And then we had visitors!

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.

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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.

 

Montauban with Ron and Pauline

Ron and Pauline

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.

IMG_6050Stu 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.

Moissac Suz and Alex

Alex and Suz

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.

IMG_5422We 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.)

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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.

IMG_6097The 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.

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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 ….

IMG_7281…. 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!

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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.

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Stu preferred to sit it all out on the shade and await the ice creams.

 

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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.

Kathryn, Eoise and Leslery washing the roof at Moissac

Kathryn, Éloise and Lesley washing the roof at Moissac

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.

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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.

IMG_6143We 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

IMG_5573K&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!!!!

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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.

IMG_5591We 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.

IMG_1570The 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!

 

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Harvey and Ashley

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.

IMG_5659We 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.

IMG_5818But 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.

IMG_5847The 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!

IMG_5870Later 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!

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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.

 

 

IMG_1688We 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.

Roy and Pieter on passerelle, AgenWe 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.

IMG_1695I 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.

 

Looking back – Canal de Garonne from West to East

Funny the things you see when you are heading on the opposite direction!

For example we found beetles amassing at Le-Mas-d’Agenais on the old walls of the village.

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And I found time to walk across Le-Mas-d’Agenais bridge in the day time and take a mid-Garonne selfie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bridge is a triumph of engineering from 1837, taking traffic across the canal and the Garonne on one majestic sweep.

EsperanceWe had passed and noticed the Esperance on our Westward voyage, but no graphic evidence survived, so I was pleased to get this photo on the way back.  So sad that a barge named Hope is now in this state – but I guess there is still hope that someone will revive her.

We didn’t moor at Villeton on the way through, but managed to secure a good partially shaded mooring against a high wall on the way back. The bridge is typical of the Canal de Garonne, stone built with a beautifully balanced arch.

Villeton reflected moon

 

 

 

That night the moon was elected as a pinprick of light in the darkened waters.

 

 

 

 

We decided that it was not too far to walk to Tonneins from Villeton and see the old Gauloise factory and the Garonne.  It was further that we thought on a busy road and on a hot day! We did make it but the museum was closed, along with almost all the cafés. We sat by the Garonne for a while, then found a café opposite the station for a coke. We chickened out of the walk back an ordered a taxi to take the weary old batteliers home!

Damazan evening on return tripNext stop Damazan – one of our favourites. This time Calliope took the shady mooring on the right bank and we looked out towards the bridge and our previous hotspot mooring on the left bank.

Damazan mooring going East

Hidden amongst the long grass and bushes were two concrete bollards, tough enough to hold the biggest of peniches.

We took a couple of walks to areas we had not covered before and discovered, surprisingly in rural France, a cricket club. We also found a lake for swimming and other water based activities.

The map at the port mentioned an old dovecote and two lavoirs; I had not managed to locate these previously but now had time to find everything.

Damazan public loosJust near the dovecote was another ‘antiquity’ – the old public conveniences! I am pleased to report that they are no longer in official use.

Damazan fontaine des anglais

Damazan Fontaine des Anglaises

Moving on ….. we discovered that Damazan has two lavoirs, both missed on our first run west. The oldest is next to the Fontaines des Anglaise – seemingly a brick and stone built edifice to help villagers collect water from a natural spring. It was built by les Anglaises, way back in about 1368 during the Hundred Years War; a peaceful cool and shady spot on a hot day.

Just down stream of this is a lavoir and a huge stone trough where livestock were taken to drink and be bathed.

These beautiful watering holes were considered picturesque in Victorian times and led to a few photos being taken with the locals. Picturesque is mixed with truth here, as you realise the tough time women of all ages had getting the washing done.

Damazan lavoir l'EscoubetThe second lavoir, named L’Escourbet, is out of town on the other side, much more recent, and far less attractive, but I include it here as part of my lavoir report.

You may be gathering that I rather like Damazan. It is one of my favourite villages along the canal. So many lovely buildings to capture on film ( I mean digitally!) The Café des Promenades is at one end of the big ‘place’ where people gather and boule is played.

The war memorial is one of the most poignant I have evener seen and bought tears to my eyes – so many young women will have taken flowers in memory of brothers, boyfriends, sons, husbands lost on the war and this somehow captures the mood.

SerignacNext stop Serignac – another favourite. It was a hot couple of days so we made the most of everything that could contribute to shade!

 

The Bastide is very small, so no new photos of the village, but we happened upon a free concert in the village square, with the bar set up across the church doorway and all ages coming together as a community.

