Transcript for Episode 393: Life on the Canal du Midi

Table of Contents for this Episode

Categories: French Customs & Lifestyle, Toulouse Area

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 393, trois cent quatre-vingt-treize.

[00:00:22] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.

[00:00:39] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Michel Ravitsky about life on The Canal du Midi.

[00:00:46] Annie Sargent: Michel is French and a young retiree. He lives on his barge part-time and has taken some great trips on his barge on the canal, as he will explain. If you ever think about renting a boat barge on any canal in France, and especially on the Canal du Midi, you’ll want to listen to this episode because Michel gives us a great insider view of what it’s like.

[00:01:12] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my itinerary consult service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. And you can browse all of that at Annie’s Boutique

[00:01:33] Annie Sargent: I emailed the people who joined my mailing list to let them know about the French Immersion Week / Join Us in France Reunion. That will take place between Sunday, May 21st and Saturday, May 27th in 2023. That’s a bit of a long name, I’m not sure I’ll keep calling it that. Maybe I’ll call it France Bootcamp or something like that. What do you think?

[00:01:57] Annie Sargent: The concept is that you learn French in the morning in language school, we’ll go to lunch and then in the afternoon, we’ll do a visit around our lovely city of Toulouse, where Elyse and I live. So we look to do our first ever France Bootcamp in Toulouse, because it’ll be fun. Is it on your calendar yet? Save the date.

[00:02:19] Annie Sargent: And if you want to hear about it, subscribe to my newsletter by going to, and then email me, you just reply to the email and let me know that you are interested in the France Bootcamp. I have a long list already, but we can take some more for now.And you know, I know you’ve been saying that you want to learn French, right? You’ve been saying that for years, let’s get it done. Shall we?

[00:02:54] Annie and David: Oops, we lost a bit of the recording!

[00:02:54] Annie and David Mono: This is where I would say, Bonjour Michel Ravitski and welcome to Join Us in France, and I did just that, unfortunately I lost the first few minutes of this recording because of a technical issue, but my husband was with us and he is the one who recommended Michel to me, so he’s going to summarize the part of the conversation that you’re not hearing.

[00:03:16] Annie and David Mono: I’ve known Michel for a handful of years now, we both sing in choirs and we keep meeting each other at each other’s concerts. We know people in common, we have sung together, I think in one project but mostly, we’ve just gotten to know each other because we have choir singing friends in common.

[00:03:34] A barge is a great way to have a small apartment in the Toulouse city center

[00:03:34] Annie and David Mono: And I ended up on a fun email list of his, letting people know when he was coming into town, and if they wanted to come say hi and have a drink with him on his barge, right in near the city center, that we were always welcome. And so I bumped into him one day and said, by the way, so what’s this about your barge? And he told me some about what he was doing and that in fact he originally, when he retired, he wanted to have a place in the city, because he lives away from the city, but he likes to come in for concerts and to see people and that sort of thing, and was planning on after retiring, getting a studio apartment in the city center.

[00:04:13] Annie and David Mono: But then he saw how expensive real estate in the city center has gotten to be, and as somebody who has always loved boats, he’s been sailing since he was a young teenager, and found out that renting a dock in the harbor closest to the city center was actually very reasonable, and although at first it seemed that buying a barge would be a little bit much as well, at least in France, but then he found out that there were barges available in the Netherlands at more reasonable prices.

[00:04:46] Annie and David Mono: And so he went to the Netherlands near Amsterdam and saw some boats and found one that he fell in love with. And that was at a very good price and much better than buying a studio. And so whenever he comes into town for a weekend or for a concert or something like that, he’s on the barge and he lets his friends know that they can come say hi and have a drink if they want.

[00:05:07] Annie and David Mono: Really fun guy.

[00:05:08] Bateau d’intérêt patrimonial

[00:05:08] Annie and David Mono: And his barge actually, is a bateau d’intérêt patrimonial, it’s a gorgeous barge, it has a lot of wood paneling, and I didn’t take a lot of photos inside because you know, it’s his home, I felt awkward, but I will ask him if he can send me some photos, because that way he can send me whatever he wants.

[00:05:26] But it’s gorgeous in there. There’s lots of beautiful brass, lights, beautiful wood paneling, just gorgeous. So it was a pleasure to talk to him.

[00:05:37] Annie and David Mono: And now we pick up with the question that I asked him about, how he got his barge from Holland to the Southwest, because he mentioned that in Holland, navigation is so common, there are so many canals that he actually was afraid of getting lost, because so many people have boats over there, but that once he got to France it was much easier, but it was still a long process. So here’s Michel Ravitsky

[00:06:05] Annie and Michel: Canal Navigation 101

[00:06:05] Annie Sargent: So, how did you get the barge down to the Canal du Midi?

[00:06:08] It’s quite a long trip, it took me like three months. The boat was in a harbour close to Amsterdam, so you have to get through all the canals in Belgium and Holland. And this is quite a challenge, because it’s like the French road system, there is roads, the high roads, and as there are canals, so if you don’t have a GPS you can get lost very easily.

[00:06:34] Need software for navigation or you get lost

[00:06:34] Michel Ravitsky: So I had a little software likeGoogle Maps, but for canals, and then once you get to France it’s much more easier.

[00:06:43] How to navigate canals between Amsterdam and Toulouse

[00:06:43] Michel Ravitsky: You take a canal, it’s name is Canal du North, North Canal, and then when you are on the Oise you go to the river Seine, and then the Yonne, a tributary of the Seine. And then you have very nice canals, you have free canals and you can choose whatever you want, and then you go to the River Saône which is a contributory of the Rhône.

[00:07:09] Sometimes currents are very strong in Spring

[00:07:09] Michel Ravitsky: And then, when you go on the Rhône towards the sea it’s very easy, but on the other side, the stream, the current is quite strong, so you have to do that in Autumn.

[00:07:20] Michel Ravitsky: If you want to go North on the Rhône, it’s very, it’s too strong. Yeah. At springtime you can’t make it. It’s nearly impossible with a small boat like mine.

