February 2018 & Things Beginning with ‘F’ – Football, Friends, Food & Fuel

A Funny Thing, These Blogs…………. I’ve been posting this blog come / travel journal / diary or whatever we call it, for some six years now. It’s really a bit of diary for me to keep track of where we’ve been, some of the stuff we get up to and some of the wonderful folk we’ve met along the way, and there are plenty of them. Some professional flatterers even suggested a book on the back of it all, but I’m not convinced. I’ve also been contacted by people wanting to know more about this semi-nomadic path we’ve chosen and perhaps to try and do the same, and trust me, it’s not that difficult. Not so surprising that friends and family ‘tune in’ from time to time and I’m flattered that you that know us (yes you, you know who you are!) are remotely interested in these tales tall and mostly true, even with the occasional bit of creative license thrown in. But here’s the funny thing, there’s also a steadily growing number of folk from all over the world who’ve never so much as clapped eyes on us before but are following our journey, so I’m even more flattered and, a bit bemused that any of you out there should find it interesting enough to follow, anyway thanks for being curious and interested, and yes you too know who you are! I’ve no idea how people find this blog and in case you’re wondering where you all come from its literally all over the planet starting with and in no particular order, England, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, Germany, France, USA, Canada, Philippines, Egypt, India, Someone on a merchant ship, Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. I suspect there’s more out there but those are just the one’s my curiosity found.

Early blossoms

So far it’s largely been one way traffic, you know….I write, you read, but some people, alleged friends mostly, do write back and post messages, so if you’re feeling inclined, don’t be stranger, let me know how you found L’Escapade France and what you think.

 Sporting Injuries………..Aren’t usually much fun, but on this occasion the reverse was true for the first of February’s ‘F’s because Saturday 3rd February was the first round of the 6 Nations Rugby football tournament here in Europe and for some of us compulsive viewing. Now it’s fair to say that I could have watched from the comfort of L’Escapade but given there was a double billing of Wales v Scotland followed swiftly by England v Italy, and, with Evey still away in the U.S. it seemed an opportune time to head off to ‘De Danu’ a cosy, nearby former Irish pub serving pints of passable English beer. The temptation being more than I could resist I braved the cold and headed beer-side. Funny how both time and beer slip by when distracted by a rugby match but slip by they did, and before too long uplifted by the result of yet another England win, all be it against a valiant but outclassed Italy I weaved my way back to the port. I should have been richer for the experience but given the volume of beer that was consumed I was decidedly the poorer.

De Danu – English Pub

Road Testing Resumes in Earnest…….. Evey’s happy return from the U.S. on the 6th February could mean only one thing……ok two things, the first being a serious clean and tidy up of the barge hiding all evidence of the bingeing that the cat and I had indulged in for the past fortnight (yes, that fur friend was as guilty as I was) and more enjoyably that the serious business of locating new nosheries was firmly back on the agenda, with some new and very satisfying successes, but first a few words about lunching ‘Froggy style’. Lunch here is generally the prime meal of the French day with lighter meals usually served in the evening, though life on L’Escapade doesn’t necessarily follow the same pattern, anyway it’s probably why the French are not generally as tubby as some of us. It’s also not by accident that the French are drawn to restaurants for lunch since in part lunchtimes offer exceptionally good value with inexpensive three course set menus or ‘menus du jour’ as they’re called attracting the crowds. Little wonder then, when the identical menu served at dinner may cost many euros more. Another interesting observation is that pretty well immediately after the Christmas nosh fest where the French lash out with enormous gusto like the rest of us both at home and ‘mange-ing’ (sp eating) out, the restaurant trade nose dives for several weeks while those hard earned euros are diverted to the annual sales or reserves are built up again.

Clausons Visit, We Know What to Expect with the 2nd of February’s ‘F’s …… Friends and a feeding frenzy of course. Well you couldn’t make it up could you, the past few days produced a decidedly cold snap with sub- zero temperatures then a day ahead of the much awaited Clauson visit it snows, overnight and through the next morning leaving a cold white blanket over the barge, but like all the previous snow falls here it doesn’t last and by the afternoon it’s all gone again, though still nippy. Mind you the cold weather has never bothered one of L’Escapade’s more slothful crew members being Patcha who‘s an unashamed radiator hog spending countless hours perched on the wheelhouse window sill itself located above a heating vent so she can slow cook herself.

Patcha knows how to deal with the cold !

Les Clausons Arrive

With just two and a half days for the visit it we’ve a packed program, packed that is with eating, drinking and recovery napping as it happens and it beggars belief the further damage done to my waning efforts on the diet front. It’s a widely held belief amongst the experienced that on any semi- serious social event lasting more than a day, it’s prudent never to ‘go long’ that’s to say, not to hit the beverage trail hard on the first night. So much for the theory, the reality seems all too often, and this occasion fits the bill too, that entirely the opposite happens and the longer the gap between visits, the harder you go. The seeds for our first night’s demise came swiftly with a visit to our regular Thursday night haunt with other plaisanciers (boating folk) chez ‘Café Authie’ http://cafeauthie.fr  for some light refreshments, seeds sown and watered it was off to another favoured establishment, this time the excellent noshery ‘La Popote’, http://lapopote-toulouse.com and with the cold night air demanding substantial red wine upon our arrival we began our descent down the slippery slope. Fueled now by a truly excellent meal, as always, all that remained to finish us off was a visit to the amply stocked ‘digestif’ stash aboard the good ship L’Escapade and a raid on some vintage Armagnac.

Cafe Authie, Place Dupuy, Toulouse

Cafe Authie as it once was

Cafe Authie

Cafe Authie


JC & Tina – First night dinner at ‘ La Popote’

It comes as no surprise that Friday morning was barely greeted at all, little enough time for tea and cereals before a stroll around town taking in the fabulous Mairie , ‘The capitoleum’, its chambers richly decorated with huge artworks on walls and ceiling.

Place de la Capitole, Toulouse

The Thorn between two roses – Tina, JC and Evey,

Inside the City Hall

Stunning ceilings in the Capitoleum

From here an even shorter stroll would find us seated for lunch at yet another great Toulousian restaurant ‘Le Genty Magre’  http://www.legentymagre.com and another memorable meal. Waddling back to the port and L‘Escapade casualties from the previous long night were beginning to show signs of fading and an afternoon of some professional class napping was quickly the order of the day especially with today being a restaurant double billing and an evening ahead at what we reckon is Toulouse’s best pizza house ‘ L’Occitalie ‘ for a light snack and a mouth filling Cote du Rhone red or two.

Le Genty Magre

L’OccItalie – Best Pizza in Toulouse …………and beyond!

When nothing else will do…………………

The perfect pizza – L’OccItalie, Toulouse

Communing with nature…..or not stamina post lunch………amateurs!!!

Lunch takes it’s toll…………

Another one fades after lunch


To Market…….. Saturday morning and a clearer head has me pondering that my cunning plan to avoid a weekend of cooking and washing up might not have been entirely well thought out but it was too late as this particular train had now left the station, destination being another noshing double bill.

JC and other fish

Fish Fingers Clauson at Victor Hugo Markets

Most decent sized French towns and cities have a good indoor market and Toulouse’s Victor Hugo market has to be one of the best around. The large hall’s filled with every kind of produce you can imagine, some you probably can’t and some you might wish you hadn’t. Swanning about the bustling aisles filled with hungry shoppers we’ve soon worked up an appetite but before heading upstairs to the restaurant hall, there’s time for a visit to one of the seafood vendors where a skilled husband and wife team are busy shucking fresh oysters for an eager crowd. It seems churlish not to buy a couple of plates with a crispy white wine to prime our appetites.

A wine & oyster snack before lunch

Waiting for wine & oysters

Upstairs is restaurant alley, with easily a dozen establishments jammed next to each other, every one of them crammed with lunch time diners. The meat and seafood dishes supplied from fresh market produce below make this a great place to experience market food, little wonder the place is packed and with more hungry mouths queued up waiting for tables service goes on for most of the afternoon at weekends. It’s great value too despite its popularity with locals and tourists alike and you can easily find a good 3 course meal for under 20 euros, but be warned get here early or be prepared to wait.

The boys selfie, Marche Victor Hugo

Evey & Tina – Lunch at Victor Hugo market

Too much talking!


Time again for another power nap ahead of one of the weekend’s highlights, a return visit to the ‘Danu’ pub for the rugby union clash between England and Wales, as usual the place is packed with supporters from both sides and the French predictably backing Wales makes the England victory all the sweeter leaving some of us at least salivating at the prospect of the England v France match to come in a few weeks’ time. A last night farewell dinner and joined by former Aussie resident now made good in Toulouse, Jane Francois at the charming and traditional Bistro de L’Etoile http://www.bistrotdeletoile.fr rounds off a memorable weekend visit with friends, round being the operative  for that’s exactly how I’m feeling, very round indeed!

Bistro de L’Etoile

Last night dinner at Bistro ‘L’Etoile’

Les Clausons Depart !