Regretfully I only took my phone to the concert and it was not up to taking decent photos in the dark, but I hope they give a sense of the atmosphere.

After a couple of days we continued retracing our wake into Agen and moored up in exactly the same place as when heading West a few weeks before. The weather was so much better on this trip that I took photos again when crossing the Tarn viaduct.

Agen cool sprayThe two days included essentials such as sorting out a SIM, looking at bikes, and going to the market. It was still hot and we were glad of the innovative cool mist blowers attached to some lampposts.

But we also had some fun – a most enjoyable evening out with a couple of beers in the centre, followed by a good Corsican meal in one of the many narrow streets.

 

 

 

And in a moment of madness on a very hot (30 degrees plus) day walked up the steepest hill I have ever encountered to l’Ermitage. The views across the city and far beyond made it all worth while, even though we could not get to the old houses carved out of the cliffs. (You can just see these in the white cliffs to the right of the church in the first photo.)

Near Boe lavoirAfter a couple of nights our journey East continued. Stewart started to notice small utilitarian concrete structures at the side of the canal and suggested that they were lavoirs. Initially I dismissed his idea, but then on looking closer I saw that there were ‘soap dishes’ built into them and that they were indeed relatively modern urban lavoirs – this one near Boé

Time to carry on towards Moissac where we were due to meet daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in a few days time.  We had ideas of mooring up at le lac bleu near Golfech, but were so hungry and ready for lunch that we stopped at a wild mooring 2 kms beforehand …… and decided to stay. We had stopped there before, just outside Lamagestere; this time I added wild swimming to our enjoyment of the place.

In the morning I noticed a visitor camouflaged amongst the rosemary plant – a huge grasshopper!  Then later I was ready with the camera as one of many herons took off from the bank.

We had walked up to le lac bleu the afternoon before, and loved it! I saw more dragonfly varieties than ever before, a mix of water birds, fishes around my feet as I called them in the water, peace and tranquility! So on our way to Moissac I was treated to an hour’s mooring at le lac bleu with a camera.

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Think you might get bored of dragonflies at this point ……..

And in addition to dragonflies there were lizards, birds, fish, flowers … my nature heaven!

Moissac bridgeBut on to Moissac and preparations for family arriving – very exciting as we had been longing to see them. The beautiful bridge over the Tarn came into view and we knew we were nearly there.

Moissac lock bridgeWe moored up next to all the locks, those up to the canal and aqueduct, and those down to Le Tarn. We looked forward to darkness and coolness falling at the end of the day, as temperatures were still up in the thirties, sometimes 38.

Moissac boulangerie trip

Next day we drove to Toulouse airport; daughter, son-in-law and grand daughter arrived, in the blistering heat!  Almost as soon as they arrived I set off to the boulangerie with the young one; we went for bread, she came skipping back with ‘cake-in-a-box’!

 

Sun hat off, sunglasses discarded, but appropriately plastered up with Factor 50!

 

 

 

The following morning, whilst still cool and allowing parents a lie in, Grandad and Granny set off across the lock bridge to a little playpark in the shade by the Tarn.

Later we had a Moissac exploration, including the market and the Abbey, with coffee and ice cream in the square and a little picnic in the Abbot’s garden – desperately seeking shade!

We had a cruise plan in place for the holidaymakers which was to set off towards Montech on Monday. But before we could depart we needed to take on board the folding bike that Stewart had ordered online. This arrived at the Capitainerie at about 1130! So after a swift early lunch we were off to enjoy the fresh air and views from yet another viaduct over le Tarn, and the moisture in the air as we went up the chain of locks outside Moissac.

IMG_7238We found a shady mooring half under a bridge near St Porquier for a siesta and a place to dangle our toes in the water – mmmmmmmm! An overnight stop seemed a good idea!

Knowing that Montech market was next day we made sure we arrived in there in time for a quick shop and lunch, prior to floating onto waters new ….

IMG_4783… l’Embranchement de Montech …. the short canal from Montech to Montauban.

That will be the next chapter!

Heading l’Oeust from Moissac to Agen – Canal de Garonne part 3

swing bridge Moissac

Swing bridge opens for us to leave  Moissac

Leaving Moissac, and the operator of the swing bridge spies us out of her little green window, sopping the traffic for Calliope to glide through.

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First three kilometres alongside le Tarn, then a huge widening of the river waters as le Tarn joins la Garonne.

The Garonne continues next to the canal for another five kilometres, always just in sight through the trees, and less than 50 yards away.

