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Old 03-12-2019, 11:21 AM   #21
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We retraced our previous route for our journey back to Narbonne.

Photo's
1, The tranquil canal du Midi in winter.

2,The 'Le Boat' hire boat base at port Cassefieres that Jay referred to.

3,Almond trees in blossom gave an air of impending spring.

4,Approaching the sept ecluse (7 locks) going up .

5,You have to make sure you are moored correctly when the lock keepers open the sluices.

6,This brings many ooh's and aaah's from the crowd of onlookers.

7,Looking back 'downhill'.

As I've explained the boat was for sale and we serviced the engine/gearbox, checked all electrics and mechanicals, supplied all new bed linen, quilt, pillows etc. pots pans, utensils, plates, cutlery and glasses and valeted the interior ready for any inspection.
We feel that by presenting the boat in this condition is showed good faith and would help to sell the boat.

And the result of all our hard work ?

The prospective buyer met us back at our base in Narbonne and after some gentlemanly negotiations bought the boat .
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Old 03-12-2019, 12:04 PM   #22
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We boat owners in the lower part of the canal du Robine in the town of Narbonne have to move our boats up through the town centre lock into the upper part of the canal each winter as the local authority 'the VNF, Voie Navigable France) drains the lower part of the canal. This makes simple things like receiving your post or a parcel a problem for the post and delivery men. The area we're moved to is not the most savoury part of town and there was a brand new inflatable stolen, several attempted break-ins of boats and cars were thwarted by our team vigilance and something had to be done.

Below Narbonne there are vintners and rice growers who have the right to drain water from the canal to irrigate their crops.
The boat owners and agricultures normally live in harmony, however these farmers utilize sluices and they generally need some annual maintenance as well as any normal canal bank repairs as necessary.

Because the town of Narbonne has a 30 year contract with the VNF to run the port it's the towns responsibility to provide electricity and water for these 25 displaced liveaboard boats.
The initial installation cost the town 40,000 Euro and each consecutive year costs 22,000 Euro which negates any profit the port generates.
I decided to do something about it and organized a petition of the boat owners to install a movable barrier to put a stop to this annual disruption.

The mayoral elections a looming in the summer and I heard on the grapevine that water conservation has became a hot topic in the town hall so I felt the time was right to strike and make a presentation.
Each time the canal is drained we lose 86,400 metric tonnes of water and with water conservation a hot topic and election looming it makes politicians nervous.

I'll let you know in due course if we're successful, even if we are it will take one more draining of the canal to install the barrier.
Getting anything done in France is like two elephants mating, there's lots of screaming, tramping of grass and bushes flattened accompanied by more screaming and trumpeting, even then it takes 2 years to get results !

Photo's.
1, Turn this photo, it's obviously the metal insert.

2,A better vertical shot of a barrier installation about 40 miles away.

3, These metal gates are simply lowered into the slots by crane.

Its not rocket science it just needs common sense, the 'one off' cost of this would be 30,000 Euro and 2,000 each time a crane has to lower these barriers in place.
The result for us boat owners though would be peace and contentment and in the long term we'd be saving the town money and conserving water. A win win situation for everyone.
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Old 03-14-2019, 12:03 PM   #23
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Because of the canal closure and the need to get the 'other' boat ready for our prospective, and subsequent sale, the journey to and from the shipyard we thought we'd take a wee break.
So we began to look around for a 5* foxhole somewhere warm and friendly where we could chill out and relax for a while.
We mostly use a site called groupon.fr to search for travel deals and chose a weeks holiday in Malta.
Malta's familiar with me from its days as a British colony, I brought my young family here many many moons ago to teach them the world and escape the winters in Ireland and I love it, the Maltese people are warm and friendly having been a British possession for over 200 hundred years everything still has a British 'feel' to it, the universal language being English, the Maltese have their own language of course which is a mixture of Sicilian/Lebanese and Arabic.
Like the majority of the Mediterranean countries it's been fought over by various factions over the centuries, even right back to the Phoenicians and each passing conqueror left their mark in one form or another.
Malta is the only country I know that's been awarded a military medal, the George Cross, which is proudly worn on the top left hand corner of its national flag.
This award was given to the island for its outstanding courage and resilience in the face of constant bombardment during WW2.
Malta holds a key strategic position in the Mediterranean, whoever held Malta held the key to North Africa and this played a significant part in Erwin Rommel's defeat in North Africa.
During the war the Axis powers (Germany and Italy) tried to bomb British held Malta into submission, they failed.
The defending forces were undermanned and had just 3 old bi-planes, Faith, Hope and Charity as air defence against the Italian Aeromachi and German Junkers and Stuka dive bombers.
These old bi planes were patched, repaired and re-patched each time they went into, and returned from, battle. Being slow they had many advantages and disadvantages and gave a tremendous account of themselves as the pilots and ground crews worked miracles to keep them flying.
The shipyard in Valetta played a crucial part in keeping the British fleet operational and the Maltese marine engineers are among some of the best in the world.
The Maltese people are well used to making the very best use out of anything they can find, from the very rocks on the island and anything that grows on it.
You're welcome to come with us over the next few posts as we look around Malta.
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Old 03-19-2019, 11:14 PM   #24
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I'm a bit slow on the pics as the internet was very slow and wouldn't upload photo's but were back in business now.

