September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Byeeeeee

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

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

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

 

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Castelnaudary port looking shiny in the sun;

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Bye bye followers. See you next year.

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Monday 25th Le Ségala to Castelnaudary

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

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

It was an autumnal lock.

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

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

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Sunday 24th

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

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The morning sun caught the quayside houses as we left.

 

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Le Segala

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

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

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

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Saturday 23rd

A day at Gardouch working on the boat

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I did the grey water tank, amongst other things.

 

 

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

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Friday 22nd 

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

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Nice meal at this place.

 

 

 

 

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


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

 

 

 

Thursday 21st – Négra and Montesquieu de Lauragais

Wednesday 20th – Toulouse to Montgisgard

Leaving Toulouse ……

Eclectic mix of boats on the way out of Toulouse

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Port Sud

Midi bridges, often on the skew

Midi locks – oval and sometimes fierce

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

Arriving at Montgiscard

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Moored at the Montgiscard quay

Shadows!

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Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th – Gristles to Toulouse

The transfer from Canal de Garonne to Canal du Midi

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

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

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Stu;s design solution

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Next morning the sun was shining.

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Moored up in Port Saint Saveur

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

Lovely by day and by night

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Sunday 17th – St Porquier to Grisolles

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

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

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

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

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Our garden for one night at Grisolles

Saturday 16th – Moissac to St Porquier

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Good morning Moissac

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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Calliope under a rainbow at St Porquier

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

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

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Leaf and weed swirls as we left Tarn mooring, Moissac

A trip up the Tarn with Phil and Geraldine

Good lunch at Set Liverade

The trip back down stream

Tuesday 12th

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


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


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

A good time seemed to be had by all!

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

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


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Monday 11th

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

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

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

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Sunday 10th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday 9th

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Soggy bed clothes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…. where we watched an ever changing sky ….

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday 8th

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

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

Moissac, favourite boucherie and boulangerie

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

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

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my efforts were on the laundry side.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Thursday 7th

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Wednesday 6th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m going to be better tomorrow!

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Tuesday 5th

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Monday 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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also this towards the church.

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

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Sunday 3rd

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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one big one in this photo!

 

 

 

 

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here are two who got away, blue and orange.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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little bees crawled in and out of the yellow flowers.

 

 

 

overall, just bountiful butterflies.

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

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

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

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Saturday 2nd

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Friday 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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And then we had visitors!

During the summer Calliope enjoyed becoming a hotel boat! From mid June to mid August we had friends and family aboard for 30 days out of 60 days, and felt quite dazed as a consequence!  It was lovely; our plan when buying the boat was that it would be a pleasant place for people to visit and to enjoy France as we enjoy France.

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First aboard were Hollie, Ric and Sofia for a week,  all described in a previous blog called ‘Short Stretches”. It was very hot and we were glad to find a lake to swim in.

 

Montauban with Ron and Pauline

Ron and Pauline

Then we were joined by friends Ron and Pauline for a few days, also mentioned in ‘Short Stretches’, from Montauban, via Montech, to Moissac – all the ‘Ms’.

It was still very hot – too hot – and typically it cooled down when they left.

IMG_6050Stu and I were then left alone in Moissac for a few days so we ventured out for some local exploring.

We began by having a better look at Moissac itself, walking up through the town, and up the Calvary Hill to take in the views. We could see way way beyond Moissac, across the Tarn and on into the distance.

Moissac must have a good set of creative gardeners – every corner, mini roundabout and crevice was illuminated by bright flowers, adding much to our promenades.

Moissac Suz and Alex

Alex and Suz

I had the chance to walk round all of this again when our next visitors arrived – Suz and Alex. They were only with us two nights, and their plan for these days was to see as much of the area as possible with a view to living in France.

We took them over to see our friends Chris and Ursula who moved from England to France some 15 years ago and have lots of wise advice, especially around pigs, horses and vegetable gardens! It all seemed to go down well, especially the delicious lunch Urs cooked for us all!

