The queen of the French waterways: Isabel Conway takes a cruise on the Canal du Midi

Anna Francesca Cradock, who undertook her grand tour of France 230 years ago, would be delighted to discover that the ‘magnificent poplars, elms and landscapes’ of her trip are still found alongside the Canal du Midi in the south of France

Le Somail, a charming Languedoc canal-side village built in the 17th century, has hardly changed since Madame Cradock’s time. Picture: Joe Damase

Spare a thought for indefatigable tourist Anna Francesca Cradock, whose journey through the heart of south-west France once saw her fleeing her bed at the dead of night to escape “horrible vermin” that were devouring her.

“The main room was so full of animals it made me think we had elected to stay in their stable,” she recalled in her diaries, which chronicled a three-year-long grand tour of France that she and her husband Joseph ...