Day #12 on the Canal du Midi. Dog rescue!

LOCATION:  Near Beziers, France on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Rain and overcast.  High 79

It rained pretty hard during the night – both outside and inside!  About 5:00 AM, the ceiling above George’s head sprang a serious leak.  He woke up cursing.  The mattress and sheets were sopping wet.  I brought in the kitchen dishpan to collect the water…..It filled it up!  He went to sleep in the galley while I tried to finish sleeping with the plonk-plonk-plonk (not a light drip-drip-drip) sound of the water splashing in the pan.

We had to move our suitcases that we store on the floor out so they would not get wet.  What a mess!

One couple got up early and bought some freshly-baked croissants and a baguette.  The aroma was out of this world.  I splurged and had a croissant with morning coffee.

Drama soon followed.  A boat facing us, coming the other way, started shouting in French….”Slow down!”  We were already going slowly so were confused.  Then they pointed to an object near our boat and shouted “Dog!” in French.  Sure enough, a little dog was in the water, caught up in the brambles that line the canal.  He was almost drowned.  We were able to maneuver the boat and picked him up with his collar using our boat hook.  One lady leaned way over the side of the boat and cut the bramble with a pair of scissors.  I wrapped him up with towels to dry him off, calm him down, and to warm him up.  He was shaking like a leaf!

We decided to drop him off at the next lock and ask the lock-keeper to call the owner, as he had a tag on with a phone number.  But, as I was patting him down, and as we were cruising along, I saw an old man running on the towpath.  He did not look like a jogger.  Sure enough, it was the owner.  Someone in another boat going the other way told him we had rescued the dog, and he came to collect it. 

He was so grateful.  We are glad it had a happy ending.  But boy….did that dog stink! 

Next up as a real challenge – 7 locks in a row called “The Staircase”.  From the top down, it looks like a roller coaster. 

Due to the difficulty in getting through them, the locks are only open a brief window for boats going upstream and another window for those going downstream.  We missed the first window, so had to wait for 3 hours.  The enterprising tourism office knows that boaters have to wait, so they offer a tourist train that goes into the nearby town of Beziers’. 

Some of our group took advantage of the break and had a nice lunch in the lock’s restaurant, overlooking the city of Beziers’. 

Once we got the ok from the lock-keeper to go, we had a real audience watching us.

We moored in a town, jumped off, and bought some groceries.  Then, we continued on.  We moored for the night at a grassy point along the way.  There is no one around us, with absolute quiet. 

DINNER:  I made couscous with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  We warmed up chicken cordon bleu, and served it all with a nice salad.  We sat upstairs on the deck and enjoyed a nice dinner. 

Day #11 on the Canal du Midi. Cruising through a long tunnel

LOCATION:  Colombiers, France – on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Partly cloudy.  Light rain in the PM.  High 80

Today was an easy day on the canal – no locks.  We cruised for a few hours, then stopped along the way to look at some Roman ruins (which we never found).  It was good, however, to get a nice walk in.  Some horsemen were trotting through the area.

On our way, we had to go through a long tunnel.  Kind of cool

We passed through canal boat “settlements”.  People can get a permit to park permanently on the canal.  These little “villages” have boats of all sizes and in various conditions.

We go at a fairly moderate speed, and sometimes other boats pass us….

There is not much to see along the way except vineyards –  as far as they eye can see

This house on the canal looks very “French” to me.

We stopped for the night in mid-afternoon in the harbor of Colombiers.

  It started to sprinkle, so we put up the bimini and had a glass of wine with an assortment of cheeses ..

DINNER:  George found a lovely restaurant, one street away from the canal.  He ordered the fixed price meal of a starter and main course.  The starter was gravlax…..

The main was ….. cuttlefish. 

All perfectly cooked.  I  asked for a salad, but the waiter said they didn’t serve anything a la carte.  But  then suddenly, he served me a beautifiul letttuce and heirloom tomato salad.

BOOK:  “Evan’s Blessed” by Rhys Bowen.  This is the 3rd of the 3 books I accidentally checked out at the same time, part of a series about a North Wales policeman.  4 stars out of 5

Day 10 on the Canal du Midi. George is in trouble!