It was rapidly approaching 14th July, and we discovered that Moissac began to celebrate the public holiday on the evening before. A jazz band played by the Abbey while children were given lanterns to carry. Then the band led us through the streets to the river where a ‘fire show’ was scheduled to start. This was all quite spectacular, in a small town gentle kind of a way, and ended up with a dance next to the river, close to our mooring. I love all the fun.

IMG_5422We also explored our local riverside, choosing to do this on 14th July, Bastille Day, to avoid too much celebration francaise. We first took the boat downstream to where the Tarn converges with the Garonne – the confluence. It was rather a dull day for such a magnificent aqua-space. (We might go back to try out a little bit of the Garonne, next to the bird sanctuary.)

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This trip meant going through the ancient unused lock, to avoid going over the weir (which is now underwater). Then under the Pont Napoleon that we had been gazing at for some days beforehand.

 

We turned round, came back through the lock and the bridge, and continued up stream.

There are another three bridges to go under in order to proceed upstream – the aqueduct that carries the canal over the river, a railway bridge and a road bridge. All are quite spectacular, but I regret that I did not get good photographs.

After 8 kilometres we reached the extent of the cruising possibility at Ste-Liverade. This is a beautiful spot, below a chateau and next to a sparkling weir and old mill. We put the anchor down – quite an event for us, and prepared to stay the night.

IMG_6097The silhouettes against the night sky, the peace and quiet, and the fresh air were all totally enjoyable. Hopefully my slightly strange stretched panoramic view captures some of this.

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And we settled down to a perfect Friday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next morning the boat was covered in iridescent blue and green dragonflies, perched everywhere that they could. We had breakfast amongst the dragonflies, and then it was time for our return 8km voyage back to Moissac ….

IMG_7281…. on a beautiful day.

The very next evening we were off on one of many trips to Toulouse airport (we had already accomplished 4 runs to and fro) to meet (grand-daughter) Kathryn and her friends Éloise. So exciting and lovely to see them!

Now started lots of fun and activity to make sure our young visitors all enjoyed themselves and got a good taste of France.

We began next morning with a visit to Moissac market and an opportunity for K and E to choose fruit, veg, cheese.  They were rather good at this!

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Then off to the lake and pool at Lafrançaise, where there was more to do than we had anticipated!.

 

 

 

We started with a walk around the lake, the two girls experimenting with their go-pro cameras for Instagram upload.

Part way round the lake we met a camel, a ‘limbo pole’ and a sort of adventure playground.

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

 

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I didn’t partake, but understood the excitement!

There is something very similar between K and I, in terms of a love of fun and action! Must be in the genes.

 

Instead of swimming in the lake the two girls thought they would like to be on Calliope and swimming (amongst the weeds) in the Tarn. So we returned to Moissac for a cool down dip.

Kathryn, Eoise and Leslery washing the roof at Moissac

Kathryn, Éloise and Lesley washing the roof at Moissac

This was followed by a bit of work for our new crew, washing down the boat a bit – always nice to do on a hot day with plenty of water swashing.

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Their first, busy, day was rounded off by dinner at l’Uvarium – an art deco restaurant at the end of the quay that we had been planning to visit. With a plaiting expert on board (Kathryn) my wayward hair was sorted before we left.

Oh dear – I really have grown longish white plaits!

Thank you Kathryn – I loved it!

 

 

Our meal at l’Uvrium was a happy experience, although we were not totally sold on the food. Kathryn was experimental and chose a snail starter that was very avante gard – a take on snail spring rolls we think. Éloise, as a vegetarian, selected the one and only vegetarian option – a mix of veg, salad and melon soup. I did well, with a piece of the best fish I have ever eaten, and the drinks and view and ambience were all good, so overall a beautiful evening.

Next day we set off for Montaigue de Quercy where there is another lake for swimming and various boating activities. Its up in the hills, with a white sandy beach and warm calm waters – lovely. Stu found another tree to sit under while we three swam, and swam again, plus K&E kayaked.

