 00 00 67 | lescarrasses.com

Château Les Carrasses offers a free glass of the estate’s wine to Le Boat customers when you dine in their restaurant.

If you can't get a table at the Château, or would like to eat somewhere a little less fancy and closer to your moorings, we'd recommend Le Provence, a restaurant and pizzeria serving simple but delicious fair and scrumptious ice cream for dessert. Especially recommended for families with younger children. +33 4 67 93 36 54 | leprovence.restaurant

Overnight in Capestang

Breakfast on board

8am - 9am

Capestang > Le Somail

9am - 12noon

Approx. 3hrs | 0 locks

As you leave Capestang, the stone bridge you pass under has the reputation of being the lowest on the canal (the lowest is actually in Carcassonne). Its curved shape makes it quite tricky to pass under – so take it slow and steady.

In Le Somail, there may be room to moor at the Nicols moorings - €20 including electric hook-up and water. When you arrive, we recommend ordering bread and pastries for your morning breakfast from the grocery barge: +33 6 69 53 6718

Lunch on board, Le Somail

12noon - 2:30pm

After your morning cruising, enjoy a leisurely lunch on board and then stroll to Le Glacier du Somail for a scrummy frozen dessert. They open at 2pm.

Cycle to L'Oulibo

2:30pm - 2:50pm

If you added bike hire to your holiday booking, we suggest cycling 20 minutes to the north of Somail to visit the The Olive Oil Cooperative Oulibo. Or, the toruist information office (next to Nicols) may arrange a taxi for you.

Explore The Olive Oil Cooperative Oulibo

3pm - 5pm

Enjoy a 1.5hr guided tour (afternoon tours start at 3pm) through the olive groves to learn about farming olives and the production of olive oil, including a sound and light show and tasting. Book a tour in advance: 04 68 41 88 84 or loulibo.com/guided-visit

L'Oulibo offers a free guided tour (per family) and 5% discount in their shop, to Le Boat customers.

Cycle back to your boat in Le Somail

5pm - 5:30pm

Explore Le Somail

5:30pm - 6:30pm

Take some time before dinner to wander around this pretty little Languedoc town that is home to quality restaurants and a couple of art galleries. The antiquarian bookstore (“Le Trouve Tout du Livre”, which literally translates as “The place to find all the books”) is popular and opens between 2:30 - 6:30pm.

Dinner at L'Ô à la Bouche, Le Somail

7:30pm - 9:30pm

L'O à la Bouche is a beautifully converted wine cellar is the ideal setting for this restaurant that serves elegant and tasty French food and exquisite desserts - all home-made. They have been awarded the title of Maître Restaurateur which recognizes excellence and their commitment to quality. There outdoor seating is right next to the canal. For bookings: +44 4 68 46 00 09 | loalabouche-somail.com

L’Ô à la Bouche offers a complimentary aperitif for Le Boat customers

Overnight in Le Somail

Breakfast on board

8am - 9am

Visit Le Somail's famous Grocery Barge, moored close to the bridge, for your bread and breakfast pastries. It also offers basic groceries, drinks, wines and also a selection of regional products. They open at 7am.

Le Somail > Sallèles d’Aude

9am - 10:45am

Set off east, back the way you came last night, but turn off the Canal du Midi down the Embranchment de la Nouvelle. The first section is the very straight Canal de Jonction which has 7 locks in total, although you won’t make it through them all before the locks keepers go to lunch at 12noon, so you should stop for lunch after lock no:5

Explore Sallèles d’Aude

11am - 12noon

This is a charming little village and worth a quick stroll around to find the quirky Chapel of St. Roch and Le Calvarie, a pretty, roofed structure of stone walls and arches which is now a park for the people of the village to share.

Lunch on board, Sallèles d’Aude

12noon - 1:30pm

There's a good bakery on Gr Grand Rue called Boulangerie Solé if you need bread and for lunch (and some sweet treats for dessert oif course!) It's open until 1:15pm.

Sallèles d’Aude > Narbonne

1:30pm - 4pm

Approx. 2hrs 30mins | 5 locks

Carry on to the end of the Canal de Jonction, where you will turn right and very breifly navigate along the River Aude, before passign through another lock and on to the Canal de la Robine.

Explore Narbonne

5:30pm - 6:30pm

Enjoy and early evening stroll before getting ready for dinner. Narbonne has a rich heritage where grand and ancient buildings sit majestically among a network of clean, modern and lively streets and boulevards. It has a wonderful southern French atmosphere with a Spanish twist.

Dinner at Chez Lulu, Narbonne

7:30pm - 9:30pm

Make sure you book in advance as this place gets busy. The warm welcome, chic sestting, attentive staff and excellent food all give this restaurant a highly-acclaimed reputation. Lulu himseslf will often come and explain his menu to you. To book: +33 4 68 32 24 87

Overnight in Narbonne

Breakfast on board

8am - 9am

Explore more of Narbonne

9am - 12noon

The Archbishop’s Palace is an impressive-looking, albeit unusual, building. It has housed, since the 19th century, the City Hall and is now also home to the Museum of Art and the Archaeological Museum. You can walk up the steep steps inside the 42m tower and get a great view over to the Mediterranean and the cathedral - the third highest cathedral in France The immense interior is equally as impressive as its Gothic exterior. Be sure to visit the wonderful “Les Halles de Narbonne” which is famous across the south of France. This covered food market hosts more than 70 stalls: bakers, confectioners, butchers, delicatessens, fishmongers, greengrocers and wine merchants. Be sure to stock up for on board barbecues and picnics.

