Carcassonne – Narbonne – Carcassonne, April/May 2009

The boat had wintered safely at Carcassonne, a medieval city in the south west of France, whilst we had wintered in Javea, in the Valencian region of Spain.

The people of Carcassonne do not appear typically French though, more a mixture of Spanish-French.  The people were darker skinned, and the dialect more mixed – making it quite hard to understand what they were saying, and the weather in this region somewhat milder than in the rest of France.

The other boaters who were wintering there were a very sociable crew and as many of them were permanently there over the winter, they developed a good social life.  On the occasions when we popped back to check on the boat we were included in many of the activities.

Storm brewing over the basin at Carcassonne

We returned to the boat on Thursday 9th April, and were prepared to make a brief check of the boat’s post-winter condition before setting off.  Then the weather turned wild and windy so we decided to postpone our departure for a while.  There was a lot to do on the boat, re-varnishing the window frames and the wheelhouse, doing the odd touch up of the paintwork, general cleaning etc, and whilst all this was being done the regulars were all leaving in ones and two’s, some eastwards, some westwards, and we all turned out to wave or hoot at them as they either went down the lock or headed up-stream.  It was quite sad to see them go.  In the end there was only Mike and Jane from Drumsara and us in the upper basin, apart from an ever-changing  host of leisure-boaters, more than we would have imagined so early in the season.

It was at this point that some of the “clochards” or tramps who frequent the city decided

Desormais, at the far end of the basin above the lock

to decamp from the grassy slopes below the lock, up to the canal basin, though it was only for the last couple of days that we were there.  They were mostly young people, never without a can of beer in hand, dancing, shouting, falling over, peeing behind trees, or directly in front of us into the canal (seemingly a French pastime!) and this went on until quite late at night, when some would drift off and others would doss down in waterproof sleeping bags or under hedges and bushes.

Having said that,  we never had any damage done to our boat, and apart from a cracked ventilation cover on the roof (which could have been falling branches during the strong winds) and a missing rope, we noticed nothing else adrift, and that is with two bikes being chained on the back of the boat, for all the world to see.  Drumsara had moved over to our side of the basin, but when the clochards gathered close to Mike and Jane’s bedroom window, they took their boat back over to the other side of the basin after a disturbed night.

It’s been fun watching the ducks this spring.  In Carcassonne the female birds are outnumbered about five to one by the males, so there have been a lot of fights and a lot of exasperated lady ducks.  One couple decided to mate on the towpath by our boat, and the whole process looked distinctly unfriendly.  The male seems to sieze the back of her neck with his beak, and there’s a lot of feather fluffing and squawking.  It’s even worse if they choose the water for their liaison, as this seems to involve the female being violently submerged under the water for protracted periods.  Jane and I watched in amazement; this will never catch on, we said!

Monday 20th April 2009

Off we go

We were ready to leave by 9.30am and went to say goodbye to Mike, Jane and the huskies.  They had been due to leave the same day as us, heading in the opposite direction,  but that morning Mike had discovered water in the gearbox, and was having to look into that.  So off we went down the lock, retracing the route that we had taken into the city over six months previously.  After such a long time off the boat you do feel a little nervous once you come to your first lock, but we soon got back into the swing of it, even if our bones and muscles took a little longer.  The weather was blustery but bright to begin with, and then later became more showery. Eventually we pulled up at the bottom of Trebes staircase lock and called it a day, quite well-drenched and windblown.  It’s not a good idea to moor at the foot of the locks if you want satellite and internet access; far better to stay at the top where with a bit of judicious positioning, you’ll be OK.

Whilst we were going through the centre of Trebes, we noticed a couple about our age who appeared to be very excitedly taking photos of us from a bridge over the canal.  As we neared the bridge the guy shouted out that he had been to look at our boat when it was for sale at Brighouse in Yorkshire.   As we went under the bridge he rushed to the other side to continue our conversation, saying it was nice to see her in France.  He asked if we were stopping at Homps.  I said probably but then we were too far away to hear his reply.  We would keep an eye out for them when we got there.

There was a marked absence of ducks around the bottom of the  locks, but above there was more or less an equal distribution of males and females, so there was relative harmony,

Tuesday 21st April 2009

Wind and rain, wind and rain….

