September 2017

I’m trying something new – basically a diary – but I can’t find a template that I like, so each day I will add a new day above the previous ones and publish every day. Let’s see if it works!

or, if you know of a good diary template that I can share, please tell me.

I’m not sure if you are told of updates so you might only hear of day one!

I lost everything I’d done in the past 10 days so decided to give up the full version for this year! I’ll just put up the photos with a few captions to keep them company.

And to keep it speedy I have shrunk the photos more than usual. Do tell me if they are now blurry and not worth looking at!

Byeeeeee

We ended the season by mooring up in our winter berth at Castelnaudary, in weather that ended up being far from wintery!

Tuesday 26th – our last day of the sailing season, spent in Castelnaudary

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A lovely morning, especially welcome after the storms of yesterday.

 

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Castelnaudary port looking shiny in the sun;

lovely weather for the final work on the boat, cleaning fridge, winterising the engine etc.

 

Then out to lunch (and what a lunch!) at the home of our friends Chris and Ursula – plus of course their three wonderful pigs and the giant dog Cartouch.

The grounds of their farmhouse were glowing in the autumn light, where the log pile caught my eye.

 

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Back to the boat via our favourite wine cave where we bought more than we should have done, but will enjoy the purchases for months to come!

 

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Stu was drummed into service to plait the poor excuse for a pigtail that I have taken three years to grow!  It has to come off!

IMG_6945Back on board we packed the cases, packed the bags, packed the car. Then time for a last relaxing drink of the season on the back deck.

Bye bye followers. See you next year.

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Monday 25th Le Ségala to Castelnaudary

Final day’s cruising for this summer. Plenty of locks, singles, a double and a treble.

The last lock of the day, the month and the year was Le Planque and an opportunity for a few photos.

It was an autumnal lock.

Calliope waited patiently while a barge came up and two other boats went down. Then came smoothly in.

IMG_2070Soon after we arrived in Castelnaudary, along with a thunderstorm and downpour.

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Sunday 24th

IMG_6955Woke to a gentle dawn. Brisk walk into Gardouch to buy early bread before we set off.

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The morning sun caught the quayside houses as we left.

 

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Le Segala

Four hour cruise from Gardouch to Le Segala, followed by lunch and more work on the boat.

Nice mooring near the bridge and lavoir, except when other boats went past too fast and threatened our mooring stakes!

including me getting tied up in grey paint and sticky masking tape. Not a pretty sight!

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Saturday 23rd

A day at Gardouch working on the boat

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I did the grey water tank, amongst other things.

 

 

IMG_6951There was an invasion of mini beasts (green shield bugs, or stink bugs) in the evening.

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Friday 22nd 

A race to Gardouch, arriving just as Chris and Ursula arrived to go out for lunch with us.

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Nice meal at this place.

 

 

 

 

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After our restaurant lunch out with Chris and Urs – coffee and chocolate course on board


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Not much else to report – a good lunch, a pleasant afternoon and evening, and bed!

 

 

 

Thursday 21st – Négra and Montesquieu de Lauragais

Wednesday 20th – Toulouse to Montgisgard

Leaving Toulouse ……

Eclectic mix of boats on the way out of Toulouse

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Port Sud

Midi bridges, often on the skew

Midi locks – oval and sometimes fierce

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Helped through the last lock, a double, before we hit the strikebound ones and ground to a halt.

Arriving at Montgiscard

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Moored at the Montgiscard quay

Shadows!

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Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th – Gristles to Toulouse

The transfer from Canal de Garonne to Canal du Midi

Set off in plenty of time and in plenty of rain! Had a wait at the first lock, next to a lovely old mill.

Quite a few locks to negotiate, including l”Hers, near Castelnau d’Estrédefonds, where there is a double dog leg to get in and out of the lock, then a point de canal over the river.

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Stu;s design solution

 

 

Stu had by now designed a way to press the operating button from the bottom of the lock.

 

 

 

Got to the last lock on the Canal de Garonne and soon passed through the bridge that marks the end, before through the bridge that marks the start of the Canal du Midi!

Three quite spunky locks to negotiate as the start to Canal du Midi – here’s the one by Toulouse station.

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The weather was improving casting a nice light over the canal.

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Finally we arrived at the port and Stu put his feet up and slippers on.

