Friday, November 18, 2011


23 October 2011

Well the saying “4 more years” is well and truly over, with the win of the Rugby World Cup by the famous All Blacks this morning in Auckland over France. We watched every game we could over the past 10 weeks of the tournament with our fingers crossed that we would make the final and despite me predicting at the start of the competition that the final would be between the All Blacks and les Blues, I did not imagine that the French were good enough to get there in the end but that’s sport for you. With our hearts in our mouths we sat and watched this game and it was not until the final whistle that we breathed and shouted our delight to the world.

Our French friends and associates sure won’t be feeling that way, but I have to say that New Zealand played the best rugby of the tournament and it would have been a tragedy for them to miss out. After a year of coal mine disasters, massive earthquakes and oil spills from a stricken ship onto some of the most beautiful beaches, the country will feel a whole lot more up-lifted by this great win.

We have been at Boé for a few weeks so far as we love it here on the outskirts of Agen (the prune capital of the world) and it is here we will stay for another few weeks before heading off to Moissac for our winter berth. From our little port here we have been able to drive to see new towns and countryside and enjoy the tail end of this magnificent autumn.

Being so centrally located we have had visits from folk from Buzet, Moissac and other locales but it has been the locals who have been so friendly. With the canal path lying right alongside “Somewhere” we get waves and smiles galore from passers by and the odd few who speak some English calling out as we have been flying the All Blacks and Kiwi flags since arriving here and added the French Tricolour when it became clear that they would be our finalist opponents.

The banter has been great and even today we had a lovely young couple with their children sitting outside on the grass and realised that they were talking English and it turned out that they are Kiwis from Glenfield, a suburb back in Auckland but now they live here so the partner can play rugby for Agen. For 6 years he has been playing here and they too love this area. They hope and plan to go back to Queenstown after next season to start their own business all being well. Andrew who originates from the UK and where he played for Bath before taking up a contract in New Zealand with Thames Valley, then North Harbour where he met Laani (his partner) who it turns out is Slade McFarland’s sister, a name synonymous with North Harbour and New Zealand rugby. Andrew received a contract from Agen which meant shifting his family of daughter and two small sons to this region of France so he could play in the BIG league. One has to admire so much, folk who will get off their bums and take chances and opportunities to advance their careers no matter what or where it takes them. The other evening they invited us to go to their home to enjoy a great roast meal of New Zealand lamb with all the trimmings. Wonderful meal and wonderful company and we look forward to seeing Andrew playing later this season.
Rhonda's Comments: Sunset at Boe

With the weather still holding in a mild warm pattern we have taken the opportunity to travel about this area and yesterday we drove to the Lot river to Port Lalande. It is here that another couple of our boating mates, Alan and Nicki off “Finca” who are a bit stuck at present due to the lack of water in the river preventing boats making the “crossing” a short area where it is necessary to engage a tug guide to ensure you can clear the rocks etc before one can move on to some 50 kms of beautiful gentle flowing clear water and where it’s possible to visit towns and villages along the way. It is reported to be one of France’s best loved waterways but is limited to seasonal water levels so one has to give care to planning such a trip in this area.

Rhonda's Comments: What a happy looking foursome - Nicki, Ken, Me and Alan

We went with Nicki and Alan to a restaurant perched high up on a high knoll village which gave magnificent views over the marvellous rolling country which spreads out below. Just stunning in every respect so we have decided to change our plans for next season and make every effort to get “Somewhere” onto the Lot for the cruising period so fingers crossed.

Over the past few days we have had a deluge of rain which has lifted the rivers by about 1.5 meters so “Finca” and others are still on the Lot due now to the water level being too high and too swift so as the saying goes “it never rains but it pours”. The canals do not alter very much at all so that is one of the good things that people enjoy as it makes boating easy really.

Rhonda's Comments: Another fabulous restaurant we found - Chateau Allot just near Boe.

We had been hoping to get to Spain for Christmas but missed out on the really discounted apartments available at that time but Rhonda got cracking again on the internet and found a great deal. A 2 bedroom self service penthouse apartment normally listed for €840 for one week but they were having a promotional sale of €126 per week so booked this very quickly and so we will be in Marbella from 14th January for 2 weeks. It is located just off the beach and not far from other wonderful places such as Gibraltar, Seville, Granada and Ronda, so hopefully this will give us a good winter break. Harry is welcome. (Well why wouldn’t he be Ha ha).

