Wednesday, 10 May 2017

French Holiday Part 3 - Marseillette to Homps

Thursday 23 June 2016
Marseillette to La Redorte
17K 10 locks

Our 43rd Wedding Anniversary and Referendum Day back home in the UK.   We set off in good time and were at the first lock by 08:45 to find the Barque de Poste ready to go.  

The boat on the lock landing the night before was still there, but they were far from ready to go, so we had to pull in behind and hang on to ropes until the lock was ready.  The crew were Italian and Dad was off on his bike getting supplies, Grandma was keeping half and eye on two young children (about 5 and 3 at the most) who were clambering around all over the outside of the boat with no life jackets (they did this on the move as well which frightened me to death) and there was no sign of the mother.

I have to say we were glad we were moored up when this beast came out of the lock.  There are a lot of these hotel boats plying up and down this bit of canal.

We eventually emerged from the lock at 09:50 and shortly after that we came across this – no nonsense of men with individual little strimmers here to keep the canal edges trimmed – have tractor will go!  I am not sure what they do if they come across moored boats. Mind you there were not that many of those to contend with on this canal.

The next lock at Fonfile was another triple staircase and just look at the queue when we arrived at 10:20 

And look behind us just 10 minutes later!  

 And ten minutes after that!  Mind you with a sky like that how could you mind waiting around?

We finally moved off at 10:50 and were tied up ready to go down the first lock at 10:57.  There really is no good being in a hurry round here!  We were joined in the lock by a lovely English couple and the Italian family from Marseillette.  Once you are in the lock it is all fairly quick and we emerged at 11:15.  I think this picture probably really illustrates why I had  so much trouble getting off the boat at locks! It was just too high off the ground.

At the next lock (St Martin) the English and Italian boats were able to moor on the lock landing, but there was an abandoned boat at the end of the landing and the space was not quite big enough for us, so we had to move to the other side 

and I acted as a double mobile mooring pin (ie holding stern and bow ropes.  Oh I did yearn for a centre rope.  Actually looking at the above photo now I reckon we could have got in, but we were not confidant enough at this stage to risk it – you will see us in a much tighter spot later on in our travels.

It was as we emerged that the fun began - for some reason best known to themselves the English boat decided to try and overtake the Italian one who was travelling at a sensible speed, so not holding anyone up.

The next lock (l’Aiguille) was only just over a kilometre away,

so they never made it and had to pull in behind to wait for the lock.

We had lots of time there as we arrived at 12:25 just as a lock full of boats were emerging and the lock was shutting for lunch.

There were boats all over the place!

You need time to stop and take in all there is to see at this lock (L’Aiguille), so it was lucky we arrived when we did.  The éclusier/sculptor, Joël Barthe, fashions all sorts of things from all sorts of reclaimed/recycled bits and bobs.  This is a random selection.

Even his chair has been carved.  Note also the hat, beret and arm on his control box.  Even the finger nails on the chair back have ‘nail varnish’!

These are two of the very few houses we spotted near to the canal unlike the UK when many canal side properties are passed.

We continued on past Pulcheric – somewhere to explore on the way back.

I particularly liked the éclusier's house at Pulcheric lock

It was between there and La Redorte that we spotted the fist new trees being watered

We moored at La Redorte shortly after 2pm by this wonderful landing stage plus a bench under a tree with my name on it!  It was a good mooring and easy to get on and off the boat.

You are supposed to be able to get tokens for electricity and water from the quayside restaurant which was undergoing renovation (that was our plan for our anniversary meal scuppered) so was shut as was the Capitainerie which was the other source, so we gave up trying.

A bicycle trip along this lovely shaded road to the Supermarket was on the agenda and what a great store it is – certainly the best found so far.  

I loved the idea of the launderette tucked away in the corner of the car park!  I guess you leave your clothes running round whilst you stock up on the groceries!

It was here that we came across our first narrowboat.  

They can be hired from Minervois Cruisers who also have a UK contact number.

There was nothing much to do in La Redorte, so it was a quiet night on the boat.  There was certainly no chance of an Anniversary meal out as the closed restaurant appeared to be the only option, so it is a good job we could rustle up a meal on board!

Friday 24 June 2016
La Redorte to Homps
5.5K 1 lock

We woke today in blissful ignorance of the results of the Referendum and set off at 08:15 in yet more sunshine to head to Homps. 

First we passed a real blot on the landscape, but I guess they have to go somewhere.

 At the first bridge which was right on a bend this boat had not made the turn very easy, but we got by with room to spare to 

cross this rather lovely Aqueduct – the Aqueduc d’Argentdouble.  

This was a lovely shady stretch, but that did not last for long.  

