Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, June 26, 2023

To Toulouse and Back, June 1 - 8

 We arrived back at the Agen Marina Saturday afternoon and Kevin set out for Paris by train on Sunday. Sunday was also a day of music in Agen. Several stages were set up throughout the center of the city and various choral groups were performing all day. 

One of the many acoustic groups that were performing over the weekend.

I took the opportunity of Kevins absence to catch up on some of the chores that had been neglected since my arrival. The whole boat got washed, the deck was scrubbed and the interior got a good sprucing up. I also got a chance to take care of a bunch of laundry.

Unfortunately for Kevin, he wasn’t able to get any last minute tickets to the tennis tournament but he had a few days to wander around the city and visit some of the monuments and museums. He returned Wednesday afternoon and we made preparations to head off for Toulouse.

When Cathy Jo and I visited last year we considered our time in Toulouse as reconnaissance as our plan was to return to the city at least twice this year. Those plans were obviously dashed but I wanted to get back for at least a couple of days. Thursday morning Kevin and I set off at the usual time and made our first stop in Pommevic, reaching the villages moorings about 2 pm. I made a quick trip into town but as it was the lunch “hour” and everything (really, only a cafe/tabac) was closed. I did revisit the church though.

Friday we made the 21 k to Castelsarrasin for the night and Saturday we stopped at the side of the canal just east of the village of Dieupantale. There is good bank there for stakes and trees line the southern side of the canal so we were able to get some afternoon shade on a warm day.

Sunday we made the 36 k and 12 locks to Toulouse and by about 5 pm were tied up in the same moorings Cathy Jo and I used last year, a bankside spot just past the St. Sauveur marina.

As Kevin is an aviator, our first stop Monday morning was a trip on the metro to visit Aeroscopia, a big exhibit hall and museum dedicated to aviation and, as the Toulouse Blagnac Airport is the home of Airbus, there were plenty of aircraft to see.

Inside the exhibit hall were examples of the history of flying.

Outside was a display of the Airbus fleet.

The super jumbo A380

And of course, the Concorde

Tuesday I spent wandering the city visiting several of the magnificent churches and monuments.

Lunchtime in the Place du Capitole

One of my favorites is the Basilica of Saint Sernin, built in honor of the first bishop of Toulouse and a martyr saint. Killed in 250, a modest basilica was built in the 5th century but it soon became popular with pilgrims and the current building was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries. Major restoration work has continued since the 18th century.

After the visit to the Basilica I made my way past several other monumental buildings to the Pont Neuf and the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la Daurade.

The basilica was completely rebuilt at the end of the 18th century on the site of one of the oldest churches in the city, probably a chapel for the Visigoth kings.

It features a just restored “Black Madonna”

And a very interesting depiction of Purgatory.

Wednesday morning it was off, back through the last three locks of the Canal du Midi and onto the Canal de Garonne. We would spend Wednesday night back near the village of Dieupentale where we spent the previous Saturday night and then head back down the Canal du Montech to revisit Montauban.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Garonne Lateral, May 23 - 27

In the last post I put up a not very good picture of a typical small church bell tower of the region and promised a better one. This a picture of the church in Lacourt San Pierre at the beginning of the Canal du Montech, a better example.

Monday morning it was just 10 k and three locks to get back onto the Garonne Lateral canal from the Baise River, a task completed by 11 am. I had arranged to meet friends from Briare, Pete and Sarah, for lunch at the restaurant at the moorings. They sold Marianna at the end of last season and were on a car trip to France collecting stuff they had left behind and reconnecting with friends, including Lennie and Di on Elysium, who had bought a house on the Lot River, not too far from the Garonne. We had a great time catching up.

From L to R Lennie, Sara, Di and Pete at Lennie and Di's new house.. 

There may be wine involved.

(Pic borrowed from Pete)

Tuesday morning we set off to the west in the direction of Bordeaux although we didn’t intend to get there. The canal ends quite a way short of the city and that necessitates a trip on a tidal section of the Garonne River. I didn’t want to do that and there wasn’t time anyway. The plan was to return to Agen by around the 27th so Kevin could take the train up to Paris and maybe catch a few of the opening matches of the Paris Open tennis tournament.

