Canal du Midi
In 1662, Pierre Paul Riquet convinced Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Minister for the Economy and the King Louis XIV to finance 80% of his ambitious project to construct a canal linking the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea, from the Garonne canal to Narbonne. He invested a personal fortune in the construction which lasted from 1666 to 1681. The canal was opened a year after his death.
It is hard to believe that such a complex construction dates back to the 17th century. Workers on the project benefited from the first social security system to be introduced in France. Water sources were linked high up in the Montagne Noire to the watershed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean at the Seuil de Naurouze. Gently declining streams lead water down the mountain in a perfectly calculated slope to a series of lakes which were built to stock water to compensate for variations in the climate and rainfall.
The canal itself, now entirely dedicated to tourism and pleasure, necessitated 63 locks, 126 bridges, 55 aqueducts, 7 canal bridges and 6 barrages. The canal’s mountain streams (rigoles) run through majestic landscapes of beech woods where the trickling of water composes a particularly peaceful environment. In the valley, the canal curves through fields and vineyards where a hauling path is preserved for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.