It was so great to have some of the family with us for the 9 locks, 1 overnight stop, and 10 kilometres of l’embranchement (canal) de Montech. It also gave us the chance to drop down onto the Tarn and experience some river boating – in all weathers as you will discover.
On the return journey to Moissac we had a new ‘crew’ – two good friends of ours, Ron and Pauline.
Hollie, Rick and Sofia had joined us at Moissac, a few cruising kilometres away, where Grandad and Granny had an excuse to cross the canal and visit the playground by the Tarn, pleasantly under the trees.
We had cruised up the Canal du Garonne, crossing the spectacular aqueduct over the Tarn, and on to Montech, making one ‘wild’ overnight stop on the way.
We arrived in Montech in time for a trip to the Tuesday market before setting off after lunch, planning a short trip towards an overnight mooring along the Montech canal.
We were blessed with blue skies ……. and somewhat cursed with temperatures of 34 to 39 degrees. It’s quite difficult to keep cool on a steel boat! But there is fun to be had in creating shady places, sluicing down hot metal decks, and finding places to swim.
After only three and a half kilometres we stopped at the little village of Lacourt-St-Pierre where the quay is next to a shady picnic area. Two year old Sofia and I were quickly under the trees with a big bucket of water and lots of pouring splashing implements!
It was soon decided that the whole family needed a cool-down dip. A nearby lake with a ‘beach’ was located, a taxi booked, and before long we were all into the water. It was just what was needed.
Ice creams were on hand too! Felt like a day at the seaside. Then our taxi arrived and took us ‘home’.
Next day we continued on our short trip down a pretty canal towards the port at Montauban where we had booked a berth for Calliope.
The 9 locks were operated by a ‘zapper’; nice and easy on a hot hot day.
At one lock we met up with a British couple who have taken a repairing lease on the old lock keepers house, living in their barge while work goes on to make the house suitable for living in; quite a task, but I envy them the lifestyle.
In Montauban our berth was ready and waiting, nicely at the end of the port giving us maximum privacy and furthest from the open air bar/restaurant at the other end! Now we had access to the car, so whizzed back to our lake (La plage du lac de Negret) for another swim – and icecream.
Cool and clean we set out for a meal at a lovely little traditional restaurant …..
…. with a shaded garden and a ‘cool mist’ blower too. A huge and delicious meal was had by all.
Next day was still hot, but knowing that the central square of Montauban was surrounded by a colonnade we went to town. Young Sofia enjoyed walking round the square, and we treated ourselves to another meal out – delicious bruschetta and salads.
Then down through the Jardin des Plantes through paths large and small, past grottos, streams, bridges and lots of trees and resting place for our overheated party (still temperatures in the upper thirties!)
At the bottom of the Jardin is a little play park for Sofia, where Grandad removed the gravel from Sofia’s sandals before fun on the swings.
Back on the boat we found there was time for another trip to the swimming lake, our favourite venue this weather.
Next day it was time for Hollie, Rick and Sofia to return to a cooler climate – I almost envied them! It really had been SO hot. We took them back to the airport at Toulouse and sadly waved goodbye.
As always there was wild life to enjoy at the port at Montauban. I was interested, fascinated, and slightly apprehensive to see this snake swimming in the same canal as I had been, so looked it up on the internet. Phew, just a harmless grass snake – unless you are a frog, small bird ……
…. or lizard!
Before we left the port we gave our boat a bit of a bath, borrowing a jet wash to help us along.
Looks good fun to me, but I got the bucket and mop job!
Then a new chapter for Stewart and I – out onto the Tarn river. We booked our descent through the two locks that take you from port to river, looking forward to the expanding view as we went down.
It was a lovely experience. As you descend in the upper lock you can see through the ‘windows’ at the top of the lock gates into the second lock and beyond, the river.
The second half of the double lock takes us under the road and railway, quite noisy if a train goes over while you are going under!
Then the bottom lock gates open and Calliope emerged onto the Tarn.
Our first mooring was a full 300 yards, across the river to the pontoon at Sapiac.
At first site this looked a bit iffy because of several large fallen trees partially trapped under the pontoon and sticking out into the river – but actually it was a relatively easy mooring in a very pleasant place.
The view towards the town was glorious, and the skies magnificent. It’s a short pleasant walling the river bank to a superb boulangèrie, and not much further to walk into the town.
