Welcome to Hooked on Cycling Holidays and our cycling holidays in France. This particular biking vacation in France is along the Canal du Midi and is a level 1-2 self-guided bike tour. Toulouse is your point of departure for this journey along the ‘Canal du Midi’, which was classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The journey is one of exceptional beauty; the canal is bordered almost all of the way by plane trees, sometimes pine trees, poplars or cypresses.
The canal takes you through the heart of the countryside in both the Midi Pyrenees and the Languedoc-Roussillon region of South-West France. This region is a garden of France, extensive farmlands and of course vineyards as this region produces well-known wine. Make sure you take the opportunity as you cycle through the region to sample the wine. Also make sure you take time to explore the ancient cities of Narbonne, Carcassonne and of course Castelnaudary.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Hooked on Cycling that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the chosen activity and for emergency evacuation and hospital care.
Arrive at Toulouse and settle into your hotel. Toulouse is a wonderfully vibrant place and it is well worth spending some time looking around. For those who are interested, you can book an additional night here and take a cycle ride around the ‘pink city’ (the colour of the bricks used in many of the houses and monuments gave Toulouse its nickname).
After breakfast, begin your journey alongside the canal, passing through the city and out into the neighbouring countryside on a smooth tarmac track. Familiarise yourself with the many locks (‘Ecluse’) which abound along the route. Allow yourself time to listen to the many birds that spend their time around the canal, chat to the local fishermen and watch the tourist boats chugging ever so slowly through this idyllic scenery. Spend the night in a delightful two-star hotel on the banks of the canal, at Castelnaudary. Dine out on “Cassoulet” which has made this particular town famous throughout France.
This is a day which urges you to dawdle! One cannot help but feel at the very heart of the French countryside. The views along the tree-lined canal out towards the agricultural fields and to the Pyrenees beyond make it a special day. You cannot miss the fact that you are entering wine country, with plenty of vineyards within metres from the banks of the canal. The destination for this evening is a real treat. Carcassonne boasts two World Heritage Sites and is really unique. Spend time in the medieval city before heading back to your three-star hotel on the banks of the canal.
This is a quiet day, leaving the beautiful city of Carcassonne in the direction of the sea. You will cycle through pretty little villages and have the opportunity to taste some local wine along the route. There are a few things to explore today, in particular in Trebes the 12th-century church and a picturesque bridge at Orbiel. Near the end of today’s cycle ride, you shall be riding through some lovely vineyards.
You leave Homps by bike and shortly after the canal lock at Argens you follow the winding cycle path along the hillside to the village of Le Somail. This is a nice romantic hamlet to take a break.
After a short break, you continue to cycle along the Canal de la Robine to the hamlet of Capestang with its collegiate church, already visible from afar. From its inspiring tower, you see the sea and the 14th-century castle nearby. You shall also pass the Gallo-Roman remains of the village Poilhes la Romaine and the Oppidum d’Enserune. Also, admire the Malpas tunnel and the 9 locks of Foncerannes. These are evidence of the brilliance of the architect Paul Riquet, whose native village, the historic Beziers, is your destination today.
Although the sea isn’t really visible yet if you stand still you can already smell the sea! Now the landscape gets flattered and forms a mosaic of dunes, swamps and wide lagoons. It’s the habitat of the egrets that strut among horses and cattle. In this coastal region, looking like the Camargue, you pass the unique ‘Pont Bache du Libron’ and the round lock of Agde. In Agde with its ‘dark cathedral,’ you cross the Herault in the direction of the Thau lagoon. At the lighthouse in Onglous, the Canal du Midi ends. In Marseillan you finally cycle along the beach to Sete.
Today you depart from Sete. Leaving your bikes behind you. Sete is the biggest French fishing port, also well known for its beautiful beaches. This authentic town which is full of pastel-coloured houses with wrought-iron balconies is crossed by several connecting canals and the Thau Basin. In the harbour, you find an abundance of fish restaurants. Everything as fresh as can be! A visit to the large covered market is really worth-while. Here you can buy anything that has to do with food and drink and the products are displayed wonderfully.
By Plane to Toulouse.