Lunch at Chez Bebelle, Narbonne

12noon - 1pm

Located in Les Halles de Narbonne, your order is announced by staff using a megaphone and then the fresh meat will be tossed to the kitchen staff from neighbouring stalls. Quite a show! Open 8am - 2pm. +33 6 85 40 09 01 | chez-bebelle.fr

If you'd prefer less 'hectic' surroundings or aren't big on meat, then try Chez Marius, not far from Les Halles. This wine bar serves delicious tapas style food, a great selection of wine and has a great covered outdoor space on which to enjoy it. +33 4 30 16 12 82 | chezmarius-narbonne.fr

Narbonne > Le Somail

1:30pm - 5:50pm

Approx. 4hrs 20mins | 10 locks

Back the way you came yesterday. Make sure you leave no later than 1:30pm - to ensure you get back to Le Somail beforer the locks close and to get a mooring space before it gets too full. Remember, when you pass through the lock and onto the River Aude, look out for the right-turn shortly after, which takes you through the lock that is the start of the Canal de Jonction. And don't forget to order more bread and pastries for your morning breakfast from the grocery barge: +33 6 69 53 6718

Dinner at Le Comptoir Nature, Le Somail

7:30pm - 9:30pm

Overlooking the canal with a shaded terrace, this perfectly-situated restaurant offers delicious dishes made form local produce and the vegetables are all grown on site. +33 4 68 46 01 61 | comptoirnature.free.fr

Le Comptoir Nature offers a complimentary aperitif for Le Boat customers

Overnight in Le Somail

Breakfast on board

7:30am - 8:30am

Le Somail > Paraza

8:30am - 9:30am

Approx. 1hr | 0 locks

On this stretch of the canal, you'll pass over the Répudre Canal Bridge, one of the only canal bridges built by the canal's famous designer, Pierre-Paul Riquet. By passing over the waters of the Répudre, it avoided the damage that its waters caused to the canal during floods. Completed in 1676, it was the first canal bridge built in France and is reputed to be the second in the world.

Explore Paraza

9:45am - 11:45am

Near the centre of the village and dominating the brow of the hill is Château de Paraza, which is where Pierre-Paul Riquet was housed while he oversaw the building of the canal. Today, wine is produced at the château and its owners offer guided tours and wine tasting. You can just turn up, but we'd recommend booking in advance. Contact: Lucile Danglas on 09 64 33 37 43 or  07 78 19 16 41 or email: [email protected] | €45 per person. The Château opens at 10am and its a 10 minute amble, uphill, to get there.

Château de Paraza offers 10% off boxed wine, to Le Boat customers.

Paraza > Argen-Minervois

12noon - 1pm

Approx. 1hr | 1 lock

Lunch at La Guinguette, Argen Minervois

1pm - 2:30pm

You’ll love this ‘finger-lickingly’ good barbecue restaurant - we regularly hear from our customers who rave about it. It’s al fresco dining only and strung with bunting and fairy lights at night. The food here is rustic, tasty and freshly prepared… oh, and the portions are generous too. The ice cream is served in vase-sized glasses. Booking recommended: +33468415196 | laguinguette-restaurant.com

La Guinguette offers a complimentary Cartagena (a local wine) to Le Boat customers

Argen-Minervois > Homps

2:30pm - 5pm

Approx. 1hr 45mins (+45 minutes for a walk and time to enjoy the view) | 5 locks

Moor just after Pechlaurier Locks and scale the short but steep path that lead to a look-out for some great view over the canal and surrounding countryside. Then continue your journey on to Homps

Explore Homps

5pm - 7pm

If the Parazan wines weren't to your liking, there's a great wine merchant, Les Maison des Vins du Minervois, just across the footbridge from our base. They offer a vast selection of wines from over 100 wineries and vineyards of the region and they will gladly allow you to try before you by. They are open until 6pm, Mon - Fri. maisondesvinsduminervois.com

Alternatively, 15 mintues from Homps, by foot, you'll find Lake Jouarres. Its a large swimming lake with a walking path around the southern half and perfect for a pre-dinner stroll.

Dinner at Les Tonneliers, Homps

7:30pm - 9:30pm

Cross the footbridge by the base and in a couple of minutes you'll be there. Dine in a beautiful and elegant garden setting serving fresh French and Mediterranean cuisine. Booking recommended: +33(0)4 34 44 20 19 | lestonneliers.fr

Overnight in Homps

Breakfast on board

7:30am - 8:30am

Enjoy your final breakfast on board before tidying and vacating your boat by 9am (unless you have booked and paid for a late-checkout)

Depart Homps

9am