During the summer Calliope enjoyed becoming a hotel boat! From mid June to mid August we had friends and family aboard for 30 days out of 60 days, and felt quite dazed as a consequence! It was lovely; our plan when buying the boat was that it would be a pleasant place for people to visit and to enjoy France as we enjoy France.
First aboard were Hollie, Ric and Sofia for a week, all described in a previous blog called ‘Short Stretches”. It was very hot and we were glad to find a lake to swim in.
Then we were joined by friends Ron and Pauline for a few days, also mentioned in ‘Short Stretches’, from Montauban, via Montech, to Moissac – all the ‘Ms’.
It was still very hot – too hot – and typically it cooled down when they left.
Stu and I were then left alone in Moissac for a few days so we ventured out for some local exploring.
We began by having a better look at Moissac itself, walking up through the town, and up the Calvary Hill to take in the views. We could see way way beyond Moissac, across the Tarn and on into the distance.
Moissac must have a good set of creative gardeners – every corner, mini roundabout and crevice was illuminated by bright flowers, adding much to our promenades.
I had the chance to walk round all of this again when our next visitors arrived – Suz and Alex. They were only with us two nights, and their plan for these days was to see as much of the area as possible with a view to living in France.
We took them over to see our friends Chris and Ursula who moved from England to France some 15 years ago and have lots of wise advice, especially around pigs, horses and vegetable gardens! It all seemed to go down well, especially the delicious lunch Urs cooked for us all!
It was rapidly approaching 14th July, and we discovered that Moissac began to celebrate the public holiday on the evening before. A jazz band played by the Abbey while children were given lanterns to carry. Then the band led us through the streets to the river where a ‘fire show’ was scheduled to start. This was all quite spectacular, in a small town gentle kind of a way, and ended up with a dance next to the river, close to our mooring. I love all the fun.
We also explored our local riverside, choosing to do this on 14th July, Bastille Day, to avoid too much celebration francaise. We first took the boat downstream to where the Tarn converges with the Garonne – the confluence. It was rather a dull day for such a magnificent aqua-space. (We might go back to try out a little bit of the Garonne, next to the bird sanctuary.)
This trip meant going through the ancient unused lock, to avoid going over the weir (which is now underwater). Then under the Pont Napoleon that we had been gazing at for some days beforehand.
We turned round, came back through the lock and the bridge, and continued up stream.
There are another three bridges to go under in order to proceed upstream – the aqueduct that carries the canal over the river, a railway bridge and a road bridge. All are quite spectacular, but I regret that I did not get good photographs.
After 8 kilometres we reached the extent of the cruising possibility at Ste-Liverade. This is a beautiful spot, below a chateau and next to a sparkling weir and old mill. We put the anchor down – quite an event for us, and prepared to stay the night.
The silhouettes against the night sky, the peace and quiet, and the fresh air were all totally enjoyable. Hopefully my slightly strange stretched panoramic view captures some of this.
And we settled down to a perfect Friday night.
Next morning the boat was covered in iridescent blue and green dragonflies, perched everywhere that they could. We had breakfast amongst the dragonflies, and then it was time for our return 8km voyage back to Moissac ….
…. on a beautiful day.
The very next evening we were off on one of many trips to Toulouse airport (we had already accomplished 4 runs to and fro) to meet (grand-daughter) Kathryn and her friends Éloise. So exciting and lovely to see them!
Now started lots of fun and activity to make sure our young visitors all enjoyed themselves and got a good taste of France.
We began next morning with a visit to Moissac market and an opportunity for K and E to choose fruit, veg, cheese. They were rather good at this!
Then off to the lake and pool at Lafrançaise, where there was more to do than we had anticipated!.
We started with a walk around the lake, the two girls experimenting with their go-pro cameras for Instagram upload.
Part way round the lake we met a camel, a ‘limbo pole’ and a sort of adventure playground.
Stu preferred to sit it all out on the shade and await the ice creams.
I didn’t partake, but understood the excitement!
There is something very similar between K and I, in terms of a love of fun and action! Must be in the genes.
Instead of swimming in the lake the two girls thought they would like to be on Calliope and swimming (amongst the weeds) in the Tarn. So we returned to Moissac for a cool down dip.
This was followed by a bit of work for our new crew, washing down the boat a bit – always nice to do on a hot day with plenty of water swashing.
