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!

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.

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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!

Two Rivers Cruise – La Saone et Le Rhone

From Chalon-sur-Saone, through Lyon, to Saint-Gilles

Thursday 18 August 2016

IMG_1728Leaving Fragnes (we like Fragnes) after a full moon night and just after breakfast we had a final short trip on Canal du Centre from countryside towards La Sâone.

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First we had to pass the the industrial end of Chalon-sur- Sâone, with the usual warehouses, old quays and occasional beautiful rusting barge before reaching the tall, narrow 10.76m ‘bis’ lock to drop us down to river level.

The mighty lock 34 of Canal du Centre – ‘bis’ – ready to lower us to Sâone level.

And it started to rain! Ah well – boating is a water sport I guess.

We joined the big wide Sâone uneventfully and started chugging downstream at a good pace, enjoying the grey-hued view of Chalon from the water.

The statue is important to me, and all those who wield a camera. It is of the unlikely named Nicéphore Niépce, born in Chalon in 1765 and widely credited as the inventor of photography.

tournus__afterThe countryside below Chalon is rather flat – less interesting than some, but the wide, open, view and the wildlife made it very enjoyable on a day when clouds lifted and the sun came through..

From the tall and narrow to the wide and shallow – we went through our one Sâone lock of the day – all alone in a huge space! Life jackets on! It’s the rules!

Chalon, after, Ormes lock

Chalon, after, Ormes lock

And look who we saw the other side of the lock!  Our friends on Lapin Vert, the theatre barge, last seen on Canal de Bourgogne weeks ago.

Not far on from the lock we came to Tournus and moored up at the quay – what a pretty place, full of history!

I loved some of the balconies, and all the flowers!  It is a must for another visit, to explore the abbey sector and the many little narrow streets.

We saw all weather from sun, clouds, pouring rain, mist and back to sun again by 11am the next day, when we were finally able to move on down the river.

Friday

The Captain feels he is relaxing into river ways quite quickly. Huge hotel barges ply up and down but there is plenty of space for us all on La tranquil Sâone. Cattle and horses graze; towns and villages look down at the water.

maconWe cruised a massive 57 Kms on Friday, past the graceful riverside house of Macon and ending up moored near Belleville. Macon, which looks a pleasant city. It’s a shame to miss such an important wine growing region, but if we are to meet our mates Chris and Tasmin in 3 days time we need to keep going.

Below Macon we began to see a new set of watersports make use of the river – water skiing, power boats, jet skis and ribs were more prevalent than skiffs and kayaks!

It is so much quicker with about one lock a day, and at a steady 12 Kms an hour with the current. Friday’s lock was called Dracé – as wide and empty as Ormes the day before, out in the country, with the hill town of Mogneneins in the distance. In contrast the abandonded old lock of Thoissey, just after Dracé, seemed gentle and contained.

drace_lock__after__almost_perfect_mooring!Soon after Dracé we spotted a ‘perfect’ rural mooring for us – except that the pontoon was 8m long and we are 20m. In a canal it’s ok to moor in such a short space, but on the river, with big barges, jet skis and power boats sending wonderful wakes our way, we thought it might not be wise.

We carried on to Belleville, and at first were alarmed to see a ‘No Mooring’ sign on the pontoon. We came up close, peering through binoculars, and saw below something that indicated it was the next day that mooring was forbidden, so tied up and crossed our fingers. All was well.

No time to explore Belleville this time, but an absolute definite for next time we pass through.

Saturday

After a nice calm night and pink purple dawn we had pouring rain – I don’t think it stopped until about 3.45 that afternoon! Nonetheless the intrepid crew slipped mooring ropes and set off to Lyon.

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On the way we saw some lovely countryside – hills, woods, islands, lakes – and attractive villages; but all through windscreen wiper!

And there is always the industrial side of the river, lending purpose to the maintenance of the locks, banks,  and navigation buoys.

We caught sight of the National Patanque Competition at Trévoux – an Italianate town somehow transposed to La Sâone.

I don’t give much info about the towns, but Trévoux is worth a quick mention. It was capital of Dombes, an independent principality with its own parliament until 1762. It has a 10th -13th century castle amongst other old buildings and is famous for diamonds and dictionaries – and Petanque!

As we passed through le point de Trévoux we remarked on some languishing ladies in blue atop the ornate piers, unconcerned by the rain.

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Route de Soleil!

Also unconcerned by the rain, or perhaps to escape it, were the cars whizzing South on the Route de Soleil, passing overhead for about the third time!

