Trebes tranquility to Castel musique

15th June – 22nd June 2018

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Millegrand bridge

Our trip from Marseillette to PK116 outside Trébes was gentle and meandering, passing by Millegrand and Millepetit on the way.

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Just outside Millepetit is a steepish bend. In the past the big barges had to be ‘roped’ round these bends and the evidence – a stone pillar engraved with deep rope marks, still stands as evidence of this practise.

 

 

 

 

 

We came up through the Trébes trio of locks just before lunchtime and moored up opposite the swans nest to eat before pottering on to PK116.

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We had two nights at one of our top ten favourite moorings, outside Trebes. There is always a mother nature surprise here – this time, on our arrival evening, an iridescent blue beetle.

On Saturday we walked to Intermarche, for vittles and to try to find parts for, or a new, bike pump. We did manage all of these tasks, although the subsequent work on my bike uncovered a perished tyre that no amount of pumping could restore! (Note to self – look out for a bike shop).

There was also the opportunity to inspect the damage done to us by careless holiday boats in locks over the past few days – work to add to the maintenance schedule for Stewart.

EFAA7500-C00A-4FD2-A846-04971C36BF72Later that day we were joined in our solitude by a family fishing expedition by the bridge, and then the skipper of MicMac appeared, cycling up from Trèbes to invite us for a beer – an invitation that was postponed until Carcassonne.

I went for one of my PK116 nature rambles; a few of my flora and fauna discoveries here.

And the day ended with another glass of wine on the back deck and a glorious sky.

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While we were at the  mooring we got the stern cabin prepared for our impending guests – grand daughter Hannah and friend Emily.

 

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Sunday dawned bright and beautiful.

 

 

Before we moved on, I walked into the town for bread.  The colours and shadows of Trebes, were wonderful!

It was a pleasant cruise to Carcassonne, passing through Villedubert écluse, one of our favourites, and past some glorious stonework.

After some ‘fountainous’ locks we arrived in time for lunch. just outside the town, and moved onto our mooring by the bridge early afternoon. It was fun watching the crazy movements of holiday boats coming and going through Carcassonne lock. while we waited for our guests.

870D37D6-AC5B-4D8A-A4FB-7082C62C6A9DHannah and Emily arrived as planned on the Navette from the airport, delivered directly opposite the mooring at the station! We had delicious pizza on board to end our day.

Monday was hot hot hot. We took a walk to a boulangerie to buy a croissant breakfast for the guests, and left them to explore the town’s narrow streets and little squares.

We met up again for lunch, trying the ‘Au lard et au Cochon’  (very nice). It is on a small street off the square, very typical French, lovely salad starters and huge plates of meat!

After a much needed siesta we all walked up through the town, over the old bridge to le Cité, finding numerous photogenic views.

It is impossible to over emphasise the stunning angles, shadows and shapes of this place! Apologies for the enthusiastic amateur camerawoman’s efforts.

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It was hot; it was uphill. We were glad of a sit down!

 

 

 

 

Those who have been to Carcassonne this year will know that large swathes of the ancient city have been painted yellow!

It looks like vandalism on the old stones, but in fact is art.  Get yourself to Porte L’Aude and stand in a particular spot … suddenly all is revealed!  And it is all painted to tin foil that can be peeled off to allow the city its dignity back.

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In the meantime MicMac had arrived, bringing the total of Piper barges in a row to three.

5667166D-AAAE-47B0-97DB-2EEF8F920581Stewart and I had an extremely pleasant beerhour on MicMac while the girls continued their exploration of the city, then off to Irish Bar to watch England in the World Cup (they won).

On Tuesday we were due to move on, so we made a quick trip to Les Halles, the market in square, a boucherie and a boulangerie, to give ‘les filles Anglaise’ a taste of French food retailing.  By 9.30 we had cast off, were safely through Carcassonne lock and out into the country.

Our new crew sun bathed, helped at big locks, and became galley slaves, press ganged into service!

Calliope moored at Villséquelande, another of our favourite moorings. My it was hot! In typical fashion I dipped toes into the canal after sweaty walk to the shop and a sweatier still stagger back with wine boxes.

8BF31229-1240-4587-88FF-3F1B00DFC994We had an enjoyable evening mostly on the back deck, with the girls staying through the late night cool air well after Stu and I retired to our cabin.