Lunch and all that Jazz – Our friends en route to the airport and at risk of being labeled excess baggage themselves after our four day feeding frenzy it’s almost at an end, but not quite as Evelyn and I have a long standing lunch engagement with port boat buddies at ‘Le Madeleine de Proust’ http://www.madeleinedeproust.com a neighbourhood restaurant serving traditional fare and once a month has a jazz trio playing some really good music, how could we resist despite the prospect of seeing Mr Blobby return to my bathroom mirror once more and after episodes like this weekend I’m starting to think I’ll never be old enough to know better!

La Madeleine de Proust

La Madeleine de Proust

Jazz lunch – Sunday lunch at ‘La Proust de Madeleine’

Cindy Sparks & Evey at lunch

Plaisanciers de Port St Sauveur – Sunday lunch at ‘La Proust de Madeleine’

Evey & Cindy discuss dessert……or something

Arend, Chris & Liz

Arend, Chris & Liz


It’s Not Always About Food ………..Having just penned countless words about ‘nose-bagging’ (think eating) at no end of nosheries over the previous weekend and sans doubt countless other times, it probably sounds like a rather hollow claim that retirement life here isn’t always about the food. However testing the bounds of such claims was a great night out mid- month to the Hall au gains concert hall to see world famous American jazz musician Wynton Marsalas with his 15 piece band, a truly memorable experience and in such a great venue right on our doorstep. Mind you it proved to be a somewhat ambitious evening out, despite having looked forward to the event for some months and the fact that it was absolutely chucking it down with rain that night, it ran back to back with our regular Tuesday night yoga class. So what, I hear you cry, well, believe it or not, after the recent Sunday jazz lunch at the Madeleine de Proust, and the Clauson feeding frenzy weekend a week or so back I’d embarked on yet another austerity program and impressively hadn’t had a stimulating beverage for 3 days at this point as well as having been on light rations for the same time with my 5:2 ‘fasting’ diet modified to a 4:3 diet in recognition of the magnitude of the challenge ahead of me. So without making excuses like I was probably a bit faint with hunger but that nights yoga class being a tad on the strenuous side it wasn’t long before eyes closed and I fell asleep only to be prodded awake by my concerned wife Evey jabbing me in the guts for alleged snoring. A charge I strenuously deny regardless of the strange looks some of the surrounding concert goers were sending my way.

Place Dupuy

Le Hall aux Grains – Place Dupuy

Wynton Marsalas plays Toulouse

Wynton Marsalas 15 piece band plays Toulouse


OK, So It IS, All About Food………..On reflection and in view of tales to follow I’ve re-evaluated a previous claim to the contrary and concluded it’s probably largely false!

The middle of February while characterised by several dreary days and plenty of rain, heavy and persistent at times, it’s also punctuated by food, another of February’s ‘F’s. My walks along the Garonne River as it passes through town offer plenty of evidence of the volume that must surely have been falling further upstream as the river here rises well over 2 metres, barrelling along at a fair old lick along with the usual debris and some pretty big trees and branches.

We get one of those odd weather spikes and with the sun out the temperature clears 20C, enough for me to dust off a pair of shorts and ponder summer ahead.

15th February Toulouse…..20C who’d expect to be in shorts!

Talking of food, yes, when aren’t we I know, well another little gem we discovered through some boating neighbours turned out to be just that, a little gem. Run by two old boys, by all accounts ‘Au Pere Louis’ has been around forever it sure felt that way from the decor that looked like it hadn’t been touched in decades but that’s ok, to me it just adds to the ambience and believe me this place has oodles of the stuff. It’s always a comfort I find to enter a restaurant in France that’s filled to capacity, buzzing, bustling and lively, especially if those generating all that buzzing happen to be locals rather than tourists. Tick another box at ‘Au Pere Louis’.

Our lunch that day didn’t kick off exactly perfectly though, nothing majorly untoward just slow, I mean really slow. Greeted warmly and seated we sat there for ages sans vino, sans bread, sans anything except regular apologies and promises to be with us shortly. With a full house and a big group upstairs these old buzzards were seriously under the pump and I wondered at one point if I shouldn’t jump in and offer a hand! Near an hour passed before things settled down but then our man came over, more apologies and glasses along with a large bottle of something we’d never encountered before…..an unusual and rarely found local aperitif, a speciality of the house we’re told as he pours out several small glasses of Quinquina. What the hell’s that I hear the plaintive cry, and well you might ask. Our man gives a detailed explanation but it’s not clear to me what it is other than it’s got extracts of Cinchona bark in it. Further reading revealed that the Cinchona tree is native to Ecuador and from its bark comes Quinine, the naturally occurring compound first isolated back in 1820 but also that bark extracts have been used in the treatment of malaria since at least 1632.


Having grasped very little from our host about the origins of Quinquina I later consulted with that font of all knowledge, Mr Google, to see what he had to say on the matter only to discover that not much seems to be written about this aperitif other than it’s connection with the Cinchona tree and it’s classified as an aromatised wine alongside other examples such as Lillet, St Raphael and Dubonnet. All that aside the taste’s something akin to a blend of vermouth, itself based on wine, with slight bitter orange flavours, oh yes and quite delicious to, so much so we all bought a bottle to take home. Anyway unusual it maybe but delicious is absolutely is. I love these souvenirs you get to enjoy multiple times.

‘Les Patrons’ – Au Pere Louis

The bread slicer – Au Pere Louis

The charcuterie cutter – Au Pere Louis

Chris & DR – Au Pere Louis

Evey, Liz & Cindy – Au Pere Louis

Lunch when it arrived was fine, pretty traditional with pintade (guinea fowl), steaks, duck, andouillette and such and we all had a good time. Our genial host returned once more and this time bearing more apologetic beverages with our coffee in the form of a bottle of Armagnac, refusal was pointless as he poured for all of us, besides I love the stuff. We must have been on a role because on paying the bill at the desk on the way out I spied a barrel behind the bar bearing the name Laphroaig. Armed with an inquisitive nature and being rather partial to scotch and smoky, peaty ones like Laphroaig from Islay especially, I quizzed my host as to whether the barrel indeed contained the amber elixir as I’d only ever had it from a bottle previously. My man assured me that it was indeed full of the scotch and proffered a small glass to prove the point. Doubtless because it was still in a barrel, but the flavour was mind blowingly delicious, like nothing I’d ever tasted from a bottle in the past. I made a pact with myself vowing to return to invest in a thoroughly decent sampling in the not too distant future.

Barrel load of Laphroaig


The jolly to Pere Louis’ is just one in a long line our similar outings over the past month which it must be said was a bit of monster. Capping the month off a few days later my French walking pal Christian took us out for a Sunday lunch at J’Go in town which is as good a way to spend a Sunday afternoon as I can think of. A sunny day always brings the crowds out and strolling back to our boats there’s just enough time to soak it all up along the way while soaking up another coffee and an Armagnac, just to keep the chill off naturally.

Evey & DR at Le J’Go

DR & Christian

Evey & Christian at Le J’Go

DR & Evey at Le J’Go

Monsieur Haag

Endive salad with cochon noir pork belly

Coffee at Place St Etienne

Heading to a Dark Place and the Benefits of Being Fatter…………………Time to dispel the notion that life afloat is all just breaking bread and beverages, because other things break as well, in this case it’s the float switch in our forward bathroom sump, which, for those of you not familiar with such niceties, and let’s face it why would you be, is essentially what it says. The sump is a relatively small tank below the water line that collects the waste water from the kitchen sink, dishwasher, bathroom sink and shower that needs to be pumped out over the side when nearly full with the float switch being the device that triggers the pump into action. Failure of the pump or the float switch that gives the order usually means we end up with a lot of smelly waste water in the bilge that then has to vacuumed out so not exactly ideal. Our float switch had been playing up for a while which was a smidge annoying given they retail at £172 GBP a pop or about $304 Aussie dollars including delivery, luckily we had smaller temporary one we could use until a replacement could be delivered. But hey I hear the plaintiff cries, what’s all this about the benefits of being fatter, and for that matter, fatter than what? Well dear readers the fatter than what question is easy, it’s fatter than my elegantly slender wife, and then benefit can be seen perfectly illustrated in the photos below as the very small access panel in the side of the bath is way way too small for a male person of a certain size to insert his body into but an elegantly slender wife might just fit! Evey of course, now a fully qualified barge plumber, did a splendid job dismantling the defunct switch and installing the temporary one, while I remained on hand to pull her out in the event she got stuck. It did occur to me that we could have the panel enlarged for easier access but then what we need two plumbers on board for, besides, it’s easier for us both to just keep in shape…..my shape being round!

‘Bilge babe’ Evey fixing the forward sump float switch!

Wonder how she’s going to get out

Last of the February ‘F’s and this ‘F’ is for Fuel & Winters Last Hurrah ………….I know Feb’s a short month but this one blasted by faster than ever delivering a few surprises as it went.

We’d been watching the BBC news and weather, watching with interest the arrival further north of bitterly cold weather and snow across northern Europe, the ‘Beast from the East’ they called it and while we didn’t expect anything like folks further north were copping it, we were treated to another a cold snap as the overnight mercury dropped to – 5C and some steady snow overnight.

