Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Fire and Flood -Montauban

Stained Glass, Eglise St Orens, Montauban

For one reason or another we haven't done much in the way of cruising this year. We've needed to have decent access to internet without bankrupting ourselves so a big thank you to Moissac, Castelsarrasin, Montech and Montauban for including wifi in the port charges. Plans have had to been researched, arranged, changed and changed again. All will become clear in time.

As for the weather - the less said the better really. I've had full waterproofs on for the first time in years. Not at all what you'd expect in southern France in June but at least we can tie up and sit it out for days (weeks) without feeling too cheated unlike those on expensive hire boat holidays. The canals are full to overflowing and the rivers are closed to navigation due to the fast flow. At the moment we are sitting just above the double lock leading down onto the River Tarn and the canal water is flowing over the top of the lock gates at quite a rate.
Lower of double lock onto River Tarn

Having said that, the Tarn, whilst flowing fast, is still confined within its banks which hasn't always been the case. There is a flood marker beside the lovely Pont Vieux (Old Bridge.Very old in fact, 14th century) showing the height of the flood of March 1930 - 12 metres. 25 people drowned, more than a thousand homes were lost and 10 000 made homeless. Many more might have lost their lives had it not been for the bravery of others taking to their canoes to rescue them. One in particular, a young man named Adolphe Poult is said to have rescued more than 100 before his own canoe overturned and he was drowned. There is a fine stained glass window in the church of St Orens close to the riverbank depicting the scene.
Further downstream Moissac was also badly affected with 120 losing their lives and 6000 becoming homeless.
Pont Vieux Montauban

Today we were extremely saddened to read of the destruction by fire of the beautiful, unique, Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed, School of Art in Glasgow. I hope that it can somehow be saved. Here in Montauban there is a very famous museum - the Musee Ingres- about which people keep saying to us, 'There's a great museum in Montauban. Pity it's closed.' Closed it is indeed; its renovations due to be finished at the end of 2019. The museum was housed in a mainly 17th century (although some parts much earlier) bishops' palace at the city end of the Pont Vieux. I had a look at it yesterday and renovations seems a bit of an understatement. They've already been going on over a year and the building looks to be completely gutted - just the walls standing. A huge undertaking but considered worthwhile as part of Montauban's history. It had previously been renovated at some expense in the 1950s. So, let us hope that Glasgow's School of Art is similarly cherished and every effort is made to rebuild.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s rose and teardrop textile design, 1915-28.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh - rose and teardrop

Monday, 28 May 2018

Funny Hats, Frilly Dresses, Funfairs and Fireworks

Moissac. No idea of significance of outfits. Handing out delicious apple aperitif & cooking barbecue.

The canal and the River Tarn at Moissac are separated by a couple of rows of houses, a road and an esplanade - usually a tranquil spot for a stroll. There was nothing tranquil about the area on the weekend of our arrival though. I have never seen so many carnival rides, rifle ranges and sundry other fairground attractions crammed so close together. You had to keep your wits about you for fear of losing them along with our head. How they all fitted in with their enormous trucks and extricated themselves once again after the weekend via the narrow access road I don't know.  A bit like a 3D jigsaw puzzle.

The carnival was here as part of the festivities for the Pentecost weekend. Also in town were 8 young women competing for the title of Rosière de France. This isn't a beauty contest; the girls are supposed to be virtuous and hard working but I don't know what the judging entails although wearing white gowns seemed to be expected.The girls were driven around town in vintage cars accompanied by a brass band.

Moissac's own Rosière and the brass band then transferred to boats on the canal and proceeded down through the lock onto the river where they joined another boat full of young 'marins' (children dressed in sailor costumes).

These children and some older Marins had been stationed around the town all weekend handing out portions of bread to passers by. I did ask what the significance of the bread was but sadly didn't understand much of the answer (must be the accent).

The Rosière then threw a wreath into the water to commemorate all those sailors drowned in the river whilst the brass band played the Marseillaise. The solemnity of the moment was a slightly reduced by the competing swing band playing at an open air tea dance on the bank, plus the carnival ride music, screams and so on but no one seemed to care. In fact, the brass band then came ashore and continued to play with great gusto no more than 50 metres away form the swing band. Neither band missed a beat in their different repertoires and nor did the couples on dance floor.

The weekend finished with fireworks backlit spectacularly by lightning strikes. Apparently the display was curtailed by technical problems but I didn't notice. They had been practising all weekend with heart attack inducing, randomly timed explosions so nothing really should have gone wrong.

Moissac is now back to its normal, relatively quiet self. We are ready to make a move but it's raining. Plus we can't decide which way to go - east or west?