Hannah, recognising the good evening light, stout with her camera and Emily to record some moments of their holiday. I simply took photos from the barge!  (Hannah got the better shots).

Next day we moved on to a rural mooring near Villepinte – lovely. The young crew searched for river to cool in, but ended up paddling in canal.

75683694-2D40-4FC0-B606-5F59882AE4CBThat evening was designed to be our card school – Poo Face and Twenty-One. Someone must have won – but rosé obscures the memory! (The skipper won …..)

I was up before the Captain – a rarity – and scrambles ashore to take a few ‘morning light’ photos for a change.

Then on we went for the major trip to Castelnaudary, with 15 locks including double, triple, and even quadruple. The crew were pressed into service once more and proved themselves great matelots in the making, even washing down the deck when we arrived.

So, we tied up at the port, hot! There was disappointment all round that piscine was closed until July. How crazy is that in this hot weather?

However, undaunted, the crew explored town, then met Stu and I for drinks and pizza before the 21st June music fest got underway.

We three females went up to the two squares in town with music – very lively, all ages, great fun. It felt safe so I returned to the boat and let the teenagers alone.

A81A0E73-63A8-44D6-959A-0FD905E3A07DFriday – time for Hannah and Emily to leave. 😕 me too. What with finding a means to reach Carcassonne during a rail strike, packing, feeding/watering plants, checking fire extinguishers, and getting lunch it was not long before I was hugging Stu goodbye and off on a bus with Hann&Em.

Another week away from Calliope for me, and enforced port time for Stu. The saga continues a week from now!

Back on the Midi with Stu

8th – 14th June 2018

 

 

 

 

Last episode I left us at Le Somail, with the huge ancient bookshop, brebis (sheep milk) ice cream, and mooring under the fig trees, shady enough to eat outside on the warm summer days.

 

 

 

We also ate at one of the local restaurants – great pizza, mine with duck and foie gras!

 

 

 

The skies, especially at sunset, just encouraged amateur photography!

On our last evening I cycled down to St-Marcel-sue-Aude where they were due to burn Joan of Arc – if I read the leaflet right. Unfortunately I was there a day early and all the merriment, food, music and burning was to be 24 hours later – so I cycled back.

 

 

 

Could it get any better than La Somail? Let’s go see – actually we had to go see, because we are on our way to Carcassonne to meet grand daughter and friend from the airport on 17 June – so onwards and westwards we go.

37F54BDF-0F5D-4185-9EA2-1B72BDF0F281Day one’s mini voyage was the 6kms to Ventenac-en-Minervois where we found the same mooring below the bridge that we enjoyed two years ago.

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After an hour repotting herbs that had been refusing to grow happily …..

 

 

 

 

 

 

… we went for a stroll round the village, ending in the excellent wine cave on the quay, filled in the afternoon. A game of Scrabble (I nearly won) provided the evening’s mental challenge, and so to bed.

69EAB045-FE7C-4850-B4BE-2DBD2E1E0092Day two was to have been 24 kms to Homps, but after 10kms and one lock (rather cosily shared with a ‘bumper boat’ and a yacht, we found an empty stretch of moorings below the castle at Argens-Minervois.

We stopped for lunch, stopped for an explore, stopped for supper, and then stopped overnight!

 

 

 

The village has many ancient aspects, a few of which are shown here, regrettably not on the best day for photographic light. We now know, for next time, there is an epicèrie, several bars and restaurants, some wine caves, and a short walk to a bridge over the river Aude.

 

 

There’s also a fine example of a well-cum-pump, probably used to bring water up for cattle to drink.

7CBB8073-83D6-41C1-986B-F9BC52C3E887I maybe should have mentioned the hairpin canal bend going over the Répudre aqueduct – a lovely line of stone wall, always difficult to catch right on film!

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Moored up in Homps

Onto Monday – a wet day, made wetter by the number of locks to negotiate. We still made it to Homps, and our previous mooring, by lunchtime, and it was not long after this that the sun came out.

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Homps blue passerelle – as Calliope left next day

We took a walk over the blue passerelle, up the track to the lake, where I inspected the ‘beach’ that could provide a swimming place for visiting grand daughters.

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Here comes Safran

Not long after we came back a bike skidded to a halt next to Calliope, and we at last met in person Andy and Jayne of Safran, another Piper boat. Seeing a mooring just ahead of us he ‘veloed’ back to his boat and gracefully progressed into port. We were able to enjoy a few glasses of wine with them later.