Ecluse 27 Petit Bezy

Ecluse 27 Petit Bezy

There are not many locks along this stretch,  but this one at Petit Bézy must have been important at some time join the past. as evidenced by the much larger lock keeper’s house.

Good to see that someone is loving in this one – so many are abandoned and boarded up.

And while I am talking lock language, I noticed on this gentle journey that the locks on this canal have been extended at some point in time – you can see where the old gates used to be and the change in construction materials beyond to the ‘new’ gatess.

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Abandoned little Pommevic lock keepers house

We had half a plan to moor up at Pommevic, having heard that it was a delightful rural mooring.

S and L cruisingFrom the little Pommevic lock onwards we had our eyes trained forward. We were therefore initially disappointed to see the small pontoon already taken by another boat, and on room for us. However a different, and in many ways better, mooring was in store four kilometres further on at Valence-d’Agen.

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Looking across to the port at Valence-d’Agen

At first we thought there was not space for us here either, but after passing three beautiful barges on the left bank pontoon and quay we found there was room for us on the grass bank beyond.

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Valence-D’aged first mooring

Two helpful bargees emerged from the other boats to help with ropes and we were soon secure.

For us Valence-d’Agen was a great town to visit. For a start it has three lavoirs for lavoir loving Lesley! These were built sequentially as the town officials gradually cleared swampy land around the town and looked for healthier, cleaner lavoir sites.

(Sorry, I have to include a few details from the lavoirs, including me enjoying being there!)

Then it has two market places, both with character, and plenty of interesting streets in-between. There are enough shops, bars and restaurants to more than satisfy our simple tastes so we stayed for four sunny warm days.

The church is visible from may directions, including from our mooring, and has a great modern twist outside the back door – not sure if it is the Madonna and Child…..

Parallel to the Canal de Garonne from PK74 up to and past Valence is a second canal – Canal de la centrale nucléaire. This takes waters from la Garonne to the nuclear power station, and re-enters le Garonne further downstream. I walked back to the old bridge to try to photograph bot canals together, but not possible from my vantage point.

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Our mooring experience was mixed – finding ourselves aground after night one (the water level dropped about a foot, possibly with farmers irrigating crops), then afloat again after some judicial re-tethering by Stu.

After the second night one of the other barges moved on and we took a backward step – of about 30 yards – to moor up in their place on a wooden jetty with our own little wooden steps. Progress has been wonderfully slow and relaxed this year, though today was the first time we actually went backwards. . . . .  

A relaxed Captain makes for contented crew; we have our own ways of relaxing, some of which coincide!

We were not the only ones to enjoy the sun either – lots of dog walking going on, and one dog in particular whose love of life and water had us smiling for ages.

Before we left we were able to see the market places in action with a very good large market, full of local produce, wine, kitchenware, beds, tablecloths …..

In some ways we were sad to leave, but we knew further treats were in store so we headed on WNW with another half plan. This time we were aiming for another peaceful stopping place by le lac bleu.

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We passed by Golfech, a little village now dominated by the cooling towers of the nuclear power station.

golfech_bridgeIt was at Golfech that I finally got to grips with the PK markers on this canal – they are displayed on bridges to the third decimal place – how’s that for French accuracy? Not the only thing to be displayed as you can see.

And each kilometres is marked by a metal plate on the ground, not easily seen by passing barges!

At le lac bleu again we were thwarted by another barge, but who can blame other bateliers from choosing the same good spots?

Then we had a serendipitous moment – at first frighteningly bad. We were viewing a potential, but seemingly unsuitable, grass bank mooring opposite a winding hole when the engine began to screech. Stu and I looked at each other in surprise and he quickly switched to neutral which stopped the noise. As soon as he tried to engage the gear, forward or astern, the screeching returned.

Magistere mooring 2He decided to edge into the bank spot that we could stop and investigate, requiring an interesting leap ashore with two ropes, a hammer and a spike between the teeth for me – well, sort of! Anyway, once moored up we investigated the weed hatch, which is where I come into my own.

Weed!I LOVE clearing weed hatches! And there was quite a lot of weed. Stu tried the engine again – all was quiet so we relaxed into having lunch, then relaxed into liking the mooring, and then stopped three nights!

We walked into the local village, Lamagestère, to find we had a small supermarket, boulangerie, station, and a lovely waterfront with la Garonne flowing steadily by (with the nuclear power station calling towers in the background).

It’s a bit of a trek along the canal bank from the bridge to the barge – only 150 yards, but a relatively unused pathway.

