Southern France’s premier luxury hotel barge experience. Come cruise the historic Canal du Midi with us.
The Athos du Midi barge hotel is owned and operated by Julian and Dannielle Farrant. Julian has captained the Athos for 25 seasons, traversing the canal more than 5000 times. While traveling in 1997, Dannielle worked aboard the Athos as a hostess. She was romanced by the Languedoc (and Julian), and made France her home. The Athos tour guide for eight years, she now works behind-the-scenes to ensure that cruising the Canal du Midi is your best holiday ever.
The Athos Crew
Led by Captain Julian, a professional crew of two hostesses, a tour guide and accomplished chef deliver first-class food, captivating excursions and fine service. The Athos crew has a well-earned reputation for hosting with charm and skill.
Inside the Athos
Each bright cabin, with en suite bathroom and shower, reflects the understated beauty of the French countryside. Fresh cut flowers and lavender body products are reminders that you’re taking in the best of the South of France.
The salon is a comfortable, intimate place for relaxing with a book, sipping an aperitif, and enjoying a five-course meal.
The Athos’ outdoor deck is the most spacious and comfortable of any vessel on the Canal du Midi. Dine in the shade of Plane trees or settle into a cushioned, hardwood deck chair for a post-lunch siesta in the warm Mediterranean sun. Feeling adventurous? Take an on-board bicycle and discover what’s up ahead on the towpath, the shore-side trail originally used by horses towing barges.
The Athos Story
Built in 1964 as a commercial grain and wine barge, the Athos is a historic canal du Midi barge specially designed to navigate the Canal du Midi’s narrow waterway and 17th century bridges. It was converted into a luxury hotel barge in 1982 and renovated again in 2007 and fully equipped with modern luxuries. As one of the few traditionally barges left on the canal, cruising on the Athos awakens the romance and history of the Canal du Midi and Southern France.
From the Athos’ home mooring in charming Argeliers port, located at the southern edge of the Haut-Minervois, you’ll enjoy champagne, gourmet canapés, and a four-course dinner under the Plane trees and overlooking an 18th century stone bridge.
We’ll use Athos’ comfortable minibuses to drive to the Medieval Château at Carcassonne in the morning, where our guide will walk you back through time in an unforgettable tour of the fortified city. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the romantic setting and to explore and shop for Languedoc specialties and souvenirs.
We next moor at the quaint village of Capestang in view of the lovely, flood-lit Collegiale St. Etienne cathedral.
In the village of Bize Minervois we’ll visit the Oulibo and taste a variety of organic olives and olive oils accompanied, of course, by a glass of rosé.
A short drive up the Gorge de la Cesse takes us to the dramatic hilltop village of Minerve, in the heart of Cathar country and an historic point where Cathar Christians of the 11th century were attacked during the crusades.
Our mooring at the Fonserannes overlooks the staircase locks, the Orb River and Beziers. From here we’ll visit a French market in the charming town of Narbonne. We’ll also explore an excavated original Roman road, take-in the Roman Museum and enjoy a cafe au lait while blending in with the town’s lively cafe scene.
The week’s cruising highlight is the Fonserannes, the seven staircase locks at Béziers. Fonserannes has eight lock chambers and nine gates, allowing the Athos to be raised a remarkable 21.5 meters in a distance of just 300 meters.
At our mooring just outside the village of Portiragnes, the paved tow path and romantic scenery make a lovely spot for walking or cycling.
From here we visit the market town of Pézenas, taking in the “Hotels Particuliers”, mansions whose striking architecture is unique to this town. Theatre lovers will enjoy the guide’s stories about French playwright, Moliere, who once stayed in Pézenas with his theatre group, l’Illustre Théâtre.
En route to Agde we cruise past the estuaries of the “Petit Camargue”, a bird watcher’s paradise with exotic species like Pink Flamingos, African Rollers and Bee Eaters. At Agde, a spectacular seafood lunch awaits! We’ll dine while floating on the open waters of the Étang de Thau, Europe’s largest mussel and oyster park.
There’s no better way to follow an oyster lunch than by cruising to the nearby Port of Marseillan for a tour of the Noilly Prat Vermouth distillery, with a tasting of course.
The Canal du Midi runs through the heart of the Languedoc in the South of France. Less well known than neighbouring Provence, but equally charming, Languedoc is a renowned winemaking region that produces more than a third of the grapes in France. But Languedoc is not all AOC wines, open air markets and foie gras. It’s home to some of Europe’s oldest and most breathtaking castles. Whether you’re inspired by good wine, sunflower fields, charming villages or Medieval fortresses, Languedoc will not disappoint.
