Friday, 12 May 2017

French Holiday Part 5 - Capestang to Argens Minervois

Wednesday 29th June
Capestang to Le Somail
22 kilometres, 0 locks

So here we were half way through the first part of our holiday and it was time to turn round and head back.  I am always amazed at how different things look from the opposite direction.

First thing to do today was head east, under the iron bridge to find the turning point

– just past a green boat and by some sluices.  We found it with ease and turned on a sixpence! 

Back past the France Fluviale office, under the low stone bridge with no problems this time and away.  The bikes fitted in their racks, so we need not have worried when we arrived.  We did not have the parasol up!  The main thing of note on this on this part of the trip was that when I popped into the cabin to get something, I found that the high temperature (engine) light was on and a loud insistent warning beep emanating from the inside control panel.  We had been pushing the revs, but within the speed limit, so slowed to a crawl to allow everything to cool down and all was well.  The worrying thing was that there was no light or sound outside, so had I not gone in to get something we would not have known until it was too late.  

Here is another of the ‘alternative boats’ we spotted on our travels. - Once again it is neat, clean and tidy with no rubbish around it. 



And how is this for a paint job?

Sadly this was a not the only boat we saw flouting the very sensible rules about not tying up to trees.

No trouble mooring or getting on and off this craft!

And here we are arriving back at Le Somail.

It was 12:45 which meant that the Nicol office was shut for lunch.  We picked a mooring and secured the boat - I was getting more adept at climbing over the back rail, down the ladder and alighting on terra firma with a rope in my hands.


We then went and got some lunch at the Auberge de Somail.  It is such a shame that the tree is on its last legs.

We both had the Andalusian platter.  And oh boy was it good!  It is an entrée and there were people all around us having this and other equally big entrées, followed by a main course and desert!  We could not do that in the evening, never mind at lunch time!  We both really enjoyed our meal – it was an excellent choice. 

On our way back to the boat we went and paid our dues at the Nicol base and picked up a brochure for future reference – maybe!  Chris went for his siesta and I was writing this when we were both rudely interrupted – a large hire boat sped past and almost pulled out one of the mooring pins and action was urgently required.  A very harsh way to wake up at any time of day.  There was, I am afraid no way I could have retrieved the situation on my own as it required the engine on, one of us to reverse, whilst the other went over the back rail to retrieve the pins and ropes.  Both pins were hammered in and we had to hope that they were the only‘speedy Gonzales’ of the day.  Mind you not many boats slowed down for moored craft, so we did not hold our breath.  The pins are supplied by Nicols for their boats, so we made the mistake of assuming they were fixed in place!  A mistake you only make once!  I am glad to report that we were secure for the rest of our stay.

We wandered back into Le Somail late pm popping in to the book shop for postcards, stamps and calendars.  We also went back to one of the art galleries as there was a pair of ceramic Dachshunds we had spotted on our previous visit.  Why would we want them you might wonder?  First a bit of background – our son and daughter in law have two dogs – a Clumber Spaniel (Luna) and a black Labrador(Vespa). On two occasions Jo had commented that next time they have dogs they will be small, so her choice is Dachshunds that she will call ‘Frank’ and ‘Furter’!  Well Luna and Vespa are still young, so have many years of life ahead, so it will be a long time before she can get the real thing, hence I was tempted to buy the pair and put them away for Christmas.  A decision, however, was still not made – our dilemma was – did she really mean it or was it said in jest? 

So we left empty handed and headed to the bar intending to have a beer and use their wifi to check emails. They moved us twice and we ended up on a table on the edge and on a slant – it was obvious that we were not welcome as they only wanted people having dinner at that time of day (18:00).  So we left and went round the corner to an art gallery/café.  Chris had a beer and I had Perrier and un boule de Poire sorbet, in fact the best sorbet I have ever had.  It was all excellent and much more welcoming than the bar/restaurant, which did provide us a great lunch, but is not the place for an early evening drink.  

