March 2008 Friends, family and Limoux wine festival

Happy Spring & Easter, these chicks just hatched ~ little worried by this big jump.

We know how these chicks felt, we left the comfort of Carcassonne port and our friends this month and cruised into Toulouse. We also celebrated four years of living & traveling on the Moet Chandon this month, surprised how quickly time has passed, especially when we have so many other countries we would like to explore with the boat. For now we are enjoying South of France too much to leave.

John designed and made a new gang plank for our journey.

We enjoy getting the boat ready for visitors & cruising, it's such a big part of our life. It was nice to see all the boats preparing to leave the port the thrill & excitement around, when the sun comes out everyone smiles. I have to say the south of France had more than it's fair share of wet weather this month, this gave me a chance to catch up with the web site.

John serviced the engine, generator, and checked over the bank of batteries. We also touched up the paint work before leaving the port. Fiona & Earl bought John a new boat brush, and gave me a tow path bike so we were all set to go.

Barge Colibri was the first boat to leave the port on a very windy day indeed.

No problems for Earl & Fiona taking Colibri into first lock of the season on such a windy day. Much time with Fiona & Earl this month even after they left the port. We enjoyed a farewell special dinner aboard Barge Colibri with Mike & Ursula. Fiona & Earl have a very busy season coming up with lots to do before their season starts and clients arrive.

I had so many people on board Moet for dinner or drinks as we said our farewells. Never really sure who will be back in this port next year or if indeed we will have a winter mooring in Carcassonne ~ will they close the Port is the big question this month? We await the town's decision... YES... NO...

Congratulation Paul & Clare we all wish you both every happiness as man & wife.

Sadly we missed a family wedding in Scotland on Easter Saturday. My nephew Paul & partner Claire (my sister Marie's son)... Sister Sharon sent sent me this photograph, nice to be included in the happy event. We toasted Clare & Paul's happiness with family & friends here in France. Everyone had a wonderful weekend in Scotland sharing this happy occasion. The weather was no better in Scotland either, I was told.

What a week for all the hire boats cruising for the Easter holiday. The weather was dreadful, back to wintry days. Nice to see boats on the move again, though we are pleased we are not cruising in such bad weather.

Easter celebrations ~ Cooking aboard the Moet for so many guests this month.

Easter Sunday with Earl & Fiona, Ursula & Mike on our boat - We enjoyed a take out meal cooked by Ursula. We joked can we have more take out curries please. We finished the evening with our chocolate Easter Bunnies.

I really enjoyed mothers day + my early birthday surprise visit from son Mike & partner John. We really enjoyed this short four day visit very much. Sadly no cruising as the weather was not improving. Great company, good food and lots of visits out in the car was the order of our time together.

Montagne Noire, Aude Valley, Corbières-Minervois, Alet-les-Bains.

First visitors of the month ~ son Michael with partner John ~ Hello Mum, Dad we are back again.

We took them to Montagne Noire, Aude Valley, Corbières-Minervois, the boys don't drink alcohol, so no wine tasting here. We visited my favourite village in the Aude, the spa town of Alet-les-Bains. In 1886 the town received the official bottling authorization, this water is comparable to the water in the human body, which makes it a great cell cleaner which the Romans recognized. This is a busy place for the locals filling up their bottles for free, we should have taken more bottles to fill.

My dream house lies in this village... sadly though the house as I said last year has been sold now, it was far too expensive, no lottery win happened. This village holds for me a wonderful feeling that I cannot really explain.

My friend Sue wanted to spend her 40th birthday with us. Celebrations galore this month.

Sue & husband Matt arrived in Carcassonne, day after Michael & John left. Bringing lots of sunshine with them. We had a wonderful time strolling around and visiting sites sipping coffee and opening up bubbly for both our birthdays. Sue could not get into the boat for balloons and banners she was very touched, two days between our birthdays.

Matt bought Sue one of Ursula's painting's as a present for her 40th birthday. Ursula has presented many of us in the port with at least one of her paintings, she is a gifted artist, with a style all of her own, hidden talent unearthed on the Moet.