IMG_6143We went home to Moissac for a beautiful sky,  supper on board, and a Kathryn kaleidoscope.

How do these young people do it? I feel I am on a constant techno- learning curve!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day K&E went off to explore Moissac while Stu and I went on another airport run to meet Keeva and Will (K&W).

So now four teenagers on board – bound to be fun!

 

 

 

Over the next few days we treated them and they treated us back.

K&E bought us some lovely sunflowers and some wine and helped out with washing up, cleaning the boat, disposing of rubbish and were generally happy helpful crew.

IMG_5573K&W bought a keg of Desparado beer, made us all a delicious meatball supper, and also made themselves useful with the everyday running of a household on a boat – more good crew!

They kept us amused with their antics …

…. their aqua skills, …..

… their choice of head gear ….

… and their general lying around!!!!

PMMJ1840

 

We managed a couple of outings with all four in the car by leaving Stewart in peace and quiet on the boat.

 

 

On one occasion we went back to the lake at Montaigue de Quercy where the four of them swam, played, kayaked, and sunbathed.

Another day, learning of their love of all things retail (I was asked about three times to take them to the local LeClerq hyper market!) I drove them to Agen – a nice old city with interesting architecture, medieval buildings, narrow streets – and shops!

We met up at lunch time at a boulangerie, sitting outside to eat our chosen pastries, baguettes, pizzas etc.

Then a quick photoshoot, before back to retail madness.

That evening we ate on board – delicious mozzarella and tomato quiches from the local boulangerie in Moissac, with some of K&E’s lovely rosé wine out of the largest rosé wine bottle I have ever seen!

Next morning, early and sadly, K&E had to go back to the UK – it had been such a great few days having them all there together, but there is always next year!

K&W still had a few more days in France. On the two days following K&E’s departure the land next to the quay was taken over for a big boules tournament. It was fascinating to watch the tactics and throws of the best teams.

IMG_5591We were joined for one day by Pam and Jon, friends from portsmouth who were driving by on their way home at the end of their French holiday,. We decided to take a cruise up the Tarn to Ste-Liverade again, where K&W joined me for a swim, and tried out the new ‘rubber ring’ I had bought. Then, after we had all enjoyed the magic scenery for a few hours, back to Moissac for supper together.

The next evening we decided to try out the bar at the Moulin de Moissac hotel, the backdrop to so many of my Moissac photos. It was extremely pleasant sitting on their terrace, and using their palm tree as an exotic photo opportunity. (Yes, we did get drinks eventually!)

Later that evening I went with K&W to watch the sunset from the Pont Napoleon. Will took a time lapse set of photos of the sun going down, and I was lucky enough to catch birds in flight across a golden sky.

Our tourist leaflet of places to swim included a giant inflatable obstacle course at Monclar de Quercy. It is more than an hour away from Moissac, but we were persuaded to make the trip on the understanding that while K&W throw themselves around the course, Stu and I would visit an ancient hilltop village nearby.

So here’s where K&W had fun (they had the place to themselves) …

… and here’s where Stu and I had fun (Puycelsi). It’s a shame that it was a bit of a grey day.

This was K&W’s last day, and also their ‘8 month anniversary’, so we had planned to go out for dinner in Moissac. They chose the pizza and pasta restaurant near the Abbey where we had also been when K&E were on board – sadly no photos of that meal.

IMG_1570The next day was changeover day, saying good-bye to K&W, and hello to Ashley and Harvey who were arriving at the same time! It has been so good to have all these friends and family visiting this year.

You can see how pleased Harvey was to arrive!

 

IMG_5712

Harvey and Ashley

We whisked A&H back to the barge – our eighth trip to/from the airport in the last few weeks; it was not long before Harvey was in the water, jumping from the roof of the boat into the river. And before long Ashley was in there too.