Photo's,
1,Passing over the coast of Sicily which is 60 miles out from Malta.

2,3, Apologies for turned photo, we were using a Samsung Galaxy8.

4,5 Approaches to Malta, if you click to enlarge the main town/port of Valetta's clearly seen.

6,Because its a small island anywhere that's not rocky is cultivated.

7,Valetta from the airport. The Maltese people are very religious Catholics and you can't look in any direction without seeing beautiful churches.
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Old 03-19-2019, 11:26 PM   #25
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Photo's.
1,Where is Malta ?

2,Time for a siesta. One of the things you notice about Malta is the number of cats everywhere, I never did find any reason other than that they simply love them. Everybody feeds them and they even have shelter boxes for them in some places.

3,These decorative bowls were initially meant for flowers but the cats took them over as the stone retains the heat and they fit just nice and comfy.
The cats are fed 3 times a day by the hotels and locals wherever they are.
These cats have tourist baiting down to a fine art better than any human being, right down to the cute purr and happy face and rubbing against your leg to get petted and do you know what ? I never saw anyone resisting, one lady even said she hates cats 'but my, these are so cute'.

4. Our route to Malta, we drove from our home port Narbonne to Marseille to catch the flight to Luqa airport in Malta. Luqa airport was the base for those biplane's, Faith, Hope and Charity I mentioned earlier. They were relegated to spotting roles when they were reinforced by Spitfires and Hurricanes in 1942 and the roar of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines defending Malta were music to the ears of the Maltese people who suffered so much while under siege and from the German and Italian bombers.

5, Malta and its islands of Comino and Gozo.
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Old 03-21-2019, 04:07 PM   #26
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Malta was a British colony for more than 200 hundred years and although Maltese is spoken virtually everything is in English, the language, style of food, driving on the left, family names etc, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Mediterranean England.
One socialist firebrand called Dom Mintoff who had the advantage of a fine English university education decided to kick out the British capitalist colonials and have an independent Malta.
The timing for his efforts coincided with the loss of Malta's strategic importance due to advanced military logistics, however the island was much in demand and favoured by the British as a military posting, the Maltese naval dockyard workers were very skilled and the British navy had many major repairs and refits done in Malta and all that British presence meant money coming into the islands infrastructure.
Malta was a British family hotspot because of its Britishness and military past.
All that changed when Dom Mintoff won his independence but when the British pulled out the financial blow to the islands infrastructure was catastrophic
It was brutally driven home to Dom Minoff that socialism only works on other peoples money.
Mintoff started looking around for another benefactor and it just so happened the German dominated EU wanted logistical bases in its ever expansionist plans, so 70 years later the Germans finally conquered Malta without firing a single shot.

Photo's.
1, Wherever you go in Malta you are never far from a church being devout Catholics these churches are magnificent. It brings to mind the old Irish saying 'The poorer the people the taller the steeple' Apologies for the turned photo's.

2,Eat your heart out Michael Angelo, these roof paintings are superb.

3,The sandstone masons art is everywhere.

4,5, I just can't stay away from the water.

6,Narrow country roads are still like cart tracks. Cactus grows everywhere and the wily Maltese take the prickly pear and make a liqueur out of it but you'd better get a taxi home after a couple.

7,Even private houses have effigy's of the Virgin Mary.

8, Tranquil view.

9, This is called 'Popeye' village and is used for making different types of films.

10,Artistic church roof painting.
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Old 03-22-2019, 04:00 PM   #27
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In these posts you will see some photo's horizontal, some vertical and some 'normal'.
When travelling sometimes you just have seconds to take a shot, other times in sensitive places, churches, museums and galleries you have to be a tad sneaky. We use a Samsung 8 Galaxy + phone for some and a Nikon Zoom for others. We've tried turning, copying and pasting and using separate folders to 'lock' them.
All this is very time consuming and as were busy researching and planning time is precious so we ask you for your patience forgiveness for the horizontals.
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Old 03-24-2019, 01:05 AM   #28
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The capital of Malta is Valetta, lets have a look around.

