Today the 27th October saw us arrive in Moissac at the end of our cruising season and where we will stop over for the winter in the northern hemisphere. After 195 days, 1140 kilometres travelled and 180 locks encountered we spent our last day travelling the 10 kilometres from Malause to Moissac.
As we had been doing for the past few weeks since turning around for the return journey, Rhonda drove the car from one lock to the next to take the ropes as I would enter on “Somewhere”. This procedure allowed us to avoid having to go back on the scooter to get the car and to have to move it on to the next stopover. Sliding the boat through the lock with someone handling the bow rope and pushing the control buttons to fill or empty the lock just made it so much easier and safer than scrambling up ladders etc.
We are surrounded with about 40 or so boats all like us who are either living aboard during winter or who are or have left their boats here for the winter period while they return to their homes located as far away as the UK, South Africa, Holland, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia or even New Zealand. Apparently it is unlikely to ice over, however, there was a touch of frost first thing this morning ahead of the delightful sunshine etc.
The town of Moissac is just big enough to be interesting and with all sorts of shops ranging from fashion to art to hardware and boasts 3 large hotels and offers all the main service providers for phones, insurance, car servicing, plumbing and so on plus it has two theatres and a 6 movie house complex. With its own well rated hospital and medical centres I think we will be well served and we are assured the town does not go dead like St Jean-de-Losne in the winter nor do shops or restaurants or markets shut down so the signs are good and it is so easy to get straight out onto the very best type of motorways so travel to other parts of France and to Spain etc is easy.
The area is very popular with trampers, walkers and strollers due to its great mix of easy rolling country through the orchards, vineyard and many waterways and on into the town itself which is also interesting to view. Campers are well served with lovely grounds and facilities right on the river side. Famous for the Chasselas grape (purported to be the sweetest grape in the world and to which we would not argue against) and it has its own AOC. ( Appellation ).
As we are so close to Toulouse, 65kms, Agen 45 kms and numerous other towns it is easy to make visits to enable a change of environ simple and interesting. As you can read from my comments we are looking forward to the next few months of being Moissacians.
After settling in we discovered amongst our mail that it was that time of the year where we needed to go to the Netherlands to have my superannuation papers signed and stamped. We looked at ways to travel ranging from flying to going by rail but there seems to be no discount fares unless you go via UK which we didn’t want to do so decided to take old Betsy (our car) and drive up. It is a heck of a long way (1100 kms) but provided you go via the main motorways and pay the road tolls which apply only in France it is pretty smooth driving so we set off on a Sunday morning which was great as the heavy trucks are supposed to stay off these roads on this day so we drove as far as just north of Paris and stayed in the first of the Premium Classe motels which are found along the motorways and towns and are pretty basic but clean and reasonably comfortable and offer a continental type breakfast and also allow Harry to stay in the room all for around €54.00 per night which is quite good value.
The next day, we continued on towards Breda which is just over the border in Holland, however, it seemed as though all the trucks who had rested the day before had decided to get out on the roads early and we joined a traffic jam of trucks of at least 30 kms in length. It was just amazing to inch along for an hour or more beside a solid wall of trucks from almost every corner of Europe. I know we have commented in the past about the volumes of heavy traffic criss-crossing this continent but on this day we were stunned by the sight of it all.
Eventually we got clear and made the balance of the trip to Breda without incident and stayed overnight nearby in another Premium Classe motel. We couldn’t help but notice how much colder it was in the north so heaters were on high, coats were worn with scarves and so on. Next morning off we went to get my papers stamped. In the office at 8.35am out at 8.37am.
The size and layout of the whole complex is mind boggling and without wanting to bore our readers here are some facts which illustrate the above points. There are 700 rooms, 2153 windows, 352 chimneys, 67 staircases, 11 hectares of roof, 800 hectares of garden and so on and so on. All I can add is to say if you are in Paris, do not miss this marvel and allow at least a full day to see it and go in the spring or summer to see the fantastic gardens at their best.
Well once we left there we headed for home and as usual I wasn’t listening to Rhonda’s instruction on directions to follow so all of a sudden she barked at me that I had missed a vital turn and Tom Tom was not impressed either so without checking on my surroundings too much I did a highly illegal U turn on a several lane avenue and headed back the way we wanted to go. After Rhonda regained her speech voice she said “did you not see where you did that turn” - it was right outside one of the main Prefectures of the Gendarmes, however, my good luck charm must have been working as nobody followed or tooted.
As it was bitterly cold and while we had thought of staying overnight it was surprisingly quiet on the motorways so we made the effort and drove direct to Moissac arriving by 6.00pm which was great going. Well done Betsy.
One of the remarkable sights we witnessed going and coming particularly in rural France was the autumnal colours which were quite vivid. With thousands of hectares alongside the motorways the sight of the red, gold, brown, purple and green deciduous trees is something to behold and even the media have reported that due to the late and long summer this year the colours are so much more pronounced than usual so we were lucky to see so much of it. We couldn’t believe it when we got out of the car at Moissac as the temperature here was 16 degrees so after the chill of the north we felt great to be back. I am sure it will get a lot colder soon but we will make the most of the milder conditions while we can.
Rhonda has just told me that we have had 2400 people so far read our blogs from the four corners of the world so we are delighted that we can offer some insight to this wonderful world of canal boating here in France. Thanks for the many comments and we hope we can continue to keep the blogs interesting so keep your comments coming in and again, take care and good luck.
Love Rhonda, Ken and Harry.