[00:07:30] Michel Ravitsky: And then, once you are at the end of the Rhône, close to Arles, then you have the beginning of the Canal du Midi.

[00:07:37] Michel Ravitsky: And that’s it.

[00:07:38] Annie Sargent: That’s it. Wow.

[00:07:39] Took 3 months at 8 km/h

[00:07:39] Annie Sargent: So it took you three months, you said?

[00:07:41] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah. It’s quite a long time, but it’s very beautiful. It’s a very good memory. I did it with my son and we had a very nice time. So it’s not bothering.

[00:07:50] Michel Ravitsky: Of course, if you are if you want action every time, it’s not your choice you want to make, but.

[00:07:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so it’s a peaceful kind of leisurely trip.

[00:08:02] Michel Ravitsky: Exactly.

[00:08:03] Michel Ravitsky: You’re going eight kilometers an hour. So, you know, it’s not very, sometime joggers were faster than me.

[00:08:13] Do you need a permit?

[00:08:13] Annie Sargent: So you have to have a permit, right? To operate boat like

[00:08:16] Michel Ravitsky: In France, you have to get a permit, if you are a French citizen, which is very strange, because I’m sailing since I’m 15 and don’t have any license, any permit for sailboat, but I had to pass my driving license forbarges. Yeah, when I bought this one but it’s not very difficult, so it’s not, you know, you have to do it, but it’s not a big deal.

[00:08:38] Visitors don’t have to have a permit

[00:08:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah. But, so visitors don’t have to have a permit?

[00:08:42] Michel Ravitsky: I don’t think so. I mean, if you are a foreigner, you don’t need to have a permit, and one thing which I’m pretty sure if you rent a boat to a French company, you don’t have to have a permit. This is a big issue. Yeah, because sometimes people don’t have any idea, any practical sense. So you spend like half an hour with the guy who is renting you the barge, he explains to you how to go backwards,you know, the basic things, but when you’re coming in the lock, sometimes it can be a problem.

[00:09:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It would be better if they knew

[00:09:16] Michel Ravitsky: A little bit more.

[00:09:17] Annie Sargent: A little bit more, yeah. A bit more training would be good.

[00:09:20] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:09:21] Favourite Places on Canal du Midi?

[00:09:21] Annie Sargent: Okay. So along the Canal du Midi, do you take trips? Do you have favorite places where you like to stop?

[00:09:28] Michel Ravitsky: Oh yeah. I mean there are many places. Well you have to know that when you are in Toulouse, you can go eastwards or westwards. Westward is not the Canal du Midi.

[00:09:40] Michel Ravitsky: Which is nice, not as nice as the Canal du Midi, but it’s quite interesting.

[00:09:45] La Baïse, a narrow river for small boats

[00:09:45] Michel Ravitsky: And there is a river which goes in theCanal Latéral à la Garonne, the name is La Baïse and this is a very nice place where to go, very narrow, you can’t go with a big boat. It’s a river, it’s not a canal, and you have little locks, so you have to make sure that your boat is wide enough to get inside the lock. But it’s very beautiful and very peaceful place, which I like a lot.

[00:10:15] Annie Sargent: So, that’s going West.

[00:10:17] Seuil de Naurouze, a beautiful spot not too far from Toulouse

[00:10:17] Michel Ravitsky: That’s going West. East on the Canal du Midi, the first interesting spot for me is the Seuil de Naurouze, this is the place where the canal is the highest. It’s highest point.

[00:10:30] It’s beautiful, it has wonderful trees which were planted bythe guy who designed and built the canal. So this is a very beautiful spot. And it’s three days away, less than three days away from Toulouse. So it’s a, if you have a week, you can go there and be back in less than a week.

[00:10:48] It’s a very nice.

[00:10:49] Locks close at night

[00:10:49] Annie Sargent: So, when you do that, do you just sail during the day and then you stop at night?

[00:10:55] Michel Ravitsky: It’s forbidden to sail at nightime and the locks are closed. So there is no point about that. You have to stop. I think the locks close around 7:00 PM, and it’s better to stop before, to make sure you find a nice place where you can spend the night so you just take your time.

[00:11:13] Michel Ravitsky: I mean, in the morning they open at 8 I think, sometimes 7, but people don’t like to wake up very early, so…

[00:11:21] Where do you dock for the night?

[00:11:21] So, you can dock your boat along the sides, or do have specific ports where you have to go?

[00:11:28] Michel Ravitsky: Both. I mean, there are some specific ports where you would findelectricity, water, if you need some, but the little docks, which have nothing, just to tie the boats.

[00:11:41] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah.

[00:11:41] Michel Ravitsky: And on my boat, I have another option, I have big metal bars, which I can put in the ground, and then I can tie the boats on that bars, if there is no wind for instance.

[00:11:54] That would be a very good idea because if have strong gusts, it’s not very reliable. But when it’s very calm, you’ll find a place where you want to stop. If your water tank is full, if you have enough battery, you’re the king of the world, I mean, and I love that.

[00:12:12] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s great. That’s awesome. That’s wonderful.

[00:12:16] Big floating RV

[00:12:16] Annie Sargent: So it’s kind of like an RV, really? Like it’s like RV, recreational vehicle, camping cart or something. A car.

[00:12:24] Michel Ravitsky: Floating camping car I would say.

[00:12:27] Annie Sargent: It’s a big floating camping car. I mean, some camping cars are very small.

[00:12:31] Annie Sargent: This one’s 15 meters, is pretty big. You have some good, yeah, it’s comfortable.

[00:12:36] Michel Ravitsky: And also there is much more room than in a camping car. When you are in the camping car you have to count every thing you bring inside because there are not so many places to put your stuff. There are bunks, lockers everywhere, so it’s not a problem.

[00:12:53] Getting around when you stop somewhere

[00:12:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So when you stop somewhere, how do you get around? Do you have a bike or…?