Photo's.
1,
This stock photo's shows the fortifications in Valetta. it was built by the Knights Templar during the crusades and it's as solid today as the day it was built.
During WW2 it was under siege by the German air force and their Italian allies and there's a massive labyrinth of tunnels below the city which were used as military command posts and air raid shelters for civilians.

2, Even the bus service has an interesting history. Originally all bus services in Malta were run by families, each family servicing a route or two, they used old English buses, some dating back to pre-war and the mechanics worked miracles keeping them on the roads. The engineers made new parts for obsolete models and its a great shame they weren't all put in a museum.
The newly independent Maltese government were wooed by the French company, Veolia, to put away these old family businesses and take over the whole islands bus services and they bought these buses cheap from Turkey and thought they'd make a killing.
The old families blocked them, obstructed them and then Veolia agreed to employ the old bus drivers who promptly went on strike, called in sick or simply stopped the bus in the middle of nowhere because they needed a toilet break.
Veolia threw their hands up in despair and sold the buses to the Maltese government and now it all runs smoothly again.
A ticket costs 1.50 Euro and you can travel anywhere within 2 hours on the buses.

3,4,
This is St Pauls bay. St Paul the disciple was on his travels by boat which was struck by a raging winter storm. His boat dismasted and at the mercy of the sea after days at sea his boat was washed up in this bay.
St Paul was starving, dehydrated and suffering from hypothermia. The local fishermen saw his wrecked boat and went to rescue him. They carried him ashore, sheltered him behind a low wall and built a fire and gave him water to save his life. He was later carried to a nearby house where he made a full recovery and went on to preach the gospel of Christ.
The Maltese built a church on the site of the house as a testament to the miracle of Christ saving St Pauls life.

5,6,7,8.
Here you can see the size of the fortifications built by the Knights Templars. It was never conquered militarily.

9.In the Mediterranean settlements were built to make the best use of natures gifts. These houses are built of stone which keeps cool in the summer aided by narrow streets to keep out the sunlight and channel the cooling winds. In the winter when closed up they retain the heat.

10,
The map helps to orientate Malta's layout.
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Old 03-26-2019, 12:46 AM   #29
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Valetta is a lovely old city of steep streets shops of every kind, for example you may see a door and single window but inside a craftsman jeweller inside making the most exquisite pieces by hand.
One thing strikes you is that everyone is so polite and helpful, it really is a lovely place to visit.

Photo's.
1,
Malta's correct title is Malta GC. GC stands for George Cross.
The George Cross is a British military medal awarded for outstanding bravery and was awarded to the island by King George the fifth of England to commemorate Malta's bravery during the siege by the Germans in the 2nd World War and is the only place I know with such an honour. It is flown in the top left quadrant of the Maltese flag and on all official papers.
A fitting tribute to the people of Malta recognizing their loyalty and courage.

2,
Wembley is a region of London and famous for its football stadium, the name evokes many memories for football fans.

3,
Of course where there are tourists there are street artists, this smartly dressed guy held this pose rock still under the blazing heat.

4,
This chap had a pitch outside McDonalds and was very entertaining and had the gathering crowd clapping to the music and the extremely well manipulated puppet.
One thing you notice is that any street entertainers polite, neat and respectful.

5,
The emblem of Malta is this cross seen here mounted on a door knocker.

6,
Narrow streets channel any breeze and use the wind chill factor to cool the houses. British colonial style balconies with opening windows scoop the breezes whichever way the wind blows.

7,
In this photo the balconies are easier to see, the bottom floor has been modernised but the upper floors are British colonial. there are opening windows at the front and each end to catch the cooling breeze.

8,
British daily newspapers and sent by wire and printed locally.
The local English language paper is the Maltese times.

9,
You could be forgiven for thinking the British were still here, and they are. Not all the Maltese people embrace the socialist EU and many are still very pro British
The ubiquitous British telephone box known all over the world, originally these held a coin operated phone but in keeping with the modern world they now uses credit/phone cards.

10,
This post box dates back to King Georges reign.
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Old 03-27-2019, 01:01 AM   #30
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Photo 1.
I did tell you I was 'grounded' this year but not as bad as this guy ! In fact when I checked around the boat it seemed to have been lifted out and was lying on pieces of wood, other than that it looked abandoned.
I can't understand anyone having a boat and then just up and walk away and leaving it.

