French cuisine has always been admired the world over for its rich traditions, exquisite ingredients and excellent execution, so much so that in 2010 UNESCO declared it part of the country’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’.
Each region has its own unique gastronomic style that’s ripe for exploration; nowhere is this more true than in the kitchens and restaurants of southwest France.
Luckily for us the area is dissected by the beautiful, historic Canal du Midi. This makes a barge holiday along the region’s main waterway the perfect way to explore the cuisine of the area, and an ideal choice for a culinary tour.
Discover the Midi by Boat
A culinary tour aboard a boat like our Enchanté is a great way to connect to the stunning countryside while learning about and experiencing the region’s distinctive cuisine.
Meandering at a leisurely pace down the quiet waterways on a two-storey barge that can house up to eight people, means that you will never have to push through a crowd to see the range of gastronomic experiences on offer.
As well as air conditioning and a spa pool, the luxury barge even has a ‘demonstration’ galley. This means that while the boat’s master chef creates his masterpieces, you can see how it’s done and even pick up a few tips!
From the comfort of your boat you can explore the region’s food heritage with a number of excursions on shore.
Make time as you drift down the canal’s waters to stop off at the forest of Minervois, set along the area’s beautiful hills, to discover the ancient secrets of truffle hunting.
While this used to be done by pigs who were naturally adept at sniffing out the tiny delicacies, today dogs have been trained to do the task and you can watch them dig up this culinary treasure and deliver them to their master.
Having watched the white truffles being dug up, you get the opportunity to return to the truffle company’s base to sample these exquisite gems. If you are on a culinary tour like the one that we provide, then your on-board chef will take some truffles back to the boat and show you how he prepares them for that night’s dinner.
Other excursions you should look out for on your culinary tour include: finding out more about how the snails used for cooking in France are reared and prepared, visiting an olive oil press and seeing how the oil is extracted, and meeting goats’ cheese producers at Combebelle goat farm.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the vast indoor food market in Narbonne, either. The range of stalls sell everything from fresh meat and fish to local cured meets, sweets and delicacies which can all be bought and taken home.
Spend your time on board taking cooking lessons from the world-class chef, sipping local wine on deck or trying some of the delicious produce you’ve encountered on your journey. A culinary tour down the Canal du Midi is the perfect way to connect with the exquisite cuisine of the region.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider if you're looking for an all-inclusive, luxury barging culinary tour in France or other great destinations. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.