Wednesday, June 9, 2010


23 May 2010 to 6 June 2010

As we advised in our last blog, we arrived in the town of Agde which carries the Canal du Midi through one side while having a short canal which opens to the Mediterranean so you have a choice of making your way to the sea or just mooring up in a direct route, ready to carry you on towards the west and which will eventually lead you inland away from the coast altogether. We chose the latter way so after some bargaining with the local “Capitain” we got a mooring where we could get a load of fresh water, this being the vital commodity in these areas as so many places do not provide fresh drinking water now for some reason so you grab it while and where you can.

The town of Adge is another of those quaint towns which was founded by fishermen so straddles the waterway offering marine services, some of which are excellent we are told plus a variety of shops and restaurants galore. As we had walked into town for a look about we decided to have an evening meal there and went looking for a suitable eating house. Choice was not a problem but finding one which would serve food before 7.30pm was. It is odd to see them open but will only sell drinks until “opening time” so we must have visited 12 or so before we found one prepared to give us an early meal. This was a floating barge anchored to the quay by long stainless steel poles, beautifully decorated and serviced by some great staff.
Rhonda's Comments: This whole building was covered in this moissac.
We had an enjoyable meal and watched the sun setting while watching a local fisherman running his small but modern boat up the canal dropping off fine mesh nets of up to a hundred meters in length then scurrying away so don’t know what time span he would follow before returning to collect them, but I was surprised that in such a narrow waterway he would be allowed to fish like that. Oh well this is France.

Rhonda's Comments: The poppy fields are so beautiful and now the lavender is coming out too.

Next day we lazed about, did some shopping and planned to have a quiet night when the “Capitain” came and told us at 2.30pm that we had to leave as the space we had occupied was really for one of his rental vessels which would be back soon. With no other mooring points available in the whole local area at this time we were a bit miffed as you can imagine. We had to get the scooter loaded. Roll up water hoses and mooring ropes, pack the boat and set off.

Well he did us a favour really as about 4 kms further on we came to a beautiful clearing along the bank to a berthing spot offering water and electricity. We took one of the free spots and hooked up to the power and water facilities and waited for someone to call looking for money but so far (day 4) no-one has turned up, so we will probably make a call to the Mayor’s office and tender some money in return for this great service. It is just a beautiful spot and the town of Vias is only 1.5kms away so it was easy to cycle into there for shopping etc and yesterday to go there again to the big market day. Just near us is a very large amusement park (not yet opened for the season) plus a waterpark (which is open) as there are two big camping and cabin grounds located on both sides of the road nearby.

By heading the opposite way from the town for 1.5kms you arrive at Vias-Plage, the local beach which is stunning on a good day as the Mediterranean just sparkles and the water is clear and clean with absolutely no surf but ideal conditions for families with small children. Leading down to the Plage (beach) there is a parade of typical tourist shops and restaurants. I guess there must be close to one hundred restaurants serving a variety of foods and of which Moules and Frites (mussels and chips) is a huge seller and which get busy at lunchtimes for sure, but we wondered what happens when winter comes along.
The other oddity we felt was that there are no changing sheds or showers to be seen and to serve the throngs of holiday makers there is only one block of 5 toilets and these are set about 100 meters from the beach. Having said this I have to say that the beach is of really nice sand and is obviously cleaned each day and as there is no surf the beach is scalloped into little bays with stone groins protruding out to sea thus giving separate swimming areas for users’ choice. I chose to have a swim and while it was FRESH it was good to feel that I have at last dipped into the Mediterranean waters. I hope it won’t be the last.

Before returning to the boat we spoke to a young man who was serving in a clothing store and spoke excellent English as he had spent a few years in London as a tour guide to Europe. He spoke 5 languages well which he said was vital to be able to get such a job but in the past few years had chosen to work in the seaside town of Vias-Plage. When questioned how business was going as it seemed to be so busy he said that in June, July, August they get 160,000 people per week through the town all heading for the beach and the restaurants. He said that his position called for him to work 7 days a week from 9 am to 7.0pm for 8 months of the year then to take off 4 months, no pay just off time so some folk sure have to work hard.