This beach side area became famous in the 70’s etc due to lack of any extradition agreements between Spain and most of the rest of the world so criminals and tax evaders made it their hideaway. Apparently the goings on during this period and over the next 15 or so years was unbelievable as money flowed like water. Australians will well remember that Christopher Skace, the developer and wild investor who owned the Mirage/Sheraton group of absolute luxury hotels throughout Australia and in Hawaii went broke owing hundreds of millions to creditors plus the tax man and did a bolt for Spain to escape the horde of creditors etc. There he held out for many years living in absolute luxury before the Australian government forced Spain to stop this ludicrous situation and he was brought back to Australia to face the music.

Rhonda's Comments: This the hotel boat "Saint Louis" which passes us many times. We met Barbara and Alisdair, the owners last year and it was good to catch up with them again.

Having been told by our new friends Andrew and Laani about a neat restaurant in a little village some 35 mins drive out from Boé, we decided to take a drive out there last Saturday and found the township of Roquecor perched high up on a rock bluff as part of this small but steep mountain set right in the middle of a large plain. We had been told that the Café du Centre Restaurant was run by an Australian lady and her French husband and that they had built up quite a reputation as being a popular watering hole for English speaking folks from miles around and that they also served great fish’n chips but only on a Friday.

We walked through the town looking at the old 13th century walls and so on before heading for lunch where we met Michelle and Jean-Marc, the hosts. After much chat about where we were from etc and how we had found them (their son used to play rugby with Andrew) and where and how did they get together in Australia etc. We had a fine meal and it seemed as though the only people in the bar were English and after chatting to a couple of them we were asked if we knew a David and Rosey who also had a barge on the canal but were renovating a house for themselves in the village and it eventuated that they were old acquaintances we had spent time with in Moissac the previous year. So off we went to find David and Rosey who were just taking a break from the huge task they have undertaken refurbishing this old farm type cottage. It was good to catch up on what they had been doing and to see them looking so well. The work they have undertaken has sure trimmed David down and given Rosy a look of satisfaction and achievement with what they have done. Well done is all we can say.

This week has been celebrated as “Poppy Week” or “Remembrance Week” in the UK and France to acknowledge the armed forces personnel who died in the “Great War” 1914-1918 and all wars since up to and including Afghanistan where so many of our lads have given their lives. This all culminates with “Remembrance Sunday” services when the nation stops for two minutes silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month.

This year the recorded attendees have grown again and in particular by the young people who seem so much more interested in this part of history than we did as kids. The pomp and ceremony attached to this day is filmed mainly in London but is very moving to watch on our TVs and while us Kiwis and Aussies have our own “Anzac Day” 25th April to acknowledge in particular the ill fated landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli which forged the two armies together forever as they fought the Turks on the cliffs after being ordered by Winston Churchill (then chief of Admiralty) to ‘go ahead’ despite it being clear to all who were there that this was doomed to failure before it began. Despite the slaughter, so much gallantry was exhibited by the Anzac troops that this event has been acknowledged every year since.

Rhonda's Comments: This is our view from the stern looking down the canal in Boe.

Life goes on and every one of us must be grateful for all we have been allowed to take as our own while respecting others who may not have the strength to do the same. With autumn coming to a close it will soon be time to leave Boe for another season and head off to Moissac for our winter hibernation. To all our readers we wish you all the very best regardless of wherever you are or what season you are experiencing.

Kindest regards,

Ken, Rhonda and Harry

Friday, October 7, 2011


With the first signs that autumn may be coming with shorter days and longer nights, it was time to turn “Somewhere” around and begin the journey back towards our winter mooring home of Moissac. We have lots of time though as the canals do not close until the end of October so once we had left behind our mates at Meilhan we wandered up the Canal de Garonne which has been one of our favourite cruising areas with great views across the countryside and lots of small villages, some with neat mooring spots to be able to rest up in.

As we have reported in earlier blogs, we seem to be going slower and slower which really makes the travel even more enjoyable. With Rhonda driving the car from lock to lock to take the ropes as we are working ‘up-hill’ now while Harry and I take the boat from mooring spot to mooring spot. After a couple of canal bank stopovers, we made it to Le Mas d’Agenais again and settled in as it really is a neat place to stay. We caught up with some old acquaintances who had also been staying there for a few days and then had a visit from Alex and Louise off “Riccall” delivering a whole range of purchases they had made for us while on their visit to England so a great night of tales and laughter followed.

Rhonda's Comments: Harry's little friend wants to come out to play.

The next day we drove to the town/city of Tonneins where we did our supermarket shopping and followed up with the so called computer expert who had fiddled around with our unit when we were heading down the canal some several weeks ago and had charged us €90 to achieve nothing. The computer just would not nor could not link to Google hence the reason why the previous blog was sent out in Word only, so we apologise to those readers who could not download it at the time. After a couple of hours of fiddling around he advised Rhonda that the computer was “kaput” and as it was lunchtime rushed her out of the shop so he could get to his “munchies”. Apart from the sky being blue so was the air due to the explosion of expletives coming from a very frustrated lady, so it was a very quiet driver who bought her back to the boat.