Lamagistere mooring 2

The Google maps aerial view gives the mooring its context within the landscape – consider the blue dot to be Calliope!

claremont_soubiran_2Another afternoon we walked in the other direction, north to a hilltop village we could see a couple of kilometres away – Claremont-Soubiran. It was quite a climb on a hot day, but an amazing view for the top.

claremont_soubiranAlong a plateau from the village stretches an Italianate looking green, part of the estate around the chateau being to Les Deux Soeurs, who have a vineyard making luxury wines. Unfortunately it was closed for tasting and buying when we got to the top!

Just a few of the creatures we saw along the way. No, we can’t smuggle the donkey onto the boat . . . . 

It was SO hot for the first couple of days at Lemagistère that we had to take defensive action!

Lamagistere rain

Our stay was partly marked by the unworldly piping song of an unknown bird, which we now believe to be a golden oriole.

But our last day at there was marked by unrelenting pouring rain; a day for reading and catching up with the blog!

 

 

Lamagistere last morning

Next morning the sun shone again, through a watery blue sky ….

Stu and weed

… and Stewart was able to clear the weed that had build up around the boat before we set off. (Yes, it’s blurry, but it is an action shot after all).

We were off on a 14 kilometre stint, with only two locks, to take us to the outskirts of Agen; a gentle day.

Le Garonne wove close and away again as we travelled, at times so close that only the  railway line separated us.

Lock restaurantAt écluse 33, St-Christophe, at Mouynes the ex-lockkeeper’s house was large enough to be converted into a restaurant, probably due to the importance of keeping the river and canal part just along here.

Kingfisher

Yes, a kingfisher

Just after Lock 33 we got all excited to see a kingfisher, the first for some weeks. My attempts at photographing kingfishers are many and pathetic; I promise this is a live kingfisher in that tree!
Boé chateau

As we rounded the curve to Boé –  we passed by the chateau, cleverly hidden from the canal by mature trees.

Initially we were not sure about mooring here; as mentioned on the DBA site the little port has been fitted out with pontoons for small boats, plus the stretch beyond the port was occupied by one (soon to be two) hotel barges.

 

 

Boé mooring

Boé mooring

However we moored up above the port between two strategically placed thorny bushes – just the right length for us.

Boé storm cloudsThe weather was still trying to make its mind up as we went for a walk to explore the area – mainly a little dormitory town with a big out of town commercial centre. We were doing fine, missing most of the rain, although we did resort to a bus shelter for a few minutes.

We took the opportunity to reconnoitre ahead and see what moorings were to be had in Agen. The bus trip was simple and cheap – about 20 minutes for 1.20€ each way.

The buildings of Agen are full of historic interest. I only show a few as an example, but the narrow curved streets are ancient and deserve exploration.

We treated ourselves to lunch out in one of the restaurants under the colonnades – a marvellous meal that advertised itself as local produce, prepared from A to Z on the premises, without freezers or microwaves. The menu du jour allowed us two starters each as well as a main and a dessert – and to my amusement coffee was served with a prune. Of course; Agen is the prune capital of the world.

Agen music 2By chance Agen was hosting a weekend of music, the Folies Vocales, with seven stages set up through the city and other events inside. We both like music, but with Stu wanting to get back to the boat I stayed on to enjoy some jazz and some blues – at one point the band left the stage and played amongst the audience.

Agen mooring 1Back to Boé for our second night there, and to prepare for the next day’s move into Agen. Our voyage was to be a short one – just up to Agen basin where we hoped to find the same nice spaces we had spotted the day before; luckily we did.
Once moored up we went to do a spot of shopping in the market (great little indoor and outdoor markets).

Agen passerele over railwayTo reach the city centre we crossed the canal and also the mass of railway lines at Agen station, using a 1930’s footbridge which forbids the ‘circulation’ of bikes and motorbikes. The lovely sign is definitely showing its 80 year old age.

Agen prune stallAt the market I discovered that there is such a person as a Prunelier, who specialises in all things prune.

 

Then after lunch, back to the music festival. There were all sorts of music, including some lovely chorale music in a little c13 church.

Agen music beer 2And we enjoyed an early beer or two sitting back stage of Texas Martha and her excellent band, watching the Argenaise of all ages dancing, strolling, drinking and chatting in the sun.

Agen contemplating storm clouds

We like Agen and stayed one more day, walking round the city’s avenues and alleys. Back on the barge for the evening a threatened thunderstorm arrived, with spectacular lightning across the darkening sky. Captain Stu pondered the retreating storm, and reckoned we could process next day.

So, for now, au revoir Agen, until we meet again.

Agen mooring

Agen mooring