Looking into the blue blue skies Stewart soon realised that he had left his sunglasses in the car, the other side of the river ….. so it was a convenient time for him to try out the new folding bike. Ho ho, it’s a cyclist in black . . . . We cycled along the river, across Pont Sapiac, and back to the port.
With sunglasses retrieved we continued on to a cultural moment or two. We visited a couple of the sites of the Sculpture Festival in Montauban and found some interesting and arresting pieces.
Another hot day, another excuse for a dip. I went swimming in the river by our mooring, and before long I was joined by an Italian rugby player, a cocker spaniel, and lots of little fishes that swam around the submerged logs.
Later that day we went for a Montuban walkabout. We found more of the sculpture exhibition – this time some large wicker structures cascading down thorough a small park the far side of the ravine that divides the town, and some captivating work in various media, all with the common theme of ‘myths and legends’.
That led us on into the main square, just on ‘beer o’clock’. We sat down and ordered ….. oh dear – when is Stu going to get a beer that is bigger than my wine?????
Next day we took a trip upstream. There are just 9kms of navigable river from Montauban to the weir beyond Corbarieu, so we cut the journey into two parts and went as far as Bressols.
To celebrate our arrival at Bressols the first sunflower came out, despite the grey skies; it was a pleasant 23 degrees.
There have been three pontoons built on this stretch of the Tarn, over the last 4/5 years I believe. Sapiac was the first we visited; now Bressols. Its a very adequate mooring, especially for us as we like rural moorings.
We arrived on a cool grey Monday and walked up the gangway, through the edge of the recreation grounds, up a lane and ito the village to have a beer and maybe have supper out. However the bar and pizza cabin are shut on Mondays and the bistro closed for renovation! Luckily our back deck bar has beer and our galley had the makings of a meal so all good.
Bressols has obviously had some grand buildings in the past, but there are only a few outbuildings and a stunning dovecote remaining of the chateau.
More to my interest was the colourful and varied wildlife on the Tarn at Bressols – a rare night heron, starlings meeting to roost, dragonflies mating, the illusive noisy frogs, silhouetted black kite ……
…… how lucky am I to see and hear all of these?
We were watching the gathering clouds with interest, looking forward to some rain, when we received a phone call from the Capitaine at Montauban. It was a gale warning!! The phone call was to say we that must get off the Tarn river NOW as huge winds were due very soon!
Running before the storm was quite exciting in a very safe kind of way – and I managed to get a panoramic photo view as we whizzed downstream.
As we ascended the two locks it was obvious that the winds were increasing. I asked the Capitaine when the storm was due – “maintenant” (now), he replied. As we moved towards a jetty to moor up the winds struck – force 10 blowing us back into the middle of the port basin, as Calliope (and Stewart) strove to get on close enough for me to throw ropes that were being blown back at me! The rain also began in earnest.
So the storm arrived and the storm got me, but it was a safe haven in Montauban port and we managed to moor up, then get dry.
We could hardly see the other side of the port, just 50 foot away at 4 in the afternoon.
And after the rain, beautiful sunset stormy skies.
We deiced to have an extra day in the port as the weather was still rather unsettled, and it gave us access to the car for a grand day out!
We started out looking for places for teenagers to swim – 3 grandchildren plus two reminds arriving in the next three weeks. The first place, a sweet little beach on a river at Lamothe-Capdeville, and then high up n the hills a pool complex at Lafrancaise. I think both of those will do!
We drove on up in the hills to one of the most famous medieval villages of south west France, Lauzerte. It is a hilltop village, with the narrow streets, ancient buildings and marvellous views that we have come to love.
We found a good little restaurant with great food just off the square and sat back to enjoy our ‘grand day out’ lunch.
Then after lunch a walk in the Pilgrims garden on the side of the hill with several stops to admire views and butterflies filled our afternoon.
It is also a nature wonderland! I may have been sitting on Calliope in the rain, but I was listening to a nightingale – regret no photo of the nightingale so you have to make do with frogs, a grasshopper disguised as a green spider, and a dragonfly on my toes.
As the weather swayed from horrendous to balmy, wet to dry, windy to calm, we enjoyed some more lovely skies – this one looking downstream from our mooring.
Inspired (I think) by the start of the Tour de France, Stewart suggested a 10km cycle ride today – along the flat to the next village, Reynies (and regretted it for the next two days).
