Start of Cruise on Garonne and Canal du Midi#
The Garonne is a substantial river that flows into the Atlantic near Bordeaux Bordeaux, France and has been used for shipping goods for thousands of years, making Toulouse in important inland "sea" port. For 2.000 years an idea was discussed over and over again: To use the Garonne and a system of canals (now called Canal du Midi) to connect the Atlantic via Toulouse to the Mediterranean sea. The main problem was not so much the systems of locks that would be required to overcome the watershed, separating the Mediterranen sea and the Atlanctic, but to provide enough water for the canal. The problem was solved by the ingenious and very rich engineer Pierre-Pau Riquet (1609-1680) who built a water-reservoir Lac Saint-Ferreol near Revel Lac Saint Ferreol, Revel, France fed by water from Montagne Noire, a mountain range in central southern France.
The Canal du Midi is some 240 km long and first has to rise to the saddle between the French central Mountain massive an the Pyrenees at the Col de Naurouze, then going downhill, passing Carcassone and Beziers (the home town of Riquet) and reaching the sea in the Etang de Thau. Crossing this lagoon, boates enter the Mediterranean sea at Sete Sete, France .
The canal was completed by 1861, cutting travel time from sea to sea dramatically, and strategically important avoiding Gibraltar and the navigation around Spain and Portugal. Riquet did not live to see the opening of the waterway by 7 months!
With railroads and highways, the waterway has lost its importance for carrying goods, but is now used touristically for cruises and houseboats.
The building in the picture on the other side of Garonne is part of hospital.