Canal du Midi by Bike: La Redorte to Argeliers
To keep going towards Homps, cross the D 72 and follow the clay-and-gravel path along the Canal (It is in better shape than on the previous section).
If you've arrived in La Redorte via one of the branches of the alternative route on the north side of the Canal, look for either the main street (the D 11) or the D 72, and follow them southeast back to the Canal. (Try to avoid the D 11 once it leaves the village, and use the D 72 or one of the side streets)
1 km after the D 72, the path crosses the D 11. Shortly thereafter, you'll come to the Argentdouble spillover. A beautiful structure, both aesthetically and in terms of engineering (bear in mind, this is 17th-century technology), it allows excess water from the Canal to flow into the Argentdouble river below.
2.5 km later, you'll reach the Écluse de Jouarres. 1 km after the lock, the towpath crosses the D 606, a quiet country road that arrives from the other side of the Canal (from Azille) via a narrow stone bridge.
If you are staying at the H Résidence du Château de Jouarres, veer off to the right and follow the D 606 instead of the towpath. After 200m, turn right onto a narrow lane that leads to the hotel's gate on the right-hand side.
300m later, the towpath leads around an inlet that served as a harbor once. This area has been undergoing a lot of repair work, and some of the gravel track here may be loose and slippery. On its final approach to Homps, the path improves considerably.
7 km Homps
Starting at Homps, there is a cornucopia of accomodation options, ranging from basic hotels to charming chambres d'hotes and luxurious estates.
There are even more options in Olonzac. The most straightforward way to reach Olonzac is by crossing the main bridge at the port of Homps and following the D 2610 (which becomes the D 910). If you want to avoid the road, there is a better option: Continue along the south bank for 1 km and cross the Canal at the Écluse d'Homps. From there, follow a quiet country lane that 2 km later leads to the roundabout at the entrance of Olonzac.
Continue along the port of Homps, then follow the clay-and-gravel lane. Less than 1 km later, you'll reach the Écluse d'Homps.
To reach Olonzac, cross the Canal here and follow a paved lane north (where it forks, veer right, and you'll reach the roundabout at the entrance of Olonzac after 1.5 km).
Otherwise, continue straight on, past another lock — Ognon — and under the road bridge (D 11). Up to this point, the path has been wide (although pocked with potholes), but after this bridge the towpath turns into a narrow trail. Fortunately, a paved lane (the D 124) runs parallel to it — past the Écluse de Pechlaurier — all the way to Argens-Minervois 4 km away.
6 km Argens-Minervois
To enter the village, cross the bridge. It has 400 inhabitants, counting the chickens, but sports a lineup of chambres d'hôtes at every price point.
To continue, follow the unpaved towpath. If you prefer, take the Allée des Rosiers, the paved lane that veers away from the Canal. When the lane runs into the D 67, turn left to rejoin the trail, or keep going on the D 67.
Along this stretch lies the last lock on the Canal for the next 54 km: the Écluse d'Argens. If you've followed the towpath to this point, you can cut over to the
Allée des Rosiers here if you wish.
3 km after Argens-Minvervois, you reach the bridge to the village of Roubia.
Another option is to follow the D 124, which enters Argens-Minervois and takes you through the vineyards into Roubia. There, it crosses the Canal again to rejoin the official route.
3 km Roubia
CHMaison Roubia is a beautiful B&B with stellar reviews. You can eat dinner here as well, and relax in the pool. Cross the bridge and head straight, and find the maison after 50m on your left.
To continue, instead of crossing the bridge, follow the trail along the Canal, or the road that runs beside it (this is the D 124 at this point). You might see more traffic here — two cars an hour instead of one, but still, stay aware of motorists whenever you bike along the road. 1 km before Paraza, the bike trail ends, and you'll need to continue on the D 124 in any case.
3 km Paraza
Paraza, just as the previous two villages, lies across the Canal and is also reached by a bridge.
After Paraza, continue on the D 124 for 300 meters, then pick up the gravel path on your left, along the Canal. Parts of the path may be bumpy because of roots and subsidence. The path follows the loop of the Canal and after 2.5 km dumps you back onto the D 124.
You could also stay on the D 124, and save 1 km (and your butt).
3 km Ventenac-en-Minervois
To enter Ventenac-en-Minervois, take the bridge across the Canal.
If you want to go to Ginestas from here, cross the bridge and follow the D 26 through Ventenac, and reach Ginestas after 3 km.
Otherwise, follow the D 124 along the Canal, and look for the bike path to Le Somail that starts again in 1 km. The path surface here is clay and gravel, and is in relatively good shape. From here until Argeliers, the Canal curves north, so the right-hand side that the path follows will be on the east side of the Canal.
To detour to Saint-Nazaire-d'Aude (2.5 km from Ventenac), continue on the D 124.
From Saint-Nazaire, the D 207 leads to Le Somail (2.5 km). It intersects the D 607 at the entrance of Le Somail. Cross it carefully, and follow the paved lane beside it back to the Canal.
