UNESCO-listed, the Canal du Midi connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea at a length of 240 km (between Toulouse and Sete). A unique design in river transport, each lock is interconnected in a staircase with 13.6 meters elevation for a 300 meter length. The last lock actually covers a 21.6 meter elevation level with the Orb River. The photo depicts the first lock progressing down to the ninth.

While it was the Romans who thought about building it, Charlemagne, Francois I and Henri IV who planned it, it was Beziers-born Pierre-Paul Riquet who made it happen during the reign of Louis XIV. Riquet gifted the locks (which he called "Neptune's staircase") to Beziers by building the basins and channels in four years with unobstructed views of Beziers' cathedral and ramparts. Between March and late October, over 10,000 boats go through the Fonseranes locks.

It is said of Pierre-Paul Riquet that he was a genius, a visionary, a strategist and a bit mad. The latter because he threw himself into the project - the 2nd biggest during Louis XIV's reign after Versailles - when he was 58 years of age. This was considered a ripe old age in those days. But, build it, he did, hanging in there until almost the end.

Sadly he didn't live to see completion of his dream with just 2.5 miles yet to dig, he died in Toulouse at the age of 71.

More Info: www.beziers-in-mediterranee.com