June 2006 Castelnaudary to Toulouse

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Leeds visit went very quickly it was nice shopping on Briggate.

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We had so little time in England, and so much we needed to do. I am pleased to say I now have a new laptop, we had much help in setting it up again. Our son's move went well too, we also sorted most of our problems with our property before returning to France. Sadly once again we did not get to visit all of our friends, this saddens me. We will return for much longer in the winter to carry out work on our property and visit everyone and catch up.

Barge Colibri deck, nice to be back in Castelnaudary and the sunshine, still mixed weather here.

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We enjoyed being back in Castelnaudary, we gathered all our energy again, after such a hectic few weeks. We enjoyed being entertained on our return, we shared some special wine on board Colibri to celebrate Fiona & Earl adding the finishing touches to their hotel boat, this boat was a shell at Christmas they have worked wonders, and it is a credit to them both.

It has inspired us to think about what we would like to do as our next project perhaps during the winter.

We met and made friends with David and Margaret on "La Perle" and helped each other out moving cars up the canal, we shared food and lots of stories too.

 

Hotel Barge Colibri and her finishing touches that make her so special, first guests arrived soon.

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John fitted a primary filter to the generator this should have been fitted when the new generator was installed, we now know why we have been changing filters so often, hopefully this has sorted out one of our boat problems. Sadly our new stainless steel hot water cylinder is held up for another three weeks, problems in Holland with the manufacture. We decided to start cruising again, not to wait for it's arrival, we have been told they will deliver it within 200km of where we ordered it from so we are heading west.

I found my dream home, in medieval "Alet-les-Bains" the house is all stone, mountains front & back, surrounded by water, in a wonderful spa town, sadly I needed to win the lottery to afford such a house. Valley is in a "micro climate" in the upper valley of the Aude. We visited this village three times, sadly never got to see inside of house.

Sunset drink aboard for Mikes arrival in Castelnaudary, cooling in the mineral spa waters.

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Our son Michael booked a flight and joined us in Castelnaudary, he is spending a month with us. Michael is really looking forward to cruising and sampling the French way of life. He was soon busy helping make Moet ship shape for the coming months cruise. Through at time's it got a little too hot even for him, we enjoyed a bit of foot bathing in this spa town. We also visited the historic village of Revel (built around 1342) wonderful furniture made here and a really good Saturday market to stock up before we left.

Relentless wind on The Canal du Midi, whips sun bed & mattress off roof, thankfully it floated.

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The weather was so changeable early in the month, It was very windy at times which made cruising hard, on the up side it made the heat more pleasurable. We had many thunder storms, mostly at night this month.

Many miles I cycled following the boat, many kilometres walked too. Michael enjoyed his morning 30 minute jog and it climbed to 1 hour towards end of the month, helping him stay fit, though hard going in the heat, some days over 35 degrees.

I very much enjoyed the cycle path from Port-Lauragais on the Canal du Midi to Grisolles on the Canal lateral a la Garonne it was such a pleasure cycling on a smooth path, a shame that all cycle path's are not as good as ones into major towns.

Lock keeper leans out of the window it's his best view in this three rise lock.

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Mike enjoyed taking the boat through the locks giving John and I a rest to enjoy the scenery. Mike set me up on top deck as seen below in my new reclining chair I felt like the queen as everyone waved as we passed.

We witnessed many accidents on the canal du Midi. I watched in horror as an American fell into this lock, trying to throw a rope. The lock keeper watching from this window managed to stop the lock and ran to help with me in tow, no ladders in the lock, thankfully he was not injured, and climbed up the lock gate. Many broken bones this month we were told.

 

What a way to relax on the Canal du Midi

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We were not impressed with some of our moorings on the Canal du Midi, sloping sides not many good mooring places, no wonder people were getting injured all this jumping. the plane tree roots also add problems for mooring at times, as their roots reach deep into the canal.

It was with mixed feelings we left the Canal du Midi, having now cruised all 240km it's fed by a unique hydraulic system and is punctuated by 350 works of art. It took 12,000 workers 14 years to complete this project. Pierre-Paul-Riquet's dream was linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

We have enjoyed tasting the wines of each region, all the wonderful markets we found and the many different foods to buy in season has been a delightful experience, we are now sharing this with our son.

A weeks break in Toulouse a city in southwest France on the banks of the River Garonne.

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We are now half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Toulouse marks the end of the Canal du Midi and the start of the Canal lateral a la Garonne.

With close to 1.1 million inhabitants, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the second largest in southern France and one of the fastest growing in Europe. We enjoyed a week in this city, with really good mooring thanks to Sheila, who has been here for many weeks already, she booked us a space and was waiting with a leg of lamb on the BBQ for our arrival, bless her. We had one or two short showers while here.

 

Welcome showers in Toulouse.

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Toulouse is a spectacular town, we arrived in time for our wedding anniversary, it has lots of cafes and restaurants. There is a large student population and it is also a major industrial center, specializing in aeronautical engineering. (2 months notice needed to visit the airbus factory).

Many of the buildings in Toulouse are built of the local warm, red brick, including the splendid mansions in the old town around the Place-du-Capitole, (City Hall) as seen below. The Gothic masterpiece, the Eglise des Jacobins is most noted for its incredible vaulting high above the apse. We enjoyed a concert in the Cathedral St-Etienne on Sunday afternoon, a choir from Chichester University, England, very relaxing and the huge Cathedral is a lovely break from the heat and humidity too!

