I’m writing this post on the TGV high-speed train to Paris. Whatever one might think of France, the trains are comfortable, fast, easy, affordable, and – at least in our experience – reliable. This is a very nice way to travel!
We’ve finished our canal trip, and I’m reminded that Rick is fond of saying, “Sometimes you’re watching the show; sometimes you are the show.” Usually this refers to sailboat docking attempts, not all of which are smooth and painless. Any of us who sail have been there, both watching someone’s misadventures, as well as providing their entertainment. On our next-to-last days in the Canal du Midi, we were definitely the show.
Above, the pretty town of Colombiers. And, speaking of shows, this day-tour of the Canal shows just how looooow those bridges actually are.
Our next-to-last stop was the Mediterranean town of Beziers, a good-sized town featuring the obligatory hilltop fortress, ancient buildings, Roman ruins, and great food and wine.
So far, all of this stuff hasn’t gotten old.
Beziers is known for – among other things – being the birthplace of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the architect of the Canal du Midi. And he definitely saved his most spectacular technical feats for Beziers. The most popular attraction in Beziers is the Fonserrannes lock staircase – 6 locks in immediate succession, covering quite a descent. Check it out on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fonserannes_Lock
Once you’ve negotiated one lock, and gotten down your crew’s routine, it’s really no big deal. But, evidently, for people observing from the shore, it’s something to see. For better or worse, on Friday, we happened to be the only boat heading down the locks, and we drew quite a crowd. People were watching us, photographing us, videotaping us, chatting us up, and very much wanting to be part of the show by “helping” us with lines. I felt like charging 5€ per photograph. It was all in good fun, though some of the spectators did very nearly interfere with our smooth transit. Fortunately for us (but maybe not for the audience who was looking for some mayhem), we made it through without mishap.
The bow rope handler’s (i.e. mine) view of the Fonserannes locks.
Once past the locks, we got some pretty spectacular views of the bridges over the River Orb, as well as crossing over it via aqueduct.
The aqueduct over the River Orb.
Then we settled in for the evening near the old bridge in Beziers, tucking into our usual dinner and wine.
A French country dinner of fresh melon and tomatoes, baguette, ham, cheeses and pate. Meanwhile, we compare wine colors: two roses at left, and a red.
A strong storm – presaged by some pretty ominous looking clouds – passed through and left a rainbow and chillier weather in its wake.
Scary-looking clouds, and the rainbow that followed.
Around 1 a.m., I heard some thumps and stumbling on deck. Rick climbed out of bed and chased away one or two miscreants who were up to no good. Again, at 4 a.m., I heard more noises (paranoid, and maybe a little freaked out), and Rick looked out again. This time it was clear that one of our bike locks had been breached and a bike stolen. Bugger!
The broken lock, and the remaining bikes, which were rather nice 21-speed models.
So, the first task of our last day was marching to the police department and filing a report, in the hope that the barge company Le Boat wouldn’t charge us for the loss (they didn’t). But after that – which didn’t take too long – we wandered around the town, stopping in a few shops, and ending our morning with a lunch of crepes and moule frites.
Public park, and on the right, an outdoor market.
The indoor market, and a typical street scene (really hilly!).
A park built within the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, and another street scene.
Another lunch featuring local rose and mussels with a tomato and garlic sauce.
From here, we finished the journey, coming ever closer to the Mediterranean Sea and beaches – which we skipped since it was so chilly.
More Canal scenery as our journey nears its end; meanwhile, Rick ducks under a bridge.
Fields of poppies, and a salt marsh, en route to Port Cassafieres at the end of our trip.
I truly enjoyed visiting this part of France, and exploring it by peniche, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested. It is, as they advertise, a method of travel that just about anyone can handle.