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motorway aires: 9


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motorway aires[1]
three aires on the canal du midi, A61

port-lauragais, ayguesvives, renneville




new : la belle époque


on first arriving in France - driving

Motorway Aires

France is not England

Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps

the calendar of the French Revolution

viaduct de Millau

the 6th bridge at Rouen: Pont Gustave Flaubert,
new vertical lift bridge

Cathedrals in France



viaduct de Millau

the French umbrella & Aurillac

the forest as seen by francois mauriac, and today

places and playtime

roundabout art of Les Landes

50 years old: Citroën DS

the Citroën 2CV:
a French motoring icon

Grand Palais, Paris

Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps

the calendar of the French Revolution

Motorway Aires

le pique-nique

Hermès scarves

bastide towns

mardi gras! carnival in Basque country

what a hair cut! m & french pop/rock

country life in France: the poultry fair

the greatest show on Earth - the Tour de France

short biography of Pierre (Peter) Abelard

marker at port-lauragais and two neighbouring aires
    ayguesvives aire
    renneville aire
    port-lauragais aire
marker at the canal du midi
marker at sketch 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 [the extent of this path beyond this region is 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 du Sanglier [Ecluse = Lock, in English] hard by. All along the canal is a path for both walkers and cyclists.

Click on thumbnails for larger versions
Play area at Ayguesvives aire Gate to the Canal du Midi and footpath Lock 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.

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, reached through a little gate from the aire’s parking area, together with an organically-constructed 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 along the Canal,  by Renneville aire.
The Canal du Midi at
Renneville aire
Picnic tables and bench in
the dappled shade along the Canal

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

canal boat 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 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

The Canal du 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 canal’s 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. (Travelling from the west, the Canal Lateral à la Garonne starts at Castets en Dorthe, and continues south-east to Toulouse, where the canal becomes the Canal du Midi.)

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 du Midi is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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.

map of the Canal du Midi
The canal du Midi
(enlarged section highlighted)

marker at

sketch map locating Port-Lauragais aire; also Ayguesvives,Baziège,Renneville,Villefranche aires.

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
    Going west, the Canal rises 206 feet (63 m), by means of 26 locks, in the 32 miles (51.5-kilometres) from Castets en Dorthe to the 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 individual aires                                             
A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and its aires Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond - aires Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
A7 - aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
A9- aires on the motorway to Spain Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
A62 - aires on the autoroute of two seas three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A64 and A61 - aires on the other autoroute of two seas  
A83 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A63: the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - formerly the N10
A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A20 - aires on the Occitane autoroute, from Brive to Montauban
A42 and A40 motorways - aires from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy A87 motorway and its aires in Poitou-Charentes

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