We learnt the next day that there was another computer expert living in our village and he was reported to be able to speak English so Rhonda headed off to find him, however, he could not speak English but his wife could manage a few words so between her and Rhonda using the translator on his computer they spent 4 hours working through all his suggestions to come up with a big Zero at a cost of another €55, so the air was even more blue upon her return to the boat. Even Harry stayed at a respectable distance.

If it wasn’t for the interruptions of having the World Rugby Cup games being shown on TV and which the New Zealand All Blacks played reasonably well in their opening round, I hate to think where the computer may have ended up. Well at 3.00am the next morning I was awakened to hear Rhonda mucking about on the computer clearing this and adjusting that and eventually at around 9.00am, BINGO, she yelled to say that she thought she had fixed the problem and hoped it would all work ok. What a legend she is as it all works just fine, in fact better, simpler and faster than it has for about 6 months so after spending time and money on so called experts, it just took care and thinking to get to the bottom of the problem and then to correct it all.
I am so glad I taught her correctly, Yeah right!!!!!!!!!!!!.

While at Meilhan we decided to collect any reasonable sized branches which had fallen from the trees alongside the canal as we went along and there were plenty of them so we loaded them onboard for firewood ready for winter. As I had bought a small chainsaw which was “On Special” last winter I pulled this out of the bowels of the boat, started it up and within a few hours had a full bow locker of nice mini logs so that is a start anyhow. I have also been doing a bit of touch up painting and odd jobs around the boat so she is looking good for any visitors or prospective buyers who have advised they will call to view later this month.

The weather has been wonderful really with the odd cool day and a few evenings of heavy showers and thunderstorms but in general it has been 30 degree plus days and nice nights for sleeping with only a small fan going. Harry just loves it here in Le Mas as we call it, as while there is a nicely mowed park and pond right by the boat he looks so forward to Rhonda taking him for his morning walk up to the bluff which has a big park and looks down over the canal and Garonne River. He just loves this spot and goes quite crazy tearing around watering all the trees etc. He sure has a good life I believe.

Likes and dislikes about France.

Dislike. The fact that I can’t speak French and am too lazy to get on top of the problem.

Like. The way the French will generally tolerate our efforts at using some French and if it is accompanied with a smile, they too will make an effort to speak English.

Dislike. The queues at every La Poste (Post Office) in the land. It appears as though these public service houses have no business systems at all.

Like. The very friendliness of the French people and their willingness to help out if they can.

Dislike. The huge beauracracy which surrounds every business transaction.

Like. The way in which the road systems have been changed from using traffic lights on every corner to round-abouts.

Dislike. The number of round-abouts set up even on very minor country roads.

Like. The layback manner of the general populace when attending public gatherings. No shoving, pushing or jostling for position. Patience is a virtue.

Dislike. The French love of fishing and hunting. They will hook, shoot or trap anything which is regarded as game as being sport. The largest selling French sports magazine is “The Chasse.”

Like. The way French folk greet each other with a handshake or a kiss on each cheek. This is carried out even by children.

Dislike. The way French shop keepers, staff and general business staff will almost run over you at lunchtime when they are vacating buildings and driving to homes or going to restaurants when they close down for up to 2.5 hours.
Most babies are conceived during this period it is reported.

Like. Generally, children are not permitted to run loose in restaurants or to handle food at smorgasbords etc. No yelling or screaming seems to be tolerated.

We never stop learning ….I hope.

Rhonda's Comments: The kids come down to the quai in Villeton for "fishing lessons" - just love it.

Rhonda's Comments: Watching the All Blacks win against Argentina

With the RWC being well televised we have enjoyed watching the All Blacks progress through the first rounds and in particular beating our nemesis France so now wait for the Quarter finals to see how well The AB’s can handle the pressure.

Rhonda's Comments: The owners of restaurant in Villeton - they were so friendly.

During our stay at Villeton we have met with many folk who call by for a chat or enquire about our boat or ask, about the rugby etc. Yesterday a man called by to advise that he had travelled to New Zealand as a Les Blues (French Team) player in 1987 and still had great memories of his tour where he and his team mates were treated so well apparently by the New Zealanders wherever they went. We are so proud of the general great comments most visitors to New Zealand make about the hospitality extended to them while there. Sadly we read so much about negative events which tend to sour ones feelings about the state of behaviour of some of the locals who can spoil many great memories and it is typical anywhere around the world today.