Port St Sauveur in the snow

Helen & Charles Stotzer’s river barge Electra in the snow

1 day snow , Toulouse February 2018

Wintery outlook

It’s sods law of course that the arrival of the cold weather coincided perfectly with the day I’d arranged for a diesel fuel delivery. We needed to fill up our red diesel tank with about 2,000 litres, and a few other boats would take advantage of our tanker delivery topping up their tanks at the same time as the tankers won’t usually come out unless you’re taking on at least 500 litres, which for us is never a problem. Getting the $2600 dollar bill for these fill ups on the other hand reminds me never to whinge about filling the car up when back in Sydney again. The fuel depot texted me the night before advising the driver would rock up between 07.30 and 09.30……..are you kidding I thought at the time, Christ, I’m retired, I don’t ‘do’ 07.30 anymore. Anyway it’s not 07.30 it’s more like 06.45 by the time you get up, shower, and have a cup of tea while donning 4 layers of clothing because, yep you guessed it, it’s still snowing and it’s minus 2 C outside…….why me I wondered as I stumbled out into the cold.

Our man showed up before 08.00 and we started loading fuel, moving the truck from boat to boat in the dreadful weather, Evey made him a big mug of coffee which seemed to go down very well.

Barge Beverage – The Diesel truck arrives

No sooner had the last load been delivered than the snow stopped and sure enough the snow started to melt though Evey was able to get a few pictures from around the neighbourhood.

Fuel delivery day …..in the snow!

Along the tram lines

She looks cold without any clothes on

Snow in the park

Snow in the grand Rond park

Place de la Trinite

Fountain at the Grand Rond with ice

The icy fountain

Already the daffodil shoots are well up flowers beginning to appear, and already there are some early blossoms emerging on shrubs around the place.

Signs of spring despite the snow!

Camelia blossoms

Early magnolias

Happy Says It All…………The arrival of spring flowers, lighter, longer days and rising temperatures always gets me excited at the prospect of setting off cruising again soon and the long hot days that lie ahead. Browsing through some previous seasons pictures the photographs the story of this cruising lifestyle in summer along the Canal du Midi better than any words of mine.



January 2018 – It’s Not All Pain and Suffering

The No Plan, Plan Revisited ……Here we are in 2018 on the cusp of our 7th cruising season and 6 full years here come 6th June. Looking back at some notes I penned back in 2012 I’m reminded that our early estimates were that we’d be doing this for about 18 months before returning home to Australia then commuting back and forth to take advantage of perpetual summers………..wonder what ever happened to that plan as we haven’t been home now for 5 years something I’d never have envisaged. Well that’s the beauty of the no plan, plan I guess. Something else I penned back then was a suggestion I was on some kind of Sabbatical, now there’s a laugh. So when does a sabbatical become a full blown retirement I wonder? Must ponder that some more when pondering time permits. The truth is it started as full on retirement from day one but I thought I might like to leave a door open and also to kid myself I might return to financial services one day. In reality I’ve never been busier or less bored in my life with barely enough time to scratch myself. The cheese change lifestyle has been and remains heaps of fun, meeting loads of interesting people, exploring no end of new and interesting places and learning a great deal in a new field which is great as well. If there’s a down side it’s missing our dear friends back home but we will return, just not sure when!

Whoever it was that said you can have too much of a good thing got it badly wrong. So what about the no plan plan? Well looks like we just might have to stick to it which means having no plan at all…..suits me perfectly. 






What’s Next…………..Well now that gazing into the tea leaves is out of the way I can get on with life and the year ahead with loose current thoughts revolving around four main themes:

1. Renewed sourcing of a different restaurant every week while still in Toulouse.

2. Renewed efforts to lose 10 kgs before the new cruising season begins in April – Accepted this item seems at odds with Item 1 but I’m an optimist and feel sure the two can be accomplished with care and moderation.

3. Renewed efforts to get a bit fitter with more regular bike rides, walks and yoga…..yes curb the laughter I did say yoga.

4. Renewed efforts to bring up to date my long overdue blog / travel diary which had stalled somewhere around May 2017 but as evidenced by this month’s post recent efforts have spawned great results with just February to go.

Getting Fitter Not Fatter………. Christmas out of the way with the predictable damage to my initial weight reducing efforts there’s no escaping that something has to be done despite the onset of colder weather. There’s nothing like a light dusting of peer pressure to get things rolling. My portly French pal Christian on a nearby cruiser has set himself a serious challenge to shed some 20 kgs by April (yes I can already hear the indignant of “ what, portly French pal as distinct from rotund Anglo / Australian guy). Whatever, it’s not my fault there are no mirrors on our barge. Anyway Christian’s been walking every day and once a week does a longer 9 km walk, he’s cut his alcohol down to a single small glass of red occasionally and seems to eat little other than boiled chicken with steamed vegetables everyday along with a side order of cigarettes. Now this seems rather extreme to me and is bound to clash with my road testing new nosheries every week so I intend to take a more conservative approach besides, I don’t need to lose as much as him.

Kicking the month off I joined my porky pal on the weekly 9 km hike plus a few shorter ones with Evelyn who’s far more diligent taking daily walks regardless of the weather come rain, hail or shine. My route march with Christian follows the Canal du Midi to the Port de l’Embouchure, its junction with the Canals de Brienne and Garonne and eventually back to the Garonne River which makes its way through town. We can see the results of recent heavy rains as the waters rise and the current picks up carrying all manner of debris with it.

The Garonne in flood

The Garonne in Toulouse after heavy rain…..

Garonne in Toulouse, 2018

Flood debris on the Garonne, Toulouse  2018


The Skinny Martian………..I even rack up a 40 km bike ride with American neighbour Chris next door. Though he’s a lot fitter than me and 6 months younger I reckon he looks a lot older which I put down to him spending 30 years in the US navy as a navigator so he must have lead a hard life. He swims in a pool nearby several times a week and is a serious bike rider with all the go faster kit…..you know, lycra, clip in bike shoes, helmet and a bike that Lance Armstrong would be happy riding with or without the drugs which is what I reckon I’ll need to keep up with him, however I’m able to rely on electric power assistance for the 40 km Tour de Toulouse!

One bit of bright and encouraging news I recently received from a thoughtful soul claimed that if you weighed 200 pounds on earth (which by the way I do not) then you’d only be 76 pounds on Mars, so maybe it’s not that I’m overweight, just on the wrong planet.

What Was I Thinking – Yoga Classes Begin………….Looking back, something I seem to be doing too much of this month, I have absolutely no bloody idea how I got it into my head that getting a yoga class started was a sound idea. I had toyed with the notion years ago back in Sydney when Evey was doing a weekly class but common sense prevailed and it never went any further. However at a friend’s dinner party early on in the month we’d met a young Australian woman who conducted classes in town so the subject got broached over dinner, no doubt encouraged by the influence of too much wine. I had a few other misgivings at the time as our soon to be instructor is also a vegan vegetarian and here’s me a card carrying indiscriminate carnivore so it had me wondering if we’d be out tree hugging before hours of chanting and communing with the universe while cradling handfuls of mystically powered crystals. I need not have worried as Zoe, that’s her name, is quite normal, well, apart from not eating any animal derived produce, but hey, that just leaves more fois gras and dead animal goodies for me.

Me doing yoga……who’d have thought it !

So classes got started with me conning half a dozen others to participate, half boys and the other half…..not boys. It probably comes as little surprise but it was pretty clear from the very beginning that the girls were infinitely more flexible than the rest of us managing to stretch way beyond anything we could remotely accomplish, something to do with bellies getting in the way I recall, but let’s not get picky about who bends more than who, the main aim of this malarkey is become a bit more flexible and while the warm up exercises never seem outrageously strenuous it doesn’t take too long before we’re heating up all the while discovering muscles you never knew you had and questioning whether you ever wanted to. I swear the next day it felt worse than skiing and OK so I’ve only done that once before and remain scarred by the experience and humiliation of it all as I remember only too well spending most of that fateful weekend on my back staring breathless and weary at the sky, either that or otherwise playing human skittles trying in vain to stop. Fortunately or unfortunately my brush with skiing venture was a weekend one off……yoga on the other hand looks like it will last rather longer and as noted earlier this form is more about exercising those long dormant muscles, in short, become more flexible and hopefully a bit healthier. Early classes in this quest however simply served to prove just how inflexible some of us have become over the past decades leaving me to wonder if I’ll ever get remotely as flexible as Zoe. Given that the girls are more flexible than the rounder and fatter boys it makes for some entertaining moments along with a chorus of moans & groans while trying to stretch those parts that have lain un-stretched for decades, and my ’downward dog’ position is more akin to ‘struggling old dog’ which is definitely not the same thing! In theory it’s getting easier and while it’s often claimed there’s no gain without pain I’m still waiting for the pay off!!

Supposed to be a ‘Downwood Dog’ position …..more like a half dead old dog

Others in the class who should remain nameless like my walking buddy Christian, ooops, slipped out, oh well c’est la vie, find the class has other pay offs as from his yoga mat he’s perfectly placed to exercise his eyeball muscles perving at the instructors shapely form!

