September 2007 Le Somail to Carcassonne

Cruising through Le Somail bridge towards Carcassonne on the Canal du Midi.

This September marks our 3rd year cruising the French waterways. We still very much enjoy cruising and feel very privileged, especially now the misty early morning of September this being John's favourite month too.

Le Somail a little Hamlet created by Pierre Paul Riquet himself in the 17th century. Magic village to photograph especially when the sun goes down. We never tire of our visits here. Many craftsmen, artists, potters, have settled here and I can see why. This village also house's the largest ancient library in France also an amazing hat museum.

We met many English families hiring narrow boats here in this delightful port. No wonder - wonderful nights moored under the 300 year old tree's surrounded by wild life - enjoying good walks around this part of the country. I have to say some hire boats travel too fast (miss so much) - damage the banks and other boats which is sad to see.

Our mooring outside Chateau Ventenac

We enjoyed stopping outside the Chateau de Ventenac buying some Minervois delicate reds & Corbieres wines - Chris Limouzi 2004 Corbieres' wine is my favourite find, (not on sale here sadly). I love the oak taste and distinctive flavour of this wine - though one or two glasses (honestly Willem) that is enough for me, just to taste you understand.

Sadly we could not tour Le Chateau de Ventenac as it was too busy producing wine - we enjoyed some sampling and came away with a few bottles to sample with friends later in the day. We enjoyed meeting lots of holiday makers and chatted in the locks.

Early September morning in the port of Homps

It seemed only last month we were here in Homps - in fact it was 5 months ago. Thankfully we enjoyed some good weather on this visit. We moored for here two nights. Fiona & Earl drove over for a visit and we enjoyed dinner out in this port. We met one of the director's of Moet & Chandon champagne in this port who was interested in our boat and our story, "Is the boat registered he asked".

We enjoyed sprucing the outside of the boat during our stay here. It was so good to remove all the salt and grime from our time spent on the coast. We were getting ready for our next visitors aboard.

BBQ - Village Marseillette

Andrea and her parents took time out from renovation work in Andrea's home. They joined us for a cruise to Marseillette followed by a BBQ on Moet - listening to the owls over head, and the wonderful bird songs sadly I am unable to name. I need my brothers they would soon tell me what was the difference in their song is and add a name to the bird. The owls here I swear they just talk to each other each every time we moor here. It is so very peaceful under the tree's. I do also love the sound of the church bell's here. We also sampled the Marseillette rice which is grown around here, very nice flavour not yet visited the rice growing area.

Changing colour of the trees. A tree leaning into the canal knocked off our chimney's spinning cowl

John & I cruised on to Carcassonne the following morning I cycled most of the way arriving at the locks ready for him to throw me the ropes.

At one point he had to move over for a hotel boat and our chimney caught up in the trees we lost our spinning cowl... 204 euros to replace this.

We were struck by the noise of the city when we arrived. The beauty of a boat is you can enjoy city or country life.

Usual photograph which I took of our arrival in Carcassonne as can be seen in John's sun glasses.

We pre booked a mooring space in Carcassonne, the port was so busy with hire boats. We were pleased to see our reserved sign up when we arrived.

We asked Stephanie (acting port captain of the day) if possible could we move up in the port. We arranged with friends on the boat Amethyst that when they leave the port could we slide into their space, no problems they said.

I felt a little uneasy below the lock especially since I would be on my own for four days. I felt I would be better moored up in the port when John was away in England.

Carcassonne Port

Jan & John (Thunder bird team) on top deck of "Blackbird Fly"

We enjoyed time this month with Jan & John on Blackbird Fly and it was nice to know I could shout out if I needed help when I was on my own. John & Jan had engine problems sadly halting their cruising for a few weeks. They were also hit by a bumper boat - superficial damage thankfully, but this needed checking out. We shared some good nights together.

Sadly Moet Chandon ropes were untied while we were both away in England this month. The Moet was found drifting out, thankfully our front rope held boat so no damage. Glad this did not happen when I was on board alone. John & Jan had their ropes cut a few months ago in Homps. Such is boating life at times.

Cite of Carcassonne - it's not changed much!

We enjoyed being back in this city it was like coming home. This is our first experience of the city in such good weather. Very different to see all the cafe bars filled and new shops have opened. I had fun being a tourists for a few days when John was away. I spent a day cycling and took the tourist train around the cite to discover more of the history, I enjoyed me time.

It was nice to have my own space for a few days. John very much enjoyed his few days in England and his reunion with school friends on this trip. Sadly his friend Paul never made his journey from Michigan as his wife was taken ill. John hopes to arrange to see him another time when Carolyn is well again.