 

 

 

Next morning the sun was shining.

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Moored up in Port Saint Saveur

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Route through Toulouse looking for Stewart’s best tarte (quiche) in the world

Lovely by day and by night

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Sunday 17th – St Porquier to Grisolles

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Woke up to a chilly day – first three layer day of autumn.

Went up the ~Montech flight of 5 locks, alongside the now defunct ‘water slide’ that used to transport large boats up and down in a basin of water, moved by two engines, one each side.

IMG_6423Stopped in Montech for lunch – a butcher’s rotisserie chicken stuffed with olives and garlic – and the bird’s heart, gizzard and liver! Yum Yum.

Made it to Grisolles, worth Stewart having to climb out of the bottom of the locks to press the operating button, until he came up with an ingenious design solution.

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Our garden for one night at Grisolles

Saturday 16th – Moissac to St Porquier

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Good morning Moissac

Our last Moissac morning and it is the Fetons de Chasselas – the festival of the Chasselas grape.

Time to go. Goodbye Moissac – as the clouds begin to gather.

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Waiting in a lock that was not working – more clouds arrive

 

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Arrived at St Porquier on the rain. Stu was a hero helping a stricken vessel moor up!

 

But sunshine arrived too, with wonderful rainbows to complete our day.

 

 

 

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Calliope under a rainbow at St Porquier

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Wednesday 13th, Thursday 14th and Friday 15th – Moissac

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Shopping in the rain, preparing for Phil and Geraldine to come

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Leaf and weed swirls as we left Tarn mooring, Moissac

A trip up the Tarn with Phil and Geraldine

Good lunch at Set Liverade

The trip back down stream

Tuesday 12th

A pleasant, non-exciting day, with a fun evening. I plastered up Calliope in the morning, marking with blue masking tape the little scratches and marks that Stu would paint over. Then up to town, this time fir slightly more than our daily bread as I needed a birth congrats card. Always fun buying cards in a foreign language! Does it really say what I think it sa?


We began the ‘evening early, at four thirty, going aboard Daisy to try out gin, and have a look round their lovely boat. Stu’s worried face is more about whether I can do a selfie with the camera than concern about afternoon gin drinking, I think.


There was a good variety to try. And a Happy Hour later Nicky and I set off to meet five other WOBs for some early evenig wine sampling in the Café de Paris.

A good time seemed to be had by all!

On the way back lengthening shadows gave Nicky and I sylph like figures. Actually mine is more triangular! Blame it on the dress.

Stu was patiently waiting with supper ready. Our after supper entertainment was one episode of The News Quiz and one episode of West Wing, accompanied by a fantastic sunset.


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Monday 11th

IMG_6313a relatively quiet day today. very windy in the afternoon when we went for a walk along the canal to the viaduct.

we walked back along the river side under the plane trees, with leaves blowing everywhere. Stu found a hedgehog at the side if the road, maybe looking for a hibernation hideyhole.

lovely social evening with Ian and Nicky from Daisy, reminiscing about Gosport!

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Sunday 10th

IMG_6282Lazy slow start to the day, with my last pêche de vignes for an outdoor breakfast.

off to the market together to buy a few things, but cannot resist taking photos of the Autumn produce. The famed Chasselas grapes are now in season; next weekend is the Chasselas Festival.

stopped at the boulangèrie for bread – always so temped to buy gateaux, quiches, pastries, and just more, different bread.

wondered why there were guys putting out tables and chairs 20′ from our barge, and a band sound checking . Soon found out. The local Rugby club were having a 7 hour ‘Journée Bodega’ on the prom next to us, so we were serenaded all day.

IMG_6308Some of the children for the party spilled over onto the quay as a fishing party.

having been so useless with a bad back for several days I decided it was high time I did something useful. I asked Stewart to remove all the sink and basin traps so that I could do a deep cleaning job on the pipes. Very satisfying.

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we had a pleasant, unexpected, visit from Anne on Rodi and enjoyed a cup of tea and energetic chat together.

evening approached, and it was my first no alcohol day – must lose some weight!

IMG_6301to keep me occupied we played Scrabble – Stewart’s victory this time, despite me picking up the ‘Q’ with a blank (all the ‘U’s were used) and making ‘Quaver’ on a Treble word, using the V that Stu had recently placed! Hmmm, should have won!

