What time can we collect the boat?
Unless otherwise stated, your boat is normally available from 3:00 p.m. on the first day of your holiday, so please do not arrive at 1 p.m. expecting your boat to be ready. To ensure a speedy takeover please advise us of your expected arrival time. The boat must be returned and vacated by 9.00 a.m. on your last day.
Do you do one-way cruises?
Sorry, no. But with three directions to travel there is plenty to explore on an out an back trip.
What is the situation with regard to shopping?
The nearest Intermarche (supermarket) is at St Marcel, approximately 2 kms away but it is closed on Sundays. However, as a free service we can provide 2 sizes of "get you started" packs as follows:
How do we operate the Locks?
Put simply, you don't!! VNF personnel operate the sluices and man all the locks between Carcassonne and Beziers. Your involvement will be manning ropes fore and aft whilst the boat is in the lock.
Do we pay to use the Locks?
No, there are no charges. However, the lock keepers always appreciate the offer of a bottle of beer etc.
What hours do the Locks open?
This varies throughout the season:
- 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1800
- 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1900
- 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1800
- Lunch Break
- 1230 - 1330
- Locks closed
- 01 May (Fete du Travail)
Can we swim in the Canal?
Some people do but we strongly recommend that you do not.
Can we fish in the Canal?
Officially, you do need a licence. If you choose to fish without one it's at your own risk - you have been warned! We do not know of anybody that has been asked to produce a licence but the canal is not divided up between Angling Clubs as in the UK and, as far as we are aware, VNF make nothing from fishing rights.
Getting a special holiday licence (Carte de pêche et acquitter une taxe "vacances") requires a trip into the Tabac at St Marcel or St Nazaire and the licence is valid between 1 June and 30 September for 15 days and costs €30.
Are there plenty of canal side facilities?
Most of the villages you pass will have some sort of shop and these are individually signposted in the village or, where there is a cluster of shops, the sign will be for "Commerces". Bars and restaurants often have directions near to moorings. Additional information is available in the Fluvial Guide Number 7, which can be ordered when you book or bought at the boatyard.
Many restaurants do not open before Easter or the beginning of May and start to close down in October. If you are boating in early or late season, the boatyard will try and give advice on specific restaurant opening hours.
What is the water quality like?
In the South of France it is generally good. However, to be safe, we recommend that you use bottled water for drinking and cleaning your teeth etc. Bottled water is very cheap here - typically less than €0.25 per litre in a supermarket - as compared to UK prices.
Do we need to carry much cash?
You will need cash (Euros) on arrival to pay for your taxi, cycle hire and groceries etc. You will also need some cash on your last day to pay for your fuel. There are banks in many of the local villages, some with ATM machines. A separate list of these is included in your Boat Manual.
Can you arrange Airport Transfers etc?
Yes. We have established enabling arrangements with a local Taxi firm who will collect from Airports etc. However, if you are arriving by train in Narbonne, you are better off taking a Taxi from the rank outside to avoid waiting charges if the train is delayed (an unusual occurrence in France) but let us book your return Taxi.
Are there reasonable Hotels in the area?
Yes. You will find links on our website to some B&B establishments and there are a number of Chambres d'Hote within Le Somail. The Accor Hotels group (Formule 1, Etap, Ibis, Novatel etc) also offer a range of accommodation over a broad pricing spectrum. These can be booked over the Internet and are well represented within Narbonne, Carcassonne and Beziers.
Do you provide Hairdryers?
Yes, all the boats are equipped with a hairdryer.
How far can we get in one week?
This is dictated by the time of season and your preference for long hours of cruising. In early and late season, it is quite reasonable to set Carcassonne as a goal, although it is more difficult in peak times (June - August). A pleasant cruise would be from Le Somail to Beziers, return through Le Somail and start climbing the locks to either Homps or Laredorte before turning back to base again. This gives you the contrast of lock free and lock cruising, with the chance to explore some lovely small French towns and villages (Capestang, Colombiers etc).
If you are not an experienced canal user, you must remember that a full days cruising is only an hour or less by car. You can get a Taxi from Homps to Minerve or Carcassonne for the day, or from Trebes to Carcassonne at very reasonable rates. This way you get the best of both worlds, you keep your cruising relaxed and still see all the sights.
Are there Banking Facilities near to the Canal and Le Somail?
This information sheet is based on data provided by the Credit Agricole website. There are other banking chains but CA ATM machines are easy to use with an English language option, normally allow up to €450 withdrawal on Visa cards and are well maintained. The ATM facilities are the easiest to use but Branch Counter hours are included for your information.
Some smaller villages will have part-time branches but have been excluded unless they also provide an ATM facility.
Please note that Travellers Cheques can only be exchanged at the major towns and are not very practicable for a canal holiday. Minervois Cruisers Boatyard only deals in Euros.
|Agde (04 67 01 16 00)||ATM|
|Credit Agricole - Rue Richelieu||Mon - Fri||0830-1200||1315-1700|
|Capestang (04 67 93 32 43)||ATM|
|Credit Agricole - Place Gambetta||Mon - Fri||0815-1215||1330-1645|
|Credit Agricole - Port Area|
|La Redorte (04 68 91 47 73)||ATM|
|Credit Agricole - Ave Victor Hugo||Mon - Fri||0825-1215||1330-1700|
|Olonzac (04 68 91 21 69) (10/15 minutes by bike from Homps)||ATM|
|Credit Agricole - Ave d'Homps||Mon - Fri||0815-1215||1330-1645|
|Port la Nouvelle (04 68 48 02 31)||ATM|
|Credit Agricole - Blv du Monument||Mon - Fri||0815-1215||1330-1645|
|Salleles d'Aude||ATM Only|
|Credit Agricole - Outside the Syndicat d'Initiative|
|Trebes (04 68 78 63 07)||ATM|
|Credit Agricole - Ave Pasteur||Mon - Fri||0830-1215||1330-1700|
Beziers, Carcassonne and Narbonne offer a range of banking facilities on a par with any town in the UK. For those on 14-day cruises, heading beyond Carcassonne, there are Credit Agricole facilities at Bram and Castelnaudary.
The nearest ATM to Le Somail is inside the Intermarche at St Marcel (1.5 kms) but access to it is limited to shop hours, which vary throughout the season. The nearest external ATMs are at Groupama Assurance in St Marcel (2 kms) and at Ginestas (3 kms), where the Credit Agricole is opposite the Town Hall (Mairie.)
Are there plenty of restaurants close to the Canal?
Yes. There are restaurants in many of the villages catering for a range of tastes and budgets. However, one word of caution, in this part of France all meat (beef, pork, lamb) tends to be undercooked. If you prefer your meat well done, you must stress this.
- saignant - pronounced senn-yon
- a point - pronounced a-pwan
- Well Done
- bien cuit - pronounced bee-an kwee
If uncertain, ask for your meat to be cooked for longer ie, rare in UK would be medium in France.