July 2006 Moissac Buzet Meilhan

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Canal lateral a la Garonne re-opens 11 days after Tornado struck. Well done to the VNF.

A great deal of hard work by the VNF and local people to re-open the canal and repair the locks, we were told proceed with caution. The first 5kms it was like a grave yard trees missing other trees void of leaves like a late autumn looking down the canal, not a sound from any birds or wild life it was a strange feeling as we started our cruise to Moissac. On our travel's this tree was being lifted out in front of us.

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We enjoyed being on the move again but a strange sadness filled us as we passed through some of the worse hit area's. We had a lock keeper with us most of the time, as locks where not able to close due to debris, we had to telephone for help with one or two locks later in the day. Thankfully our journey went well, a young couple sailing back to England, joined us in the locks and we spent a few days with them, hearing all about their adventures of the last two years, they are now on their way back to England.

Montech Lift for passenger boats over 20 meters. Mike keeping watch for debris as we cruise.

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It was nice to be on the move again at last. We could have taken 45 minutes off our journey if we could have used this slope (now re-opened) it was built to save going through the 5 locks, it's very much a tourist attraction now and well used. The Montech water slope was built at side of canal, in 1974. Two 1000 HP diesel electric engines attached together by a huge beam, climb or descend a slope 13,3 m high pushing a volume of water which carries the boat. To enable boats to go in or out, a huge shield called a mask is lifted up by a hydraulic jack. For 38m boats it's free otherwise it's 54euros now to use. We did enjoy cruising again very much.

Sunflower's as far as the eye can see is a magical sight, from canal or road.

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I found a family buried deep in a field of sun flowers having a family photo taken. Mike and I sadly missed out on a lesson from a professional photographer who offered to take us out into the sun flower's after the England world cup match, the football game went well into the light time due to extra time and we missed our chance of the photo shoot. England lost to Portugal, we enjoyed watching the match on board Moet with friends, boat was in full sun, not a good plan, inside boat 39 degree's. Oh boy it's been hot this month, many showers taken just to try and cool down, some dips in the pool when we could.

Moissac is famous for it's 11th century cloistered abbey, and I met many artists here.

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Mike had some good news a new 3 months contract with Radio Aire, Leeds, covering Yorkshire & Lancashire. He decided to take the job and go home, planning to come back in August with family for his birthday celebration.

We made the most of his last week, Enjoyed drinks on board other boats, always wonderful to hear of other peoples adventures. We enjoyed some cycle rides along the river. Michael took some really good photographs here and is looking forward to having them developed. It's been a wonderful month, though he did not get to cruise as much as he would have liked, due to the storm. But will be back soon.

John & Mikes Departure to England and Friend Pam's arrival

It was soon time to pick our friend Pam up at Bergerac airport she was flying in to spend four nights with me (girlie weekend) sadly we had hoped to be within one hour of the airport but this was not meant to be due to the storms now a five hour round trip to airport.

Mike was busy packing and getting the boat ship shape for Pam's arrival while we drove to meet her. John's & Michael's' departure to England was the following morning, this meant poor Pam was up at the crack of dawn again for the Bergerac run.

John enjoyed his trip back to England spending time in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds before flying with friends for a four night boys trip to Westport on the west coast of Ireland. They all had a wonderful time, except for the weather, John was cold, he is now used to this baking sun in south France. John enjoyed a curry with daughter Teresa as it was her birthday week, and he was sad not to be there on the day. Michael started work again and settled in well he's looking foreword to being back on the boat again in August for a week.

Pam & I shared hours of taking and sharing, cooking and eating, while exploring Moissac

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Pam arrived with a suitcase full of goodies for us and it was nice to have her here on board at last. Later in the day Pam, John, Michael & myself were invited for nibbles & aperitif drinks on La Perle with David, Margaret & Sheila a good time was had by all. We took Pam for a meal later in the square of Moissac.

Pam very much enjoyed being shown around hire boats of France Afloat which is run by Iain & Kaz who also run the port. Pam was impressed with Barge Colibri.

Pam and I visited some of the wonderful site's around Moissac, enjoyed shopping for presents for family, most of the time we were too busy talking and catching up with each other, one day we sat out at a restaurant and enjoyed lunch over 5 hours then realized the time almost stayed for dinner too. It was lovely to just chill, chat and spend time together.

11th Century cloistered abbey in Moissac

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Moissac is famous for it's Romanesque architecture and especially this beautiful abbey, we enjoyed the museum and seeing all the old photographs of this area especially the River Garonne, which is wonderful to swim in and cool down very much needed some days, during our stay here, Earl was in most days with his dog Harry. An old swimming pool also not far from the port reminded me of the fifties, very old fashioned. Pam and I visited some of the site's around Moissac, including the Sat market stocking up for her goodies to take home. We enjoyed listening to a choir of nuns singing in the cathedral at the end of our tour.