Rhonda's Comments: Gill and Allan came to visit us in Villeton to wish Ken a happy birthday - it was great to see them.

While we have been at Villeton we have continued to experience fabulous weather and while it is autumn the temps are still around the high 20s with clear blue skies and no wind other than light breezes. It is now the main harvesting time so the combine harvesters and tractors seem to be working 24/7 cutting the huge fields of corn which are as high as an elephant’s eye and other crops so a really different landscape is appearing as the height of the crops is lowered and the soil reappears. Apples and Kiwi fruit are in abundance and the grapes are now ready for picking for this vintage of fine wines.

Rhonda' Comments: What a great day, good food and great friends.

On 30th September it was my 70th birthday (I am amazed that I have got this far) so Rhonda organised for about 10 of our nearby boating mates to join us at a neat little canal side restaurant about 1 km from here (so we walked there but got a ride back!!) to celebrate the big day. It was a beautiful day having a long lunch at the Bistrot-Restaurant on the canal at St Christophe. They came from Buzet and The Lot regions so under umbrellas set at tables out on the quayside we wined and dined and enjoyed each others company. Jude, Alan, Niki, Sandra, Terry, Louise and Alex all made this day so very special. Despite being told “No gifts” they obviously thought I might need topping up, so some great bottles of local products were passed on to me. All in all it was a great day and one which I will long remember for sure.

Rhonda's Comments: Ken even had his own stripper. Louise and her sexy legs.

To all the folk who have emailed birthday wishes and to those who have mailed cards a really BIG Thank You.

Ken, Rhonda and Harry

Locks: 597
Kms Travelled: 2825

Monday, September 12, 2011


With the heat getting almost unbearable in our little bolt hole of Meilhan-sur-Garonne, the temps on the outside of the boat were reading 52 degrees, 45 in the wheelhouse and 38 in the main saloon and as we had almost worn out the local pool (piscine), we decided it was time to take a break and head to the west coast (Atlantic Ocean) as we had promised ourselves we would do one day.

The same day as we left by car, our new found boating buddies Heather and Geoff on “Lilly Polly” whom we had shared some lovely times with sharing a cool drink etc headed off to Le Mas D’Agenais ready for their winter over before they returned to England. Geoff kept us fully amused with his tales of managing one of the UK rugby league teams on some of its overseas travels including Australia and New Zealand a few years ago accompanied by his good wife Heather. They have travelled the world many times so are full of information and interesting tales on their adventures.

We had decided to drive direct to La Rochelle which held warm memories of an overnight visit many years ago when I was lucky enough to stay there when working with Zodiac. It is world renowned for its sea food and history and is just a delightful, if busy sea port and tourist resort based right on the coast of the Bay of Biscay which is known as the roughest stretch of water in the world fuelled by the worst that the Atlantic Ocean can throw into it but it was as calm as a millpond while we were there and the only rush was the way the tourists moved along the walkways etc. With restaurants galore and tourist trips available on buses, ferries, small boats, trains and walking trails the sights are just great to witness.

This was the last position to be freed from the German strangle hold in France at the end of WW2 and the local people suffered badly at the hands of the Nazi leaders who murdered anybody whom appeared to be a member of the local resistance movement. It was also the site where Hitler decided to have some huge U Boat pens built to protect his Atlantic marauders who sunk so much allied shipping heading to the Med or across the Atlantic. These pens have to be seen to be appreciated as the roofs were over 30 feet thick of reinforced concrete so allied bombs could not pierce them so they remain today as a leftover sight that takes the breath away. After the war it was decided not to blow them up as despite these pens being built approx 5 kms from the city, it was determined that it would require so much explosive material to collapse them that the city would be ruined as well so they still stand today and have been used to make films like Raiders of The Lost Ark inside. It is an amazing sight to see as even as the port has been commercialised for shipping etc these pens still dominate a lot of the skyline of the nearby area etc.

With restaurants announcing that they offer great sea food meals it is hard to stay away from them as they are not cheap but once seated and eating the food is delicious. The ancient three towers which guard the old port were built in 12thC and are real tourist attractions. They look over the internal part of the port which is where overseas yachts come to check in on arrival so flags of many nations can be seen.

Access to these spots and to the many small islands which are nearby can be a simple “hop on” the “Yelo” ferries which are amazing in themselves. They are electric hydraulic driven so no pollution, no noise, no wake and are designed to “catch in” to special dockside fittings to make embarking etc very quick and efficient. They seem to offer a continuous service for at least 15 hours a day so are treated like tramcars by the locals and tourists alike.