And then we stopped at Neuville-sur-Sâone for lunch. I ran through the rain to find a boulangerie, discovering on the way set of lovely lanes flanked by small shops of all types – how France used to be, but maybe tarted up for the Lyonnaise who were not far distant.

neuvilleNeuville-sur Saone has a claim to fame, linked to the Lumière Brothers. A congress of French Societies of photography took place in Lyon in June 1895. They had a boat trip on the Saône, to Neuville-sur-Saône where Louis Lumière filmed their landing on the Pastor dock. The following day the film was screened at the closing session of the congress. This film is considered to be the first “news” movie, the ‘ancestor’ of all news.

As we came on down into the Lyon conurbation we passed so many lovely houses and buildings, all set against a wet grey sky so not shown at their best.

But it did give us a typical parapluies sur le pont moment.

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We were on the look out for gasoil and somewhere to moor, and found both. The diesel pump was at a very friendly boatyard / chandlery. We filled up to be sure of propulsion on the Rhone.

lyon__mooringThen returning up stream half a kilometre or so we tied up on a tree-lined quay in the middle of the city. When the sun comes out this is going to be spectacular!

lyon_nightThe skies cleared as it became dark, bringing ‘spectacular’ forward by a few hours.

Sunday

Sun shining; it  was spectacular all over again.

There were no traumas joining the Rhone – just suddenly very wide, though no perceptible increase in flow. Seemed a quarter of a mile wide, so even had thee been loads of river traffic we would have been ok – and as it was we were the only ones there!

The confluence is marked by a slim isthmus of grass – and a huge modern museum building – both equally amazing in their way.

We had a bit of hanging around for the first lock, Pierre Bénite, as we had not qute grasped the ‘registration’ system, but once in the ‘sas’ (lock chamber), the floating bollards took us down the requisite 9m very gently.

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Rules is rules, so life jackets on for the lock. We would be at our most vunerable waiting for a lock the Captain says, so we were lucky; with a low flow and a back breeze we were fine.

lyon__after_1Calliope glided on down the river, with the scenery opening, closing, changing. We passed towns and villages more reminiscent of Italy than France, so definitely now in the South and with a Roman influence.

lyon__afterOn the canals our expectations were to achieve 20 Kms per day; on the river, with few locks and a following current we have been doing 14Kms per hour on Le Rhone! White Water Barging!

We ate lunch on the go, with co-pilot taking the wheel while Captain ate, weaving my way in and out of bridges and boats coming the other way – with yards and yards to spare I must admit!

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Just after lunch, before digestion set in, we were at the second lock, Vaugris. We only gave the éclusier a kilometer’s notice of our arrival, so we bobbed about a bit waiting for the lock to be set for us, and another bateau de plaisance also travelling downstream.

These big locks are so gentle that once tied up one can loll on deck during the descent.

By now the wind was starting to pick up …. Is it the Mistral???? We have been warned about the dangers of the Mistral, but ‘hell, came from a winter in Gosport!’

And its not the Mistral. It is northerly, but it is only 15kph, and its warm – though a 3 to 5hph flow coming up your aft at the same time makes it interesting . . . . 

We passed Viennes; it looks fascinating from the water, and through the greyish light; a town-in-waiting for exploration.

We were by then deep into Côte du Rhone country, slipping by lots of named vineyards; we passed so many vineyards – it was mega frustrating not to be stopping and trying them all, but actually there are very few mooring places on the Rhone. Capital V, capital F.

Our planned mooring at Chavanay was spotted from about 1.5 Kms away – a 20’ pontoon for our 20’ boat, empty. Hooray!

chavanay_mooring_3About half an hour after our joyful mooring out in the country we were joined by a HUGE hotel barge who was disembarking passengers for a coach trip! The Captain of this barge was superb, mooring up to 5 ‘ducs’, or huge black poles sticking out of the river, to which are attached gangways to the land.

Half an hour later, it was gone.

We had moored by a tall, elegant, simple monument. The plaque was a sad reminder of WW2 – something we thought we had left behind further North. The village were obviously very proud of this young man.

Stu and I took a walk round the village, bumping into the remnants of a holy of festivities  – the Vogue fete!  The band played on, with musicians in a variety of locations (and libations), and people (in a variety of locations and libations were joyous.

Not sure whether any of them made it it the evening’s dance and the 1.30am ‘Grand Galop’!

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And Chavanay has wine caves too – for next time.

It all led to a peaceful moonlit night on the river and a beautiful clear morning..