Limoux wine festival

Ursula selling her painting

Limoux festival

jugs of wine

Limoux had two major festivals this month, Toques et Clochers wine festival also the following weekend the final weekend of Carnaval de Limoux - The longest running carnival in the world! January to the end of March. Many gallons of wine drunk over the course of these two fetes. John myself Sue & Matt stayed over night with Earl & Fiona in their home in the village of Malras. Next year the wine festival is to be held in their village again we are all already looking forward to that weekend, we are booked in again, space in our garage for your art and cards to be sold if you wish Irene, not sure if I am ready for this yet! course you are Earl said.

Earl designed this photo from 5 photos I took... I am also in John's glass which is in his hand.

Limoux, a welcoming and vibrant city in the south of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, is renowned for its hospitality and low crime rates. One of France's friendliest town, just 16 miles from Carcassonne.

Limoux Toques & Clochers Wine Festival is to celebrate the region's finest chardonnay's having a massive street party! This was the 19th Toques & Clochers wine festival, sponsored by wine producers Sieur d’Arques, Some very nice wine indeed we sampled, perhaps a little too much!

The beauty of this event was the relaxed good natured atmosphere. This amount of alcohol, music and people in one small area simply couldn't’t take place in the UK without the kind of police presence you find at events like the Noting Hill Carnival. There is none of the associated anxiety of losing your friends, or your wallet or getting caught up in alcohol fuelled aggression, just a lot of very merry, tipsy people enjoying all kinds of live music, food and wine, and the English Ruby final was on tv too here.

Toques et Clochers wine festival parade was a good one, love how the children are always included.

The festival, celebrating and promoting the chardonnay wines of the region, is an important date each year for local wine producers and international wine buyers. They attend an auction of Sieur d’Arques’ very best barrels filled with Toques & Clochers AOC Limoux wines: 82 barrels of wine are auctioned, representing the 41 villages of the Limoux Appellation Area. A toque is a chef's hat and refers to the Michelin starred chef (a different one each year) who presides over the gastronomic feast provided at a gala diner for 1000 invited guests from the wine industry. Meanwhile the clochers refers to a church’s bell tower: each year the proceeds from the auction goes towards the renovation one of the 41 church towers of the Limoux area and so doing, protects the local landmarks.

Limoux Toques et Clochers wine festival

limoux wine festivalLimoux 2008 wine sample gang

Chateau de Cavanac was booked sharing my birthday with friends.

Chateau de Cavanac

I have long waited to eat in this Hotel a taxi ride from Carcassonne - which serves French food so many courses and all the wine you can drink is included in the price ~ The port live aboard's celebrated Xmas day here two years ago. The setting was just how I imagined, big burning fire, good food and excellent service. We were adventurous trying new food on the menu never before tried (or ever will again in some cases)... the adventure of the evening was a great success.

Fiona & Earl stayed the night with us on the Moet ~ John & Earl enjoyed fine Armagnac Fiona & I enjoyed cup of tea before we fell late into bed, starting more celebrations the following day. Fiona & Earl were up early as they had much to do getting ready for a very busy season indeed.

Cake cutting day in the port was the next day. So many birthdays toasted in March.

Birthday girls celebrations

My birthday cake home made by Fiona & Earl ~ I had many flowers & plants delivered to the boat and tons of mail to open, I so love getting snail mail. I especially loved my many homemade cards. Many magical presents to enjoy & treasure, what a lucky person I am especially sharing all this with my family and really good friends. Thanks everyone. It was a good birthday this year.

We enjoyed Jan's birthday on Blackbird fly a few days later ~ 21 of us dinned in the Pizza Restaurant later that night to celebrate her birthday ~ last night before together before we all depart.

Our next visitors to arrive was niece Melanie & husband Steve and little bump (Mel due end July).

Melanie & Steve arrived by train from Toulouse airport for a 9 day holiday. Our car was in for repair (new back door had now arrived + a service). We could have done with our car this week to pick them up.

Melanie & Steve enjoyed exploring Carcassonne city. We had an endless stream of visitors coming & going this week on the Moet.

