What is the itinerary on a 6-night barge cruise on the Canal du Midi in France aboard hotel barge Anjodi?
What is the itinerary on a 6-night barge cruise on the Canal du Midi in France aboard hotel barge Anjodi?

What is the itinerary on a 6-night barge cruise on the Canal du Midi in France aboard hotel barge Anjodi?

Hotel Barge Anjodi on Canal du Midi near Beziers

The Canal du Midi hotel barge cruise aboard European Waterways 8-passenger Anjodi, is a slow journey for 6 nights, as we travel through 24 locks, countless medieval tunnels and bridges in the 17th-century Canal du Midi and Canal de la Robine. 

Day 1: Embarking Anjodi in Marseillan & Overnighting in Portiragnes. 

My husband and I began our journey with a 1-hour transfer in a European Waterways van from Narbonne to Marseillan. We enjoyed the scenic drive through small towns and their wobbly cobblestone roads. 

Upon arrival, Captain Laurent, our hostess Zita, and Chef Mickail welcomed us aboard with champagne and canapes. We embarked on our journey within minutes following a safety briefing. 

Judi & Lawrence at embarkation toast on Anjodi in Marseillan

As we set sail under a beautiful pink sky, we entered our first lock, Ecluse Ronde de Agde. This is where there is one exit to the Mediterranean Sea and two to the Canal du Midi. 

While sailing on the Canal du Midi, we enjoyed our first French dinner, prepared by Mickail, our private chef, consisting of roasted goat cheese salad, chicken with a niçoise sauce, and a selection of cheeses, including Forme d’Ambert and Languilole grand Aubrac. We ended with a delicious tiramisu before overnighting at Portiranges. 

Day 2: Cruising from Portiragnes to Villeneuve-les-Beziers

Being an early riser, I was the first to arrive in the Saloon for breakfast. I enjoyed yogurt, fruits, bread, pastries, cheese, and charcuterie, along with hot coffee.

Soon after breakfast, we cruised past saltwater plains with migratory birds, including pink flamingos, standing in the shallow waters. 

Eager to get some exercise, we decided to hop off the barge at one of the locks as the water was rising. And then walked along the tree-lined towpath to the next lock at Beziers. We managed to do over 9,000 steps before 10:30 am!  

Judi walking on tow path along side Anjodi on canal du midi

At lunch, we had lentil salad topped with a poached egg. Followed by a Hake filet with a fennel confit and lemon sauce that was superb. And for dessert, I had the best rice pudding I’ve ever tasted.

Lentil salad with poached egg on Anjodi canal do midi cruise

After lunch, we enjoyed a Languedoc wine tour and tasting at Chateau Pech-Celeyran, which has been owned by the Saint-Exupéry family for over five generations. 

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, was a French pilot, and aviation adventures inspired much of his writing including a most notable 1943 book, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), a book my children loved reading when they were younger. 

Chateau Pech-Celeyran visit on Anjodi hotel barge cruise

In the late afternoon, we departed Beziers and headed towards the most famous lock along the Canal Du Midi, the seven-rise Fonserannes Locks. This lock earned the Canal du Midi its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

As we moved from lock to lock, our barge rose to the top of the flight of the locks where we docked for the night. And once we were docked, we bundled up and walked to the bottom of the steps next to the locks at sunset. 

Day 3: Cruising from Villeneuve-les-Beziers to Malpas

Following breakfast we departed with our guide Jules to drive to the ancient and well-preserved walled city of Pezenas. We explored the city on foot and walked through the cobblestone streets, alleyways, and through one of the old residential areas. 

Anjodi on the famous Fonserannes Locks.

Each building had wooden doors of all shapes and sizes that gave each of the old buildings a character of their own. In the town, there was a hardware store that specialized in producing and repairing wooden doors. We were lucky to see the famous craftsman busy at work inside. 

While we explored the city, we learned a bit about its history. Visiting the medieval Jewish District with the street names Juiverie and Litanies. We learned that Jewish families wee expelled from France in 1394. 

After our wonderful morning walk in the city of Pezenas, we returned to the ship for lunch. Then had the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore the area in the Malpas Tunnel. 

Village of Pezenas on Canal du Midi

At the information centre, they illustrated the history of the area of Malpas as part of the Canal du Midi. And we headed to a mountain that overlooked the Roman road and Roman camp.  Jules, our guide, drove my husband and me up to the top of the mountain while the other guest walked up. 

From above, as the sunset, it was the ideal time to view it from the circular fields on the dried lake Etang de Montady

Circular Fields at Etang de Montady on Anjodi barge cruise

Day 4: Malpas to Capestang

Early in the morning, we departed for Narbonne. And started our tour of the market Beaux Art Le Halles Narbonne with Chef Mickail. As he shopped for the finest and freshest seafood ingredients, he asked us our preferences. 

Anjodi excursion to Narbonne included shopping in the market

It was quite the treat to be able to pick our oysters, lobsters, and other delightful seafood for our lunch aboard the Anjodi. 

As Chef Mickail cooked up a seafood extravaganza, we explored Narbonne, which banks on the Canal de La Robine, a bit more. It is a sweet, charming and walkable city that is rich in Roman history. 