Rhonda's Comments: "Ah, that feels better." (Harry)

We visited the Maritime museum but it was quite disappointing as it consisted mainly of 3 small ships moored alongside so we changed tack and went to the Aquarium which is reported to be the largest in Europe but the queues were huge so we bypassed this and went instead to the model museum which was fascinating with it’s multiple displays of cars, buses, motorcycles, planes and trains with many of the exhibits running and amazing us as well. From there we visited a similar museum of animation where every thing from dancing clowns to a reconstructed street of Monmatre in Paris.

Rhonda's Comments: Ok, I can hear you all say "spot the dummy".

I have to say that with the weather being so nice it would be a place we could easily spend a long holiday at as a couple of days barely allowed us to scratch the surface for all the great features to see. Sadly we moved south from there to Rochefort which was a memory calling spot as the main Zodiac factory was established there for many years until technology meant a new factory was built in Toulouse. Having only seen this town as a part of a work scene and not being very impressed with it proved correct when viewing it from a tourist point of view. We spent only a few hours there before heading through towns on a huge tidal estuary established and related to where mussels and oysters are grown in their millions. The fishermen have over the centuries dug wide ditches in the sea marshes so the tide can flow in and out and they grow the young crusteacitons to harvest size and it is amazing to see the various methods and ways they get these creatures up and on to the restaurant tables of Europe. In addition to part of this near tidal coast area which is protected from waves, is used to make saltwater ponds and to allow the ponds to evaporate and dry the salt ready for grading, purifying and packing for the tables and food processing plants of Europe.

Rhonda's Comments: Oh dear, which one did I leave my towel in?

Royan which is on the seaside seems to be purely a tourist resort and for those who have visited the Gold Coast in Australia and marvelled at the number of apartments built there, for about 5 kms along this beautiful French beach front, it is solid apartment blocks only about 5 stories high however, but at the road level every spare inch seems to have been taken up with restaurants. No sign of mini markets or general stores, just restaurants. We couldn’t believe there could be so many and they all seemed to be well patronised for the lunch 2 hours and from 7.30 pm each evening. The beach is lovely, reminded us of Orewa, up on Auckland’s North Shore so vendors of shade tents, lazy chairs, beachmats, etc do very well indeed. When the sea front runs out of apartment blocks one can view some truly magnificent homes which reflect the wealth of the area in the past and present times. We enjoyed a swim in the ocean, devoid of any surf conditions however, but beautiful and refreshing for sure.

During the late evening we experienced a very large thunder storm which sent Harry into a s*** and a shiver for a few hours but thanks to Rhonda’s snoring he quietened down and we slept through until it was breakfast time. Again it is an area which well deserves the label of The Holiday Beach and we hope to be able to go back one day to spend more time there.

The final stopover for us was the great city of Bordeaux. To see this well rated city which is really an inland port situated up the mighty Garonne River and which has a huge marine history about which I couldn’t hope to cover here for you. The city was listed for many years as France’s second largest city before being overtaken by Lyon. The style, the architecture and the fact that it straddles the great river reminds one of how similar it is to Paris. With almost new mooring facilities in place which have water and electricity on site plus very good access ways to the main plaza this site right in the middle of the city which makes tying up here very pleasant I would think for any visiting yachties who make the trip up river off the Atlantic ocean or travel down the Garonne from where we left “Somewhere” and it is all free for 36 hours.

We also learned that most of the horror stories we had heard about of coming down the Garonne from the canal system and locks was well exaggerated and in fact we could easily have bought “Somewhere” down as you are directed by the marine authorities when to leave the last lock and this is as the tide is just starting to run out so an easy 4 hours ride with the river and tide takes you right into central Bordeaux. The reverse applies when you wish to return up stream to rejoin the canal system.

The shopping as one would expect in a big French city is amazing and so varied. All the name shops are well designed and display a huge range of products but the prices are as high as Paris too so in our case it was, look but don’t buy. One thing we did find was an Irish pub which was televising the All Blacks –v- Wallabies rugby test match so off we went to get a table for the midday kick off. Surrounded by Aussies and the odd Kiwi supporter we had to endure the deserved drubbing the team got but the “fish-n-chips’ were great as was the beer so life can’t be all negative. Harry enjoyed the attention but then as we were leaving my smart ass mate, Grahame Smith rang from Sydney just to rub salt into the wound about the result. Oh well maybe our day will come in the World Rugby Cup in a few weeks. Fingers and legs crossed.

