When I got back to Grisolles from my weekend in the UK I was in the company of our friend Hilary – first guest of 2017. What I had not realised is that there were two additional ‘passengers’, who emerged to take the sun on day two! They were welcome to join us on the two day cruise to Moissac.
Hilary and I arrived at lunchtime, and almost as soon as we stepped aboard Captain Stu cast off and we were off down stream. This was a gentle day; just 12 kilometres and no locks, arriving at our wild mooring (PK 40.5) within a couple of hours and moored up ready to enjoy the sunshine.
Hilary went for an exploration walk while I slept to recover from spending the previous night on a bench at Gatwick airport (another story altogether); she returned with a wild flower bouquet – beautiful.
The sun began to set on our quiet, tranquil mooring. We love these out of the way places, close to nature.
The next morning the sky was as blue as before and the sniper was keen to make headway before it got too hot, or indeed thundery.
After a swift breakfast we ‘de-staked’ and set off the few hundred yards to our first lock, Lavache
As we left the lock, under the typical Canal de Garonne brickwork bridge, the waterway opened up before us.
Before long we arrived at Montech where we stopped for bread, and discovered it was market day. Hooray. Hilary and I used our 30 minutes shore leave to stock up with strawberries, asparagus, salad, avocados ….. and got back just in time to see another boat go by to enter the Montech flight of locks.
The Captain was a bit glum (no comment), anticipating a wait of up to two hours as we were nearing éclusier déjeuner, but we were in luck and first one, then two, and finally three éclusiers appeared to take us, and the boat in front, through the flight of four locks.
As we awaited our turn I looked towards the entrance to the Montauban arm of the canal – and there was a Piper sister ship, Bluegum, with Sally as figurehead.
Our turn came for the flight. As we left Month we passed a small basin next to a huge chimney – remnants of the massive paper factory that was an important part of the local economy for well over 100 years.
And then we were off – with an impressive flypast of black kites. I counted 10 of them in the sky far above us at one point.
It is an extremely pleasant descent on a sunny day, with a path of blue sky leading down between shady trees. Most of the lock houses were empty – a sign of the times. It was interesting to see the different size houses according to the size and placing of the lock in the flight – here’s one of the smallest.
We were getting hungry now, as well, presumably, as the éclusiers. We were on the watch out for somewhere to stop for lunch.
There’s always something unusual to look at along the way – this time a disused barge disguised as a bankside garden.
Then we found it – St Porquier picnic park! We gathered the goodies form the market and soon had a delicious meal. The sun was blazing down, making it quite hard to get a decent photo – just TOO bright.
Off once more after lunch we took the next 6 locks in our stride – all automatic, so the sequence of turn pole, enter lock, tie up, press button, descend, cast off and drive out became natural team work. Some locks, such as number 22, Artel, have nice features; in this case an ironwork bridge.
And then there we were moving towards the open blue of the aqueduct over the Tarn and the gateway to Moissac.
Hilary and I both had cameras ready for our slow majestic crossing . We had brilliant views in all directions – wonder what its like to cross in a rainstorm or blizzard!
So with the last few of our 16 locks that day we came down into Moissac.
Before long we were in our appointed mooring, guided in by Capitai Jim. We had the last slot on the right before the bridge – perfect.
As Stu will probably tell you there was a bit of an escapade between the last lock and the mooring, involving a large hotel barge, Rosa, heading towards us and wanting to turn right into the locks down onto the Tarn .. but all ended happily for both barges.
Before long Hilary and I disembarked for a walk, staring off by walking down to the Tarn – Moissac was on the Tarn long before it was on the canal de Garonne.
By now the blue skies were fading to grey, changing the light but not affecting the stunning views – the huge Pont Napoleon, the old mill, now a hotel, and the quay, where Rosa sat prettily.
There is also an old lock through which boats must pass if travelling downstream. I found this odd until I discovered that the rest of the river is a huge weir, currently under water due to the last of the Spring high waters.
Next Hilary and I explored the town – true to the tourist descriptions in every way – ancient and atmospheric. We agreed to explore the Abbey and cloisters the next day.
The evening ended with a celestial display as good as any I have seen in my rather long life. The red skies were less about a shepherd’s delight, and more about the thunderstorms to come.
And next day we went to the Abbey …….
… and to the cloisters. This religious complex was started in the 8th century and mainly finished in the 11th.
The Cloisters are beautiful and so quiet – I suppose when masses of monks lived there it was not so quiet unless they had a vow of silence.
One of the strangest things about the Abbey and associated buildings is that when the railway arrived in Moissac it was put smack bang through the middle of the area, splitting the Abbey from many of its original buildings!
Hilary and I returned to Calliope full of historical wonder, and just in time for lunch with her brother who had arrived to take her (and our stowaways) away.
Stu and I however stayed on in Moissac for a few days more – to see out the promised thunderstorms and rain.
The rain certainly arrived; we thought the thunderstorms were distant until smoke began to arise from a house by the canal. It had been hit by lightning, and we watched as the poor owner watched her house go up in flames. The Pompiers are stationed within two minutes – but were that day away on a training session, along with their fire engine, so it took some time before water was sprayed onto the fire,
Stu and I took several walks around Moissac and I found a new architectural interest – doors! The old doors of Moissac are marvellous – so strong and making huge statements about the owners behind them.
I also found a new (to me) set of rings in the side of the canal. I have never seen hinged rings like this before; love them!
It began to feel like time to move on and in anticipation We took a look at the swing bridge – our way out of Moissac. Yes, that’s fine; ready to go.