Canal de Garonne

May 15, 2017 - Toulouse, France

Since we set off from Castets-en-Dorthe we have travelled virtually the length of the canal de Garonne, not for the first time, but with enormous pleasure.  We have never seen as many kingfishers as we saw in the first day of our journey in the reaches between Castets and Meilhan.  It was such a joy to watch them swooping and fishing and flashing their blue wings.

We have stopped before at the mooring at La Falotte, but had never visited the mineral museum, nor eaten at the Chope et Pichet restaurant  ( I think the skipper thought it looked a bit pricey).  We moored at about 5pm having booked a table at the restaurant and headed toward the museum which is housed in a chalet style building above the canal.   The collection of minerals, stones and sand is a private collection which we were shown by the husband of the couple who had made it a life's work to travel, mostly in Europe, building up their collection.   At the end of our visit I selected a stone pendant as a souvenir.   Suffice to say that the price of the souvenir plus the 8 Euro per person entrance fee made the (delicious) meal at Le Chope et Pichet seem like a bargain!

We saw more kingfishers as we approached Sérignac a couple of days later.   We made fairly quick progress to Buzet and then without even stopping at Agen on to a favoured mooring by a lake at Golfech just outside  Valence d'Agen.

The weather was a bit variable, but luckily the day that we stopped at Pommevic for a planned bike ride to Auvillar it was a beautiful sunny day.  Not too warm, but very agreeable for a ride across the plain and over the Garonne and up the steep hill to Auvillar which is on the route of the Saint Jacques de Compostello walk.   We passed several prilgrims on their way from Moissac to Auvillar.  Unfortunately for them (and for us) the church is undergoing renovations, so it was only possible to admire this beautiful building from the outside, as well as the fabulous view of the  Garonne as it sweeps through the countryside. Auvillar is a town which was thriving when the port below the town was a busy one taking supplies and materials both to Toulouse and Bordeaux.  However once the railway ( and to a lesser extent the canal) was built, the town fell on hard times and by the 1930s it was a run down ghost town with no raison d'être.  It was described as such in a report about French towns in 1930  and the local people determined to breathe new life in to it.  Now it is an an interesting place with a restored  circular grain market in the centre and a small but fascinating museum describing  the former glory of the town especially the earthenware industry which was  conducted by a very successful team of local  artisans until overtaken by big factories in the 19th century.

it was an exhilarating place to visit,  and we were due for an exhilarating time in Moissac too!   The market was dedicated to the new season of strawberries!   We are quite keen on the Cléry variety, but decided to be tempted by an offer of Gariguettes - two large punnets at a bargain price, and also tried the Mara des Bois variety.  Luckily we favoured the Gariguettes as we had enough for several meals!   We also went a bit mad buying asparagus, including some black asparagus, which was a bit of a con as it turned green when cooked.  It was delicious though.  Moissac market is famous for its amazing cheese stall, and so we, along with everyone else in town, queued for our turn to buy some of their excellent Saint Nectaire and chèvre among other cheeses.  Since it was Sunday and we were in France we felt we were duty-bound to buy a chicken from the rotisserie along with some deliciously cooked potatoes.  Then, we were back to the boat to store our strawberry and asparagus swag.  What a fabulous Sunday morning!

Our stay in Moissac was only slightly marred by the fact that David had to spend a long time returning to move the car along to keep up with us.    He started off on what should have been a fairly straightforward journey to Langon with a quick change at Agen.  Before he even left Moissac there were warning announcements about the delay on the first train.  This meant he missed his connection and had a four-hour wait in Agen before finally reaching Langon just before nightfall.  It had been a long day by the time he returned to the boat with the car.   He had been lucky enough to meet a Frenchman who spoke excellent English and kept him abreast of announcements from SNCF re their hope of ever reaching Langon.   His new friend told David his entire life story during their time together.  This included many tragedies including house fires and sudden deaths.   It was not exactly heart-warming stufff, but it did serve the function of preventing David from complaining bitterly about the shortcomings of the SNCF.

We are now at the lock of Hers, a few kilometres short of Toulouse,  and plan to journey up into the city and along the first locks of the canal du midi to the port.  We spent a very enjoyable couple of days last weekend at Lacourt Saint Pierre just outside Montauban.   We have been past the (now disused) pente d'eau (water slope) at Montech on board Cassandra several times, but really wanted to have a closer look, so took ourselves on a bike ride from Lacourt Saint Pierre to get as close as we could to this crazy piece of engineering.   It was built in the 1970s to save the péniches from having to go through five locks.  Instead each  péniche went into a sort of wedge of water and was then pushed up or down the dry slope before being released back on to the canal.  It functioned for over 30 years, but broke down in 2009 and has never been repaired.   Another example of this mad mechanism was constructed and installed near Béziers, but was never used and has now been dismantled!


La Falotte mooring
Minerals museum at La Falotte
Cassandra approaching a lock
Entering a lock


Cath Bruzzone:
May 25, 2017
Sooo envious of the strawberries, asparagus and cheeses, Anne. It's amazing how France still cherishes their wonderful local markets. It all sounds great and your description of the canal engineering is fascinating. Hopefully the weather has perked up now, as it has here (Wales base, Twick every now and then.) Keep enjoying yourselves. Love Cath xx
Cath Bruzzone:
May 25, 2017
Forgot to say, sorry about David's op but hope the sun protection system is working well. x
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