The Canal du Midi, a silky pale green liquid ribbon that slowly meanders connecting the Mediterranean port city of Sète to Toulouse is one of the most notable and oldest inland waterways of Europe still in use. The lofty dream of engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet to create a direct passage between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean bypassing the Strait of Gibraltar enabling farmers and producers of wheat, wine, wools, silks, and salt a way to export their goods for trade.
Completed in 1681, the 150 mile (240 km) Canal du Midi is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 17th-century. The Canal du Midi is a summit level canal, meaning that it passes over varying heights between valley’s and not in a lateral line, joins the Garonne that drains into the Atlantic Ocean to the Étang de Thou that leads to the Mediterranean Sea. The canal rises on the Western end 206 ft (62.8 m) and falls 620 ft (190 m) on the Eastern side by way of 103 locks, one tunnel, and 3 major aqueducts.
No longer a trade route, today the canal is now a dream destination for boating vacationers from across the world that yearn for the fairytale beauty of stone buildings and medieval walled cities. As you casually float the canal you will see fields of towering bright yellow sunflowers scattered between rolling hills covered with grape vines, and sprawling stone manor homes with red terracotta shingle roofs displaying gothic, Roman, and Tuscan architectural influences.
Watch this brief movie that takes you on a journey down the Canal du Midi and through locks (écluses in French), which allow passage both up and down the canal’s varying heights.
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