LOCATION:  Capestrang, France  – on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Cloudy, keeping it cooler.  High 75

This morning we went through a series of about 8 locks, all automatic.  This means that someone has to jump off the boat, and push the button to make the lock open.  George offered to do that.  At one lock, 2 boats were coming the other way.  George pressed the button too soon after the boats left, before the lock closed on its own, and the mechanism froze up.  The canal authority people had to come out and re-set it.  Oops – George is in the doghouse.

We pulled over at a shady, grassy spot along the canal for lunch.  George pounded in the stakes, but apparently didn’t do it right, as a breeze blew them over and we started to drift away.  Again, George is in trouble.

We moored for the day in the Capestrang harbor.  We got one of the last slips available.  For full hook-up – water and electricity – it was $22/night.   The town has a very pretty cathedral.

We hooked up to water and filled up our tanks.  Another uh-oh on George’s part….he dropped the end of the fresh water hose in the filthy canal water.  Oops!

The harbor office/tourist information center offered a tour of the history of the canal.  We were the only non-French speaking guests on the tour.  It was kind of fun listening to the tour guide.  He went on and on in French, and then summarized what he had just said in English in about one minute.

Then, the harbor office offered a wine-and pate’-tasting, featuring local products.  We bought some, at surprisingly good prices – $7 for the wine and $5 for a big jar of country-style pate’.

Then, on to dinner.  The whole gang shared a table at a restaurant on the canal. 

Each of us had something different, so it was fun to see all the different kinds of food.  George had a fixed priced 3-course meal. ($25).  His first course was oysters on the half shell.  Interesting that they were served with soft white bread.

His second course was pork cheeks in a heavy brown sauce..

His dessert course was creme boule. I ordered a side salad.  It was HUGE!  Lettuce, tomatoes, and endive.  Beautiful

I have learned to order house wine, rather than a bottle, at restaurants.   This pitcher of local, red wine was $7.

Day 9 – off the Canal du Midi – toward Mediterranean

LOCATION:  On a smaller canal, leading to the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Sunny.  High 80

Last night, we moored overnight in Narbonne, right in the city.

During the night, some teenagers boarded our boat and honked the horn.  A little worrisome, but no harm done. 

To get to Narbonne, we had to take a smaller canal south,  off the Midi, about 9 kilometers and 6 locks.  We wanted to see the historic Roman town.  Originally, we had planned to go even farther south, but with the European drought, we didn’t think the canal there would be deep enough.  Had we gone all the way, we would have ended up in the Mediterranean. 

After a Sunday morning breakfast of eggs and bacon on the boat, we spent the morning exploring the city.  The cathedral, from the 12th century, is famous and beautiful.

The streets are quaint….

George walked on the old Roman road, dating back to 118 B.C.

Most of the locks are manned by lock-keepers.  They are very helpful, and through a combination of English and French, they instruct us on what to do.  Some of the locks are in 2s or 3s, with a depth of a total of 28 feet.  It creates a fun challenge for us.

However, a few of the locks are automated.  Someone has to jump off the boat to press the button for the locks to open, then close.  Here I am, doing my duty….

As usual, we cruised through beautiful scenery, including a lot of vineyards.  A few farmers have started harvesting their fields using this interesting machine…

We left Narbonne early afternoon, and headed back toward the Canal du Midi.  We tied up about 4:00 in the middle of the country.  We just tied up to some bollards (new word for me).  Nice and peaceful.

DINNER:  Since we were not in a town, I offered to cook.

I sauteed  some leftover beef, onions, garlic, and mushrooms, in butter and pesto.  George grilled zucchini on the rooftop grill, adding a dollop of goat cheese.  I served the beef mix over pasta and topped with Parmesan.  We all brought out our bottles of local red wine, and had a feast on the top of the boat.  George picked some roses for the table.  Nice! 

BOOK:  “Evan Only Knows” by Rhys Bowen. I accidentally checked out 3 books in this series online, so I am now scrambling to read them all.  This is part of the series about Evan Evans, a North Wales policeman. 

Day 8 on the Canal du Midi….eating with Joy

LOCATION:  In Norbonne, France on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Sunny.  High 82

It is interesting to see the many different kinds of boats on the canal.  This one, a refurbished 100+-year-old, is owned by an American couple who live on it every summer.  It is beautiful.

The locks open at 9:00 AM, and we are usually, like today, one of the first to go through.  After a kilometer or so, we turned down a new canal, one that would lead us close to the Mediterranean. 

