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Old 07-10-2018, 01:58 AM   #21
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An update on the French Foreign Legion.
French nationals are now allowed to join. When you join you surrender your passport, you can then choose any name (as long as it's not offensive) for the duration of your service. At the end of your service you can either recover your birth name or, become a French national under your chosen legion name.
You will not be accepted if you have committed a major crime i.e murder, all other misdemeanours are ignored.
There are many so called 'hard' men who've simply run away, others like my friend from Enniskillen are jilted lovers. I knew the young couple and found out much later the girl was so shocked at the hurt she caused she never married.
When a Legionnaire completes his full military service of 22 years with good conduct many are so institutionalized and have no family, they can then choose to leave, or go to one of the Legionnaire's retirement farms.
The Legion has several farms on which these retired Legionnaires live and work to keep them occupied and active, remember even when they retire these men are still extremely fit.
These farms are self supporting and all the produce is used to feed the Legionnaires battalions, wine from the vineyards, grain made into flour, vegetables, meat, eggs etc.

Now on a lighter note.
This little guy in the photo's below are Coypu or (in French, Ragonda).
They're vegetarian and love French bread, this guy can 'work' the boats better than any beggar. He goes alongside and does a couple of circles, if he sees someone is going to feed him he keeps circling slowly, if not he moves to the next boat.
In an earlier post I mentioned an island that was built in the port of Castlenaudary to provide a windbreak for barges passing through the bridge.
No commercial barges pass now and the island provides a wildlife haven for ducks, geese swans and these coypu who all seem to live happily together and raise their young.
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Old 07-12-2018, 06:39 AM   #22
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Just before we left Castlenaudary I explained how the Legionnaires aren't particularly keen of photographs being taken of recruits and you know the forums maxim. No photo, no proof.
Here the back of squad disappearing over a bridge on their early morning run after the sergeant gesticulated no **** photo's.
If you've ever been in the services you'll recognize the recruits trademark haircut !
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Old 07-12-2018, 06:49 AM   #23
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the next section takes us to the summit of the canal du Midi having risen 190 metres from sea level.
To feed the canal Pierre Paul Riquet designed and created the St Ferreol dam which is fed by rivers from the nearby Black mountains. So clever was his design back in the 1600's his dam is still feeding the canal as you read this.
The first stone was laid in 1667 and remember there were no JCB's or computers in the building of this remarkable feat of engineering.

Photo's.
1, The locks can be a bit intimidating for first time boaters.

2,A gentle flight of 3 locks.

3,Vineyards promise our future enjoyment.

4,Lovely lady lock keeper, very helpful.

5,This is an ancient Lavoire where the ladies would bring their clothes to be washed while they gossiped.

6,As you can see here plane trees line the canal, the movement of people/water along the lower sections of the canal du Midi helped to spread the disease.

7,Hire boat enjoying their holidays, there is very little traffic on the section and this is the first boat we've seen today.

8,As the canal follows the contours there are also large fields of barley, sunflowers as well as the vines.

9,Small 2 person hire boat,

10, Camper vans love the tranquillity of the canal and watch enviously as we cruise by.
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Old 07-12-2018, 07:06 AM   #24
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Up, up and up we came to visit the 'Parting of the Waters'.

Photo's.
1, Self explanatory 16th century graffiti. In fact when the canal was first named it was the Royal canal du Languedoc and many bridges and aqueducts had the royal coat of arms mounted prominently.
During the French revolution the communists destroyed them all.

2,This old converted Peniche 'Tourmente', travels the canal putting on comedy/musical/poetry/shows for local communities.

3,Another old working Peniche converted to live aboard, they rarely move.

4, The old and the new side by side. The little hire boat is built in steel by Linsen of Holland. More famous for expensive steel motor cruisers.

5,6, Self explanatory and the peak of the canal du Midi.

7,This is the feeder from the Ferreol dam.

8,Control light, Red is stop, Red and Green means the lock is being prepared and Green is go.

9, The unique oval shaped locks on the canal du Midi.

10, British wide beam barge.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:34 AM   #25
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UNIQUE IN EUROPE !
This is the only place I know in the World where you can take your boat into a motorway service station area. The canal runs just beside it and it was excavated when they built the autoroute. A hire boat company has a base there along with some private boat moorings.
It's called Port Lauragais and it's on the A 16 Autoroute near Toulouse

Photo's.
1, Be patient they'll be in a bottle soon.