[00:12:58] Michel Ravitsky: I have a bike, yeah. You can use the bike if you have to go to a grocery shop or whatever, and also you can walk some interesting walks and so you can do whatever you want. You are always close to a village or place if you want to take a cafe or whatever.

[00:13:17] Well, sometimes you have to make like four or five kilometers. So, if you want to take the aperitif at evening, it could be a bit difficult, but also, so I was telling you aboutSeuil de Naurouze which is a very wild place, I mean, there is no cafe.

[00:13:31] Castelnaudary, a popular stop on the Canal du Midi

[00:13:31] Michel Ravitsky: You have very nice cities, like for instance, Castelnaudary which is a beautiful place, and there is a lot of room. They have a lot of docks for the recreationalvessels, barges and rental boats and Castelnaudary is a very nice place, andthe capital of the Cassoulet, so you have to stop there.

[00:13:50] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yeah, we did a whole episode about Castelnaudary so it’s a nice place.

[00:13:54] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah, it’s a very nice place.

[00:13:56] Going through the original locks from the 17th century

[00:13:56] Michel Ravitsky: And also, you have very interesting locks which were originally built by Riquet, so we are talking about the 17th century, and they are nearly in the same shape that they were originally built.

[00:14:12] Michel Ravitsky: So it’s it’s quite interesting, it’s a very beautiful architecture, all the bridges, the gunman bridge from Riquet, are beautiful. So if you’re interesting in architecture, civil engineering, it’s a paradise.

[00:14:25] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. It’s very nice. Yeah.

[00:14:28] Tourists along the canal

[00:14:28] Do you think there are a lot of tourists along the canal?

[00:14:31] Michel Ravitsky: Well, it depends on the period of the year. And this is a big problem for me, because July and August are overcrowded, especially with people who don’t know very well how to use their boats. So when you have, like sometimes you can have 10 boats waiting for the lock, and if there is some wind it can become a nightmare.

[00:14:52] When’s the best time to go?

[00:14:52] If you want to go there, it’s better to be there in June or in September, but July and August, for me it’s too crowded.

[00:15:00] Too crowded. And is it mostly French tourists or international?

[00:15:05] Michel Ravitsky: Very international. Yeah. A lot of English people, Americans mostly, some Germans too.

[00:15:11] Yachts and sailboats on the Canal du Midi

[00:15:11] Michel Ravitsky: And also you have someyachts, which want to go from the mer to the Atlantic Ocean and don’t want to go to Gibraltar. So you will see some sailboat, we have one just beside, the mast is on the deck. And they go through up the canal, to avoid the big, the big turn, the big circle through Gibraltar.

[00:15:31] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:15:32] Michel Ravitsky: And this is, I mean, in Spring andSummer you will meet a lot of these people.

[00:15:39] Fees to pay?

[00:15:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And when you stop at the capitainerie, are there like fees that you have to pay all the time, every time?

[00:15:46] Michel Ravitsky: Well, if you’re in the wilderness you don’t have to pay anything. Every habour, you have to pay the fees, but they are quite reasonable, it’s very cheap.

[00:15:54] Annie Sargent: Around 10 euros, I would say. Yeah. Camping fee.

[00:15:57] Michel Ravitsky: Exactly. Yes, that’s the idea, depending on the number of people you are on board, if you want to take a shower or not, or whatever.

[00:16:03] Canal Authority fees

[00:16:03] Michel Ravitsky: And you have to pay to the Canal Authority, right to use the canal, which is for one day, one week, one month, one year.

[00:16:11] Annie Sargent: I see.

[00:16:12] Michel Ravitsky: And this depends on the length of the boat. If you rent the boat. the rental company will pay for you.

[00:16:19] Michel Ravitsky: So you don’t see that, but if you are a private owner, you have to pay. It’s not very cheap. It’s not outrageously expensive, but you have to count on that.

[00:16:31] Annie Sargent: You have to pay.

[00:16:31] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah. You have to pay.

[00:16:32] Diseased trees along Canal du Midi

[00:16:32] I’ve heard a lot about the trees along the Canal du Midi being diseased and things like that. What have you seen?

[00:16:39] Michel Ravitsky: Well, the platan

[00:16:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:16:41] Michel Ravitsky: I don’t know the name in English,

[00:16:42] David’s going to look it up. Les platanes, yes. That’s the traditional trees.

[00:16:46] They were planted by Riquet and they all have got a disease.

[00:16:52] Michel Ravitsky: And so, the Canal Authority had to cut them because they were dangerous,they were possible to break on a windy day and they replanted new trees, not only this one, but they also madea genetical modification on the seeds of the new trees which resist to this disease.But you would find some places where during five kilometers, you don’t see a single tree.

[00:17:18] Annie Sargent: Oh wow.

[00:17:19] Annie Sargent: Yeah

[00:17:20] Michel Ravitsky: And it’s a very big budget. So they ask people to support them, to donate. It’s really,it has been a big problem. Also, the roots of the trees are part of the canal and also they help the canal to stay in a good condition. So, it’s a big deal.

[00:17:39] Annie Sargent: So there a lot of new young trees along the canal now?

[00:17:43] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah.

[00:17:43] Annie Sargent: It’s going to take a decade or more

[00:17:45] Michel Ravitsky: Oh,

[00:17:46] Annie Sargent: to grow them.

[00:17:46] Michel Ravitsky: I would say a century to have the big trees as we had before. Yeah.

[00:17:52] What does he like to do on the canal?

[00:17:52] Annie Sargent: So, what do you like to do when you’re on the canal?

[00:17:55] Annie Sargent: Like, are there places you like to stop and visit? I mean, you talk about Castelnaudary and Le col de Naurouze?

[00:18:02] Stopping along the way to do watercolour

[00:18:02] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah. So, Seuil de Naurouze, also, since I got retired in 2017 and I started to do watercolour. And I love to, you know, stop at the beginning of an afternoon and take an hour or two to three hours to make a watercolour in a nice place.

