Monday, December 24, 2012

Le Canal du Midi

Much like the Pont du Gard (built about 2,000 years ago), The Canal du Midi is a miracle of human ingenuity constructed between 1667 and 1694, which incorporated the need to afford easy transport of people and goods and to honor and appreciate the beauty of the countryside through which it meanders. 

On our way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, we stopped in Narbonne, the largest Roman province in Gaul around the turn of the century—the first century, that is.  Narbonne is now a bustling town that benefits from the vast wine production and tourism.   We chose Narbonne in part to break up the trip and in part to get closer to the Canal du Midi.  The drive from Lagnes to Moliets in the beginning of November had us edging near enough to see it but not close enough to stop to get up close and personal.  So we planned to stop on the way back, especially since it broke up the trip into two reasonable chunks, which made the drive much more palatable. 

The canal was created by Pierre-Paul Riquet whose design blended the 328 locks, aqueducts, bridges and tunnels with the vineyards, hills, fields and hills by framing the entire length of the canal with trees and other landscaping.  The 360-kilometer canal connected the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and was used originally for trade.  It empties into the Atlantic north of Bordeaux at the mouth of the Garonne and into the Mediterranean at Sête.  Today it is used primarily for tourist barges.     

It’s easy to appreciate the care with which Riquet executed his plan for the Canal over 300 years ago.  It is peaceful, bucolic and unspoiled. 

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