Ten months is a long time to leave a boat - and a blog - untended. Our last two cruising seasons were greatly curtailed but for the best of reasons; the birth of grandchildren. Leaving the littlies on the other side of the world this year is quite a wrench, hopefully we can skype.
Thank you to those of you have come back to join us for 2018 - our tenth year on l'Avenir - and welcome aboard to new readers.
Arriving and travelling in France in May always takes a little planning due to the number of public holidays but this year has been complicated by strikes (grèves). Strikes and protests are far from an unusual occurrence here but they are usually over and done with in a day or so. Not so this spring. In April the railway workers began three months of rolling strikes and were joined by Air France during May. The railways helpfully published a calendar of strike days which amount to 3 days of strikes per week but you can't find out which services are cancelled until 24 hours beforehand.
***The staff in Toulouse station are helpful and pleasant, the queues at the ticket office being almost entirely comprised of disappointed and displaced tourists rather than angry, local commuters. Each of the ticket booths is manned (unusual) and the officers all appear interested and concerned (extraordinary). When I explain where we want to go my ticket officer looks immediately sad and shakes his head but, impressively, manages to avoid the default 'shrug'. 'I think it is not possible,' he says. I suspect this is the opening statement to everyone. He then begins sifting through a pile of printouts of the day's cancellations and typing into his computer. Rob limps up to join me at the counter (his knee in complaining mode). Bear in mind that having been 'economied' from one side of the globe to the other we aren't, at this point, looking our energetic and smart best. Our officer pauses his typing, looks from one of us to the other and says something. I don't understand and ask him to repeat. I still don't understand, so apologise. He blushes (he's young), squirms and looks from one to the other yet again whilst searching for words I'll be sure to understand; the be brief and blunt method. He hesitates a bit more then decides on that simple phrase you learn in your first French class at school (but which is conspicuously absent from adult classes).
'How old are you?'
I smile (sort of) and reply to the question I think he was originally asking. 'No, we don't have any discount cards.'
But, we have tickets! And with a discount for looking (being) ancient (thank you young man) they cost just 11 euros each. The drawback is that we have to wait until 4pm (it's 10am and the station loos cost 70 cents a time) and the train will go only as far as Montauban where we'll have to transfer to a bus. A bit of an expedition but we'll see a bit more of the countryside than we expected.
We eventually arrive in port in the early evening to find l'Avenir somewhat grubby and looking slightly worse for wear (like us). She's still afloat and warm and dry inside though.
The liveaboards in port are all on their way to a nearby bar and invite us to join them. We are exhausted but go anyway. The beginning of a lively Pentecost weekend in Moissac.