We set off again in the pouring rain just before 9.00am.  We did several doubles and one treble lock, some being quite difficult to negotiate because of increasingly high winds.  Around 1.00pm we found a picturesque mooring by a bridge close to the village of Puicheric , and decided to stop early and stay there for the night.  We could get a signal on the television and radio, (unlike the previous  night at the foot of Trebes) and the internet access was reasonably fast.  And then, at last,…. the sun came out!

Later in the afternoon a narrowboat came by and moored up behind us (with a little help from Neville!).  I can’t imagine anything worse than being on a narrowboat in these high winds.  With no keel you are all over the place.

During the night the winds got even worse, and I was awake from 3.00am until dawn listening to the squeaking of the fenders against the bank, and the occasional rattle of poles on the roof.

No ducks to be seen anywhere,

Wednesday 22nd April

A restful day in Homps, complete with broody ducks..

Woke up to sunshine but still high winds.  The forecast was for better weather until the weekend.  We set off around 9-ish, the narrowboat behind showing no signs of life.  After several locks we were into Homps, a lovely peaceful village with the Canal du Midi running through the centre.  We found a good mooring right in the centre, just in front of another Sagar boat called Columbus, and who should be sitting there with the owners, but the couple who called to us from the bridge in Trebes.  They seemed to be making a thorough inspection of the boat, so maybe they were prospective buyers.  We had noticed on the internet that Columbus was for sale.  They were there for a good couple of hours so far as we were aware, and once they had left the owners of the boat left to continue in the direction from whence we had come.  This village offers the first night’s moorings free, so we decided we would moor up for the day.  We went for a bike ride up to the next two locks, and found that the narrowboat who had been behind us had gone up there.

In the evening we went to a local restaurant on the quay, an English establishment  (Bon Compagnie) serving French cuisine.  Great meal, bream with noodles. And not badly priced at 37 euros for 2 main courses and a bottle of wine.  We’d not been over-impressed by the standard of cuisine so far, but this restaurant more than made up for it, and we’ve made a point of eating there whenever we’ve passed through Homps.

Mother duck, keeping her eggs warm by our boat

Next morning we noticed that a female duck had decided to lay her eggs and settle down to incubate them just by the side of our boat.  She was still there when we were ready to leave, staring fixedly at the side of our boat. I gave her some bread, and not wanting to scare her off her eggs, put it slightly to one side of her.  The bits that were nearest were gobbled down straight away, and when I went back a while later she had shifted position on her eggs so that she could reach the rest!  As we pulled away, I wondered how she would feel about suddenly being exposed to the canal instead of sheltering in the lee of our boat.  Maybe we will see her on our way back next week, complete with brood, to join the other three cheeping ducklings that had recently joined the canal.

Thursday 23rd April

Le Somail

We were off by 9.00am and made our way through several double and single locks until we reached Le Somail, a pretty village by the canal.  We lunched there and then pushed onto the Canal du Robine, new territory for us.  Our journey so far had been a repeat of our journey to Carcassonne last October, so as we turned onto the Embranchement de la Nouvelle, this represented new territory for us.

The first part of the Embranchement, which leads to the River Aude,  is known as the Junction.  It was fairly straight with automated locks every 600 metres or so.  We shared a lock with some Swiss  people, and soon got into the swing of it with the help of their “lockwheeler” a guy who cycled ahead and pressed the right buttons so the lock was ready for us.  Then he would take our ropes (avoiding the necessity for Neville to put me ashore first), dash across to the other side of the lock to take his party’s ropes, and then press the buttons to start the procedure.

You can move along pretty swiftly in this way, and soon we were down at Salleles where we moored outside the VNF Depot, whilst the Swiss carried on.  We walked down to look at the lock and see if there were any better mooring spaces, passing a narrowboat from northern England which was keeled well over on one side.  Apparently the level of the water had gone down quite seriously and she was grounded on one side.  We helped the crew push her slightly away from the edge, and when we looked later on she was more or less level again, the water level having come up again. 

Friday 24th April

A day of accidents……

A fine sunny morning gave way to a cooler and cloudy mid to late afternoon.   We went into the lock at Salleles with three other boaters, one of whom was a hireboater from England.  They had taken up their boat at Trebes and were to leave it at Narbonne.  It’s good that the hire-boat companies facilitate the multi-locational pick up and drop off like this;  the holidaymakers get to see far more by not having to do round trips.