2, This is one of Port Lauragais service station restaurants.

3,Want a snooze, here a tent in the shade for you.

4, Even your dogs can stretch their legs and play.

5, 6, Trucks n Caravans.

7,Mums to are catered for.

8, You want a mattress to snooze on ?

9,Or a picnic ?

10, The company that runs/maintains this portion of motorway is called Da Vinci, this is a plan of all the rest areas.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:09 PM   #26
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Soldiers and sailors have long been God fearing folk and the old saying that 'There are no atheists in a storm or a foxhole' still rings true.
Bargees are of the same ilk and here on the canal du Midi there was a chapel built for their use.
It happened to be built at a Relais where passengers on the fly boats would eat rest and sleep overnight before continuing their journey.
The horses would be changed also so they could also have a well earned rest.
A fly boat (Bateaux Mouche) was so named because it was towed by galloping horses and 'flew along'.
If you visit Paris and take a trip on the river Seine these excursion boats are still called Bateaux Mouche.

Photo's.
1,2,3. The beautiful Bargee's chapel at the ecluse (lock) Negra.

4,5, ? The European airbus factory is in nearby Toulouse, this guy has a thing about quirky garden 'furniture'.


6,7, Cars and old buses seem to please him too.
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Old 07-14-2018, 11:00 AM   #27
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As we approach Toulouse, one of France's principal cities we pass the rear of the European Airbus Industry factory, like most premises they are not so attractive from the nether regions.
Sadly also graffiti starts to appear on some bridges, thankfully its not prolific.
As with most waterways you get the untidy, downright filthy and a beautifully maintained gem as you approach main areas of human activity.
Toulouse is also the end of the canal du Midi and the start of the canal Lateral a la Garonne. As I explained earlier this was built to run parallel to the river Garonne which proved to have unreliable water levels.

Photo's.
1, Orientation map. The canal Lateral a la Garonne finishes at Castets. After that it becomes the Bordeaux estuary.

2, Toulouse marina, fairly pricey at 16 Euro's per night plus water, electricity ad showers.

3, Happy crowd on an old peniche now converted to a party boat.

4,Various styles of boat.

5,An ex steel hire boat 'Lost in France'.

6,Bateaux Mouche.

7,8, Imposing fašade of the Matabieu railway station. There is a lock on the canal which passes in front of the station. All the locks in Toulouse are automatically camera controlled
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Old 07-14-2018, 12:34 PM   #28
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Its about time I made an honest confession to you.
Normally before we start any long cruise we take a short 'shakedown' cruise to highlight and iron out any niggles and problems.
Just like older engines we humans need more regular servicing as father time marches relentlessly on and due to health appointments we didn't take our normal 'shakedown' trip before leaving for our summer cruise.

Now we're paying for our complacency with a battery charging problem. This is because 'Snow Mouse' is an ex hire boat and any repairs were done by 'plug it and patch it' hire boat mechanics using common black wire to repair any faults without removing any faulty wire or parts. Obviously as a live-aboard we use more electrical appliances therefore our demand is higher and needs an efficient charging system.
With an engine driving 2 alternators fault tracing is an elusive art. The admiral stocked up with food and drink before we left with a freezer and refrigerator stuffed full of food so we have to keep some charge going into the batteries and regular stops at marina's to recharge the batteries back up to full capacity.
We've a solar panel helping but in temperatures of up to 38 degrees the fridge and freezer are working overtime.
The solution of course is to rip out all the old wiring and rewire it with colour coded wire with brand new regulators, blocking diodes and split charge relays.
However when cruising we don't have the usual home base facilities so we'll carefully soldier on to the end of the cruise and I'll have all the necessary parts and wire waiting back at home base ready for installation immediately on our arrival back in Narbonne.
The other annoying problem is that we have an air bubble in the hydraulic steering which is defying all efforts to remove it despite tracing all the piping and we can't figure out why or how it got there.
We'll cure it by filling the system with new hydraulic fluid from the piston on top of the rudder but I still need to know how it got there in the first place to eliminate the problem.
Once its all been rectified we'll take a week/10 day cruise to test all systems to Port La Nouvelle on the Med and let 'Snow Mouse' have a few days bathing in salt water as the salt water will clean the bottom of the hull of any fresh water slime/weed.