Monday

We liked the mooring at Chavanay, but had to continue next day, leaving the monumental nuclear power station on the opposite back behind us.

Setting off towards the South, we descended through Sablons lock, which had one huge door each end that opened sideways, and a hydroelectric power station alongside. To be honest, most of these big Rhone locks incorporate hydroelectric – good source of power.

Callliope cruised on, between Andance and Andancette, the former being clearly labelled! Three crosses on the hill above the church stood strong against the blue sky.

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Many of the small towns and villages along the Rhone are just out of site, behind trees, or well above flood levels. One that we could see was St-Vallier, where La Galore river enters the Rhone under a low bridge. Nauticulars will notice the white horses just forming; time to re-check the wind forecast . . . .

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Before we reached Gervans lock the Tour d’Arras came into view above the trees, though the town of Arras was out of sight.

We were on and through this 11.5m lock quite quickly – getting used to them now, radioing ahead to say we are nearby.

arras__near__windyBy now the wind was picking up, a daily feature, probably linked to the ground warming up in the high temperatures we have been enjoying!

It almost felt as if we were back at sea – in a good way –  no, not so good some would say . . . . . .

We needed to reach our hoped for mooring at Glun to meet friends, so a quick bowl of cereal lunch for Stu and yesterday’s bread for me as we continued.

I took a turn at the helm, taking Calliope through the relative narrows by La Table de Roi – a small (6’across) flat rock in the channel where, apparently, Louis IX stopped to eat on his way to the Crusades.

We came into the Hermitage area, past Tain and Tournon and the many many vineyards terraced onto the slopes.

Tournon is overlooked by two watchtowers, and connected to Tain by the first suspension bridge over the Rhone in 1825.

glun__afterThe wind continued to pick up – blowing harder than forecast, but with a bright sky and sunshine – harder than forecast is correct.

We reached the wonderfully name Glun, and la Roche de Glun, and turned away from a canalised section onto the old Rhone and the hoped for mooring – which was totally full!

Stu managed a difficult astern manoeuvre in the wind, back onto the main route, refocussing to the South, with me contacting the friends and changing our meeting point.

A quick look at the map suggested that I should phone the port at Valence, and an extremely pleasant Capitaine told me he had a hammerhead on ‘J’ for our 20m boat – the second pontoon.

buorg-les-valence__lockThe 12km trip included another lock, Bourg-les-Valences. Here the ‘door’ rises up behind you out of the water, although this photo does not show the actin very well.

We entered the port a Valence  with me on the bow looking for pontoon J; the one closest to the entrance for H. The sign for the next was hidden by masts and wheelhouses, but surely would be I, not J? ………. As it emerged I could see that it was G, and coincidentally realised that in the French pronunciation of the alphabet, G is J, if you get my meaning!

Good, all sorted, and we moored up with welcome help from another boater as the wind was blowing us straight off the pontoon. We quickly met up with our friends, and after a 800m walk to Casino (supermarket, not entertainment!), we settled down to a very pleasant evening.

Tuesday

Lovely day – horizon to horizon sunshine, low winds. Perfect half days cruise, with Captain  Stu sharing the helm and binoculars with his old old Lake District boatman friend Chris – drinking orange juice look; mind, it was early. 

Through Beauchastel lock, past la Voulte with its fascinating buildings and lovely rock formations and onwards to find a resting place with a restaurant, if poss!

The four of us came down to le Pouzin quay which looked like a difficult mooring; the wall was tall, the two bollards too far apart to both be used, and the railings potentially insecure! Despite there being little to hang onto it all worked out , with the exception of one rope snapping after a small boat with a ridiculously large wake went by. Ah well.

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Lunch weas enjoyed by all, followed by a stroll round town for the men and relaxation for Tas and I.

The ropes continued to be tested by some big commercial barges and hotel boats – will they even get under bridge?

le_pouzin__swimming

Hey, got me a swimming partner, so while the old boat mates spun yarns and drank grog Tasmin and I took the healthy option of a cool down swim in the river. The current was strong enough to be testing, but not frightening, so good exercise for ten minutes or so.

Then off to a local pizzeria for a treat meal – all delicious, and with some delightful translations on the menu

le Pouzin

Chris, Tasmin and Stu at le Pouzin bridge

The evening walk back through warm air, past the illuminated bridge, to our floating apartment was just perfect.

Wednesday

This was ‘extreme écluse’ day; le Logis-Neuf (11.7m), Chateauneuf (16.5m) and the enormous Bollène at 22.5m!!!! (That is an 8 x storey building, with its roof on . . . . heroic engineering, and the smoothest decent ever.)