[00:18:22] If you love activity it’s not the best thing you will like, but it’s so peaceful that for me it’s a very inspiring to be there and to take your brushes and to do some watercolours.

[00:18:33] Services along the canal

[00:18:33] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Are there a lot of services along the canal?

[00:18:37] Michel Ravitsky: Like, you’d mentioned showers. Cities.

[00:18:39] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:18:41] Michel Ravitsky: And some, but very scarce, some municipalities can have a dock with electricity and sometimes they offer you for one night to stay, they will not cover you for the staying of a night. I would say it’s not difficult to find a place, you will be okay. The thing is to try to when you’re scheduling a cruise, to to give you time to walk around, to discover city.

[00:19:11] Don’t forget that you are walking, you’re walking on eight kilometers an hour basis. So it’s like a pedestrian mostly more or less.

[00:19:20] How long to pass a lock?

[00:19:20] Michel Ravitsky: And you have to also count on the time to pass a lock.

[00:19:24] Annie Sargent: How long does it take, average?

[00:19:26] Michel Ravitsky: If there is no queue, It could be done in 20 minutes, but if there is another boat on the other way.

[00:19:33] Annie Sargent: Coming the other direction.

[00:19:34] It could be up to 40 minutes.

[00:19:36] Annie Sargent: Oh, yeah.

[00:19:37] Michel Ravitsky: And if there is a queue, then you don’t know.

[00:19:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah, could be.

[00:19:41] Michel Ravitsky: It could be two hours.

[00:19:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:19:43] Michel Ravitsky: And it is boring.

[00:19:45] Annie Sargent: You’re just waiting. Yeah.

[00:19:46] Michel Ravitsky: There is nothing to do, and sometimes there is too much boats to find a place where you can dock the boat, so you have to stay in the middle of the canal.

[00:19:55] That’s why I don’t like to sail in summertime.

[00:19:58] Annie Sargent: July and August you don’t sail so much.

[00:20:00] Michel Ravitsky: I try to avoid it.

[00:20:01] Gendarmerie de Castelnaudary

[00:20:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So once I was, I think it was in Castelnaudary we were there, and we saw gendarmes.

[00:20:08] Annie Sargent: So, there’s a special branch of the gendarmerie that’s just for the canal?

[00:20:13] Michel Ravitsky: Well, I know that in Paris, there is a fluvial brigade of police, but in the Canal du Midi.

[00:20:21] Annie Sargent: I think there is, I mean, they had a special car. I can’t remember what it said on the side but Gendarmerie Fluviale ou naval

[00:20:29] Michel Ravitsky: Fluviale c’est possible, but I never saw them though.

[00:20:33] Annie Sargent: Okay. So you don’t run into it a lot?

[00:20:35] Michel Ravitsky: No, no.

[00:20:37] Michel Ravitsky: Well, they just, they have to control if you have your license.The fee for the canal is controlled by the guy who runs the lock. So, I don’t see I mean, we don’t have a lot of traffic. It’s not like a drug account channel or, you know.

[00:20:54] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the Canal du Midi it’s mostly tourists. I mean, it’s mostly just leisure, boating.

[00:21:01] No longer used for freight

[00:21:01] Michel Ravitsky: Until the 50s, it has been used as freightcarrier.

[00:21:06] Michel Ravitsky: But, right now there is only one boat who makes regular trips to carry wine or stuff like that. Andit’s more, I don’t think that on the financial side it’s a very rentable, but they like to do that.

[00:21:20] Michel Ravitsky: And I think also that the price, the cost of the ton by kilometers in a barge, is very interesting, but you don’t have to be in a hurry. And also, if you have to deliver the freight to a place quite far away from the canal, then you have to put it on a truck and this make the cost and all those things much more difficult.

[00:21:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. yeah. It’s more planning and all of that.

[00:21:49] Cycling along the canal

[00:21:49] So you must see a lot of joggers and bikers and runners and all of that. Is there a lot of that sort of activity?

[00:21:55] Michel Ravitsky: Uh, close to Toulouse, close to every city, but once you are in the wilderness, if I may say so,nobody, nobody, except some cyclers.

[00:22:05] Michel Ravitsky: It’s a bigchallenge, people are trying to go from a Narbonne up to Bordeaux cycling. And my daughter did it last year.

[00:22:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:22:16] Michel Ravitsky:And it’s quite.

[00:22:16] Michel Ravitsky: Well, yeah, because they had their tents, so the bicycle is quite heavy, it’s quite loaded. And I think it’s a nice treat because you don’t have a lot of up and downs, because you’re along the canal, but it’s a long trip.

[00:22:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, you have to go up and down when you’re around the bridge.

[00:22:35] Annie Sargent: Exactly.

[00:22:36] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:22:36] Michel Ravitsky: And some locks also, but it’s not like a being in the Pyrenees or…

[00:22:42] Annie Sargent: No, nothing like that. Yeah. Nothing like that. Cool.

[00:22:46] Is the Canal du Midi safe?

[00:22:46] Annie Sargent: So is it safe? I assume there’s no crime or theft?

[00:22:50] Michel Ravitsky: Never had. Well, if you leave your boat, it’s better to close it. But I never heard bad stories of theft or boat beingno, I think it’s quite safe.

[00:23:01] Annie Sargent: It’s quite safe.

[00:23:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:23:03] Michel Ravitsky: There’s no problems.

[00:23:03] A family lifestyle or not?

[00:23:03] Annie Sargent: You see families doing this or? Yeah. What’s the kind of, what’s the vibe? Is it older people? Is it younger people?

[00:23:10] Michel Ravitsky: A lot of retired people. A lot of English and American people. And also the sailboats, which avoid Gibraltar, I would say there’s three or four kinds oftravelers.

[00:23:24] Speed limits

[00:23:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Are the sailboats faster than barges?

[00:23:27] Michel Ravitsky: No, because the speed is limited.

[00:23:29] Annie Sargent: Ah!