I spring cleaned the boat inside for John's return he was flying back to France with my sister Marie & mum (first holiday abroad in 22 years due to ill health). It was nice to have them all here safe.

Medieval cite was busy with tourists when we arrived. We just sat down in time for lunch so busy.

I photographed the painting above to share with you. (oh how I wish I could paint like this, one day perhaps more lesson's needed).

We enjoyed settling down on the boat, so proud of my mum for the effort in coming to Carcassonne. Marie helped her a great deal in this dream. We had many trips out one visit was to the Medieval cite then afternoon tea in Hotel de la Cite. Enjoying the hotel gardens after visiting the walled cite.

The hotel has the best views of Carcassonne and the gardens are a pleasure to sit and a rest from all the crowds.

John, sister Marie & Mum's arrival in sunny Carcassonne

Our holiday together could not have been any better planned, wonderful weather helped. We had so little rain this summer and only 10 minutes rainfall when mum & Marie stayed. We had all our meals out in the sunshine in many different places.

We worried about mum's health and boating, but our worries were unfounded. We enjoyed some really special time together - with over 400 photographs between us. We certainly packed in so much. John & I worked well together to make this a dream holiday. We were rewarded seeing Mum & Marie enjoying every second and having such a good time. Marie seen below picking & tasting the gapes was a bonus she said "never tasted any sweeter".

Village of Fanjeaux, what panoramic views - Marie samples the grapes off the Vines near Limoux

We visited some of our favourite villages, now appearing so different from our previous visits during the winter months. We enjoyed different car routes so they could see the incredible landscapes and enjoy a picnic or lunch out. Strolling around medieval sites was an added bonus too for mum which took her mind off her pain this was indeed a blessing us to see. Marie has also had much ill health and it was nice to see her laugh and smile so much.

We sat with our feet in the thermal cures water in Alet-les-Bains filling our water bottles to drink the healing water later. This is one of my favourite spa towns, with wonderful views and a region of deep gorges and plateau. The Aude Pyrenees offer us the freshness of one of the finest pine forests. We enjoyed watching white water sports in action - Marie's camera never stopped clicking she took some wonderful photographs.

Alet les Bains - mum loved this house - Marie enjoying a boat handling lesson from John.

Showed mum & Marie my dream house in the mountains in the village of Alet les Bains (sadly the house has now been sold. Marie & I met the new French owners who are so happy with the house). I could see me running this 6 bed property as a healing re-treat some time in the future. But for now the boat is a healing retreat.

Mum exploring Trebes

We had a magic cruise to Trebes around 7 locks to manage and then crossing the Aqueduct d'Orbiel a small canal bridge with three arches, designed by Vauban, and built by Colin and Launet in 1688. The short cruise gave mum & Marie a taste of the beauty and history of the canal du Midi. Marie did very well as she took the boat from one lock to another with John's guidance on how to handle the Moet. We had to have the boat back in Carcassonne for their flight home and to leave our boat here when we flew home.

We enjoyed a two night stop over in Trebes, before cruising slowly back to Carcassonne and thankfully back into our mooring space. Marie & I enjoyed being shown around the hotel boat Alouette and we enjoyed a drink aboard.

Earl's birthday BBQ on Barge Colibri - village of Marseillette

We drove over to Marseillette and enjoyed a Saturday night aboard Barge Colibri for Earl's birthday BBQ. Enjoyed introducing everyone to mum and Marie it was so nice for them to meet our friends. Earl took this photo of us can you hear the owls? I can when I look at this photo.

We visited the village of Mirepoix always brings delight to any visitors we bring here. We enjoyed shopping together in Carcassonne the following day buying some nice clothes & presents in the sales.

Marie enjoyed getting on my cycle and riding for first time in years, and has promised herself a bike for when she gets back home. New towpath bikes are needed, mine has fell to bits and John's was stolen so at the moment we use our fold away bike and John's racing cycle.

Marie and mum flew home enjoying a very smooth flight back to Liverpool. John & I flew to Liverpool two days later. It has been a very hectic and enjoyable month indeed.

Albert Dock - changing sky line view of Liverpool - extension to the Leeds & Liverpool canal into River Mersey will soon follow.

We arrived into Liverpool the day The Queen Elizabeth cruise liner docked in the newly built dock, especially for such cruise ships. Liverpool celebrated with fireworks galore - we could hear them from my mum's house several miles away.

We spent time in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff, & Penarth (over 800 miles). Two nieces were married this month and we photographed two weddings on the Canal du Midi also this month.

We traveled with my mum & Marie to my niece Melanie's wedding in South Wales. Brother in-law Tommy loaned us a 7 seater car for a week which helped us a great deal.

