(31) Karen’s Visit 22-27 October 2011 to La Croisade

We decided to remain in Agde for the week until my friend Karen joined us the following Saturday. The weather had cooled down and was quite changeable and breezy, but the sun still managed to poke through most days. Autumn had finally arrived!

At the mooring we had a resident Coypu which sat alongside the barge preening itself and paddled around in the evenings and a Kingfisher (one of many in the area) which would be perched on the handrail every morning until Peter got up to make tea. There were many other species around including this little Wagtail that got stuck in the wheelhouse. Peter managed to catch it and after a few moments de-stressing it flew off none the worse.

Recovering on deck.

During the week we cycled to the supermarket a couple of times, took ‘Joey’ our dinghy for a spin down the canal and had a flying visit from Peter’s friend Eric who was motor cycling back from England to his home in Mallorca.

Exploring.

On the Saturday morning I walked to Agde station to catch the shuttle bus to the airport. I was early and the driver let me have a free ride to Marseillan before returning to Agde and subsequently the airport. This was very welcome as it was fairly cold and windy outside. I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with the service to the airports and this one was a bargain at 1,50 euro each way.

Karen‘s flight was on time and we were soon back on the barge drinking rose wine and catching up on news. Despite the increasing wind we walked into Agde which was, as predicted mainly closed – very unlike the UK on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, the increasingly windy and stormy weather remained with us for a couple more days, but we made the most of it taking ‘Joey’ for another spin up the river and down the canal and exploring Agde a bit more…….well we found a café overlooking the river and ate ice cream!

Karen runs through the ’emergency exit’ drill as they set off to explore.

 I also managed to break another tooth- this time on a jam pip- making a visit to the dentist even more urgent!

Tuesday morning dawned much brighter so we left the mooring and cruised through the round lock. We gave a long blast on the klaxon on the approach as we had noticed the other larger barges did and it worked, out came the keeper saving me from having to climb off and find him as I had to before.

Karen and I walked to the boulangerie for some elevenses pastries and we enjoyed a fairly sunny cruise to Villeneuve-les-Beziers. This enabled me to take the compulsory ‘relaxing on deck while cruising’ photo of Karen.

‘RELAX’ !!

We walked into town during the afternoon to check out possible restaurants for that evening, as we weren’t sure if the canal-side pizzeria would actually be open –even though the sign indicated that it would be. I was also slightly reluctant to eat pizza again in case I broke any more teeth! In the event, the pizzeria was closed and we ended up at the fish restaurant ‘Les Enfants Terribles’ which despite its name was very good. Karen treated us to a lovely meal………and I even had the octopus!

The following morning after a quick cycle to the nearby Carrefour supermarket, we left and cruised to Port Neuf at Beziers. We moored in front of ‘Anjodi’ which was on her last cruise of the summer, her guests enjoying their lunch ‘al fresco’.

Leaving Peter to once again ‘guard’ the barge, Karen and I walked into Beziers. The town proved as inaccessible as on previous visits, with access across the railway line limited to only a couple of places.

Undaunted, we eventually reached the Cathedral and went up the tower (a first for me). Not for the faint-hearted (literally,) but the view from the top was well worth the giddy ascent on the uneven spiral stone staircase.

Views from the top.

 After consulting my rather useless town plan we found our way to the Statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet and the large Church of La Madeleine which was closed. I wouldn’t have wanted to go in anyway as it was the place where seven thousand citizens taking refuge from the Pope’s anti Cathar Crusades were burnt alive in the thirteenth century. So much for Christianity!  We did however find a sunny café where we enjoyed a large glass of Leffe before heading off again to the flight of locks at Fonserannes.

Recuperation !

These proved to be difficult to find on foot as all the signs are designed for road users and the one way system, as we’ve said before, is rather tricky.

Eventually, after doubling back on ourselves, a garage mechanic (evidently used to people getting lost in their search for the famous locks,) came to our rescue and pointed us in the right direction. By then we were quite weary and the locks were shut anyway, so after a quick look around we walked back along the canal to the port where rose wine, Toulouse Sausage and Yorkshire Pudding (cooked by Peter) went someway to reviving us.

Once again, the time had flown by and the next day it was time for Karen to leave, catching the shuttle bus from the station to the airport as so many of our visitors had done during the summer.

Karen was to be our last overnight visitor of the summer, twenty in total since the last week of June!

On my return from the station, we took advantage of the empty lock to go through to the flight at Fonserannes. We had to wait several hours on the other side even though we were first in the queue, as boats were coming down intermittently – it being their turn.

Just before 4pm as the rain poured down, we donned our waterproofs (well Peter did…..mine weren’t!!) and waited for the green light. We must have broken all records during our ascent as the rather miserable lock keeper rushed us through with many a ‘Allez Allez!!’ Well it was really wet I suppose, but at least he had an umbrella and I did smile at him!

There was plenty of room to moor at the top and we were surprised when a lady from a hire boat ran out and offered to help us moor up, partially restoring our faith in human/hire boat nature.

The following day we decided to take the train to Montpellier to collect our replacement Carte Bleue from the bank there. We also hoped to visit Ikea to buy some shelves and a bar chair (for the wheelhouse.)

The weather was foul and the walk to the station long, especially as we were carrying two trolleys in expectation of our purchases. When we realised how much it would cost for two return tickets- over 50 euros, we decided that Peter would go alone.

As I plodded back to the barge, Peter reached the bank, collected the card and caught a tram to Ikea. Sadly he couldn’t find anything suitable and returned later that day empty handed. That evening, as the rain continued to pour down, we lit our first log fire of the autumn.

Over the next couple of days we cruised along the first part of the ‘grand bief’ – (54 km lock pound,) stopping for one night in Capestang before taking our wheelhouse down for the last time this year.

We passed easily through the low bridge there and enjoyed a superb final cruise of 2011 in autumn sunshine to La Croisade.

Warm autumn sunshine and shandies.

A really pleasant cruise up to La Croisade, our ‘wild’ winter mooring.

The final tally of kilometres cruised this season is 869 km and 256 locks.

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