On a beautiful spring morning, we decided to put ourselves for once in the place of tourists (or rather sportsmen) who pedal along the Canal du Midi.
How do tourists apprehend the Lauragais? How do they feel when they discover it through this magnificent waterway dug with shovels and pickaxes in the XNUMXth century by peasants from Lauragais led by the tireless Pierre Paul Riquet? These were the questions we asked ourselves when we considered this bike trip.
A flying start
It is 10:30 a.m. when we start pedaling. The weather is nice, the sun is shining. A beautiful day in perspective…we are looking forward to it.
We parked in the pretty village of Montesquieu Lauragais. This act is highly symbolic, because in the rue de l'église stands the majestic residence of Jacques Duglas, who was a guest on the Canal du Midi at theNegra Inn around 1730.
So we descend all schuss directly from the Bridge of En Serny. Personally, I love this pretty XNUMXth century brick bridge which is reflected in the canal giving us the illusion of a perfect circle! The small houses that border it complete this charming picture.
The village of Montesquieu quickly appears on the heights: the bell tower of its church is recognizable among a thousand, it is typical of bell towers walls of Lauragais !
The sun shines between the plane trees and warms our legs. We are advancing on the paved bike path, along the canal. So far, no difficulty, it's straight and flat.
Five minutes later, the ducks greet us at theNegra lock. Many of them swim on the green water of the canal! We are still in Montesquieu: it was here that our famous Jacques Duglas worked. Today occupied by the base of boat rental « Locaboat “, the premises once served as an inn and welcomed travelers for the “dinner” (the meridian break). In the XNUMXth century, the Auberge de Negra provided an unchanging stopover for people going from Toulouse to Sète on the post boat. We also notice the small chapel, attached to the building, where travelers prayed one last time before getting back into the boat.
Birds and more birds!
At theNegra lock, giant nesting boxes have been set up to provide a refuge for the birds living on the banks of the canal. It chirps, it screams, it sings… they're everywhere even if they stay hidden in the branches of the trees.
Suddenly, between two plane trees, we see it: its gray plumage, its orange beak, its little ponytail, no doubt, it is indeed a heron cendré ! This big shy person does not allow himself to be photographed. As soon as we move forward, he takes off and it's a game of hide and seek that now begins between him and us.
Up to the double lock of Laval it's a free concert of songs offered to us by our feathered friends! This lock house deserves a photo stop: although abandoned (the days when the locks were operated by humans are over!), the place is very pleasant to take a short break: have a drink and have a bite to eat. The house, shutters closed, is isolated but we immediately guess the potential "charm" that it reserves!
We pass theAgals lock in Gardouch and its beautiful colorful houses. The bar Estanquet invites you to relax, but we do not let ourselves be tempted despite the appeals of our stomachs! A photo of the beautiful barges at the quay, and here we go again.
A little further, at Renneville, we pass on theaqueduct of the vaults ! At this point, under the canal, a small stream passes, the Hers. This work dates from 1690! In 2018, a major restoration campaign was launched, as the leaks were numerous and the sealing problems threatened the structure.
It's hard to believe that in the 30s, many swimmers came here to cool off in the summer! The Hers served as a swimming pool and diving boards were installed for all kinds of water games. There were even swimming competitions! Right next door, a guinguette offered dancing snacks and festive evenings.
Did you know ?
Plane trees felled, birds lost!
Since 2015, Voies Navigables de France has been financing a compensatory program following the massive felling of diseased plane trees along the Canal du Midi. This program consists of the installation of nesting boxes in order to offer birds a space to nest and reproduce.
This is how 1000 nesting boxes were installed along the entire length of the canal by the cooperative and participatory society, Symbiosphere, based in Fonsorbes. Nest boxes are monitored using an endoscopic camera 3 times a year (mainly in spring and early summer). This monitoring revealed that the bird nesting boxes were sometimes occupied by small mammals such as squirrels, martens, dormice...
Among the bird species observed along the canal, there are (among others!) the little owl, the starling, the woodcreeper, the nuthatch and of course, this rare and protected species, the European roller. Europe (on the Mediterranean part). If you want to dig into the subject, download the application " Canal Observatory »: you will be able to select the section where you live and know the species of birds that live there.
Well-deserved lunch break
Our bellies crying out for hunger, we stop at the next lock: that ofEncassan , one of the few non-electrified locks on the canal. Moreover, we see in the distance Didier, an employee of VNF (Waterways of France) who watches for the approach of pleasure boats to open the lock gates for them. By discussing with him, we learn that the profession oflock keeper is complex, since it is also responsible for regulating the water on the canal.
In the shade of a tree, we unfold the tablecloth to start our lunch on the grass. The weather is good, and the sandwich and the salad devoured, we leave immediately. The break will have been short-lived, but there are still a few kilometers to go!
We spin upEmborrel Lock. We stop to fill the water bottles thanks to the taps made available to cyclists. The place is deserted but clean and well maintained.
Finally, 2 km further, we finally see the goal of our journey: Port Lauragais ! This motorway rest area is not like the others. On the one hand there is an owl exhibition on the major themes of Lauragais (the wind, the pastel, the mills…) and on the other hand a beautiful regional products shop. We love a bag of crunchy (small biscuits) that we taste before leaving…because we now have to pedal in the opposite direction!