Together Pam & I even fixed our electric toilet (blip) being plumbers wives it helped, (our plumbers were busy in Ireland) we laughed about this and gave ourselves a pat on the back, and a drink to celebrate, any excuse. No need to book into hotel after all thank goodness.

We were well entertained in the markets especially the Sunday market in Moissac.

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Pam's last day she requested cookery lesson's on how to cook her favourite dish leg of lamb on the cob BBQ... what a feast we had, we cooked several dishes it was like being in a TV program show... only I am not a chef. We could not sleep for being so hot & full and we had to be up at 5.30am. Pam was so impressed with the taste of her food we got on the internet that evening and I ordered a cob to be delivered for when she arrived home. Friends Judy & Paul in Canada have also purchased a cob and are well impressed with this BBQ.

Irene Exploring Town of Bergerac I was not driving the petit train sadly!

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All too soon Pam's visit came to an end and it was time to drive her to Bergerac Airport, we thoroughly enjoyed the drive spotting a deer on the road, sadly no camera to hand, many wild animal's around here. This month I made four 5 hour trips to the airport in one week o had time to spot much wildlife, we are back in wine country now. I felt so sad waving Pam off she has family waiting for her and she was looking forward to coming again. we were going to enjoy a few days on our own, before husbands returned from Ireland.

I visited the town of Bergerac enjoyed site seeing on my own I even took the local petit train to learn more about this lovely town and it's history, I found grapes growing in the center too.

Ayurvedique Massage, Tibetan style & Healing festival.

I attended a healing festival on arrival here in Moissac and booked my favourite treatment Ayurvedique Massage,Tibetan style for when I was on my own, very rare you find such treatment here in France, hence 10 day wait. I floated out after the 2 hour session and shared tea with my therapist afterwards discussing our training and different methods of healing. I also found a wonderful crystal gift for my sister Jean's 50th birthday, she has become a grandma for first time too niece Sharon gave birth to a healthy son, many celebrations at home right now. Her son Keith is also about to become a dad so we await news of his baby's arrival, double celebrations all around. We will be in Liverpool for a week in August looking forward to meeting our new nephew's then.

Sheila celebrating becoming a professional artist selling one of her poppy flower paintings.

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While John was away Sheila and I enjoyed getting dressed up for a special meal out at Le Pont Napoleon, overlooking the River Garonne award winning chef Michel Dussau has many awards under his belt, and we could see why. We celebrated well and were not disappointed with the menu or the fine wines chosen for us to accompany our 6 course meal.

We also enjoyed some time drawing & painting when it was not too hot. It was the month of art here in Moissac.

John was away for a week and it went by very quickly indeed. I did so much it's impossible to record all of the week in Moissac with Pam & Sheila, I enjoyed much live music playing here many special concerts.

Bastille fireworks in Castelsarrasin followed an amazing lightening storm.

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Bastille day in France is a huge celebration, 7 of us decided to have our own celebration with a picnic at a fire works show in the port of Castelsarrasin, Fiona & boys cycled, Sheila, Jan & I drove with the table chairs and picnic, just got settled in a good spot and started the picnic when a storm came from four directions, we were lucky and headed for cover under the bridge, the torrential rain came and lasted a short spell. The firework show at 10pm went ahead and it was worth waiting for. Much money spent on the display for a small village.

The music concert in Moissac was washed out before it began the wind & rain caused much damage to electrical equipment and the stage the storm happened so fast and came from no where, the high temperature around caused many an electrical storms this month, it was such a shame as people had worked so hard getting ready for Bastille day. Temperatures are very high in England right now hottest July since records began.

Friend Havlock sent the following photo and information thought I would include it in this months web site, as we have seen some wonderful skies but this photo says it all.

Breathtaking: this rainbow over the Washington-Idaho border.

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In a breathtaking blaze of glory, Nature puts on one of its most spectacular sky shows.

Reds, oranges, blues and greens create a flaming rainbow that stretches above the clouds.

But this circumhorizon arc, as it is known, owes more to ice than fire. It occurs when sunlight passes through ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. It is one of 15 types of ice halos formed only when the most specific of factors dovetail precisely together.

This blanket of fire, covering hundreds of square miles, is the rarest phenomenon of them all. It was spotted in the US on the Washington-Idaho border around midday last Saturday.

Dr Jonathan Fox, of the US National Weather Service in Spokane, Washington, said: 'It was even more spectacular than the Northern Lights. I feel lucky to have seen it because it only forms in very rare situations. This is the first one I've ever seen. It was a breathtaking sight and it hung around for about an hour.

To create a rainbow of fire, clouds must be at least 20,000ft high and the ice crystals within them align horizontally instead of their usual vertical position. The sun also needs to be at least 58 degrees above the horizon. Then, the magic can begin.

Sunset dinner on deck of Colibri was a grand affaire we all enjoyed dressing up for the occasion.