A few of today’s bridges were very, very low.  We did a lot of ducking, including the pilot, who had to be on his knees to steer us.

Today’s lunch was different kinds of cheese, cold cuts, and slices of baguette.  Yum!

We take turns piloting the boat, although one of the men is particularly experienced and gets us out of tight spots.  Today I did a 1-minute stint….

Here is a map of France showing the Canal du Midi in red. It was built by hand in the 1600s so that they could ship goods between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic without going around the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal)

We arrived in Narbonne about 3:00 and moored right in the city.  The bridge is famous, unique because it has buildings on top of it…

The city center with its cathedral is pretty..

Back on the boat’s deck, we watched racers run a 10K race.  We cheered them on…

We found a nice restaurant for dinner.  We had difficulty interpreting the menu (both the handwriting plus the language). 

I had a very tasty salad with endive, lettuce, nuts, and a slice of melon…

George ordered a dish of sausages and delicious mashed potatoes (probably because they were half butter!)

BOOK:  “Evans to  Betsy” by Rhys Bowen.  Part of the Evan Evans series, about a Welsh policeman.  Great Welch language and descriptions about Wales.  Easy reading.  4 stars out of 5

Day 7 on the Canal du Midi. Glamorous laundry day!

LOCATION:   LeSomail, France, on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  A bit cooler.  High 78

I caught a nice photo of the sun coming up through the harbor this morning…

Two sets of neighbors, one US and one UK, were finishing their canal trip this morning, and so brought us a lot of their leftover “goodies”.  Now we have about 6 jars of jam! 

Today’s cruise was not as stressful – about 20 kilometers and only 6 locks.  These boats were all maneuvering around us to get into the locks at the same time. 

We enjoyed pretty scenery along the way, again.

This is our galley.  We have a good-sized refrigerator, gas-top stove, oven, sink, and some cupboards. 

There is seating for 8, although we usually eat/drink upstairs on the deck.

Today, the galley was full of hand laundry!

We docked in this cute canal town about 4:00.  A grocery canal boat is across the way where George bought some interesting French beer….

After walking around the town, we decided to cook in.  The others bought hot dogs at an outdoor stand.  The French version of hot dogs is a baguette with a big whole pierced through its middle with a long weiner inserted in it. 

DINNER:  I sauteed some onions, garlic, mushrooms, and ham.  To that I added some pesto and then some cooked pasta.  I topped it with Parmesan.  It was kind of nice not going out for a change. 

Day 6 on the Canal du Midi

LOCATION:  Homps, France – on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Still hot.  High 84.  Sunny

I love the international aspect of this trip. We are in France, so of course there are a lot of French travellers.  Last night, we docked between two German couples who were really nice.  Today, we cruised along with a couple from Holland.  English is the common language among all. 

Today was a bit more challenging on the canal.  We were cruising with 2 other boats about the same size as ours.  Each time we came to a lock, we had to maneuver the 3 boats to squeeze in.  This took a lot of back and forth.  Two of the locks were a series of 3, each with a total decline of 26 feet.  Our main pilot Jeff is excellent at negotiating all of this.  Along with the locks, we went about 25 kilometers.  There will be a total of about 180 kilometers on our 2-week trip.

Along the way, we enjoyed beautiful views, like this one of the vineyards

And picturesque homes…

This was an interesting site – a guy watering the baby trees along the canal bank.  He scooped up water from the canal and then dumped it on each tree.

The lock-keepers’ houses are all very charming.  This one includes a little cafe, popular among the boat travellers and bikers.

We all take turns piloting the boat.  George did a few long stints today, only bumping into one bridge…

We moored in Homps, arriving about 6:00.  A long day.  George and I found a little cafe for drinks and scoped out a restaurant for dinner, that a British couple recommended.

DINNER:  We did indeed go to that restaurant – Bon Compannie.  Like last night’s restaurant, it was very gourmet.  We sat outside under a trellis of grapevines.  I had the gazpacho with a dollop of goat cheese (divine!)