We had just enough time to visit Archbishop’s Palace, the 14th-century cathedral in the centre of the town, and to stroll to an outdoor café for an apple pastry before lunch was ready. 

cathedral in Narbonne on Anjodi cruise

For lunch, we enjoyed the fresh oysters, mussels, gigantic shrimp, and snails we helped choose. Which was accompanied by fresh bread and local wines, Picpoul de Pinet and Domaine Gaujal, and a course of camembert completed our lunch. 

The Malpas Tunnels

Anjodi emerging from the Malpas Tunnel

After lunch, we cruised through the historic Malpas Tunnel, the world’s oldest canal tunnel, dating back to the 17th century. The pitted limestone walls created small niches where food and cans of beer are left by boat captains and have become a tradition in the Malpas.

Beyond the Malpas, the canal was higher than the surrounding land. This allows us to enjoy autumn-coloured fields and vineyards with rolling hills and mountains in the background. 

Along this stretch, there were no locks, but there were many barges along the sides of the canal, and people were walking in the towpaths as our barge approached the 14th-century village of Capestang. We explored the cobblestone alleyways until dinner time.

Escorted by Chef Mickail, we walked to Restaurant L’Ambassade in the city of Beziers for a gourmet five-course dining experience with wine pairings. While it was nice to be in a restaurant, I would have been just as content to enjoy our chef’s cooking mastery on our tiny Anjodi.

Day 5: Capestang to Salleles D’Aude

Another beautiful morning passing through five locks as we cruised along the Canal de la Robine.

After breakfast, Captain Laurent gave me the wheel. Under his supervision, I had the chance to steer Anjodi along a windy area, passing several barges on the narrow canal.

Captain Laurent took back the wheel as we came to a sharp curve with overhanging trees. Which he called “champagne corner.” 

It took 3 hours to travel along this 25-kilometre scenic stretch of the canal. While this route took us 3 hours, it would have taken 15 minutes to drive or an hour and a half by bike!

The good news was that we were in no rush with all of the guests comfortable on the sun deck soaking in the picturesque autumn landscape.

I even got a glass of champagne and enjoyed the roof-top hot tub with a view! My slippers and bathrobe close at hand as the wind was little cool.

In the hot tub of the Anjodi Hotel Barge Cruise

We docked at Salleles D’Aude at lunch. By the middle of the afternoon, we were off to Minerve, the capital of the Minervois wine area in the Region of Occitanie. It was one of the most beautiful villages I’ve seen in France. 

As we drove towards the city, we caught glimpses of the ancient walled city hanging off the cliffs. Inside the walled city, we walked along the wobbly cobblestones, passing a few tiny shops. We came upon a church perched high upon the mountainside with panoramic views of the greens, golds, and browns of the grapevines, fields and trees.

Village of Minervois on an Anjodi hotel barge cruise

When we returned to Anjodi, we were surprised to be welcomed by a jazz trio, cocktails and canapes. And including warm olive bread and open-face cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. The trio performed against the perfect French backdrop of the footbridge across the canal, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Dinner was served in the Saloon and we all stayed up to the wee hours of the morning chatting and savouring fine wine and whiskey.

Jazz Trio on Anjodi hotel barge cruise

Day 6: Salelle D’Aude to Le Somail 

One of the most memorable excursions was our visit to the medieval city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most visited attractions in all of France. It is an outstanding medieval fortified town with defences encircling a castle. 

Main Gate at Carcassonne on an Anjodi barge cruise

We were lucky enough to be travelling outside of the peak summer season, so we were could walk freely without crowds. 

Upon returning to our barge, we commenced our last stretch on the Canal de la Robine. We made our way to rejoin the Canal du Midi. And set out to our final destination at a quiet lock at Le Somail. 

The Captain’s Dinner in the saloon was quite casual. However, a few guests kicked it up a notch with jewelry and nicer shirts.

Our chef explained each course of our final meal aboard. Starting with foie gras scallops with roasted fig and a light-tasting mushroom ravioli with langoustine foam. Our main course was Vitelli tomato, which was followed by a cheese course of Sainte Maure Epossie. And Tommy a la Truffe and a deconstructed Pina Colada for dessert. The captain explained the accompanying wines, a Chablis Domaine Laroche and Santenay Champs Claude.

Following dinner, we were entertained by the chef and a talented guest, Rick, singing and playing their guitars. We sang along until well past midnight. It felt like a gathering of family.

Day 7: Disembarkment in Le Somail & Transfer to Narbonne

Our Canal du Midi cruise was the last of the 2021 season for European Waterways. The lovely barge Anjodi was prepared for her Winter storage. 

picturesque Le Somai aboard the Anjodi hotel barge cruise

Incredibly a week passed by in the blink of any eye!

Soon after breakfast, we all got in a van for a short transfer back to Narbonne. This is where we bid farewell to our fellow guests. Our adventure continued with a slow drive from Narbonne to Paris. Including an overnight stay in the old Disney-like city of Bourges before returning to Canada.

Barging was a unique and memorable experience that is ideal for those who prefer small ships in off-the-beaten-path places. And are willing to embrace slow travel. I am looking forward to doing more hotel barges in France and other countries.