While the Cat’s AwayEvey’s US Trip……… I’ve made precious little progress losing any pounds post the Christmas food and beverage binge, which, as pleasurable as it was, has taken its toll and most of those I’d bid farewell to before the festivities have returned like long lost pals, I should have known it was more a case of au revoir than adieu. As if to sour my disillusionment there’s a bout of mixed weather, mixed being light rain and showers mixed with heavy rain and showers. Making matters and my mood worse was Evey’s impending trip to the US visiting her folks and helping to look after her mum who’s dementia continues its downward spiral, poor girl it’s not going to be a barrel load of fun as trips go.

A still, cold night in Port St Sauveur with perfect water reflections

A cold night in Port St Sauveur

Mind you I shouldn’t grumble too much as national weather reports are showing pretty well all the northern rivers in flood, Paris is 20 feet up on normal water levels and even the Arsenal port off the River Seine is flooded. Glad we’re not there this winter and glad we’re not moored on a river either as I don’t own any wellies!

Evey’s flight gets away on time and having abandoned me to batching’ (as in becoming a bachelor again) for a couple of weeks with Patcha the cat it should have been the perfect chance to make some meaty inroads into my lacklustre efforts at shedding those newly arrived few pounds.

Alas life doesn’t always pan out so perfectly and my well intentioned plans began to unravel barely after the wheels of Evey’s plane had left the ground with my boating neighbours taking pity on my plight and, in serious fear that I might starve to death showered me liberally with kind and generous dinner invitations which I, with a profound sense of good manners and weak will, found impossible to refuse, and let’s face it someone has to be held accountable right?

Now fortified with a swag of perfect excuses for making minimal effort in losing any weight I embarked on a weekend marathon cook off providing some modest sustenance between dinner invitations, and re-stocking the barren looking freezer. First culinary cab off the rank was a large batch of my all weather total knock out pasta meat sauce with the secret ingredient…..chicken livers, and trust me, if you haven’t treated your taste buds to this magic ingredient you’re genuinely missing out (be sure to break down the cooked livers completely and they’ll add such a rich flavour to your sauce you’ll wonder why you never did it before….probably because you never knew about it before). Next to hit the pans was a slow cooked chili beef dish that’s got some real zing in it, perfect for colder weather ahead and also comes with a secret ingredient as I’ve added some smoked sausage (a real find at a Chinese food store near Agen) that gives it a nice twist. The final dishes in this fat buggers guide to eating well see a return to the slow cooker with a 12 hr. shoulder of lamb with vegetables consumed long before it makes it anywhere near the freezer and lastly a fat roasted turkey leg with leftovers made into turkey and veg soup. All cooked out these tid bits would see the freezer officially FULL for some time to come.

I saw it quoted somewhere that aapparently you have to eat healthily more than just once to get in shape, though when faced with all these dishes that notion just seems both cruel and unfair.

All that remained was for me and my fur friend the ‘Princess Sleepalot”  to binge eat, binge drink and binge TV courtesy of barge ‘Effie’ buddies Graham & Linda Barley’s who’d lent us the entire box set of 60 episodes of  ‘The Wire’ , and I sensed a fine bottle of red and a marathon run watching it.

Princess Sleepalot

Me and my fur friend

‘The Wire’ series was brilliant but also educative in several ways convincing me that I was glad I was never tempted to join the Baltimore police force, (as if), glad I never went into politics, and glad I never got involved in the drug trade!! Of further debateable value I did learn the rudiments of Afro-American urban drug gang language, though having mastered the basics I’m not sure how much use I’ll have for it, and certainly not along the tranquil Canal du Midi.

Man cannot Live by Bread Alone ……..Or so Jesus once said it’s claimed, luckily for us local boulangeries have interpreted this as ‘man cannot live by flogging bread alone’ and offer a mouth-watering and waistline widening array of patisseries, pastries, cakes, fruit tarts, chocolaty morsels and so on to tempt the steeliest resolve of any “Oh I just popped in for a lunchtime baguette buyer”. I on the other hand make no such claims to such willpower and have long since recognised I ‘ve got the backbone of your average invertebrate when it comes to these delicious offerings regularly succumbing to the temptation and confirming, no doubt to the boulanger’s delight, that if you bake it they will by it! Here endeth the lesson.

One of our local bakeries

If you have to live by bread alone……..lots of choices

Looking at these tasty morsels I’m sure this wasn’t what she meant when Marie Antoinette allegedly said “Let them eat cake” (Actually what she allegedly said in reality was ” Let them eat brioche”, which, while the translation to “Let them eat cake” is a very poor one, there’s no evidence she ever said either. It didn’t matter as it turned out because they still lopped her head off at the guillotine anyway so I guess she wasn’t going to be eating any either.

Let them eat cake……….

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?

Which brings me to a perfect segue to a far more pleasant but slightly unusual eating experience on Friday 12th January when we found ourselves eating solo in a lunchtime restaurant and on a Friday to boot when most nosheries are filled to overflowing so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I’d called to advise we were running half an hour late and greeted with a pleasant ‘pas de soucis’ (no worries in local lingo). Wandering past several other establishments it was evident this was indeed a cyclical phenomenon and we were assured that the restaurant of our lunchtime attentions was in fact full that very evening, presumably the shop sales had closed for the day and thus any spare euros could be re-directed to more culinary destinations.

But I digress, where these observations were originally headed was to note that having a restaurant entirely to yourself whether you booked it that way or were just lucky is an unusual experience where all the staff, in this case the owner chef, apprentice and waitress, were it seemed there solely for our personal enjoyment, and enjoy it we did.

The noshery in question ‘Au Bon Servant”   translated literally to ‘To the Good Servant’ had been on our list for some time and it exceeded our expectations. Naturally with just the one table to serve the service was timely, efficient and attentive so perhaps leaving tip was a bit over the top but hey, she was particularly attractive as well and having had a bottle of good Cote du Rhone probably helped the cause, so what. Anyway where I was going with this was to correct the idea that when it comes to French fare, all too often France is the subject of critique for having overly ‘traditional food’ on offer and lacking in creativity or innovation. Well in our experience while it’s true there’s no shortage of traditional tucker to be found, it ain’t necessarily so and ‘Au Bon Servant’ is a fine example of what dedicated young chefs are capable of with wonderful local ingredients and a flair for innovation. Indulge me for a moment while I lamentably try to do justice describing our meal.

Selected entrée came delightfully presented with leeks & mussels served with thin slices of poitrine (bacon) and drizzled in a light aioli, utterly delicious, followed up with duck breast cooked & served pink, seared on the grill first then finished in the oven on a bed of walnut shells and served with roasted cauliflower puree, sweet chestnut puree and a sabayon of cepes (wild mushrooms). These words are a poor description of what were delightful flavour combinations. The sweet oven baked apple with light crumble and caramel was a perfect ending to such an excellent meal, so much so that all that remained was to waddle home barge-side replete and ready for a nap…..so ended Friday…..aah bliss! On yes, and wine apart those three courses came in at the modest sum of 20 euros a piece…..damned good value in my book!

Au Bon Servant – Not the best photo of out front, but then you never judge a book by it’s cover!

Warm leeks & mussels with poitrine – Au Bon Servant

Duck breast with mushrooms, endive, cauliflower puree and croustilant – Au Bon Servant

Trouble at the Farm……. Our weekly walk took a detour at the end of the month when regional farmers took to the streets of Toulouse in protest against a reduction in some subsidies, initially blocking the multi-lane ring roads during peak hour traffic before entering the city to bring their case to anyone and everyone including depositing manure at the foot of some government buildings. The national police were out in force with road closures, water cannons and sturdy barracades to guide the protesters and in one typically French moment we spotted the lunch wagons arrive with hot boxes of food and bottled water, so it seems than not only do armies march on their stomachs but so too do the national police!

Water Cannon Truck

Heavy duty barracades block the streets

Time for the lunch break …..hot food arrives



December 2017- Christmas Cheer and So Much More……..

During most of the past five winters since we got to Europe we’ve packed up the car and the cats and careened off to various destinations for a spell at least. Mostly to Spain but the trips have also taken in visits to Portugal, the UK, Monaco, Germany and Switzerland, thus far. This year though we took a conscious decision to stay put here in Toulouse, get cosy, sample what the city had to offer, take it a bit easier and not spend countless hours on the road driving thousands of kilometres even though it meant we’d miss getting together with some good friends and family and despite this it’s proved to be a good plan as we’ve thoroughly enjoyed this great city taking it with a greater degree of leisure then previous winters.

Cat Scans and Cat Scares …………….Patcha is fine, well, as fine as you can be at 19.5 yrs old, pushing 20. She’s wobbly in the rear axle and her eyesight is getting dodgy as she regularly walks into things, she sleeps most of the day and night but makes regular trips to the food and water trough so eating ok and bodily functions also ok. We had a bad trot a few weeks back when she appears to react badly to various drugs causing her to have the most awful fits and convulsions, it was terrifying as her tiny body went into uncontrollable spasms and we powerless to help her except to hold her, caress her and try to calm her until it passed leaving us all traumatized. Later Evey’s diligent research on Mr Google suggested that blood pressure could be a cause and the local vet confirmed this when we tested it to find her low BP was through the roof and highly severe. A course of pills brought it down to normal almost immediately and the fits stopped almost immediately though now she’ll need daily pills going forward to control it. A small price to pay though. On the other hand she sleeps on our laps and gives regular face and head butts to us both while purring like a maniac so we know she’s content. How long for, we have no idea but it will be what it will be as they say. In the meantime she’s found an alternative to the heated cat bed in the saloon and makes the daily pilgrimage to sleep on top of the radiator in the wheelhouse with a commanding view of all around her and combined with some winter sun through the windows she seems as happy as a clam slow cooking herself on both sides.

