(20) Terry’s visit 21-28 June 2011

We met Terry at Beziers Airport and she was already waiting by the time we arrived on the motorbike. It seems to be a feature of Beziers that the flights arrive ahead of schedule as most of our other guests this summer have too. The airport is ‘bijoux’ to say the least and it is impossible to get lost.

Peter motorcycled back to Port La Nouvelle and Terry and I caught the very reasonable (1,50 euro each) shuttle bus to Beziers Station. Here we discovered that certain sections of the SNCF were on strike. Our scheduled train was running 25 minutes late but we were able to catch another one which arrived first. At Narbonne we expected a 30 minute wait for the connection to Port La Nouvelle and were pleased to be able to wait on the train which was air conditioned. The journey would take 14 minutes……………

………..Unfortunately, we were told to get off as the driver hadn’t turned up and then faced a wait of an hour and forty minutes for the next one. Amidst the chaos of people trying to sort out their journeys and the various garbled announcements it seemed that there might be a bus to replace our cancelled train.

A long wait ensued in hot temperatures and we were considering taking a taxi. A bus eventually turned up for us, but we were worried when the driver didn’t think he was going to Port La Nouvelle. He disappeared into the station for twenty minutes and then agreed that we were right about the destination. With relief, we climbed on board and eventually reached the station at Port La Nouvelle. A ten minute walk and we were back on ‘Aurigny’ sipping our aperros, After such an inauspicious start, the remainder of Terry’s visit went very well.

 Aperros at Port la Nouvelle after a prolonged journey.

 She had brought Peter’s dad’s old homebrew pub sign, as he had decided to start brewing on board; and also a replacement part for our shower which he had broken after over zealous use of the plunger!

We left the next day and had more fun and games with the lock gate at Ile St Lucie! The weather was cooler and a sea mist lingered over the lakes as we cruised along. A couple of kilometres below Mandirac lock; I spotted four red posts which we had not seen on the way down. The grass had been cut and it was a perfect ‘wild’ mooring spot. We could even get satellite TV which enabled us to watch Wimbledon. We named this spot ‘Red Bollards’, marked it in our waterways guide and used it on several further occasions during the summer.

 Cruising past the boatyard and the wine barge.

 A fierce thunderstorm raged during the night and cleared the air. Our next stop was a short one at the ‘Memorial Mooring’ where we couldn’t decide whether to take the wheelhouse down or not, for the Narbonne stretch. Deciding against, we cruised on hopeful that we would be able to find a mooring. We were amazed to find a free one adjacent to the Theatre on the edge of town, having previously cruised past when two barges were moored up almost blocking the canal.

Unfortunately, our stay was a short one as a pleasant chap (whom we later discovered was the ‘Capitain’ of the port) came by on a moped and said he was ‘desole’ but we couldn’t stay there as it was used by the pompiers (firemen). For 24 euros we could moor further up in the centre of town below the low bridges. Unwilling to pay the mooring fee but even more unwilling to have to take the wheelhouse down so late in the day, we took up his offer.

 Narbonne, expensive but great for shopping and fishing.

 There was no water or electricity included, but it was right in the centre, just before the lock lights at the Pont des Marchands ( a one way stretch) Things often have a way of turning out for the best and we ended up using this mooring several times during the summer. It was right in the centre, but amazingly pleasant. The noise from the nearby water feature drowned out late night revellers and we were close to the Monoprix and Spar supermarkets. A bonus for Peter was that he caught three largish carp and an eel that evening, which eased the pain of the mooring fee even though he managed to break a rod.

A bonus for Terry and me was that the weekly market was on the next day and the daily ‘Halles’ indoor food market was less than 100m away. Needless to say we visited both and bought some delicious monkfish, scallops and a twenties style hat for my fancy dress costume (required later in the year). Peter later bought two small rods one of which broke the first time he used it but the other of which is still going strong.

 The Halles.

 After lunch, we dismantled the wheelhouse and enjoyed a pleasant cruise up to the lock at Raonel. On this occasion we also avoided smashing against the barrier opposite the weir at Narbonne lock, which is weird as subsequently we touched it every time.

Above Raonel lock there is a pretty picnic mooring, complete with benches and picnic tables. With no lock keeper around to ask permission (these locks being automatic,) we moored up for the night. As with our other moorings, ‘Raonel’ became a favourite overnight stop, as it was ideal for either putting the wheelhouse up or down depending on which way we were cruising.

 Cruising towards Lock Raonel.

 Picnic spot at Lock Raonel – a good overnight stopping place.

 Our start was delayed the next day as the lock lights were red and we thought there might be another strike. Peter and I cycled up towards Gailhousty to check if it was open and as we reached the River Herault, boats were coming down………. so it was.

We cycled back to the barge, loaded the bikes and cast off. The garde lock was tricky as anticipated and the timely use of our klaxon ensured that an oncoming barge waited until we were through the narrow gap between the green bollards and bank. Our only cock-up was to cruise into the first part of the lock where the dry dock is. With no bollards to moor to and a deep lock ahead, it was not a good place to stop. We reversed out, briefly remembering what had happened the last time we had tried this. Fortunately there was no weir stream to pull us over and we were soon moored up. As we later discovered (when in the dry dock) the lack of signs on the downside approach to Gailhousty does cause confusion.

The very deep lock at Salleles d’Aude also proved challenging as going up is always trickier. We spent the next few days at Salleles d’Aude chilling out and watching Wimbledon. The temperatures soared once again to around 34 degrees and the summer events in the town continued with a huge ‘vide grenier’- which is a bit like a car boot sale……………full of old tat.

 Relaxing at Salleles d’Aude. Mum getting to grips with barge life !

 Terry had enjoyed visiting us and seeing the barge ‘in the flesh’ and we had enjoyed sharing our new life with her albeit for only a week. We had also managed to recce the Canal de la Robine for all our other visitors due to arrive over the summer.

Terry’s return transfer to Beziers airport was much easier than her arrival had been. We took a bus from Salleles d’Aude to Narbonne and then caught the train to Beziers. Peter met us there by motorbike for a coffee and then we caught the shuttle bus to the airport.

Hopefully, Terry will remember the ease of this journey, rather than the trip out and visit us again. Once she was through to the departure lounge we motorcycled to Vias Plage to check out the beaches. We had packed costumes and towels in the bike and were swimming in the sea as Terry’s plane circled overhead before turning north.

 Vias Plage as Mum flies overhead and back to Alderney.

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