See the previous pages for cruising with Keith & Pat on the upper river Lot.
We drove back through the countryside and visited some different villages along our journey. Back on the river Baise in Buzet were our boat was moored, we enjoyed a few days chilling out.
John & I cruised back into the Canal de Garonne, we were surprised to find so few boats cruising. We enjoy most of the locks to our selves. I thoroughly enjoyed cycling again, the fields of sunflowers at the side of the canal were at their best and a most enjoyable sight. The Garonne area is the biggest fruit growing region so many different fruit all ready & available to pick as you travel along the canal. Figs were a delight straight from the tree.
A total of 30 kilometres & 17 locks + one road bridge, we took just two days for this cruise. We enjoyed mooring in Serignac port for a few days. We moored canal side in Valence-d'Agen were Ursula & Mike were moored in this port for the month, we enjoyed catching up on our travels.
On the morning of the 4th August we were invited to meet friends in the hamlet of Limon up in the hills near Feugarolles.
Every year on this day the villages and people from the surrounding area meet to commemorate the death of an RAF airman on 4th August 1944. He was Flying Officer Harold Jack Ayliffe DFM of 151 Squadron RAF who died aged 24. With his pilot Squadron Leader R N Chudleigh, he had flown from RAF Predannack in Cornwall as navigator in a Mosquito fighter-bomber on a Ranger mission over France. Alerted to German military movements in South West France they found and attacked a German munitions train not far from Agen.The resulting explosion severely damaged the Mosquito which crash-landed close to Limon. Chudleigh survived although injured.
The Resistance hid him and he was flown back to Britain 3 weeks later. Sadly Ayliffe was trapped in the burning wreckage and attempts to free him were hampered by the intense flames and exploding ammunition. To prevent his body falling into the hands of the Germans and also to fool them into thinking both crew members had escaped, the villagers buried him in Limon cemetery, passing his body off as that of an old villager. After the war his grave was recognized as an official war grave. The grave even has one of the Mosquito's propellers and machine guns on it when we were there.
The ceremony lasted about one hour and ended with food and wine for everybody. Probably 200 people were at the ceremony including many local British residents. We met the daughter of a 151 squadron colleague of Jack who attended on behalf of her dad, proudly wearing his medals. Andy laid some flowers on behalf of all the Brit's in the area. This was an extremely moving experience and it was nice to know that the people of Limon recognize the part that Jack Ayliffe played in their liberation. After the Limon ceremony we enjoyed a long wonderful Sunday lunch at Andy & Barbara's home in Buzet with friends Lynn, Len, David & Pam, a Sunday afternoon floating in the pool bliss.
Andy & Barbara's pool was a wonderful way to cool down. The pool was an open invitation which helped keep us cool. Knowing it was just minutes away from the boat.
Len & Lynn invited Andy, Barbara, John & myself to dinner at Moulin de la Tuque. We were by this time in Valence-d'Agen, around a 45 minutes drive away, so they invited us to stay over and not worry about driving back.
Lynn has a passion for cooking, we all had a wonderful evening by the pool, then dinner in the grand dinning room. We enjoyed a walk the following morning looking at two more properties coming up for sale in their village.
When we arrived back in Valence-d'Agen, we discovered our fridge had malfunctioned. We were due to set off for Moissac that afternoon, so our plan's had to change. A blessing really as we managed to see the canal production of life in the 1800 in this area. We watched as they built the stage's either side of the canal two years ago but did not see the show. They must have a massive storage area to store all this equipment. The organisation of this show and fireworks were superb, each year in August this stage village comes alive.
We had ring side seats aboard Bon Adventure. Ursula & Mike. The first night's show was wiped out by a big "scary" storm, 15 minutes into the show - very sad indeed show had to be cancelled.
450 people were in the cast, not sure how many animal's, vehicles or boats were used. Both sides of the canal were involved and life was re-created from the 1800 to present day, we loved every second of this show.
Following morning we bid farewell to Ursula & Mike as they were soon driving to Switzerland and Italy for a holiday. We cruise on to Moissac, a wonderful warm welcome greeted us on our arrival, rather like coming home.
The biggest night show in the world with over 8.5 million spectators to see 1200 actors using over 6,000 costumes, can be seen at Puy du Fou this is now on our list of places to visit, since our next guests arrived in Moissac after seeing this show giving us rave reviews, the web site is very impressive too. www.puydufou.com
July 2005 we went looking at camper vans in Sens, France with my brother Philip & wife Michele, this Hymer is now their second van. They joined us in Moissac for four nights with son Marc and friends Jackie & Pete (the second van).
In spite of problems with Philips eyes he was determined not cancel the holiday - Michele took over as lead van driver.