The journey to Narbonne involves joining the River Aude for a very short distance, but earlier that week, because of the rain, access to the Aude had been closed.  This often happens when it is running too high.  The hireboaters had hung around for two days, not wanting to venture out the first day the Aude was opened just in case it was running too fast for them.  All you do here is to turn right immediately after joining the river, head upstream for a short distance and then loop round (a hanging chain across the river marks the spot)  to come down again and into the lock at the start of the Robine.  If the river is running fast, you need to be extremely careful to line up your boat in good time!

In the event, we led the pack out onto the Aude and made our route across it with no problems, the rest following in convoy.  We then continued along the Canal du Robine which was a bit boring.  At one point we glanced back to see that the English hireboaters were stuck diagonally across the canal, and we watched for a while to see they got back underway, which they did.  When we got to the next lock, we discovered that one of the guys had fallen and had the most terrible fracture of his left arm, with bones poking through the skin.  His face was grey and he looked to be in dreadful pain.  Apparently he had fallen down the steps from the deck to the lower cabin, and their diagonal manoeuvre across the canal had happened when everybody left their post to go to tend to him.  Luckily we were not far from Narbonne, so he would be able to get to a hospital quickly.

Pont des Marchands, crossing the Robine,in Narbonne serves as foundations for a row of excellent shops

Once we arrived in Narbonne, we moored up and went for a walk in the town.  We met the Swiss “lockwheeler” and his group from the day before and they were delighted to see us again, asking us lots of questions about the boat.  Later, as we were having lunch down below, they passed in their boat on the way out of Narbonne.  Neville dashed up the stairs to the wheelhouse to say goodbye, tripped over the top step and crashed head first into the table, knocking it sideways, and driving the bridge of his spectacles into his nose.  I was beside myself to find him lying still, but he was just assessing his injuries, which included a savage cut in the bridge of his nose, a big bruise, swollen cartilage on one side of his nose, and a lump on his head.  We were having chicken casserole for dinner so I rushed to get the chicken breasts (in their freezer bags I hasten to add!) and wrapped them in a flannel to lay on his forehead.  That swelling wasn’t too bad but the hooter was going to look a real sight by the next day.

Having spotted further moorings closer to the centre of Narbonne, we decided to move down to a spot quite close to Les Halles, the indoor market.  There was water and electricity here, and the inevitable clutch of clochards, but perhaps not in the same number as in Carcassonne.  Again, we had no real problems with them.

Saturday 25th April

Woke up to an overcast day, after a fairly quiet night.  There was music being played

Archbishop's Palace, next to the Cathedral in Narbonne's main square

outside somewhere close as we went to bed, but it wasn’t a problem as we were both tired and ready for bed.

We went out to the nearest shop to get a few supplies, and then later went to the market in the “Halles” which is an impressive construction quite close by.  We really wanted to buy some fish, which we had been eating a lot of prior to coming to France this time, but I am not familiar with the names, and certainly don’t have the vocabulary to discuss my cleaning, gutting and boning requirements!   (Even if I knew what they were!)  We bought some tomatoes which were quite expensive.  In general, we found that Narbonne was  more expensive than Carcassonne.

Neville’s nose wasn’t as bad as I had expected, and he had just the shadow of a black eye right in the corner.  His glasses must have been irritating the bridge though, as it seems to be quite an open cut.

Sunday 26th April

The rain started during the night, and around 5am we were awakened by a young couple having a row on the bank opposite.  This was very dramatic, emotional, and went on for quite some time, involving a lot of walking away from each other and shouting after retreating backs, before noisy reconciliations were effected.  Went back to sleep later on.

When we got up it was raining quite heavily, which more or less continued through until late afternoon, at which point we went for a walk.  Narbonne is a beautiful city, full of historical buildings and yet very cosmopolitan and quite commercially lively.

Monday 27th April

Awoke to a sunny but yet again breezy day.  Does the wind never stop round here?   I gave some parts of the boat a thorough cleaning, and did the ironing.  Then we went out to find a different supermarket to get our shopping.

The capitainerie came round this morning and gave us a form to fill in.  We have to pay him tomorrow, but as yet we don’t know how much.  Went for a walk round the town in the afternoon.