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Saturday 9th

Woke to a much better back, and much worse weather!

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It was a chance to try and get to know Instagram – but definitely need lessons from grandchildren!.

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Once it cleared up a bit Stu and I strode out (I did my best striding as my back was quite a lot better) to the Casino – for shopping, not gambling. I’d kind of given up trying to find Châtaigne or Picon, so I was stopped in my tracks wen I came face to face with both, at eye height, when I wasn’t even looking. Trophies were bought and taken home.

Something to add to my beer and something to add tho my wine – I’m no purist!

 

 

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It began to pour down again when we were about three minutes form the boat. Luckily we had closed all hatches before we left – except the hatch that is also our cabin window.

Soggy bed clothes.

Towards the end of the afternoon we had another break in the clouds and set off for Monsieur Delmas, who makes chåtaigne and other delectable liqueurs etc, including violet, pêche, noir, truffle, mure and many more.

On the way we stumbled upon a lively wedding at the Abbey, complete with an orange theme, Harley Davbidsons blaring out music for the bride to arrive, and an authentic 1930s Citrôen Traction.

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Monsieur Delmas lives up a pretty, winding lane leading up and out at the top of the town. Very pleasant man, and a very pleasant aperitif, that he the;ls me is good with foi gras! 

As we got close to the quay on the Tarn we met up with Michael and Tali (short for Talisker) on their daily constitutional promenade to the Moulin de Moissac. We decided to join them for a beer on the terrace.

An excellent conversation ensued, covering boating, dogs, Yorkshire, restaurants, dogs again, fish and chips and some parts of how yo put the world to rights.

The wind began to strengthen, the parasols were wound down, and it was time to retreat to the boat …..

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…. where we watched an ever changing sky ….

 

 

 

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… and I sampled Ms Delmas’s châtaigne.  Mmmmm, delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday 8th

Looked at the calendar and realised that in 3 weeks we will be back in UK – not sure if I am happy or sad, but certainly look forward to seeing family and friends.

back still playing up so more Deep Heat, and lying around with hot water bottles, plus some walking to loosen it up.

Moissac, favourite boucherie and boulangerie

first walking to get bread and paté for lunch – luckily the best boucherie and boulangerie in town are next to each there and the first shops, apart from a pharmacy, that you reach from the port.

Stu cycled off to the brico for stuff because he is starting to get the boat ready for winter, rubbing down and touching up ……

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my efforts were on the laundry side.

I don’t think we will need a sun cover over the dog box any more this year so it can return to it’s winter job as sofa-bed cover.

 

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at 5.50 I set off slowly to meet two WOBs (Women on Barges) at the Sunbeam bar, not named after ‘le soleil’, but after the Sunbeam Tiger ‘crashed’ through the wall.

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Lawrence, Anne and I enjoyed a couple of drinks and a good conversation, with the 80/20 rule – 80% Englas and 20% in French!

 

IMG_1854Then on the dot of 1900 I collected my pre-ordered pizzas and delivered supper to Stu on board. Gentle evening – more West Wing!

 

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Thursday 7th

Damn. Not as much better as planned, although I am fairly sure it is easing.  Nice slow start with tea in bed again and a hot water bottle to the lower back!

To be honest there is so little to report apart from it always being lovely to be on the Tarn at Moissac. I sort of walked, rather crablike, to the boucherie and got some bacon and boudin noir to go with the eggs and potato gallettes tonight.

That was sufficiently exhausting for me to retire to bed with the radio for a couple of pleasant hours before a late lunch.

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The afternoon’s activity was a walk to the local wine ‘cave’ where I had hoped to find crème de chatâigne – Moissac having one of the few producers of this in the country. But he had sold out so I compensated myself with a bottle of Îsle de Quercy and drank a grande verse aver glace while I cooked a traditional English breakfast for our supper.

 

 

 

 

 “”” | “”” | “”” | “””| “”” |””” | “”” | “”” | “””

Wednesday 6th

Not adding much today because annoyingly I ‘put-my-back-out’ this morning – only slightly, but enough to wear me down a bit

IMG_1828Up to a nice morning, tea in bed, breakfast, and realised we had left our super tasty tomatoes out all night, but luckily no-one had taken them.