Patcha having her blood pressure checked


Walt & Gail Strike Again – An End of Season Armagnac Jolly to the Gers ………December pretty well everywhere is punctuated by the run up to Christmas and New year, and no surprises that Toulouse is the same but before it gets underway in earnest there’s time for another regional jolly. I’ve written previously about being led astray by devious Texans – Walt & Gail Gay, and don’t be taken in by their seemingly innocent faces and persona, these guys are serial party goers and party makers having laid many a trap for the unwary and young players. Mind you, we’re wise to their wiley ways after coming unstuck on many a previous occasion so the invitation to join them for the ‘Fete de l ‘ Alambic’ at Domaine de Magnaut a favoured Armagnac producer came as little surprise. We knew well what an ‘Alambic ‘ was and for those that don’t it’s a still……you know, the kind that distils strong beverages like cognac and down in these parts my preferred after dinner tipple, Armagnac. Despite several attempts to lead us astray, and by the way I can manage that all by myself we had a great time. We’ve been to Domaine Magnaut several times before and sampled their Armagnac wares many times and I can vouch for how good they are. The older vintages not surprisingly command the highest prices and this stuff doesn’t come cheap but life’s too short to drink poor booze and I figure you should always buy the best you can afford, and this stuff is worth every centime. There’s quite a gathering by the time we rock up, they’ve garnered a host of vintage cars as well which only serve to remind many of us just how old we are as so many are familiar sights from years not too distant past, age is a bitch. http://www.domainedemagnaut.com/

Below sampling the ‘freshly’ distilled product straight from the still


The large tasting room is given over to a swag of producers regional and further afield with stands and tastings of a wide variety of tempting things to get our taste buds firing…..red wine from Medoc, champagne from…..well champagne of course, fois gras from the Gers, chocolate from…..buggered if I know where I was too busy snorking it up and course Armagnac and Floc from the Domaine. Out back caterers were setting fire to a pile of vine roots and preparing to land a multitude of duck breasts onto the grill for our lunch, tables were set for around 200 and the food was excellent starting with plates of cured meat and of course fois gras.

Between stuffing our faces and libating it all with various beverages there were visits to ‘The Still’ – a fascinating piece of copper kit and one of only a few that make the rounds of the various Armagnac producers in this neck of the woods. Previously the stills were fired by wood but today gas power has become the fuel of choice. A master distiller overseas the process and for several days the machine pours forth the colourless and potent liquor that over time will be vintage Armagnac. We’re invited to taste the liquid as it comes straight off the still, at first there’s little reaction, probably because it just seared the lining of your throat off, then gradually as it works its way south towards your stomach the warmth gradually increases…..firey is a word that springs somewhat readily to mind, other words also spring to kind but many of them are expletives so I’ll leave it to the reader to figure that one out. Aged in barrels for a minimum of 10 years this once colourless alcohol takes on a wide range of hues as it matures and we’re rewarded for our patience, and a quite a few euros as well, naturally.

The copper still

One hundred duck breasts consumed and lunch out of the way it’s back to the Armagnac still and the ’brûlot ‘ , a traditional Gers Armagnac ritual where we all gather around a large copper bowl filled firstly with a large quantity of sugar to which is added several litres of the just distilled Armagnac, it’s then set alight to burn off a large portion of the alcohol, it’s blue flame cascading off the long extended ladle used to stir the mixture, then, after some considerable stirring and at a time deemed correct by those on the know, orange and lemon fruit pieces are added to the brew before the now warm beverage is poured into glasses and shared around, and let me tell you it’s ten times better than le vin chaud ( warm red wine otherwise called gluhwein or mulled wine). Lucky me that Walt’s driving home as I’m assisted to several glasses with little protest. Marvellous!! 

Lots of sugar into the copper basin first, then add several litres of freshly distilled Armagnac…..

Setting light to the Armagnac

Sugar filled basin with Armagnac

The flaming liquid burns off some of the alcohol


Me stirring the ‘brulot’ before the fruit – lemons and oranges are added , then drinking commences

Me taking my duties seriously

Gail enjoying a tipple….so what’s new!

 Long Jour for the Carte de Sejour……………Back in Toulouse and time for another brush with French bureaucracy, well let’s face it if we didn’t have days like this every now and then how would we know we’d had a truly good one? It got down to freezing last night but now mid-morning and a balmy 8C with an overcast sky it was the appointed day for my trip to the regional Prefecture to lodge my papers for a long stay visa aka a Carte de Sejour. The previous weeks had been cool for sure but clear blue skies and quite gorgeous. However less than gorgeous was the vast waiting lobby I found myself in that Monday morning at 09.00, having collected my ‘wait in line for your turn ticket’. My presence here being my cunning plan to acquire some insurance in the event the Brexit process went totally pear shaped and Brits didn’t get automatic rights to long visits to France, the plan is to get a long term visa now valid for 5 years then on renewal I’d get one granted for life. Simples no? Well everything has its price and the price doesn’t always come with a monetary tag, here is comes with a total immersion in French bureaucracy.

My small mountain of paperwork in hand ready to lodge and get the ball rolling after a modest 3 hour wait I finally reached the counter where the nice Madame logged me into the system, promptly returned my passport along with an application form, and a sheet of paper with my meeting time to lodge my paperwork on January 10th 2018! Yep 2 months from now. AAAAAGGHH a 3 hour wait for a five minute meeting to arrange another meeting, I smiled politely thanking her profusely as I might have done Madame Defarge for not sending me to the guillotine to have my head lopped off but wondering why life has to be this way, was it some socialist tactic to ensure there were jobs for all for as long as possible, I had no idea but knew I needed a drink as I wandered home in a daze wondering who dreamt up such a system all the while contemplating compensation in the form of a decent lunch, Christ I’d earned it.

Let There Be Light – And Maybe Some Music Too…….Christmas markets began mid-month as the city gets all blinged up and not to be out done we “dress” L’Escapade with lights joining the festive spirit, along with a few other boats in the port. It’s cold but not anywhere near as cold as we recall during our Christmas here back in 2012.

L’Escapade blinged up for the festive season

L’Escapade in lights

This is what passes for a tree on L’Escapade

L’Arbre de Noel

DR & Evey at the City Hall


Evey and the City Hall tree, puts ours rather to shame!

The rich artworks inside the city hall


City Hall art works

Inside The Capitoleum – City Hall

Stunning art works

The Christmas markets are a bit of a disappointment for me at least, row after row of faux huts pedalling tons of stuff you never really want, maybe a few over- priced gift ideas but I guess that was always the case, I’m just jaded by it all. The Christmas lights however are done well and always delightful to see.

The Capitoleum at night

The ‘river’ of light – Rue Alsace Lorraine

Esquirol district

Lights around Esquirol

Old town Toulouse

Lights in the old town

Old town

The old quarter

Place St Etienne

Place Sainte Scarbes

There are a few brighter moments thought including classical concerts at the Halles aux Grains and a Christmas concert at the town hall theatre with a full sized choir, orchestra and Christmas carols. Now here’s a funny thing for reasons completely in known to me the French have very few Christmas carols, maybe something to do with being catholic and carols are banned being protestant and therefore the devils work, who knows. What the French do know on the other hand are all the words of the English carols plus a few German ones as well, strange to hear a delightful French choir singing English carols perfectly and without a hint of an accent. Stranger still to hear the concert hall go wild while singing along to Jingle Bells and White Christmas……..beats me.

Theatre du Capitole

Christmas choir and symphony orchestra

A Feeling of Weightlessness – Who am I Kidding?……..So here we were settling into Toulouse for the winter and I’m back on a modified version of the 5:2 diet trying desperately to part with some of the pounds I’d so enjoyably loaded on during the previous cruising season, I say modified because I still have more calories on the diet days than prescribed but a lot less than normal! That said I’m trying to do it as a 4:3 regime and have largely succeeded in having 3 AFD’s a week so making a little progress, however I’m the first to admit that does seem at odds with my other goal of road testing at least one new restaurant per week here in Toulouse and of which I am bang on target! As if to set up further road blocks to dietary reform we visited the huge and FAB U LOUS indoor St Hugo markets, just wandering around it’s not hard to see why keeping the pounds off is such a struggle, everything’s so tempting especially at the poultry vendors who seemingly have every part of every edible bird on the market…..chickens of course, ducks bien sur and add to that guinea fowl, turkey, quails, pigeons both farmed and wild, and even grouse imported from England along with wild hare and rabbits, made me want to head off for lunch straight away.

