June 22, 2017

As we left Carcassonne we became aware of the fact that we were sharing the canal with many coypus.   At the end of each day as the boats all moored and the water became still the coypus would start swimming.  They can swim quite fast and I must admit to some anxious moments as I saw one swimming swiftly toward a tiny duckling one evening.   Luckily, the duck parent had seen the rat and moved the ducklings to a safe place.  Their presence in the water is one good reason not to swim in the canal.

We stopped overnight in Trèbes, and then had an extremely enjoyable weekend at Puichéric.  We had heard about the local man who likes to sell his vegetables, and sure enough, within minutes of us mooring he had arrived with a couple of lettuces and a price of 1€, which I accepted.   What I didn't realise was that this was just to soften me up!   The next morning I found myself paying much more for a kilo of haricots verts, three courgettes and a beautiful bunch of flowers! The vegetables did taste delicious and I couldn't help admiring his enterprise.   Late on the Saturday afternoon we decided that we really must visit the village of a Puichéric even though we suspected that it might amount to a pharmacie and an unvisitable château.   As it turned out the village did have those two things, but we were pleased to find it also boasted a fine Romanesque church.  As we entered the church it was clear that a rehearsal had just finished and we were urged to stay for the local choir performance of mostly medieval and renaissance pieces.  It was a pleasure to be there and it ended with an unexpected performance of Oh Happy Day sung with brio by the choirmaster. Afterwards we were invited to stay for a glass of wine and shared drinks and nibbles of onion tarts and tasty homemade pancakes with the performers and  the audience which mostly comprised their families:  they were very friendly and welcoming.

The next day we moved on to the village of Homps where we went for a lovely evening walk out to the lake of Jouarres which we had managed to miss last time we were in the village.   We had also succeeded in  a convenient stop at La Redorte, another village which we had not explored in the past.  The next village where we spent any time was Le Somail.   We knew about the famous bookshop in this village, but it had been closed when we were previously there.  This time we explored it and indeed found it fascinating.  I am a reluctant buyer of paper books, but I found myself treating myself to a 1950s French cookery book!   It has wonderful illustrations and some very quaint simple recipes which I shall be trying out soon - you have been warned!  We also enjoyed the audio visual display in the Tourist Office at Le Somail which includes a virtual reality Eighteenth Century English Lady explaining how the journey of three days from Béziers to Toulouse worked in the early days of the canal du midi.  It clearly involved a lot of changing boats and stopping for meals and beds for the night.   Not very relaxing!   We had a delicious lunchtime meal in Le Somail, so came away charmed by this very pretty and popular village.

We had been waiting for the wind to drop before leaving Le Somail.   Last time we tried to reach Narbonne we were trapped for several days at Sallèles d'Aude by the high wind.   This time we planned it perfectly and reached Narbonne  to find ourselves the only boat on the visitors' quay on a Saturday night.   We woke up on Sunday to find ourselves surrounded by a market.   We thoroughly enjoyed it and especially the indoor food market in the beautiful Halle.   In the afternoon we took ourselves to visit the Horreum ( so-called, but apparently no more than a guess that it was a Roman warehouse).   We were very fortunate to be in a guided group led by Narbonne's very experienced and  knowledgable archaeologist.   He brought Roman Narbonne alive for all of us and led us through the ( wonderfully cool) underground passageways which may or may not have been warehouses.

On Monday we visited the art and history museum which is housed on the top floor of the archbishop's palace.  There was a lot of sacred art and some very nice mosaics.  The biggest bonus of this visit though was that it was a combined ticket with a visit to the tower in the cathedral which contained the cathedral treasures.  We wanted to revisit the cathedral which we had seen very briefly a couple of years ago.   When we arrived at the tower we were allowed up once we had produced our tickets.  Up in the tower we found a lot of silver and a simply stunning Brussels tapestry.  We admired this for some time and were just about to ask to be released from the tower when the lady who had shown us up pointed out that we had not tried out the whispering as per St Paul's cathedral whispering gallery.    It was fantastic!   I think at St Paul's there are always so many other visitors whispering away that it is hard to appreciate the effect, but as we were alone in this tower we could whisper very softly and hear one another quite clearly even though we were at opposite sides of a massive tower.    Great fun!   Then, we were also invited to stand in the middle of the floor of the tower and sing.  Jesus Good Above all Other seemed appropriate for the occasion.  It sounded amazingly loud, and apparently,  not out of tune!

We wanted to continue on the canal de Robine beyond Narbonne and so set off the next morning, from what had suddenly become a very full and busy quay, hoping to reach l'isle sainte-Lucie nature reserve on board Cassandra.  However, this was not to be.  We found the canal to be  shallow and full of weed.  Our progress became slower and slower until we eventually decided that we would turn around and moor by Mandirac lock.  Gruissan and Sainte-Lucie would have to be visited on our trusty bicycles.  Even the trusty bikes were not playing ball though, and skipper's evening was spent repairing the puncture on one of the tyres.   The next day we did succeed in cycling from Mandirac to Gruissan for a lunch of fresh fish and a visit to the extremely ruined château.  From the ruins we had a fantastic view of the salt flats and the Mediterranean Sea.  I think this is the nearest we will get to the sea this year.  It would have been nice, but the navigating was ceasing to be enjoyable and the insects were attacking us with gusto.   After lunch on Thursday a friendly kingfisher led us townies back to where we belong - in a city.  Narbonne encore.


Carcassonne mooring
Anne at primary school museum
Carcassonne Cité
Pilgrim and her donkey

1 Comment

Rosie Hedges:
June 23, 2017
Hi Anne and David. Looks like you're having a fab time. Lovely photos. You're covering some ground aren't you. We've just got back from a few days in Nancy on your recommendation. Most interesting. Beautiful old town and the Art Nouveau is so impressive. Ah- la belle France. Xx
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