The Canal du Midi was constructed by Pierre Paul Riquet and more than 12,000 workers between 1667 and 1681. The 240 km canal joined the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, opening up a prosperous trade route. But, the Canal du Midi’s fame was short-lived. When the railway came to France just 150 years later in 1832, canal traffic declined. Today the Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and tourist attraction, though still a hidden gem.
Food & Wine
Chef knows that sublime food and wine is a principle reason to come to France, that’s why he’s here! Each meal aboard the Athos is special. Inspired both by the tradition of rich, French cuisine and fresh Mediterranean ingredients, Chef takes passengers on a journey through the very best of the Southern French culinary tradition.
Have a dish or ingredient you’d like to try? Chef is more than happy to serve your favourite meal as you dine under Canal du Midi Plane trees.
The Languedoc is home to a great diversity of food and culinary traditions, all of which feature exceptional local ingredients. The warm summer sun and rich terroir produce some of Europe’s best peaches, plums, leeks, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, and of course wines.
Chef sources local ingredients at open-air markets and uses only the best Languedoc meats. Eating fresh, in-season produce is a Southern French delight and we want you to experience it in every Athos dish.
Gourmet French meals are a centerpiece of the Athos experience. Chef carefully selects fresh produce from the local markets and will delight you with cuisine that reflects the region and its love affair with food. Dishes inspired by the first cherries of spring through to the squash harvest in October will be a holiday highlight.
When you think French wines Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy come to mind. But, the Languedoc is a truly exciting wine region with so much more variety and so many different flavours.
Enjoy beautiful sparkling wines; elegant white wines that pair so well with local oysters cultivated at the nearby coast; and full-bodied red wines that taste of the wild herbs that grow in the Mediterranean landscape.
If you’re looking to discover new wines, Languedoc is the place to come.
- Local spring asparagus flash-grilled in clarified butter, cracked black pepper, fleur de sel and lemon zest, served with oven-warmed olive bread.
- Magret de canard with an orange and ginger reduction, creamy celeriac puree and julienned vegetables of carrots, leeks and florets of broccoli
- 3 fromages: Ecu de Combebelle, Bresse Bleu, Brie de Meaux dressed with walnuts and baby mesclun greens
- Carpaccio of lightly-steeped pineapple infused with vanilla and citrus syrup, served with an orange tuile biscuit and lemon sorbet
- Wines: Etang de Colombes, Blanc AOC Corbieres, Borie du Maurel, Esprit d’Automne AOC Minervois
- Traditional French onion soup with caramelized onions and topped with a slice of rustic bread seasoned with chopped parsley and Comté cheese
- Vegetable alternative: Thick and hearty Gascogne Garlic Soup with butter roasted onions and garlic topped with rustic bread and herb gratin
- Warm timbale of roasted Mediterranean vegetables layered with pesto and parmesan, served with a confit of sundried tomato and fresh basil and romaine lettuce salad
- 3 fromages: St. Maure de Touraine, Tomme de Brebis, St. Félicien served with whole almonds and tart apple slices
- Warm baked pear, orange and sultana crumble of ginger biscuits served with warm fresh cream
- Wine: Domaine d’Orthau Pinot Noir
- Filo parcel of fresh local goats’ cheese served with sweet Muscat-poached pear and served with its Muscat reduction
- Braised Lamb shanks drizzled in their roasting juices served with saffron-infused warm Mediterranean couscous, pomegranate and coriander salsa and a medley of crispy pan-fried carrots, Chinese lettuce, mange touts and green beans
- 3 fromages: Gaperon, Beaufort, St. Marcellin plated with dried apricots and lambs’ lettuce
- Walnut Tarte on orange-zested short crust butter pastry with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fresh sliced strawberries, and topped with a rum caramel
- Wine: Domaine d’Orthau Chardonnay en fut, La Bergerie d’Hortus AOC Rouge Classique
Canal du Midi Cruises
Choose from special interest canal cruises and our popular “Best of the Languedoc” route that covers an inspired itinerary. If you’re booking an individual cabin, you’ll enjoy the “Best of the Languedoc” canal cruise.
Special Interest itineraries are available to charter groups with a shared passion for wine, painting, golf or tennis. These cruises integrate the “Best of the Languedoc” route with time dedicated for specialty activities as part of your barge boat holidays.
“Best of Languedoc”
Our “Best of the Languedoc” cruise brings you highlights of the Languedoc region. You’ll walk the ramparts of the fortified city of Carcasonne; drive alongside the dramatic Gorge de la Cesse and explore the hilltop village of Minerve; visit a local olive oil pressoir; wander open air markets; and cruise past the marshlands of the “Petite Camargue”, ideal for spotting pink flamingos.