And George had the sea bass with asparagus in a citrus cream sauce.  It was out of this world! They have won a lot of awards…

Instead of getting a bottle of wine, we ordered a carafe of their local red.  Homps is famous for its wine, especially one called Minervois. When the waiter brought our dessert menus, George hit it on his wine glass and it

BOOK:  “The Keepsake” by Tess Gerritsen. Part of a series about a Medical Examiner and a detective. Convoluted, interesting plot. 4 stars out of 5.

Day 5 on the Canal du Midi. Michelin restaurant!

LOCATION:  Trebes, France on the Canal du Midi
WEATHER:  Not quite as hot.  86 and sunny (even though rain was predicted)

We left Carcassonne at 9:00, the first ones through the lock.  Today was an easy day – only 6 locks and about 13 kilometers.  Every day, we average about 3 kph, and it takes about 15 minutes to get through each lock.

Today there are a lot of cyclists on the towpath.  They seem to be going faster than we are!  Our boat came with bikes, but they are rusty,  don’t work well, so we haven’t used them. 

We moored along the bank of the canal for lunch.  We used the stakes to tie ourselves up.

We put out the bimini and enjoyed a lunch of cheese and fruit.

We went through the lowest bridges on the canal today.  We had to duck under the tables in order to avoid being beheaded.  Here are the tables, and you can see how low the bridges  are.

Most of the locks are manned by a lock-keeper who opens and closes the locks for us.  The lock-keepers’ houses look very French!

Some readers have asked me about wifi.  It is spotty, so I probably won’t be able to post daily.  On our first night, we used LeBoat’s wifi.  Then, when in Carcassonne, I walked to the nearby train station and used theirs.  One of the ladies’ phones is set up for international data and calling.  If I get desperate, I can ask to tie to her hotspot.  Again today, our harbor has free wifi I can use.  So far, I haven’t had to do that.

We pulled in to the town of Trebes around 3:00, and got moored fairly easily, as compared to the last time when it was difficult due to the wind.  It seems like a cute town with restaurants and cafes lining the harbor.  Of course, all the cafe customers watched us as we docked the boat…

This is a harbor owned by our rental company, LeBoat.  We can moor here free overnight with electricity and water.  Once we got situated, we went to their office to ask them for some repair work —-the bikes, our A/C unit, and our gas grill which had fallen over and broken when we had the tree branches sweep over one side.

Then, George and I walked over to one of the little cafes and had drinks.  He had a French beer and I had a Campari – very refreshing!

oooooh-laa-laa—–George found a Michelin star restaurant away from all the other restaurants.   It is called Moulin, meaning The Mill, which it was in a previous life.  The service was impeccable and the menu selections out of this world—– appetizer choices were gravelax, king prawns, oysters, duck foie gras, black truffle potted meat toasts, veal sweetbreads, carrot salad with a blue lobster!  Main course possibilities were turbot, sea bass, guinea fowl, smoked beef filet. 

DINNER:  We shared the Gravelax Scottish salmon with beetroot and tobiko starter…..

and the main course of roasted sea bass filet with crunch ratatouille and garlic cream.  It came with some rustic French baguette pieces and a local bottle of wine.  All very gourmet, and really not expensive for such a nice place.

BOOK:  “A Time of Love and Tartan” by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is such a sweet series about the various fictitious people who live on Scotland Street in Edinburg, Scotland.  I love the author’s skill with the English language.  Every time I read one of his books, I learn new words.  This time, I jotted down and looked up some of the words that are new to me.  (See below).  5 stars out of 5

Vocabulary from the book…..

sluggardly – habitually lazy
pedant – person excessively concerned with details
hoary – old and trite
anomie – lack of social/ethical standards
palimpset – something reused but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form
forfend – prevent
rus in urbe – countryside in the city
claymore – 2-edged sword used by Scottish Highlanders
encyclical – papal letter sent to Catholic Bishops
coevals – people of roughly the same age group
anarchic – lawless; no controlling rules
mahlstick – tool used by painters to stabalize canvas
broch – Iron Age drystone hollow structure found in Scotland
canard – unfounded rumor
echt – authentic and typical
screeds – long speeches that are tedius
vouchsafed – gave or granted graciously

Words that are Scotting/English….
couthy – sociable
well-kent –  well-known
birling – spinning, whirling
guddling – feeling one’s way, groping  
spurtle – large spoon used to stir porridge
ghillie – a boy who helps someone on a fishing or hunting expedition

Day 4 on the Canal du Midi – Medieval Carcassonne

LOCATION:  On the Canal du Midi in Carcassonne, France
WEATHER:  Hot and sunny.  High 80

We are staying in the canal harbor in Carcassone for 2 nights, along with many other canal boats.  This is a commercial harbor, so we have to pay a docking and hook-up (water and electricity) fee.  Other nights, we will be mooring just along the canal, with no services for free.  And occasionally we will moor overnight in a LeBoat’s (our boat rental company) harbor, also for free.  Included in the moorage fee here are nice hot showers.  So, I took advantage of them!

