I will be heading for the Canal DU Midi area in Late Jan to search for a barge.
My wife and I are looking for suggestions as to a place to base ourselves.
On the DBA site we have had these places posted Capistrang Carcassone Moisac Castelnaudry so far as there are barges wintering in the area and we can probably chat to bargees. Any thoughts on a place where we can huddle initially with other expats. My wife loves going to the GYM (got a thing about bingo wings and a few other bits that gravitation and age are not being too kind with.
My background is BA cabin crew for 15 years sailing for 15 travel inbetween plus a pub in Salisbury and a restaurant in Jersey the Channel Islands where I was based with BA plus heathrow.
My wife is also a very keen horsewoman though she does not ride these days,but she is un talkable to during morningline and pretty much all of sat afternoon.
We would also want to have French lessons as mine is okay for basics but I do get on with the French as I am a good cook in fact we had 12 French for Xmas lunch on our boat and those that could still walk were very 'appy!
i am a villager by nature. We lived in St Aubin in Jersey for many years. I love to walk to the shop and the pub we had a brief period in the hills behind Sanary and it was aweful the only person we saw for three months was the postman.
Too much information sorry, but if anybody has ideas Merci
Oh and I forgot to say that locals often look for boats/barges to buy on leboncoin.fr - French equivalent of Loot/Exchange & Mart
I live about 20mins from Castelnaudary. It's small enough to get to know people quickly and there are lots of Brits. Plus it has great markets and the best cassoulet on the planet!
In addition to being close to Carca you'll also be near to Revel, Castres or my village, Sorèze. La Montagne Noire is stunning any time of year.
Not sure how good your French is but if there's a language barrier Castel is best - if you find yourself in my neck of the woods you'll need to able to communicate in French.
As for barges, I have numerous French friends who have their boats moored in Castel for winter and between Castel and La Segala during summer. Boats for sale are dotted along the canal once owners move them to their summer mooring spot.
If you are looking for a really good, high spec, custom built in 2005 with low hours, can I recommend the "Liliann" which is moored at Buzet sur Baise on the Canal de Garonne. This is the other side of France, the canal brings you from the Garonne river outside Bordeaux to Toulouse and connects to the Canal du Midi. In my experience a quieter, slightly less commercial canal, nonetheless very beautiful. The "Liliann" belongs to good friends from Lincolnshire who have returned to England for health reasons. Details are on the website "noblemarinefrance.com". If you do decide to view it contact me first as I can help you out. Best of luck.
Paul and I spent a bit of time in the Canal area looking for a canal boat years ago-we didn't end up buying one at the time --2005 as we were also living on our sail boat in Mexico during the winter months. Two boats in 2 foreign countries-we ended up figuring it was not a good idea. Turns out we were right.
We love Castelnaudry and Toulouse and Carcasonne (although it is very touristy for us). You might consider looking for a boat in other places and then bringing it to the Canal location of your dreams.
Paula and Paul
I live outside Moissac. There are several Brit expats who winter their boats at the capitanerie here. Spots with utility hook ups available and a lock that lets you onto the Tarn, just above the merge with the Garonne. Its a short walk to centre ville where market days are Saturday and Sunday mornings. Several restaurants, bars and cafes nearby. Eco Marche in center ville and Casino nearby. Everything is within a short walk from the canal, even La Poste and all major banks. One UK couple liked it so much that they bought a house couple of hundred meters down the street from their boat and eventually sold the boat and became permanent residents. You might want to give it a look.
I forgot to mention the Utile petrol station/convnience store in Homps. Open all hours, doesn't close for lunch and is open all day Sunday!! Brilliant shop!
Update re. AVF Olonzac. It is independent now and is VEEM (Vivre Ensemble en Minervois). I don’t belong to it but know thst it continues to offer French lessons.
Just to mention - there used to be a very good AVF group in Olonzac which organised french lessons -I met friends there who I am still in touch with - might be worth looking them up on the internet - www.avf.asso.fr Also found quite a few Brits at Le Somail, perhaps because there is/was a narrowboat hiring business there.
I used to live in the Minervois and as an ex narrow boat dweller from Little Venice was delighted to met several Brits who lived aboard in Capestang. Sadly have moved away and lost touch, but always found it a delightful small town with a good market (though probably not a gym!)
We still live in the UK but Aude is one our favourite areas. We have stayed many times in Homps and now have friends there, having been a boat owner for many years I'd say that Homps should be on your list. Our friend lives on the banks of the canal all the village services are easily walked, a little supermarket/fuel station with fresh bread, veg and everything you'd need is also easy to walk to. There's a great market and small town services at Olonzac an easy bike ride on a Tuesday.
I too recommend Homps for the reasons already given. In addition, there are gym classes in Homps - Pilates emphasis snd/or aerobic. Olonzac has the trad. gym equipment.
Jim Holmes - how do you find living with a strong ex-pat community. Every time we come across it there seems to be a lot of back biting going on. Couldn't stand that.
Homps has a few restaurants on the Canal and a strong ex-pat community and is much more of a 'village'
If you are looking for a village location, I like Homps and it's basin. It's a small village, very quiet in winter. It has lac de Jouarres on the doorstep, which is great for swimming or just lazing by (lovely place both Summer and Winter). There is also the small market town of Olonzac, which Homps runs into, again a lovely spot, with the well known Cafe de la Poste, an ex-pats hangout and Tuesday market throughout the year. Further down the Canal, 10-15 mins away, is the basin at the very attractive small village of le Somail, famous for it's massive and quality book shop.
We have a second home in nearby Pepieux, just 5 mins from the Canal at Homps. Also the area is about equidistant from Carcassonne and Narbonne, with great "out of town" shopping areas at both.
Just a few thoughts, but I don't think you can go wrong anywhere in the area! Good hunting!
I don't live there but we stopped on the way back to the Charente in Castelnaudry and the people were really welcoming and helpful. It looked like a nice town with commerces and is very close to other larger centres. Most important,there seemed to be canal and canal basins everywhere!