September 3, 2017 - Castets-en-Dorthe, France

Anyone who has had a conversation with skipper about restaurants in France will know that Buzet is the home of his favourite restaurant.  Le Vigneron is a traditional restaurant in a beautiful room with a lovely welcoming atmosphere and an unfailingly delicious menu.  Skipper never tires of it, and I never complain about accompanying him.   On our return trip through Buzet we managed to fit in two trips to the Vigneron, one with David and Jan who drove down from Bergerac to join us one sunny Saturday.

We had made our way from Carcassonne to the summit of the canal du midi, one of our favourite places, and then down into Toulouse where we stopped for just a couple of days, but discovered a new district in the city and explored the museum of modern art at Les Abattoirs in Saint Cyprien as well as a nostalgic Roger Broders exhibition at Matou, the poster museum in the same district.   We loved the market in this quartier as well, and we were only sorry that it was not the right moment to stock up with lots of supplies.

I also managed to slip out to the Musée Georges  Labit one afternoon when skipper was working on Cassandra.  THis is a wonderful collection of Asian and Egyptian art housed in a purpose-built nineteenth century museum just a few hundred yards from the port of Toulouse.   I really enjoyed especially the Egyptian art in the basement and the Japanese art on the ground floor.   There was a lovely little collection of netsuke including a hare with amber eyes!

From Toulouse we made our way back on to the canal de Garonne and to the town of Montech where we found ourselves in town on the day of the Grand Prix de Pétanque of the town.  We clearly  needed to attend this and indeed the dinner in the market hall afterwards.  We watched the pétanque for over an hour, but remained completely in the dark about the scoring system, the techniques and the strategies.  We gathered that there were three people in each team and that many of the players had a wonderful eye for hitting and placing the balls, but beyond that it is all a mystery still. There is a lot of measuring goes on which must be something to do with the scoring! At about 7PM people started drifting towards the Halle and so we too paid our €13  for a delicious meal of charcuteries, roast beef and probably the most delicious Tropézienne  we have ever had ( and free wine).   We fell into conversation with a French couple on our table who were on holiday in the area, and who were also completely confused by the rules of pétanque so this made us feel better.

From Montech to Castelsarrasin and so to Moissac where we had a meal at the Moulin on the advice of our French friends in Montech.   We had  been aware of the Moulin, but somehow had missed it on our previous visits to Moissac.   Once we had moved the car along to join us in Moissac and made a return visit to the Abbey cloisters which we had so admired a couple  of years ago, we set off again towards Agen.  On the second day, we had just left the last lock before Agen when we recognised the telltale vibrations which indicate something caught on the propellor.   We did quite a lot of reversing and hoping that whatever it was would release itself before having to admit defeat and tie ourselves up at the waiting pontoon for the lock which we had just left.   I called the lock keeper and he very nicely explained that if our breakdown was not connected with an imperfection in the lock there was nothing he could do to help us.    LIkewise the Agen pompiers told me that if we were not in any danger or putting anyone else in  danger then they could not help us.  Eventually we decided to try the boatyard at Castelsarrasin who may have been able to provide a diver.   By then, with a lot of prodding with the boat hook we had established that there was something soft wrapped around the Propellor.  The boatyard were unable to help for several days, and in the end we were once again rescued by fellow boaters.   Thanks to a community forum for boaters in the south west of France (can2mers) the very next morning two experienced divers drove up, untangled what turned out to be a fisherman's blanket and strode off like the heroes they were, almost before we could realise how very lucky we were!  Thank you Martin and Josef!

We did not stop at Agen, but carried straight on to Sérignac and then on to Buzet.   We had so enjoyed the night market at Meilhan last year that we wanted to go again this year, so we timed our arrival to be there on the right day, and sure enough it was just as much fun this year too.   This meant that we stopped at a rural mooring  at Tersac, just short of Meilhan, the night before the market.  As we tied up I thought there was a funny smell in the water and closed one of the big windows in our cabin. A few minutes later we realised that there were a lot of dead fish in the water and about half an hour later an extremely distressed local man jumped out of his car and declared that it was un désastre and  une catastrophe and that all the fish in the reach were dead.   Sure enough dead fish in their hundreds were carried along by the current throughout the evening.   We talked with him about pollution, and  the  next morning we were told that it was believed that it was something to do with a storm further upstream on the canal.   By the morning they were all gone,  and we were able to tell a hopeful fisherman  that there was no point, and there were no fish in the reach.  Luckily for us, the VNF did not close down the canal, and we were able to carry on to Meilhan and thence  to home base, Castets-en-Dorthe.



Rising up to Castelnaudary
Summit of Canal between Mediterranean and Atlantic
Toulouse market
Fish in Toulouse market


Sharlene Coss:
September 3, 2017
Oh, oh. I'm sensing an end to the season coming up. Will miss following your adventures. We love watching petanque - for us petanque, bowls and curling are all very similar. We are curlers from way back and are looking to joining a lawn bowling club here in Camberley when we move here permanently.

We've had fun looking at boats - very near Basingstoke Canal so watched the boats on a lovely warm Sat cruising up and down the canal going through the lock. So much fun just gongoozling!

Enjoy your last few weeks. Hope to meet you again in early new year!
Sharlene and Phil
Cath Bruzzone:
September 3, 2017
The fish scene sounded horrible but made up for by the food descriptions earlier on. Still green with envy.

Cath xx
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