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Next day we were off again, running ahead of the rain to reach La Redorte without getting wet! It was a great day for barging.

 

 

 

 

Just outside the village is the lovely Argentdouble aqueduct; I got a slightly better photos this tie as the skies had cleared.

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Calliope meets Tesserae at La Redorte

It was to be another Piper meeting day, this time with David and Louisa on Tesserae, who kindly moved up to make space for us. The two barges rested stern to stern for two nights, whilst those on board made better introductions over wine, then a meal at the quay side restaurant. (I do like he go-faster stripe along the rubbing strake; might have to get the masking tape out this coming back-end.) 

 

 

My evening walk at La Redorte resulted in a couple of unusual images ….

B0684E90-C413-4FFE-A03C-E1CC7CFCC3D1Then moving on again, slowly towards Carcassonne.  It was definitely slower than planned! The three double and one triple locks all had queues, and we had to share locks on almost every occasion – this proving easier sometimes than on others! (Indeed …..)

 

 

At the first lock, Puichéric, we waited for a hotel barge to go up and two boats to come down – a beautiful place to wait, with the village church in the distance.

 

 

We ended up sharing the lock with a couple of holiday boats – nice friendly people, doing their best to manoeuvre round us with bow thrusters, stern thrusters and, worst of all, boat hook thrusters!

D0CC8599-A7A3-47BE-B214-A3DBD750B89ELater, at St Martin écluse a long queue began to develop, right on lunch time when the locks close for an hour. If you’re not in a rush, and you already have food aboard, its a pleasant place to eat and wait.

3F3639C6-B5E0-4CF4-BEF0-046AE492E0EDBy the time we came through the last, triple, lock we had had enough boating for one day, so we were extremely pleased to find a rural mooring, spotted a few weeks ago, empty and just waiting for us.

 

 

After supper I took a walk ……

34042A3C-D6EB-4291-BB6D-4AC6E92BB534… and the Captain had a quiet time with his little black book.

A lovely sky, light until nearly 10pm, finished the day, and another week.

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Up the Jonction

 

I didn’t do my research properly for the blog going down to Port de la Nouvelle. I regret that I used the names Canal de la Robine and Embranchement de Nouvelle interchangeably and incorrectly!

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Calliope moored at Quai Victor Hugo, Narbonne

So let’s put that right. Narbonne is key. A mixture of Romans digging a channel to connect Narbonne to the sea, and a need for water from the Aude for Narbonne during the Middle Ages resulted in what became the canal de la Robine. A further 5 kms was required to link this, north of the Aude, to the Canal du Midi. When this was built it was named Canal de Jonction. The two together are known as the Nouvelle branch, or Embranchement de La Nouvelle.

When I returned from the Greek wedding Stewart and Calliope were still at Gua lock and mill, north of Narbonne, so we still had 8 kms of Canal de Robine before the Aude crossing and into Canal du Jonction.

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Stu preparing Calliope to leave Gua

We accomplished this easily in a short morning’s cruise, arriving in Sallèles-d’Aude in time for lunch.

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On the way we saw several Azure Winged Magpies -sensational, unexpected, thrilling! But no chance of a photo, so bird book must suffice.

 

 

 

The crossing of the Aude, past the weir, upstream, and a sharp right turn into the Canal de Jonction had the usual frisson and gentle tension of the unusual, with all going well. We are now truly ‘up the Junction’.

Then Gailhousty lock, with its dry dock to the side of the mostly unused lower lock, and it’s maddeningly scenic steps, plants, angles.

We moored up in Sallèles-d”Aude for a couple of days, allowing time for a restock at the 7 Écluses wine cave, rekindling of friendships on Papyrus and Escapade, and a bird watching walk back down to the river.

The lock at Sallèles is quite deep – deeper than it says in the navigation book – and deep enough to have, and need, poles down the side of the lock walls for batteliers to slide their ropes up and down.

Once more we did not manage to photograph anything exciting, but I will share with you my shadowy images of crested lark, swallow and nightingale!

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Captain Stu was able to take in the full extent of L’Aude weir from the firm footing of a salmon jump grid!

 

 

 

 

404EF502-52A0-4E11-9182-D088EA209EE0On the second evening it began to rain, and rain, and pour with rain. This did not dim the night-time lighting of our neighbours boat!