Upon arrival in Montpellier, you’ll be chauffeured to the Athos at her mooring in the charming Argeliers port, located at the southern edge of the Haut-Minervois. Champagne reception and gourmet canapés await. Once settled in to your cabin, you’ll enjoy a four-course dinner under the Plane trees and overlooking an original 18th century stone bridge.
Capestang & Carcassonne
Carcasonne is a picture-perfect fairytale castle. The Athos guide will walk you back through time in an unforgettable tour of the fortified city. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the romantic setting and to explore and shop for Languedoc specialties and souvenirs.
Later in the day, the Athos will moor in the quaint village of Capestang in view of the lovely, flood-lit Collegiale St. Etienne cathedral. Take a stroll into the village before chef begins dinner service.
Regismont le Haut & Minerve
Ever wondered how olive oil is made? Find out at the Oulibo where French olive oil is artfully pressed. Then taste a variety of organic olives and olive oils accompanied, of course, by a glass of rosé.
It’s just a short drive up the Gorge de la Cesse to the dramatic hilltop village of Minerve. Minerve is the heart of Cathar country and is an important place in Languedoc history where Cathar Christians of the 11th century were attacked during the crusades.
Fonserannes & Narbonne
Your Languedoc experience would not be complete without a visit to a French market. That’s what we’ll do in the charming town of Narbonne. We’ll also explore an excavated original Roman road, take-in the Roman Museum and enjoy a cafe au lait while blending in with the town’s lively cafe scene.
The week’s cruising highlight is the Fonserannes, the seven staircase locks at Beziers. Fonserannes has eight lock chambers and nine gates, allowing the Athos to be raised a remarkable 21.5 meters in a distance of just 300 meters.
Portiragnes and Pezenas
The historic market town of Pezanas was the first seat of the Languedoc court where noble families lived in “Hotels Particuliers”, or mansions whose striking architecture is unique to this town. Theatre lovers will enjoy the guide’s stories about French playwright, Moliere, who once stayed in Pezenas with his theatre group, l’Illustre Théâtre.
The evening’s mooring is just outside the village of Portiragnes. The paved tow path and romantic scenery make Portiragnes a lovely spot for walking or cycling. Then it’s time to enjoy another delicious, gourmet four-course dinner on board the Athos.
Agde to Marseillan
En route to Agde we cruise past the estuaries of the “Petit Camargue”, a bird watcher’s paradise! Bring binoculars to spot exotic species like Pink Flamingos, African Rollers and Bee Eaters. At Agde, a spectacular seafood lunch awaits! We’ll dine in the open-waters of the Etang de Thau, Europe’s largest mussel and oyster park.
No better way to follow an oyster lunch than by cruising to nearby Marseillan for a tour of the Noilly Prat Vermouth distillery, with a tasting of course.
Family and Friends Cruise
Organizing a family reunion or a special getaway with eight of your closest friends?
We’ll work with you to develop an itinerary, meals and excursions that will please every guest and make your reunion the experience of a lifetime.
Wine Tasting Cruise
There’s no better way to treat your inner oenophile than on an Athos wine cruise. From extraordinary tastings to lively discussions with our Master of Wine who provides wine education and daily wine touring, this week is dedicated to the wonders of wine.
Join us for a truly unique way to discover the best wines of the Languedoc.
What’s a holiday for tennis aficionados without a match or two? The Athos Tennis Cruise brings you the best of French scenery, history, cuisine and cruising with plenty of time set aside for the tennis court. You’ll enjoy some of France’s most picturesque views from the courts we select alongside our Canal du Midi route. Want a post-match cool down? Hop on one of our hybrid bikes and cycle alongside the canal and through scenic villages.
The Athos Golf Cruise marries your love of the game with the good life. Combine historical and cultural excursions with golf games under the Mediterranean sun. You’ll be chauffeured to and from some of France’s best courses, only to arrive back on board where Chef has prepared a decadent four-course meal. Contact us to find out more about the golfing opportunities in Languedoc.
Calling all art lovers. Join talented artist and teacher Andrew John for a week-long floating art course aboard the Athos. Flanked by some of France’s most beautiful countryside, you’ll encounter inspiration everywhere! The painting cruise combines lessons and practice time with excursions and the very best of French cuisine.
|Stateroom per person||4330||4770|
|Charter for 6 passengers||34670||38825|
|Charter for 8 passengers||38820||43300|
|Charter for 10 passengers||42300||47650|
- Value Season:
- March 31-April 27 & October 13 – November 2
- Regular Season:
- April 28 – October 12
Contact & Booking
Ready to book your 2015 holiday? Want to learn more about cruising on the Athos on the historic Canal du Midi?