Our first stop was the halte nautic the village of Villeton. A women from Maine we met earlier in the summer in Castelsarrasin, Anita, was a new canal boat owner and she had run into a little trouble in Agen. As she was on her own (her crew had to leave) she needed someone to help her back into the Agen marina. Kevin volunteered and there was a train station in the nearby town of Tonneins. He could catch the train back to Agen, assist Anita and then catch the train returning to Tonneins later in the afternoon. Meanwhile, I could catch up on a little painting.

Anita on Arabelle leaving Agen

Our tasks complete, Wednesday after lunch we pushed on to the small marina at Pont de Sables where we would turn around to head back to Agen. 

6 k from the moorings there is the good sized town of Marmande. I took a quick bike ride into town on Thursday, visited the tourist office which is located in an old restored house with a nice fountain.

Of course, I also visited the gothic style Notre-Dame church with it’s magnificent organ.

There is a beautiful tile mural long the city wall facing the Garonne River.

Friday morning it was back up the canal about 25 k to the village of Damazan and its small marina.

A walk through town revealed more of the typical half-timber construction typical of the old buildings of the area.

Saturday it was 33 k and about 6 hours back to Agen. 

Kevin would be leaving Sunday morning by train to Paris, returning on Wednesday. I had plenty of boat chores to attend to so I wouldn’t be bored!

Friday, June 9, 2023

Down the Baise, May 19-22

 Kevin took this photo. Not much room in those Baise locks for Oldtimer!

Friday morning the river had calmed down sufficiently that we could head downstream back to the Garonne Lateral Canal. 

We returned to the village of Montcrabeau, just 11 k downriver. With the current pushing us we quickly made it through the 3 locks and were tied up by about 2 pm.

This time I felt comfortable enough to leave the boat and wander around the small village up the hill.

I found a small lavoir that hadn’t had a lot of restoration work.

The church wasn’t open but it featured the same kind of bell tower seen on many of the smaller churches in the region instead of a steeple.

I also found a place to take the obligatory view of the countryside countryside movie.

Saturday morning we set off at the usual time and arrived back in Nerac just after 1 pm.

This time a walk took me to the other side of the river and the Eglise Notre Dame.

And a pretty typical church interior from the 18th century.

I also had a nice circular walk that began in the large riverside Parc de la Garenne, crossed the river on a pedestrian bridge and then returned to town on the other side. There are several water features along the way including the Fontaine St Jean.

Sunday, after a quick cycle to the grocery store, we set out by about 10:30 am to make the 10k to a town we hadn’t stopped at on our way up the river, Vianne.

We found a very picturesque medieval village still with its ramparts and gates intact. They were also having some kind of fete and vide grenier so we had a nice afternoon wandering about the narrow village streets.

The interior of the church was pretty austere.

When standing on top of the southern gate (that use to house the jail) you can get a good look at the lock and weir on the river.

Looking back from the lock to the old mill on the right and the city walls behind

Monday morning it was just a couple of hours back to the Garonne Lateral Canal and our usual stop in Buzet-sur-Baise. This time we were going to head further west and see how close we could get to the end of the canal before we had to turn around to Agen so Kevin could catch a train to Paris for a few days.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Condom, May 16-19

So we would have several days to explore Condom.

 One of our first stops was right across the river, the J. Dupeyron armanac house. Here is the wiki page for your education on this delicious drink.  We enjoyed a brief tour through the storage rooms (and their delicious smell!), took a look at one of the older column stills used for producing the eau de vie and saw a short film about the making of the liquor. Then it was on to a tasting where we were given small sips of the three types of armanac, VSOP, XO and Hors d’Age. We went back to the boat with a bottle of their delicious hors d’Age.

Hard to tell in this pic but from left to right those upper barrels are labeled 1976, 1980 and 1981.
Other barrels were from the early 1900’s.

This display case in the tasting room says you can pick a bottle from the year you were born. 

The one from my birth year was one of those little tiny bottles and would sell for around $650.

The other obligatory stop was the Cathedral Saint Pierre with its elaborate rood screen.

I had been in email contact with the waterways authorities about the state of the river. The national VNF does not run the Baise. It is controlled by the local departments but they were very responsive and in contact with Remi, the capitaine. We made a trip to the supermarket Friday morning in anticipation of a departure and by the time we returned to the boat around 11:30, we were told that the river had dropped enough that it was safe for us to get underway.

Lines off, we turned around and headed downstream for a return to the small village of Montcrabeau.