NAME Ferne Pardey
THE TRIP Paris, Barcelona and the Canal du Midi in self-sail barge
ITINERARY To celebrate my husband's 60th birthday we met 11 friends on self-drive barges on the Canal du Midi, in the south of France, but our holiday started with six nights in Paris in a romantic studio apartment, overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame, on the Ile St Louis. We used Guest Apartment Services (guestapartment.com) and highly recommend them. Ile St Louis in the heart of Paris, is an easy walk to many sights, museums and restaurants.
We took a train to Narbonne, a scenic Roman town in the south of France, where we picked up our two barges. After a quick orientation we were off through the locks, for more than a few hairy, funny moments.
Our itinerary from Narbonne to Trebes (detouring to Capestang) took us through Minervois and Corbieres, the largest wine-producing area of France where we sampled many good wines at reasonable prices. We moored at Auberge de la Croisade, a restaurant in the middle of the countryside, for a delightful lunch. In the village of Paraza we enjoyed a marvellous afternoon wine tasting at the chateau followed by dinner at Cafe de Port. We jumped ship on our wedding anniversary, staying at the 18th-century Chateau de la Redorte.
After 29 locks (some double and triple locks), one twisted ankle and some bruises, we celebrated over a sumptuous meal in the magnificent Hotel de la Cite, within the medieval citadel of Carcassonne.
Finally, we had three nights in Barcelona, including a bike tour of the city to spectacular Sagrada Familia and an amazing dinner at Monvinic with its 3000-bottle wine cellar.
BEST BITS Paris apartment; sharing fabulous local wine and food with old friends; Narbonne, Paraza, Carcassonne, Barcelona
WORST BIT Not enough time to explore; underestimating amount of time for locks
BEST TIPS Allow plenty of time to travel through locks. Triple locks can take 2½ hours. Travel down river, one-way
WHERE TO NEXT Canada skiing