Prior to that we had a breakfast of croissants and hot chocolate before moving off in splendid sailing conditions; enough breeze to cool us down now and then, full on sun, and a gentle but persistent current in our direction.

Our first lock, Logis-Neuf, was the baby of the day. We had quite a wait for the lock to be ready, and then quite a wait for another boat to arrive and join us in our journey  11.7m down. It gave me time to inspect the floating bollards more than usual!

Birdlife was a bit more prolific than usual, with plenty of cormorants and gulls – and on a floating branch, an osprey. The photo, though not good, is included as we see them so rarely. Can I say “Cormorants to the left of me, gulls to the right. Stuck in the middle with Stu’? (Doh!) Guess it depends how much of a music lover you are!

In contrast to each other my Mediterranean garden was at the fore as we passed the nuclear power station at Cruas, where attempts have been made to make one of the cooling towers attractive.

chateauneuf_beforeFurther down river we saw the delicious town of Montelimar in the distance rive gauche, and beyond the inky outline of a mountain range.

Soon after the 16.5m Chateauneuf écluse came into view. As usual we radioed ahead to announce our presence. I know I am a bit of a lock nut! Chateauneuf had interestig features – ‘wine-stain’ colours to the locked, massive curved doors either end to hold the weight of water, huge doors part way along to make a smaller lock (I guess), a bit of a waterfall leaking in at the top end as we descended, and a rising, curved door, with metal gate beyond, to let us out at the bottom of our 54 foot drop.

There’s a couple of short videos filming the start and finish of our trip down at The start of the descent and ‘Getting to the bottom of the lock’

Below Chateauneuf lock is the Donzère Gorge. The river narrows appreciatively, although not to the scale of other famous gorges. There are many magnificent rock formations and cliffs that once formed the immediate banks of the river.

We had hoped to stop above the lock at Bollène, but the quay was full of commercial barges being loaded with very dusty stuff so we continued, down through the absolute biggest lock in Europe.

Does it look or feel different to the other big locks on the Rhône? Well probably not a lot, at least not on a benign August day, but just knowing that you are dropping the height of three houses is something to keep you awake on a dreamy afternoon. (Actually I had to be woken up to do it!)

It was a 10 minute smooth as silk descent from hot sun to welcome shade, and I even got a good shower from a spray leak in the wall at about 3m down, that continued to soak me with water all the way down to the bottom!

The associated dam and hydroelectric power station was designed by architect Théodore Sardnal, built in 1947 and officially opened in 1952. It is now a historic monument, as well as a working generator.

Still with Tas and Chris aboard we arrived at Saint-Etiennes-des-Sorts to find the pontoon occupied. We turned round and examined found tall wall at the upstream end of the village and located enough rings, some at water level and some 4′ above. With ingenuity, acrobatics, boathooks, (competent helmsmanship) and leaning overboard we managed to tie up securely for the night – although it did require the deployment of our ladder to get on and off the boat, even for swimming!

Across the river, solidly watching from the top of a cliff, was the Mornas Fortress, with colours changing as the day progressed into night.

St Etiennes,

St Etiennes

Downstream, as twilight faded in, we could see a cluster of village buildings, including the church overlooking the water.

st_etiennes_morning_sun__wallThursday

Next day the sun streamed in once more. Chris set off early, hitch hiking, to collect his car from Valence, returning for lunch before taking himself and Tasmin home.

Stu and I had a relaxing afternoon and evening, including for me a late evening stroll in the cooler air around the village.

Friday

We liked Saint-Etiennes, and seeing the boat on the pontoon leave at 8am we decided to make the 400m journey down to that mooring and enjoy one more day at the village.

We had been told that there were no longer any shops or boulangeries in the village, so we were surprised to read a sign at the pontoon telling us that there was a an selling bread at the bus stop each morning from 8.30-9.30, and an épicerie van once a week on a Friday morning for an hour. We moored up on Friday morning!

I set off to find the bus stop, asking along the way, and discovered that the dépôt de pain had relocated to the Petit Restro. This was easy to find and a friendly welcome resulted in the lunch time baguette and a promise to return in the evening for a beer.

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Then, just before 11.30, a van drove along the riverside road tooting; must be the épicerie!  I followed the sound and found a shop-in-a-van continuing everything I could need. His card reads ‘Épicerie, Fruits et Legumes, Boucherie, charcuterie & fromage à la coupe, Depot dépôt de pain, Crèmerie, Produits régionaux, Droguerie, Parfumerie, Timbres post, Presse …..’

