The pink granite elegance of Toulouse to the extraordinary Canal du Midi: bike paths and tiny roads, villages, ports, vineyards and the sandy Mediterranean Sea beaches...
2017 per person price
|Classic Tour||1490 €|
|Classic+ Tour||1890 €|
* Price based on double room occupancy - please contact us for details on single room supplements
|1 Night Hotel Riquet in Toulouse – Club room||www.hotelriquet.com|
|1 Night Hotel du Canal in Castelnaudary||www.hotelducanal.com|
|1 Night Hotel le Montmorency in Carcassonne||www.lemontmorency.com|
|2 Nights Chateau de Siran in Siran - Classic room||www.chateau-de-siran.com|
|1 night Bastide de Cabezac in Cabezac – Comfort room||www.hotel-bastidecabezac.fr|
|1 Night La Chamberte in Villeneuve les Beziers||www.lachamberte.com|
|1 Night Hotel National in Sete||www.hotellenational.fr|
|CLASSIC + PACKAGE|
|1 NIght Hotel Riquet in Toulouse – Luxe room||www.hotelriquet.com|
|2 NIghts Hotel du Château in Carcassonne||www.hotelduchateau.net|
|2 Nights Château de Siran in Siran||www.chateau-de-siran.com|
|1 Night Bastide de Cabezac in Cabezac – Superior room||www.hotel-bastidecabezac.fr|
|1 Night L'Hotel Particulier in Beziers||www.hotelparticulierbeziers.com|
|1 Night Grand Hotel in Sete||www.legrandhotelsete.com|
Upon your arrival in Toulouse, settle in to your hotel and freshen up, and then take some time to explore this lovely city. The capital of both the French department, and the larger Midi-Pyrenees Region, Toulouse is also the heart of Europe’s aerospace industry, home of both France’s Airbus Company and also a great attraction park, the Cité de l’Espace. Its world renowned university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229), and it was already the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom in the 5th century! A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, earning it the nickname la Ville Rose ("the Pink City"), Toulouse counts two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Canal Du Midi, and the Basilica of St. Sernin, on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
You have a long, but easygoing ride today, as it is very flat, and almost completely on lovely, paved bike path. Pass your first locks and canal projects on route to the small town of Castelnaudary, built on the foundations of the original Roman town. It is hard to imagine the centuries of warfare incurred here, as you wander the lovely small streets, eventually loved by Catherine de Medicis, when, as King Henri II’s wife, she becomes Countess of the region. The port here is developed as one of the main stops for barges on the Canal du Midi’s route, with a large (7 hectare) water basin. Castenaudary is also the capital of one of the region’s great specialties, the rich stew of beans, duck, and pork called cassoulet! (please note, the CLASSIC+ tour rides to Castelnaudary, and then you hop on the local train to Carcassonne, for a 2-night stay there).
Continue parallel to the Canal du Midi, sometimes on the tow path, sometimes on tiny roads through small villages, all the way to Carcassonne. It is hard to believe that this town is real, when you first approach it from afar. The ancient city, or Cité, (a settlement here from as far back as 3500 BC), sits majestically high, and is ringed completely by its castle-like ramparts. The city and its fortifications were rated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. You'll soak up the view from your hotel, located right by the medieval walls, before wandering in to explore the cobblestoned streets and ramparts, or to sit in a café and watch the world go by before your dinner. (please note, the CLASSIC+ tour does a loop ride today, westwards along the canal, to the village of Montreal, and then back).
You have a relaxing, easy ride today, as it leaves Carcassonne and follows the roads and bike paths along the Canal (flat!). Your route takes you through a mix of villages with odd names, stemming from the regional language, which for centuries was not French, but the local "Occitan": Marseillette, Puichéric (with its 13th century church and annual pig festival) and La Redorte. You pass another feat of canal engineering as well, the bridge of Orbiel, taking the canal over the Orbiel River! You also enter the wine region of the Canal du Midi today as you leave the canal to head into the picturesque Minervois vineyards – perhaps stop for a wine tasting, near the end of the day, as your ride is almost finished... Your beautiful hotel, the Chateau Siran is in a tiny village in the heart of the vineyards.
Your ride today stays a little north of the Canal du Midi to take you into more of the lovely vineyards and villages of the Minervois. The scenery is really beautiful, and each of the towns you pass has its own unique personality. You'll arrive in Caunes Minervois in time to visit the stunning abbey there and to find some lunch. The abbey was originally founded in the year 780, though the buildings you see today are much more "modern" dating from the 11th to 14th centuries! The afternoon ride takes you past the site of the mysterious and surprisingly poignant dolmen of Saint Eugene, with its unusual covered passageways, thought to be a burial site.
At the beginning of your day, detour into the small village of Olonzac to explore this typical Minervois village with its circular setup. You continue along the Canal bike path all the way to Le Somail, with its pretty bridges, at which point you leave the canal again to pedal through the olive groves, vineyards, and flowered fields of the scenic surrounding countryside. You are headed for the hamlet of Cabezac, sitting on the Cesse River, with its natural still pools. By the hotel, using the river for power, is a working olive mill, where you can stop for a taste of the production of the "eternal trees". Night in Cabezac itself, with dinner at the hotel's excellent restaurant.
The first half of today's ride is on small roads passing through several picturesque towns and villages such as Argeliers and Quarante, before returning to the canal path in Capestang. Be sure to stop and admire the “Tunnel de Malpas" which allowed barges to continue their route passing along its 165 metres of tunneled underground vaulting. No one believed that the canal's engineer, Pierre-Paul Riquet, could complete this feat, and in fact the King even ordered that he stop, and deviate the canal's route. He feigned obedience, but completed the tunnel in secrecy, unveiling it only after his project was done. Enjoy two other feats of canal engineering: the Fonserannes locks, and the Orb Aqueduct (in effect a bridge, carrying the waters - and traffic - of the Canal du Midi over the Orb River). Near the end of the day, you pass by Beziers. Detour in to the town if you like for a visit – we provide a small walking tour, or return tomorrow if you prefer; your charming hotel is in Villeneuve-les-Beziers, just 5 km further along the Canal. (please note the CLASSIC+ itinerary stays in Beziers itself this evening).
You ride right to the end of the Canal de Midi today, saying good-bye to it, as it empties in to the sea at Agde, originally a Greek port town. Stop to admire the beautiful Renaissance buildings of this town, as wel as the Saint Stephen's cathedral. Along the way, cross over the ingenious Libron locks system over the canal, and ride through the town of Vias, with its market square and Saint John the Baptist church, made entirely from the regional stone. From there, enjoy the luxury of the beautiful new bike path that follows the sandy Mediterranean beach for 12 kilometres before arriving in the lively port town of Sete itself. Be sure to pack your bathing suit today as you will want to jump into the waves! Final night and dinner in Sete.
After breakfast, your Canal du Midi Bike tour has come to an end. You can take some time to explore Sete if youlike this morning (the hotel can hold your bags for yu) before getting connections out of Sete train station for your further travels. Bon Voyage!