My husband, Bill Baskerville, and I are writing on behalf of our lovely boating experience on the “Perpignan” of your Nicols fleet from September 25 to October 2nd, 2010. We could not have chosen a more beautiful time of year or a more perfect boat in which to explore a portion of the Midi Canal.
From the start of our adventure, we felt well cared for. The kitchen staff at the office at Bram fed us a magnificent Cassoulet lunch (complete with a delicious “vin du pays”) while we awaited our boat’s preparation and cleaning. Patrick then gave us a thorough explanation of the ins and outs of boat usage, along with a test drive for “Captain Bill.” It was helpful that we were given suggestions for which villages were the most picturesque and the “not to miss” ones, such as Carcassonne.
We soon found the locks manageable, even for a novice, learning to simplify the process in a double lock by having one of us stay on shore to “walk” the boat through the locks. We found our boat to be well outfitted for cooking and were able to pick up groceries in small villages along the way. There were also many excellent restaurants when we felt like a night off from cooking. Except for one spot, there were no tie up fees at night, and there were always spots where we could refill the water tanks.
The Perpignan comfortably slept up to four adults with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. The beds were comfortable, closet space adequate and bathrooms workable. (The tiny showers took some getting used to!) It also had a sizable living space in between the bedrooms and deck space fore, aft and on top. There were a number of deck stools but we could have used a couple of backed chairs in the aft deck. The front deck got a lot of use: my friend, Yvette, and I did some sketching with pastels there while Captain Bill steered the boat. After dinner, we had nightly, rousing games of Gin Rummy on the kitchen table as we enjoyed some of the wonderful wines from the Minervois region drank the vin du pays—always exceptional.
We decided to take a one-way trip beginning in Bram and disembarking in Le Somail. One week proved to be an adequate time frame for this piece of the canal; in fact, we went on a little farther to Angeliers before returning to Le Somail. Our favorite villages, besides Carcassonne, were Villesquelande Trèbes, Paraza, and Ventenac de Minervois (wonderful wine co-op there). Along the way, we passed gorgeous vineyards and rows of old Sycamores lining the canal. We wondered how the lavender and sunflower fields would look in different seasons.
At the Nicols landing in Le Somail, we chose to clean our own boat rather than pay the fee, after which Patrick gave us our inspection and photos were taken of all of us on the Perpignan. We then took a cab to the car rental for the next leg of our journey. We will always have fond memories of our boating trip along the beautiful Midi Canal and now understand why so many British, American, Australian and German tourists vacation there too. Thank you, Nicols, for such a lovely service.
Randy and Bill Baskerville