IMG_6667By 9.30 off to Moissac we go, saying good bye to Valence d’Alene. 5 locks and 3 hours later we are moored up in the port for lunch, and a wait to drop down the locks into the Tarn when the lock keepers come back at 2pm. 

IMG_6668Soon moored up on the quay, and saw Kathryn’s ‘scary’ nun walk by smiling and swimming her rosary beads. She seems very happy and pleasant to me.

Then whilst Stewart enjoyed the river air and sunshine, I went for a good flat lie down with a hot water bottle.

Later, thinking I was somewhat improved, I offered to walk to the Boucherie for some supper. I made slow progress there, and slower back – giving me the excise to stop at the Sunbeam bar for a restorative beer. One phone call later and Stu joined me.

Back on Calliope he cooked us a delicious supper of moussaka, oven sautéed potatoes, and giant tomato salad. Following this we sat on the back deck in the evening sun until a gleaming full moon appeared behind the trees.

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I’m going to be better tomorrow!

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Tuesday 5th

woke up really late – don’t know why.. Stewart had been up well over an hour and was waiting for me to go to the market. We like Valence market, spread around the two market places and nearby streets.

you can but anything from naughty knickers to saucepans, courgettes to mattresses, beer to prunes, cake to paella.

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I was pleased with some good local specialities, in season; giant tasty salad tomatoes, fresh prunes, squishy and delicious, and pêches des vignes, a red fleshed peach.

 

IMG_6260just caught the cornières round the old market place at the right sun-lit time.

spent the afternoon rather lazily while Stewart walked to and from a now non-existent brico where he had hoped to buy stuff to treat rust spots.

 

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Monday 4th

Lots of rain last night, washing Calliope down. Set off around 9.45 heading for Valence d’Agen. I didn’t offer to do any driving practise today as several bridges were narrow and on bends. Reckon that’s lesson 22 and I’m on lesson 3!

Arrived in Valence to find one neat space on the pontoon just right for us. Hooray. Moored up and went in search of good bread and a quiche. Found both – chèvre et épinards quiche. Totally delicious.

IMG_6261Realised over lunch that things were noisier than usual in Valence, and worked out that we were mid event change overs. On the bank opposite they were taking down the stage and seating from earlier concerts whilst ne trucks arrived for Friday’s fairground.

IMG_6262On our side of the bank the next event was piling up and parking, because they couldn’t get in the other side! So the makings of a funfair, outdoor cinema, and cabaret concert began to line up their caravans.

IMG_6226Went for a walk round town, something we have done many times before, but always missed the ancient pigeonerie. This time we found it.

This one is a bit different because it is not walled in at the bottom in any fashion – not sure if the dove droppings fell to earth, with danger of falling on the farmer’s head, or were trapped above.

 

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Nearby are some of the many lovely trumpet shaped flowers – my photos never do them justice.

 

 

IMG_6228sat by the fountain and mother/child sculpture, outside the church, for a while before returning to our noisy berth. Ordered on-line various ships maintenance products and ‘cannot do without’ UK foodstuffs that brother Phil can bring next week.

sat down again, this time in shade of sun on back deck, writing this and watching fishermen fish.

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and then, great excitement, recognised that we were in for a bit of a spectacular sunset, so leaving Stewart aboard with a glass of wine ….

 

…. I scampered ashore, scrambled to a vantage point, and took these towards the West and the Golfech nuclear power station.

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also this towards the church.

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before the moon came up and provided the final photo shot of the day.

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Sunday 3rd

Downloaded the WordPress app to my iPad ‘to make things easier’ but so far cannot see all the formatting options that I need, like text colour!

 

 

First day for months I’ve needed a jumper for the morning boulangerie run. And when I got there they were shut for annual holiday! Maybe make a warm potato salad for lunch. Or wraps. We’ve got some on board.

 

Used some of the time pottering along the canal to put a duvet back on the bed, and the warm mattress protector. Feel like a squirrel getting ready for winter, lining my nest. Lucky I like nuts. Along the way I spied some rogue runaway pampas grass -not for the first time.

 

Through three locks before sighting a delightfully empty mooring at lac bleu de Borgon. Tied up, wraps for lunch, then off to the lake with the camera. I love the lake. A comp,eye sense of tranquility descends on me as I wander along the shore, absorbing the flora and fauna. (Through my eyes, not my mouth!)

