The Canal du Midi was first envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci when he visited France in the early sixteenth century. The idea was to connect the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea via a link between the Garonne and Aude Rivers. The project, which was spearheaded by a Frenchman named Pierre-Paul Riquet, began in 1654 and ultimately completed in 1694, 13 years after his death. The total length of the waterway, including the river portions, is 360 kilometers.
Thousands of workers were employed (12,000 at the peak of the project), including 600 women when there were not enough men available! Together this workforce constructed 328 elements in this industrial work of art, including locks, aqueducts, bridges, spillways, and tunnels. The total cost of the project was over 15 million livres, and the result was a functional communications and transportation waterway that symbolized the power of seventeenth-century France. Its impact extended to the development of a number of canals across Great Britain and even America, where George Washington was involved in a number of canal development projects.
The designers of the Canal du Midi were very aware of the impact of this project on the local landscape, creating designs that were both monumental and elegantly simple. Today it traverses the Languedoc wine region, providing a scenic and historic backdrop for ten of our luxurious barges. While no longer used for communications or commerce, you can still enjoy the beauty of this transportation marvel. From the intimate Emma to the ultimate Enchante, you can appreciate the charm of the Canal du Midi while also sampling the delights of local winery tours, regional cuisine and stupendous sightseeing opportunities in medieval abbeys and hilltop towns.