Get in touch
Please use this form to contact us with questions or to book your barge trip in France holiday. You’ll receive a response within 48 hours.
13 rue Abbé Gouttes
Office: + 33(0) 468 338 392
Cell: + 33(0) 683 717 633
Fax: + 33(0) 468 463 604
The Athos Blog
Building the annual onboard wine list is always an adventure. From year to year, we follow our palates, and the trusty advice of friend & Master of Wine, Juliet Bruce-Jones. Most years Athos keeps to many of the tried and true Languedoc wineries, although we occasionally switch up for something new and interesting.
Last weekend saw a quick tasting at Chateau La Negly. La Negly is one of the tried and true Languedoc producers, and a must-taste for wino’s and cruisers of the Languedoc. Here’s what we bought to add to our 2015 list –
La Natice – an exceptional diversion from the region’s many good dry & fruity Languedoc roses. Although crisp and dry, La Natice delivers a fragrant, almost perfume-y strawberry nose. Elegant. And it’s a posh bottle.
La Natice, perfectly elegant rosé.
La Brise Marine – la Negly sits directly on the coastline between Vendres and Narbonne Plage and so is directly exposed to the ocean air, or “brise marine” and its clay mineral soil. Made from 70% Bourboulenc and 30% Roussanne grapes, giving notes of peaches, mango and almonds, this is a perfect pairing for seafood.
La Brise Marine, AOC Coteaux de Languedoc
La Falaise 2011 Coteaux de Languedoc: In fact, sold out. But Negly have pulled out all the stops and gone digging in their cellars to come out with enough of the 2011 for Athos’ 2015 season. Here’s what Curious Wines said about it: “This deep ruby red Syrah (50%), Grenache (40%) and Mourvèdre (10%) blend shows raspberry and blackberry fruit with undertones of chocolate and black olives on the nose. Hints of liqourice and roasted coffee beans mingle with dark fruit on the palate, where the wine displays ripe, smooth tannins and a long, savoury finish.” Cheers!
A week of fun for everyone: horseback riding, swimming in the Med, canalside cycling, learning petanque with our professional petanque-playing guide Matt(!!), or challenge Captain Julian to a tennis match! Throw in a fantastic personal chef who is open to your family’s dietary preferences, add glorious Canal du Midi cruising on the luxurious Athos, and call it a perfect Family Barge Boat Holiday.
Sunday 4pm pick up at designated point in Beziers
Your family will be met by ATHOS Captain and Manager. In the comfort of ATHOS’ private air-conditioned Chrysler minivans, you will be chauffeured to where the ATHOS awaits you at her moorings. You will be treated to a full-crew Welcome Aboard, including an introduction to the Ship’s Dog, Jill! Toasting with either Champagne or soft drinks, the Chef will offer a selection of Mediterranean canapés fit for kids and adults alike.
Once you are settled into your cabin, there may still be time for a quick bicycle ride alongside the canal. The Athos collection of children’s and adult bicycles & helmets are at your disposal throughout the week.
You will be invited to a 4-course dinner, prepared by our highly acclaimed Chef. Athos will have asked in advance for details about your family’s likes and dislikes so that the crew can present you with meals that meet the whole family’s approval! Discuss with the Chef about whether you’d like to have a few adults-only evening meals, or whether your gourmet experience will be a Family Dinner every evening.
Monday ARGELIERS to LA CROISADE
While coffee is available at any time from the bar, continental-style breakfast is served, at your leisure, beginning at 8:30am. A breakfast buffet offers a selection to please everyone: cereals, juices, yogurts, cold meats and cheese, and of course fresh pastries and bread from the local boulangerie! Your guide suggests an excursion to the famous Medieval double-walled city of Carcassonne where he will includes the legendary tales of Dame Carcas, and a visit to the tombstone of Simon de Montfort. She will also make sure that there is still time to browse the shops!
The Captain is getting ATHOS underway for an afternoon’s cruise to La Croisade, and Chef serves up another gourmet meal while the whole family relaxes on the sunny deck.
If exercise and a swim are in order, cycling enthusiasts might like to hop off with bicycles. Alternatively, your guide proposes a quick drive to the swimming hole at the Cesse River under the 17thC Canal Bridge. Ready for a refreshing glass of wine or a cold drink? Another delicious meal has been prepared. The on board hostess asks if everyone would like to eat al fresco, under the shade of the Plain Trees?