[00:23:30] Because you have got some big motorboats and they’re supposed not to go more than eight kilometers an hour, because you will ruin the side of the canal, if you go too fast with the wave.

[00:23:41] Annie Sargent: The churn, yeah.

[00:23:43] Michel Ravitsky: So, really it’s important not to go too fast.

[00:23:47] Annie Sargent: You can’t speed.

[00:23:48] Michel Ravitsky: Well, people do it, especially rented boat, they want to have fun during 10 minutes, but it’s stupid. I mean, and you will have a lock, and it’s a question of respect also for the surrounding.

[00:24:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Just follow the rules.

[00:24:03] Michel Ravitsky: Exactly. And also, enjoy the scenery. I mean, if you go fast you have to, as the guy how’s at the helm, if you go fast, has to be more concentrated. So it’s better to do it smooth.

[00:24:15] At the helm all the time?

[00:24:15] Annie Sargent: So somebody has to be at the helm all the time.

[00:24:17] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah.

[00:24:18] Yeah, this is compulsory. Of course, the rule is that one guy has to have the license, but if there are two people or three people able to drive the boat, they can drive, since the guy how has license is on board.

[00:24:35] Annie Sargent: I see, yeah.

[00:24:36] Michel Ravitsky: So, I very often invite friends and most of the time they like toto steer for an hour or two, and then they get bored. Or when you’re starting, you really need more concentration because the boats don’t react like your car, don’t react like your sailboat, and you have to get used to the movement of the boat. This boat is 20 tonnes. Heavy. So when there is a turn to make, it reacts very strangely. The first time, you have to understand how it reacts and it needs some concentration, but you know, it’s a matter of you spend half an hour and you know it.

[00:25:19] How many days in a year do you sail?

[00:25:19] Annie Sargent: So how many days a year do you sail?

[00:25:23] Michel Ravitsky: I’ve tried to, well except in COVID.

[00:25:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that was different.

[00:25:27] Michel Ravitsky: Okay. I try to make one cruise in Springtime and one cruise in Autumn.

[00:25:32] Michel Ravitsky: So it could be like a month in Spring and a month in Fall, three weeks or whatever.


[00:25:38] Michel Ravitsky: This year, due to some personal problem, I would probably just take a week to go to the Seuil de Naurouze and for the Spring and in the Fall maybe more. My big idea is to go up to Bordeaux and then go on river Dordogne.

[00:25:57] Michel Ravitsky: And this is, I would say, six or seven weeks back and forth.

[00:26:02] Dropping friends off at railway stations

[00:26:02] Michel Ravitsky: But the problem in my case is to schedule the thing to invite friends, but to be able to leave them in a city where there is a railway station.

[00:26:12] Annie Sargent: Right. So they can get back.

[00:26:13] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah. And this is quite difficult to settle.

[00:26:16] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:26:17] Michel Ravitsky: Everybody has his owntime limit, and sometimes it was nearly a nightmare.

[00:26:23] Annie Sargent: Because you have to drop them off in a town that has a railway station, right?

[00:26:27] Michel Ravitsky: And the next one, you don’t want to spend a week waiting for the next one. So the next one has to come the next day or within two days.

[00:26:35] Mechanical issues

[00:26:35] So, sometimes it’s a bit tricky to but I succeed, but long cruise and you mustn’t have any problem. If you are stuck in a place for a mecanical issue, then all the planning is ruined.

[00:26:50] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes. Have you had many mechanical issues with this boat?

[00:26:53] Michel Ravitsky: So far, so good.

[00:26:55] Annie Sargent: Knock on wood, yeah.

[00:26:56] Michel Ravitsky: Actually, when I bought the boat, the engine was brand new, so you can always have a mechanical issue, but yeah.

[00:27:05] Michel Ravitsky: If I have, it will be very hard luck if I had a problem with the engine, because the engine is totally new. So nothing, I don’t know what could happen. But sometimes you haveleaves or weeds. You know, this engine is cooled with the water from the canal. So you have a pump which takes the water from the canal, goes in the engine andput it back. Sometimes, you have leavesat the intake and it can be difficult to remove them.

[00:27:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:27:36] Michel Ravitsky: Especially at the Fall.

[00:27:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:27:39] Michel Ravitsky: Fall is a bad time for.

[00:27:42] Annie Sargent: For leaves.

[00:27:42] Michel Ravitsky: Leaves, yeah. And sometimes you have to wait, to stop for an hour to try to. Well, now I’m getting used to it, I know to do it, but at the beginning, it can be a problem.

[00:27:52] Canal cruises take a lot of time

[00:27:52] Annie Sargent: So what would you like people to know? Like if people are interested in taking a cruise on the canal, what should they know? What wisdom would you share with them?

[00:27:59] Well, if they want to rent a boat, you have a lot of companies, so it’s not difficult to find a company, and they have very different sizes of boats.

[00:28:10] Michel Ravitsky: If you are a couple or if you are eight, you will find the right size of the boat. I don’t know about the prices. What I would say is don’t try, except if you have two months, is don’t try to visit all the canal in one time. It’s better to do little, take time, stopnot too late in the evening, relax.

[00:28:32] Michel Ravitsky: I would say don’t be too ambitious in your schedule. It’s better to have spare time than to have not enough time.

[00:28:39] Apps or Maps for Getting Around the Canals

[00:28:39] Annie Sargent: So you said for Holland, you had to have an app to show you all the different canals. What’s the app that you use for canals in Europe?

[00:28:46] Michel Ravitsky: Well, it’s only for Holland and Belgium.

[00:28:49] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:28:49] Michel Ravitsky: Here there is no intersection.

[00:28:52] Annie Sargent: Ah.

[00:28:53] Michel Ravitsky: The canal is straight, so you can’t miss a

[00:28:56] But like you say, you would like to go to Bordeaux and then on the Dordogne. How do you figure out how to do that?