Our favourite ‘lamb man’ – Carmes market

Baby goats from the Dordogne

Whole Lambs

Fat Geese de Bresse

Fresh Rabbits

Fat geese and guinea fowl

Well aged beef – Victor Hugo market

Not much wasted here then ( Tete de veau – veal)

Lining up for poultry at Victor Hugo markets

Exotic fruits – Carmes market

Dried & candied fruits, dates

Why did the Chicken cross the Road?Why, to avoid being castrated or spayed of course! …….It’s a common and old joke of course, especially among children with a wide range of responses but over the Christmas period it became very clear to me that in France the ordinarily simple task of buying a chicken is in reality far from simple, for chooks ain’t chooks in this neck of the woods and the options and permutations are seemingly endless…..wandering into a butcher, a market or anyone flogging a feathered avian for the festive fare is you’re likely to be asked what gender chook you’re after? Free range of otherwise? For a female chicken do you want spayed (poularde) or unspayed and for the males your choices are castrated / neutered (chapon / chaponais ) or not, and, before all the blokes out there start squirming in their seats in silent sympathy it has to be said that the larger chapon which is customary Christmas fare in many parts of France is much more fuller flavoured. Much of the same applies to pintades (guinea fowl ) however it turns out I never found out if turkeys are also routinely neutered before fattening up.

Chook in a bag !  Blue for the ‘boys’ (chapons) and pink for the ‘girls’ (poularde)

Turkeys….I think!

A Bad Day for Poultry………….No doubt unsurprisingly we’ve prepared to indulge ourselves in various forms of delicious Christmas tucker…..Evey’s been busy at the local butchers and ordered a fat capon for the first of our festive feasts (capons for the record are castrated male chickens and thus fatter, more tender and generally all round more scrumptious in contrast to their almost as nice but slight smaller female chooks called ‘poulardes’ that are generally young, spayed and fattened before sale). It’s a complicated business this poultry malarkey here in France, anyway we got one, and damned tasty tucker it was too. There’s no better place to see the rich array of birds for sale than at the Victor Hugo markets and the place is heaving with folk eager to load up on just about everything but especially the poultry. The most prized being the Poulet de Bresse or Bresse chickens from southern Burgundy, these capons and poulardes command the very highest of prices and have their bottoms fitted neatly into bags with pink ribbons for the girls (poulardes) and you guessed it blue ribbons for the boys ( capons).

Poulet de Bresse – The most expensive and highly prized Burgundy chickens

Next day being Christmas eve and the main event for the festive frogs we’re celebrating at home on L’Escapade . Ever ready to road test a new recipe Evey has procured a couple of fat pigeons with which she plans to make a Supreme of pigeon for supper and on Boxing day I’m going to try my hand at making a beef wellington, and of course there will be fois gras a plenty smoked salmon of course, so as you might expect we are highly unlikely to die of starvation. What’s much more certain and in precious little doubt of being challenged is the swift departure of any recent efforts to shed a few kilos, which I might add has up to now had some measure of success with near 6 kgs lost, however that success will likely evaporate like bear’s breath in the arctic so it will be back to square 1A or even more likely square minus 1A if such a thing exists.

Two fat pigeons

Supremes ready for the pot

Perhaps a little champagne first?

The cuisses in the pan

The stock, legs and wings

Making the cheese sauce

Supper time

Now it just needs the pastry

Making my Beef Wellington

The finished result….pretty damned good if I say so myself….


The Meaning of Christmas ………….It comes as little surprise to any of us these days that the true meaning of Christmas is commercialism, sure we’ve been getting accustomed to this notion for decades now but seemingly every year it ratchets up a notch or ten, I sadly watch TV adverts all cashing in on the flimsiest excuses to link the sale of this or that to any Christmas theme they can spuriously find, and then there’s the sheer scale of the suggested gifts…….an X Box for several hundred pounds, why not get her a sofa for X hundreds, jeez why not go the whole hog and buy your loved one a luxury motor yacht for millions………where will it end I wonder. Of course it was always there when I was much younger it’s just that the scale has cranked up exponentially ever since the first alleged offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh and why should we be surprised, anyway where the hell do you buy frankincense and what the hell is myrrh? Maybe the best we can salvage is a time to stop and be nice to one another, to strangers and dream of less complicated times, and maybe that’s enough.

Yep, it’s the season for silly hats

Evey and the fattest Santa …..EVER!

Christmas Lunch sans Washing Up…… In no mood for massive preparations we’re off to a nice restaurant for Christmas lunch with 3 other boaters following morning drinks on one of the boats. Food was good and it was a pleasant event even if there was a lack of festive music and crackers with party hats and pathetic jokes, well it was a happy occasion for us but obviously not for the turkey but hey, you can’t please everyone can you.

Christmas lunch in Toulouse with Chris & Liz Hunsaker & Arthur Robbins

The Cause of Baldness ……..Our dishwasher went on permanent strike way back in 20I7 in the Netherlands and for reasons I’d prefer not to examine we’d decided to wait until reaching Toulouse to get it replaced. Now this should be a simple process right? Along the logical lines of …..Research, Identify, Order & Pay then Install….hmm not here, I swear that buying a dishwasher from IKEA is harder than landing a man on the moon……and having just been through a process that took the following : 3 visits to the store 14 kms away, a pre-visit to ensure the installers were happy with the location, an email from the installers which included an attestation certifying the installation won’t destroy planet earth, two forms to reclaim the TVA tax, a signed copy accepting the installers charges and conditions including a liability waiver in the event they commit harakiri while performing said installation, instructions not to visit the IKEA store to pay for the goods and arrange delivery for at least 48 hrs after emailing them the paperwork, ……..still with me? Then 2 phone calls, an email with details of how and where to send my growing mountain of paperwork, scanning and emailing the 7 pages of aforementioned documents, a reply email acknowledging my email and the documents and advising that I’d be contacted in 72 hrs along with a chatty greeting in Swedish and a note explaining that the greeting was in fact a greeting in Swedish and that by now left me wanting to reply to their reply with the greeting “Sod Off” and an explanatory note indicating that this was English for “ Sod Off” (I refrained on the grounds that they might just do that and I’d be forced to start the dishwasher buying process all over again) All this before we’ve even paid for the goods, paid for delivery, paid for installation, paid for the removal of the old dishwasher and paid for the removal of the new dishwasher packaging (separate charge) and arranged a delivery and installation date sometime between now and when I’m dead and buried under a 20 metre pile of dirty dishes and IKEA paperwork. Needless to say I’ve got a lot less hair now that the start of this exercise that’s clearly designed to encourage me and countless other time rich sods to buy our appliances elsewhere. I have a theory that this process just makes you pull all your hair out in utter frustration and so every time I see a bloke with little or no hair I’m going to think….you poor sod, what did you try and buy from IKEA this week?

In the fullness of time the desired dishwasher did turn up but not surprisingly the installers failed to turn up on the appointed day that the dishwasher arrived, witness one irate Rothery making 16 calls to the installers before finally getting through after being cut off 15 times, I kid you not. The call revealed they’d never intended to install the same day as delivery despite it being confirmed and I was advised in no uncertain terms that this was my fault because I misunderstood them. Wrong! Experience told me that resistance was futile so best to shut up and just do as I was told even though by now I was bristling with frustration having forgotten the golden rule, that being, if it goes pear shaped it’s the customers fault.

Causes of Baldness – The Sequel…..Just when I was thinking I’d reached the end of dishwasher buying hell it transpires that being Christmas and all, I’d been blessed by being anointed the Patron Saint of Dishwasher Manufacturers as the machine in our Sydney home had also gone on strike, no doubt in solidarity with its cousin in the socialist workers paradise of France. However being a quick learner and with the mental scars still fresh from my recent French IKEA experience along with a persistent dull throbbing in my frontal lobes I scored an away win to draw the Dishwasher buying series one all by sourcing a replacement elsewhere. The win came easily …..one phone call at 11.30 pm French time to ‘Winning Appliances’ in Crows Nest, a pleasant 10 minute conversation which included paying for the goods on the spot, and an email confirmation 2 minutes later and it was all over red rover, the deal was done leaving me with what little hair remained intact and wondering if Winning Appliances ever delivered to France!

