Saturday in Port-la Nouvelle was like Friday but better, and interesting!
We even had steak haché and frites cooked for us by the crew!
Our mooring seemed to have gate-crashed a pompier (fire and rescue service) training weekend and we enjoyed watching about 25 young people climbing in and out of wet suits, running by and swimming in the canal, kilometres at a time, jumping off bridges etc.
What with that and food shopping we passed an entertaing morning, and after lunch, with the sun blazing in the blue sky, we went for a walk round town before heading for the beach.
The Med felt cold, but we persevered and conditioned ourselves enough for a mini-dip. Somehow feeling cold on the outside demanded feeling cold on the inside, so we repaired to an ice cream parlour, where the cream comes from cows on a farm at the foot of the Pyrenees. A framboise sorbet v vanilla ice cream war began.
Back on board Stu and I sat back to watch the gathering clouds while our supper was cooked, expecting a downpour, but none came. All credit to Keeva for the photo.
Sunday morning was another opportunity for Captain and First Mate to view more of Port-la-Nouvelle and it’s étangs from the various bridge vantage points.
Another sunny beach afternoon was planned but a trio of French strikes, starting with air-traffic control, conspired against us. On the way to the beach Keeva received a text to say their flight home on Tuesday was cancelled and another flight must be booked. Thence began a frustrating couple of hours for the wee bairn trying to get through to Ryanair. Eventually a flight could be booked for Wednesday – but the rail strike of that day meant that they could not get to the airport! So Monday was booked, the very next day, cutting the holiday short. 😢
So let’s make the final day as French as poss, starting with a breakfast trip to the boulangerie.
Next a walk to ‘la gare’ and a trip to Carcassonne via Narbonne.
I managed to organise a two hour gap at Carcassonne- long enough for a good ‘menu du jour’ lunch in the square before waving them off on the airport shuttle bus.
That left Stu and I to make the trip back up the Robine alone. We made way next morning, passing first into the fishing port in order to turn round, and then back into the canal.
We did not get far. After a kilometre, just as we reached the first lock and Stu was moving into the bank to put me ashore, the VNF van with a frantic lock keeper rushed up. With much waving of arms, shouting of “non, fermé, graves” we picked up that the lock was shut for a grave reason. We provided sellotape for his hand written sign to be affixed to the lock operations box, and settled down to an enforced 24 hour stop at Isle St Lucie, along with its ravenous mosquitoes!
Now those of you who can count will know that we have only met a duo of French strikes so far, and later that day the meaning of ‘graves’, or as it turned out, ‘gréves’, became apparent. It means strike – a lock keepers strike!
But it gave Stu and I the opportunity for a good long walk out amongst the old salt pans to the ruined buildings (one an old gun emplacement) where the étang meets the Med. And another paddling opportunity for me!
A night behind nets kept us safe from bites and at 9am next morning we were ready for Philipe, our new friend the éclusier, to arrive and switch on the lock mechanism. For a while it seemed that the fates were against us, when the lock filling stopped part way through – but a few hefty well placed jumps on the lock gates got things in motion.
The cruise up was as beautiful as the cruise down. There can be few stretches of canal as stunning as this on a blue sky day.
We were in a bit of a rush to get to Narbonne by midday, where we had set up a lunch date with friends. We kind of made it, to the outskirts, by midday, but it was closer to 1230 by the time we found Stu’s chosen mooring by the theatre. Our friends were undeterred, and a really good lunch ensued at the old mill restaurant by the Gua écluse. This was followed by Calliope coffee time.
After one night tied up outside the theatre, Captain’s expected mooring of choice for a few days, he decided it was a bit more lively than required so we drew in our lines, moved through the centre of a busy market-day Narbonne, up the bright flowery lock, under some interesting bridges, and around to moor above Gua.
Ah, peace and relative tranquility!
Next day was Friday – 5 weeks of the season beneath our life-belts already! Also the day I fell ill for a few days, then flew to Greece for a week to go to a wedding’ leaving Captain Stu crewless for 7 days …….. blog to continue on my (healthy) return.