Place-du-Capitole and a parade for children, much enjoyed by all the adults too.

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Here I am carrying the rainbow flag during the march for Gay Pride in Toulouse.

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We enjoyed this march in support of equality and human rights. We enjoyed meals out in the city, and coffee in the many historical little square's that are in this city. 70km of walking and cycling tracts in the surrounding area of Toulouse, John cycled many miles this month, for the car and for pleasure. Musical festivals all this week, live music wherever you went. Sheila and I enjoyed a girlie day out shopping, wonderful second hand theatre clothes, bought myself a wonderful anniversary outfit, but sadly never got to wear it yet.

Wedding Anniversary celebration in Toulouse with music from every corner and some bubbly.

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Our anniversary (31yrs) was shared with Michael and Sheila, we found a nice restaurant in a back street, it was mid summers day, it meant every musician was on the street, with bands playing on every corner, what a delight to bask in the celebrations. Michael's anniversary card, also inspired me to draw and paint a copy. I was delighted with the results.

Sadly we heard the news that a tornado had devastated some of the Canal lateral a la Garonne, and all boats were unable to carry on with their journey. Houses lost their roof's, major damaged done to villages and the canal, especially hundreds of wild life & tree's lost. We awaited the news that we could start cruising again, the tornado took place during the night and as far as we know, no person was injured. But the clean up may take many months or years.

Time to say goodbye to Toulouse and Sheila,
but we will meet up again soon on the Canal lateral a la Garonne.

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We decided to move on from Toulouse and go as far as we could. It was nice to cruise again cooling the boat down. We thoroughly enjoyed two full days cruising and cycling, not knowing when or how much damage we would see. We enjoyed one of the best meal's out in a long time in Montech Port. I also had a really good hair cut here. I am getting to grips with my new computer many hours spent updating I had much help on the telephone from Willem, helping me up-date the new computer with all my new dreamweaver files he had posted onto me, Bless you my friend,, without you this site would not be possible.

Early sun flowers adorn the Canal lateral a la Garonne, just waiting for me to paint! I live in hope.

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I enjoyed cycling most of the way to Montech stopping at all the sunflower fields to photograph these wonderful flowers in full bloom following the sun. The Canal lateral a la Garonne is very different to the midi, it's also very low in water due to the damage further up. Michael and John took turns in wearing the captain's hat, we all enjoyed the cruise.

The Canal lateral a la Garonne is 211kms long the locks are 40m long with straight sides (extended from 30m in 1970's) most of the locks on this canal are electric, and since we are now going down it's very easy navigating this canal. We hope we are not held up for too long as we need to be much further west for John & Michael to fly home next month, also my friend Pam will be arriving at Bergerac airport Early in July ideally we want to be within one hours drive of the airport if possible, as we have four trips to make in one week. Bergerac now fly into Leeds on a Saturday, though this flight was not suitable for John.

My photograph of the month for me has to be this wag tail feeding her young at side of the canal.

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How thrilled I was to take these photos, it was a very hot day, with salt in my eyes and sweat dripping off my nose. I did not move a muscle and patiently waited for the opportunity to take these photographs. I was rewarded with some good photos, this mother was nervous with our presence on the front of the boat, her mate kept watch over us at all times. Sadly Mike watched a bird of prey take a young bird further along it's feathers drifting & floating down on us, such is nature, especially the damage as seen below, the tornado left untold damage this month. It's a wonder there are any tree's left at all on this canal. A boater said he had never witnessed any thing like it. An apple tree at the side of him was struck by lightning, all of the apples hitting his boat. He was stranded for a week unable to move no one came to see if they were alive. The VNF are working flat out to re-open the canal, I spoke to several workers when talking they had tears in their eyes.

Damage to homes, tree's, business, & hire boat companies. we wait for the go ahead its safe now.

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Montech on the Canal lateral a la Garonne is where we are waiting for the canal to re-open, unable to take our boat any further. Sadness filled us as we seen first hand the vast damage done in this area, I felt a huge sadness as we spoke to people living here who had lost homes and business too we walked through damaged area's. 100 year old tree's pulled out of the ground like flowers being picked. Our boat at times became a fun house without the fun. We were aground many times as the canal is filled and dropped as work along the 20km clearing was a slow process especially removing trees from the canal and roads.

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val is a must to visit as is the markets around this area.

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We took the opportunity to go off in the car and visit some of the wonderful villages around this area, we particularly enjoyed the drive along the D115 into the nestling place of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (not car friendly, due to narrow roads) we were hugging the banks of the river Aveyron, with it's spectacular cliff formations and wonderful gorges surrounding this medieval cite (really a village). Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val hit the silver screen in 2002 using the village in 'Charlotte Gray' more breath taking views on the D5 if you are ever in this area.

BBQ evenings were spent looking into these tree's, ever changing colours day and evening.

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We thoroughly enjoyed shopping in the markets and sitting in the car just for the air conditioning. It is so so hot every day now, my feet are in a bucket of ice water as I write. We enjoy cooking on the cobb bbq and producing some good food. Mikes french mash potato is so wonderful, as is his veg creations.

We sit here in Montech waiting for news to cruise again. Mike is keeping up with his jogging, and enjoying our cycling and walking, he's taken some great photographs this month, as you can see, I feature in a few this month. we hope you had a good June and we look forward to hearing from you.

 

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