Causes of Baldness – The Sequel to the Sequel………….There are times when one genuinely wonders why some people say ‘Tis the season to be jolly’, well dear reader rounding off my seasonal entertainment was my jolly encounter with the tax dodging Apple enterprise. Having personally experienced the well- publicised Apple new phone sales initiative of slowing down of my iphone 6 in order to allegedly protect the failing battery from causing component damage but arguably designed to frustrate their phone owners into buying a new and more expensive model, I went to an Apple re-seller in town to resolve the matter, accepting up front of course that any and all of my problems were in fact my own fault (presumably for buying an Apple phone in the first place). Yes they could arrange a new battery for me, for the princely sum of around 110 euros and a week processing time…or I could call Apple Service and they’d send a UPS van round, collect it, change the battery and return it in about a week for a fraction less than the 110 euros. Cool. I called Apple to arrange for the UPS van to come and collect which I was advised would be in the first week of Jan costing around 110 euros. But first I’m told we need to check that the battery is infact faulty and needs replacing, whatever I wearily reply, so 30 mins on the phone while they run some diagnostic on it which confirms the battery is a dud, so back to the price, I’ve read on the internet that so bad has been the backlash and publicity of this problem solving initiative that Apple have reduced the battery price in the US from $79 to $29 and in the UK from £79 to £29 which would equate to approx €32, so why am I being charged €110? Well, came the reply you’ve ordered the new battery in December 2017 and we don’t have a new price yet for 2018 (even though the rest of the planet it seems has) but I pressed, the phone won’t be picked up or the battery replaced until 2018 so please explain again………….well you are placing the order in Dec 2017 the nice man countered……ok no problem I came back with rather tersely, cancel the order and I’ll call you in January. End of conversation. By now the phone holds a charge for approx. 5 minutes even when 100% charged. January arrives bang on time as it does every year and I call Apple Support ……yes no problem they will send the UPS van out and the cost will be €29…..great send it out, how long will it take …..we don’t know came the reply, demand has been so great that we have no stock and no date for new stock arrivals, OK, don’t collect the phone then, OK but I’ll call you everyday to keep you updated of when we will have a battery and normal 1 week turnaround service has resumed. A week later I get a call advising me that Apple are so concerned they’ve arranged a local distributor who’ll replace the battery, I call the them and am told I need to bring the phone in to be tested for the faulty battery, no need I say, Apple already did that, doesn’t matter we have to do it comes the reply, but it’s just been done I plead, check with Apple, doesn’t matter it’s the process…..oh well then there’s no countering that if it’s the process it couldn’t possibly be changed. So I drive over, hand over the phone, 15 mins later it’s confirmed the battery’s a dud, Oh really? And I head home again to await the call advising when they’d have a battery, two weeks later I get the call, drive over, get the new battery, leave and look for a place to buy a wig, is it any wonder I’m losing my hair!!

New Year’s Eve, The End is Nigh……The end of the year that is. I’ve become a bit jaded with NYE celebrations over the past few years, seemingly a lot of hype and fuss over very little, it’s just another year over so what’s the big deal we all make of it. Despite my arguably miserable views of these celebrations there’s to be a crowd of around 15 boaters gathering for nibbles and beverages in the Capitainerie to see in the new year and it would be rude not to join in. Everyone brings a plate to share with beverages and we make the place as jolly as we can with candles, Christmas lights and music, it’s a fun evening and the Anglo Saxons get to teach the bemused Europeans the traditional ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

There’s further cause for celebration as my French niece due to give birth in mid-January. Mano ( Emmanuel) intent on upholding the time honoured French tradition of not being anywhere on time makes his entrance to the world two weeks early on Dec 30th and thereby making me a Great Uncle as distinct from a …..great uncle if you get my drift.

My Great Nephew – ‘Mano’

My Great Nephew – ‘Mano’ 1

Pedro & Mano



The arrival of a new born seems an appropriate metaphor for another new year and we’re looking forward to greeting both with anticipation of more good times ahead with good friends and hopefully good health all round.


November 2017 – Toulouse Re-discovered

Autumn Colours Settling in……………November it turns out to be a pretty gentle pace which is quite welcome after such a hectic year. Finishing off odd jobs on the barge only soaks up a little time as the weather remains pleasant and warm, so much so that I’m able to get quite a bit of varnishing prepared and applied in many places saving another spring job, it’s hard to believe the run of good weather even if the nights are a bit on the cool side. Early walks along the Garonne river which runs through the city is strikingly beautiful as the autumn leaves change colour. It’s a perfect time to stroll the streets and get re-acquainted with ‘La Ville Rose’ which is to us at least one of the nicest cities in France, with quaint old town streets, grand parks and beautiful buildings, with no high rises buildings the city oozes elegance and charm, and is eminently liveable with pretty well everything you could want from theatres and concert halls to cinemas, interesting architecture, charming café bounded squares, fantastic indoor and outdoor markets and so much more.

The Garonne River, Toulouse

Autumn along the Garonne River, Toulouse

Pont Neuf, Garonne River, Toulouse

Garonne River, Toulouse

Followers of our travels will have a pretty clear idea by now that food commands a high focus in our travels, some go so far as to say food wise we live rather high on the hog and it’s probably true, so Toulouse with over 1600 restaurants of every type, cuisine and budget you can think of ensures no fears of starvation and more likely we’re destined to be spoiled for choice. Setting ourselves the modest goal of finding a new restaurant every week is perhaps not the world’s greatest challenge but it’s certainly a most enjoyable one, however somewhere in all that noshing we’ll have to get some exercise beyond lifting a fork.

A Man is Not a Camel ……………As they say in parts down under and so it was not long after our arrival there’s a social gathering in the port office so those over wintering here can get acquainted. Quite different from our previous wintering here back in 2012 where we were the only folk living on board by Christmas, this season there’s quite a gaggle of us and a league of nations to boot…..Brits, Americans, Dutch, French, Belgian, Swiss, and us…… the ring in Australians! First business of the day is to organise a weekly rendezvous for apero’s at a local Café and nearby the old world charm of ‘Café Authie’ in Place Dupuy is the perfect venue. http://cafeauthie.fr

Cafe Authie, Place Dupuy, Toulouse, Today

Cafe Authie as it once was

Cafe Authie

Cafe Authie

Cafe Authie

Some of the Port ‘Apero’ crowd at Cafe Authie


Local Haunts …………..Place Dupuy’s just one of those typical ‘places’ or squares, except it’s not square, but you get the drift, you’ll find by the score in most sizeable French cities and towns and lucky for us it’s just up the road from our port mooring. It’s a special place dominated by the column dedicated to Dominique Martin Dupuy one of the hero’s of the French revolution and one time campaign pal of Napoleon the chap with big ideas and little legs, but let’s not rake over those ancient coals now.

Place Dupuy

The Place Dupuy’s surrounded by boulangeries, cafes, butchers, wine & cheese merchants, restaurants , oyster vendors at weekends. One side dominated by the La Halle Aux Grains or Grain Hall it was once a covered market for cereals back in 1864, later in 1952 a sports palace then in 1974 this hexagonal building became a concert hall and recognised for its acoustic qualities it became the home of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, where this acclaimed symphony orchestra remains to this day. Further technical improvements made in the late 1980’s saw this 2200seat concert hall considered one of the best musical places in Europe. We were fortunate to see a concert here in November and booked to see the jazz great Wynton Marsalas play in February 2018.

Le Hall aux Grains – Place Dupuy

Halles de Grain concert hall

Park & Ride …………………Well not quite in the sense most of us know it but another delightful amenity a stones’ throw from our mooring is the Grand Rond, a large circular park with wide tree-lined pedestrian avenues running off it said to be mirrored on Parisian concepts, but whatever the designers inspiration it’s a delightful place and the venue for a huge monthly antique / Brocante fair which is a treasure trove of interesting bric a brac, nick knackery and genuine antiques. The latest addition to these grand pedestrian avenues is one of the smart new tram lines that takes you just over 30 minutes directly to Toulouse airport…..no fuss, no traffic jams…..brilliant and for €1.60 each way it’s a steal!

Le Grand Rond – Fountain& Park

Le Grand Rond – Fountain

Park lighting -Le Grand Rond

Statue – Grand Rond

Statue – Grand Rond

The Grand Rond park

The Grand Rond park avenue

Le Grand Rond – Park near the port

Monument aux Combattants de la Haute-Garonne Remembrance day Toulouse

11th November 2017 Remembrance day Toulouse

 11th November 2017 Remembrance day Toulouse

Toulouse’s new tram system

Ambling Through Autumn………….For the most part the remainder of November apart from starting the arduous process of renewing long stay visas meant wandering the quaint streets of Toulouse in search of new culinary treats and soaking up the ambience that is simply just Toulouse. Here’s a short tour of some of the streets and parks close to our winter berth.