Why do I tell you all this ?
Simply so that you won't make the same mistake.
Despite these niggly problems we're fully enjoying our summer cruise and once past Carcassonne the canals are much much quieter and beautifully peaceful.
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Old 07-14-2018, 12:55 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irish Rambler View Post
Its about time I made an honest confession to you.
Normally before we start any long cruise we take a short 'shakedown' cruise to highlight and iron out any niggles and problems.
Just like older engines we humans need more regular servicing as father time marches relentlessly on and due to health appointments we didn't take our normal 'shakedown' trip before leaving for our summer cruise.

Now we're paying for our complacency with a battery charging problem. This is because as an ex hire boat before we bought 'Snow Mouse' any repairs were done by 'plug it and patch it' hire boat mechanics using common black wire to repair any faults without removing any faulty wire or parts. Obviously as a live aboard we use more electrical appliances and therefore our demand is higher and we need an efficient charging system.
With an engine driving 2 alternators fault tracing is an elusive art. The admiral stocked up with food and drink before we left with a freezer and refrigerator full of food so we have to keep some charge going into the batteries and regular stops at marina's to recharge the batteries back up to full.
We've a solar panel helping but in temperatures of up to 38 degrees the fridge and freezer are working overtime.
The solution of course would be to rip out all the old wiring and rewire it with colour coded wire with regulators, blocking diodes and split charge relays.
However when cruising we don't have home base facilities so we'll soldier on carefully to the end of the cruise and I'll have all the necessary parts and wire waiting back at home base ready for installation immediately we arrive back in Narbonne.
The other annoying problem is that we have an air bubble in the hydraulic steering which is defying all efforts to remove it despite tracing all the piping and we can't figure out why or how it got there.
We'll cure it by filling the system with new hydraulic fluid from the piston on top of the rudder but I still need to know how it got there to eliminate the problem.
Once its all been rectified we'll take a weeks cruise to test all systems down to Port La Nouvelle and let 'Snow Mouse' have a few days bathing in salt water as the salt water will clean the bottom of any fresh water slime/weed.

Why do I tell you all this ? Simply so that you won't make the same mistake.
Despite these niggly problems we're enjoying our summer cruise and once we past Carcassonne the canals are peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable.
After Toulouse we had the canal all to ourselves.
Enjoy July 14th fireworks

L
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:39 PM   #30
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Irish Rambler, we want to thank you SO much for this thread! We'd love to do this cruise some time; Ann's sister lives in northern Provence not far from the Rhone and we'd love to explore the more western section of the country. In the meantime we live vicariously through this thread.
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:57 AM   #31
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As we travel onwards from Toulouse the countryside changes, oh there are still the vineyards but not so prolific, here were into fruit growing country with peaches, apricots, apples, maize and fields of sunflowers.
There's also large sand deposits as we cross this plain, 18 kilometres with no locks.

Photo's,
1, Sand excavation, industrial scale.

2,Ancient road bridge still carries the outer ring road.

3,The white piece you see between the two bridge arches depicts the canal du Midi and canal Lateral a la Garonne junction.
The arch to the left is the canal du Midi and the arch to the right carried traffic into the canal du Brienne which joined the Garonne river, it's now only used by local trip boats as the river Garonne is not suitable for boats due to shallow patches.

4,Efficient canal cleaning apparatus.

5, Toilet humour.

6, New car distribution depot makes an ideal sun farm too.

7,Wide, deep and a pleasure to cruise, the canal Lateral a la Garonne.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:13 AM   #32
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Thank you Lou, for some strange reason the small town we are at enjoy their fireworks on Monday night so we were able to see neighbouring villages last night and ours come tomorrow. We had a funfair and music to enjoy.

Thank you too calaltexflanc, glad you enjoy the thread. If you wish to buy a boat to see this in person I have a Birchwood 33' single engine cabin cruiser to see it first hand and will give you a good deal as a TF member..

Photo's.
1,Abandoned boat in the canal junction. I can never understand the mentality of abandoning a boat, better to give it to someone to care for rather than create an eyesore.

