Thursday, November 06, 2008


On Tuesday, Oct. 28 our friends John and Catalina Escobar arrived in Carcassonne after a much awaited visit. They had been to Holland and Germany, and before coming south they were in Paris, from where they drove to see us. The weather had been beautiful until the day they arrived. That Tuesday was the coldest day we had had all season, but fortunately, in the days to follow, it warmed up and they had some beautiful sunshine for our last two days of cruising. The Canal du Midi was to close to navigation on Nov. 5, but we wanted to be in our wintering port of Castelnaudary on Oct. 31. The last few days before the closing of the canal, navigation had to be "a La demande," which means you had to ask for permission and subject yourself to their schedules for locks, etc. John and Catalina arrived around 7: 00 PM which was the perfect time to have a drink. I had some appetizers and a bottle of Biesbosch's own champagne to celebrate their arrival. After a much animated hour or so, we had a delicious dinner of Boeuf Bourgignonne, which I had prepared the night before, and which proved to be the perfect meal for a cold evening. In the middle of the night the electricity in port had failed and our batteries went flat. We had to make sure they were fully charged, since on our first night of navigation we would not have a place to plug into. The next day we had our daily breakfast with fresh croissants and out-of- the oven bread brought by Bill every morning. They so enjoyed their breakfasts on the boat. We got ready and Catalina and I went to do some shopping at the Pharmacie de La Gare, a fabulous American Style drugstore that has the most wonderful natural products one can possibly imagine. We went up to The Place Carnot, made reservations to eat at the local" Chez Felix" and went back to the boat to get the guys. We very much enjoyed our lunch at this typical French bistro, walked around and went back to the boat for the rest of the afternoon. In the early evening, we drove to Castelnaudary in both our cars so we could leave them there and get back by train. To our dismay, the last train to Carcassonne was delayed by more than an hour, so we left their car at the station and drove back in ours to see the Cite, so John and Catalina could take photos of it all lit up. Every time I see it up on the hill at any time of the day, its beauty takes my breath away. But at night it looks surreal, almost. That evening we had a light meal of quiche and salad, and vast quantities of wine, as one tends to drink when in company of friends.

The next day, after our usual good breakfast, we got ready, I walked to the first lock--the one at the port--where I had John throw the ropes to me. Going back to Castelnaudary you are up locking all the time and because of the height of some of the locks, it is good to have someone help with the ropes. From then on, John was my rope assistant. We would drop him off at the waiting pier before the lock and he would either walk or bike to it which proved to be a very enjoyable thing for him. The first couple of hours of navigation was a bit drizzly, but later on the weather got better, so we spent most of the time out on the bow. That first night we tied up the boat after the port of Bram right after a lock in a most beautiful and quiet spot. We had nothing but the trees and the birds around, my most favorite thing to do. We sat around with our drinks, and I made a nice chicken dinner, which we all enjoyed. After our cheese and after-dinner drinks, John and Catalina did the dishes and we retired for the night. The next day, due to the fact that we were not full up in power we all washed up--no showers--had our breakfast and continued on for our last day of navigation for the season. At lunch time we tied up the boat in a beautiful spot, the lock of La Peyruque where there is a small boutique owned by an English couple. She makes beautiful ceramic things, so John and Cata bought me a lovely little bell and a ceramic plaque just like the one marking the lock house, for us to hang in the boat. Such a thoughtful thing to do!

This stretch of the canal has very many locks, many of them triple, and the last one at Castelnaudary, a quadruple lock, operated mainly by our friend, Mr. Villeneuve, better known as "The pie man". Most of the lock keepers remembered us from the last time we went down so all of them were wonderful, talkative and polite. I had asked Mr. Villeneuve if he could sell me a pie, but he was out of them. We decided I would be picking one up at the lock house the next day. As we left the last of the 4 locks, we came into the large basin of Castelnaudary. John was at the helm and Catalina and I could not believe the beauty of this basin with its Mediterranean feeling and beautiful old mill and bridge. We moored the boat after the bridge at the port in front of La Police Nationale. We had called ahead, so we had a spot and electricity and water available. John and Catalina were supposed to leave for Barcelona soon after arrival, after 6: 00 PM, but we persuaded them to stay and leave the next morning. We had another lovely evening with them. We went to the local supermarket, got a few bottles of wine and came back to the boat where I prepared a pasta meal enjoyed by all. The next day after a good night, we were starting on breakfast, when we heard a knock on the door. It was "The pie man" delivering a piping hot apple pie that he had made for us that morning. He wanted to make sure our friends could taste it. We could not believe it. So our breakfast was grand. After getting ready we all got in their car, went back to Carcassonne to pick up ours, and we led John and Catalina out to the Autoroute to Barcelona. We said our goodbyes, and although, once again it was sad to see them go, we are glad to know we will be seeing them again in Miami this winter when we are there.

After their departure, Bill and I went out to lunch, came back to Biesbosch and did some laundry, since the next day they were predicting rain which finally came. It rained all night and all day, something we had not seen here in The South since our arrival last year. We stayed in Biesbosch reading all day. I finished a book and almost finished a second, watched two good movies and made plans for our trip to the North which starts this coming Thursday. We plan to go to Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Holland and The north of France.

A tea break for Catalina

My rope assistant

A lovely bridge on The Midi

The basin at Castelnaudary

The view from our wintering spot

The Cite de Carcassonne

Biesbosch coming around the bend

A great couple

The colors of Fall

Tying up for lunch in shallow waters

Great mooring spot

1 comment:

Brian said...

You were ten minutes from our gite in Issel near Castelnaudary and you might be interested in the hub page I wrote on Carcassonne.