• Latest News Banner

Le Papillon - Canal du Midi

Beziers to Carcassonne Sept & Oct 2014

As you alight from your fast TGV train from Paris in Narbonne, you will be met by a member of Papillon's crew and then driven to her mooring spot on the Canal du Midi near Beziers. During a Champagne welcome aboard you will be introduced to the four crew. Time to take a stroll before settling in for dinner in the ship's dining room.


This morning's cruise will take us through one of the wonders of the canal system of France, namely the seven staircase locks at Fonserannes, just one of many amazing engineering feats accomplished by the canal's builder, Paul Riquet, back in the 1670s! After lunch we'll tie up between Colombiers and Poilhes and take the minibus to visit the nearby Etang de Montady, a circular 700-year-old drainage sytem of the surrounding fields; from our viewpoint it looks like an enormous bike wheel complete with spokes, and yes, it still works! We are standing on an oppidum dating from 800 BC and there is a small museum to visit before rejoining Papillon and cruising towards Capestang and our overnight mooring.

Today is market day in Béziers, one of France's oldest cities dating back to 575BC; this is your chance to shop with the chef and help choose the ingredients for some great meals! While the city centre has just been refurbished with millions of euros of EU grants, we should not overlook that this was the first place to be savagely attacked in 1209 at the start of the Albigensian crusade. From Beziers we'll head back to Papillon for a scrumptious bbq lunch before cruising past Capestang and on to le Somail. The canal is elevated and the views of the surrounding countryside are stunning as we wind our way along a combination of sharp bends, tiny bridges that Papillon can only just squeeze through and pockets of shade from the massive overhanging trees.

By lunchtime, we will have cruised over no fewer than six aqueducts - their construction back in the 1600s was revolutionary, allowing barges to cruise calmly over fiercely flowing streams and rivers below! After mooring in Homps and with siesta time over, we'll take a short drive in the minibus to visit Minerve, rated as one of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France". The location is dramatic, perched high up in an area of impressive limestone rocks and disappearing rivers. However back in 1210, this spectacular Cathar village suffered a terrible massacre inflicted by Simon de Montfort in the name of God and the Pope. As we return to Papillon driving through the Minervois vineyards, we'll make a stop for an informal wine tasting.

A fine morning for a spot of biking through nearby villages or easy walking along the towing path. Cedric, your captain, will choose a wild mooring somewhere near the village of Puichéric while your chef lays out a luncheon feast - a worthy reward for this morning's activities! This afternoon, a Cistercian treat awaits you; the Abbaye de Fontfroide is just a 40-minute drive away. Founded by Benedictine monks in the 10th century, the abbey later joined the Cistercian order in 1145. Not only are the buildings impressive, but so too are the terrassed gardens created in the 16th century, some with a Mediterranean flavor, others buzzing with bees and one with a white theme, evocative of the Middle Ages. Back on deck and some chilled Muscat aperitifs lead us gently to the dinner table.

Enjoy a lazy morning on deck cruising through the Midi countryside. Our trip out in the minibus today will be to visit nearby Carcassonne. One of UNESCO's most prestigious world heritage sites, the city boasts a double ring of ramparts and 53 towers, all saved from falling into total disrepair with Violet-le-Duc's restoration in the 1800s. The fairytale collection of drawbridges, towers and cobbled streets was reportedly the inspiration for Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty." Our cruise this afternoon will bring us to Trébes, where we will moor for the night on the edge of town for our final dinner.

After breakfast, minibus transfer to the Narbonne train station.

Note: The above description of a week on Le Papillon, cruising from Béziers to Carcassonne, contains similar points of interest as a cruise in the opposite direction from Carcassonne to Béziers, although times for excursions will clearly differ between the two routes. No two cruises on Le Papillon are ever exactly the same, however, since we always mold each voyage to fit the interests of our passengers. Whatever your passion is - golf, tennis, biking, walking, side trips in the minibus, just relaxing on deck, or a little of everything - we'll make sure you do.