By next morning the skies had cleared and we steamed off for our final 4 kms of the Jonction. It is a very straight stretch, pleasant, and with 5 self-operated locks – all very similar except the last one, Cesse, which has there only operations bourne of its kind I have seen!

46D78F6B-D97E-47D1-9414-B0C247F52275Our final excitement was seeing a HUGE barge reversing through the little bridge we were aiming for, where Midi and Jonction meet. Luckily he was a skilful skipper with a boat load of school kids, and manoeuvred in to moor on the bank and let us past.

Then good-bye Jonction – we have reached the junction with the Midi, and a wide sweeping turn to starboard took us on our way.

Of course I should be ending this chapter now, with the end of the Jonction, but to finish the week off I will just let you know that we had a hectic half hour wiggling round two bends that included a narrow bridge, a narrow aqueduct, lots of moored boats, two big barges coming towards us, and two relatively idiotic holiday boats in front of us. Captain Calm negotiated all.

We moored up 3 kilometres further on, at La Somail, and settled down to finish our week in a delightful mooring just below the famous bridge.

The weather moved from sun to storm and back again over the next few hours, the bridge transformed against the skies.

Another wonderful week, and plenty more to come.

21 kms, Carcassonne to Marseillette

April 27 – May 4

After three nights in the middle of town we were straining at the tow ropes to be out in the country again. After a rapid excursion into town for bread and tomatoes we left Carcassonne, on a grey but warm day, heading for a rural mooring outside Trèbes.

4B5ADEF5-22F0-45AE-A70E-7DD173669751At the first lock, St-Jean, we caught up with a large holiday boat that was having problems mooring up to wait it’s turn descending, so we slowed down, backed up, and hovered.

It was a pleasant place to be stuck, and for the rest of the morning, through the three Fresquel locks and on towards l’Évëque we proceeded slowly, enjoying the scenery.

We had a ‘first’ between the Fresquel ‘simple et double’ locks, passing an ascending  boat in the holding pound in between.

C47627EA-8C6F-43E8-B923-A28552F8FE54The l’Évëque écluse has interestingly large shoulders! Stu says it’s because the lock has been lengthened and that was the original place for the gates. Expect he’s right!

323380E2-B7B7-4A23-B90C-393BC5A6D525We arrived at Villedubert at noon, so ‘moored by the Aude’ for lunch.

Unfortunately although l’Aude is just a few yards away it is difficult to see – just a glimpse! Also glimpsed a heron atop some conifers, ‘tho’ a bit distant for clarity.

But there were lovely irises to photograph. And a tiny frog climbing up the lock wall.

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Our mooring, PK116

We carried on another two kilometres to our planned mooring, only to find friends on Jazz had got there first! However around the bend were a row of sturdy mooring posts near a bridge. We tied up, waiting for the shade of the newly planted plane trees, and got ready for a very blowy night.

That evening we ventured the kilometre into town, becoming overawed over the Aude, for a couple of beers and a pizza – only we didn’t find the pizza! So supper aboard.

Next day was forecast heavy rain so I took a quick and pleasant walk into town for bread before the wetness set in! A lovely Spring morning walk.

Later the rain, and wind, arrived, but cleared for my afternoon tea break, and for sunset.

8D404ACD-5086-419D-9146-8E531C9B9316Stores were running low, so an excursion to the supermarket was planned, with bikes, panders, basket and rucksacks!

On our return we had visitors. Can corn buntings and ducks sense new food supplies?

Our flexible plan had been to leave next day, but we discovered that next day was May 1st, and whilst French éclusiers would not be dancing round maypoles, they do expect a day off, so no lock operations.

4F3442F2-0F81-4A84-A65F-CFF6C4AE93CB.jpegLovely; we could settle down to another pleasant 24 hours at PK116, beginning with a falling sun illuminating our bridge.

3359B9A0-038E-463D-8D4E-5B21C2403A14Its such a lovely bridge that I’m including more photos!

Going out to listen to birdsong, and trying to see an elusive nightingale, I came upon a riot of wild flowers, including, maybe, a marsh orchid.

56722AAC-7DC0-46E8-84EC-EFBF00B035AENext day being a public holiday, next best thing to a Sunday, a full English seemed to be in order – with Spam, not bacon!

To work it off, after a decent spell comatose, we walked into Trèbes through the grapevine fields, with the church tower our landmark in the distance.