Tuesday 28 April

Walked around the town this morning and then left around lunchtime to make our way back to Salelles.  At the lock before the one that puts us onto the River Aude we were warned by the owner of a huge old barge coming towards us, that the river was running very high, and he had damaged his boat on the bridge leading to the lock.  There are a couple of strong weirs there, and after Sunday’s rain the flow was quite strong.  He had misjudged the approach to the lock and ended up being swept into the wall.  Apparently the river had been closed yesterday, and only opened up about 40 minutes before we got there.  Too soon perhaps!

As we left the river lock we could see that the weirs were really packing some water, but someone had marked out the looped route that we had to take with buoys, which hadn’t been there when we came down last week.  We negotiated our way upstream, to avoid the sandbank at the entrance to the canal, but when we  turned downstream and then left into the canal we were side on to the current.  The retaining wall loomed ever nearer as we were swept sideways towards it, but Neville put on a big burst of power and bowthruster, and we were safely in.  There were fishermen at the entrance to the canal, and one of them whistled and shook his fingers in the manner of someone who has dipped them into hot water and is shaking them off.  Yes, close indeed.

At the next lock it sounded as though the bow thruster was dying on us, maybe something stuck in it again.  So we had to do our last lock of the day without the aid of the bowthruster.  There were sliding poles in the walls of the lock and Neville had to secure both ropes on his own, as I had to be up on the quayside to press the buttons.  It was frustrating being high up on the quayside and seeing him labouring away, trying to reach two of the sliding poles that we had to get our ropes round.

We moored  at the top of the lock in Salleles, and then discovered that they had closed the lock behind us, possibly having decided that the flow was too heavy flow.

Or, as we later reflected,  it may have been due to the antics of a German foursome who arrived in a hire boat and promptly set the whole situation aflame at the top of the locks.  First they banged into the narrowboat in front of us, narrowly avoiding a number of other boats, causing angry heads to pop out of hatches.  Then they headed for us, all of them gesticulating, shouting and pointing lethal boathooks at our paintwork in order to fend themselves off.  They wanted to go down the locks, but they made such a stuff of trying to get themselves into a waiting position, I think the lockie decided to close up for the night rather than let them loose on the swollen river.

Thus they needed to moor up.  I pointed out to them that there was space in front of us, and they headed for that but then the back end swung out and they ended up diagonally across the mouth of the locks.  One woman jumped off with the rope on the other side, but then the front end swung out and they headed back to our side of the canal.  I caught a trailing rope and with the aid of the woman from the narrowboat we managed to get them pulled in, but what a palaver.  I dread to think how they will cope on the river.  And such shouting and cursing at each other!

Wednesday 29th April

We slept well and long last night, and in the morning I went off into the village for bread.  The Germans next door were clearing up after breakfast and I warned Neville that soon they would be off and we had better be ready to fend off again.  With a roar of the engine they pulled away from the bank (why do hireboaters do everything with maximum revs?)  promptly pulling one of the women off the bank and straight into the canal.  Why she didn’t let go of the rope we’ll never know.

“Halte” shouted the pilot in horror, though one could hardly help pointing out that he was the only one who could comply with that instruction, and he barged to the back of the boat to help the woman out of the water, leaving the boat to yaw wildly from one side to another.   Complete with waterlogged jeans, and to the accompaniment of much slanging between involved parties on board the hireboat, the woman left, dripping and in a real strop, to go to see to the lock.  What a way to start your day.

The lock-keeper, a woman, shrugged in dismay and went back into her hut.  And the swollen river awaited them!

Off we went at 9.30 and made for the first lock in the opposite direction.  This is a long straight stretch with locks every 700 metres, and is the one that we locked down with the Swiss people last week, with one of the guys cycling between the locks to get them set in advance.  So this time I was the lock-wheeler.  We were joined by a New Zealand trio, again in a hireboat who insisted on tearing into the first lock at top speed, jamming it into reverse so suddenly that the poor crew member on the front nearly pitched head first over the bows.  They had three bikes on board, but no-one offered to help out so it was down to me to cycle ahead, setting locks ready so no-one had to moor up and could just steam straight in.  Then I had to cross the locks to take the ropes from the Kiwi’s, dash back to take the ropes from Neville, who was cruising single handedly whilst the three of them lounged around on the top of their boat sunbathing!

To give them their due, they were very grateful when we reached the end of the five lock stretch.  And I was absolutely exhausted – it’s quite hard cycling up the towpath which has tree roots twisted in and out of the soil and had given me quite a few bumpy moments.