I had planned trips to the boulangèrie with Harvey, who is learning French at school and loves baguettes. This worked well and he was soon able to greet the owner, ask for what he wanted and thank them – all  with confidence and in French.

We  had various water-bourne activities as suggestions to keep this energetic 12 year old busy. It began with a trip to the local swimming pool – St Nicholas de la Grave. He found plenty of ways to enter the water, whilst I, after a bit of a swim and splash, rested in the shade by the pool.

He was also able to try out blade-running, and once he had the right size ‘runners’ was quickly able to bound about.

IMG_5659We ate on board that night, enjoying a strange light at dusk that settled over the river.

Next morning Ashley had a conference call that was going to last several hours, but in amongst it all we managed to take an hour’s trip on an electric boat on the river, with Harvey carefully steering us through the ancient lock and the bridge. It also have us a good perspective of our mooring – the riverside view – not previously accomplished.

That evening we went out for Harvey’s favourite meal of pizza – follow by a good ice cream sundae!  I cannot get over how good the French are at making this classical Italian dish. There was a good Harvey hug to finish the evening off.

We packed a lot into the three and a half days that A&H were with us. On the following day it was decided that we would go off to the inflatable assault course again – but this time Stu and I would wait and watch before we all went on to another hilltop village. Ashley and Harvey scrambled, fell and splashed-down for an hour whilst Stu and I had a good laugh, and a quick lunch!

Before we left there was time for me to have a swim too, and for Harvey to try out the water chute and pool.

Then off to Bruniquel – a fantastically interesting and historic village with two castle on a clifftop overlooking the Aveyron river. We were all impressed by the views, the castles, the history.

IMG_5818But it was hot, and Harvey and Ashley had had no lunch, so a stop at a village café was the next necessity.

That evening, after another excellent pizza, theistime from a takeaway restaurant over the river, we went to the Pont Napoleon for more sunset photos. Harvey took a particularly spectacular shot of the moon.

We were then onto their final day, and a trip to Montaigu de Quercy was the order of the day. In addition to the usual swimming and kayaking, we also went on this ‘thing’ towed behind a jetski.

IMG_5847The photo is not of us, but demonstrates what I mean. It was SUCH fun, hanging on for grim death whilst swooshed at speed from side to side across the surface of the water. I was lucky, in the central position. Both A&H were flung off at different times, all to great laughter!

IMG_5870Later on we watched a couple of people try this other ‘thing’ which gave huge water-jet power through boots, pushing the participants more than 10 foot into the air. Harvey was keen to try, but at €60 a go it was somewhat out of reach!

There was still time on the final afternoon for one more aqua-aport. Harvey was keen to try out a paddle board and Ashley went with him in  a kayak – on the river. They both seemed very able and came past the barge with big smiles.

After an action packed few days it was time for them to go, so back to the airport to bid them farewell, and into a quiet couple of weeks on Calliope – for Stewart. But not for me, as I flew back to the UK to be at Wickham Festival!

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Once I was back on board we just had time to move down canal from Moissac to Agen and be ready for our final visitors of the year – Pieter and Roy. No airport run required for them! They arrived at Bordeaux and got the train through to Agen.

 

 

IMG_1688We had such a pleasant day exploring Agen with them, including a proper coffee and croissants breakfast at a café – the first time Stu and I have indulged in that experience.

Roy and Pieter on passerelle, AgenWe had a good wander round the narrow streets and ancient architecture, then down to the Garonne to try out the (relatively) new footbridge. It’s one of those ones that sways a bit as you cross – Stewart preferred to stay on terra firma. From the footbridge we could see the aqueduct that carries the canal over the river – to be crossed by us all the next day.

IMG_1695I was keen to introduce Pieter and Roy to my favourite French restaurant – one that emphasises local produce, everything made in house, and no freezers or microwaves – Monsieur Jeannot. They seemed to approve.