And then for our last evening at PK116 we enjoyed a Stewart style tapas supper with accompanying sunset.

A61935FB-C344-4FE2-A3D9-9FA868803122Then next day, Wednesday (I lose track and have to check on the calendar!) we carried on eastwards on the Midi, firstly over the aqueduct and into Trebes.

As we approached the lock we saw Jazz moored up waiting to go down the treble and went in behind her – or tried to, but a gust of wind caught the wheelhouse, pushing Calliope lengthways across the canal!  No time for photos as the Captain reassesses the manoeuvre, aligns us in a hovering position on the other bank, and we await our calm entry into the lock.

We went down the three locks in tandem with Jazz, a refined gentle experience!

Then  on down stream through a pretty portion of the Midi, with Spring greenery and flowers all around us.

B2DE49A2-0B0D-445D-B93A-39A0DF07E7F4We arrived at Marseillette at lunch time, moored up behind Jazz, and stayed three nights!

This was less to do with the delights of the village, although it is ok with its tower and art deco bridge rails, and more to do with the gale force westerly winds that blew and blew and blew.

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Each day I found us a delicacy at the boulangeries (here a salmon and spinach crocque, whilst Stewart had a more traditional crocque madame) …….

 

 

 

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….. and each day we walked round a different aspect of Marseillette, culminating in the final day with a look at our first lock for the morrow.

 

 

 

Week 3 begins in the morning ……

Here we go – starting the 2018 journey

508FC346-96A9-4F7B-8C52-4B440505CAF3The season began in earnest on Friday April 20th. We left our house and it’s wall of possessions behind the day before, allowing ourselves a night at a Gatwick Premier Inn, surprisingly civilised, before flying out. Everything went smoothly, apart from me leaving my phone at security!

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A plane, bus and train ride later we arrived at Calliope in Castelnaudary, about an hour before we went out to the local cave on the quay to start celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. 

Next day was a day of gradual unpacking, filling up with water, trying out the new boulangerie that had opened up on the quay, saying hello and goodbye to boating friends, and generally preparing to set off. 

4E1A5A81-A873-4646-9DD9-939C86808BA1I managed to include a walk round the Grand Bassin and the port, discovering the beautiful new boardwalk.

A857CC15-C671-461C-AB1C-0A31FC55B667On the Sunday the weather was disappointingly cool and misty, but we cast off by 9 going under the bridge out of the port and hoping to have a clear run at the flight of four St Roche locks out of Castelnaudary eastwards. 

This was not to be. Two holiday boats were just starting their first lock experience, making for some entertainment while we waited. And another boat quickly joined the queue behind us!

Soon we were off, with boats in front and boats following, and the 4, sometimes 5, of us continued through the series of locks that lead East towards Carcassonne.

BE316EC4-7160-4205-8FCE-FDA81CCA25C1We found a peaceful overnight mooring after about 15 kms and tied up for the night.

There was time for a bit of a walk and gathering of local spring flora photos.

17232520-03B9-49EC-A9F6-68571B6AF43CNext day Calliope slipped away into another misty morning, this time at the head of the queue, working our way to one of our favourite places, Villesèquelande.

EAAE3BDA-542C-4739-A3C3-5C1DFF089AA1Another slightly misty morning provided inviting vistas.

Along the way we passed 3 lavoirs – not as interesting as some, but still fascinating in the social community history they hold.

Calliope neatly steered round our first ducklings if the season. Other natural observations were sculptural lines of conifers and cypress and a donkey haven!

Arriving through the bridge at Villesèquelande we found friends aboard Heliox who stepped out to help us moor up. Within a few minutes we had been invited to go that evening aboard the third boat in the row. This led to a walk into the village to discover the new location of the alimentation, and buy some wine and food.

 

The evening was spent a) with friends, b) helping a grand daughter long distance with a Uni essay, and c) trying not to laugh when the captain lost his footing and dignity with a mighty splash into the canal.

B6894068-3D04-4F1A-BFD2-D90A370AB853Tuesday was our day to arrive in Carcassonne. The last few kilometres were uneventful and we arrived right on éclusier lunch hour, meaning that we tied up in the warm sun for an hour to wait; very pleasant.

After lunch we passed through the lock and under the bridge that Captain Stu tells is the most difficult for Calliope on this canal. As always he did well and we moored up below the lock.