By lunchtime we reached Argeliers, and found a good mooring where we could get good TV reception and reach the village by bike.  It was a quiet village, but it had an epicerie (grocers) and a boulangerie (bakers), so all that we needed was there.  We put the generator on in the evening to charge up the batteries (as there was no electricity here) but found it wasn’t charging.  Those electrical gremlins keep surfacing intermittently.

Thursday 30th April

We set off around 9.30, following a huge old barge which had a party of schoolchildren on it.  This is the third we have seen down here.  The kids love it, and they seem to have lessons as normal but out on deck, and all their meals up there.  There are about four teachers with them, plus the boat crew.  Can’t see anybody doing that in England, you’d have to complete about 50 risk assessments beforehand.

We made it to Capestang by lunchtime, and found a prime mooring berth right in front of the local restaurant.   Not bad cost, 10 euros per night compared with 21 euros at Narbonne.  The weather was fine and sunny, and for the moment the landline seemed to be charging the batteries.

In the evening we went to the restaurant “Le Batelier”.  Neville chose prawns which were lovely, complete with saffron rice and a fine array of vegetables.  I chose “Carré d’Agneau” which turned out to be rack of lamb.  Awful, really fatty and quite pink despite having asked for “medium” cook.  Still, the fries were very nice.

Friday 1st May

The church at Capestang (11th century) can be seen for miles around

Time flew by – and by now it was just over three weeks since we arrived at the boat, and almost two weeks since we started our journey.   We decided to turn round and retrace our steps the following day, aiming to be back at Carcassonne by next weekend.  A fine sunny day with a cold breeze and of course, a national holiday here in France.  The church was bedecked with flags, as were some of the houses.  The little restaurant on the canal front did a roaring trade at lunchtime, and several boaters finished their holiday and could be seen busily cleaning their boats before packing up their cars.  We biked into the village but the two shops had very little in the way of provisions, and the boulangerie was closed.,  Neville got his shoelace caught in the pedal of his bike and crashed to the ground, suffering a nasty gash to his leg.   I  am sure he is accident prone.

In the afternoon we took another bike ride into the village.  In the village square, a pleasant plane-tree shaded cobbled area, we saw a plaque commemorating 70 or so men of the village who had been rounded up in this square by the Germans during WW2 and had then been shipped to concentration camps in Germany to be tortured and then shot.  From time to time you come across these reminders about the proliferation of resistance cells right through France.

Saturday 2nd May

Anjodi, (hotel boat a la Rick Stein) skilfully negotiating the notorious bridge at Capestang

A few hire boaters turned up to pick up their boats and set out on their holidays. Most negotiated the narrow bridge hole without incident, though the capitaine told us of a dutch barge some time ago, whose bow thruster had jammed on as it lined up for the narrow opening.  The boat crashed headlong into the bridge, demolishing the wheelhouse and pitching the crew (one of whom was handicapped, they said) into the water.

Another fine sunny day.  Biked into the village in the morning for supplies, and then cycled up the canal towards a vineyard but turned back when we saw it was up a hill.   Cycling is hard work round here.

After lunch a landrover pulled up by the boat and lo and behold it was Roger of Roger and Kath from Vertrauen, the couple in the old barge we met at Paray, and whose boat we had seen twice on our travels, once moored in Homps when we came through for the first time, and then again moored wild outside Capestang when we arrived last week.  Their plans had been disrupted by family illness, but we would probably see them again during the summer.

Sunday May 3rd

We set off just after eight, starting our return journey to Carcassonne.  This stretch of the canal can be a bit same-y so I studied French to keep me occupied.

Ventenac

Stopped at Ventenac for lunch, where there was a medieval cave, (wine cellar).  Stocked up on supplies.

The canals were full of crazy hire-boaters.  We later learned that most of the boat companies had put on a special May Day weekend offer which attracted the novices out in their droves.  Plastics are one thing, but a number of the hireboats on this stretch are large steel barges, and we followed one guy up the canal as he zig-zagged from one bank to another, just not having managed to grasp how much you need to turn the wheel.  The wind was not helping him either!