2, Some scruffy live aboards on the outskirts of Toulouse.

3, Roast pork anyone ?

4,Choosing the prizes, the young are a bit shocked when you whup them.
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Old 07-18-2018, 04:41 PM   #33
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This part of our journey is really turning into a real cracker.
We love the canal du Midi but with so many tourists in a rush to get as far as they can in a week/2 week holiday its a like a busy main road with learner drivers.
After Carcassonne it get calmer and after Toulouse it becomes just magical, for goodness sake don't tell anyone about this hidden gem of a waterway.
We stayed in small town of Montech, for just 6 Euro's 40 for 2 nights, we actually stayed for 4 it was so lovely and the people really nice and very helpful in a small town way where everyone courteously bids you Good Day, Evening etc.
As we moved on the lock system began to change, suspended over the lock is a pole, you simply give this a gentle quarter turn and the whole lock sequence starts, once in the lock and secured you press a green button and the whole thing is then automatic.
There is a tarmacadam bike path alongside the canal for anyone who's got cabin fever to either walk or cycle along.
Young families who are a bit short of capital buy a cheap tent, some bicycles and take their holidays cycling and camping, its lovely to see the young cycling happily along with their parents learning about the countryside not staring at a TV or sitting with a phone or Gameboy stuck in their hands.

Photo's.
1,Lock keepers house now up for sale. The VNF who run the waterways employed lock keepers at every lock and with the demise of commercial traffic these guys were on nearly a permanent holiday and couldn't be made redundant under French law. Most devoted their time to gardening and the lock keepers houses and lock surroundings were a joy to behold. Now the locks are automated and as each retires they are offered the house at a cheap price. Others seek other employment and aren't replaced.

2, I prefer a conventional folding bike but others choose this type.

3, A Pigionierre. These are pigeon lofts built to supply meat and eggs, they are hardly used nowadays.

4,Aqueduct over the river Tarn.

5,Pat & Geri in their cruiser 'Cool Running's' crossing the aqueduct.

6,Pretty lock on the canal Lateral a la Garonne. Note the red and green lights denoting the lock is being prepared. The round light just below is a flashing yellow to denote the lock is working.

7,This pole is suspended over the canal and used to activate the lock, on exiting the lock there is a similar pole, DO NOT TOUCH IT, IT WILL SCREW UP THE LOCK OPERATION its for traffic coming the other way.

8,Apple orchard, the nets are to keep the white butterflies from laying eggs in the apples and destroying the crop. There are a lot of apricot, peaches, apple and pear orchards in this region.

9.Green light for us to go into the lock, when leaving wait until the gates are fully open as an electronic beam is activated as you leave.
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Old 07-19-2018, 04:15 AM   #34
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How many of you are religious ?
How many of you give it a nodding acquaintance and only visit for hatches matches and despatches ?
How many have read the Christian bible or have been taught it at school ?
Do you remember the 12 disciples ?
I've already told you the story of the apostle St Paul in my previous blog 'Paddy's Flyin'.

Do you remember James the apostle ?
Now I'll tell you a wee story about him.
James returned to Rome from preaching Christianity in Galicia and he was sentenced and put to death by the Romans and after his death his embalmed remains were placed in a boat along with some of his faithful followers.
The boat set sail and the legend goes that they set a course for Galicia (Galicia is in North Western Spain) where he had last been preaching Christianity and they landed there some time later.
Nearing the coast they saw in the sky a 'field of stars' (probably the Milky Way) which seemed to be pointing to a hill and so they followed it and there on that hill that James remains we're reputed to be buried.
In Spanish the name for a field of stars is Compostela.
James remains were discovered again in 812 Anno Domini and are now placed in a cathedral there which was consecrated in 1211, Christians have been making the pilgrimage to the cathedral ever since.
Pilgrims come from all walks of life and all over Northern Europe to take part in the Pilgrims walk to St Jacques d' Compostela.
The traditional routes have been used for centuries and hostels and transportation of personal belongings between hostels is a well organised system.
Originally a person who had completed the pilgrimage would collect a sea shell from the beach and hang it on the outside of their rucksack as a sign of recognition, it was also used by the poor as a begging tray for money for food.
Today it just used for recognition.

