(24) Laura and Jon’s Visit 1-10 August 2011

We took the wheelhouse down and left fairly early the next day hoping to get to Narbonne in plenty of time to moor up and shop. Unfortunately, owing to the over zealous button pushing by a young boy on the previous hire boat, the lock gates refused to close. After a call to the lock keeper however, we were soon on our way and enjoyed a shady cruise down to Narbonne.

The town lock was its fiercest yet, forcing us over onto the barrier and scratching the hull. We decided to use some old longer fenders on the return trip. This was becoming a familiar cruise by now and we were soon moored up in our usual spot and putting up the wheelhouse.  Our supplies were at an all time low and so we did a quick shop at the central ‘Monoprix’- all the Lidl’s being out of town.

Laura and Jon’s flight was on time and the transfers straightforward. I was already ‘en route’ to the station when they texted to say they had arrived. After a short walk, we were back on the barge and enjoying catching up and drinking aperros.

While Jon was busy catching two fine carp, Laura and I serenaded each other in the galley as she prepared a tasty Chicken and Chorizo Risotto.

That evening, it seemed as though our charm offensive on the ‘capitaine’ of the port had worked as we received no visit from him and moored free of charge.

The next morning, after a walk around the indoor market at ‘les Halles,’ Laura and Jon explored the sights and she experimented with her new camera.  After lunch, we left Narbonne aiming to stop at the ‘Memorial’ mooring for the night.

 Back in the ‘Halles’ Narbonne.

 There we enjoyed a game of boules, a barbecue and several games of cards, before retiring to bed.

 Relaxing at the ‘Memorial mooring’

 We were awoken fairly early by the sound of a bi-plane flying low overhead. It was probably spraying crops or vines in the nearby fields.

 Woken- Bi-plane !

 Our cruise to Port La Nouvelle was punctuated by two stops, one at ‘Red Bollards’ and one in the lock at Ile St Lucie where we surveyed the damage done at the barrier in Narbonne. This enabled Laura and Jon to explore the island before we cruised the short distance down to the Port. Here we had our first official inspection by two customs officials who checked our boat registration documents and passports before wishing us a ‘bonne soiree’.

With the painting on the road bridge completed (and the scaffolding down) we were able to cruise under it and into the fishing port to turn around the next morning- something Peter had been keen to do.

 Turning in the port.

 And back under the bridge to the canal entrance.

 After craning the BMW off, Peter and I shopped at the Lidl’s in Sigean, requiring two trips to transport all the shopping! We then repeated our journey to the beach with the youngsters cycling ahead and us bringing beers etc on the BMW.

It was festival time at Port La Nouvelle and beach games abounded as did free cans of Lipton’s drinks and small packets of Lays crisps. A huge stage was erected at the near end and promised a spectacular evening of music, dance and acrobatics.

The sea was a lovely temperature and we all enjoyed several swims before returning to the barge.

We spent four nights at Port La Nouvelle in total, and managed another beach day despite the less than seasonal weather for the time of year. We visited the market and then played boules before going onto the beach. While we were there a sea mist came in and all bathers were ordered out of the sea by the ever vigilant lifeguards, who then proceeded to sweep along the sector in a rib to enforce their decision. With a red flag up, we played throwing games and bat and ball until it cleared. Free Coke Zeros were on offer at every turn today, served by attractive girls in commando style uniforms.

Another meal of ‘entrecote’, ‘moules a la crème’ and ‘frites’ was enjoyed at one of the restaurants on the seafront, before we returned to the barge.

 Steak for a change…

 So, who wanted the Ketchup ?

 Laura went on the BMW this time and enjoyed a quick blast on the way back while Jon and I cycled.

 Laura takes the easier cycle option for the short trip back to Aurigny.

A strong windy storm that night cleared the air but kept us all awake.

While we were there a problem with our batteries came to light (definitely no pun intended!). The alarm warning of low voltage had recently sounded at higher readings a couple of times, but we had thought nothing of it. However at 5am one morning when it went off again, we realised there was a problem. Peter phoned William, who offered to check the batteries out when we returned to Narbonne in a couple of days.

On Sunday 7th August, after a brief stop at Ile St Lucie lock (where even our friendly lady bemoaned the poor summer weather,) we cruised back to ‘Red Bollards’ and stopped for the day, chilled out, played boules, read, cycled and fished.

 Cruising back towards Narbonne.

 Back in Narbonne the next day, Peter spent some time checking the battery fluid levels and tightening loose connections, while Laura and Jon explored the town.  Later he and Jon caught a couple more carp each and Laura and I watched tv.

The next day we found ourselves in the middle of a celebratory pageant as Narbonne recreated aspects of its Roman past. A procession around the canal complete with legionnaires, vestal virgins, slaves, chariots, gladiators, peasants, musicians, dancers, an elephant and a snake charmer was followed by various displays.

 ‘So Pierre, what do you do with your weekends off ?’

 Charming…guy behind trying to make a trunk call.

 These took place in the main square and an esplanade on our left and were linked by the nearby footbridge. All day long, crowds of tourists swarmed across the bridge in each direction. They even had some tigers that looked very sad as they waited for their performance in a huge show cage.

 Saddest of all, the bull wearing the worst ‘Syrup’ I’ve seen to date.

 By late afternoon, the noise from the fountain and PA system were beginning to wear and so we dismantled the wheelhouse once again for the cruise up through the town.

 ”Whadaya mean, there goes an elephant” !

 The one way system served by two sets of lights had always worked well for us, but on this occasion it didn’t. As we left the town lock, we saw a flotilla of barges and boats waiting just beyond the lock where there was barely any room to pass.

 All eyes on the queue of boats that have jumped the lights on the other side of the lock.

 The barge at the front had jumped the lights and the rest had followed. They probably thought they would encounter a small hire boat which they could bully out of the way! After much gesticulating on my part and angry use of my improving French, we made it through and they all assured us that their light had been green. The last of the hire boats had been forced to reverse out of our way and was in no man’s land unable to reach the ‘perch’ pole to activate the lock. The crew shouted to me to turn it as we passed but some how I couldn’t quite reach it!!!

We hoped to stop on the Gua lock mooring for the night as it was almost closing time. This would mean a fifteen minute walk to the station the next morning so Laura and Jon could catch a train back to Carcassonne. We ended up moving three times, and after telling the ‘capitaine’ of our battery problems, he plugged us into the mains………..at a cost of 20 euros. At least they would receive a full charge in readiness for William’s check the next morning.

As we thought, our three year old battery system might be on the way out…..more expense.

After a last breakfast of croissants, pain aux raisins and croissants aux armandes, we walked to the station and said goodbye to Laura and Jon. We had all enjoyed another lovely week together.

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