We started the month in Villeton, near Tonneins. The port will be getting a complete make over for the coming winter, as will Meilhan port. Money from many sources in coming to make this a port to be proud of the Mayor in Villeton told us. He kindly invited us to join in the summer celebrations they are holding in the village hall during our stay here. He even offered his help to Ursula & Mike to fix the electric problems they were having on Bon Adventure. Much help and advice was given from many people. Their fridge was causing the problems.
John & I enjoyed getting the boat-ship shape for our visitors, who were looking for a chill- out time. Ursula & I thoroughly enjoyed some chill out time of our own, before our visitors arrived. We spent an afternoon in a spa at Les Bains de Casteljaloux, 14 euros for two hours of bliss in this lovely spa. With indoor outdoor pool and many different area's - including a jacuzzi, hamman, (steam room) oriental chill out room, steam rooms, cold plunge pool. We sampled all that was on offer, sadly no one was available for a massage .The drive to this lovely town was just as enjoyable - the rain stayed away for a couple days. We But we may be growing web feet this year.
Daughter Teresa & Partner Jo arrived at Bergerac airport - we were hoping that the weather would settle down for their five day visit. Weather was so un predictable, tropical in nature & very humid.
We all enjoyed their first day out in the town of Bergerac. A charming, prosperous agricultural town in the Dordogne, renowned for its wine and tobacco. It has good museums on both subjects amid the attractive 15th to 16th century houses of the old quarter. We enjoyed lunch here & a painting exhibition - I was so sorry I did not buy a piece of art (here).
Many artists in this little square were painting & demonstrating their work. The original feudal castle here developed the area into a significant town & port. The car park was under water the day we visited, and the trip boats were being moved for fear of ending up in the car park.
A Protestant temple and Franciscan cloister sit side by side behind the tobacco museum. Cyrano de Bergerac, the long-nosed hero of Rostand's play. Teresa guessed his name correctly from his statue. He actually - had no connection with the town (so I read) spending very little time here. Teresa said it was just a good guess but later said she had read a little about the history of Bergerac before traveling here, which is why she was well- informed. Jo took this photo of the man himself in black & white.
Nice to have Teresa and Jo with us for a very relaxing and slow cruise from Villeton to the end of the canal Garronne and back again to Meilhan. I enjoyed spoiling them, cooking some very nice food for us all. Jo especially enjoyed cruising in France for the first time. She particularly enjoyed being a "lock slave" and learning the ropes was no problem for her. Jo even took the tiller from John to sample navigating the canal. We just enjoy our company and played games and talked and sampled a glass or two of wine.
We enjoyed a night in each of the following ports, Villeton, Fourques sur Garonne, Meilhan (2), Castets-en-Dorthe (which is the last port at the end of the canal & joins the Garonne river, out to the Atlantic Ocean). We then cruised back to Meilhan Port for an over night stop. We walked or I cycled we enjoyed playing scrabble & cards a great time had, the weather was fair for their visit.
I found the new bridge signs and Kilometer markers along the Canal de Garonne a great help when I was cycling - we met many cyclists this month on the towpaths. The towpaths are used a great deal more now you can walk or cycle from the Altantic coast to the Mediterranean. I am happy to say I have cycled all the way to Castets-en-Dorthe from Toulouse around 190 kilometers during our cruise days (since April). I may well cycle all the way to Carcassonne on our return journey. I feel very pleased with myself I am gaining in confidence with my bike. John has cycled many more miles - he is climbing bigger hills each week.
We had our bikes serviced in Villeton by "Cycles Penny". Excellent service was given by the owner (sorry forgot his first name), he recognised us from two years ago. No charge for servicing John's bike, he was very helpful indeed to us, being a very keen cyclist himself.
It was nice to see so much improvement on the Canal de Garonne (as we cruised) - the repairing of the banks and towpaths are now in good condition. A great deal of money has been spent on improving facilities in ports, with new ports are opening. Many ports are getting electric and water, one or two pump out stations are being put in place, though not ready for use as yet.