A final note about Bordeaux is the wonderful people moving system they have in place ranging from silent buses and cars to almost silent trams offering great regular services throughout the city plus seemingly endless bicycle lanes giving easy access to all areas. Cyclists in Europe don’t realise I am sure as to how well provided that are for great cycle ways and walking tracks. I think at times, more money and attention is given to these pathways than is given to the roads. Perhaps this is the answer to overcrowded road systems. I know these things can only be built according to the population numbers but when they are in place they sure make a city seem so much more user friendly. Talking about friendly, we have to point out that while we acknowledge these areas we have visited this past week have all been centres of tourism we have noticed that almost every person involved in the service industry from bus drivers to shop assistants to restaurant and bar staff all speak pretty good English and what a difference it makes. I know we should speak French while in France but here it is so easy to find out where or what and people expect to speak English to you.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that the name Bordeaux is known world-wide as a huge wine making area but it is not until one drives through this territory that a very realisation becomes clear as to the hugeness of this area and productivity comes a little clearer. We thought we had seen lots of vineyards as we had travelled through France offering every type of wine from to Champagne to Moselle but all of that shrinks in comparison to what the Bordeaux territory has to offer with its millions of grape vines growing on almost every spare block of land. From Champagne copies (Cremant) to Cognac to Almanac to great whites and reds this land is surely the greatest volume producer in Europe and is a joy to visit.
Rhonda's Comments: Home Sweet Home

While we were a bit saddened to leave the west coast and head back to Meilhan-sur-Garonne, the travel only took us a couple of hours and we were soon reunited with our beautiful floating home “Somewhere” and found all to be fine so joined the other boaters for a cool beer in the sunset of yet another fabulous adventure.

Rhonda’s Comments:-
I went shopping for a birthday present to send home to New Zealand. Friday afternoon – I went up to shops at 15.00 (3.00pm) to find that the Tabac does not open until 16.00 (4.00pm) so think that’s ok I will go and do some business at the La Poste and Credit Agricole (the Bank). La Poste is open but so busy the line is out the door so decide to go over the road to the Bank to find it closed Friday afternoons. I then go back to La Poste to check whether it will be open tomorrow being Saturday and it is so busy I reconsidered and changed my idea to making my shopping trip the next morning being a Saturday.
Saturday Morning – it is 10.00 am and I went to the Tabac and bought a lovely little present to post to New Zealand. I then proceeded to the bank to withdraw some money from our Visa Account and also to bank some money into our French account. When I withdrew the money from the “hole in the wall” it only gives me €50 notes. I wanted to bank €40.00 into our French Account so went to the counter to ask for change for my €50 note to be told “No, you have to go to the Tabac”!!!! – what the heck is going on I ask? I am in a bank aren’t I, and they wouldn’t give me change? So I decided to bank the €50 note after all. I was then asked for my passport so that they could have a copy to be enclosed with the deposit (lucky enough I had this asked of me before so I had taken copies – feeling quite smug) I handed this document to him, then he asks for a “RIB” ( proof that I have a French bank account). I asked him which one, Adam’s (I don’t have one of these) – my patience has worn thin by now and he said I couldn’t bank it into my account until I have a copy of your “RIB”. I have the cheque book, all the other deposits I have made into this account so I suggested, quite nicely of course, “what do you want, my first born?” – he took the deposit at last.
I then went over to La Poste and think this is ok, for a change there were no lines waiting outside but low and behold, there is a notice on the door “Fermature Exceptionnelle – no electricity”. I’m sorry Claude you might get your Birthday Present by your next birthday if you are lucky.
There must be a moral to this story somewhere but at the moment I can’t seem to think of one.

I am glad it was Rhonda who experienced this sort of mad officialdom rather than me for a change. I have to say that this type of thing is not uncommon but it is the French way.
A few other French oddities we hope will tickle your fancy are as follows:-

Anyone thinking of retiring to the Pyrenees/Atlantique region may well think on about choosing the town of Sarpourenx where in 2008, the mayor of the village in answer to a problem being that there was no room left at the local cemetery, passed an ordinance that it would be illegal to die within the parish and threatened “severe punishment” for any offenders. The mind boggles for sure.

Despite France being much smaller than its neighbours and so many other countries, it is the world’s most popular tourist destination attracting more visitors than the USA and China. 79 million visitors in 2010 sure makes interesting numbers. Just a pity so many French businesses fail to learn how to look after the tourists and miss out on so many opportunities to make money.
Did you know it is illegal in France to name your pig, Napoleon? I can’t see any resemblance really.

The Eiffel Tower was to be built for Barcelona for the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona and not for France.

The croissant is not French at all. It was originally from Austria and it was not until 1839 that an Austrian Artillery Officer bought the idea to France and the rest is history as the saying goes.

Finally, Bastille Day has nothing to do with the storming of the Bastille which is what we have all been brought up to accept as the true history. This day actually celebrates the Fete de la Federation, a feast that took place in Paris one year after the storming of the Bastille.

