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Cities in the southwest France: history, tourist sites, activities.

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Eight suggestions for touring the southwest of France.

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Traditional dish recipes from southwest part of France.

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France in facts and figures! Interesting less known facts about France

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"Pierre Paul de Riquet - The Channel of the Two Seas" Suggested Travel Itinerary

1
Situated next to the Saint-Ferreol Lake dam the museum - unique en France - is entirelly dedicated to the "Canal du Midi" history, hydrographie and to its brilliant architect Pierre-Paul de Riquet.
The garden that surrounds the building makes a nice walking place. On its paths one can admire photos taken in the same place at the beginning of the 20th century. The place is also scatered with reminders that the - future at the time! - American President Thomas Jefferson visited it in 1787.
The fountain in the middle of the park is created naturally by the water -through the principle of communicating vessels - trying to achieve the level of the lake....

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2
Agen Bridge Channel
With a length of 539 meters or 1768 feet, supported by 23 arches, the Agen Bridge Channel is the second longest water bridge of France after the one of Briare in the Central region of the country.
The bridge unites the banks of Garonne River via a water highway that is part of the "Canal Latéral de la Garonne".
The bridge was built between 1839 and 1849 using Quercy stone only.
The first stone was in fact laid on the 25th of August 1839 by the Duke d'Orleans the oldest son of Louis Phillipe.
The bridge is nowadays used by the recreational boaters and its sides are a preferred walking and jogging site of the Agenais. ...

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3
Bonrepos Domain
Pierre-Paul Riquet (1609-1680) is the maker of the “Canal du Midi”, the artificial river built in the 17th century as a water highway between the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Realized between 1667 and 1681, the Canal du Midi is the largest engineering project of the 17th century and, today, the oldest canal in Europe still in operation.
In 1652 Pierre-Paul Riquet bought the Bonrepos domain - at the time just a fortified tower in the middle of a wooded area - and established here his country residence, building an imposing 3 levels, turret topped mansion surrounded by a dried moat, in the middle of a 30 hectares wooded park (one can still see, bordering the park’s walking paths, ...

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4
Bridge Channel of Moissac
The bridge-channel of Cacor, Moissac - part of the "Canal Latéral de la Garonne" - was buit between 1842 and 1846. The bridge over river Tarn is 356 meters long and has 13 arches.
The bridge was finished in April 1846 and the navigation between Toulouse and Moissac opened in the fall of the same year.
It is a nice place where the locals come for a walk or for jogging....

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5
Castelnaudary
Castelnaudary, a town situated in the department of Aude on the route between Toulouse and Carcassonne is best known for its culinary specialty, the cassoulet, and its "Grand Bassin", the artificial lake created by Pierre Paul de Riquet during the construction of the Canal du Midi.
The Castelnaudary inhabitants - called "Chauriens- consider the Cassoulet of Castelnaudary to be the "father" of all the other cassoulet versions and dedicate it an annual celebration: "La fête du cassoulet". For more information on this celebration visit : www.fete-du-cassoulet.com
Beside the cassoulet, the other emblem of the town is the Grand Bassin. It is an artificial lake of 7 ha, part of the bigger structure of the Canal du Midi, that was inaugurated...

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6
Castets-en-Dorthe
Castets-en-Dorthe marks the junction of the Canal lateral de la Garonne with the river. It is the "Atlantic" end of the Canal of the Two Seas.
Before the canal "flows" into Garonne it passes through 3 locks the most important one being the last one - number 53 - that can be handled only by authorized personnel that takes into consideration the level of the Garonne river at the moment and the Atlantic tides!
There are 2 more interesting sites that can be visitedin the little town of Castets-en-Dorthe.The Saint Romain church end the Hamel Castle.
Saint Romain church was built in the 13th century during the time of the French pope Clement V. It is listed as historical monument since 1925.
Hamel's...

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7
Répudre Bridge Channel
The Répudre bridge channel, built in 1676, is the first aqueduct bridge built by Pierre Paul de Riquet and the first of its kind in the world.
It is name this way because it crosses the little creek of Répudre at the border between the the communal territories of Paraza and Ventenac.
It is a backcountry location but worth a detour.
The little town of Ventenac - population just over 500 - is situated on the hill overlooking the "Canal du Midi" and the plains of the Aude valley. The place was inhabited since Roman times and it was they, the Romans, who gave the town the name Aventinus from where Ventenac name derives.
Ventenac territory is famous for producing one of the best...

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8

Saint-Ferreol Lake and Revel

UNESCO Heritage List
Saint-Ferreol Lake and Revel
Saint Ferreol Lake is at the heart of the complex water supply system of the Canal du Midi, alongside with which is included in the UNESCO's World Heritage list.
This lake that has a surface of 68ha is an artificial body of water that contains 6 millions cubic meters of water. It is formed by the Laudot and Sor Rivers whose waters are collected by a dam built between 1667 and 1672 by the engineer Pierre-Paul de Riquet. The idea was to build a system that will collect enough water from the Montagne Noire to allow the navigation on the Canal du Midi regardless of season and the quantity of precipitations.
Surrounded by mild rolling hills the lake's shore is...

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9

Seuil de Naurouze

UNESCO Heritage List
Seuil de Naurouze
Seuil de Naurouze was one of the 3 important parts _ besides the canal itself and the water reservoir - of the system called Canal du Midi. The water from the Saint Ferreol lake was channeled to this specific location "Seuil de Naurouze" that was established by Pierre Paul de Riquet as being the highest point - 189.43 altitude - of the Canal.
Water spilled on one side of the threshold flows towards the Atlantic while spilled on the other side flows towards the sea.
The threshold is physically represented by the water between the two locks called significantly "Ocean" and "Mediterranée" situated 5km from each other.
The complex of Naurouze was built between 1669 and 1673. It was initially a...

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10
Thau Lake and Sète
Thau Lake is the connection of Canal du midi to the Mediterranean Sea and the rest of the France via Canal du Rhone. The Canal du Midi flows into Thau Lake at Marseillan.
Sète - called sometimes "The Venise of Languedoc" - was built during the reign of King Louis XIV as port for exportation of the goods coming from the South-West of France via Canal du Midi.
The location of Sète was inhabited since roman times but the real city was built starting in 1666 when the 650 meter long pier Saint Louis was built and the channel linking the Thau Lake to the Mediterranean Sea was enlarged. The day when the construction started the 29th of July 1666 was and...

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11

The Seven Lock Water Stairway

UNESCO Heritage List
The Seven Lock Water Stairway
With more then 300,000 visitors every year the Fonserannes locks are one of the most important tourist attraction of the Canal du Midi and a marvel of the hydro technical engineering of the 17th century.
Built in 1697 the lock complex is 300 meters long and has a difference in level of 21.50 meters.
From the initial 9 locks there are in use only 7 now....

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12
The Town of Agde
Agde is a small town – population just above 20,000 – on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the department of Herault in south west France (in Languedoc-Roussillon region). It is also a renowned resort – during summer month the population swells to up to 200,000 people – ten times the number of permanent inhabitants.
Agde is the third oldest town in France (after Béziers and Marseillan) being founded in the 5th century BC by Greek navigators.
The name Agde comes from the Greek Agathé which means “good” or “prosperous”.
Laying at the mouth of Herault river that flows into the sea here Agde was from the outset and up to the 18th century one of the most important maritime ports of...

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