Next day, in order to give the two of them a short cruise, we set off from Agen, over the aqueduct, down the chain of locks, and through the countryside to Serignac. From here we knew they could get a taxi back to Agen station, and onward to Bordeaux. Another goodbye to be said, and the end of our visitors for 2017 – or so we thought at the time.

Late news in – eldest brother Phil and his wife Geraldine will spend two nights with us mid-September. Hooray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are quite good at exploring around the canal on foot and on bike, but the car gives us access further afield.

 

Short Stretches – Montech, Montauban and our first 10kms of le Tarn.

It was so great to have some of the family with us for the 9 locks, 1 overnight stop, and 10 kilometres of l’embranchement (canal) de Montech. It also gave us the chance to drop down onto the Tarn and experience some river boating – in all weathers as you will discover.

On the return journey to Moissac we had a new ‘crew’ – two good friends of ours, Ron and Pauline.

Hollie, Rick and Sofia had joined us at Moissac, a few cruising kilometres away, where Grandad and Granny had an excuse to cross the canal and visit the playground by the Tarn, pleasantly under the trees.

We had cruised up the Canal du Garonne, crossing the spectacular aqueduct over the Tarn, and on to Montech, making one ‘wild’ overnight stop on the way.

Montech canal, entering at MontechWe arrived in Montech in time for a trip to the Tuesday market before setting off after lunch, planning a short trip towards an overnight mooring along the Montech canal.

We were blessed with blue skies ……. and somewhat cursed with temperatures of 34 to 39 degrees. It’s quite difficult to keep cool on a steel boat! But there is fun to be had in creating shady places, sluicing down hot metal decks, and finding places to swim.

Lacourte St Pierre mooringAfter only three and a half kilometres we stopped at the little village of Lacourt-St-Pierre where the quay is next to a shady picnic area. Two year old Sofia and I were quickly under the trees with a big bucket of water and lots of pouring splashing implements!

IMG_1334It was soon decided that the whole family needed a cool-down dip. A nearby lake with a ‘beach’ was located, a taxi booked, and before long we were all into the water. It was just what was needed.

Ice creams were on hand too! Felt like a day at the seaside. Then our taxi arrived and took us ‘home’.

Montech canal, willow

Next day we continued on our short trip down a pretty canal towards the port at Montauban where we had booked a berth for Calliope.

Montech canal lockThe 9 locks were operated by a ‘zapper’; nice and easy on a hot hot day.

At one lock we met up with a British couple who have taken a repairing lease on the old lock keepers house, living in their barge while work goes on to make the house suitable for living in; quite a task, but I envy them the lifestyle.

Montauban port mooringIn Montauban our berth was ready and waiting, nicely at the end of the port giving us maximum privacy and furthest from the open air bar/restaurant at the other end! Now we had access to the car, so whizzed back to our lake (La plage du lac de Negret) for another swim – and icecream.

Montauban going out to dinnerCool and clean we set out for a meal at a lovely little traditional restaurant …..

Montauban out to dinner

…. with a shaded garden and a ‘cool mist’ blower too. A huge and delicious meal was had by all.

 

Next day was still hot, but knowing that the central square of Montauban was surrounded by a colonnade we went to town. Young Sofia enjoyed walking round the square, and we treated ourselves to another meal out – delicious bruschetta and salads.

Then down through the Jardin des Plantes through paths large and small, past grottos, streams, bridges and lots of trees and resting place for our overheated party (still temperatures in the upper thirties!)

Montauban jardin des plantes 1At the bottom of the Jardin is a little play park for Sofia, where Grandad removed the gravel from Sofia’s sandals before fun on the swings.

La plage du lac de Negret

Back on the boat we found there was time for another trip to the swimming lake, our favourite venue this weather.

Next day it was time for Hollie, Rick and Sofia to return to a cooler climate – I almost envied them! It really had been SO hot. We took them back to the airport at Toulouse and sadly waved goodbye.