What the heck has this got to do with cruising I hear you ask ?

Simple, we cross one of the Pilgrims routes in our boat.

The town is called Moissac, we didn't stop this time but will call on our way back, we plan to stop at mostly different places on our return route to keep you well informed.

Photo's.
1, The control point for the swinging bridge which carries the pilgrims on their pilgrimage to visit Santiago St Jacques d' Compostela.

2, The pilgrims bridge, a toot on your horn alerts the bridge keeper to halt the traffic, swing the bridge open to allow us to cruise past before closing the bridge once more.

3, The European recognized pilgrims routes.

4,5,6. self explanatory.

As a footnote to our story there's a well known delicious shell fish dish called Coquilles St Jacques which is served in a shell exactly like the one shown in the photo.
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Old 07-19-2018, 06:04 AM   #35
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Reference the above map.
The lower place encircled is our home port Narbonne. the upper one is Moissac to which we referred in the previous post, the shell is of course a scallop and the lines are the recognized pilgrim routes.

Now do you believe in fate or Deja Vu ?
Me no.
But I do come across some strange coincidences from time to time.

Coincidence ?
We stopped just outside a town called Castlesarrisan at a landing stage adjacent to an industrial estate which happens to have a 24hr credit card operated filling station and obviously fuel is much cheaper there than a marina pump.
(Its not that I'm tight, its just that I'm tighter than my Australian brethren) calm down Bruce it's a joke.
We used a Jeton(plastic token) to secure a shopping trolley and put our 4 plastic 20 litre cans in to transport them the 400 metres to our boat, out came the 'jiggler' syphon tube and the job was quickly done.
Beside the filling station on the opposite side of the road is a big boys toy store, and boy what a store !
You can buy everything from a farm tractor to a machine for taking nuts out of fruit ! Overalls, coveralls, batteries, hydraulic repairs, valves, hoses, car trailers and tools by the ton I kid you not.

Coincidence ?
Yes, the shut off master switch for our bow thruster stopped working just as we arrived at the pontoon for fuel.
Fate, Deja Vu or coincidence ?
Of course they had several types in the store !
It's called COMAR, look them up on the Internet.

Coincidence ?
A lady was walking her dog along the towpath and saw our boat was Irish and stopped to speak to us just as we finished refuelling at the pontoon.
The usual where did we come from etc. I spotted the accent and it turned out she came from Belfast, her and her husband had a boat on the same inland lake system in Ireland that I left 12 years ago.
I knew their boat as I'd seen it around and waved to it as they passed, but didn't know the people on board.
She started asking did I know a fecking eejit called Geoff Woolley who sailed away single handed in a cruiser from Belturbet and was supposed to be heading for France via the Atlantic coast.
'He was a bloody nutcase that guy, he never made it' she said.

(You can read about that in a book called 'How to Cruise Into Retirement' on Amazon as a paperback, or via Kindle).

She said my husband took one look at the map when he first thought of going to retire and live on a boat on the French canals and uttered those shameful words to a sailor, LOW LOADER ! ! ! !
I kindly tried to explain that boats were built to cruise and she said 'Well that other fecking eejit disappeared and never came back' !
I pointed out that the weather here is gorgeous, the canals are beautiful, the best of wine is cheap here, the food is good and girls were very pretty, sure what more could a man want, no wonder he didn't go back.
I couldn't keep up the pretense any longer and gave her my card.
Well feck me ! Just wait'll I tell my husband I met you, he'll think I've been on the vino collapso !
I'm not big headed but I enjoyed the moment.
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Old 07-19-2018, 07:20 PM   #36
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Keep`em coming IR,great posts.
I like that the TF cuss filter lacks an Irish translator.
Visiting Ireland recently, you could buy replica auto registration plates incorporating "feckin eejit".
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Old 07-20-2018, 03:25 AM   #37
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Sure you know the 'craic' in Ireland Bruce, they speak English but just like you good folk in Oz have their own slang terms with a dry witty sense of humour and they're always ready to laugh at themselves.
Some of the sayings give you a chuckle when they crop up in conversation.
One who's lazy could be said 'He'll not boil his water'.
Actually 'feckin' was a slightly more acceptable way of saying the more robust version without seeming to be quite as crude.

