Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Friday, 26 May 2017

On the Move - Buzet to Moissac

One of the beautiful lavoirs at Valence d'Agen
We travelled a less than epic distance of 7km on our first day of cruising.
'You do know it's going to rain?' I was saying a quick goodbye to a small group of the other boaters we've come to know quite well in Buzet's port. We all looked up at the steadily darkening sky. I nodded and shrugged. L'Avenir's engine was already going and from the signs of activity on deck  it looked as though I'd better get a move on or I'd miss the boat. Time to go.
Our general rule is that we don't move when it's raining preferring to stay warm and dry inside looking out in sympathy and admiration for those that do. They tend to fall into two groups; the hirers who don't want to miss a single day of their expensive holiday and the intrepid  yachties who seem to me to be a race apart. This canal (the Garonne) joins up with the Canal du Midi and together they are known as the Canal du Deux Mers (canal of the 2 seas) . They are the route for the yachts to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean so we see quite a few. Often, yacht sailors are not fond of canals  (sometimes referring to travelling along them as 'ditch crawling')  and they move on through regardless of the weather. What's a bit of weather if you're used to battling Atlantic storms after all?
The deluge began soon after we left port - at the first lock of course. We went through one more and gave up, deciding to tie up and wait it out. That happened to be the next morning. We saw only 2 moving boats all day. One was a hireboat filled with miserable looking holiday makers and the other a yacht.
Another group of travellers which doesn't seem to be put off too much by the rain is the cyclist. The towpath has been upgraded and is the long velo route from the Atlantic to the Medi.
Velo cafe in the lock cottage

We are now in the small town of Moissac having made stops at Agen (famous for its prunes. There's even a prune museum which we haven't visited) and Valence d'Agen which is a pretty Bastide (fortified town) We happened to be in Vaence on market day and it has one of the biggest markets I've ever seen taking over every street in the historic centre as well as the covered market.

The River Tarn runs alongside  the canal here in Moissac (and underneath. We cross it on an impressive aqueduct when we leave). Much of the town was destroyed and many of the inhabitants drowned in the great flood of 1930. The abbey survived though and is a stop on the Compostela pilgrim route. We have seen many, many people walking this route along the canal towpath. Another intrepid bunch of all ages from young children in family groups to quite elderly. When we came this way a couple of years ago we met 2 men walking with their donkey. They went faster than we did.
Next stop - not much further on - is Castelsarrasin.

The Tarn River

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Waiting Around

 Doctor's Waiting Room - everyone's gone outside for a smoke

I have abandoned ship whilst our new batteries are being wrestled on board and below decks into a space just big enough to accommodate them and requiring Houdini skills to reach. I prefer to be well out of earshot of the 3 men doing this job on a humid 35 degree day. Each of the 2 batteries is nearly 70kg and they have to get the dud ones out first.
Yesterday we visited the doctor to get some advice on the gammy knee. This entailed a phone call to make an appointment which is my least favourite thing to try and attempt in French. I had a brain fade, suddenly not remembering the word for appointment which is, the virtually unforgettable, 'rendez-vous'. So, I said (in French) I wanted to 'see' the doctor which apparently doesn't translate well. There was a longish pause then the person on the other end said, 'but why?' So I then had to launch into an undoubtedly unnecessary description of symptoms. Eventually we were given a time of quatre et demi. I thought I'd misheard as everywhere else we've been in France seems to use the 24 hour clock so I had to re-check in the stupidest way imaginable ie by counting to 4 in French. That's why I hate phoning. Face to face you can at least do the charade thing.
Not that the appointment time means much. We arrived a bit early (big mistake) and there were 4 people in the waiting room and one in the consulting room Approximately every 30 minutes the doctor's door opened and out came doctor and patient. They shook hands, wished each other a good day and then the next patient in line would stand, shake hands with the doc and disappear inside. Round about the same time yet another person would enter the waiting room, say 'Bonjour', shake hands with the people they know then fill the  recently vacated chair. The arithmetically adept of you will have worked out by now that we had around a 2 hour wait. Goodness knows what time the poor doctor goes home. She would have made up a bit of time with us though as we were a bit short on small talk although she did establish where we were from, how long we were in France and how often we'd been, that we had a boat, where we'd been on it and where we were going, She also did a pretty thorough examination and gave some good advice. All for 25 euros and then 14 euros for 3 items from the pharmacy. My only slight concern is all that hand shaking.
Batteries successfully installed. 'Some days you really earn your money,' said one of the battery men wiping the sweat from his brow. I think the doc earns hers every day.
Tomorrow we cast off.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Caught in a Time Warp

We're back - and seemingly doomed to repeat last year's debacle. 11 months is too long to leave a boat completely neglected. Poor l'Avenir looked in a sad and sorry state when we arrived. This part of the canal de Garonne, unlike the Midi, is blessed with abundant, healthy, beautiful trees all of which drop their leaves in winter. L'Avenir acquired a winter blanket which rotted down over time into a gooey sludge, blocking drain holes and blanking out the sun from the solar panels. Result? Scungey decks and worse - flat batteries. I feel all the energy being sucked out of me as I write those words.You may remember that we had battery problems last year which led to other disasters. Well, here we are with the sequel and it's one of those really boring ones where it's just a re-run of the original.

After 2 days travelling all we wanted was a cup of tea and a visit to the loo both of which require elctricity. (Yes, even the loo). We connected up to the mains and crossed our fingers. For a while things looked promising but then the alarms started going off ( in the middle of the night of course). The new batteries we bought last year seemed to recover well but the big, expensive, domestic batteries were boiling up. They are kaput. When I say expensive I mean 2 batteries costing as much as the price of the second hand car with a for sale notice on it parked just up the street. It's quite a nice car actually.

 One of the many good things about being in this part of France is that there is a network of very helpful expats so we were soon put in touch with someone who could find and fit new batteries in return for a price. A fair one I'm sure. There's no getting away from it, batteries cost plenty and boat ones cost more. We are just happy to have someone to help particularly as along with the boat problems Rob is incapacitated with a gammy knee. He's in a bit of pain but he does get to lie around watching the general clean up. We are hoping our new batteries will arrive tomorrow but I'm pretty sure there won't be one to rejuvenate knees.

On the plus side it's been great to meet up with the other boaters in the port. The sun's shining and the birds are singing (although they do start at 5.50 am). There's a red squirrel floating up and down the tree beside us. In the village there's a great baker  plus a wine co-op and a couple of good restaurants. Last weekend was the Spring Fete so there were fireworks, a funfair, a buvette and singing and dancing. Should we be stuck here another week we could set up a stall at the hugely popular Vide Grenier (like a car boot sale) and get rid of some of the surplus contents of the boat. Maybe not much of a market for the locker full of English language books and certainly less for all the clothes that strangely no longer zip or button up. They must have shrunk over winter.
Next post we will be on our way.