(27) Preparations for and the return to Meilhan, Early September 2011.

At the top of the ‘Jonction’ we turned left intending to turn around just below Le Somail and then moor up in ‘Carmen’s’ mooring for a couple of weeks while we returned to Meilhan.

As it turned out the mooring was too shallow for us, so we stopped instead just above Port Minervois in the passenger boat space. From there we would cycle along the canal to recce other potential mooring spots. Several close shaves with badly driven hire boats coming too fast off the bend, soon made moving a priority.

 Cooling off after a cycle to Argeliers looking at moorings.

 The next morning we cycled to Argeliers and were pleased to have a short chat with Barry and Margaret (‘Balestra’) who were on their way to Toulouse. There was a space so we cycled back to the barge and cruised down during the afternoon. Unfortunately the moorings were not as good as we’d hoped so we moved on, initially leaving one of our long boarding planks on the bank. I did feel rather silly walking along the towpath with it afterwards!

There had been several boats with notices to leave, posted by Madame Sierra of the VNF- and we were mindful that we needed to leave ‘Aurigny’ and didn’t want to incur her wrath! In the early evening sun we had a pleasant cruise to the auberge at ‘La Croisade’ where we were able to moor in half of the large passenger boat mooring.

 Relaxing at La Croisade.

 Over the next few days we made our preparations to leave the barge. Peter washed the decks in a rare rain shower; we cycled to Capestang along the towpath shopping at Lidl’s on the way back, (with me carrying all the shopping as my bike has the panniers!!)

 Swabbing the decks during a welcome downpour.

 We had to move across the canal so that we could crane the motor cycle off (this can only be done on the starboard side) and then rode further along the next stretch of the canal checking out moorings. We also fitted in an impromptu visit to a dentist in Colombiers after I bit too hard on an almond in my breakfast cereal. Just over thirty euros later, I had some medication, a photocopy of my x ray and was thankfully pain free.

The day before we left for Meilhan, our friends Rosemary and Ian Lindley arrived and took us for a lovely meal at ‘Le Chat qui Peche’ restaurant at Argeliers- our neighbouring restaurant La Croisade being shut for the holidays. We enjoyed catching up with them and they headed off the next day to Carcassonne.

Soon afterwards we left for the five and a half hour motorcycle ride to the Canal Lateral a la Garonne where we had arranged to meet our friends Louise and Alex on board ‘Riccall’. It was a boiling hot day and after initially enjoying the ride, it became rather tedious, especially as we had decided to stay off the toll roads. This added a couple of hours to the journey -but Peter was enjoying the lovely roads. I even wore my motor cycle jacket ‘off the shoulder’ in the heat and resorted to singing about ‘My Favourite Things’ towards the end of the trip!!

We rendez-voused as planned at Lagruere and had a lovely meal at the restaurant in the port with Louise, Alex and their friends Ken and Rhonda (‘Somewhere’.) After breakfast on deck, we enjoyed a super cruise and lunch on ‘Riccall’ along the pretty Canal Lateral a la Garonne (which dare we say we prefer to the Canal du Midi?) Peter and I enjoyed relaxing on deck and were very impressed by Alex’s engineering as he and Louise hydraulically removed their wheelhouse roof in five minutes!!

 Feet up while someone else steers.

 Wish we had one like this !

 Clever so and so made this himself !

 And off we go…easy as that !

 We arrived at Meilhan’s Halte Nautique mid afternoon and it was great to see the friends we had made last winter once again. We had a drink at ‘la gargouille’ while sitting out on the terrace, enjoying the views across the Garonne.

The day of Malcolm’s 70th birthday party dawned and we were surprised that it was rather dull and cool after the recent days of brilliant sunshine. We hoped that the threatening rain would hold off, which it did for most of the day.

 Back at Meilhan, the day before the party.

 The party had a Twenties/Great Gatsby costume theme and everyone looked very much ‘in fashion’. The festivities got off to a flying start with canapés and glasses of bubbly, plus Malcolm’s home brew served from two casks in the back of his Citroen CV van. A fish and chips van- ‘Cod en Bleu’ arrived and we were soon tucking into a tasty feast of fish and chips with all the trimmings. Malcolm, his brother Rob and a double bass player provided the music, playing from the roof of ‘Body and Soul’ and young Charlie Smith did a set with some of his friends.

 Carol, Nicci (Patricia Hodge) Louise and Alex.

 Music from the roof of ‘Body and Soul’

 Malcolm, the birthday boy with a pint of his homebrew, ‘RHPB’.

During an earlier sampling session I happened to mention that good beer in France was as hard to come by as Rocking Horse Pooh…this tickled Malcolm’s sense of humour and he named his homebrew ‘Rocking Horse Pooh Bitter.’

I drew him a cartoon picture for his birthday card…



 Rocking Horse Pooh Bitter !

 The celebrations went on well into the night and everyone agreed it had been a super day. We decided to stay another day in the port and met up with Christian who had given Peter the set of boules earlier in the year. We enjoyed more aperros at ‘la gargouille’ and then had another great lunch there with Alex and Louise.

 Our friend Christian who gave me a set of boules back in April.

We left Meilhan mid morning on Tuesday and cruised back to Lagruere, stopping off for lunch on deck. A barbecue back at the port finished off what had been a lovely few days. The following morning we said farewell to Alex and Louise and rode back to the barge. This time we used the toll roads and only took three hours.

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