Montauban port snakeAs always there was wild life to enjoy at the port at Montauban. I was interested, fascinated, and slightly apprehensive to see this snake swimming in the same canal as I had been, so looked it up on the internet.  Phew, just a harmless grass snake – unless you are a frog, small bird ……

Montauban port lizard

…. or lizard!

 

 

 

Montauban port jet wash

 

Before we left the port we gave our boat a bit of a bath, borrowing a jet wash to help us along.

Looks good fun to me, but I got the bucket and mop job!

Then a new chapter for Stewart and I – out onto the Tarn river. We booked our descent through the two locks that take you from port to river, looking forward to the expanding view as we went down.

Lock onto TArn 2

Going down the locks from Montauban port to the Tarn – looking through from upper lock

It was a lovely experience. As you descend in the upper lock you can see through the ‘windows’ at the top of the lock gates into the second lock and beyond, the river.

Going down the locks from Montauban port to the Tarn   - going into lower lock

Going into the lower lock

The second half of the double lock takes us under the road and railway, quite noisy if a train goes over while you are going under!

leaving TArn lock

Then the bottom lock gates open and Calliope emerged onto the Tarn.

SAiac mooring 2Our first mooring was a full 300 yards, across the river to the pontoon at Sapiac.

Sapiac logs at mooring

At first site this looked a bit iffy because of several large fallen trees partially trapped under the pontoon and sticking out into the river – but actually it was a relatively easy mooring in a very pleasant place.

The view towards the town was glorious, and the skies magnificent. It’s a short pleasant walling the river bank to a superb boulangèrie, and not much further to walk into the town.

Mntauban bike rideLooking into the blue blue skies Stewart soon realised that he had left his sunglasses in the car, the other side of the river ….. so it was a convenient time for him to try out the new folding bike. Ho ho, it’s a cyclist in black . . . . We cycled along the river, across Pont Sapiac, and back to the port.

With sunglasses retrieved we continued on to a cultural moment or two. We visited a couple of the sites of the Sculpture Festival in Montauban and found some interesting and arresting pieces.

Another hot day, another excuse for a dip. I went swimming in the river by our mooring, and before long I was joined by an Italian rugby player, a cocker spaniel, and lots of little fishes that swam around the submerged logs.

Later that day we went for a Montuban walkabout. We found more of the sculpture exhibition – this time some large wicker structures cascading down thorough a small park the far side of the ravine that divides the town, and some captivating work in various media, all with the common theme of ‘myths and legends’.

Montauban barThat led us on into the main square, just on ‘beer o’clock’. We sat down and ordered ….. oh dear – when is Stu going to get a beer that is bigger than my wine?????

Next day we took a trip upstream.  There are just 9kms of navigable river from Montauban to the weir beyond Corbarieu, so we cut the journey into two parts and went as far as Bressols.

Bressols sunflowerTo celebrate our arrival at Bressols the first sunflower came out, despite the grey skies; it was a pleasant 23 degrees.

There have been three pontoons built on this stretch of the Tarn, over the last 4/5 years I believe. Sapiac was the first we visited; now Bressols. Its a very adequate mooring, especially for us as we like rural moorings.

We arrived on a cool grey Monday and walked up the gangway, through the edge of the recreation grounds, up a lane and ito the village to have a beer and maybe have supper out. However the bar and pizza cabin are shut on Mondays and the bistro closed for renovation! Luckily our back deck bar has beer and our galley had the makings of a meal so all good.

Bressols has obviously had some grand buildings in the past, but there are only a few outbuildings and a stunning dovecote remaining of the chateau.

More to my interest was the colourful and varied wildlife on the Tarn at Bressols – a rare night heron, starlings meeting to roost, dragonflies mating, the illusive noisy frogs, silhouetted black kite ……

night heron

Black headed night heron

…… how lucky am I to see and hear all of these?

 

We were watching the gathering clouds with interest, looking forward to some rain, when we received a phone call from the Capitaine at Montauban. It was a gale warning!!  The phone call was to say we that must get off the Tarn river NOW as huge winds were due very soon!