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Dinner on board Colibri in Moissac with Sheila, Earl, Fiona, Roger, John & myself. we enjoyed dressing up for the occasion, talking late into the night, enjoying fine champagne and wines and a marvelous meal, from the perfect hosts. Having hosted multi million pound boats all over the world they know how to entertain. Rodger a friend of Fiona had traveled up from Monaco to take photographs for their new brochure. Roger has worked as a photographer for Sotherby's here in France for many years.

We moved on the following afternoon I enjoyed cycling along the wonderful tow path here and John enjoyed planning the onward journey again. He enjoyed cycling back for car a few days later, keeping him fit & happy.

Musee-de-la-Falotte, Puch-d'Agenais, Canal lateral a la Garonne

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We stopped for lunch and to visit this museum meeting the owners Colette & Jean-Pierre who have built this private museum on their 15 hector plot of land. Their collection began over 10 years ago it is filled with fossil's, crystals, mineral's and wonderful art in many forms which Colette has made. Their collection is 90% what they themselves have dug out (should see their knees) of volcanoes, land, caves, mountain's, rivers or the sea's, in different parts of the world it's a new hobby since retiring. We were the only visitors at the time so they had much time to give us, they invited us to take a closer look allowing us to handle such treasures and look at them under microscope's they enjoyed sharing their collection and stories with us. They have such passion for what they do and work none stop on their land also. We were so privileged to meet such a couple.

Next stop was Buzet famous for it's wine.

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We visited the cave and stocked up as friends Fiona & Earl were driving down to join us for a night on the Moet bringing with them our hot water cylinder which was delivered to their home near Bram this month. We enjoyed a great night out together, next morning after breakfast we said our good byes as they set off with our hot water cylinder back in their car (long story, John will plumb this in over the winter). We will meet up again in Carcassonne, Fiona & Earl are taking Colibri back to the Canal du Midi for August.

We met & enjoyed drinks with John & Margaret on Carrick they are retired hoteliers from Scotland. we also enjoyed meals in next two ports with them including a joint BBQ with Sheila & Rob... J & M they us at boules in Villeton, re-match booked for August sometime...

BBQ John shouts who left me in charge of two cobb's... frazzled burgers oh dear!!!

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Moorings on the Canal lateral a la Garonne.

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Our average moorings cost from 2 to 8 euros a night that included electric & water some mooring are free of charge, we had no problems finding a mooring on this canal. We also enjoyed just mooring up to a tree and enjoyed such peace with nature when we needed to rest many alcohol free days too over the month. Social life can get hectic at times, so we need to take care.

This is the port of Meilhan we caught up & moored next to Sheila, notice our new out door blinds which I made helps keep the heat out. This port has the cheapest bar open from 4pm to 7pm it is run by a wonderful voluntary captainer, a great meeting place for the locals, camp site visitors and boaters we had 4 good nights here.

River Garonne from view point in the village of Meilhan also our boat in port Meilhan above.

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Our boat was meters away from the River Garonne it was magic for a swim or paddle, much laughter & fun by all the children here too, we were rewarded by wonderful views of the river and surrounding area after venturing up the steps to the village, best butcher found here also. We enjoyed some good BBQ in this port with friends new & old, Sheila even produced a wonderful orange liqueur omelet souffle for dessert on her BBQ one evening for John & I. Nothing you can't cook on the cobb, perhaps we should start a cookery book for the cobb called hit & miss (thinking of the burgers)!

Wonderful evening out with dinner at L'Auberge-de-Mativat in Marcellus

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We met Rob an Australian who had just arrived in France from working with the UN oversea's he is cycling along the canal from coast to coast, hopefully get fit also explore France. John very much enjoyed his company and talked about bikes and his cycling along the canal so far, sharing stories from around the world.

Sheila recommended eating out at L'Auberge a working sheep farm, home grown & cooked food, she went last year. A reservation and arranged also a pick up time of 7.30pm with the captainer of the port for John, myself, Sheila & Rob.

Pierre & Stephanie Jossinet who own the farm & restaurant also included our transport in the price of 19 euros each for a five course meal, including all wine... Cheer's everyone here's to your health.

The young chef/ farmer and his wife joined us for coffee after our meal and the six of us had a fabulous late night enjoying each others company, nice hearing about life on the farm with their young family. We arrived back to boat's & tent with a little wobble at 2.30am .We recommend a night out here for individual's groups or banquets, whether camping, driving or boating. Telephone for reservation 05 53 93 68 89 This is what France is all about for us, to just stop & enjoy the moment. Rob did just that and enjoyed a days cruise on Moet with his bike on top and a good nights sleep in our back cabin, before setting off on his journey along the canal, good luck.

I was inspired in Moissac to paint these two watercolour paintings after seeing some amazing art.

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I really enjoyed painting these ladies, I was inspired seeing some work of Paris artist Vadel, we could not afford to buy one of his paintings so I produced one for myself not bad for a first attempt. Flowers are in abundance every where we go and it's been a very busy & colourful month.

We are now on our way back with the boat to Buzet where we will leave Moet for a week when we travel home for my mum's birthday + family celebrations in August, we hope you have had a good July & look forward to August.

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