There has been much growth in this area over the last two years since we were here. Even Bergerac airport has doubled in size with many improvements still being made.
We did not see as many private boats or hire boats here two years ago. Teresa & Jo enjoyed cruising. We left the car behind and spent some quality time especially enjoying the wild life.
Teresa & Jo enjoyed the climb up the many steps for this view of the River Garonne and Canal de Garonne - being Monday the village was closed so they could not get a coffee.
Mike & Kath have taken over the port in Meilhan - (they are third English couple running a port on the canal du Garonne). Meilhan is now a new base for Minervois cruisers (www.minervoiscruisers.com). Mike & Kath also managed base for Minervouir cruises in Le Somail, Canal du Midi. They are looking forward to the delivery of four new narrow boats in September.
We experienced some storms during our stay in Meilhan. So different weather wise to our stay in July 2006
The last Mayor (for 34yrs) of Meilhan was buried during our stay. 2,000 people arrived in this village for his funeral. All the roads into Meilhan were closed off and many car parks set up.
We found it hard finding our way back to the port after driving Teresa & Jo to Bergerac airport (we took the farm roads - sometimes hairy driving on tracks but with time for coffee on our arrival). No delays for flight home.
Strike action here on the locks for a one day closure. We enjoyed a few days getting the boat ship-shape again.
We explored the towns of Marmande and Agen for topping up on supplies. The sales are now on for three weeks - June, a great time to shop in France.
We enjoyed a Moet shared BBQ with 20 friends - I think I cooked myself that day in the boat.
We slowly cruised back to Villeton Port to meet up with friends here. We had invited around 20 people to a shared BBQ (enough food for 40 people). We enjoyed a great evening together. Pam & David from village of Puch d'Agenais brought their family along - Pam said come any time to use our swimming pool was a wonderful offer. We were thankful the restaurant was closed (well it was Monday). A storm threatened and we used the restaurants tables and chairs and went under cover.
The following evening Ursula & Mike John & myself were invited to dinner by Chantal & Jacky - one of many wonderful invites this month- "invitation list long-life short".
Dinning with Jacky (kneeling) & Chantal (pot in hand)
pets Lola & Lady looking on
We met Jacky & Chantal in Villeton Port. We got to know them very well since we were moored together on and off with them for almost a month in total - Ursula & John helped with English/French translation. Our French and Chantal's English improved no end.
We shared many meals in the port during our time here. Chantal brought us fresh vegetables and flowers from her garden in the near by village of Calonges. They have been working hard on their boat for 8 years and shared their album and stories with us. Jacky built the hull also - sadly a reluctant sale due to health, but their son wants to speak to them first.
The area John & I traveled by car this month (many kilometers by car & bike). The Dordogne & Quercy, is covered by wonderful oak trees and riddled with canyons carved by the serpentine river Lot. We stumbled upon some wonderful villages when driving in this area.
Ursula & Mike drove us today - we had a wonderful picnic lunch with champagne in the Dordogne, and splendid views over a rolling golf course - followed by afternoon tea in Place Lafayette, Villeneuve-sur-lot. The river Lot is much calmer and we enjoyed a stroll in this village & along the river. The largest organic market outside of Paris is held here.
We thought we had just stepped off a plane and landed in another Country it was so hot. We finished off our day in Pujols a few kilometers away from Villeneuve-sur-lot. Pujols is 180 metres above sea level. We did not get to hear much music or bands. We arrived too early so we made our own music and thoroughly enjoyed our day out. Tonneins had a huge fete de Musique - by the time we arrived it was so late we gave it a miss and drove on.
I was snap - happy in this village. Ursula, Mike, John & I explored the medieval village of Pujols overlooking the valleys above the Lot-et-Garonne. Pujols is in the heart of the South West and is officially one of the "Most Beautiful Villages of France". We were most impressed with this village. But property was very expensive.
The tranquility and beauty of Pujols did seduce us - the wonderful simplicity and kindness of people we met here, and the food we ate made for a very special anniversary. The mood was set here, with much going on in this village on this day.