Steve offered to cook us a prawn curry one night and it was our turn to put our feet up, what a treat. they love to cook, and we love new dishes.

Melanie & steve enjoyed relaxing for a few days with us. Later trying to hiring a car was not an easy task without a credit card ~ this took a little time to sort out, we used my credit card in the end. They drove to the Med coast ~ hoping to find some sunshine and they did.

Steve took some stunning photographs especially of Melanie & baby bump.

Hire car was collected the day of our departure ~ we waved Melanie & Steve off. I felt like a real mother worrying hen...let me know you are ok I said. Melanie has traveled around Australia on her own in a camper van, so I knew they could find their way around France. They thoroughly enjoyed time to themselves driving along the Mediterranean coast and exploring different rural villages and found sun. We had arranged to met up again three days later.

We set off on the 28th March for our 2008 summer cruising season, leaving with Bon Adventure. We left after lunch enjoying a good send off from friends in the port who are also soon to depart. It was so good to be cruising again, I cooked Yorkshire puds & beef in Guinness Ale for our first meal under the glowing stars, we all agreed this was a good meal together.

Bram - Our first night was enjoyed, the sound of water from the lock with the sound of owls.

I was up at the crack of dawn to take this photo and many more as the sun came nice to be out in the wild and enjoy the sound of the country again. We traveled just 20km. It was a little cold and windy but so good to be out in the fresh air again, and sharing locks with such good friends. We laughed so much that afternoon and over the next few days. We both struggled to gain back the art of throwing ropes and working as a team again. We had been in Carcassonne since early September, both boats were soon in the swing of working together in locks.

Our intention - to make Toulouse before they close the canal early next month for repair work to a new bridge (closing canal for at least two weeks).

Canal du Midi - Viviers (3) lock and good moorings in Castelnaudary

We enjoyed cruising to Castelnaudary, (windy). The weather was so good for our second days cruise ~ tee shirts from 9am till 6pm. I cycled most of the day. I was tired at the end of the day, since I have not cycle much over the winter months. We all decided no cooking tonight - lets celebrate (any excuse) cruising. enjoyed a lovely Chinese meal in the town... we slept so well that night. We set off cruising early the following morning to met up with Melanie & Steve again at Port Lauragais.

Our arrival in Port Lauragais (which is next to the A61) good place to meet up again.

Our friend David was a huge help meeting Melanie at the car hire base in Carcassonne and driving her and Steve to met us in the Port of Lauragais. 8 of us enjoyed lunch on our boat. David later took John back to Carcassonne to pick up our car. We needed our car for airport runs in April.

Several airport runs this month & next, not much time between our visitors. Fettle (clean) boat, shop, that's the way things pan out. Sadly we have to say no to some visitors as dates don't always work out.

Negra - Steve thought he had left the rain in England

We experienced such mixed weather, many mini storms which seem to come from no where. Carcassonne to Negra we have cruised approx 72km experienced 30 locks with around 24 of cruising hours over a 4 day period. The first lock we came to broke down, as did the second, a little rusty after the winter months, but all worked well and we had much fun for our first cruising days of the season. Ursula & I shared shopping & meal's and our visitors, she brought us a take away pasta bake to share.

John enjoyed his road cycling again riding back for the car we are both looking forward to long cycle rides as the weather improves. I am most looking forward to starting my art again. It is a busy life living aboard with much to plan & see.

Life aboard for us - not too many supper tankers but some times surprises like this Spa boat.

The Art of Living we enjoy the most is gliding peacefully on the waters of a Canal, (sometimes muddy as life can be at times even on a canal or in a house). Tasting the wines of Cabardes, we tasted the cassoulet of Castelnaudary, the violets of Toulouse which is a very nice liquor to add to your Blanquette of Limoux (my favourite is the bubbly wine). Sausages and ham from Montagne Noire, veal from the farms of Lauragais, everything you see makes us hungry, we want to try all that is new (good job we have bikes). We moor up then stumble across a wonderful coffee bar in a medieval Abbey or this Spa boat (not tried yet) that for us is France oh and yes their wine too.