Cycling The Canal Du Midi: Castelnaudary to Carcassonne

We left Castelnaudary in gloomy dark skies and a light mist.  I thought I was in the South of France, the home to 360 days of sunshine a year!  Everywhere we go, everyone says the same thing:  never seen weather like this before!  Great!  Poor trip timing on my part. Despite the steady mist, the weather never got any worse all day, which was a really good thing.

View along the Canal

View along the Canal

We started our way along the Canal du Midi.  The Canal was full of  boat traffic, lots of vacationers excited to begin their floating vacations down the Canal. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what part of this type of vacation is appealing to people. Navigating a boat in, around and through the locks is a lot of work. Most of the boaters we passed definitely did not look like they were having fun.  Actually when we saw them at the first few locks, most of them looked terrified.

Locks in Action

Locks in Action

But back to me and bicycling the Canal Du Midi.  I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the towpath along the Canal.  Maybe all of the bad reports I had received  lowered my expectations of what to expect. Nonetheless, the towpath from  Carcassonnee to Bram was good. For the first 25  km, the conditions were comparable to cycling along the Burgundy Canal or the I’lle et Rance Canal.  There was great variation in the quality of surfaces, but generally it was pleasant and easy to cycle on.

A Million $$ View

A Million $$ View

In between the rain drops, we stopped on a small bridge along the Canal to have a mini picnic.  We were lucky to meet Cristl and Dieter Graue, a local couple who were out walking the Canal. Transplants from Germany, the Graues relocated to France more than 12 years ago and bought the old mill in their village and renovated it.  We shared stories about travel in France.  It was such fun and they were such a lovely couple. We imagined that if we lived close we would become great friends. Meeting them was a highlight of the day.

Christl and Dieter Graue

Christl and Dieter Graue

After Bram, the condition of the path deteriorated. Recent rains had left some parts of the towpath muddy, making navigating rather frightening,at least to me.  Along this part of the path, one abrupt move could result in a trip into the water of the Canal du Midi.  Since it really wasn’t safe to ride this part of the Canal, and we really were to found of the idea of walking until the trail improved, we looked for a small agricultural road we could take into Carcassonne.

Before long we began to see the outskirts of Carcassonne, and for the first time all day, the sun started to peek through the dark clouds.  We passed over the Canal du Midi, and noted that the path along the Canal was nonexistent, just as other readers had reported.  We finally found our hotel for the night, the Carcassonne Guesthouse, the B&B with the million dollar view.  I can’t wait to explore The Cite!

The View From Our B&B

The View From Our B&B

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way….by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. I would agree that riding/piloting a barge would be a bit tedious compared to biking along the towpath. However, I’d love to try a bike-n-barge tour sometime that involved biking during the day & staying on a barge at night. It seems like it would be fun to have my hotel room follow me along the path.
    Do they offer bike & barge tours along this particular route?

    1. Hey Kevin!

      Nice to hear from you! I will see what I can find out for you. Most of the people we have seen have taken the 20 minute course required by the boat companies to rent the boats. Many of them seem pretty awkward. Saw a number of people almost crash into the banks today. Am sure there must be a fun way to barge+boat, but if I were to do it, definitely would want a captain to do the driving!

      Maggie