We stopped in a fairly isolated spot at the top of the first lock on the stretch heading to Homps.  An English couple walked past later on and said how they had been admiring our boat all day.  They had seen us at Le Somail at lunchtime, then passed us (walking) as we were at Ventenac, and then saw us as they started their return journey.  They lived in a local village and had been there for six years or so.  We asked them if it was always windy round this area, since we have experienced scarcely any days without wind during this trip.  They laughed, and said that the only days it is not windy, are the days on which English people visit the area to look at houses, and no-one ever tells them that it is virtually perpetually windy!   Good for drying washing though.

They told us that a lot of the plane trees which line either side of the canal du Midi, and whose roots actually form and reinforce the sides of the canal, are badly diseased.  The Forestry Commission say the infection is being spread by boaters tying up their boats to trees (something we always try to avoid for fear of garrotting passing cyclists or walkers).  A lot of trees are under treatment, but huge new areas of mooring platforms/bank stabilisers have been created

Set off early and did two double locks and one single before lunchtime.  Moored up in virtually the same place in Homps, and yes, the nesting duck was still on her nest.  She pushed off into the water and we saw what looks like three or four eggs, about the size of a normal egg, in the nest.  Later she came to the side of the boat quacking away at us, I think because we had blocked her access to her nest from the water, so I led a trail of biscuit crumbs round the front of our boat to show her that she could get out of the water just a yard or two up stream from her nest.  The things I’ll do for animals!

We went to the shop and when we came back we found she had settled herself back on her nest.  Looked up on the internet and found that duck eggs take four weeks to hatch!

Coypu

In the late afternoon we saw what we assumed was a water rat swimming up the canal.  He was quite big and hairy, with a long tail and what looked like orange front teeth.  I threw him some bread and he fed happily alongside the ducks, but using his front legs to bring the bread to his mouth, a bit like a squirrel.  We took lots of photos, and were a bit alarmed when he set his sights on one of the baby ducklings and started stalking it.  We leapt up and down and shouted, along with a couple on another boat opposite, and he swam off upstream.  Later I googled extensively, and found that it was a Coypu.  More about coypu later in these blogs.

In the evening we went to the same restaurant and had Navarin of lamb with shaved vegetables.  It was delicious, one of the best meals I have had in France.  We got chatting with an Irish couple at the next table who have a time share in an apartment in Homps, and were down for 10 days.   They came to have a look at our boat on their way home.  On a later visit to Homps we came across the development where this couple’s time-share must have been.  It’s behind the hire-boat base, and has been quite nicely designed.

Tuesday May 5th

Yet again the wind was raging throughout the night and we had a fairly restless night. Got up to another clear sunny day but still windy.  Before we left I laid out moistened bread around the nest where our resident duck was doing her maternal duty, and her head was snapping this way and that as she gobbled it up.  Must be hungry work this incubating.  I said goodbye and wished her well…. I think she was just glad to get a view of the canal again though, but the meals on wheels had been a consolation for her.

We did a single lock and one double and then moored up at Puicheric near the bridge where we moored on our outward journey.  There was a couple on a yacht (Tin Lizzie) who had spent 7 years in the Med and were now taking their boat back to Matlock in England for a refit.  He had hurt his back, and she was considering whether they should have the boat taken back on a lorry instead of sailing it back.  That’s the trouble with this life… if one person becomes incapacitated it can be very difficult for the other to do everything that needs to be done on the waterways.  It’s essentially a two person job.

We also shared the lock with a French hireboater couple who didn’t seem to know what they were doing.  She was driving the boat and he was doing the ropes on the lock, unusually.  But he kept on just holding the rope instead of wrapping it round a bollard to take the strain, and had to be rescued a couple of times by the couple from the yacht.

They had an old rather unsteady Alsatian on the top of the boat, who I imagined would probably be an early casualty if they didn’t sharpen up their act soon.  At the lock the Alsatian got off and was greeted very enthusiastically by a pale gold retriever who was falling over himself to investigate the old girl’s nether regions.  The Alsatian was having none of it, and firmly sat upon her goods.  As the boat drew out of the lock the Alsatian resignedly got back on board and the retriever ran down the towpath after the boat.  I think it was love at first sight so far as the retriever was concerned.  The Alsatian had, I suspect, seen it all before.