The wind which has bedevilled us for weeks now has died away to a gentle breeze so this adds to the attractiveness of the area so the sun is beating down and we are headed for 30 degree plus temperatures soon. Yeah.

Next day we decided to push on so reluctantly left Vias for a relative short jaunt up the Canal du Midi to another delightful town called Villeneuve-les-Beziers where we moored right up against the pier in the main street. Across the road to the local Cave (wine merchant) where we topped up with the vital stuff before heading off to the local supermarket. A pleasant early evening was spent sitting on Jean and Roger’s boat Topaz 6 sipping a quiet drink watching the sun set. Life can’t be too bad for sure.

I have to mention that at one point we had to go into a lock which was a bit difficult but we handled it ok but of course it had to be the time for an organised cycling event chose to stop for a cold drink and a breather and to watch proceedings. There were at least 150 of these cyclists all standing photographing us and watching every move and making comments which we could not understand of course (maybe just as well). It was a spectacle we had not encountered before and when we had gone through the lock, they all took off beside us along the tow path of the canal waving and some hooting. Quite an event.

Early this morning, we decided to leave and head for Beziers where we will stay awaiting our pals arrival tomorrow before heading off again. Liz and Kerry are from Napier in New Zealand and have been holidaying in all sorts of places like Hong Kong, Italy, Holland and now France with us before moving on in a week’s time. What great stories and memories they will have.

As it was only a couple of easy hours travel along the canal to Beziers we were surprised to come through the last lock and find a huge pier area in the middle of the city but away from the shops where we can tie up and off-load the scooter and while there is no power we have found a water outlet hidden but believe we can tap it which will be nice so showers are the go again.

After a nice lunch Rhonda took off for a walk to recce the city by way of a free bus which is most convenient. It is not a pretty city but is a vital one for the region with manufacture and servicing of the agricultural sector which is so much a large part of the financial returns from the area. Harry and I caught up on a well needed nap and as the TV is working ok as we are away from the hundreds of thousands of plane trees which are planted at approx 6m intervals all the way along the Canal du Midi which look fabulous but play merry hell with the TV reception, so we have not had Corrie St for a week or anything else either apart from the odd video we have been able to borrow. It is kind of neat to now get the BBC and Sky news and to catch up on the rugby as well. This is the main area for rugby union in all of France but as it is summer we won’t get to see any for a while yet.

Our friends Kerry and Liz Anderson arrived the next day and as they could only stay for a limited period, we decided to go back over some of the way which we had come from as we knew that area would be of some interest to them so we had a truly wonderful 6 days despite some windy weather and not so hot days.

Kerry and Liz who had been travelling for about 3 weeks prior to arriving in France were pretty tired by the time they reached us and despite their claims that they would probably not sleep too well, slept all night every night with some great nana naps in the day time as well. Just goes to show what puttering along these canals can do for ones state of mind.

Rhonda's Comments: Friends back together again after all these years.

Rhonda's Comments: This was only their entree!! and Liz doing her "Titanic" impression.

On our return to Beziers we caught a local free bus which takes you to the markets and centre of the city. Despite it having a large population of over 60 thousand it is a drab city and apart from the market area and one main tree lined street or boulevard, it offers very little else to take the visitors attention so we will move on soon. We shared some great food, wine and lots of laughs with Liz and Kerry over the past 6 days so were really sad to see them head off towards Carcassonne and then onto Barcelona on the train. Unfortunately, we have just heard that Kerry has taken ill with suspected kidney stones so is laid up in their hotel in Carcassonne, so we sure hope that problem gets sorted quickly and completely.

Next day, our old friends Daphne and Claude also from New Zealand and who had spent a month on board with us last summer arrived from Paris by train for a 3 week stay so we will head off tomorrow which includes going up through a set of six locks which are all joined together like steps to get to the top of a 13.6m rise in water levels so will be a tester for all as we head west on our adventure. The weather is nice and warm 30 degrees, no wind at last and clear blue skies. Yeah

We will report further as the journey unfolds. Take care of each other, and enjoy.

Best wishes Ken, Rhonda and Harry

Locks this season: 33
Kms this season: 674