A little bit more around Valetta to whet your appetite.

Photo.
2, 3, 4, Self explanatory.

5, Quaint old English expression, nowadays the word Toilet is commonplace. Many children of my generation were taught formal English at school and when I hear so called 'famous' stars speaking their version of English it make me cringe.

6,
Another colonial reference.

7, This is the British coat of arms showing the Lion and the Unicorn with the inscription Honi Soit Q May Y Pense which translates as 'Evil be To He, Who Evil Thinks'. This inscription is engraved on every British military artillery gun barrel (the correct military terminology is Artillery piece). In everyday soldiers black humour slang it's referred to as 'Get some of your own back'.

8,
A copy of the sentry boxes at Buckingham palace in London.

9,
Orange trees on the main pedestrian thoroughfare, very few are picked by the public, they are left for the birds to feed on at the start of spring when food may be scarce.

10,
Look at this old beauty. A Morris Minor 1000 in 'Concours' condition.
I spoke to the owner and he told me it was imported second-hand from England with 125,000 miles on the clock he's owned it for 18 years and put a further 11200 miles on it. Its still got the original engine, gearbox etc, he services it himself and keeps it in a garage when not in use as the Mediterranean sun can be hard on the paintwork. I asked him about spares and he either gets them from England or gets someone local to make them.
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Old 03-27-2019, 01:39 AM   #31
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Liked the Morris Minor! The same engine went into my "bug eye" Austin Healey Sprite, but with one more carburetor.
Now I don`t have a photo,it may be may be pure urban myth, but,there is the story of a sign,with no obvious purpose,in Ireland, perhaps near the Cliffs of Moher, which read: "Do Not Lean Bicycles Against This Sign".
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Old 03-27-2019, 04:25 AM   #32
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Hi Bruce.
I remember them well, I had the van type first and put the twin carbs on with a copper tail pipe, I was a real boy racer
When I was in the army I'd a Triumph Mayflower, it had the same engine as a Ferguson 20, I changed the carb to the TVO/Paraffin system (the army used gallons of paraffin for cleaning and it made a ready fuel supply) but the exhaust smell was 'distinctive'
Later I had a saloon I bought for tenner and a shooting brake version with the ash woodwork down the sides. I sold them both to rake up the deposit for my first truck. Great 'oul yoke
Your memory doesn't fail you the sign is still there, probably one of the most photographed in Ireland, if we pass on our travels I'll post a snap for you.
Next up is a quick trip to England to pick up a bath, its a long story .
Apologies for rambling on and digressing.
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Old 03-27-2019, 06:53 AM   #33
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You need to share the story of Faith, Hope and Charity - which were accidentally left behind!
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Old 03-27-2019, 07:55 AM   #34
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OK Menzies, no sooner said than done.

GO, GO, GO, GRAB YOUR RIFLE, AMMO,TIN HAT AND WATER BOTTLE ! ! !

Photo.
1,2, Self explanatory.

3,4,5,6 & 7,
At the outbreak of WW 2 there were 3 old biplanes stationed at RAF LUQA (its now the main airport). These planes were nicknamed Faith, Hope and Charity and they took up the defence against the German and Italian fighters and bombers. They all took terrible punishment but each time they landed the ground crews worked miracles and got them patched up and rearmed and back into the fight again. Because of the distance the Germans and Italians had to travel they only got 20 minutes over Malta before they had to return to their base.
Against all odds these 3 old planes hung on until they could be reinforced by Spitfires and later some Hurricanes. Hope and Charity finally succumbed to enemy fire and Faith was recovered after the war, refurbished and can be seen in the Malta siege museum.

8, WW2 Pilots flying uniform.

9,My uncle's contribution. Photo of a Barchino in the next blog.
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Old 03-27-2019, 08:20 AM   #35
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A few more photo's from the war museum for you old soldiers.

Photo's,
1,2, as explained in previous post.

3,4, damaged engines cannibalised for spares.

5,Malta's flag with George cross.

6,7,8, Both civilian Merchant and Royal Naval seamen performed miracles under heavy fire to keep the inhabitants of Malta alive and protected..

9, Finally its over.