Stewart was now stuck here for three days while I whizzed back to the UK for a school reunion. We used our evening together to wander up into town and have a beer in the square before supper.

Stu turned out to be less ‘stuck’ than I expected, with friends on board for lunch and discovereding the delights of the Irish Bar and the best boucherie in town (boeuf en gelée). Meantime I regained my adolescence with friends from 50 years ago.

I also regained my phone, sent by Gatwick lost property to my friend’s house in London. Hooray!

67CB7019-53FF-4568-A450-CBB4A71B57A5While I was away he had to deal with several speeding boat issues, pulling the large wooden bollards out of the ground and bashing Calliope. (Yes, the large pink blob in the corner is my thumb!)

388DBBFD-4E51-4A70-82FE-B1481BD9A332Then I was  back to round off our first week back with a perfect evening on the canal. Looking forward to the next bit of cruising, starting tomorrow!

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.

 

 

 

 

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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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Midi Addendum

I’ll start with an apology. The Midi blog did not complete the Midi. So here is an addendum.

 

Toulouse mooring

After three days in Toulouse we were ready to cut loose, nice city though it is – see the brief Toulouse bloggette.

We made navigation plans, got the sextant ready, took readings from the stars, and slipped away downstream, to start a journey with more mini-adventures than planned!

The one and a half kilometres to the first lock, Bayard, was interesting, passing through areas of the city we had not walked. Stewart began to concentrate as the lock entrance loomed, beyond a narrow bridge. I was getting ready to disembark to press buttons – demanding work!

Toulouse, Midi 6m lock

We were both shaken therefore by a loud rattling noise on the wheelhouse roof and I quickly emerged to watch the remains of a pole suspended over the canal – the one we had to turn to operate the lock!

 

Stu put the brakes on and persuaded Calliope to go astern enough for me to catch and twist the pole. Phew.

 

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Then onwards, under a bridge, past some moored boats, and into the lock.

Bayard is right next to the train station, and is deep for the Midi – 6.2m – so we attracted quite a lot of attention. Our roping skills were in order and we began the descent.

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The gates opened onto a narrow concrete pergola which must look beautiful when the wisteria is out.

Carrying on smoothly into a wriggly bit we rounded a bend to see a large passenger barge, Baladine, bearing down on us. Bags of room, no problems.

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Two locks to go – Minimes and Bearnais. All prepared to twist a pole I was surprised to see the next lock gates open as we approached over an aquaduct / spillway. That’s when we met Henri, a VNF man (with a grey beard, slicked back hair and Wendy band) who was to be our saviour several times that day. Roping once more was as planned and the lock sprang into action – automatically.

minimes 2_lockHenri had a message for us. I listened carefully. It was obviously important. Eventually, with my hesitant questions, I understood that we could not go much further. The police had closed the canal after the next lock for the day and were searching for a body! OK. We will stop after the next lock for the night.

 

The gates had closed behind us but then …. nothing!

‘Boardez-vous’ said Henri, or the proper French equivalent. Apparently I was caught on camera from the operations office downstream and they would not let the water out of the lock until I was on the barge; another new lesson.

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One last lock on the Midi and a beautiful stretch along to the end.

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It was by then getting close to lunch time and as we emerged under the final bridge of the Midi we found ourselves in a huge basin – Port de L’Embourche – with plenty of mooring for lunch and possibly overnight.

port_de_l_embouchureThe Port is fascinating, with a lovely curved brick section that includes the bridges into Canal de Brienne (connection to River Garonne), Canal du Midi and Canal de Garonne reading right to left in the photo above –  and these days totally surrounded by motorways, slip roads and dual carriageways. Not good.

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We picked our spot, tied up and enjoyed a meal in the sunshine. Stu suggested I cycle ahead and look for other moorings before the closure – somewhere out of the city for the night. He went for a quiet siesta and I was about to go when the second hooter of the day sounded nearby.

Whoops – we were on the mooring of the Toulouse canal-sweeping bateau and he wanted to stop for his lunch too. The siesta was cut short and a cycle ride abandoned as we cast off to begin a slow turn round in the basin and find an alternative mooring…….