I only needed one word for it – superb. In addition to buying some chicken legs for supper I noticed a regional specialty, from Sète, called ‘tirelle’ – or in my words, cephlapod pie. But I don’t know my version until I had heated it up, quartered it and served a portion to Stu – who pronounced it fish paste tart! No, it wasn’t that nice . . . . .

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Another relaxing afternoon, reading, gentle cleaning, and an exfoliation of my feet by the local little fish!

One more bit of retailing to do; wine, veg and eggs. I had noticed a big high wall with a big high wooden gate on my evenings perambulation the night before – and a sign saying that they sold ‘vin en bouteilles et ‘bag-in-a-box’, ouefs, legumes et fruits’ – and were open after 1700 each weekday. So off we went to explore, rang the bell in the wall, and went in to an authentic rural courtyard and barn, linked to the Le Jonquiers vineyard.

A 5L Cotes du Rhone winebox €8; a bottle of white Vignognier was €6. I am not sure how much the 10 eggs, aubergines, onions and garlic were, but the total bill was €20. It’s how I had hoped rural France would be. (And the wine was more than palatable; apparently if you buy 4 x 5l boxes it’s only 7 Euros each – I’ve made a note for the trip back . . . )

On the way back we stopped for a beer at Petit Restro, and sat watching small village life swirling gently around us. I could describe so much; I am saying too much already.

saint_etiennes_electricityBut I had better tell you about our electricity cable. We were pleased to moor Calliope in such a way that the stern overshot the pontoon and allowed our 10m power cable to suspend over the water to the electricity point on the land. It worked perfectly – until a large boast with a particularly big wash rocked Calliope so much that the wires popped out of the plug on the boat and disappeared into the river. I hope not too many fish were electrocuted!

After a third wonderfully peaceful evening and night at Saint-Eiennes-des-Sorts we said au revere et bientot.

Saturday

saint_etiennes_dawnFeeling much more relaxed we awoke to a perfect dawn. A gentle 21Km day was plotted, from Saint-Etiennes to Roquemaure, another free mooring at a small quay.

roquemaure_mooring

Our prayers were answered; the quay was empty. Along the way we had just one lock at Caderousse – a mere 8.6m. And I can remember only a few weeks ago being excited about he 7m lock on the Canal de Roanne  à Digoin!

We moored up and stayed two nights, entranced by the ruined Chateau de l’Hers on the opposite bank (it used to be an island in a much wider river, and paired with another castle in Roquemaure village – photos below). Like the fortress at Saint-Etiennes, the stonewalls changed colour with the arc of the sun.

The weather continued to be hot and sunny. We learned that a flat calm morning would likely be superseded by a breeze midday, then calm period in the afternoon before evening breezes blew in.

Saturday was invigorated by wat we thought was a flypast of about 5 sea planes, that appeared to landed the river further downstream. In fact they were part of a firefighting team, scooping up thousands of litres of water to dump on wild fires somewhere – or practising. At one point they swooped down over a barge, landing and taking off not far in front of it; I hope the Captain was expecting it!

IMG_2102Further invigoration for me was through the use of the biggest private swimming pool I have ever encountered – the whole of this stretch of the Rhone just for me, with warm stone steps at the end of the quay for easy immersion. On Sunday I dived in from the boat – feeling quite brave at my age; stupid really.

Sunday

roquemaure_3

Stu and I went for a walk round the village in the cool of the morning air. Along the way I saw lots of little white flowers – except they weren’t. They were little white snails!

We found a small town full of surprises; it has rich history, part of which is, regrettably, being the place where that pest of  grape vines, phylloxera, was introduced to France in 1860 from America. Not one to be proud of, but plenty of other points of interest, a lively retail and bar/restaurant area, and the ruins of the aforementioned castle, now part of someone’s home.

roquemaure_duskTwo pleasant evenings at Roquelaure, during the second of which we planned a long day South and onto the Petit Rhône. Seems like a good idea through those millpond calm hours.

Monday

avignon_lock

Our last day on the mighty Rhône – and it happened to be more than breezey, though certainly not a gale! (Hmmm, it had been picking up since 6am , and the wind forecast predicted 15kph plus later with up to 20kph tomorrow; time to go . . . ) We set off early before the midday winds came in and passed through Avignon lock on a bit of an adventure; our first lock on the Rhone shared with a big commercial vessel – called Poseidon! All went well.