Their first, busy, day was rounded off by dinner at l’Uvarium – an art deco restaurant at the end of the quay that we had been planning to visit. With a plaiting expert on board (Kathryn) my wayward hair was sorted before we left.
Oh dear – I really have grown longish white plaits!
Thank you Kathryn – I loved it!
Our meal at l’Uvrium was a happy experience, although we were not totally sold on the food. Kathryn was experimental and chose a snail starter that was very avante gard – a take on snail spring rolls we think. Éloise, as a vegetarian, selected the one and only vegetarian option – a mix of veg, salad and melon soup. I did well, with a piece of the best fish I have ever eaten, and the drinks and view and ambience were all good, so overall a beautiful evening.
Next day we set off for Montaigue de Quercy where there is another lake for swimming and various boating activities. Its up in the hills, with a white sandy beach and warm calm waters – lovely. Stu found another tree to sit under while we three swam, and swam again, plus K&E kayaked.
We went home to Moissac for a beautiful sky, supper on board, and a Kathryn kaleidoscope.
How do these young people do it? I feel I am on a constant techno- learning curve!
The next day K&E went off to explore Moissac while Stu and I went on another airport run to meet Keeva and Will (K&W).
So now four teenagers on board – bound to be fun!
Over the next few days we treated them and they treated us back.
K&E bought us some lovely sunflowers and some wine and helped out with washing up, cleaning the boat, disposing of rubbish and were generally happy helpful crew.
K&W bought a keg of Desparado beer, made us all a delicious meatball supper, and also made themselves useful with the everyday running of a household on a boat – more good crew!
They kept us amused with their antics …
…. their aqua skills, …..
… their choice of head gear ….
… and their general lying around!!!!
We managed a couple of outings with all four in the car by leaving Stewart in peace and quiet on the boat.
On one occasion we went back to the lake at Montaigue de Quercy where the four of them swam, played, kayaked, and sunbathed.
Another day, learning of their love of all things retail (I was asked about three times to take them to the local LeClerq hyper market!) I drove them to Agen – a nice old city with interesting architecture, medieval buildings, narrow streets – and shops!
We met up at lunch time at a boulangerie, sitting outside to eat our chosen pastries, baguettes, pizzas etc.
Then a quick photoshoot, before back to retail madness.
That evening we ate on board – delicious mozzarella and tomato quiches from the local boulangerie in Moissac, with some of K&E’s lovely rosé wine out of the largest rosé wine bottle I have ever seen!
Next morning, early and sadly, K&E had to go back to the UK – it had been such a great few days having them all there together, but there is always next year!
K&W still had a few more days in France. On the two days following K&E’s departure the land next to the quay was taken over for a big boules tournament. It was fascinating to watch the tactics and throws of the best teams.
We were joined for one day by Pam and Jon, friends from portsmouth who were driving by on their way home at the end of their French holiday,. We decided to take a cruise up the Tarn to Ste-Liverade again, where K&W joined me for a swim, and tried out the new ‘rubber ring’ I had bought. Then, after we had all enjoyed the magic scenery for a few hours, back to Moissac for supper together.
The next evening we decided to try out the bar at the Moulin de Moissac hotel, the backdrop to so many of my Moissac photos. It was extremely pleasant sitting on their terrace, and using their palm tree as an exotic photo opportunity. (Yes, we did get drinks eventually!)
Later that evening I went with K&W to watch the sunset from the Pont Napoleon. Will took a time lapse set of photos of the sun going down, and I was lucky enough to catch birds in flight across a golden sky.
Our tourist leaflet of places to swim included a giant inflatable obstacle course at Monclar de Quercy. It is more than an hour away from Moissac, but we were persuaded to make the trip on the understanding that while K&W throw themselves around the course, Stu and I would visit an ancient hilltop village nearby.
So here’s where K&W had fun (they had the place to themselves) …
… and here’s where Stu and I had fun (Puycelsi). It’s a shame that it was a bit of a grey day.
This was K&W’s last day, and also their ‘8 month anniversary’, so we had planned to go out for dinner in Moissac. They chose the pizza and pasta restaurant near the Abbey where we had also been when K&E were on board – sadly no photos of that meal.
The next day was changeover day, saying good-bye to K&W, and hello to Ashley and Harvey who were arriving at the same time! It has been so good to have all these friends and family visiting this year.
You can see how pleased Harvey was to arrive!