19466612_10213915202300977_3682763804384428032_nRunning before the storm was quite exciting in a very safe kind of way – and I managed to get a panoramic photo view as we whizzed downstream.

As we ascended the two locks it was obvious that the winds were increasing. I asked the Capitaine when the storm was due – “maintenant” (now), he replied. As we moved towards a jetty to moor up the winds struck – force 10 blowing us back into the middle of the port basin, as Calliope (and Stewart) strove to get on close enough for me to throw ropes that were being blown back at me! The rain also began in earnest.

So the storm arrived and the storm got me, but it was a safe haven in Montauban port and we managed to moor up, then get dry.

Montauban stormWe could hardly see the other side of the port, just 50 foot away at 4 in the afternoon.

Montauban storm cloudsAnd after the rain, beautiful sunset stormy skies.

We deiced to have an extra day in the port as the weather was still rather unsettled, and it gave us access to the car for a grand day out!

We started out looking for places for teenagers to swim – 3 grandchildren plus two reminds arriving in the next three weeks. The first place, a sweet little beach on a river at Lamothe-Capdeville, and then high up n the hills a pool complex at Lafrancaise. I think both of those will do!

We drove on up in the hills to one of the most famous medieval villages of south west France, Lauzerte. It is a hilltop village, with the narrow streets, ancient buildings and marvellous views that we have come to love.

Lauzerte restaurant

 

We found a good little restaurant with great food just off the square and sat back to enjoy our ‘grand day out’ lunch.

 

 

Then after lunch a walk in the Pilgrims garden on the side of the hill with several stops to admire views and butterflies filled our afternoon.

Corbarieu windyWe both looked forward to going back down on the Tarn and booked ourselves an early descent through the locks, then cruised upstream to the end of the pound, Corbarieu. It was a bit of a windy mooring, with frequent heavy showers.

It is also  a nature wonderland! I may have been sitting on Calliope in the rain, but I was listening to a nightingale – regret no photo of the nightingale so you have to make do with frogs, a grasshopper disguised as a green spider, and a dragonfly on my toes.

Corbarieu skiesAs the weather swayed from horrendous to balmy, wet to dry, windy to calm, we enjoyed some more lovely skies – this one looking downstream from our mooring.

 

Inspired (I think) by the start of the Tour de France, Stewart suggested a 10km cycle ride today – along the flat to the next village, Reynies (and regretted it for the next two days).

 

Went through fruit farms…

… past straying cornflowers and sunflowers …

… saw a Lamborghini tractor …

Corbarieu bike ride

 

 

 

… and rushed back under an impending rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corbarieu fete 6

Stu getting a beer in before the next downpour

That evening, despite the threatening weather, we went to the second night of the  three day village fête – advertised to us by the butcher and various members of the fête committee as a meal with wine and music. It certainly was, although not quite as we had expected.

 

There was music and entertainment from a group of singers, dancers and backing tracks,  all determined to help us join in and have a good time. Jugs of wine flooded the tables, salad, paella and tiramisu arrived, and everyone sang, clapped, waved arms, thumped the table and in general the bon temps did rouleé.

Corbarieu fete 4

The rain continued to fall and Stewart’s very British umbrella was commandeered to push up the marquee roof and dislodge huge pools of water.

Sitting next to us at the meal was a French family of four. We had such an enjoyable evening with Ingrid, Florian, William and Robin that Stewart invited them aboard the next day to cruise with us the short distance to Montauban.

 

 

Ingrid and familyThey accepted and arrived at the appointed time in the morning, climbed aboard and we were off.

We headed upstream at first so that I could get a view of the weir on yet another grey day, then back past our Corbarieu mooring pontoon to head downstream towards Montauban …

sunflower

… our only sun being the sunflowers in the bow.

The boys enjoyed the trip up through the double lock, and I handed the camera to Robin; this is part of his record of the ascent.