10, And after all that you need a cold beer.
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Old 03-27-2019, 05:27 PM   #36
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Next up is a quick trip to England to pick up a bath, its a long story .
Well, if there is any truth to English bathing habits,picking up a bath there may not be so easy.
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Old 03-27-2019, 05:46 PM   #37
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Liked the Morris Minor! The same engine went into my "bug eye" Austin Healey Sprite, but with one more carburetor.
Now I don`t have a photo,it may be may be pure urban myth, but,there is the story of a sign,with no obvious purpose,in Ireland, perhaps near the Cliffs of Moher, which read: "Do Not Lean Bicycles Against This Sign".
I have a pic of a sign I saw in Gibraltar .... "Keep Gibraltar Tidy"
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Old 03-27-2019, 10:49 PM   #38
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Depends on your origins and upbringing Bruce, we had a tin bath hanging on a nail.
Was that the bomb squad Dan ? Seriously though it's very clean and tidy a real pleasure to visit.

Anyway back to the touristy thing.
Photo's.
1, The origin of this type of boat dates back to Phoenician times and thousands can still be seen around the Mediterranean islands. Over time they've grown a little larger than the originals which sported a Lateen sail and oars, now small diesels have replaced sail and oars but the hull shape has remained virtually the same. In Malta these are handed down from generation to generation and known as a Maltese Luzza, the eye painted on the front is to ward off evil spirits, in some places its called the eye of Osiris.
This boat has just been refurbished and you can see the results of the hours loving workmanship. She's a real beaut.

2,3, As you can see there are hundreds in the harbour. If you click on the photo in the background left you will see the crane from the container terminal. Malta is heavily reliant on imports, milk for example is evaporated, shipped here from as far away as Australia and Germany then reconstituted.

4, No problem topping up with fuel here.

5,Self explanatory.

6,8. This is a slightly larger double ended Luzza used for fishing. In photo 8 look at the little arm hanging out to the left, see the black circle ? Because of the sunlight and its opacity you may just be able to pick out a clear bulb. This is passed off as a working light but in fact they use it to attract fish to their nets. Around Italy, Spain and a small region of France they use acetylene lights to attract anchovies and are known as Lampara.

7,This is an ex English Ford Transit enjoying a profitable retirement in the sun. We of course sampled its wares of deliciously creamy ice cream.

9,Self explanatory but note the grooves in the wooden runners for the keel of the Luzza's to run up the slip in a straight line.

10, Another beauty, this is a Royal Enfield single cylinder 350cc with bullet sidecar. This is a late model with disc brakes on the front.
The emblem of Royal Enfield is 3 stacked rifles in a vertical triangle, why ?
During WW1 and 2 there was a Royal armaments factory in Enfield in Middlesex England, after the war with so much machinery available they started making motorcycles instead of guns.
My first bike was a maroon coloured 125 with a Villiers 2 stroke engine with 3 speed hand change gears.
After the war very few working people could afford cars and bikes were the answer to mobility.
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Old 04-06-2019, 11:56 PM   #39
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Before we leave Malta after our holiday we promised ourselves we'd go over to the island of Gozo which lies just off the Northern tip of Malta. Naturally its a carbon copy of Malta in an even more laid back way. If your into old architecture there are even more churches and castles and the people are so pleasant and friendly you can't help but love it.

Photo's.
1, The ferry from Malta to Gozo takes 20 minutes and costs 8 Euro 50 cents return.

2, I can't keep away from boats and wanted a ride on a Maltese Luzzo boat, here taking a trip along the coast looking into caves and studying the rock strata.

3, The main town on Gozo is called Rabat and this is their lovely old fashioned intimate theatre.

4,5, Waste collection and delivery trucks here are what's known as 'cabovers', and are necessary for their enhanced manoeuvrability which is required for the small roads in villages and around the island which aren't suitable for long nose trucks.

6, This is the steep access street giving access to the main fort, known as the Citadelle, don't worry guys there's a pub halfway up !

7,8, Self explanatory.

9, Narrow streets within the fort reveal surprising large rooms, in fact there's virtually a small village beneath the surface all connected by tunnels.

10, Gozo lace parasol, beautiful craftsmanship.
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Old 04-07-2019, 12:20 AM   #40
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Come and let take a final look around the Citadelle.

Photo's
1, The Citadelle main church facing into the square.

2,3, Beautiful painted ceiling and ornate altar. The people may have been poor but the Catholic church wasn't.

5, The main square, and the Citadel's governors would address the people gathered in the square below from the balcony.

5,6, Self explanatory.

7, This carriage was used to transport the Catholic Bishop in style.

8,Not everybody was a God fearing Catholic, anyone caught in anti-social behaviour was locked into these stocks in the main square, ridiculed and pelted with rotten eggs and vegetables with the accompanying hordes of flies and mosquito's.
I personally think they should be brought back, it would certainly make some of our present day undesirables think twice before stepping out of line.

9, Not all 'visitors' were made welcome either !
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