After the shower, we got an early start to the day and checked out the lovely Tuesday market in Carcassonne.  Beautiful fruit and veg…

The “new” town of Carcassonne has decorated the streets with the hanging pieces of art…

Then, a hike up to the 1300-ish century medieval town of “old Carcassonne).   By the time we got there, trudging up a long hill, I was almost fainting with heat and thirst.  We stopped at a little cafe for a bottle of water…..

We walked around the old city which is now full of shops, cafes, restaurants, and hotels. 

They sell medieval costumes for the children.  These kids were having fun jousting…

We found a cafe in the shade. We sat next to a couple from the Netherlands and had a delightful conversation with them.

We tried to figure out what we wanted from the menu. Many of the restaurants have a “fixed meal” menu, with an appetizer (called entree), main course, and dessert, all for a fixed price…..like this…

We shared an onion tart with pickled vegetables and anchovies…

This was off the appetizer menu. I don’t think the waitress was too happy with us, only splitting an appetizer, rather than getting a main course and dessert, too. We just don’t like to eat that much…..plus we are cheap!

We caught a city bus back to the harbor and relaxed in the afternoon. Later we went to an Irish pub and chatted with the bartender, originally from South Africa, then Northern Ireland, and now here.

George enjoyed some Irish and French beers. Back to the boat, we made a light dinner of a chef’s salad, and enjoyed it on top of the boat with a nice breeze. We he.

Day Three on the Canal du Midi

LOCATION:  Carcassonne, France
WEATHER:  Hot and sunny.  High 90

It cooled off during the night, so we all slept well.  After breakfast (muesli, lots of fruit, yogurt, and coffee), we took off. 

Today we went about 20 kilometers and only had 8 locks to get through. 

I even helped with the ropes on a few, but did very poorly, clutching at the rail as I thought I was going to fall in…..

A couple of the guys take turns navigating the boat.

  At one point, we enountered a boat going the other way in a very narrow part of the canal.  We had to move over to the far right, into some trees.  All of a sudden, big branches came sweeping through my side of the boat.  The bikes got tangled up, and a branch started tearing my glasses and tablet away.  Yikes!!!!  I grabbed them right as they were being swept away.  Whew! 

There are a lot of low bridges that we have to watch for.  We all have to duck.  At one of them, one of the ladies was looking the other way, didn’t see the bridge, and almost got decapitated!!!

The locks close between noon and 1:00 “forcing” us to take a lunch break.  We moored and had a lovely lunch of assorted fruits and and cheeses.  Very French!

At one of the locks, George jumped off the boat to do the tie-up.  He misjudged the distance and fell.  Now he has a big scratch and bruise.  All ok

We moored in the town of Carcassonne, famous for its medieval city.  We will stop here for 2 nights so that we can enjoy the town, and have a little break from the locks.

We did some grocery shopping, and lugged everything back to the boat.  We have to drink bottled water (as the canal water is very dirty), so the grocery  bags were heavy with water bottles and wine.  Oh, how we suffer!!   🙂 Some of the wines are only $2 or $3. I splurged and bought bottles that we $7 – $10…..just in case!

George and I went  off on our own.  We found a Spanish tapas bar and shared an Aperol Spritz and a small plate of calamari (squid) nicely done, without breading and frying.

Then, we found a lovely restaurant where we experienced top-notch food and service.  The Euro is almost par with the US dollar, so things seem pretty inexpensive.  We had a gourmet meal with 2 glasses of wine for $36.  We shared two plates – one was a medley of grilled vegetables with a red pepper pesto and the other was the “salad of the day” which ended up as a beautiful assortment of greens, tomoates. some wonderful cheese, and some thinly sliced chicken.  All with a dressing that had a hint of curry.  Magnifique!