(23) Chris and Erf’s Visit 24-31 July 2011

After Adam and Maria left, we had a few days to ourselves and cruised back to Salleles d’Aude again. We had arranged to meet our friends Chris, Erf and Toby here on Sunday 24th July. This was the day of the town’s celebration of ‘Eau, Terre et Vin’- (Water, Land and Wine) and by the time they arrived at 2pm it was in full swing.

Peter had ordered some beer kits from England and had them sent to Chris and Erf’s address. The kits, brewing equipment and six more 10l boxes of Bordeaux wine brightened up his day! In anticipation of the first brew, he posed with his goodies under his dad’s old pub sign which Terry had brought over from Alderney.

 More essential supplies courtesy of  Chris and Erf.

 Chris and Erf arrive during the canal Fete.

 There was a market on the opposite bank which morphed into a ‘Vide Grenier’ that stretched almost the entire kilometre to the dry dock………………….and as expected, it was full of old tat.

William’s business partner Johann on ‘Red Roest’ a lovely Dutch Barge was moored up opposite us and had a fine display of working engines on the quay and on deck. The oldest of these (built in the early twentieth century) ran on alcohol………………….. rather a waste we thought!

 Severe bunting !

 A fine collection of working engines.

 We watched the river jousting, a spectacle very popular in this part of France. It consists of two odd looking boats( one red and one blue) which are rowed towards each other while two chaps on elevated platforms attempt to knock each other into the water using special lances. Quite entertaining to watch the first few times.

 Fun to watch, best not drink the canal water though !

 The breeze picked up and Johann’s huge flags billowed overhead. We had decided that our bunting looked a bit pathetic by comparison and Peter had strung our lights up for the evening instead, which added to the festive atmosphere.

After dismantling the wheelhouse the next morning we headed back down to Narbonne, stopping there briefly for lunch before carrying onto the ‘Memorial’ mooring. After a late start the following day, we cruised down to Ile St Lucie. I walked Toby to the lock at Mandirac and we were soaked by a sudden shower of rain.

 Turning in the river Aude, Toby sporting the latest in ‘doggywear’ for barges.

 We moored just above the lock at Ile St Lucie and used planks again to keep us off the bottom, not wanting to scratch our shiny new hull. After a late lunch, we walked to the ‘wild’ beach where Peter, Toby and I enjoyed a quick dip, the breeze being rather strong and chilly.

We moved down to Port La Nouvelle the next morning and stayed two nights. Whilst there we walked to both the patrolled and un- patrolled beaches and enjoyed another tasty seafood meal on the sea front.

 Port la Nouvelle and more moules.

 At the un- patrolled beach, Toby enjoyed chasing the frisbee into the sea and was very concerned when Chris and I swam.

 Life-guard dog Toby ready to leap in and save Christine.

 We enjoyed another overnight stop at the tranquil ‘Red Bollards’ before cruising up to ‘our’ mooring in Narbonne. Chris, Erf and I, went on the small white sightseeing train, which was disappointing as all the ‘highlights’ were within easy walking distance of the barge. The train was delayed for half an hour behind a broken down refuse collecting lorry as well.

 Bavarian night in Narbonne.

 Narbonne’s summer festival was still in full swing and there were some Bavarian musicians and dancers to town. They were based in the nearby main square along with various beer tents. Grown men in leiderhosen don’t do much for me unless they look like Christopher Plummer (and come to think of it he wore a suit in ‘The Sound of Music’.) However a glass of beer went down very well that evening when I went for a walk with Chris, Erf and Toby, leaving Peter to fish for the inevitable carp onboard.

Before leaving Narbonne, we had a lovely lunch at one of the restaurants near the canal. Erf and Peter then dismantled the wheelhouse and we set off for the mooring at Raonel Lock. The only incident worth mentioning is a ‘Le Boat’ cruiser which unsuccessfully attempted to join us in Gua lock. Peter had to be very firm as it would have been dangerous to have them in behind us. We were amazed to discover that the crew was under instruction from a member of ‘Le Boat’ staff. No wonder so many of the hire boats are driven so recklessly and with no consideration for other canal users.

We spent a pleasant evening at lock Raonel, with the chaps drinking and playing boules and Chris and I just drinking! We then returned to Salleles d’Aude the next day and said goodbye to our friends. Chris had kindly brought towels and bedding, as Laura and Jon were coming straight after them.

After topping up with water and doing some washing, we had to do a quick turnaround and head back to lock Raonel, as Laura and Jon were flying into Carcassonne and catching the train to Narbonne the following day.

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