We never stop learning ….I hope.
Ken, Rhonda and Harry

Kms so far: 2773
Locks so far: 587

Sunday, July 10, 2011


June 2011 Blog

Following our car visits to so many towns and villages to show our guests Daphne and Claude from New Zealand, some real French country-side, it was a nice change to get back onto the boat at Moissac to catch up with many of our ‘old’ boating pals. Some were leaving for their own cruising season so it was good to catch up with them before they left.

We shopped, of course and set off for our own cruise on 2nd June down the canal towards Bordeaux but with plans to branch away onto the Baise River and/or The Lot River depending on water conditions and levels. Due to the almost drought conditions experienced in this part of the world over the past few months there were warnings that depths were insufficient to allow passage to some areas, however, within a day or two of leaving Moissac we experienced a lot of heavy rain which raised the levels so it was all go for boaters to get to these restricted areas.

We pottered along the canal, over-nighting at Malause, Valence-d’Agen and a couple of nights at one of our favourite stop-over points of Boe (poor dock facilities but a great park for walking and for Harry) which is just on the outskirts of Agen and allows easy access by car to the city. We eventually moved on to Agen where the port is only about ½ k from the city so easy walking was the go for folk wishing to see the city lights, cathedral and churches, etc.

At this time we caught up to the new owners of “Amarok”, Charlie and Marcia who had been shadowing us along from Moissac plus we met up with Tony and Elaine off “Dreamflower” whom we had met up with in Toulouse last year so a good chat was held. Sadly time restricted us doing more but it is always good to catch up with others from the “long village”.

From Agen we moved on to Serignac-sur-Garonne where again we met up with about 6 other cruising families whom we knew or did meet there that night. Thanks to Charlie and Marcia’s organising, we all ended up on the bank pathway with the grills, hot plates and even electric fry pans making up the most magnificent evening pot luck dinner complete with dancing (well by some anyhow) and a recital from a French lady who could sing a heck of a lot better than any of us. With lots of applause from picnicking French families near by but on the other side of the canal our ladies decided to put on a show of rock ‘n roll, led particularly by Pam from “Modestine”. Her husband Brent showed suitable restraint by applauding politely from his chair so nobody lost face etc.

A great night was had by all and the odd “overhang” was reported the following morning by the honest people and just tolerated by the ones who didn’t want to admit to their overindulgence but we all felt sympathy for those affected. Yeah right.

So Claude and a couple of others suffered in silence for a few hours as we moved along the canal to Buzet where we found again that berthing was only available by being tied up to previously berthed craft such was the volume of traffic. As it is the turn off point where one has to divert to the Lot or Baise, it is a very popular stopover. As Rhonda had driven the car to there, she obtained our berth position along-side “Hilda May” which had also been in Toulouse dry dock while we were there in April. The owners were away in the UK again so with them already being tied up to a barge against the bank we were the 3rd boat out and while it was ok, it was not ideal so we only stayed 2 nights.

By the time we got “Somewhere” tied up alongside “Hilda May” Rhonda was in full voice telling us about the “INFLUX” of snakes. Fearing that there could be thousands infesting the banks etc we learned that in fact three had been seen swimming across the canal and according to Terry who knows it all, were referred to as being green grass snakes and supposedly harmless but I am not so sure. If they are grass snakes why do they swim so much…….

We also found again that the people who run the restaurant on the quay really need to go to a hospitality school to learn to smile and to make clients feel welcome and to learn how to provide a service. The food was fine but the stress of having a busy restaurant was obviously not their thing, so they should give it away and let somebody who values customers take over. This sadly was not the first time we have experienced tardy service from them as we had refused to stay there last year due to the abruptness experienced when our guests tried to book in for evening meals.

Never mind, we caught up with Terry, Sandra and Alice off “Felix” who had been exploring this end of the canals for a few weeks and were one of the boats who had experienced lack of water under their keel and had run aground a couple of times but in typical Terry and Sandra fashion they just shrugged and smiled and went on with life. We shared a few drinks up on deck with them while Terry tuned and played a bit on my guitar so shook the cobwebs off it anyhow. With the evening spent reminiscing about old pop groups, artists and in particular, guitarists a great chat and laugh was enjoyed by all.

