Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Another Mothers Day - Moisssac to Montauban

Stormy Skies - Montauban

  We spent a pleasant few days in Moissac. The port is a very friendly one. So welcoming, in fact, that we had no sooner tied up than Jim, the Capitaine, shouted across the canal inviting us over that evening to meet the other boaters for drinks. 'Laid on especially to welcome you,' he joked. In fact it is a weekly get together but very enjoyable and it was great to meet everyone. The canal community is so diverse; people from all over the world of different backgrounds and with such interesting stories.
We also like the town clustered around its 7th century abbey which reputedly has the loveliest cloisters in France. I'm sorry to say I haven't yet visited them but I intend to on our return.

Moissac Abbey
 The town is situated on the banks of the River Tarn and it is possible to lock down onto the river and cruise around 12 kms. Pontoons had just been re-installed when we were there (they are removed over winter) but they weren't yet ready for use so that also will have to wait for another visit. Instead we soared over the river via the 365m aqueduct. During the huge flood of 1930 the nearby railway viaduct was washed away and so the aqueduct towpath was widened sufficiently so that a single rail track could be laid and for 2 years trains and barges ran alongside each other. Must have been quite a sight. This railway runs very close to the canal for much of its length but I don't know that I'd like to be quite that close to the trains although they would have been steam and not the terrifyingly fast TGVs.
Crossing the River Tarn via the aquecuct. Railway viaduct in background

Our next stop was Castelsarrasin, a small town with a recently expanded port. We arrived the weekend of the Fete des Meres (Mothers Day). On the Sunday morning I sauntered into town to the boulangerie where there was a long queue of people collecting cakes they'd had on order for the special day and the little square was full of dads and excited children buying bunches of flowers for the mums. I'd gone out for a baguette but ended up returning to the boat with a pot plant, some fruit, a 'pain au chocolat' and a 'pain raisin' as well. Might as well treat myself.

We ended up staying longer than we'd intended for a couple of reasons. Firstly, some boating friends we hadn't seen for a couple of years let us know they'd  be passing through in their newly purchased motorhome and secondly, and much less welcome, the rain returned with a vengeance. Luckily there is free internet at the Capitainerie (port office).
From there it was up the flight of 5 locks in 2km to Montech which, although automated, were 'en panne' (sounds like 'in pain' and it's how I feel every time I see those double red lights indicating the locks are not working). And so they required several lock keepers to shepherd us through. The good thing about having the lock keepers with us was that I didn't have to shimmy up the slimy ladder out of every lock in order to press the button to start the operation. My job as I'm the one without a gammy knee.( I was going to post a picture of me on the ladder but luckily for you, Blogger somehow won't upload it!
Alongside this flight is the now disused Montech Water Slope which was opened in 1976. It was designed and built at large expense to transport big barges up the slope avoiding the locks and saving themselves all of 45 minutes. It closed in 2009 and although there has been talk of it reopening it would cost a great deal of money and of course there are no longer any commercial barges working this waterway.
Montech Water Slope - now disused

We had a night in Montech and a great meal at the excellent Constant restaurant alongside the port before turning up the virtually deserted and very weedy canal leading to Montauban. After last year's losing battle with the Triffid like weed we took things slowly and carefully and had no trouble. We still have to go back though so hopefully I've not jinxed us.
We've been in Montauban for 3 days now and whilst there are quite a few boats moored in the port no-one has arrived or left in that time. There is a deep double lock here onto the Tarn but the river is only navigable for about 8km and the weather is still poor so we won't go. Something else for another time. The town itself is a little way from the canal port. It is quite attractive and reached by an impressive 14th century bridge over the Tarn but was virtually deserted when we visited as it was yet another public holiday.
From here we turn around and go back to Montech and then on towards Toulouse.