IMG_6165After lunch I was off with the camera, and also my mum’s old guide whistle in case I was accosted again by a slightly amorous French an who I met here last time!

 

 

 

42828864_unknown-1previously dragonflies were everywhere. This time it’s butterflies. There’s 3 little ones in this photo.

 

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one big one in this photo!

 

 

 

 

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here are two who got away, blue and orange.

 

 

 

 

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and here’s a reddish orangey one that stayed put.

 

 

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little bees crawled in and out of the yellow flowers.

 

 

 

overall, just bountiful butterflies.

later we walked into Golfech, a village dominated by a nuclear power station, but that has resulted in money being spent in the community, with new pavements, lights, and a very modern Mairie. Many of the old buildings have also been restored.

as we walked back along the canal I took a photo from a bridge, looking back at a small ‘point canal’, or aqueduct, over the river Barguelonne. I didn’t notice it until I looked at the photo, but the narrowing for the point Canal very much reminds me of an hour glass figure!

the evening was calm and quiet, watching the sun go down.

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Saturday 2nd

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woke up to sound of pouring rain, completely NOT on the weather forecast that says 0% chance of precipitation! But by the time I git out of bed the clouds had passed and a glorious day seemed in store.

talking of stores, Stu and I cycled over to Agen’s retail park. We bought me a super comfy memory foam saddle, and a sweet little basket to go on the back of his bike. Then off to Geant Casino for food staples and goodies. Came back loaded, and in full sun.

we spent the afternoon restfully …… zzzzzzzz ….. then I became energised by the idea of photographing the mini red-spectrumed flower  meadow by the boat.

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quite pleased with these close-ups, including the 2 butterflies.

 

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rather disturbed in an upset sort of way by a lonely duck patrolling the opposite bank quacking loudly as if in search of a lost love.

finished the day with a delicious salmon parmentiere and fresh green beans, then an episode of West Wing. We are still on series 2, but catching up.

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Friday 1st

IMG_6530Serignac-sur-Garonne and the day began like this. Beautiful early autumn day. Not going to be too hot thank goodness, especially for the Agen flight of locks which we’ll reach at midday.

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quick walk up to the village fir the last time to pay for water and buy bread and late for lunch, plus three gourmet treats for me!

i ate the first on the way back for breakfast – a flat crispy/squidgy chocolate and almond thing.

left Serignac at about 10, with a slightly sad ‘au revoir’ to one of our favourite moorings.

moved along a beautiful section of the Canal du Garonne seeing numerous kingfishers, always too swift, too sudden, too distant to be photographed.

42827616_Unknowngot through the tricky Agen flight without any traumas, thanks to skilful captain.

 

 

up to Agen, crossing the Garonne on the aqueduct. As we left the Agen basin I looked back and understood why friends had mentioned the attractiveness of the hill and houses on l’Hermitage side. I’d always been too busy looking along the bank fir moorings before!

stopped for lunch, including gourmet treat two, prawn and mandarin salad, on the outskirts before moving on to Boé for the afternoon and night.

IMG_6535A major triumph – Stu and I completed the final level of Wordspark, with two hints to spare! That deserved a drink or two, and a square of dark chocolate with hazelnuts, third gourmet treat of the day.

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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!

Our grande finale on Canal de Garonne

Text in italics is from Captain Stu – I take no responsibility!

Agen viaduct fireman

After a great weekend in Agen we left on a grey day, heading for the viaduct. At the bridge we saw two spots of red – one each side. On the right was the expected red lock light; on the left was the red of a fire engine, and on closer inspection two fireman in the canal with diving equipment!

Agen viaduct 2A quick interrogation using my simple French ascertained that we could proceed, it was a training exercise , and they had not lost a body in the water. Phew! So over the point-canal sur Garonne. I note with interest that the front garden is starting to take hold . . . 

As we passed over the aqueduct we could look back at Agen and down on the river; shame it was rather a grey day.

Agen, leaving, end of flight

Looking back at Agen from the last of the lock chain

There is a pleasing chain of four locks downwards after the pont-canal (to give it its official name), with wide basins between each pair of locks, surrounded by green.

Leaving Agen flight

Under bridge; turn to starboard!