We by-passed Avignon (it is up a side shoot of the river) having a better view of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. I would have loved to see the famous bridge that people danced under, rather than ‘sur’ as described in the song.

last_lock_on_rhone_for_usTaking note of the quite expensive, but not very attractive, marinas along the way we came to our last lock on Le Rhône, with the wind at its trickiest, blowing sideways across the river. We were helpfully blown onto the small waiting pontoon, but that made it difficult for the Captain to persuade Calliope back into the stream and through the lock mouth. He did it! Bravo!

Below the lock the river runs between Beaucaire and Tarascon – both of which have castles. In fact there was a castle on almost every tenth hill we passed, and I had to rein in my photography. Here’s a small selection, especially the Tarascon side, a very together castle, called Chateau de Roy-René, the 15th century King René, son of Louis II of Anjou.

It felt like quite a long day so we were pleased to spy, just before Arles, Le petit Rhône forking off to starboard, with a dredger working to improve the channel nearby. The morning’s high level clouds that had made it less bright than usual were lowering, and making photo clarity difficult for this amateur.

Good bye Rhone

Good bye River Rhone

Goodbye Le Rhône. We’ve spent 9 glorious and exciting days in your company. À bientot, l’année prochaine peut être.

What a change! From a wide open vista back to a quiet, narrower, tree-enclosed waterway.

We found the hoped for 6m jetty at PK296.5, as detailed by the DBA members, just a couple of kilometres before St Gilles; we tied up, and enjoyed the solitude.

petit_rhone_bug_2The flora and fauna is so different down here – definitely Mediterranean. I went ashore with the camera, but apart from this red mini beast I didn’t capture anything good ‘on film’. We were a little bothered  by biting mini beasts later, but a mélange of smouldering coils, sprayed skin, swatting and spraying kept us safe for the night.

petit_rhone_nght

Tuesday

_bye_bye_petit_rhone

The scent of sea salt was in the air! Casting off at about 9am Calliope glided through the last kilometres of the blue green Petit Rhône morning to reach Saint Gilles lock by 9.30.

St Gilles lock

St Gilles lock

A quick radio call resulted in the lock being prepared for us – the lock that would take us off the Petit Rhone, off the river system, and back into canals – the Canal de Rhône à Sète.

15cm_down

Would this be a big drop down – after all we have become used to locks from 7m to 20.5m over the past 10 days? Actually no; the drop was 15cms – fifteen centimetres! If you don’t believe me, just look at the waterline.

But it is obvious from the huge lock doors and vertical sets of bollards that in different river conditions it can be a lot more.

onto_canalSo that’s it for this section. The Canal de Rhône à Sète will be a somewhat different experience I think. Let’s see.

Sauntering through Canal du Centre

Whoops whoops whoops! Pressed ‘Publish’ by mistake! But now all sorted I think.

 

I’m taking a break from lots of words for this canal section, but still got lots of pictures to share.

We joined the canal at Digoin, mooring by the viaduct, and with Keeva and Abi still on board.

After breakfast amongst the sunflowers we set off across the viaduct towards Paray-Le-Monial, with the girls adding a touch of glamour to the proceedings!

We passed under lovely bridges and past the (sadly to be missed) Snail Festival preparations.

digoin_mini_canal_and_bridge

Ancienne écluse de Neuzy

We also passed the entrance to an old ‘narrow guage’ canal, complete with its own pont levée.

Next stop, Paray-Le-Monial; an absolutely delightful little town, where I discovered for the first time that moorhens have green legs! (Cool for cats or what?)

Out for a drink and a meal. I had my portion of escargots and Charolais beef and ice cream drenched in local alcohol!

The girls left next day and Stu and I continued on a strangely quiet barge towards the summit of the canal. We had a lovely lunch stop in sight of Chateau de Digoine, with a ‘swarm’ of baby cat fish swimming alongside.

imageI had a delicious lunch à la francàise with things we had bought in the charcuterie, boulangerie and boucherie in Paray – baguette, terrine de Lapin avec noix, oeuf et jambon en gelee, cows cheek salad in vinaigrette and big salad with radishes and dressing.
Tucking in now!

 

paray__after__near_palinges

Old furnace near Palinges

We wiggled round Montet where it seems that the canal was forced to go round an important persons chateau – not always easy – and past a beautiful old pottery furnace.

That night we moored up at Génelard. Just what is that creature attached to the quay??

Génelard had several unexpected treasures. One was this 1950’s fake Art Deco facade to an old factory that used to make mechanical parts for locks etc.

Another was the Trancées of Génelard – a cutting sunk round the town.