Our sister Sharon & husband Tommy arrived the following morning we drove to Bergerac airport to collect them.
We enjoyed a great time together in Moissac, eating drinking and getting merry. Philip sent me the following ramble about the holiday and our cruising. Some times I get word bound and I asked for help.
Moissac is a town and commune of the Tarn-et-Garonne department, in southwestern France and is without doubt a beautiful area to visit for your holiday and this was the case when we visited in August this year as we toured France in our Hymer motor home.
Those who love Romanesque art are in for a real treat in Moissac for it is home to Abbaye St-Pierre which served as a model for other religious buildings in the south of France and is now home to some interesting statues resembling most of our ugly family (see photograph). The south portal is particularly stunning and depicts St John's vision of the Apocalypse but of course we never got to see this as John Plunkett was smelling of alcohol and BO (yes I'm afraid to say France is taking its toll on the once proud plumbers personal hygiene) and as he was inappropriately dressed for the Abbey we were turned away at the door. Tommy and Sharon were mortified as they have nothing of this kind of behaviour where their boat is moored in Thorne, Yorkshire back in the UK.
Anyway back to the area: Moissac sits on the north bank of the Tarn which provides the perfect setting for the much venerated jazz festival in July and classical concerts in July and August but on our visit sadly for the town, we were the only means of entertainment in this (previously quiet) Port. So each evening a shed load of alcohol was consumed and barrow loads of food scoffed by the side of the canal.
At times it probably resembled the gathering on Mount Sinai where Peter approach the Lord to say they only had 5 loaves and 3 fish's for lunch and what should they do? Calmly the Lord said "why, get ours first!". And this was the kind of mêlée that ensued most evenings on the quay side.
Moissac also has its own marina built in 1991, which adds a certain sense of chic to the place since Iain & Kaz took over the port, that was until "Moet Chandon" turned up.
Iain and Kaz the Port managers had instructed the local French Magistrates to issue the towns first asbos to numerous members of our holidaying party and had threatened deportation if we did not quiet down. Sadly, once John, Michele, Jackie and Tommy got going, mixing the grain and the grape, we were doomed. Still Marc, Sharon, Irene and myself found some kind of peace and solitude with the computer Scrabble.
This region will suit anyone who enjoys the outdoors.... walking, camping, fishing and climbing are popular in the summer with skiing in the popular ski resorts in winter. Marc took full advantage of this engaging himself with his first go at water-skiing and what a go it was!
Assisted by Iain (who was now back on speaking terms with us after a particularly heavy evening of "Bon Appetite" had descended into a food fight with a group of Germans in a Schooner. So Iain took his motor launch on the river and Marc became a dab hand at the skiing and will long remember the holiday as his first outing.
On the day Michele got food poisoning and the rest of the crew came down with scurvy John decided to take us out on the river Tarn in the rain so we had to get up extra early! With one captain and about 23 cabin crew (a record for the boat) we set off towards the lock. As John locked the rudder hard-across and engaged the twin Volvo bow thruster he began turning the wide-beam carefully to the Port side.
Irene meanwhile had a couple of scrapes Quay side with another boat wanting to queue jump into the lock ahead of us, the fight didn't last long as the towering twin engine Noddy Boat realised how many crewmen were readying themselves ‘come aboard’ her, and she quickly backed off.
The area is on the ancient pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela to Spain and as John and I formed a 2 man peloton to ride our bikes some 28k out of town one morning we came across numerous groups of back-packers on their personal pilgrimage and what a jolly healthy lot they looked as they skirted around the town, on hearing a number of Gippo's were in town for the week!!
Inland, the Gascony region is home to some of France's finest foie gras and Armagnac liqueur. Almost every village and farm seems to be France's best for foie gras and indeed they may well have been as the valleys were filled with the sounds of bloated geese in the last throws of their fois-gras'd-lives.
This area is known for its green rolling landscape, were you can discover the numerous fortified villages but sadly our party were often in a stupor and what with the strict French driving regulations and our inability to get up early enough our lunches spent on the boat often morphed into the evening meal. By the time we waved our farewells to head for the Dordogne our Livers were not much better off than the foie gras Geese we were leaving behind which is always a sign of a rollicking good time on holiday.
Love Philip x (Bless him)
Hope you enjoyed my brothers words on his holiday in Moissac. We thoroughly had a fab time and the holiday together was a special time. I just wished I had a bigger boat at times.
Once the camper vans left we were up & off with Sharon & Tommy who stayed on with us a few more days. We managed to get up early & visit some great villages & sites in the area, (sorry Philip) weather was just right and we enjoyed cruising the Canal de Garonne as far as Malause. Friends Bernie & Warren joined us for a night. They booked into BB in Moissac, it was really nice to catch up with them again.