At the same time Henri appeared, at the mouth of the Canal de Garonne, and with much waving and shouting let us know that the canal was now open – we could proceed! Hooray; back to plan A. Off onto the next canal, and next blog chapter. Hooray indeed.

mouth_of_garonneStu aimed through the ‘bouche’ of the Canal de Garonne, and it was truly goodbye to the Midi and on with our journey, and eventful day. Yet to come, and in the next blog, were two ‘en panne’ (not working) locks and more visits from Henri!

Remainder of the Midi – L’Oestward to Toulouse

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We’re off! It’s been nice having a slow start to the season – we feel that the boat is prepared, the kitchen stocked, and the wine cellar full, but the crew are now restless and wanting to feel the movement of the boat beneath their feet.

We left Castelnaudary and immediately the views South across the plain to the distant hills was beautiful. The plane trees here are still standing, and presumably healthy, providing a traditional Midi atmosphere.

Before long we were at La Planque, our first lock, and waiting for a boat coming up; just as well! We had not realised that on this direction many of the locks are automatic – at least they are automatic once the mariner triggers the mechanism!  A quick lesson for Lesley in button pressing and we were off – me dropped off before the lock, a gentle sprint to the buttons, then a pleasant wait while the lock prepared itself and Calliope entered.

Midi, La Planque ecluse 22

Midi, La Planque ecluse 22

Stu remembered from last year the helmman’s tricks for a Midi lock, steering in with aplomb.  We were soon tied up, more buttons pressed, and Calliope rose on the waters of the canal.

We counted up and realised that there were only another 4 locks ‘among’ until we reached the summit – including a double and a treble. The stepped locks were both ‘manned’, making things easier for us.

We moored up for lunch at a wild mooing before la Ségala, and realised we rather liked it; so we stayed the night.

There was entrainment from the pet goose of a local live aboard. He adopted us for a few hours, guarding the barge, following Stewart around, and treating his cooking as a spectator sport, watching attentively through the window.

Next morning, with Labastide-d’Anjou a ten minute cycle away, exercise and bread were provided in equal measure before we set off along the summit stretch, past le Ségala port, bridge and … my first lavoir of 2017.  Not a particularly interesting lavoir, but worth recording just the same.

The five and a half kilometre summit bief is a rural ideally, accompanied by the A61 motorway at almost very turn!  One of the most interesting and attractive points is just before the Ocean ‘going down’ lock.

Here at the Narouze pass is the watershed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The fascinating octagonal outline of the original reservoir to hold water for the canal is still clearly visible.

Midi Lock 17 Ocean, first one down

Midi Lock 17 Ocean, first one down

So our downward journey towards the great Atlantic ocean began. Hurrah, a full lock! The first one since the Rhone in August last year; no more rope-hoying for a while . . . . The so called Ocean lock was very pretty, and although automatic we happened to arrive at the same time as a VNF man and he happily took control.

Midi, by Port Lauragais

Midi, by Port Lauragais

We had decided to stop for lunch somewhere around Port Lauragais so that we could take a look at the Midi museum there ….. which turned out to be closed until May! Nonetheless we had a pleasant meal seated at a picnic table under the trees between a lake and the canal. We walked all around the modern port and although we prefer wilder moorings we could see that the facilities were good.

We carried on, enjoying the drop and relative ease of descending locks, through to lock 43, Renneville. This time I remembered the camera and caught some shots of Calliope waiting, then entering the lock.

There was just space for us on the mooring below the lock so we tied up and began to enjoy another sunny afternoon and evening.

First I went for a walk up (and I do mean UP) to the village where I found a lovely church with a brick built wall bell tower. I have since found out that the brickwork is the vernacular style in this region – hence these three church photos – Renneville, Villefranche-de-Lauragais and Gardouch.

The first evening was so pleasant at Renneville that we stayed on for a second night. A quick cycle trip to Villefranche established a good set of boulangeries, restaurants and supermarkets so our immediate needs were well catered for.

IMG_3685 Along with the usual daily bread we also needed a suitable venue for a relaxed anniversary celebration. We walked into town on a lovely sunny Spring evening and found a PMU style bar and a Cambodian restaurant that suited us just fine.

Whilst in Villefranche we discovered a little more vernacular architectural ironmongery – little hinged metal figures  designed to hold open window shutters. Looking at these in Villefranche, Gardouche, and later in Montgiscard I think there are two or three main characters – often with a male and a female figure on either side of a window. I’ve had a quick look on line but cannot find any information … anyone know?

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We managed to contact the port at Toulouse whilst at Renneville and had a change of plan after discovering