Went through fruit farms…
… past straying cornflowers and sunflowers …
… saw a Lamborghini tractor …
… and rushed back under an impending rainstorm.
That evening, despite the threatening weather, we went to the second night of the three day village fête – advertised to us by the butcher and various members of the fête committee as a meal with wine and music. It certainly was, although not quite as we had expected.
There was music and entertainment from a group of singers, dancers and backing tracks, all determined to help us join in and have a good time. Jugs of wine flooded the tables, salad, paella and tiramisu arrived, and everyone sang, clapped, waved arms, thumped the table and in general the bon temps did rouleé.
The rain continued to fall and Stewart’s very British umbrella was commandeered to push up the marquee roof and dislodge huge pools of water.
Sitting next to us at the meal was a French family of four. We had such an enjoyable evening with Ingrid, Florian, William and Robin that Stewart invited them aboard the next day to cruise with us the short distance to Montauban.
They accepted and arrived at the appointed time in the morning, climbed aboard and we were off.
We headed upstream at first so that I could get a view of the weir on yet another grey day, then back past our Corbarieu mooring pontoon to head downstream towards Montauban …
… our only sun being the sunflowers in the bow.
The boys enjoyed the trip up through the double lock, and I handed the camera to Robin; this is part of his record of the ascent.
We came into the port and soon found our mooring, and began the clean up job to prepare for our friends Ron and Pauline who were due to arrive next day.
It was hot, so of course Ron and Pauline were thirsty. After a pleasant amble around the narrow shady streets at the heart of Montauban we settled down in the square for a pint – or should I say a 33cl? (Stu sat back just as I took the photo, hence only a glimpse of the Captain.)
Next day we were due to start our return journey to Moissac. It was a beautiful blue and green day, just right to travel slowly up to Month. Pauline and I were keen to have croissants for breakfast and dashed off to the local boulangerie, only to find it is closed on a Tuesday, and no other boulangerie close by. We settled for toast and cereal, a very British breakfast.
Along the way I had the chance to point out some of the features of the canal. First, for some reason, although most of the lock walls are green/grey and covered in slime, one was clean red brickwork; not sure why. The photo on the left also shows the lower parts of one of the poles we used to rope the barge as we ascended the lock.
The canal can we rather weedy, but the VNF ‘hommes et femmes’ do make an effort to clean it up. We passed the ‘weed grabber’ machine at the side of the canal, next to a big heap of dried out weed.
A lovely lazy dog watched us as we went back past Lacourt-St-Pierre, our overnight stop on the way down. It was that kind of day – enjoy the sun, but do as little as possible when out in it. I am rather taken by the bamboo sun screen for the boat – mental note to get some.
The bridges over the canal mostly match, brick built, next to the locks, some decorated with greenery. There were two other very different styles of bridges – one that carried the A62 over us with lots of noise and fuss; the others obviously built later in the canal’s history, Stu guesses it is 1930’s re-inforced concrete.
The bridge at Lacourte St Pierre has slender metal uprights, balancing the heavy concrete arch, and also gave me a window to a flying purple heron – you’ll have to take my word for it!
Three happy hot and happy hours after setting off the final bridge and end of the canal were in view, including one of the tall chimneys left for the old paper factory.
It’s a short, gentle canal to cruise; one not to be missed, especially with the delights of Montauban and the Tarn at the end.
After another visit to Montech market and lunch moored up waiting for the éclusiers to return from their break we were off again towards Moissac with Ron and Pauline. Although strictly a Canal du Garonne voyage, I am including the rest of their cruise with us.
We went down the Montech flight, in really really hot sunshine! Then moored up at St Porquier where we put up the parasol and enjoyed the shade. Stu and Pauline got stuck into a word game, Ron read, and I, as usual, took photos!
Some youngsters were using St Porquier bridge as a diving (or should I say jumping?) platform. Oh so good to splash into the canal on that hot day.
The mooring is as we remembered it from last time when we just stopped for lunch; a good pontoon, little mini-park area, and not much shade until later in the day. Pauline and I just had to dip our toes in for a cool-down.
As it became cooler we went for a walk into the village – and to see if there was a chance of croissants the next morning. The village has some interesting buildings, plus the hoped for boulangerie.
After a croissants breakfast we were off on the final stretch into Montauban with Ron and Pauline, enjoying the sunflower vistas that opened before us.
Yes, the Montech Canal and Montauban is definitely a recommended trip!