The next day we set off with Rhonda again driving the car while Daphne and Claude acted as forward hands and we headed towards Vianne a village and mooring situation where power and water are offered free of charge on the Baise. As you come off the Canal de Garonne one needs to drop down two locks onto the Baise and make a very tight right-hand turn. We headed up stream in water very yellow/brown due to the recent rains it was almost off-putting but as there was plenty of volume and water flow it was nice boating and we arrived at Vianne about 1.30 pm to be advised by the self appointed spokesman for the port Jeff off “Matilda Blue” that we should only stay for 3 days or we could be ordered off by the local Mairie, however, we took 20 Euros up to the Mairie’s office and said we wished to stay for 5 days as it was very pleasant indeed and an ideal spot to await changeover of our guests.

The night before Daphne and Claude’s departure we had our farewell dinner up in the square at a beautiful restaurant, Les Marrioners. Food and service was as good as we have experienced anywhere in France with a wonderful variety of food to whet anybody’s appetite.

The following morning we drove Daphne and Claude to Agen for their return home to New Zealand by catching a train from Agen to Bordeaux and then flying on to London.

Next day was ”cleaning up” day and painting again of the sundeck to ensure it was well coated before we put up the sun shields etc as the temperatures are now climbing so shade is of paramount importance. In the evening we drove to Buzet to join in the “Fish ‘n Chip” Evening and Quiz Night again at the restaurant. The stress was not showing on the faces of the owners of the restaurant this time as it was not full and only one dish to prepare. We joined Alex and Louise off “Riccall” who had come in the day before and Bob and Bobbie off “La Chouette” and Terry and Sandra off “Felix”. Terry prepared the questions and guess what we came second. What a fun night.

After a couple of days break following Daphne and Claude’s departure we had Derek and Valerie also from New Zealand come to stay with us for a week so it was all go again and we really enjoyed showing them some of our wonderful way of life and country.

We had a call from Millen and Lyn who we met back in Moissac with Eric and Polly, the old owners of "Amarok". Millen and Lyn would be travelling through our area in their motorhome and so we met up with them for a wonderful couple of hours and few drinks up in the square. It was wonderful to see them again.

Rhonda's Comment: Only on board for one night and already Ken gave Derek the mop!!!!

We cruised the boat up to the old world city of Nerac through the Baise River past Lavardac and through what seemed to be ever decreasing width locks. Derek enjoyed the role of forward hand and did well mastering ropes in true nautical fashion.

The old city is so picturesque and interesting with lots of it dating back to the 13th century.
From within the city one can catch a local train touristique service to Mezin some 1.5 hours ride away. Quaint and old with some of the rolling stock originally being in service from the early 1800’s the open cab type carriages allows a view of the surrounding country and some of the old castles, maisons and chalets along the way. It was also an area where cork was originally grown and harvested for the wine industry along with maize and wheat milling as the climate is very dry with lots of the area being of a sand based soil.

The town of Mezin does not appear to offer much to see or visit so the return trip was made after a 15 minute stopover, unfortunately we were forced to listen to a very verbal Frenchman giving endless commentary on the country etc and while Rhonda and I sat clenching our teeth we were surprised how well Val and Derek seemed to be taking it until we got back to Nerac to see them pull paper napkin plugs from their ears.

Our trip back down the Baise to Vianne was without incident apart from the scraping through some of the overgrown trees etc, and the experience of fitting into the narrower than usual locks. With only approx 75mm to 100mm of clearance on each side of the craft it was a case of slow and careful.

With the departure of Val and Derek who had a great time while with us and were great company too, we drove them back to Agen railway station and then it was a case of back to the boat, and to settle down to the quiet life again until the next group of friends arrive in July.

Suddenly we got a call from Gene and Liz who own and run Te Whau Lodge on Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf (a superb first class accommodation and dining lodge) telling us that they were in Nerac and would like to call by to see us which they did and we had a lovely lunch and chat throughout the afternoon before they motored off again to finish their French stay in Nerac.

With a quiet period promised it was time to do some regular maintenance like generator oil and filter changes followed by the same for the engine. As usual nothing mechanical comes easy to me, however, after sploshing diesel and oil all around my engine room the task got finished and the generator and engine started up to test. Guess what????? It all worked ok, now isn’t that a surprise.

During the week we had Alan and Gill call in to see us and deliver their "care parcel" from UK and our mail from Moissac. Terry and Sandra ("Felix") were still here in Villeton so we decided we would put a barbeque on and have one of those fantastic long lunches. This is why we are here in France - great times, great people and wonderful memories being created - just love it.

It will soon be time to move off from our favourite little port of Villeton on our way to get to the closest moorings we can before we have to give away to the power of the river and leave “Somewhere” while we drive the car to Bordeaux to explore this new territory and that is when we will issue our next blog.

Hope you enjoy this issue and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.

All the very best, kindest regards
Rhonda Ken and Harry

Number of Locks in Total: 570
Kilometres travelled in Total: 2690