We carried on upwards next day, passing a famous ceramic tile factory, now a museum and another abandoned kiln. We were getting used to having traffic lights again too!

For cow lovers like me, some different cows. On the left some spotty cows, a change after all the white Charolais. On the right, one white cow who likes to be different – lying on the sun while the rest of the herd  crowd into the shade!

We found one of our (less) picturesque lunch stops by an old cooling tower, but with lovely flowers. As we moved on I was waiting with excitement for Chavannes lavoir, imagining another old stone washing place for villagers, only to find a monster facility to wash coal!

Next set of obstacles were the six bridges of Montceau-Les-Mines – a mixture of types of lift brudge and passerelles – leading us into Montceau lock.

We had decided not to stop in Montceau and continued on to Blanzy – a former coal mining town, though nowt like them that I know.

Next day we made the short trip to the summit at Montchanin, noting a change of traffic light structure on the way (bit nerdy!).

We came through the last lock Ocean side (see explanation later) into the top stretch.

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The mooring by the VNF office at Montchanin was quieter than it initially looked, with roads and bridges nearby.

And the town of Montchanin was pleasant, tree lined, with some houses decorated with spare tiles from the ceramics factories (more of these to come!)

After after a night at Montchanin we began our descent. An interesting start with the Captain looking to see if we had missed tripping a sensor on our way into Lock 1 ……. And once in the lock we had a great view down over the first staircase of four.

‘Écluse 1 Med’ had lots of interesting points. Firstly it helped us understand why the locks on the way up were all named ‘Ocean’, being closer to the Atlantic, and on the way down named ‘Med’, being in the direction of the Mediterranean.

Second was the amusing painted lock operation building, with mermaids depicting the  two linked rivers, Loire and Saone, flanking the architect of the canal.

And thirdly, a strange boat shaped sluice, or something……. (Since found out that it was a ‘lock boat’ – they would float it across a lock gate, open the scuppers and sink it to stem the flow of the canal while they worked on the gates.)

As we went into the deeper locks we began to see real floating bollards to descend with; what a treat. We LOVE floating bollards.

As we reached les 7 Écluses we found more houses and shops with the colourful Borgogne tiles.

Next to Lock 6 Med we went by another set of old canal and locks, the water cover in green algae. Next to it was an interesting decorated  building …….

Moving on down we came to what is now one of our favourite stopovers – St Julien-sur- Dheume, a quiet, peaceful village. Lovely lovely.

After St Julien there is a section where the canal and several locks have been moved. We could still see one wall of one of the original locks.

Along the way on this canal were another set of atmospheric abandoned lock houses.

wine_purchase__cheilly-les-marangesSo with With another 46kms still to Chalon we decided to hit another 20 Kms from St Julien to Cheilly-les-Maranges. This turned out to be a good move as we were able to buy some good local wine at Chailly!

The start of the next day’s journey gave good scenic views, plus a wacky garden.

cheilly-les-maranges_after_3

We passed a lovely old steam boat (tug) which deserved a photo.

Then into Chagny over a viaduct above a railway for a change. We found baguette for lunch, and chicken quiche, before leaving Chagny through a narrow channel!

We went down through some lovely locks, both abandoned and occupied, on our way to  Fragnes – and often the ‘garden’ within the lock was just as stunning.

lock_32_med__there_s_a_green_light_there_somewhere__

 

 

Then at the last lock before Fragnes we thought ‘where is the green light…..?’

 

 

 

lock_32_med__there_s_the_green_light

 

 

Aaah, there it is, amongst the Foliage!

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, moored up at Fragny, just outside Chalon!

fragny__mooring

The cruise down to Chalon-sur-Sâone was a short one and we knew we would be whizzing straight past on a downstream current so we visited Chalon by bus! The old town near the river is a fascinating place to walk around.

Now for our river trip on the Sâone and Rhone!

image

 

 

Roanne and Return

Three days getting there from Diou; three days RnR at Roanne; two days back to Digoin, although maybe the RnR was more Rock n Roll than Rest n Relaxation because we picked up 17-yearolds Keeva and Abi while in Roanne!

IF

IF

So it started calmly enough – in fact very gentle and peaceful; we liked it! We came form Diou and did a smart turn to starboard into the Roanne to Digoin canal, 56kms.

The first lock, going up, was automatic; “are we know all about this”, we thought. Then the next included an éclusier who let us know they would be with us at the third – Chassenard – a 6m deep lock (gulp!).