Coming out of the last lock, and under a stone bridge, the Captain was prepared for the sudden sharp right-angle right-handed turn into quite a narrow densely wooded area of canal; pretty, full of birds – and not great if you need to pass anyone! Luckily we didn’t.

Serignac mooring

The popular Serignac mooring

We arrived at Serignac to find it full of boats as long as ours, a surprise! There was one space – but was it long enough? The four captains of the four boats already moored appeared and started pacing the length. They decided it was long enough and, in a mixture of Dutch and English, began waving us in, taking ropes, pulling and pushing – but like Cinderella’s glass slipper on an ugly sister’s foot, Calliope was not going to fit. Twenty paces of short legs does not twenty metres make . . . 

Then, as is the way with batteliers, one Captain suddenly realised that his boat was 2m smaller than ours and would fit in the space, leaving us his mooring at the end of the row. His generosity led to our safe mooring – and a thank you beer next day. A friend for life; Capitain Boogie, merci.

Serignac close mooring

And then …… one more barge arrived! Our English friends on Jazz were also hoping to moor at Serignac, and were willing to squeeze into a space behind us against the bank – some close parking was required! (and accomplished with finesse).

Serignac is a tiny place – and full of character! It is a Bastide village, or fortified town. There are quite a few along the canal and across the south of France, built in the Middle Ages. Many are linked to the Hundred Years’ War, and have been alternately in French and English hands.

Serignac morningMorning dawned bright and quiet with such a mirrored surface on the canal that even the fisherman’s rod is reflected – look carefully. The silos may not be so beautiful, but their simple shapes act as a foil to nature, in my opinion.

Serignac party

There was much to thank our Dutch friends for after their help in mooring, plus it is fun to occasionally socialise with other captains and crew. So we set to in building relationships with our EU friends, Dutch and English. Much jollity and entente cordiale ensued.

SArignacAs so often happens, sundown is a time when ordinary things take on a new shape, beauty and character. At Serignac it was the seats, boulders and waste-bins on the opposite shore that caught my eye.

After a couple of days we set off from Serignac – the first time with our front window down so early in the day and for cruising. Yum yum, South of France! We headed West once more, with the early sun silvering our wake behind us.

A couple of beetles thought that they would join us on our journey – am I alone on finding them endlessly fascinating?

Buzet, Passing lock down to Baize

The lock leading down to la Baize at Buzet

Calliope had a relatively short day ahead, passing by the rather hectic port of Buzet-sur-Baize – are all those boats waiting to go down on the river? – and on to another Bastide, Damazan.

Just before Buzet the canal crosses la Baize on another of the beautiful little aqueducts we have been passing over on our journey.

Lock 39 Baize

 

Most of the locks along the canal are automatic so we see few of the absolutely necessary VNF staff, but now and then one appears. At écluse 39, Baize, we found a guy opening, or maybe closing, a sluice to help manage the water levels through the canal.

Alongside another bridge for another mooring in the sun; let’s put up the awning; I cooled the scalding hot metal decks with buckets of water before relaxing.

Damazan 38 degreesWe walked up to the village, and I mean UP, up those steps in the photo and some more.

It was a really warm day, as evidenced by the Pharmacist’s sign.

Like Serignac, Damazan is small, but with plenty of beauty remaining from its medieval past. The shady bar in the central square was an excellent place to start cooling down ….

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… then back to the boat to tip cold water on my head to complete the cool down!

 

 

 

 

 

Damazan frog

 

 

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the water either.

 

 

 

 

Danazan mooringWe left our lovely mooring below Damazan after only one night because we sought some shade after a high of 38 degrees the day before, but recommend it as a place to go, with its set of small shops and restaurant, friendly people, and massive history.

Mas-d'Agen mooring

Le Mas-d’Agenais had received good reports from other boaters, and we half expected it to be full,  but the little port only had one other boat, belonging to German friends of ours.  They helped us moor up (still in the sun!) at yet another well kept, floral lined quay.

Lesley-the-lavoir-lover was pleased to find two lavoirs at Le Mas-d’Agenais. The older one is a beautiful old timbered building half way down the hill from the town. The other, newer, one was in the bank-side garden to our mooring.

