Now this must be a fairly unusual sight. Madame is fishing in the Canal du Midi and her man is watching from the comfort and safety of the car.
Yesterday, after a rapid bit of shopping in Beziers, we took a stroll by Les Neuf Ecluses de Fonseranes - The nine locks of Fonseranes. And what a marvel it is. Needing to overcome the problem of a 30 metre drop over a 132 metre distance, the builder of the Canal du Midi, Pierre Paul Riquet, unfazed, built a staircase of nine locks. It is a stunning feat of engineering, especially when you realise it was constructed in the late 1600s, but as he'd already built dozens of locks in the earlier parts of the 240 mile canal, it can't have seemed too much of a problem. Here is a very good short history of the Canal du Midi.
These days, merely using the lock presents some boat-hirers with problems. It's obviously a stressful hour when you have to wiggle your big boat into a smallish space along with a couple of others, under the critical eye of people like me, who've never stepped foot on a canal boat yet know we would do all this so much better than the hapless twit on the wheel. Tensions run high and there can be very public fallings-out between members of the crew. The least onerous role seems to be that of hanging on to the ubiquitous dog while everyone else runs about shouting. Ali has thought it would be a fun thing for us to do, taking Kit & Flynn with us. Having seen the lock business, I cannot imagine how we could possibly manoeuvre the boat AND deal with two large and excited dogs. So maybe we'll do it alone.
This flight of boat-stairs is very sweetly controlled by a young woman who looks about sixteen. It's good to see women have their place on the canal.
If you're thinking of visiting the locks next time you stay at Le Couvent, there are some lovely walks to be had along the canal from the locks, and there is also a place where you can hire bikes or small electric boats so you can explore a bit further.