DIY on the Canal du Midi

By Ted and Carol Mullett
This item appears on page 46 of the November 2015 issue.
Our canal boat. Photo by Ted Mullett

We enjoyed Randy Keck’s 2-part article “Barging on the Canal du Midi” (Aug. ’15, pg. 55 & Sept. ’15, pg. 55). However, it occurred to us that ITN readers might be interested in another way to experience this masterpiece, one that is less luxurious, more adventuresome and much less expensive.

In 2009, also influenced by the crazy book “Narrow Dog to Carcassonne,” we, along with another couple, rented a canal boat for a 10-day cruise from Castelnaudary to Port Cassafières on the Mediterranean, with an overnight diversion to Narbonne.

There were a number of rental companies, but we used Le Boat (Clearwater, FL; 800/734-5491, and found their service to be excellent. They offered a variety of boats and locations. We chose a Tango boat, but, according to Le Boat’s website, it appears they offer this class of boat only in England now. 

The 37-foot-long boat had two twin-bed cabins, one bathroom and a lounge/kitchen. The boat could be steered from the upper deck as well. It was far from spacious but was comfortable for four compatible people. It also had bow thrusters, God’s gift to boat handlers!

Our accommodations were cozy rather than “spacious,” and our cuisine was Middle American rather than “French culinary experiences,” but we did savor fresh produce and, of course, fresh-baked bread, and we made occasional visits to crêperies. The boat included four bikes, so, along with walking the towpaths and villages, we could tour the countryside.

We found the lockkeepers to be very helpful and friendly, as were the locals we met in shops and along the canal. We believe this is one of travel’s great experiences, and we were pleased that we four senior Americans (all in our late 70s) could enjoy it on our own.

Like Randy, we wanted to avoid summer, so we went in October — perfect weather and no crowds.

While we don’t remember what we paid, we know we got a worthwhile discount for traveling in October. Of course, we also had the expenses of groceries and occasional restaurant meals, and there was a surcharge for bicycles.

By the way, in May of this year the four of us completed a 2-week narrowboat cruise of the Four Counties Ring in England, doing all 96 locks by hand… only now we’re all octogenarians!

Vero Beach, FL