5 km Le Somail
Le Somail is bounded by two bridges. First, you will pass under a road bridge (the D 607), then you will reach a much more aesthetically pleasing old stone bridge (No! A handsome road bridge with striped-pattern masonry that carries the D 607). In this charming canal village, you can admire a row of lovingly restored barges. One of them houses a floating epicerie (a small grocery) — it is docked on the opposite (west) side of the Canal, just south of the old bridge, and sells regional products. Another barge has been converted into a B&B — the CHBateau Mariance, also on the west side, about 300m north of the old bridge.
There are also three B&B's on terra firma, two near the bridge, and another on the street that leaves the Canal towards the west. The excellent restaurant Le Comptoir Nature also rents out a double room upstairs.
The most intriguing sight is the Librarie Ancienne, an eclectic bookstore that is immense in proportion to the size of the village. It's on the west side of the Canal, between the bridge and the epicerie barge.
Three buildings down along the Canal you'll also find a tourist office.
gps: 43.266255, 2.903599 B&B along Canal. tags: bike-storage r:5 p2:59- p3:79- p4:89- Traditional French breakfast included, full breakfast €7/person extra. Directions: cross old bridge, first house on the right. Notes: on tripadvisor
To reach Ginestas from Le Somail, cross the Canal at the road bridge (at the south end of the village). Follow the D 607 for 100m, then take the paved farm track on your left. Follow this track through the fields for 2.5 km (ignore the side tracks that branch off).
To go to Mirepeisset, use the street leading west, pass the Restaurant Le Plan (which is also the site of the B&B CHAur Blan), and veer off to the right onto a farm track, which you'll follow for less than 2 km.
Ginestas lives in the shadow of its canal-side neighbor, but what it lacks in fame, it makes up with its inviting chambres d'hôtes, two of them in beautifully restored châteaus. You'll see the village in the distance as you approach via a paved farm track, which branches off the D 607 just after the bridge at the entrance of Le Somail.
Two B&Bs are in the center; CHChâteau du Puits es Pratx lies half a kilometer north along the D 26, and CHLe Vergel is another 2 km farther on — turn left at the intersection with a small iron cross, and follow the gravel track to the grounds of the château. (The distance is compressed on the map, but it's a flat, easy ride through the vineyards along a quiet country lane).
From Ginestas, you can reach nearby Mirepeisset. Follow the D 326 to the northeast, cross the D 607 after 1.5 km, then enter the village after another 1 km.
Mirepeisset is an underrated neighbor of Le Somail. The tiny village is nestled along the river
Cesse and has a beautiful 11th-century church. You can also visit a nearby winery, the Domaine de l'Herbe Sainte.
To return to the Canal, follow the farm road (
Chemin du Somail) back to Le Somail. As an alternative, take the D 326 northeast (across the river
Cesse and past the
Domaine de l'Herbe Sainte winery), then turn right on the D 1626. Be careful on this road as you approach the Canal. It doesn't have much traffic, but there is an industrial-scale flour mill near the Canal; watch out for trucks entering and leaving.
To continue from Le Somail on to Argeliers, stay on the east (right) side and follow the street between the ivy-covered buildings for a few meters. After the parking lot, pick up the clay-and-gravel path along the Canal.
There's another pont-canal up ahead, which takes the Canal along with the bike path across Cesse river. 300m later, pass under a road bridge (D 1626), or head up the bank to cross it if the path around the bridge pillar is too narrow and slippery.
From here, you can reach the CHDomaine de Truilhas, a country estate with rooms and apartments. Follow the D 1626 to the right (southeast) for 500m, where a gravel path to the right (signposted) leads to the estate.
Up ahead, the Canal de la Jonction branches off to the right, heading south to Narbonne.
Narbonne is well worth exploring and makes for an excellent overnight stop, as well. The trip along the Canal de la Jonction is about 15 km each way, mostly on gravel bike paths and quiet country roads.
Cross the footbridge over the Canal de la Jonction and turn left to continue along the Canal du Midi. You immediately pass under a railway bridge. The trail here is narrow and muddy, but up ahead there's a roughly paved but serviceable country lane runs in parallel. 3 km after the railway bridge, cross the D 5. The paved lane turns to gravel here, but is still preferable to the narrow towpath. 1 km later, the Canal takes a hairpin turn to the right, and you'll come to a humpbacked stone bridge.
7 km Argeliers
To visit the village of Argeliers, cross the bridge and turn left, passing a lone building, the restaurant Le Chat Qui Peche (a great place, but unfortunately it is currently closed). Follow the tree-lined lane, the
Rue du Port, which meanders through a residential neighborhood, then ends at the
Avenue des 87. Here, turn left. To reach CHLa Tour, take the third right, and head straight towards the
Place des Cathares. The B&B is ahead on your left, in the southwest corner. For the other chambres d'hôtes, continue on
Avenue des 87 just a few meters more, and turn right after the tiny park. At the end of this park, hang a left on
Avenue Michel Bernard. After 100m, the street forks. Go left, in the direction "Ouveillan / Capestang," for CHLes Trois Sources (100m on the right) or CHL'Avenue des Pins (200m on the left), or veer right (direction "Mirepeisset / Ginestas") to find CHLes Terrasses Occitanes after 100m on the right.
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