The lock has interesting old hooks on the wall that barges used to use for their ropes and gradually move up, or down, with the water. These days the éclusier lowers a rope with a hook on it to take your rope up, out of sights, and round a bollard on the quay; very civilised.

La Beaume mooring

La Beaume mooring

After three locks, and a later than usual start from Diou, we decided to moor up at la Beaume. The official quay was full, but a well placed one of trees acted as an additional series of mooring posts and we soon tied up in the glancing evening sunlight.

A stroll after supper led to the surprise discovery of a stork in a field, hoovering up grain spilt during a recent harvesting.  These were the prelude to seeing 14 storks stocking up in another field the next day. We are just not used to storks! Wow!

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le Beaume evening sky

 

The light was magical, with mini rainbows flickering among the sunset clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

Next day was to be a 20km day to Artaix, rising up through (what we thought was) the deepest lock in the French waterway network. It turns our that there are even deeper ones in store on La Rhone – more of that in weeks to come.

There was much to see along the way – such a variety of buildings, bridges, glimpses of La Loire and insect/butterfly life.

 

All of this relaxed us for the expected excitement ahead – rising up in our first 7.2 metre lock, Bourg-Le-Compte. That’s 23 and a half feet – the height of a house.

As we got closer we noticed as the giant downstream doors opened that only the bottom half of each door moved.  We could see at the end of the cavernous chamber water already pouring in through various leaks and, as we got closer, slimy ladders reaching skywards on each wall.

The éclusier pulled our ropes up on his hook and we held on tight for the elevation. It was a very smooth ride; we emerged 20 foot up, and glided out to the next pound.

We passed a nice mooring in a basin just outside Artaix and continued to our anticipated mooring closer to the village …. oh no! The map had misled us, and the mooring place we were aiming for did not exist; it was behind us in the nice basin!

So we left that one for our return trip, and carried on to Les Poteaux, jumping ashore with stakes and a hammer to moor by a bridge. We had a noisy evening (neighbours!) but from 10pm a quiet night, waking to another blue sky summer morning.

Just the run up to Roanne to do now – easy n a day; 26 kms and 3 locks. Along the way we saw the big bridge over La Loire to Iguerande, with Mailly on the hill beyond, and the tight squeeze Pont Dupian just after; all definitely worth a visit next time! But this time we have to arrive, shop, hire car and collect grand-daughter plus friend.

Potteaux after

By mid-morning we were going past Briennon – what an attractive little port! But with nowhere to easily moor we thought we would carry on through the next two locks before éclusier déjeuner time. We ate as we motored and pleasingly arrived at the lock into Roanne port just before 1pm.

After a short wait we were up and into the port, with directions towards a mooring space towards the far end.

That evening there was music in the market place so after a wander round town to admire some old buildings and amazing trompe d’oeil we sat by the fountain listening to the music and watching the crowds.

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Flybe flight arrives form Southampton.

After a day of rest and pottering it was Saturday and we were off to rediscover other modes of transport!  The hire car, a modest Nissan Micra, ‘cheapest-you’ve got’, went so fast after our pedestrian 6km per hour for the past 4 months. And seeing planes arrive and depart at the airport was a stark, noisy, reminder of the life outside the canal network.

If you have read Keeva and Abi’s blog about their days on the boat, this may seem a bit similar, but then we were on the same boat.

The girls plan was to get a tan; simple. Except as we drove back from the airport the storm clouds gathered ……..

roanne_storm

 

 

….. and once back on the boat a massive electric storm hit Roanne – rain, thunder and lightning all around us.  I could sense the disappointment emanating from the girls.

 

 

IF

Sort of lardy cake studded with pink pralines

 

Next day was cloudy, but dry so they put on their shorts ready for the sun.  We set out for the obligatory croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast, plus the Roanne yummy speciality ‘La Pralaline” – a chintzy looking pink confection that is much nicer than it looks!

 

 

Then a walk round town to choose a restaurant for K&A to eat at that evening. It was Sunday. Roxanne has a very traditional attitude to Sunday! Just about everything – shops, cafés, bars, museums – was shut!

But Keeva has fun ion the fountains, and we did find one restaurant that was open Sunday evening; the girls photographed the menu so that they could translate it back on the boat.

IF

A&K at Roanne Plage

We walked round the port, dropping in at Roanne Plage, a place whose name had offered spot much fun, but is actually a large sandpit with a café and a fountain.

Things looked up that afternoon. The sun came out and we went to the outdoor pool, with water slides, flumes, lots of water, and virtually no other people!