Thursday 30th June
Le Somail to Argens Minervois
14 kilometres, 1 lock

We were going to go to Homps today, but made the decision first thing to just go to the Locoboat basin in Argen Minervois – just  14K and 1 lock, but our first uphill lock! 

This was our view as we left Le Somail – not the best picture – in real life it was stunning.  

Past yet another funny little self-build, but quite charming to look at   I know what happens to human waste, but I do wonder how they get water to wash with etc?

There are plenty of these to be seen and plenty of wind to turn them – once again there is a very stiff breeze blowing today.

Our first stop was to be Ventanac if there was a mooring free.  As it was 10:00 we hoped we would be in luck and lo and behold we were!  

And what a stunning place to moor.  It is just a shame that there are no more mooring bollards behind us – such a waste of a good mooring place.

And what a riot of colour the floral displays outside the chateau were.  They were a real visual delight. 




The Chateau is yet another wine cave – no excuse for dry boats on this Canal!!

We set off hoping to find a shop with a bit more than the bread and croissants the little store by the canal had to offer.  Ventanac is a charming and very typical Minervois town.  Can you spot something on the white wall of the house up the road in this picture?

A different place to keep your bike!

Chris made friends with a rather charming native.  

On we went, but despite exploring many streets and alleyways




and discovering we were only 8K from Bize Minervois (the village we will be staying in for a fortnight once we have finished on the boat)

we failed to find a shop apart from La Poste which is only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons and this was Thursday morning!!

Our neighbour back at the boat was this very old barge – it was irresistible viewing.



We did pop in to the Chateau to see what was there – some sort of exhibition, but we did not feel like paying the 3 euros entry fee

So I took a photo of the giant spider 

We then went and bought bread and croissants from the canal side shop and then set off just as an English couple we had been chatting to that morning in Le Somail arrived – they were delighted to get such a good mooring. 

On we went passed Paraza which still looks inviting, but just does not have any moorings to our first uphill lock.  

We arrived at 12:25, so tied up to have lunch.

 At 13:30 sharp the lock keeper opened the gates and here was our moment of truth – would we manage with just the two of us.  We decided that I would stay off the boat and walk with the bow rope whilst Chris drove very slowly – there was just enough rope to allow me to do this and we made it in.  I secured the bow and went back to loop the stern rope round a bollard for Chris before going back to hold my bow rope.

Once we and the other boat were secure the lock keeper opened the gates and oh my how the water did flow!  

To start with it was no problem, but then the bow started to move across and I was finding it hard to hold her even with Chris giving it full welly on the bow thruster.  She did not go far and there was no boat immediately opposite, so no immediate danger. In the end the lock keeper did step in and give me a hand, so we survived and went on our way.

Just a few hundred metres further on we came to the Locoboat basin in Argens Minervois and went in.  

The wind was really blowing making getting into the jetty stern first a bit of a problem.  We did do a full pirouette before finally getting in, but once again I don't think anyone was watching!  Once we were safely moored we went and paid our dues for an overnight stay with electric, water and wifi.  Unlike the UK most places here charge for water.

When we arrived I heard two people commenting on a boat moored just outside the basin on the canal tow path that had broken free of its moorings and was heading down the cut on its own!  I don’t know what the final outcome was, but it must be a bit of a shock to moor up, go off to explore and come back to find no boat!  

We had a good wander round Argens hoping to find the shop, which we did, but it did not open for an hour, so we explored.  There is not a lot as it is a small place, but there were some charming looking houses






And some great views from the chateau – worth the climb.



The chateau itself is not open or even looked after and looks as though it might fall down one day.


This is the only place we went to where I was able to get a shot at an ornate cemetery despite many tantalizing glimpses as they have all been behind large walls and locked gates.

All the bars were shut, but we did eventually get to the shop and by the time we got back to the boat the bar was open, so it would have been rude not to go in for a quick drink!  

We caught up with the couple we had handed our mooring space to at Ventenac – they had managed to find a mooring at Paraza, but they had a much smaller boat, so easier to squeeze in to tight spaces.

There was an animated game of boules going on

 Then it was back to Winnie for dinner on board with time to enjoy yet another sunset.

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