Friday, December 24, 2010


November/December 2010

Time moves on its never-ending manner and we are now surely into the cool part of the year with temperatures falling a little more each day. From mid 20's about 3 weeks ago we are now down to 10 degree days, so it is out with the winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves plus the winter sheets are on the bed and we have bought an electric blanket too, so it is not only a sign of the seasons but a sign of age increase as well.

We are, however, so grateful to be in this town to enjoy a relatively busy atmosphere due to the number of shops which are open for business and peoples activities.
While it is full-on in most of the Western world with Christmas shopping adverts filling TV screens and shop windows, here in France nothing apparently happens until the first of December which is great really in so many ways unless you are trying to buy decorations like Christmas lights. No Carol singing or street lighting yet.

Today I lit the log burner for the first time this season which is so effective in heating the boat and I have to say that the fact that I had added an extension to the chimney, the fire seemed to burn cleaner and hotter than previous so may it be the sign of a new improved system as judging by the weather forecast we will need good heating.

We were invited out for dinner the other evening to an English couples home right here in the centre of the town. Howell and Maria had bought this old, fairly dilapidated 3 storey house probably built in the 17 or 18 hundreds, some months ago and as Maria is a very skilled interior designer and Howell a great organiser, they have transformed this place into a beautiful modern home with all the creature comforts one could wish for. We were treated to a great evening of food, wine and music and lots of laughs which was so good then we wobbled off home to “Somewhere” being led by Harry (thank goodness that he knew the way).

All of this came about following our visit to the Remembrance Day service at the local cenotaph along with about 100 French people where Rhonda and I stood with our Australian and New Zealand flags paying tribute to our fallen from all wars when Maria and Howell came over to us as we seemed to be the only English speaking folk there. Afterwards we had a coffee and a chat with them and agreed to catch up, hence the dinner invite. It is wonderful how friendly people are in this part of the world.

Apparently there are a number of English folk who have either bought new or existing homes in this area or have taken on projects like Maria and Howell have done which further endorses the claim that Moissac is one of the most popular towns in France for ex pats to retire to.

Today, the 28th November, we awoke to about 50 mm of snow coating everything and it was very pretty and Christmassy if you like that sort of thing. The snow lasted most of the day and was followed the next day by real cold which confirmed the early winter which had swept the UK and other parts of Europe was certainly reaching right down to here much to my disgust and to the local’s surprise. Apparently we are told that this weather is not due until late January or early February if at all. Oh well it is something we can’t do anything about except to keep warm and enjoy.

We arranged to buy a steyr (about a cm3) of firewood at a cost of €65.00, cut into 300mm lengths, oak and poplar mixed to keep the log burner going as we are advised that it could be a long cold winter ahead. A couple of trips in the car to the woodman saw us with our firewood all bagged or stowed in the bow locker onboard. Now it is my job to split it so that it fits into our little log burner but the resultant fires are a delight on these freezing cold nights and day time temperatures. Having just said that, today the temps rose to 18 degrees as a thaw swept across us from the Mediterranean and it is supposed to stay this way for the next few days so fingers crossed.

Rhonda's Comment: This sweet little dog was seen at the markets, it was not "For Sale" but had to sit beside his owner all morning!!!!

We had our old barge mates Iris and Grahame contact us to see if they could come and stay for a few nights as they had just sold their boat and were doing the rounds of contacts made over the past few years before they return to Australia via the UK early in 2011. They have had 5 years on Manatee and have sure covered some mileage in France, Holland, Germany and Belgium. They have a wealth of knowledge on all of the related canals and towns and ports along the way so if you require advice or assistance at any time contact us and we can forward on your request to them.

While they were with us we guided them on a day out tour visiting some of the nearby towns and country sides which took us out to the well known city of Cahors which is sited on the banks of the upper Lot River which was in fairly full flush making the idea of boating upon it quite scary, hence their navigation period is fairly limited to the height of summer only. On through some fantastic rolling country side which is predominantly used to grow grapes and other fruit including Kiwi.

