Canal Du Midi Cycling Information

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  • The Canal Royal Du Languedoc Yesterday (click here to open!)


    The Canal Du Midi is cycled by people from all over the world each year.


    It is the oldest canal in Europe and the first canal in the world to use locks, who were invented by Leonardo Da Vinci when he lived his last years in France.


    As such the UNESCO Organization has put it on its list of World Heritage Sites (1996).  World Heritage Sites are an important part of UNESCO's task which is to promote Peace. Therefore, it has selected important creations of mankind worldwide to be protected for all of eternity.  Other sites on this list include The Taj Mahal, Acropolis (Greece), and Easter Island. The Canal Du Midi was selected because of its importance as a mechanical and engineering advancement for humanity and also because of the way it is integrated into the landscape.  The Canal du Midi influenced all the canals that were to follow, for example the Erie Canal, The Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. The best description of the Canal Du Midi can be quoted  directly from the UNESCO site:


    unesco symbol



    "This 360-km network of navigable waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels, etc.) is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering in modern times. Built between 1667 and 1694, it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution. The care that its creator, Pierre-Paul Riquet, took in the design and the way it blends with its surroundings turned a technical achievement into a work of art." (link)


    "The canal is especially attractive because it is not cut out in a straight line like a commercial ditch, but follows the natural contours of the land, thereby both saving money and being more natural to the eye."

    (source: Thomas Jefferson on wine, by John R. Hailman, p. 102)


  • The Canal Du Midi Today (click here to open!)


    UNESCO's budget is about 3 million US dollars  per year, which is very small for a world organization


    They do not have enough money to maintain the canal or post signs along it.  This job is left to the local government, specifically the VNF, or Voie Navigable de France (French Waterway Agency.)  Therefore, there are NO signs, NO multilingual boards with historical information, NO paved cycle paths.  This means that you will get muddy when cycling during or after rain.

    Rain luckily is rare in the summer months.


    The Canal du Midi recently received a government grant of over 230 million euro specifically for work to be completed over the next FIVE years (link).


    Improvements are coming.  For example, the Nine Locks (the masterpiece of the Canal Du Midi) located in Beziers have been closed for a year to be fully renovated and updated (link) at a cost of 12 million euros!  The new tourist information office located at that site will now even have a real movie theatre to watch the history of the Canal Du Midi.  Also several new pedestrian bridges will be added, benches to sit on for people, and nice plants.  Also the new tourist office will offer a superb view of the city of Beziers.  This 12 million did not come from the new grant, but from another grant before it.


    renovation of 9 locks beziers

    Future view of 9 Locks in Beziers


    Security also seems to be getting more attention now.  For example, more and more locks are having ropes put up along their edges to keep people from falling into the canal! They are slowly roping off the entire canal so to speak.


    Until the Canal is finished undergoing its face lift, a map, various books, and maybe some smart-phone applications are good to have.


    There are many interesting things to see very close the the Canal Du Midi that you would miss if you go unprepared (remember there are no signs; although as you can find out on this site there are arrows you can use to follow the canal).  For example, a weird village close to Toulouse where a man tried to build a sort of Utopia with a unique château in the middle of it. (link and photo below).  Every house in his utopia was influenced by architectural styles from around the world. It is fun to see!

    utopian village close to toulouse

    Utopian village




  • Your Canal Du Midi Bike Trip Tomorrow (click here to open!)


    Tomorrow your plane is leaving and you still have to pack!  You just found this site so keep on reading, you can pack later.


    Please keep reading and find out how to get the most of your bicycle trip and to discover the beauty of the Canal Du Midi.  After your bike trip, once you have unpacked, please drop us a line or two about your experiences using the form on this website.


    Keep reading if, for example, you want to learn about a system of "signs" that you can follow all along the Canal Du Midi.

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