This month we have very leisurely cruised around 120km Villeton to Castets-en-Dorthe (end of Canal de Garonne - great steak in port, if you like garlic). We cruised back to Meilhan (visitors returning to England). Villeton to Serignac-sur-Garonne port. We stopped in some lovely ports during our cruise such as Villeton, Le Mas D'Agenais, (new town port) Fourques-sur-Garonne, Meilhan-sur-Garonne, Fontet, Castets-en-Dorthe, Lagruere, Damazan, La Halte Nautique & restaurant at Buzet which is now run by Kevin & Sara her charming parents Beverley and David were helping out when we moored here. They are taking winter bookings for mooring this coming winter.
David & pet Tilly aboard Auriga
We met some wonderful and interesting people living in the area or cruising to the Med or Atlantic coast - David had a hair raising experience, bring his boat from Bordeaux on the tidal Garonne - many trees & logs from the flooding rivers, damaged his propel . "Very scary" he said.
We met Chris & Carole on "Kimaaut" we first met in Meilhan Port. We spent time together in Villeton Port, finishing the month off together in Serignac Port. They are headed back towards Toulouse for July 14th. We enjoyed sharing BBQ meals and recipes.
Cooling down in Andy & Barbara's pool. Andy & Barbara we met 2 years ago (see 2006/09). John helped Andy to lay his deck. We were invited to see the pool all finished and we met their friends Len & Lynn for Sunday lunch in village of Thouars-sur-Garonne. We enjoyed a wonderful Sunday lunch together.
Before we departed I enjoyed a dip in the swimming pool, this was such a blissful day. Could we afford a pool John? I think we need one if we are to live in the south of France.
Andy & Len knew of a property we might be interested in renovating. Len knows the owner and arranged a viewing for us the following morning. We met with Andy & Barbara and they showed us the way to Len & Lynn's holiday home.
This renovated castle really is stunning inside and out - in a spectacular setting, just outside Serignac-sur-Garonne. This property is surrounded by trees. The views from the tower were stunning - not sure we would have the funds or the knowledge for this kind of project. It was a delight to be shown around and see some marvellous work.
We arrived at the property for sale and met up with the French owner a retired farmer - We fell in love with this property - the location - the dream will it unfold, was this property just waiting for us? I do hope it is meant to be - we wait and see. We visited this property several times and brought the boat to the port here - sadly the price has gone up greatly since being valued.
This property ticks most of our boxes and some extra boxes we had only dreamed of. Sadly this property may be out of our reach. There is so much renovation work to be done, and are we up for this kind of challenge? It would be a long term project and we would have to work very hard indeed. John & I felt at home in this hamlet. We await news of our offer. We have made an appointment for 1st July with the Mayor's office to see if we can moor the boat here while renovating the property (we can but dream).
We await news of our dream home in Serignac...
Serignac a Bastide (1273) village (42 in this area). This village is growing in size, due to being only 12 km away from the town of Agen.
Serignac has Manors, pigeon houses, mills, caves and tracks along the riverbank which are called "chemin de hallage" (tow paths) where horses used to pull the boats.
There's a very helpful tourist information centre in this village which offered us much help in looking for property - John & I enjoyed a personal tour of the helicoidal bell tower in English. Bell tower was restored in 1814 destroyed in 1922. Restored in 1989 after the villages decided to create an association to re-build it as it's former tower. The famous "compagnons charpentiers du Tour de France" were instructed to carry out the work.
Wonderful restaurant in the square opposite the church. Home cooked 3 course lunch, was exceptional value for 12 euros with wine needless to say we returned. The heat was building up but we were able to find good shade here under the trees for our chairs, table and sun beds. All cooking was done on the cobb BBQ.
Some of the villages to visit around Serignac-sur-Garonne or Agen are : Aubiac (9th & 12th century), Brax (found in 1070), Estillac (13th 15th 16th Century), Laplume (16th & 18th century), Marmont Pachas, Moirax, Roquefort (13th century), Sainte Colombe (11th 12th & 15th 16th century).
Not enough days in the week for us right now to see every village. We are moving on tomorrow - River Lot!