The creation of the Canal du Midi was the dream of Pierre-Paul Riquet. In 1665, when he was already over 60, Riquet received the assent of Louis XIV to construct a canal to connect Toulouse to the Mediterranean. Ironically, the first ship passed through from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in 1681 - just seven months after Riquet's death. Your journey takes you gently and unhurriedly along a waterways renowned for its beauty and history.
From the magnificence of Carcassonne's battlements to the picturesque Minerve, a near-deserted village located on a promontory, where its inhabitants continue to cultivate their grapes for the production of one of the most popular wines in southern France. The crossing of the lake "Thau" - the village of Marseillan and the nearby Mediterranean beaches - make this a unique cruise.
Day 1, Sunday: Salleles d'Aude.
At 4:00 pm pick up at designated point in Montpellier you will be met by Athos captain and manager. In the comfort of Athos private air-conditioned Chrysler minivans, you will be chauffeured to where the Athos awaits you at her moorings. You will be treated to a full-crew Welcome Aboard, whilst toasting with Champagne and Mediterannean canapés. Once you are settled into your cabin, you will be invited to a 4 course dinner, prepared by our highly acclaimed onboard chef.
Day 2, Monday: Salleles d'Aude - Argeliers.
Enjoy your first coffee of the day sitting in a comfortable chair on the upper deck of Athos. While coffee is available at any time from the bar, continental-style breakfast is served, at your leisure, beginning at 8:30 am. The proposed morning visit is a drive to the famous Medieval double-walled city of Carcassonne. Your knowledgeable on-board guide, Dannielle, will offer the historical and guided visit making sure that you have time to browse those shops!
While the Captain gets Athos underway for an afternoon's cruise to Argeliers, chef will serve up another local 3-course gourmet meal (perhaps including the famous duck confit stew, Cassoulet. By early evening you have arrived in Argeliers, where Athos' mooring is beside the picturesque Argeliers bridge. There ought to be enough time for a brisk stroll into the village before Chef starts serving up her next delight!
Day 3, Tuesday: Argeliers - Capestang.
This morning's suggested visit is a tasting at the Oulibo - the local olive oil pressoir. After tasting those organic and wholesome olives (accompanied by a small glass of rosé), a short drive up the Gorge de la Cesse and into the hilltop village of Minerve is in order. Dannielle will regale you with the harrowing tale of the Cathar siege launched at Minerve during the 13th century. A long lunch and an afternoon of relaxation await your return to the Athos. We arrive early evening in the charming village of Capestang. Athos will be moored with a clear view of the flood-lit St. Etienne cathedral. The village is a 5-minute walk and dinner will be waiting on your return! Includes: (B).
Day 4, Tuesday: Capestang - Fonserannes.
After breakfast, take a moment for a stroll into the village square. The Morning Market is on, and there is time to explore the stalls of the local cheese merchant and butcher. Julian will get Athos underway in time to stop for a pre-lunch wine tasting at one of the few remaining traditional-method 19th C wineries, Domaine de Guery. As you ramble back onboard post-tasting, the table is laid on deck and another impressive feast awaits. The cruise route today promises spectacular views of the Pyrenees across the sunny, clear plain. When you arrive at the top of the Fonserannes (tonight’s scenic mooring), Dannielle suggests a visit to the old market town of ezenas. It is a 25 minute drive just past Beziers. Pezenas was the first seat of the Languedoc court.
The architecture is particular to the town because of the “Hotels Particuliers” or Mansions belonging to the Noble families who followed the court. It is filled with artisans’ shops, including painters, hat makers, and Costume Designers. Dannielle makes sure that there is time to browse, as well as time for the learning about the history. When you return to the boat, you can smell chef's dinner creations…tempting yet again!
Day 5, Thursday: Fonserannes - Portiragnes.
Why not take a side-trip to the weekly morning market in Narbonne? Even for non-shoppers, Narbonne offers much entertainment on a Thursday morning! Explore an excavated portion of the original Roman road, the Via Domitia, or, browse through the well-compiled Roman Museum, or, discover the beauty of St. Juste Cathedral, or, simply take a moment to blend into the scene: sit and relax in one of the many cafes. As chef and the hostess begin serving up today's luxury meal, Captain Julian and his deck hand are busy getting Athos underway.
This 17th century feat of engineering, the "Neuf Ecluses" (or staircase locks), is sure to impress! Athos crew expertly tie her up in each lock, and wait for the gates to close safely behind her before the water levels empty out and allow her to pass one locks into the next. But it's not over yet! Coming up next is the 18thC Canal Bridge which will carry the Athos over the Orb River. The evening's mooring will be just outside the small village of Portiragnes. The paved tow path and the many locks leading to this mooring make it an ideal afternoon for walking or cycling alongside the Athos. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6, Friday: Villeneuve les Beziers - Agde - Marseillan.
From the shaded and scenic mooring of Portiragnes, we get underway earlier than usual, cruising through the area known as the “Petit Camargue”. Bird watchers will be delighted by the Pink Flamingos, African Rollers and Bee Eaters that frequent the surrounding estuaries. After crossing through the exceptional “round lock” at Agde, you find that a spectacular (and appropriate!) seafood lunch awaits you, as you enter the open-waters of the Etang de Thau.
The Etang hosts Europe's largest mussel and oyster park. As Athos comes to moor in the port at Marseillan, you will notice the enclosure which makes up the Noillly Prat Vermouth distillery. End a perfect day with a fascinating tour of the distillery and, of course, a taste of Noilly Prat vermouth! Chef's efforts are sure to make this evening worth remembering! Captain Julian will join your party for your final dinner onbard this evening. During the evening, he will also invite the crew to make a farewell toast with you.
Day 7, Saturday: Marseillan.
Wave goodbye to the Crew, who have looked after your every need throughout the week. The minivans will now depart to the appointed destination in Montpellier. Includes: (B).
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