[00:29:03] Michel Ravitsky: Well it’s very easy, because the entrance of the river Dordogne is conspicuous. It’s very easy to locate. What I was talking about is, you can arrive in a place where you will have four or five canals.

[00:29:18] Annie Sargent: Oh in Holland.

[00:29:19] Michel Ravitsky: In Holland, and even with a precise map, you will have an hesitation and they don’t put anysigns on the canals. There the app is really compulsory, but that’s the only place in Europe, I would say, you have to have it. In France, no problem.

[00:29:41] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah, you just look on the map to see where it’s, where it links.

[00:29:45] It’s very easy to buy maps, they have special maps for navigation on the rivers. And they’re not very expensive. It’s better to have it because also you have a lot of information about where you will find a harbour, if there is electricity, showers, or etc.

[00:30:00] Michel Ravitsky: So have this map on board. Normally, if you rent a boat, they will provide you the maps. So, it’s not a problem.

[00:30:09] Annie Sargent: That’s how you plan it. You just look at the maps.

[00:30:12] Michel Ravitsky: And you know that you will run at 8 kilometers an hour.

[00:30:16] Annie Sargent: Right? So you can decide, you know, how far are you going to go?

[00:30:19] Michel Ravitsky: And you know how many locks you will have to pass, 20 minutes or you would say to make sure 40 minutes every lock.

[00:30:29] Michel Ravitsky: Then you’re done. I mean, it’s not very difficult.

[00:30:33] Annie Sargent: Excellent.

[00:30:34] Annie Sargent: All right.

[00:30:35] Annie Sargent: Anything else you want to tell us about?

[00:30:37] Try to speak a little French

[00:30:37] Michel Ravitsky: Well, I mean I think people who don’t speak French, it would be better if they have a little experience in French, to communicate and to enjoy better, meeting the French people.

[00:30:49] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yeah, because the Capitainerie, how do you say that in English? I don’t even know.

[00:30:55] Michel Ravitsky: Harbour Master

[00:30:55] Annie Sargent: Harbour Master, I mean, they don’t necessarily speak English.

[00:30:59] Michel Ravitsky: Well, in the Canal du Midi mostly they speak, because so many foreign tourists, they speak English, but in the locks, they don’t speak English.

[00:31:08] Annie Sargent: Right, right. The guys who run the locks.

[00:31:10] Most locks are automatic

[00:31:10] Michel Ravitsky: Well, I’ll have to say that most of the locks on the automatic, you just have to push a button.

[00:31:18] Annie Sargent: You have to find the button.

[00:31:19] Michel Ravitsky: Yes, but most of the time, if I remember well, it’s bilingual, so you will find the instruction in English and French. So that’s not a problem. The tricky locks, the locks where they have two stairs, I would say, they are manual.

[00:31:35] Michel Ravitsky: So you will have a guy

[00:31:37] Annie Sargent: Person to talk to.

[00:31:37] Are people friendly?

[00:31:37] Annie Sargent: Are people friendly? Could you make friends with the people that you dock with?

[00:31:41] Michel Ravitsky: Yeah. In the harbour, right now it’s not really the beginning of the season, but most of the time there is a good atmosphere. I mean, everybody’s friendly, we help each other and it’s a nice ambiance, I would say.

[00:31:54] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Do you have other people in Toulouse who live on their barges year round?

[00:31:59] Right now, I had one friend, but he left. Not so many, but there is also another place in Toulouse where you candock.

[00:32:10] Michel Ravitsky: You have more peoplespending the year longer here, because it’s cheaper, but also it’s not the same safety.

[00:32:17] Annie Sargent: Right, right. L’Embouchure is not the same neighborhood at all as this.

[00:32:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. If I had to choose, I would come here too.

[00:32:24] Michel Ravitsky: Definitely, there is Ramonville-Saint-Agne, which has a big harbour.

[00:32:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:32:30] Michel Ravitsky: But the problem of Ramonville is the traffic, if you want to leave the boat with your car, you have to choose the hour of the day.

[00:32:37] Michel Ravitsky: So for me, this is ideal. I mean, I love music, so the Halle aux Grains is like 10 minutes walking.

[00:32:45] Annie Sargent: It’s perfect.

[00:32:47] Annie Sargent: It’s perfect, you really have a lovely place and it doesn’t hardly move. I mean, we’ve been sitting here for an hour and it doesn’t move very much.

[00:32:55] No, it’s not like a sailboat and we are not in open waters. So you don’t have any waves. You’ll just feel the wind drift. When there is a big windfor instance, you will feel the boat moving a little bit, but nothing to compare with sailboats.

[00:33:16] Annie Sargent: All right. Well, thank you so much. Well, santé, we’re going to have apéro, y’a plus qu’à

[00:33:23] Lovely talking to you about your beautiful barge. Thank you very much.

[00:33:26] Michel Ravitsky: With pleasure.

[00:33:28] Thank you, patrons

[00:33:28] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so. You can see them at and I’m going to change my rewards on July 14th, to celebrate Bastille Day this year. I’ll be making changes to the rewards structure, because I’ve talked to my patrons, I know what they want and so I’ll give them more of that.

[00:34:01] Annie Sargent: Thank you all so much for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time, you are wonderful.

[00:34:07] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Elyria Salazar, Kaitlin Pettit, Eddie Hamalian, Glen Hackbarth. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:34:22] Annie Sargent: My thanks also to Marie Hackbarth, wow you guys are generous, and Ellen Conard for sending in a one-time donation by using the green button on any page on JoinUsinFrance.Com that says “Tip Your Guide”.

[00:34:38] Prepare your trip to France

[00:34:38] Annie Sargent: And if you’re preparing a trip to France and listening to as many episodes of the podcast as you can to get ready, keep listening, it’s a very good way to prepare your trip to France.

[00:34:50] Annie Sargent: But keep in mind that you should also use the website where you can search for specific places that you’d like to hear about.

