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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September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Byeeeeee

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

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

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

 

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Castelnaudary port looking shiny in the sun;

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Bye bye followers. See you next year.

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Monday 25th Le Ségala to Castelnaudary

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

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

It was an autumnal lock.

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

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

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Sunday 24th

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

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The morning sun caught the quayside houses as we left.

 

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Le Segala

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

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

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

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Saturday 23rd

A day at Gardouch working on the boat

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I did the grey water tank, amongst other things.

 

 

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

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Friday 22nd 

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

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Nice meal at this place.

 

 

 

 

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


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

 

 

 

Thursday 21st – Négra and Montesquieu de Lauragais

Wednesday 20th – Toulouse to Montgisgard

Leaving Toulouse ……

Eclectic mix of boats on the way out of Toulouse

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Port Sud

Midi bridges, often on the skew

Midi locks – oval and sometimes fierce

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

Arriving at Montgiscard

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Moored at the Montgiscard quay

Shadows!

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Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th – Gristles to Toulouse

The transfer from Canal de Garonne to Canal du Midi

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

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

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Stu;s design solution

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Next morning the sun was shining.

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Moored up in Port Saint Saveur

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

Lovely by day and by night

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Sunday 17th – St Porquier to Grisolles

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

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

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

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

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Our garden for one night at Grisolles

Saturday 16th – Moissac to St Porquier

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Good morning Moissac

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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Calliope under a rainbow at St Porquier

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

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

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Leaf and weed swirls as we left Tarn mooring, Moissac

A trip up the Tarn with Phil and Geraldine

Good lunch at Set Liverade

The trip back down stream

Tuesday 12th

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


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


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

A good time seemed to be had by all!

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

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


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Monday 11th

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

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

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

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Sunday 10th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday 9th

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Soggy bed clothes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…. where we watched an ever changing sky ….

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday 8th

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

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

Moissac, favourite boucherie and boulangerie

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

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

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my efforts were on the laundry side.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Thursday 7th

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Wednesday 6th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m going to be better tomorrow!

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Tuesday 5th

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Monday 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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also this towards the church.

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

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Sunday 3rd

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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one big one in this photo!

 

 

 

 

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here are two who got away, blue and orange.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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little bees crawled in and out of the yellow flowers.

 

 

 

overall, just bountiful butterflies.

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

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

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

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Saturday 2nd

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Friday 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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