Day 5: Alzonne to Carcassonne (21.5 kilometres, 13.4 miles)
The fifth and final day of walking along this section of the Midi Canal takes you from Alzonne to the medieval city of Carcassonne. There is, of course, a further 130 kilometres (80 odd miles) to be walked from Carcassonne before the canal reaches the Mediterranean Sea at Sète but Carcassonne is a good place to stop and explore for at least a day or two.
The majority of walkers, cyclist and boats journey along the Midi Canal travelling west to east from Toulouse towards the sea but there is no advantage in doing this and you’ll often see boats headed in both directions.
Cyclists headed east from Écluse de Villesèque
As I meandered along the canal for the last day of walking, I reminisced over all the quintessentially French experiences I’d enjoyed on this visit – from tiny medieval villages (elsewhere in France), small village markets, oodles of gourmet cheese and fine wine, everything, in fact, except wandering through a vineyard. I hadn’t expected to spot any vines any along the Midi Canal when, voila! approaching Écluse de Sauzens…
My arrival at Écluses de la Lande coincided with the arrival of two boats travelling back towards Toulouse and provided an opportunity to capture their progress through the double lock.
The first of the two boats enters the eastern lock at Écluses de la Lande.
Now that both boats are inside the lock, the gates will be closed behind them and water released from the upstream lock.
When the lock is filled and the water level of the two locks match, the gate separating them will be opened and the boats will make their way through to the next lock.
The process is repeated in the next lock, raising the boats up to the level of the next section of canal.
And on towards Toulouse…
For those of us travelling east, it’s a short walk to the next lock at Écluse d’Herminis.
Écluse d’Herminis is blessed with a delightful outdoor café. Since this is 12.7 kilometres (8 miles) past Alzonne, the timing is perfect to enjoy a relaxing lunch and watch the passing boats along the canal.
One last look back up the canal from Écluse d’Herminis to Écluses de la Lande.
First view of Carcassonne – and the end of this walk.
From the canal, there’s no sign of the medieval city for which the town is famous. But before heading off to explore the ancient fortifications, spend some time in the Ville Basse (lower town) where you’ll find supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and all those conveniences you previously had to detour away from the canal to find.
If you have an hour or two to spare, boats leave from the port here in Carcassonne taking passengers upstream to the next lock – Écluse de la Douce – where you can experience life on the canal from another perspective and, best of all, without the hard work of navigating the lock yourself.
Inside Écluse de la Douce
The Midi Canal, viewed from the boat, as it heads back to Carcassonne.
No visit to Carcassonne would be complete without a visit to the medieval city. You could easily spend a whole day wandering the ramparts and exploring the museum and cathedral. Take a quick look around here.
To reach the medieval city from the canal – cross the canal at the bridge in front of the train station. Continue along this road to the far side of the park on your right. Buses leave from the bus stops here.
Between Alzonne and Carcassonne, accommodation is available in Pezens and onboard a barge moored permanently at Écluse d’Herminis (check here for a full list of accommodation options along the Midi Canal) but if you continue on to Carcassonne, you’ll find a wide range of hotels (including one inside the walls of the medieval city), chambres d’hôtes and a campground.
You’ll also find a full range of other services, including bakeries, supermarkets, pharmacies and ATMs in the Ville Basse (lower town) between the canal and the medieval city.
Overnight accommodation in Carcassonne
Camping de la Cité
Another day perhaps…around the bend and on towards Sète
Learn more about walking along the Midi Canal from Toulouse to Carcassonne
Enjoy a walk along the Midi Canal from the comfort of your armchair 🙂
Day 5: Alzonne to Carcassonne