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motorway aires: 9

 

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motorway aires[1]
three aires on the Midi Canal

 

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marker at abelard.orgport-lauragais and two neighbouring aires
  ayguesvives aire
  renneville aire
  port-lauragais aire
marker at abelard.orgthe canal du midi
  january 2011 - the canal’s plane trees under attack
marker at abelard.orgsketch map locating the port-lauragais aire

Motorway aires are designed to provide a suitable environment for relaxing, refreshing and recovering during the long, hard journeys. As well as facilities of often dubious nature, picnic tables and seats, a telephone kiosk, there are often optional extras such as a play area or a display related to some local interest or event.

 

port-lauragais and two neighbouring aires

aires on the A61 autoroute next to the Canal du Midi.
Aires on the A61 autoroute next to the Canal du Midi.

This map shows three consecutive aires, on south [east-bound] side of the A61 autoroute that borders on the Canal du Midi. From each of the aires, you may walk out onto the path alongside the Canal [extent of this path beyond this region not verified]. In each case, should you feel like a stroll along the canal, we have indicated the nearest lock [écluse], and its distance, in each direction from the aire. We have also marked bridges and other locks along this stretch of the Canal. The canal banks also provide a pleasant environment for a picnic.

 

ayguesvives aire

The aire d’Ayguesvives is small, and right next to the great Canal du Midi. A small gate next to the shaded, red-brick picnic seats and tables leads to the Canal du Midi, with the Ecluse [Lock, in English] du Sanglier hard by. All along the canal is a path for both walkers and cyclists.

Play area at Ayguesvives aireGate to the Canal du Midi and footpathLock house at Ecluse du Sanglier
Notice on lock house at Ayguesvives aire Lock system at Ecluse du Sanglier

From top left, going clockwise:
play area; gate to canal path; lock house on Canal du Midi; lock house notice; lock system at Ecluse du Sanglier.

Click on thumbnails for larger versions.

This little aire has cooling showers and a little children’s play area.

 

renneville aire

Renneville is another quiet, small aire right next to the Canal du Midi. There are wooden picnic tables next to the canal-side path, through a little gate from the aire’s parking area, together with an organically-contructed wood bench. The next locks are a walk away in either direction, as shown above on our map.

Click on thumbnails for larger versions.
The Canal du Midi at  Renneville aire.Picnic table and bench in the shade by Renneville aire.
The Canal du Midi at
Renneville aire
Picnic tables and bench in
the dappled shade


A boat going down 
            the Canal du Midi


Map showing the cycle path alongside the Canal
A boat going down the
Canal du Midi
Map showing the cycle path alongside the Canal

 

port-lauragais aire

Port-Lauragais sud is an open and windy aire, with four or five windmills in the distance. There is a substantial shop selling a variety of attractive and tempting local products - wines, violets of Toulouse: perfume, essence, cachets; items made from Pastel blue dyestuff (the French name for woad; traditionally used for French military uniforms), foods and clothes.

Click on thumbnails for larger versions.
Rugby museum, aire gardens. Note windmills behind.the lake at Port-Lauragais aire is connected to the Canal de Midi
rugby museum, aire gardens. Note windmills behind. the lake at Port-Lauragais aire is connected to the Canal de Midi


regional products for sale at the aire shop


cana lboat trips are available from next to the shop building
regional products for sale
at the aire shop
canal boat trips are available from next to the shop building

The Rugby Museum was closed when abelard.org visited, with no indication when it might be open.

During the summer, at the weekend, there are free ‘introductions’ to a range of sports, such as golf, fencing, sailing....

The aire also includes a spacious lake and an inland harbour that is connected to the Canal du Midi. From here you may take boat excursions.

The Lauragais Port was excavated during the construction of the A61 autoroute in the 1980s.

 

the canal du midi

january 2011 - the canal’s plane trees under attack

Plane trees along the Canal du Midi

Now a UNESCO World Heritage monument, the 240 km Canal du Midi was built in the seventeenth century to join the Garonne River to the Mediterranean Sea. One of the enduring memories for its visitors is the canal lined by more than 40,000 mature plane trees, most now well over 150 years old. A further 22,000 planes line the Canal des deux mers that joins the Garonne to the Atlantic Ocean.

Caused by a microscopic fungus - plane and sycamore coloured canker (Ceratocystis fimbriata platani form), it made its first appearance along the Canal du Midi in 2006. This fatal and infectious disease is now notably attacking the plane trees lining the Canal. There is no known treatment against the disease, so the only recourse is to cut down both diseased and nearby, possibly infected, healthy trees. The disease spreads mainly through the interconnecting roots of neighbouring trees.

Diseased plane trees partially  cut down

To stem this epidemic, the canal authorities have announced a cull of about two thousand trees. Because the disease spreads so easily, it is necessary to not only burn the branches and trunks, but also dig up and burn the roots, as well as disinfecting the soil in which the trees grew. As a result, much of the affected canal banks will have to be consolidated, the planes maintaining the canal’s banks, as well as reducing water evaporation and providing welcome shade for boaters.

The disease now is spreading from Castelnaudary in the département of Aude, to the canal’s start in Thau lagoon on the Mediterranean Sea. It also affects the canal connecting the Canal du Midi to the Canal de la Robine which goes to Narbonne.

