Across France by le boat
A WORK colleague told me a few years ago about a wonderful holiday he experienced in southern France.A
His family combined with his best mate's clan to hire a large motor launch from Le Boat and travel along the Canal du Midi for a week.
His enthusiastic recounting of a trip he rated as one of the best his family had ever taken convinced me that I needed to experience this unique holiday.
It took me three years to finally get organised, but the wait was worth it.
This is a trip you need to do with good like-minded friends.
Constructed in the 16th century, the Canal du Midi is a 240 kilometre channel that crosses southern France, linking the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans.
The waterway was closed to commercial boats more than 25 years ago and is now reserved exclusively for pleasure boating.
The Le Boat group seized on this opportunity and now charters a flotilla of different sized motor launches that ply the canal.
These include smaller 13-metre boats, suitable for just a few, right up to their largest Vision boats that can comfortably cater for 10 people.
These vessels feature three double cabins all with ensuite, a barbecue sun deck and a super large kitchen and dining area equipped with full size fridge and stove.
They really are an extra large deluxe caravan on water.
Our seven-day trip took us from Port Cassafieres on a 100km journey through quaint villages and some of the larger towns of southern France.
This is a "slow down" type holiday. Even if you want to speed up by putting the throttle down it will only result in the boats ambling along at around six knots.
You don't need a boat licence, but you are well advised to pay plenty of attention during the two-hour boat introduction lecture and test drive.
The canal is fairly narrow at around 22 metres and the bridges and locks you will encounter can be a little challenging, but that's all part of the fun.
You can hire some bikes to explore the villages, but we found the best way was just to go for a stroll. If you take bikes everyone needs to be a competent cyclist and you also need to remember they do drive on the "wrong" side of the road.
As for experiencing arrogant French wherever we went, it was just the opposite. Locals greeted us with a smile and many spoke enough English to be able to give us directions.
Like typical tourists we were always getting lost.
Stopping in at small villages each day, grabbing fresh baguettes, duck pate, local wines and cheeses, was a journey made in heaven.
Considering your Le Boat journey provides you with floating accommodation, cooking facilities and transport, the holiday is quite reasonably costed.
Grabbing a few friends to experience the holiday with you reduces the pain in the wallet.
Canal du MidiCanal du Midi
Nestled in the Languedoc wine region, the Canal du Midi is an ideal locale for wine tasting holidays.
You can tour vineyards, visit wine caves and taste free samples.
You'll see stunning cathedrals, grand chateaux, ancient ruins and medieval cities.
Museum fans will love Castelnaudary, Beziers, Narbonne and Toulouse.