Can't escape the CanalsNovember 20, 2017 in France
The nearest large town is Beziers and to day we visited it to buy a replacement generator and to have a quick look around. Unfortunately, being the winter season, nothing was open on a Monday except the UNESCO World Heritage Ecluse de Fonserannes.... and what I was told is ...
When our Harry Curtmantle and Aliénor got hitched in 1152 it was not just the merger of Plantagenent assets with Aquitaine but also the start of Britains consumption of Bordeaux wine. This powerful thirst strained the meager production of local plonk and so the good citizens outsourced to Languedoc but retaining naming rights: a trade which continues to this day.
Unfortunately, there was a mountain range between the Med and the Atlantic so the only way to transport goods North was by jolting along in a rattley cart. In fact so bumpy was it that places such as Dijon made a reputation for themselves by turning the soured Languedoc wine into mustard.
In order to avoid the dreaded Barbary pirates and the corrugated tracks the Southerners had dreamt of a canal "entre deux mer" for a few hundred years without ever solving the problem of water supply to the highest points of the canal. Augustus, Nero, Charlemagne, François I, Charles IX and Henry IV all dreamed of it: François I brought Leonardo da Vinci over in 1516 to survey part of a route.
As always, a project of such scope involves hefty contributions from the tax man. In this case one taxman, (the collector of salt revenues, Pierre-Paul Riquet,) took a personal interest and eventually solved the problem. He got the backing of Louise XIV and devoted the rest of his life to digging.
One of his achievements was to build the 9 lock lift at Fonserannes, each in the shape of a bottle, which have worked well to this day. The last photo of the modern, efficient strramlined version has never worked at all and has been abandoned.
BTW something else I heard: each year large quantities of Sauvignon Blanc are harvested in the early hours of the mornings and driven over to Reims by nightfall. Not saying anything of course, Mums the word. Honi soit qui mal y pense.Read more