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Distance: 14 Km
Toulouse is the most boring part of the Canal Du Midi, and as a city it has not much to offer to its visitors. Its main attraction is the space museum. If you are on a limited schedule, it would be best to avoid Toulouse and start or end your Canal Du Midi bike tour elsewhere.
Toulouse is also the bike theft capital of the Occitan province of France. Professional bike thieves with specialized tools are able to break open every possible bike lock in under a minute. Less gifted thieves will simply steal your wheels if they have not been locked down properly! Yet other hooligans will simply bend your wheel for the sheer joy of it. If you are on a bike, Toulouse is best avoided.
Furthermore, the Canal Du Midi towpath between Toulouse and Castelnaudary is paved, which turns this part of the towpath into a racetrack for every Tour de France wannabee in Toulouse. They will fly by you at ridiculous speeds, and get mad at you if you do not move! They do not use bells of course. And there are a lot of these racers, you will see one every minute on average. This part of the towpath from Toulouse to Castelnaudary is thus not at all relaxing. The towpath's close proximity to the highway further diminishes its touristic interest. Constant noise from cars, motorcycles, trucks carrying loudly flapping sheets of plastic, etc etc...it is just as bad as the first cycle day out of Toulouse heading towards the Atlantic Ocean. The cyclists in fact share the same rest stops as these highway travelers (at least there are bathrooms). Even 100 years ago, National Geographic noted that Toulouse was "commonplace and disconsolate-looking, as if depleted by centuries of sunstroke." (link)
Bike paths in Toulouse are poor and consist only of painted symbols on the busy downtown streets. Rats are abundant, as are people high on drugs. Security is low. Green spaces are absent, as previous administrations in Toulouse sold them to make space for ugle high rise buildings. Source: http://www.ville-ideale.com/toulouse_31555.php
The section from Toulouse to Trebes is the oldest part of the Canal Du Midi. Construction began in 1666 and was financed by Paul Riquet himself. As soon as this part of the canal was filled with water, the mail boat (which also moved paying passengers) started its service from Toulouse to Castelnaudary. This trip by mail boat took only 1 day.
This part of the route is paved. It start at the Ponts Jumeaux in Toulouse. You start cycling along the north bank of the Canal Du Midi. If you are spending some time in Toulouse you might want to download the Toulouse bicycle map.
Km 0.0 Ponts Jumeaux, Toulouse. Follow the bike path along the northside of the Canal Du Midi, following the direction of Rangueil (university complex).
Km 2.2 Rue Matabiau, cross over bridge to southside of Canal Du Midi. If you miss this turn, you can also continue to the train station, and cross the canal there.
Km 8.2 After having crossed the aquaduct accross the highway, use the first available bridge to cross over to the other side of the Canal Du Midi. If you miss this first bridge, you can also use the second bridge, at Avenue du Colonel Roche, a few hundred meters away. Stay on the bike path along the north bank of the Canal Du Midi for the next 43 Km.
Canal De Brienne, Toulouse. 1768-1776 (date of first use). Also knowns as Canal St Pierre. A short canal that connects the Canal Du Midi and the Canal de la Garonne to the Garonne River. It is only 1560 meters long (0.97 miles) and only has two locks, one serving the Canal Du Midi and one serving the Canal de la Garonne. The original towpaths are still there. This canal’s original purpose was to allow boats to pass a large dam spanning the entire width of the Garonne River. This dam was build to control the water flow for the many mills located at the river.
Bazacle Dam, Toulouse. 1190. Dam spanning the entire Garonne River and used to control the water flow to the mills on its shore. The Moulins de Bazacle (mills of Bazacle) is now owned by EDF (France’s power company) and houses temporary exhibits. It has been generating hydro-electricity since the late 1800’s, providing enough power for 3000 people.
Ponts Jumeaux (Twin Bridges), Toulouse. 1774. These bridges are located at the very beginning of the Canal Du Midi. One spans the Canal Du Midi while the other spans the Canal De Brienne. The white marble bas relief is as old as the bridges (1774) and commemorates the linking of the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea with the Canal Du Midi. In 1884 a third bridge was added, crossing the Canal de Garronne. However, the name Ponts Jumeaux stuck.
Ecluse de Garonne, double lock, Toulouse. 1667-1669. Km 0. This lock served as the original connection of the Canal Du Midi to the Garonne River. The foundations were “fortified” with special medals depicting the king. The lock became useless after the opening of the Canal de la Garonne in 1856; boats now had the better option of using a canal instead of a river to reach Bordeaux. During the 1960’s the automobile became King in France and all efforts were put into making cars feel at home. This also lead to the destruction of the Ecluse de Garonne in 1973. There were even plans to turn parts of the Canal Du Midi into a highway to better please cars, but that plan luckily never matured.
Ecluse du Bearnais, single lock, Toulouse, 1669. Km 1.1 Height: 2.62 m. Named after the local neighbourhood. A mill was build next to the lock as well, to profit from the flowing waters.
Jardin Japonais (Japanese garden) located inside the Parc Compans-Caffarelli. Located between Ecluse du Bearnais and Ecluse de Minimes, on the south bank of the canal, this garden of 7000 square meters has been classified as a remarkable garden. Inside the park one can find different statues offered to Toulouse by its twin cities, including a statue of Picasso (not a statue made by Picasso) offered by the Russian city of Kiev, and a statue of an eagle offered by the American city of Atlanta.
Ecluse de Minimes, double lock from 1670 to ~1977, single lock after ~1977, Toulouse, 1670. Km 1.995 Height: 4.43 m. Named after local convent. Designed with straight walls instead of the rounded walls found in “newer” Canal Du Midi locks. A mill was build next to the lock as well, to profit from the flowing waters.
Pont Des Minimes. 1670. Bridge build at the same time as the Canal Du Midi. It allowed the vegetable farmers to carry their products to the neighbourhood across the canal. The Minimes area was mostly farmland in the 1600’s.
Ecluse de Matabiau, single lock, Toulouse, 1669. Km 3.255. Height: 0 m. This lock is no longer in use due to the construction of a new lock in the 1970’s, Ecluse de Bayard. The lock keeper house is, however, still present.
Ecluse Bayard, single lock, Toulouse, 1670. Km 3.538. Height: 6.2 m. This was a double lock before modernization work in 1978. Large concrete beams were added spanning the canal in order to re-enforce the lock walls. This is the deepest lock on the canal. The Orb Lock in Beziers is also 6.2 meters deep, but has not been reinforced by concrete beams. This lock is located in front of the main train station in Toulouse.
Pont Riquet, bridge, Toulouse, 1845. Located at this bridge is a statue of Paul Riquet in white marble from the Pyrenees. The statue was made by sculptor Griffoul Dorval. Dorval was a born in Toulouse, and his statue of Paul Riquet is his best known work. This statue dates from 1853. The statue of Paul Riquet in Beziers is a bit older, namely from 1838.
Port de Ramonville-Saint-Agne Located a bit south of Toulouse, Ramonville has two ports on the Canal Du Midi, one port being a technical port. It is the best port in the Toulouse area.
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