[00:34:57] Hire me to be your itinerary consultant

[00:34:57] Annie Sargent: You can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. I’ve made some changes to the service to make it better. Here’s how it works now. You purchase the service on, then you fill out a document to let me know what you have in mind, we make a phone appointment and then we chat for about an hour.

[00:35:18] Annie Sargent: And after our chat, I send you a document with the plan we’ve discussed. It works very well, it helps me zoom in on what you want better, because I get to ask you questions rather than just read your answers. So it’s a very good way to do this.

[00:35:33] Annie Sargent: But, my time is always booked up quite far in advance. You’ll see the date of my next appointment availability on the page where you can buy this service. It’s the only place where you can buy the service, so you’ll see the date if you pay attention. So take a look at that and make sure that your trip is not like two days after that date, because it’s going to be hard for me to fit you in.

[00:36:00] Self-guided tours

[00:36:00] If you cannot talk to me because I’m all booked up, you can still take me in your pocket by getting my GPS self-guided tours on the VoiceMap app. I’ve produced five tours of Paris. They are designed to show you around different, wonderful neighborhoods of Paris.

[00:36:17] Annie Sargent: And, you know, I’m aware that this is new, this is a new way to travel with apps, but apps can really be a game changer and make your life much, much easier. And if you go to the boutique JoinUsinFrance.Com/boutique, you can get those tours at a discount. And it’s also better for me because I get to keep more of the money since Apple and Google, which are already very, very rich, don’t get to keep 30% of the whole thing.

[00:36:46] Annie Sargent: So, please go through my website to get those tours, and just have me in your pocket. I’m telling you, these are an excellent, excellent way to discover Paris.

[00:36:58] How do taxis work in Paris?

[00:36:58] Annie Sargent: For the Travel Question of the Week, let’s talk about taxis in Paris. Now, if you’ve been to Paris a million times, and you know this already, you have your way of doing it, feel free to skip this section.

[00:37:11] Annie Sargent: I’m going to talk here to people who haven’t been to Paris at all, or maybe only once, years ago, and they want to make sure, because we get so many questions about this.

[00:37:22] Annie Sargent: So this question come from Camille, she reached out on the Facebook group and she wrote, “I remember Annie Sargent saying that the ride from CDG, that’s the Paris airport, was about 60 euros with a slightly higher fare to the left bank. Also Annie, after reading about the group member who was badly overcharged a few weeks ago, maybe tips on dealing with taxi issues would be a good short episode?

[00:37:53] Annie Sargent: So let’s get it done. Let me answer your questions. Okay. First of all, in June, 2022, the set fare between CDG and the left bank in Paris, that the left bank being the Latin Quarter, it’s 58 euros. And between CDG and the right bank, so that’s Le Marais, it’s 53 euros.

[00:38:16] Annie Sargent: The fare for one car between Paris and CDG, or between Paris and CDG, is the same. It works in either direction.

[00:38:27] Annie Sargent: There is also a set fare between the Orly airport, which is the other airport in Paris, and the center of Paris, but almost none of you will fly into Orly, so it doesn’t apply, so I won’t go into that.

[00:38:39] Annie Sargent: It’s cheaper to do Orly to Paris than CDG to Paris, because Orly is closer to the city.

[00:38:46] Annie Sargent: Now, how do you make sure that you get that set rate? The only thing you have to do, is take the trouble to walk to the official taxi line at Charles de Gaulle, at CDG.

[00:38:59] Annie Sargent: Where is the official taxi line? Like all airports in the world, the taxi line is outside of the terminal, and there are signs pointing you to it. When you get there, it’s obvious. It’s an official taxi line because it’s a bit like a Disneyland line. You know, it’s like there’s a roof over your head, there’s bars to keep everybody in line, it’s first come, first serve. Sometimes there’s a lot of people ahead of you, sometimes you get to walk straight to the front, just like Disneyland.

[00:39:31] Annie Sargent: Between your gate and the kerb, people will solicit you to give you a ride. Why do they do that? Because they are not licensed Paris taxis, which means they can charge whatever they want, whatever they can squeeze out of you.

[00:39:51] Annie Sargent: Do not get on a ride of any sort with anyone who asked you if you’d like to ride with them. That’s it. If they ask you, you say no, the end. Is really easy, it’s like phone solicitation. You know, if somebody calls you from say, I’m from the bank, give me your password. You say, hell no, right? Same with taxis.

[00:40:12] Annie Sargent: If they say, I’m a taxi, let me give you a ride. You say, hell no, I’ll go find my own taxi, thank you very much.

[00:40:18] Annie Sargent: Why do they let people solicit unsuspecting visitors in Paris? Well, because an airport is a public space and it’s not against the law to talk to strangers in France. So this is a buyer beware type of situation, but there are signs all over the airport, warning visitors not to accept solicitations and to get to the official taxi line.

[00:40:45] Annie Sargent: Lots of people get taken all the same because they don’t think, or they don’t read, or maybe they don’t, they’ve never traveled before, I’m not sure. But do not accept any solicitations. Some taxis can only take three people, and some can take more. Some cars have more space for luggage and nobody rides next to the driver.

[00:41:07] Annie Sargent: So in a regular car, it can only take three passengers. What if there are four of you? Do you need to book a special something or other that can take four of you? No, you do not. When it’s your turn, and you’re in line for the taxi, there will be a human being managing the line. That person will take a look at your group and signal for a taxi that fits your group. Some taxi drivers have a regular sedan, others drive a van. There’s all sorts of vehicles, okay? So that person managing the line, we’ll call the right taxi for you.

[00:41:44] Annie Sargent: You will pay the same amount, 53 or 58, depending on if you’re going Left Bank or right Bank, no matter what the size of the vehicle is, it’s one vehicle, one fee.

[00:41:56] Annie Sargent: You might need more than one car, if there’s like a lot of you, you know, more than five of you with luggage, I would expect that you would need more you know, two cars. But if it’s a van, a van can take five people with luggage, perhaps six. I don’t know. It just depends on, you know, how big you are and all of that.