Tuesday LA CROISADE to CAPESTANG
After breakfast, your guide suggests a morning outing to the local equestrian centre. Along with the sheep, goats & chickens, la Fount del Bosc has a collection of very well-kept, well-educated poneys and horses. Your guide suggests a morning trail-ride en famille. On the way back, your guide stops at Bize Minervois, where the locals swim in the river – a refreshing cool-down at the end of an enjoyable hack.
Returning to Athos for a well-earned lunch on the Athos deck, Captain Julian starts the engines, and the Athos moves off. As Athos moors for evening, the crew suggests a quick game of Petanque (or French boules). The vineyards surrounding are sprawling and the view over Capestang towards the floodlit St Etienne collegiale is a pleasant setting for an outdoor dinner.
Wednesday CAPESTANG – FONSERANNES
This morning your guide invites enthusiastic swimmers and paddlers on an excursion into the Cevennes mountains, where large, wide kayaks float down the River Orb! After the scenic drive into the hills, everyone is handed a helmet and lifejacket, then set off in kayaking groups to navigate the mostly-shallow riverbed. Chef has packed a superb picnic lunch to be served by crew who have accompanied you on the adventure. For those more enthusiastic about relaxing than kayaking, Julian invites you to stay on board for a leisurely cruise, lunch on deck, and a quiet time under the parasol. When kayakers return to Athos, cruising continues as far as the Fonserannes.
This evening’s mooring is the breath-taking viewpoint at the Fonserannes. Perhaps a little cycle ride down to the famous staircase locks and the Canal Bridge will work up your appetite for the Chef’s creations this evening?
Thursday FONSERANNES to PORTIRAGNE
Following breakfast, your guide invites you on a side-trip to the weekly morning market in Narbonne? Even for non-shoppers, Narbonne offers bustling entertainment on a Thursday morning. Explore an excavated portion of the original Roman road, the Via Domitia, or, browse through the well-compiled Roman Museum and the beauty of St. Juste Cathedral. Or, simply take a moment to blend into the scene by sitting and relaxing in one of the many cafés. At 12 o’clock, your guide leads you to one of the most popular lunch spots at the brasserie Chez Bebelle in the covered food market. It is a busy, atmospheric and in-demand spot run by ex-rugby player Gilles Bebelle. The lunch is a casual affair, and the entertainment is Bebelle himself who calls out orders between the butchers’ stall and his grill. Heads up – the cuts fly!
On your return, Captain Julian and his deck hand are busy getting ATHOS underway. This 17thC feat of engineering, the Neuf Ecluses (or staircase locks), is sure to impress! ATHOS crew expertly tie her up in each lock, and wait for the gates to close safely behind her before the water levels empty out and allow her to pass one locks into the next. But it’s not over yet! Coming up next is the 18thC Canal Bridge that will carry the ATHOS over the Orb River.
The paved towpath and the many locks leading to this village make it an ideal afternoon for walking or cycling alongside the ATHOS.
When we arrive at the evening’s mooring just outside the small village of Portiragnes, your guide invites swimmers for a quick trip to the white sand beach (either by bicycle or car, as it’s only 1.5km away!) and a swim in the Mediterranean. Dinner on board.
Friday PORTIRAGNES to MARSEILLAN
Athos will get underway just after breakfast. Some active family members may like to take the bicycles back to the beach for a quick swim, and then return to re-board the Athos as she makes her way under the Portiragnes bridge.
A spectacular seafood lunch arrives as you enter the open-waters of the Etang de Thau. The Etang hosts Europe’s largest Mussel and Oyster Park. The crew’s favourite swimming pool is the Etang! Join them and jump in to cool off!
As ATHOS comes to moor in the port at Marseillan, you will notice the enclosure of the Noilly Prat Vermouth distillery. End a perfect day with a walking visit of the village, a romp around the seaside play-park which is a stone’s throw from Athos’ mooring, or a leisurely cycle ride down the promenade. Alternatively, ask your guide to book you Tennis courts on the clay courts here. Captain Julian and guide Matt are both keen players and there might be a family vs crew tournament to be had?
Chef’s efforts are sure to make this evening worth remembering! Captain Julian will join your party for your final dinner on board this evening. During the evening, he will also invite the crew, including Jill, to make a farewell toast with you.
After breakfast, everyone waves goodbye to Jill and the Crew, who have looked after your every need throughout the week. The minivans will now depart to the appointed destination in Beziers.
Athos on Etang de Thau