The season began in earnest on Friday April 20th. We left our house and it’s wall of possessions behind the day before, allowing ourselves a night at a Gatwick Premier Inn, surprisingly civilised, before flying out. Everything went smoothly, apart from me leaving my phone at security!
A plane, bus and train ride later we arrived at Calliope in Castelnaudary, about an hour before we went out to the local cave on the quay to start celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.
Next day was a day of gradual unpacking, filling up with water, trying out the new boulangerie that had opened up on the quay, saying hello and goodbye to boating friends, and generally preparing to set off.
I managed to include a walk round the Grand Bassin and the port, discovering the beautiful new boardwalk.
On the Sunday the weather was disappointingly cool and misty, but we cast off by 9 going under the bridge out of the port and hoping to have a clear run at the flight of four St Roche locks out of Castelnaudary eastwards.
This was not to be. Two holiday boats were just starting their first lock experience, making for some entertainment while we waited. And another boat quickly joined the queue behind us!
Soon we were off, with boats in front and boats following, and the 4, sometimes 5, of us continued through the series of locks that lead East towards Carcassonne.
We found a peaceful overnight mooring after about 15 kms and tied up for the night.
There was time for a bit of a walk and gathering of local spring flora photos.
Next day Calliope slipped away into another misty morning, this time at the head of the queue, working our way to one of our favourite places, Villesèquelande.
Another slightly misty morning provided inviting vistas.
Along the way we passed 3 lavoirs – not as interesting as some, but still fascinating in the social community history they hold.
Calliope neatly steered round our first ducklings if the season. Other natural observations were sculptural lines of conifers and cypress and a donkey haven!
Arriving through the bridge at Villesèquelande we found friends aboard Heliox who stepped out to help us moor up. Within a few minutes we had been invited to go that evening aboard the third boat in the row. This led to a walk into the village to discover the new location of the alimentation, and buy some wine and food.
The evening was spent a) with friends, b) helping a grand daughter long distance with a Uni essay, and c) trying not to laugh when the captain lost his footing and dignity with a mighty splash into the canal.
Tuesday was our day to arrive in Carcassonne. The last few kilometres were uneventful and we arrived right on éclusier lunch hour, meaning that we tied up in the warm sun for an hour to wait; very pleasant.
After lunch we passed through the lock and under the bridge that Captain Stu tells is the most difficult for Calliope on this canal. As always he did well and we moored up below the lock.
Stewart was now stuck here for three days while I whizzed back to the UK for a school reunion. We used our evening together to wander up into town and have a beer in the square before supper.
Stu turned out to be less ‘stuck’ than I expected, with friends on board for lunch and discovereding the delights of the Irish Bar and the best boucherie in town (boeuf en gelée). Meantime I regained my adolescence with friends from 50 years ago.
I also regained my phone, sent by Gatwick lost property to my friend’s house in London. Hooray!
While I was away he had to deal with several speeding boat issues, pulling the large wooden bollards out of the ground and bashing Calliope. (Yes, the large pink blob in the corner is my thumb!)
Then I was back to round off our first week back with a perfect evening on the canal. Looking forward to the next bit of cruising, starting tomorrow!