I Know Boats!

We’ve been on the boat for two nights now and sleeping outside on the deck has been divine.  Not a lot of sleep has been had due to the flood lights shining directly onto the deck of the boat, however the fact that there is a strong breeze completely outweighs any light issues for me.  I could sleep under interrogation.

Today is the day that we set sail (so to speak) up the Canal du Midi to our destination of Castelnaudary.

This morning, Jason, Scott, Jackie and Brian set off on the bikes to the supermarket to get breakfast supplies, so whilst they were gone our fearless leader, George suggested, as a joke, that we move the boat… it only took us about 2 seconds to agree to such a mature and devilish idea.  So we moved it about 100 metres away onto the other side of the bridge that they would have to have carried their bikes over.

It felt silly.  It felt naughty.  It felt good.

Here’s how mature we were…

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Jason and Scott were such good sports about the whole thing!

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When Jackie and Brian turned up, we all hid again.  Brian was mid bike lift to get over the bridge but Jackie just stopped, looked at us and asked what we were doing.  I’m not sure what this says about the observation skills of the males onboard?

Now, since I am WAY behind on the blog, I’ve decided to give you a montage of the entire week onboard.  So here it goes – the pics are not necessarily in order, because I can’t remember now what we did on any particular day – so here it is…. enjoy.

George showing us the ropes – literally!

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This is George, our Intrepid leader

In the whole trip we were only going to be travelling about 50kms, but when you travel at a maximum speed of 8kmph, that can take you all week!

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This was just one of the obstacles that we had to face…

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Well, George faced most of them.  We mostly drank a lot of wine and tea and ate a lot of bread and cheese.

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The cork count grew and grew over our week

We went through 61 locks in total. Each of the locks had a lock master’s house that were so lovely and quaint.

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and we all had our own style when holding the ropes on the locks…

During the trip we all decided from time to time to hop off the boat and ride …

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or walk between locks…

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One day Deb stayed onboard…. and got to drive!

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When you walk along the tow roads, you never know what you’re going to find…

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Sometimes the scenery was just too much to bear.

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Jackie and Brian are born foragers and the whole way along the canal they found fig trees, wild blackberries, hazelnuts, sundried gooselwhats…. you name it – they found it.

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Below George kindly edged the boat into the shrubbery so Brain to reach the berries.

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Jackie was our much appreciated self appointed cook onboard and continuously produced amazing meals out of a very small galley.    Like this amazing plate.  I would have taken more photos of the meals, but they were pretty much gone before I could think of it!  One of my favourite meals made my Jackie was the French onion soup…. but I think they just call it onion soup here!

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On this day Jackie found cactus fruits that she wanted to use in the salad for lunch… she returned from foraging covered in cactus spikes.  We removed them from her fingers with tweezers, but she had collected all the fruits up in her hat and when she gave it a little flick over the side of the boat, those little bastard spikes had minds of their own and we were finding them for days after – in all sorts of places….

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Jason needed a good sit down and relax after the debacle!

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In fact, most of the trip was sitting down and relaxing…

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Each lock required the assistance of 4 people.  Two people jumped off the boat (or if riding, would meet us at the next lock in order to hold the ropes).  Two people would station themselves at the front and the back of the boat – that’s stern and bow for those not in the know, in order to throw the ropes up to those waiting on the top of the locks.

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Here’s Brian and Scott waiting at a lock for some expert rope throwing/catching.

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Sometimes if there were boats already in the locks come the other way there was a bit of a wait before rope holding/catching/throwing was required.

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But then the floodgates would open and the water would rush in, filling the lock and lifting us up to a higher plane.

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It was important to hold the boat close to the wall so it doesn’t get jostled in the force of H2O.  It was also important to make sure that the edge of the boat didn’t catch in the big holes that had appeared in the walls of the 16th century locks.

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At a couple of locks, there was no lock keeper, you just press a button to open them.  This strenuous job went to Deb.  Sure, it wasn’t the most exciting of jobs, bit it was hers and she owned it with much enthusiasm as you can see here.

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Along the canal we passed quite a few gorgeous chateaus, but none more lovely than this one.  It was decided that we would all go in together and purchase this house, even though it was not for sale.  We would do it up, grow our own herbs and vegetables (that was going to be Jackie’s job) – I just liked the massive sloped front lawn that would be perfect for the slip and slide directly into the canal!

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We stopped off at the major village/townships to have a look.

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Jason surveying his kingdom at the castle in Carcassonne

The castle!

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This castle comes with its own amphitheatre!  I don’t think the seats are original though.

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Jason and I often talk about the fact that when we were in primary school, we would never have thought that one day we’d be wondering around a castle in France together!

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We walked all around the top of the wall….

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…. and ended up at the castle’s own cathedral!

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More scenery…..

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Some of the bridges we had to go under were really low and on about day 5 George let me drive the boat into the lock – under close supervision – with great success I might add…

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Then on the last day whilst we were waiting for the lock to open, George jumped off the boat to chat to the lovely lady lock keeper, so, with his ok,  I casually took the wheel and drove the boat into the lock, kept it close to the wall and then drove it out again under a bridge much like this one below!  There’s not much room for error….. but as we approached Kylie asked, “Do you think the canopy will fit under this bridge?”

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Then panic happened.  In slow motion George lunged for the throttle to throw us into reverse, two people hurriedly untied the ties as I shouted “Canopy down! Canopy down!”  There was really no reason for all the mayhem – we had it totally under control.

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Speaking of untying the ties, one of the best things I’ve learned on this whole trip is Kylie ‘truckie’s hitch’

and here’s Jason’s version…

This little restaurant is apparently so good (and famous) that people come all the way from Paris to dine there.  George knew how busy it got and booked us in.  Kate, our lovely tour guide joined us for dinner …..

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…. and Deb had the best scallops that she’s ever had in her life!

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Then there was more of this…

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Our last stop was Castelnaudary

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Whilst visiting the castle in Carcassonne, we noticed a rodent of unusual size under the bridge.  We were all amazed and a little revolted at the same time…. thinking it was maybe fake (it never moved), we were even more surprised when we saw a few of them swimming around with the ducks fighting for the bread crumbs that people insisted throwing in.

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Check out this video for a better look.

Here’s me getting arty with the reflection in the canal.

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After a while we were getting a bit sick and tired of this view…

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This was a regular occurrence amongst our lovely group.

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Then this is how we get back to the boat…

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Cause we’re REBels…… well Kylie is anyway.

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On our last night together we had a special dinner at a specialty cassoulet restaurant – which is a dish of meat and beans – very tasty.  We started with a plate of escargot, which was the first time for Kylie, Jason and Deb… but I think they got the hang of it.

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Jason – not too sure

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Kylie is still undecided.

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And this was the final scene as we said goodbye to George; goodbye to our boat – “Classique 13”; and goodbye to the Canal du Midi – about 500 French Foreign Legion members jogging around the marina, although I think they just call it the Foreign Legion here.

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It has been an absolute blast and I would do it all again in a minute.

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