After we had moored up another couple came across to look at our boat.  They were the hireboaters on “Beatrice” which we had seen leave Capestang on Saturday. They were thinking of buying a boat and were asking for advice.  She had a broken arm, which she got whilst jumping off the boat.  Apparently she landed on a tree root and broke her arm whilst trying to break her fall.  Second broken arm in two weeks!  She too was treated at Narbonne Hosital. My advice is not to jump off boats!  Seriously, down in this part of France the quays are very low and when you are dropped off at the landing stage before the lock, you have to wait until the lowest part of the gunwhales is level with the landing stage and get off one leg at a time.  The last time I jumped off I sprawled flat on my face with the momentum.  It’s not like when you were young.

Passed a relaxing afternoon, though the wind was fairly tearing down the canal.

Wednesday 6th May

At last the wind reduced to a moderate breeze.  The skies were clear and temperatures of 26 degrees were forecast.  We set off just before 9.00 and did several double and treble locks before embarking on Trebes triple lock just after lunch.

Most of the éclusiers (lock keepers) have dogs, and it must be great for the dogs going to work with their masters each day.  Some are really good dogs.  One in particular seems to make it his business to inspect every boat that enters his lock, sometimes standing perilously close to a twenty foot drop to crane his head to see into the boats.  Others will keep nudging  the crew standing with the ropes on the sides to get a bit of attention,  We passed one really badly behaved one first thing this morning.  I had my fleece and leather gloves on, which was a good job because I would have been quite seriously bitten by him.  He was only playing, but he definitely needed correction.  Which he got, from Neville, when he tried to run off with our ropes whilst we were untying them.  A badly behaved dog round a lock is bad news.

Moored up at Trebes, still in glorious sunshine.  We would be in Carcassonne the next day, where we would stay for two or three nights before returning to the UK

Thursday 7th May

We completed the four single and one triple locks between Trebes and Carcassonne, arriving just before lunch.  We were back up the end of the basin in our former winter mooring until the day of our departure, when would have to pull it back a bit further as  the hotel boats season was starting and one was scheduled for our space.

Friday 7th May

VE day, and half the shops were closed.  The weather was grey and muggy after a glorious day yesterday.

We started packing, and preparing our boat for our departure for the UK.  It had been a great cruise for starting the season.

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About Sandra

I cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and write fiction and poetry. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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4 Responses to Carcassonne – Narbonne – Carcassonne, April/May 2009

  1. Could smell the air and feel the warmth with you Sandra. Simply but beautifully described – and I too wonder why Ducks put up with Drakes at times! LOL!

    Dave

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    • Sandra says:

      Thank for stopping by Dave. These are all old trip journals that I’m uploading at the moment – it’s a mammoth task but soon I’ll be able to blog on a ‘current’ basis.

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      • Bruce Jennings says:

        Dear Sandra, You are definitely not talking to yourself. I subscribe to Alfred Hitchcock & Ellery Queen. I think that you might do well to dabble in the mystery/detective genre. I thank you for your story of your wonderful trip down the Canal Du Midi. I will do so in September. I will rent a fiberglass barge from Locaboat. We will do a return at their Argens- Minervois base I will head east toward and maybe beyond Beziers. I will also go to Narbonne. We will want to stop at Declan’s Pub. With only 1 night I figure that going to an ex-pat pub will give myself and my 2 mates either a good time and/ or other info about the city. My name is Bruce and I have been my mother’s caregiver for over 10 years. We don’t have National Health in the good old usa. Since the end of 2011- citizens from the usa- Canada- OZ- Kiwi are now allowed to get the ICC license. I will be doing my testing in Bisham, UK. Not far from Oxford. Sandra, I was really impressed by your writing style. I hope that you continue to find the right place for it. From hot, sticky, humid Tampa. Florida – I bid you a very good day ! – Cheers— Bruce Jennings
        Please respond at Veggiebarge1@yahoo.com

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        • Sandra says:

          Thanks for your kind comments Bruce, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the cruise report. I hope you have a lovely trip and that the weather is fine for you, so that you can have a real break from your caregiving duties. September can be a lovely month on the waterways, particularly in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. Narbonne is a beautiful city, and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot. We got our ICC certificates from Bisham too; we had a great time practising on the Thames there, and we certainly have had occasion to use what we learned. We also did the VHF course there, though we’ve used those skills rather less since on the canals there’s a kind of bush telegraph amongst the lock operators and once you’ve negotiated your first lock of the day you don’t need to advise your arrival unless you interrupt your journey for whatever reason. Have a great time!

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