The weather in England has been so bad this summer. Sharon & Tommy were glad of some sunshine to top up their body batteries, before returning back to England for some cruising on their own boat. The weather in England did not improve they had the heat on when they returned yes in August.
Their dream is to bring Blue Pearl to France one day. Also Kathy & John's dream is to bring their sailing boat too. We could have many more of the family here in France all moored together - and Philip's van too.
Sharon first took Moet out on the River Ouse 4 years ago, she and Tommy are so looking forward to taking their own boat to York when they get chance & weather. They say they are looking forward to getting in plenty of practice cruising in England before bring Blue Pearl to France. They enjoyed the experience of taking the tiller on the Tarn & Garonne river and on the canal. We learnt from each other. Looking forward to some time on their boat later this year.
We have had lots of e-mail's from people coming to France with their boats asking for information. We even met some people here in Moissac port who booked a holiday after reading our web site, small world in boating, we enjoyed a drink with them, they hope to buy a boat soon, nice to hear from people who enjoy reading our web site.
We had one week between visitors to get the Moet ship shape again and have time with friends and catch up on all the jobs that have been left undone. It is a very busy life this boating, (not all parties honest). It was nice not too be cruising and to stay put and chill and have time with friends.
John was having problems with his knee and we had to seek medical help. No cycling the doctor told him you must rest the knee. Doctor drained the fluid, he booked John in for a scan & dye injection. Awaiting results of fluid.
A month for hospital's was August so many phone call's and lots of tears shed this month. Our mum spent time in hospital and our daughter Louise ended up in hospital in Canada after a particular nasty cycle accident. This was so hard to bear, especially being so far away from Louise. Thankfully our son Michael & partner were staying with Louise for Michael's' 30th birthday, this was a comfort to us knowing he was with Louise, she had great support from partner Allan and friends too. Louise is now thankfully home and recovering. Skype video phone was a help to speak & see Louise & see the wound. How life can change in the blink of an eye.
We picked John & Kathy up from Bergerac Airport early in the morning. We happily spent the day sight seeing, on our return journey to Moissac. Enjoyed a drive to the river Lot stopping off in several villages along our scenic route, enjoyed a long lunch in Penne-d'Agenais, visiting the Notre-Dame of Peyragude.
Arrived back to Moissac - John & I are glued to this lovely port. It was a busy month shopping, cooking, entertaining, cruising.
I have been making greetings cards using photographs I have taken in this lovely area - for France Fluvial office (in my spare time) I am very much enjoying my photography. Kathy & John had a favourite pavement cafe in town were we enjoyed a wind down drink each evening before dinner.
Kathy & John wanted relaxation for their week in France, "is that a tall order Irene" Kathy said. Long chats till the wee hours, much catching up on childhood memories, long meals and some really good walks. We cruised the River Tarn, River Garonne and Canal de Garonne, but always cruising back to our reserved base in Moissac. Kathy & John have become grandparents (3 grandchildren now, they are kept busy helping out). Daughter Melanie gave birth to a son Jake John this month, she and husband Steve were with us in April and we all awaited news of little bumps arrival, he took his time coming but oh the delight he's brought to the family. But Kathy & John are here now for a rest & holiday. We cruised the River Tarn twice this month, from port Moissac. Two locks lead us into the Tarn then into the River Garonne.
Cruising downstream for 5 km we came to a Lake around 400 ha, with a leisure centre. It's rare for hire boats to tie up, but you are made most welcome when you do at Saint-Nicolas-dela-Grave. Mooring is by anchor or on the small pontoon's. The riverside path from the port leads you into the bird observatory & nesting grounds.
Our second trip with Kathy & John was on a very hot day it was such a good trip, cruising around 30km in all, you have to be very careful towards end of navigation as no warning of were it ends. The depth of the river is so variable at La-Cassine. A boat did end up last month on rocks and had to be rescued. Our friends on Amethyst also come close to the rocks. The Tarn was navigable up un till the 1920's for 147km - 30 locks hopefully by 2011 the Tarn will be opened to Montauban, one day it may well be open from Saute-du-Sabo and Aiguillon again. We moored over night on the Tarn key which has water & electric also run by Iain & Kaz. We had dinner on the key side and enjoyed a six hour electrical storm with brilliant skies and no rain, and billions yes billion's of May Flies.
Staffing problems due to ill health brought some headaches for Iain & Kaz. Their work load doubled, with the port full most of the nights, they always had a smile for customers. Moissac port is now fully booked for this coming winter. Iain & Kaz are now taking bookings for 2010. We happily helped each other out while we were here, but being very proud it was hard for them to accept any help at times.
We are looking forward to taking the biggest hire boat Winnie for a film shoot early next month with my sister Kathy & John, should be fun.