IMG_4393.jpgThe canal runs next to la Garonne here and a beautiful bridge crosses them both. Walking half way across gives tremendous views up and down the river – a wide and mighty sight.
Mas-d'Agenais 'beach'It was a hot day; we walked down to the river and found a little ‘beach’ used by locals when the current is not too strong, but I was warned against more that a paddle on that particular day. So cool tootsies only.

We went up the very definite hill into the village where, like so many of the villages in this area, there are magical old buildings and an usual church. Firstly it has a stubby tower, following the collapse of the steeple, and secondly it has a genuine Rembrandt hanging inside – the crucifixion with Rembrandt using a self portrait of his own face for Christ’s agony. Apparently the last of a set of seven, the first six of which are in Munich.

Mas-d'Agenais by gateWe had hoped for a beer in shade of the market place, but despite the bar being open and customers in the square there was no-one serving. After ten minutes of waiting we decided that there was cold beer on the barge and retreated back down the hill, through the old gateway, remarking on the HUGE axe leaning up against the wall outside!

Yes, we were moored in the sun again, but we put up the parasol, opened the beer, and stayed because it was both quiet, and quite pretty, with beds of lavender and contented insects all around – including (we’ve been told the Humming Bird moth above) 

We had a lazy second day at Le-Mas-d’Agenais, apart from a walk up hill to the shops, and a good washing of Calliope’s roof. In the evening we walked back up the hill for a beer, meal and free concert, but the bar/restaurant was closed again!

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A gentle stroll back down a different road resulted in us finding the pizza cabin by the lock, and enjoying one of the best pizzas we have ever had! Don’t be fooled by the café style exterior – the pizzas are superb.

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Sunset over la Garonne

The end to a perfect day was a stroll half way across the bridge to watch the sun go down through the clouds.

Leaving Le Mas-d'Agenais

So next morning we bade Le-Mas-d’Agenais ‘au revoir’. We sailed under the grand bridge I stood on the night before  leaving the port behind us.

 

 

 

 

dragonfly on geranium

dragonfly on geranium

We had a couple of ideas for the night’s mooring, but nothing definite, so enjoyed the wander through the French countryside, past potential port and wild moorings, looking for our spot. We were joined along the way by a dragonfly seeking a rest amongst the geraniums.

The area around écluse 45 l’Avance was interesting, firstly with a widening of the canal just after another little pont-de-canal (this time over the Riv. l’Avance), and then, within the lock, the first wrought iron ladder I have ever seen.

Meilhan approachWe continued to look for a suitable mooring and eventually found ourselves approaching Meilhan-sur-Garonne – another town perched on a hill that towered above us.

Meilhan-sur-Garonne  coming into

coming into Meilhan-sur-Garonne

Captain Stu noticed some green buoys in the water and a sign to steer to starboard of them, so obeyed the instructions.

We later discovered that a huge boulder had recently tumbles down the hill into the canal, making it non-navigable on one side. Although the boulder has subsequently been removed there still fears of further landslip and one side of the canal, plus the road alongside, remains officially ‘barrée’.

IMG_4575At the little port we saw just the pontoon length to suit Calliope, bow to bow with a beautiful 1903 tjalk. We moored up, checked with Captitain Mike that we were ok, and settled in for the rest of the day.

(For the observant amongst my readers, this photo was taken a few days later when we were moored bow to stern!)

Stu walked up ……

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…. yes, UP, 119 steps and added slopes …..

to the town for a look round and to buy bread whilst crew caught up on sleep.

He discovered fantastic views from a terrace at the top, over the canal and la Garonne together.

Later another walk for the two of us disclosed a picturesque town, full of hosiery (I meant history! Glorious typo) linked to the 100 Years War with England – and it seems the locals hadn’t forgotten. There had been a huge castle, now disappeared.

Of course the petrol pumps are somewhat more recent, but are old enough to have been selling litres of petrol for prices in francs.

We made good friends of several other British couple who live on boats and in houses nearby, enjoyong good company, wine and beer with them under the plane trees.

I returned to the terrace, all 119 steps, both in the evening and on a misty morning of see how the view changed. The little lights in the centre of the night-time photo are at the port far below where Calliope waited.

Next day we took the final step of our cruise to the end of Canal de Garonne. we passed by clumps of arum lilies growing wild on the banks – startlingly white amongst all the green.

