Your Canal Du Midi Cycling Holidays Experts!
The Canal Du Midi runs from the city of Toulouse down to the Mediterranean port of Sète. The Canal Du Midi is considered an extraordinary 17th century feat of engineering and as such has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The Canal Du Midi is part of the Canal des Deux Mers (Canal of the two seas); the other part being Canal de Garonne which runs from Toulouse to Bordeaux. The entire length of the Canal des Deux Mers (Bordeaux to Sète) is 525 Km, and can be cycled with ease. The Canal Du Midi measures 240 Km in length. Its main aim was to transport wheat, wine and textiles while avoiding the dangerous waters around Gibraltar.
The Romans were the first to contemplate a waterway joining the Atlantic to the Mediterranean but were unsuccessfull in finding a way to make this happen. Later, Charlemagne also revisited this idea but abandoned it after carefull studies. Finally, a Béziers native called Pierre-Paul Riquet started looking into the problem during the 1600's. Paul Riquet was a tax collector for Louis XIV, and as such build up a considerable fortune for himself as well. However, most of this money he spend to construct the Canal Du Midi, hoping to gain money from charging tolls upon its completion.
The main problem that had to be solved was finding the water to feed the canal. Riquet solved this centuries old problem by creating a huge dam and artificial reservoir, the Bassin de St Ferréol in the Black Mountains. This lake was the largest man-made lake at the time. The water from this reservoir feeds the canal at Seuil de Naurouze, about 10 Km east of Castelnaudary. This is the highest point along the canal at 189 meters above sea level. This is also the continental divide of France; rain falling to the east will flow to the Mediterranean, and rain falling to the west will flow to the Atlantic.
The canal was a masterpiece of both hydraulic and structural engineering, and took 12,000 labourers to build. Paul Riquet took good care of his workers and paid both men and women the same salary, unique for the 17th Century. Days off due to rain, bank holidays, Sunday and sickness leaves were all paid. Lodging for the workers was provided for a nominal fee as well. Construction was started in 1667 and it was opened officially as the Canal Royal de Languedoc on May 15, 1681. Unfortunally, Paul Riquet passed away a few months before this grand opening.
Riquet’s dream of reaching the Atlantic only came true two centuries later, when his canal was linked to the Canal du Garonne. The Canal Royal was renamed the Canal du Midi during the Revolution, and by 1856 it carried 111,000 metric tonnes of cargo a year. But commerce dried up almost overnight after the Bordeaux to Sète railway line was opened in the 1860’s.
The canal had a renaissance in the early 1990’s, thanks in no small part to tourists who fell in love with its combination of beauty, nature and engineering prowess.
It has 91 écluses (locks) which serve to ascend and descend the canal a total of 189 meters. It has 328 structures, including bridges, dams and even a tunnel. Its length is 240 Km.
(Click to enlarge)
Relax Bike Tours & Rentals, Béziers France: High quality bicycles for Canal Du Midi
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Rent A Bike Canal du Midi : Toulouse - Castelnaudary - Carcassonne - Narbonne - Béziers - Agde - Sète
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