The canal lateral a la Garonne is a cracking waterway to enjoy, really super, beautiful, calm and relaxing, real boating heaven for those who wish to escape the madding crowds. We've seen about 6 cruisers on the move since we left Toulouse.
We're moored at the moment under the plane trees at a village called Pomeric with free electric and water, can't be bad.
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Old 07-20-2018, 11:11 AM   #38
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You all know my partner Evelyne is French, and the French people don't see the countryside, they see a menu !
We're a bit early in the season but already delicious little baby sweetcorn have appeared on the plate.
Because these sweetcorn are initially grown for animal feed the large cobs of corn high up on the stalk can be tough, the trick is to take the small tender ones low down, cooked in a pressure cooker and served rolled in melted butter with a smidgen of salt, delicious.
We're discrete and we simply pull up alongside the canal bank and take a stroll into the field but make sure only to take sufficient for a meal or two.
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Old 07-21-2018, 05:38 AM   #39
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We've taken a few days just chilling out tied up to a 'Halte Nautique' adjacent to the village of Pommevic.
The heatwave we've experienced so far has given way to cooler temperatures, cloudy skies and heavy rain showers.
The name Pommevic originates from Roman times and means the place of the apple orchards.
We were drawn to see the interior of the 13th century church.
Sadly most churches in these so called 'modern advanced' times have to be kept locked to prevent looting and damage by vandals.
We also made the obligatory visit to the cosy little village bar where we got chatting to some locals and discovered that some information I gave you earlier was wrong.
The apple orchards are covered in nets to prevent damage to the crops by heavy hail stone showers not to stop butterflies laying their eggs in the apples, that's done by an insecticide spray.
Whilst in the bar imbibing in a nice cool beer a thunderstorm began to approach and we heard not only thunder but also a sound like large fireworks so we asked our friendly local what it was.
He replied that farmers fire small cannons with an aluminium powder/mix into the rain clouds, apparently this breaks up the hail stones and they fall as rain.
I know in the past vineyards used to have fire pits in the vineyard which were lit at the approach of hail showers to protect the vines from damage especially when they were in bloom.
We've seen on TV recently where vintners were complaining of damage to the vineyards by hail, presumably instead of lighting fires or firing cannon its simpler just to claim off the insurance or plead poverty to the government in the hope of getting a grant.

As we left the bar the heavens opened up and despite umbrella's we were quickly soaked right through to the skin and would've made good entrants for a wet 'T' shirt contest.
To be honest, with the local brew we were beyond caring and had a good laugh about it.

Photo's.
1,
Ancient hand pulled bier for bringing deceased to the church, inside the bier is a wooden stretcher for carrying the deceased into the church, and from church to the graveside.

2,3,4.
Ornate stations.

5,6.
Interior vaulted roof showing the ancient architect and mason's skill.

I apologize for the orientation of photo's, they were taken with a Samsung S8 and appear vertical when viewed on the phone and on my laptop , however when I upload them here they appear horizontal.
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Old 07-22-2018, 05:36 AM   #40
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Quote:
She started asking did I know a fecking eejit called Geoff Woolley who sailed away single handed in a cruiser from Belturbet and was supposed to be heading for France via the Atlantic coast.
'He was a bloody nutcase that guy, he never made it' she said.

(You can read about that in a book called 'How to Cruise Into Retirement' on Amazon as a paperback, or via Kindle).

She said my husband took one look at the map when he first thought of going to retire and live on a boat on the French canals and uttered those shameful words to a sailor, LOW LOADER ! ! ! !
I kindly tried to explain that boats were built to cruise and she said 'Well that other fecking eejit disappeared and never came back' !
I pointed out that the weather here is gorgeous, the canals are beautiful, the best of wine is cheap here, the food is good and girls were very pretty, sure what more could a man want, no wonder he didn't go back.
I couldn't keep up the pretense any longer and gave her my card.
Well feck me ! Just wait'll I tell my husband I met you, he'll think I've been on the vino collapso !
I'm not big headed but I enjoyed the moment.
Geoff:


Now that was funny! I looked up your book on Amazon and discovered that you have written several. Which one do you recommend?

And thank you for sharing your journey in photos with us.

Pea
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