We passed some different canalised activities, from ‘market garden’ style agriculture to gravel pits.

Later we discovered that a lot of the fields were growing tobacco; the local town of Tonneins is called ‘the capital of the Gauloise’. Stewart had been fascinated by the tall wooden barns we were passing; we are fairly sure that they are the old barns for drying and storing tobacco leaves. Confirmed by the DBA Forum the following day.

We passed more examples of the differing canal styles, with the PK (kilometre) marker here being of stone and the lock overflow emerging under the front of the lock in a continuous torrent.

Ecluse 50 cafe

We passed a funky little café next to one écluse …..

Heron near lock 50

Heron near lock 50

…. and a brave young heron near another.

The paucity of water birds down here has been very noticeable. We are surprised when we see a moorhen family or a swan, or even a pair of ducks, as there are so few on the canal. Probably all been eaten . . . . 

Fontet portWe passed the port at Fontet, set in an old gravel pit I think; obviously a popular spot and seemed to be in a lovely setting.

Dovecote near lock 49

Dovecote near lock 49

We passed, and admired, many dovecotes of all shapes and sizes for which the area is famous.

Fontet, past, weed

The stretch from Fontet to the Castets-en-Dorthe was remarkable for the amount of weed growing in the canal – everything was so green, it was hard to tell what was the reflection of a tree and what was weed.

Birds walked across the dense surface quite comfortably, but my photos were too blurred to show you. In the photo the tree line top is reflected on the left and the darker underside of the trees in the middle; the more in-focus foliage to the right of that all the way to the bank is under-water weed, running the whole length and width of the basin.

Castets approacingThe final bief up to the lock into Castets-en-Dorthe is lined with a boats of all shapes, sizes and colours, giving plenty to see as we cruised towards our final écluse of the day.

And what an écluse! We have been lulled into expecting locks of 1-2m depth. This one is over 3m, and whilst much shallower than ones we encountered on the Rhone and other canals, it felt interestingly deep.

We had booked a mooring at the port of Castets; my understanding of the phone call in French was that the Capitaine would not be there, but we could choose between the mooring on the bank and the mooring on the plastic ….. so not absolutely sure what we were looking for!

The very first mooring was on the bank and was free and was long enough for Calliope, but was it the waiting pontoon for the lock???? Luckily a young man appeared on the next barge up and understood enough of my française to reassure us that we could moor there, and even came to catch our ropes. Merci.

The sky was particularly grey as I executed a masterful express walk up to the little town for bread … and back, empty handed. Everything was shut. However we made a good lunch with provisions that were aboard.

Then, despite the rain, we went for an exploratory walk. To be fair, we did not cruise right to the end of the canal – we walked the last half kilometre to where the canal de Garonne entered the river Garonne. The bridge over the river is known as the Gustav Eiffel bridge, so we presume he designed and/or built it.

Castets-en-Dorthe eclusiers house 52/53

Castets-en-Dorthe eclusiers house – locks 52/53

Next to the écluse into the river is an unusual lock house. It has stairs leading round the sides from a higher level and into the second floor, so that the occupants could get in when the Garonne was in flood.

Castets flood scale

Bear in mind that the river was a good 3m below the road, and add on the depth up to the second floor, and you can see that the river can flood mightily! In fact a gauge on the front of the house marked the height of various floods back through two centuries. Absolutely humbling.

Castets debris collecting boatWorking away on the river below us was a small boat collecting debris, from whole tree trunks to small boughs and dead animals, keeping the river clear. It seemed to be a nice gentle job, but I guess it has its moments.

The town is another of those perched on a cliff, way above the possible flooding and soldiers. The Chateau de Hamel takes pride of place overlooking the river.

We climbed the road past the chateau into town and out onto the public terrace. Both of us stood in awe of the view, despite the dull weather. (Think there must have been a break in the clouds for the photo of me!)

Castets wallWe descended the steep road from the town, looking back up at the old defences.

Castets mooringsAs we returned along the canal bank to our barge – last in the row – I took a photo along the port and its many ‘live-aboard’ and all year mooring boats; another fascinating collection. Calliope is the little blurred shape at the far end of the row.

Castets mooring

For our one night at Castets Stu settled on the back deck in slightly better weather for an evening beer, whilst I messed about with photos!