Montauban portWe came into the port and soon found our mooring, and began the clean up job to prepare for our friends Ron and Pauline who were due to arrive next day.

Montauban with Ron and PaulineIt was hot, so of course Ron and Pauline were thirsty. After a pleasant amble around the narrow shady streets at the heart of Montauban we settled down in the square for a pint – or should I say a 33cl? (Stu sat back just as I took the photo, hence only a glimpse of the Captain.)

Montech cana, leaving Montauban portNext day we were due to start our return journey to Moissac. It was a beautiful blue and green day, just right to travel slowly up to Month. Pauline and I were keen to have croissants for breakfast and dashed off to the local boulangerie, only to find it is closed on a Tuesday, and no other boulangerie close by. We settled for toast and cereal, a very British breakfast.

Along the way I had the chance to point out some of the features of the canal. First, for some reason, although most of the lock walls are green/grey and covered in slime, one was clean red brickwork; not sure why. The photo on the left also shows the lower parts of one of the poles we used to rope the barge as we ascended the lock.

Montech canal, weed grabber and weedThe canal can we rather weedy, but the VNF ‘hommes et femmes’ do make an effort to clean it up. We passed the ‘weed grabber’ machine at the side of the canal, next to a big heap of dried out weed.

Montech canal near Lacourte St PierreA lovely lazy dog watched us as we went back past Lacourt-St-Pierre, our overnight stop on the way down. It was that kind of day – enjoy the sun, but do as little as possible when out in it. I am rather taken by the bamboo sun screen for the boat – mental note to get some.

The bridges over the canal mostly match, brick built, next to the locks, some decorated with greenery. There were two other very different styles of bridges – one that carried the A62 over us with lots of noise and fuss; the others obviously built later in the canal’s history, Stu guesses it is 1930’s re-inforced concrete.

The bridge at Lacourte St Pierre has slender metal uprights, balancing the heavy concrete arch, and also gave me a window to a flying purple heron – you’ll have to take my word for it!

 

Montech canal, leavingThree happy hot and happy hours after setting off the final bridge and end of the canal were in view, including one of the tall chimneys left for the old paper factory.

Montech canal, typical lock pontoonIt’s a short, gentle canal to cruise; one not to be missed, especially with the delights of Montauban and the Tarn at the end.

After another visit to Montech market and lunch moored up waiting for the éclusiers to return from their break we were off again towards Moissac with Ron and Pauline. Although strictly a Canal du Garonne voyage, I am including the rest of their cruise with us.

St Porquier Stu and PaulineWe went down the Montech flight, in really really hot sunshine! Then moored up at St Porquier where we put up the parasol and enjoyed the shade. Stu and Pauline got stuck into a word game, Ron read, and I, as usual, took photos!

Some youngsters were using St Porquier bridge as a diving (or should I say jumping?) platform. Oh so good to splash into the canal on that hot day.

The mooring is as we remembered it from last time when we just stopped for lunch; a good pontoon, little mini-park area, and not much shade until later in the day. Pauline and I just had to dip our toes in for a cool-down.

As it became cooler we went for a walk into the village – and to see if there was a chance of croissants the next morning. The village has some interesting buildings, plus the hoped for boulangerie.

near St PorquierAfter a croissants breakfast we were off on the final stretch into Montauban with Ron and Pauline, enjoying the sunflower vistas that opened before us.

Yes, the Montech Canal and Montauban is definitely a recommended trip!

 

 

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

swing bridge Moissac

Swing bridge opens for us to leave  Moissac

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

next_to_the_tarn

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

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

Ecluse 27 Petit Bezy

Ecluse 27 Petit Bezy

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

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

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

ecluse_pomevic

Abandoned little Pommevic lock keepers house

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

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

valence_arrival

Looking across to the port at Valence-d’Agen

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

valence_first_mooring_2

Valence-D’aged first mooring

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

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

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

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

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

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

valence_aground

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

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

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

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

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

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

golfech_church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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