Day 1, Saturday: Beziers - Poilhes.
From 4:00 pm we have the pleasure of welcoming you at the airport or at the railway station and driving you to Alegria. On the way we may pop into the City of Beziers to see the famous locks of Fonséranes. After you settle down on the barge, you'll a welcome drink of a glass of Champagne and the crew will be introduced to you. Alegria might even take you for a short introductory cruise, depending on the navigation conditions. We'll also explain you how the week will work and we'll give you the necessary instructions for your stay on board. We'll serve your first dinner and spend the night in Poilhes, our "home mooring".
Day 2, Sunday: Capestang and la Croisade.
Sunday is "Le Jour du marché" in Capestang: your French Captain, Olivier, will teach you all the secrets of a French Public Market. We may even find something tasty to buy for lunch which will be served along the beautiful bank of the Canal. The afternoon takes you to La Croisade underneath the lowest bridge on the Canal: the famous bridge of Capestang. Mind you head! We spend the night in a restful place a stone's throw away from an old 17th century stone bridge.
Day 3, Monday: Le Somail and Roubia.
Should you be interested in archeology, you can visit an exceptional site today: the Oppidum of Ensérune, one of the largest around the Mediterranean. This takes you back to pre - Roman times in the South of France, from the 6th century BC. Thereafter, we cruise along Le Sommail, one of the most charming villages along the Canal. Should you need a book for the week you can buy one from a unique book shop that has approximately 50 000 second-hand books in stock in many different languages! The evening and the night are spent along the Canal near Roubia.
Day 4, Tuesday: Homps.
In the morning we visit Minerve, a fascinating site and a previously fortified village in a very special rocky environment. Minerve was attacked in 1210 by the terrible army led by Simon de Montfort: the right time for us to tell you about the Crusade of the Albigeois in the 13th Century, one of the harshest stories of our past. After the afternoon cruise you'll be offered a dinner "à terre", off the barge. It's the perfect opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere of a French restaurant! We spend the night in the beautiful area of Homps, a significant harbor on the Canal.
Day 5, Wednesday: Pulcheric.
In the morning we drive through the landscape and we visit a beautiful town, Narbonne. Narbonne is full of Roman history and includes the "Palace of the Archbishop". You will love its Mediterranean and Gothic style. And we'll offer you lunch there. After lunch we drive back to the barge for the afternoon leg, up to Pulcheric, where we'll stay for the night
Day 6, Thursday: Trebes.
In the morning we visit the great City of Carcassonne, the biggest medieval City in Europe. You will be fascinated by the size of the walls and the narrow streets inside. You will be right there in the middle of French history! There also many shops where you can buy typical souvenirs to bring back to friends or children. After lunch we embark on the last leg of the cruise for the week, from Pulcheric to the area of Trebes. We spend the last night there after the "Captain’s Farewell Dinner".
Day 7, Friday: Departure. After your breakfast, it is unfortunately time to conclude this unforgettable cruise. We will transfer you back to the airport or railway station … so that you can continue your adventure in Europe or wherever! History of the Canal du Midi: It was the vision of Pierre-Paul Riquet to connect the Atlantic to the Mediterranean by a canal. It would allow the safe passage of goods and services avoiding the long and dangerous route via the Straits of Gibraltar. This vision was presented to Colbert, Minister of the King of France in 1660.
It took Riquet 6 years of arguing with skeptics and adversaries to finally convince Colbert, the most powerful man in the country. On the advice of his Minister, Louis XIV ordered the construction of the Royal Canal of Languedoc, which, subsequently, under the French Revolution, became the "Canal du Midi". At 60 and extremely wealthy, Pierre-Paul Riquet embarked on the greatest adventure of his life. Concurrent to the digging of the canal, Riquet designed a water collection system in the Black Mountains. He built the reserve of Saint-Ferréol to store the water.
Lateral canals brought the water to the summit of Naurouze thereby feeding the canal in two directions; to the Mediterranean in the East, and to the Atlantic in the West. Tragically, Riquet died in 1680, a ruined man, unable to see the fulfillment of his dream; a few months later, the canal opened. With the completion of the "Canal du Rhône à Sète" in 1829, and the "Canal Latéral à la Garonne" in 1856, the waterway at last connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean.
The Canal du Midi represents a huge undertaking for the 17th century: 15 years of work, 12 000 workmen including 600 women, 328 structures (bridges, quays, locks, aqueducts, tunnels, 45 000 plane trees and cypresses planted along the banks. On the whole, 240 km were dug by shovel and pickax between the cities of Toulouse and Sète. There are two principal uses of the Canal today: irrigation and tourism. The canal irrigates 300 million square meters per year. River tourism sees on average 400 boats hired which translates into approx 8200 passages listed at the locks of Fonseranes. Boat traffic on the Canal continues to grow, and offers a perfect alternative way for visitors to see the countryside.
The gastronomy aboard Alegria will vary a lot. You will taste some typical French local dishes as well as the best French gastronomy. Every meal will be accompanied by different wines, both local (the St. Chinian, Minerve, Corbières are becoming more and more renowned) and from other regions of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, etc.) straight from our Wine Fridge on board. You will never be offered the same wine twice during the week (unless you insist on drinking one that you particularly loved again!)
For your added pleasure, we set your table with different services for breakfast, lunch and dinner: from the festive one through the ethnic one to the classic one. When weather permits you can have your meal outside on the deck. Our Chef will cater specifically for you and might even share some of his cooking tips as he prepares a dish. And we will also offer you some meals off the barge in some excellent restaurants! During the week you can count on at least two meals on land
- Some significant Dates:
* 1667: first stone laid
* October 1, 1680: death of Pierre-Paul Riquet in Toulouse
* 8 May 24, 1681: official inauguration of the Royal Canal of Languedoc
* October 1996: designation of the locks of Fonseranes as a heritage site
* December 1996: The Canal du Midi is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
* April 1997: The Government of France classifies the Canal du Midi as a protected Site
* May 2008: the Exclusive Hotel Barge Alegria is launched.
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