After visiting small towns along the Lot River Valley, we climbed to the top of the escarpment some 100 metres above to view what can only be described as breathtaking scenery of the jewel of the valley below and then to have it all capped off by finding this medieval hamlet perched on a peak and hanging off the sides of the rock face and harbouring a couple of little shops and restaurants. The “roads” through this hamlet were like mule tracks and I don’t know how the locals transverse them really as heavy snow lay in the lanes and on the roofs even at 3.00pm on a sunny day. Some photos of this magic sight, St-Cirq Lapople are included in the blog and while I do apologise for the quality of them the scenery was too beautiful to not include.

We have found since our visit that it is rated so well as an artisan resort and must be fabulous to visit in summer. The whole valley below is easily accessible and offer nice camping grounds and boating launch facilities etc for those few months when navigation is possible.

After Iris and Grahame had moved on we took another trip to Buzet our favourite wine supply town about an hours drive from Moissac to see our pals Louise and Alex who had just returned from a trip to the UK and where they had purchased good old pommie foods and even an electric blanket for us. We stayed the night on board “Riccall” with them enjoying a great evening meal and a few drinks I might add.

We also took the opportunity to call on a German couple, Herman and Ulla who are also wintering over in Buzet. Our conversations are somewhat limited due to our poor understanding of their language but they make a big effort with English so we get by and do enjoy a lot of laughs as Herman is a funny man once he lets loose and is just another one of the things which makes barging such a delight as you get to meet so many people along the way with similar interests.
Rhonda's Comment: "Somewhere" looks beautiful - please note Santa up the mast.

Well life back in Moissac has slowed down except everybody is scrambling to get their Christmas shopping completed and the street lights and decorations have all been put up and the town looks lovely. At the port around 10 of us boaters put up strings of coloured and flashing lights around and over our boats as there is an annual contest with prizes being donated by the owners and Mayor who comes to judge followed by food and mulled wine at the Capitanerie’s office etc. Well due to some corrupt voting practise, we missed out on any prize so drank their wine, ate their food and came home with our tales between our legs. There is no justice !!!!!!! Just wait until next year.
Harry had to go to the vet for his annual check-over which he just loves (yeah right) and apart from some minor ear infection he checked out fine so next he was off to the Toilettage (dog groomer) which he also just loves, however, he looks good so is nice and neat for Christmas. Now we have to put his jacket on him when it is particularly cold until his hair grows a bit but he sure moves quicker I am sure.

Well, we have mailed off all our Christmas cards and received a lovely display in return. (For those who haven’t mailed us yet, late arrivals will be accepted) Ha ha. Now all we have to do is hope that Santa knows where we are.

Rhonda's Comment: As seen at last week's market - who said legs don't look good in stockings.

French Oddities worth noting:
1/ It seems that all over the world, chips are referred to as French Fries but in France they are called Frites.

2/Fifteen or so years ago roundabouts were an oddity on
France’s roads but since then they are the traffic controller of choice. There are thousands of them and even in the smallest village of a few hundred residents you may encounter 5 or 6 roundabouts.

3/Post offices which are still government controlled are another of those ‘socialist’ institutions where there is no rush or effort to help minimise waiting queues. There may be 30 customers standing in line with only one person serving and yet they may well choose to stop everything to take a personal phone call or to chat to a person they know and will ignore everyone else.
4/ The love of paperwork or form filling also amuses us with Insurance Companies seeming to be the worst of all and despite the fact you may hold a policy through the ABC Company taken out in City Big it does not mean that the same named company in City Small will accept anything to do with your policy or even accept payment for renewal as they appear to be franchised so operate quite separately.

Well, today is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere so the longest night is soon to fall upon us, so I will away as I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get an extra few hours sleep.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel and a sincere best wish for 2011
Kindest regards to all
Ken, Rhonda and Harry