[00:42:16] Annie Sargent: When it’s time to get back to the airport at the end of your trip, the same rules apply.

[00:42:22] Annie Sargent: If you go to the nearest taxi line in Paris, pay attention to this. If you go to the nearest taxi line in Paris, there are places in Paris where taxis park waiting for customers. They are all over the place. One example is, right outside of the Saint Paul Metro station in Le Marais. Also not far from Angelina’s on Rue de Rivoli. There are taxis parked there almost day and night.

[00:42:48] There are many others. Look around where you are staying. Near your hotel, there might be a place where taxis habitually go to park to wait for customers. And if you get in a taxi at those spots, you will pay either 53 or 58, depending on whether you are taking the taxi in the Left Bank or in the Right Bank.

[00:43:10] Annie Sargent: If instead of walking to a taxi line, you get your hotel to call you a taxi, you’ll pay a few more euros, because the taxi had to come to you. I think it’s an extra 3 euros in that case.

[00:43:23] Annie Sargent: If you reserve a taxi the night before, you’ll also pay a little extra for the reservation. I think it’s 7 euros, in that case.

[00:43:32] Annie Sargent: Nights, weekends, holidays, the same fares apply. So don’t worry if it’s Christmas day, same price.

[00:43:41] Paris taxis and credit cards

[00:43:41] Annie Sargent: Can Paris taxis take credit cards? Yes, they can. They would not be a licensed Paris taxi if they couldn’t take cards. A small number of people who visit France, for some reason, have problems getting their credit cards to work in France. Thankfully, that’s a very, very small number, but you don’t want it to happen to you, right?

[00:44:03] Annie Sargent: So bring your credit card because you’re used to using that, but also bring a debit card. So just bring a debit card and set up Apple Pay or Google Pay, because contactless works everywhere in France. Like Apple Pay is amazing, it works everywhere.

[00:44:25] Annie Sargent: And it wouldn’t hurt, you know, you could stop and withdraw some cash at an ATM, on your way. When you get off of the plane, you’re probably going to walk in front of an ATM in the airport. You could stop and get some cash there, or you could order a little bit of cash from your bank.

[00:44:42] The exchange kind of counters are usually a rip off, but I mean, it’s up to you. You know, you can do that too, if you would like.

[00:44:49] Annie Sargent: At any rate, another thing that happens is that taxis have a terrible habit of working for cash and not declaring all of their income. If you pay with a credit card, they’ll need to declare it. There’s a trace to this. And this is true all over the world, okay? Anyone who travels a lot knows that. So some taxi drivers will tell you that they don’t take cards or that their card reader is broken. Boohoo!

[00:45:19] Annie Sargent: One even did it to me. He thought I was an American because I was speaking English on the phone, and when I went to pay, I handed him my credit card and he said, oh, my reader is broken. So I told him in French that I had no cash and that if he wanted to get paid, he’d better make the reader work. Miracle of miracles, the reader started to work. So they are trying to take advantage of you. Do not let them and don’t try to be nice. This is a business transaction. It’s not your next best friend in France, okay? It’s a business transaction. They take credit cards, you wish to pay with a credit card, legal tender and all. Okay? That’s how it works.

[00:46:04] Annie Sargent: If you want to make sure that they take credit cards, you could, before you get into the taxi, ask the driver. The driver is the one that matters, if he or she takes credit cards. Tell them, I don’t have cash. That way, there will be no surprises.

[00:46:21] Use Apple Pay or Google Pay

[00:46:21] Annie Sargent: And again, if you use Apple Pay or Google Pay at home, be assured that this works everywhere in France. I never pull out my plastic card anymore. Apple Pay on my Apple Watch works great, it works with the phone as well. There is no need to sign anything with either French or American credit cards. It’s wonderful.

[00:46:42] Annie Sargent: Because with French cards, we haven’t had to sign French cards for a long time, but Americans, when they come to France, they usually get asked to sign. And sometimes, there’s a problem because the reader is out of paper, blah, blah, blah.

[00:46:54] Annie Sargent: Okay. With Apple Pay or Google Pay, no need to sign anything. It’s truly wonderful.

[00:47:00] Annie Sargent: So here’s my advice. Bring a debit card, possibly two, if you have them. From different banks would be good. And set up Apple Pay or the equivalent Google Pay. Contactless payments are a game changer for ease of use and security as well. Learn about them. Use them. It’s great.

[00:47:21] Do you need to tip your taxi driver?

[00:47:21] Annie Sargent: Lastly, do you need to tip your taxi driver? Well, that’s up to you. I always tip waiters because I think waiting tables is such a hard job. Taxi drivers, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. You know, if the taxi driver did a super job, of course I tip, but it’s up to you. There’s no obligation.

[00:47:43] These people charge enough to make a fair wage, and that’s what we want. So next time someone asks on Facebook, and trust me, it will be about five minutes before someone else asks, point them to this answer, instead of telling them some horror story that you’ve heard that may or may not be true.

[00:48:01] Annie Sargent: If people understand how things work in France, a little better, there will be fewer scammers taking advantage of you, dear visitors.

[00:48:10] Annie Sargent: Show notes and a full transcript for this episode are on, the numeral 3 9 2. Transcripts are wonderful, and are your friend, because once you know where we discuss something, it’s easy to both share it and listen to it again yourself. You can help your friends who are planning their trip to France by sending them to You can help your friends who are planning trips to France by going yourself to to any episode or the main page. There are share buttons on the right side, and then you can tag your friends and they’ll see it. And they will thank you because they need to know this stuff, right?

[00:48:56] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse about the Tour de France, the bike race, which starts on July 1st, this year, so coming up very soon.

[00:49:08] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback. And I did not give you a personal update this time, because this is a very long closing type thing, and I’m on vacation. So I’ll tell you all about my vacation on another occasion, okay?

[00:49:22] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!

[00:49:35] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2022, by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No derivatives license.

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Categories: French Customs & Lifestyle, Toulouse Area