For the first time we saw the devastation caused by the cancer to the plane trees – just kilometre after kilometre of stumps.  It has changed the entire character of the canal. 

Next a rather hazy first view of the Black Mountains to the north.

Another rather odd craft in a group of three – these are a rare sight over here unlike some stretches of the UK’s waterways.  Yet again, unlike in the UK there was no rubbish and even though there are a few 'different' water dwellings they are, for the most part, well maintained and tidy.

We arrived at 08:45 at Jouarres for the first and only lock of the day to find we were on our own – no queue!!  A very pleasant change from yesterday.  It was probably a good job no one was around (unless they had offered help) as we had some difficulty mooring up whilst we waited for the lock to open – it was a bottom wriggle to get me off and we were then fighting the wind that was pushing us to the other side.  We made it eventually.

 At 09:00 on the dot the éclusier opened the lock gates and in we went, safely down and out the other side.

There is a stall selling all sorts of local produce, so when we come back we intend to try to stop and take a look.  

It was the deepest lock we would go through at 3.92 metres with a lot of water pouring over the back gate before the bottom paddles had opened.  Passing ropes up on our return could be interesting!

We arrived in Homps before 10:00 to find the hire boat basin nearly empty.  We moored up as a temporary measure intending to go and ask if we could stay overnight – we were fairly certain they would charge, but we needed electricity.  When lo and behold the narrow boat we had seen in La Redorte yesterday pulled out from a mooring on the town quay.  We moved across moored up.  

This is a view of our mooring from the hire boat basin.  A very pretty spot.

I checked my phone to find texts from both of our children with the news about the referendum!  I have to say the French were as surprised as we were at the result.

We had to book in at the Capitainerie to ask if we could stay and access electricity and water.  We could and even better the first night is free!  Chris had to leave his driving licence as a deposit for the electric adapter and away we went. The A/C is on full pelt and everything in sight has been charged up and the hairdryer will be going on tonight!  A French man in a beret is a rare sight these days I don't think I really noticed him until I looked at the photograph.

Inside the Capitainerie it was lovely and cool with many wines and free tasting on Friday afternoons! For once we had arrived on the right day. They also have free Wifi.

We wandered to the supermarket via a small boulangerie and general store – both were excellent – even better than the good one in La Redorte yesterday.  The boulangerie is about 100 metres from the boat for tomorrow’s croissant and baguette.  We wandered over to the hire basin to see if we will be able to moor on our way back if the town moorings are full.  We can as long it is not a Saturday.  We reckon that means Friday night as well as they all have to be back by 09:00 on change over day. 

We then went into the town to explore.  We really wanted to go into this church as there was some fascinating information on the outside, but sadly, once again, it was locked.  Note the war memorial on the right. 

Quite a significant loss of lives for a town whose population then (and now) was/is only around 600.

I guess you cannot call these villages pretty or even attractive, but we think they have their own peculiar charm.  

Back to the boat and the A/C which is working well when you are sat right underneath it!  As we failed to find anywhere to eat yesterday we decided to have a late anniversary celebration in this restaurant.  It was a long walk – all of 50 metres!!

It was very busy, so making a reservation was definitely the right thing to do.  

So was it any good?  Most definitely yes.  I had beetroot, rocket and pine nut carpaccio
followed by gambas cooked in cognac

whilst Chris had devilled eggs followed by cod.  The vegetable accompaniments to the main courses were lovely even if we are not sure what they were! 

We shared the desert of gourmande et café (little desserts and a coffee).  We were not sure what the orange coloured dessert in the foreground was, but it was our least favourite - the crème brulée and the ice cream on the other hand were delicious and hiding behind the coffee were some local cherries – something we need to get more of.  This was definitely a meal worthy enough to be remembered for a long time to come and worth the long walk to get there and back!

Saturday 25th June 2016

We retired to bed replete and happy the night before, but at around midnight we were woken by a thud and a crash from on deck – the wind was howling away and one of our chairs had gone overboard – thankfully shore side, not into the canal.   So there we were in our night clothes trying to make things secure.  Chris retrieved the chair and then we ran a mooring line (they are very long) through the three chairs (we are sure there should be four, but that was all we had to start with, so possibly the fourth went overboard at some point) and the table in the hope that they would stay put.  It was not a good night – the wind roared and we were bashed about all over the place.  The intention had been to push off around 09:00 after we had returned the electric cable in exchange for Chris’ driving licence, however we both knew that we would not be able to hold this boat to negotiate locks and mooring in this wind, so the decision was made to wait and see if it improved.   So we stayed put and had a quiet chill out day with some domestic chores and some more wandering about in Homps.  It is certainly a lovely place and one we will come back to.

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