Niece Lisa & husband Chris enjoy a wonderful day

These moments captured by my sister Sharon.

Sister Marie's daughter Lisa marries Chris. Lisa's children Leah & Connor proudly look on, sharing the wedding cake moment with family & friends. Everyone enjoyed the wedding, the reception was held in my brother Philip & wife Michele's garden in Irby, Wirral. We were sorry to miss out on Lisa's & Chris's special day, but we have lots of nice photos thanks to Sharon.

Brother Stephen climbing a mountain in Lake District for his 50th birthday.

We enjoyed a wonderful drive to South Wales. England, Scotland & Wales has scenery that takes your breath away, can't always enjoy the view though because of the weather, though the season's are wonderful.

Brother Stephen had a week from hell then broke down on the motorway on the day of wedding, we were all keeping our fingers crossed that the RAC got him going again, other wise as seen in this photo - he and wife Lynn will arrive some how he said.

We all later met up in our hotel in Penarth to get ready for the wedding blessing. Melanie's dad John forgot to pick up the bride from a friends house - he thought she might drive herself in her wedding outfit... we all laughed and so did she... dad was sat in tractor as he had planned and rang her to see where she was... waiting for you she replied. Oh dear!

Mum & her girls arriving in time for Melanie's wedding in the village of Dinas Powys.

Sister Kathleen's (in white) daughter Melanie married Steve the day before with just both sets of parents present.

We all attended their wedding blessing in her parents garden in Dinas Powys the following day. Her dad's speech melted our hearts and a few tears were shed. It was such a good day.

Melanie & her proud dad arrived in this tractor - Later a sunset pose for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking photographs of Melanie & Steven, their friends & families. Sadly not a photograph of us all together. I had problems with my camera later in the day, so I did not get all the photographs I wanted. I had left my back up camera back in the hotel. We were so very lucky with the weather today. I borrowed a few camera's and took extra photos... it will take Melanie & Steve weeks to go through all the photos from everyone thank goodness for digital camera's.

Nephew Harry's concentration as he handed the priest the rings. Proud mum says congratulations

I loved taking this photo of Harry his concentration of job in hand impressed his proud dad Nathan (Melanie's brother)... It was a relaxing wonderful day with everyone chipping in to help the day go so well.

Sister in-law's Lynn & Michele, sisters Kathleen, Sharon, myself and Gemma (next to marry)

Kathy & John surprised Melanie with a live band playing in the evening and in the night party got well under way going into the early hours. Even our mum got up and danced too.

Mum happy to be with most of her family enjoying breakfast following morning.

My mum, brothers Stephen & wife Lynn brother Frank & his daughter Rebecca, sadly brother Philip was away in Morocco, but his wife Michele & son Mark came. Sister Marie, Sharon her husband Tommy (thanks for car) their children Sean & Vicky. John & myself stayed over night in a hotel - overlooking Penarth beach, Kathleen thought it would be nice for us all.

Enjoyed a breakfast together before returning back to Kathleen's for another breakfast cooked by nephew Theo and his dad. We gave a hand with the washing up from the wedding then bid our farewell's to mum and the family.

We were so lucky with the weather as storms had been forecast for this week. Our son Michael & partner stayed overnight on Kathleen & John's sailing boat. Sadly our two daughter were unable to make the wedding.

Sister Kathleen keeps watch as John takes the helm of "Callisto" in Penarth harbour.

John & I stayed with Kathleen & John for a few days. We helped clear up their home. They had worked so hard for weeks getting their home ready for their daughters wedding.

Kathy & John took time off to take us out in their new boat which was our first experience of sailing, we crossed the bay for a couple of beers then we motored the boat back again for a good curry back home. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I was able to make the family wedding Cd's and give the happy couple the photographs we had developed before we left.

Congratulations & every happiness to all our family which grows so fast.

John & I stayed over in Manchester on our return with eldest daughter Teresa & partner Jo. Cooking us a wonderful roast dinner. The following morning we drove to Leeds to visit John's mum also collect our mail and catch up with John's sister Susan and brother Tony, sadly we ran out of time to see anyone else. Shopping in our old Tesco store for returning supplies we bumped into my best friend Phyllis and shared a quick hug & chat before having to drive off again on the M62 meeting up with son Michael and partner John for a curry night out in Manchester. Driving on to Liverpool for our last night with mum and a 4am start. We fell into bed for a couple of hours.

Back on the Moet in Carcassonne we enjoyed locking ourselves up for a few days to just chill and relax and restore our body batteries and sleep in our own bed - my lower back (long standing problem) is very sore indeed and I finished the month in a lot of pain. Sadly we had to cancel further cruising for now... Have a good Autumn, keep the e-mails coming of your updates too.