Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, October 30, 2023

That’s About It, Folks. October 24-Nov. 14

 I’ve returned to France to do some maintenance and winterize the boat as I didn’t have time for that in July. Plus it gave me an excuse to come back and enjoy more of those delicious baguettes. I’ll be here for three weeks.

I’m not going to make a map this year as it was just backing and forthing on the Canal de Garonne with side trips to Montauban and up the Baise.

But there are numbers-

694 kilometers

240 locks

142 hours underway 

41 travel days

I also think I’m going to put the blog to bed. The boat is for sale and I’m afraid my heart just isn’t in it. I don’t think I’ll be doing again what I did this year. While I did have a good time, it’s just not the kind of cruising I want to do. Barging is a wonderful life and I would dearly love to continue but I’m afraid it’s just not in the cards.

I want to thank you all for following along and your kind and generous comments.

If you know anybody who wants a very nice, comfortable Dutch barge on the French canals…..


Return to Castelsarrasin, July 11-16

 My sister, Melissa (Missy) had been in Paris for several days and was taking the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux. I took the train from Agen and we met up in the train station. Since we only had a couple of hours, there really wouldn’t be time for much sightseeing so we mostly just wandered around the streets near the train station.

The ornate Bordeaux train station and city tram

We did take a stroll through the Basilique St. Michel whose construction started in 1350 and took about 200 years to complete. The church steeple is dwarfed by the nearby Fléche St. Michel, at 375 feet the tallest tower in southern France. Too bad about the scaffolding.

By late afternoon we were back on board, preparing to get underway.

Wednesday we were heading back to Valence d’Agen and after about 5 hours and 3 locks we were tied up in time to take a little stroll through town. It was a rather harrowing trip as there was still alot of debris in the canal, much of it just under water and invisible, so there was a pretty constant banging as branches struck the hull. No damage was done but it sounded like someone striking a drum when we hit something! Valence was very familiar to me now, but it was a beautiful day and the flowers were putting on quite a show. 

Thursday morning it was off to Moissac. I had contacted Anthony, the capitaine, a few days before to make sure there would be a spot for us as it was now high season, the weekend and, with the canal reopened, boats were starting to move around. We were tied up just after lunch so there was plenty of time to revisit the cathedral and cloister, the third time I’d been there this year.

My sister climbs out of the crypt in the church.

We were in no particular hurry as we didn’t need to be in Castelsarrasin until Sunday so we spent Friday just hanging around town, visiting the market and taking in the sights.

Saturday we set off around 11 am. Since it was just 6 k to Castelsarrasin, we motored past and stopped for the night at San Porquier, just 7 k further up the canal. I hadn’t stopped here before but we found a very attractive small village just a short distance away. Since we were tied up by about 3 pm there was plenty of time for a visit.

The church and city hall

A very attractive house that had obviously had some recent maintenance.

Since it was still early in the summer the sunflowers were in full bloom.

It was just a short trip and only two locks back to Castelsarrasin so Sunday morning we set off at the ungodly hour of 11 am and were tied up in Oldtimer’s resting place for the winter about 1 pm.

The flowers in Castelsarrasin were looking pretty nice, too.

Missy was off back to California Monday morning and I really didn’t have any time to mess around as I would be leaving the boat on Wednesday for my flight home Thursday. There was just time to get the laundry done and get things cleaned up before I headed to the train station for the return to Toulouse where Air France would whisk me home.

The plan was to return at the end of October to do a little maintenance and complete the winterization.

Back to Agen, June 29-July 10

Usually the moorings at Sérinac sur Garonne are chock full but with all the canal closures due to the weather, there was plenty of room for us to spend the night.

We were tied up around 3:30 and went for a stroll around the village.

The village church has a very unusual twisted steeple. 

Originally built in the 1060’s,by the mid 16th century the church boasted the twisted tower. Due to a lack of maintenance and a lightning strike in the early 1900’s, the original tower was removed and replaced by a simple four sided tower in 1922. In 1984, a local association was formed to raise money for rebuilding the steeple in its original shape. The new tower was built of laminated wood so it weighed less that half what it would if it was constructed in the original manner. In 1988 the new 16 ton tower was lowered into place. A very large crane was involved.

After a brief stop at the Hotel le Prince Noir for some liquid refreshment, it was off to the local tourist office. We were chatting with the very helpful tourist office lady, telling her our plans (on to Castelsarrasin) when she informed up that the recent storm had downed so many trees across the canal that it would be closed past Agen for at least a week. Plans made in jello, again! 

Friday morning it was off again, just 3 hours and 4 locks to Agen where Jenny and Adrian would be leaving me on Monday. I would then have a week on my own before my sister arrived July 11.

So I had another week to enjoy the wonders of Agen.

One of the first events I attended was an organ concert in the church where I learned what “pulling out all the stops” means. Since the organist was in a loft up above our heads, there was a large video screen in the front of the church so we could watch the performer. It’s a little hard to see in the picture I took of the screen, but all those “stops” are pulled all the way out for the grand finale when the roof is raised. 

I also took a hike up the hill across from town and could look down on the marina where I’d spent quite a bit of time.

I also took a couple of bike rides around town and got a good look at the pont canal that crosses the Garonne both from the river bank and from the canal itself.

After a few days I needed a change of scenery. I had discovered a small park about 2 k’s away from town, no locks in the way and shaded by nice trees with several convenient bollards. Friday morning I threw the lines off and headed up the canal just in time to enjoy another weather event. Heatwaves, thunderstorms, floods, droughts… it was time for an evening hailstorm. Nothing quite like grape-sized hail in a steel box. Luckily the solar panels were ok.

By Tuesday morning I was back in the marina. In the late morning I would take the train to Bordeaux to spend the day with my sister there and then Wednesday, the canal now open, we would head off for Valence and Castelsarrasin.