Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Camargue, Part 2, July 8-12

Our next stop was Frontignan, just about 14 k from the landings at Maguelone. The pedestrian bridge was available to open beginning at 8:30 so about 8:45 Friday morning we got underway. 

The moorings at Frontignan are split by a lift bridge that only opens three times a day; 8:30, 1:00 pm and 7 pm. We arrived about 10:30 am but we wanted to be on the other side of the bridge so as not to be trapped. Also, the moorings on the east side are limited to 24 hours and on the west 72. We wanted to stay a couple of days. At 1 pm we slipped through the mass a hireboats jostling to get through the bridge and got tied up, luckily in one of the better shaded spots, almost entirely by accident.

Our first task was a visit to the local cave cooperative. The local wine is a muscat blanc de petit grains. Many have tasted the sweet variety but locals also produce a dry style that is one of our favorites. It’s also very inexpensive. Unfortunately, they were out of the boxed version so we had to head back to the boat for the bicycles as 12 bottles would be too heavy to carry on foot.

Saturday morning was market day in town and it was a pretty good one; lots of various food stalls and the usual sundries. We got a chance to purchase a local food speciality, tielle sétoise, octopus and a light spiced tomato sauce in a bread dough crust. Delicious!

There was the obligatory visit to the Eglise St Jean-Baptiste, with its 11th century tower, 17th century nave and a gothic choir from the 18th. The side altars were unique.

The facade and bell are from the 19th century.

On our walk around town we also saw a plant we see often in California treated in a very unusual way. They have pruned oleanders into street trees.

Sunday was a long bike ride through the salt marshes and then over to the Port of Frontignan (lots of boats) and the Frontignan Plage (lots of holiday homes and apartments) and a couple of dips in the Med because it was still very warm.

Where they “make” the salt looking back towards town.

Monday morning we set off for our next big obstacle, the Étang de Thau. 5 k of canal would lead us to a large lagoon we would have to cross to our next stop, Marseillan.

We would enter the Ètang from the lower right and end up in Marseillan at the upper left.

The Étang is a large, shallow lagoon separated from the Med by a low, narrow strip of land. If the wind is blowing from the south, the chop can build up fast and it can be treacherous for a flat bottomed barge like Oldtimer. Also, the channel is not very well marked; the buoys are pretty far apart and hard to see. Luckily we have a good pair of binoculars and what wind there was was mostly behind us so we were able to cross with no problems. By 11:30 we were tied up in the Marseillan port, took out a second mortgage on the house to pay the mooring fee (honestly, we could have gotten a room for about the same amount but it was my birthday) and headed over to the restaurant where we had a great lunch last September when we visited. We had another great lunch; oysters, prawns and whelks with salad for a starter and an entré of grilled loup de mer along with a couple of glasses of the local wine, picpoul de pinet.

Afterwards we had a little stroll around town, then it was back to the boat where Cathy Jo prepared one of my favorite meals, duck breast with berry sauce and duck fat fried potatoes.

We managed to get underway about 9:30 Tuesday morning for our last 1.5k of the Canal Rhône à Sète then it was onto the Canal du Midi.

We had one of the famous oval locks to navigate then the Bassin Ronde at Agde, a lock with three entrances that allows boat to either continue on the canal or head to the sea.

By 1 pm we had found a bankside spot in the trees near the town of Portirange. Shade almost all day long and just a 10 minute bike ride to a very nice Med beach. It was going to be very hot for the next few days so we were going to stay put.

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