We whisked A&H back to the barge – our eighth trip to/from the airport in the last few weeks; it was not long before Harvey was in the water, jumping from the roof of the boat into the river. And before long Ashley was in there too.
I had planned trips to the boulangèrie with Harvey, who is learning French at school and loves baguettes. This worked well and he was soon able to greet the owner, ask for what he wanted and thank them – all with confidence and in French.
We had various water-bourne activities as suggestions to keep this energetic 12 year old busy. It began with a trip to the local swimming pool – St Nicholas de la Grave. He found plenty of ways to enter the water, whilst I, after a bit of a swim and splash, rested in the shade by the pool.
He was also able to try out blade-running, and once he had the right size ‘runners’ was quickly able to bound about.
We ate on board that night, enjoying a strange light at dusk that settled over the river.
Next morning Ashley had a conference call that was going to last several hours, but in amongst it all we managed to take an hour’s trip on an electric boat on the river, with Harvey carefully steering us through the ancient lock and the bridge. It also have us a good perspective of our mooring – the riverside view – not previously accomplished.
That evening we went out for Harvey’s favourite meal of pizza – follow by a good ice cream sundae! I cannot get over how good the French are at making this classical Italian dish. There was a good Harvey hug to finish the evening off.
We packed a lot into the three and a half days that A&H were with us. On the following day it was decided that we would go off to the inflatable assault course again – but this time Stu and I would wait and watch before we all went on to another hilltop village. Ashley and Harvey scrambled, fell and splashed-down for an hour whilst Stu and I had a good laugh, and a quick lunch!
Before we left there was time for me to have a swim too, and for Harvey to try out the water chute and pool.
Then off to Bruniquel – a fantastically interesting and historic village with two castle on a clifftop overlooking the Aveyron river. We were all impressed by the views, the castles, the history.
But it was hot, and Harvey and Ashley had had no lunch, so a stop at a village café was the next necessity.
That evening, after another excellent pizza, theistime from a takeaway restaurant over the river, we went to the Pont Napoleon for more sunset photos. Harvey took a particularly spectacular shot of the moon.
We were then onto their final day, and a trip to Montaigu de Quercy was the order of the day. In addition to the usual swimming and kayaking, we also went on this ‘thing’ towed behind a jetski.
The photo is not of us, but demonstrates what I mean. It was SUCH fun, hanging on for grim death whilst swooshed at speed from side to side across the surface of the water. I was lucky, in the central position. Both A&H were flung off at different times, all to great laughter!
Later on we watched a couple of people try this other ‘thing’ which gave huge water-jet power through boots, pushing the participants more than 10 foot into the air. Harvey was keen to try, but at €60 a go it was somewhat out of reach!
There was still time on the final afternoon for one more aqua-aport. Harvey was keen to try out a paddle board and Ashley went with him in a kayak – on the river. They both seemed very able and came past the barge with big smiles.
After an action packed few days it was time for them to go, so back to the airport to bid them farewell, and into a quiet couple of weeks on Calliope – for Stewart. But not for me, as I flew back to the UK to be at Wickham Festival!
Once I was back on board we just had time to move down canal from Moissac to Agen and be ready for our final visitors of the year – Pieter and Roy. No airport run required for them! They arrived at Bordeaux and got the train through to Agen.
We had such a pleasant day exploring Agen with them, including a proper coffee and croissants breakfast at a café – the first time Stu and I have indulged in that experience.
We had a good wander round the narrow streets and ancient architecture, then down to the Garonne to try out the (relatively) new footbridge. It’s one of those ones that sways a bit as you cross – Stewart preferred to stay on terra firma. From the footbridge we could see the aqueduct that carries the canal over the river – to be crossed by us all the next day.
I was keen to introduce Pieter and Roy to my favourite French restaurant – one that emphasises local produce, everything made in house, and no freezers or microwaves – Monsieur Jeannot. They seemed to approve.
Next day, in order to give the two of them a short cruise, we set off from Agen, over the aqueduct, down the chain of locks, and through the countryside to Serignac. From here we knew they could get a taxi back to Agen station, and onward to Bordeaux. Another goodbye to be said, and the end of our visitors for 2017 – or so we thought at the time.
Late news in – eldest brother Phil and his wife Geraldine will spend two nights with us mid-September. Hooray!
We are quite good at exploring around the canal on foot and on bike, but the car gives us access further afield.