It will be ten years before replanting can begin and a hundred years for the new trees to grow to such maturity.

The canal is lined by nearly 230,000 trees, of which 60,000 are planes, mainly in the stretch between Toulouse and Bezier.

[The fungus was introduced on contaminated US Army wooden crates during the 2nd World War. It had been identified in the USA in 1929. This canker now also affects Greece and Switzerland.]

 

The Canal dub Midi, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, is divided into three sections: the Canal du Midi with 70 locks, the Lateral canal with 53 locks, and the Garonne River with 2 locks. In all, this canal system is almost 500 km long. (The Garonne is the large river whose mouth opens near the Atlantic coastal city of Bordeaux.)

Built between 1666 and 1681, during the reign of Louis XIV, the Midi Canal is the oldest working canal in Europe. It extends 150 miles (240 km) from Thau lake (near Sète on the Mediterranean coast) to Toulouse. There has been little change in this canals design and functioning since the seventeenth century.

In 1856, 120 miles (192 km) of the Lateral Canal was completed, so joining the Canal du Midi to the Garonne River, and thence to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, the French fleet no longer needed to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar.

The Canal’s designer was was Pierre-Paul Riquet. The man and his work has been commemorated by the Obelisque du Riquet, set in parkland, about 2 km to the north-east of the Port-Lauragais aire. The Canal was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1996.

The Midi Canal comprises 382 engineering structures, including 125 locks, together with weirs, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels and siphons.[3] It used both by over a thousand sea-going vessels a year and over 450 hire boats and barges, as well as floating hotels.[4] It is a very attractive, quiet and often shaded, long aquatic park. Its minimum depth is 1.39m (4ft 6ins), while minimum lock size is 30.5m (100ft1in) x 5.34m (17f.6ins). The locks are closed on French national holidays: January 1, May 1, July 14, November 1, November 11, December 25.

map of the Canal du Midi
The canal du Midi

marker at abelard.org

Sketch map locating the Ayguevives, Renneville and Port-Lauragais aires

The Port-Lauragais sud aire and its facilities is directly accessible from the east-bound side of the A61 motorway, when going towards Carcassonne and the Mediterranean Sea. If you are approaching from the east (from Carcassonne, the Mediterranean Sea) there is a tunnel under the motorway from the Port-Lauragais nord aire.

The Ayguevives and Renneville aires are both located on the east-bound (south) side of the A61, only being accessible from that side of the motorway.

These three aires are in Département 31 - Haute-Garonne.

 

end notes

  1. aire: in this context, an area —
    aire de loisirs: recreation area;
    aire de pique-nique: picnic area;
    aire de repos: rest area;
    aire de services: services , motorway (GB) or freeway (US) service station.

  2. Baron Pierre-Paul Riquet de Bonrepos
    born 1604, Béziers, France, died 1 October 1680, Toulouse
    French public official and self-made engineer who constructed the epochal 150-mile (240-kilometre) Canal du Midi (also called the Languedoc Canal) connecting the Garonne River to the Aude River, thus linking the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The canal has been called the greatest civil engineering project in Europe from Roman times to the 19th century.

    A tax collector under Louis XIV, Riquet interested himself in the long-discussed problem of constructing a navigable waterway to provide a shortcut from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean. In 1662 he laid a proposal before Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's finance minister. Through Colbert's influence, Riquet obtained from the province of Languedoc loans that permitted him to carry out the work, which required many locks, a reservoir to provide water for the summit section during the dry season, and the famous Malpas Tunnel, where Riquet became the first engineer to use an explosive (black powder) for blasting rock. Worn out by his labours, he died while executing the final work on the harbour of Cette (modern Sète) at the Mediterranean terminus. The canal opened the following year (1681).
    Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica

  3. Some technical data on the Canal du Midi
    The Canal rises 206 feet (63 m), by means of 26 locks, in the 32 miles (51.5-kilometres) from Toulouse to Seuil de Naurouze, the summit of its route. The Canal then runs 3 miles (5 km) along the summit. Then it descends 620 feet (189 m) over a distance of 114 miles (183.5 km), helped by 74 locks. Pierre-Paul Riquet overcame a rocky rise near Béziers by a then untried method, using black powder to blast a 515-foot (157-metre) tunnel, 22 feet (6.7 m) wide and 27 feet (8 m) high. This was the first canal tunnel to be built like this and the first time explosives were used in underground construction.

  4. Maximum specifications for boats using the Canal du Midi
    ( Boat size restrictions - all measurements in metres)
    Boat length : 30.00
    Boat beam : 5.05
    Boat height above water : 03.00
    Boat keel depth : 1.60















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on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
aires on the A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
aires on the A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
aires on the motorway to Spain - the A9 autoroute three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
aires on the autoroute of two seas - the A62 Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau
aires on the other autoroute of two seas - A64 and A61 the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - the N10 and A63
in Poitou-Charentes: motorway aires on the A83 aires on the A20 - the Occitane, from Brive to Montauban
in Poitou-Charentes - aires on the A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - the A87 motorway and its aires
from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy - motorway aires on the A42 and A40

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