La Place du Capitole – City Hall

The Capitoleum – City Hall

Street views Toulouse

St Etienne Cathedral, Toulouse

St Etienne Cathedral, Toulouse

Streets of Toulouse – St Etienne

Streets of Toulouse

Streets of Toulouse

Streets of Toulouse

Streets of Toulouse

St Etienne Cathedral, Toulouse

Le ‘Donjon’ – Tourist Office & rear of the Capitoleum

Toulouse train station from the Bayard ecluse

Toulouse views – The red brick city

Narrow buildings & Street views Toulouse

Street views Toulouse

Street views Toulouse

Saint Sernin Church tower

Splendid Toulouse

Neighbourhood bistro – Carmes district

Streets in old Toulouse




October 2017 – The End of Cruising Season 6

 Men behaving badly & He who laughs last …….. Doesn’t always think slowest as some might suggest and he who laughed longest in this case was me. For the most part most folk on boats are pretty well behaved, are courteous to other boats and follow the road rules avoiding stupid and risky manoeuvres but it ‘ain’t’ always the case. It’s the 30th September as we set off following Walt & Gail on Vieux Papillons en route from Valence d’Agen to Agen for, you guessed it, another meal at La Grand Brasserie, how could we pass by without stopping right? Our fine weather from the previous day has long gone replaced by persistent rain, at times torrential. We’re not far behind as we pass under a bridge and about half a km from lock 32 at le Noble we can see Walt’s barge waiting for the lock so we’ll be right behind him pretty shortly when to our amazement a large but rather tired looking cruiser appears behind us, coming at serious speed under the bridge and up towards our stern it’s clear his intent is to overtake and jump the queue for the lock, but no-one’s going anywhere fast as Walt’s now heading into the lock and the gates about to close. Meanwhile we’re getting closer when the cruiser pulls out at full throttle, causing a huge bow wave and with the stern wash both cresting high over the bank as he squeezes past us, cutting in front of us as he raced towards the twister pole to claim the lock. Now I was none too happy about all this and had already signalled him to slow down and wait but to no avail and I’ll admit as he surged dangerously past through the narrow space between us and the bank I did let fly several choice expletives. So there we are him now waiting in front of the lock gates and me gliding up behind, with the chance to go up forward and have a few choice words with the crew being far too hard to pass up. Harsh words were spoken as I critiqued his rude and dangerous behaviour discovering also that the skipper was French, and one crewman American the other also French. In the end with the heavy rain beating down I retreated to the wheelhouse his parting words ringing in my ears “Well it worked didn’t it” Confirming his intent was simply to race ahead and jump the queue to the lock, I was astonished. Shortly thereafter astonishment gave way to amusement as it became clear that in his haste he’d triggered the lock controlling twister pole incorrectly and it hadn’t registered……the minutes passed, the rain fell in torrents, he waited in vain, I smiled widely, knowing full well what was about to unfold, more minutes past and we moved further to the bank to give him room for the inevitable…..he’d have to return back past us to trigger the lock and I’d just wait then take the lock ahead of him…..it was so delicious a moment I savoured it like drought ravaged man having his first drink. Sure enough with eye contact avoided from him as he passed by and jaunty wave from me as we proceeded into the lock as soon as the gates opened. It was all I could do to stop chortling to myself like some demented lunatic as I thought that perhaps there was a god after all!!

Now a truly vindictive sod, unlike my good self would simply have closed the lock gates behind him and made Mr Obnoxious Git wait even longer but being the generous soul that I am I invited him to join is in the lock as there was still plenty of room for both, though it was a while before the penny dropped and he sheepishly entered the lock, allowing me to explain the courtesies of the waterways, the proper way to treat fellow boaters and leave him with the parting words “ Well, looks like it didn’t work after all did it”.


I’ll freely admit that all this sounds rather petty and in truth it almost certainly is, just as it was unnecessary, rude and potentially dangerous but some things should not be allowed to pass un-challenged and, naturally I’m not suggesting that this event occurred because the crew were either French or American that would be nuts, besides many of my ‘ ‘besties’ are French and American, no, it was simply coincidental as I’m a firm believer bad behaviour has a generally uniform distribution geographically and no nation has a monopoly on assholes.

Sanity restored by the time we pulled into Agen and tied up, time for a wee nap before a nice dinner at the Grand Brasserie then off next morning to Serignac once again across the pont canal (aquaduct) and down the 4 lock flight before saying au revoir to Walt and Gail for another season as they headed on back too Buzet and we waited for our friends to join us.

Vieux Papillons following to the Pont Canal, Agen

Headed for the Pont Canal – Agen

On the aquaduct

Looking down the Agen lock flight

The Clauson visit, A bit of a blur……It’s a well- worn path really as most of our get togethers have been over the years so little reason this should be any different. Moored up on the quayside in Serignac we’ve a day to wait before Jon & Tina turn up and watch the hotel barge ‘Rosa’ pulling in, she’d featured in Rick Stein’s ‘French Odyssey’ series a few years ago, a series that ignited my passion for cruising these waterways and still inspires me to this day . It’s always interesting to watch these big beasts manoeuvre especially in tight spaces.

Hotel barge Rosa , mooring at Serignac

Pals arrive, champagne is freed from its imprisonment and we take a quick stroll around the old village while the weather permits. Dinner on board and next day we’re off cruising, it’s a short visit for our chums and we’re taking them as far as Moissac where they’ll depart and we’ll continue on to Toulouse for our winter mooring. First up though it’s back to Agen for the fourth time this season, and our final visit to Le Grand Brasserie http://www.la-grande-brasserie-agen.fr  . It’s also a chance to put the new crew through their paces and earn their supper.

JC eases into a chair, beer at hand – Serignac

JC pretending to do something useful

At last a little respect

Looking a bit perplexed

Up the Agen lock flight again

Dinner at Le Grand Brasserie, Agen Station

A man and his bone

Sunset in Agen

 Like most of our visitor cruises this one is firmly focussed on food hence the short 5 km hop from Agen to Boe to sample the lunch fare at Le Carre Gourmand, http://www.lecarregourmand-boe.fr  another firm favourite of Evey’s and mine, and once again it didn’t disappoint, though the table manners of certain guests was questionable.


Lunch at the Carre Gourmand, Boe, near Agen

Looking rather full once again!

Coffee break at the pretty café ‘Le Poule a Velo’ (Hen on a bike) and we risk handing the helm over to one of the ‘rag and stick brigade’ (an endearment term for a yachty) before our lovely wild mooring at Lamagistere which makes a nice place to stop for the night, enjoy a walk around Lac Bleu and resume the Cribbage tournament boys v girls and where yet again despite claims of cheating the boys win once more, but who’s gloating? The humid temperatures bring out the mushroom hunters seeking cepes de pin and other edible varieties which abound here but for the more risk averse it’s easier to buy them at the markets or better yet find a restaurant with a seasonal mushroom recipe on the menu. We settle for supper of BBQ’d duck with cauliflower cheese and sautéed zucchinis, oh and red wine of course.

Morning coffee at Le Poule a Velo, St Christophe ecluse

Man vs barge at St Christophe ecluse

Risking L’Escapade in the hands of a novice helmsman

Captain Bligh at the Helm

Dinner on board at Lamagistere

Next stop finds us once again heading down through the port of Moissac and onto our familiar quayside mooring on the Tarn River.

Approaching Moissac and the Tarn river

Heading into Moissac

The swing bridge, Moissac


A tight turn to the locks

Making the 90 degree turn

One lock down, one to go……

Heads down!

Onto the Tarn river

JC performing the double tea pot

Heading for the mooring

Making the turn

A stark contast to our visit here last week when the quay filled with barges was a hive of activity, now it feels rather lonely with us the only barge. Mixed blessings weather wise with some truly fine days, then a cold snap making us crank up the heating and dig out long pants, socks and slippers, then no sooner had the cooling fans been consigned to winter storage than we get another really hot spell thinking summer had made a yet another appearance but in reality everyone knows the weather direction is only headed one way! We’re rewarded for our visit however by yet more tranquil mornings, a light mist swirling around the still waters, the bizarre sound of small fish nibbling away on the hull, presumably there’s some tasty algae morsels to be had for a fishes breakfast and more glorious sunsets to sip an apero by in the evenings.

L’Escapade moored alone on the Tarn, Moissac

Mornings on the Tarn

Tarn river in the morning, Moissac

Morning mist at the Pont Napoleon, Moissac

Morning mist at the Pont Napoleon, Moissac

Morning mist at the Pont Napoleon, Moissac

Pink Umbrellas for breast cancer week – Moissac

Moissac market is a must for any visitor and there’s just enough time to take out pals for spin around it before a farewell last dinner in town at the well rated ‘Fromage qui Rit  (The laughing cheese…yes I know it’s an odd name but we’re in France and there’s lots of them) The charming and very attractive owner greets us again like old friends, it’s a fine meal as usual with good wines which do the trick for Jon who can’t resist a goodbye three cheek snog with the owner as we head for the door.

Moissac market

At the Saturday market, Moissac

The last day…..au revoir Les Clausons


The Last Lap …………….Another cruising season is drawing to a close, and heading on our last leg to Toulouse from Moissac it’s just three days 69 kms and 29 locks. We’ve a brief overnight stop in nearby Castelsarrasin to say goodbye to friends. A shroud of cold, clammy thick fog persisting for most of the morning delays our departure, it makes us feel like autumn has arrived in earnest, but luck is with us after one last wild mooring our final day heading into Toulouse is greeted by a simply stunning warm and sunny day. It’s the 11th October and 26 C ……..Fab – U – Lous!

Leaving Moissac locks bound for Toulouse

The Pont canal over the Tarn River, Moissac

View of the Tarn River south from the Pont canal

Moissac to overnight stop at Castelsarrasin

Very foggy start – Leaving Castelsarrasin for Toulouse

The Montech lock flight still misty at midday

En route through Toulouse

Headed to the last lock of the season ( Bayard Ecluse)

L’Escapade in the lock

Friends, Food & Final Clean Up…………Arrival in our winter port means a few things need to get sorted not the least getting the barge secured, cleaned and prepare to store or stow various bits of kit ahead of the coming colder weather. Colder weather I might add that shows no great hurry in making an appearance, which is just fine with us and the rest of the month is glorious. Catching up with barge buddies also in port means more lunches and dinners and some time to relax.

Toulouse Port Saint Sauveur

L’Escapade coming into Port Saint Sauveur, Toulouse

Our Winter berth awaits L’Escapade

Family Jolly’s from Toulouse ……………..By some miracle and near a year of advanced planning we’ve got a semblance of a Rothery family reunion happening in Bordeaux with sixteen of us and only four immediate family unable to make it. Well technically it’s seventeen as my French niece Claire is pregnant. Evey and I drive up from Toulouse with Patcha asleep on Evey’s lap we get to the rented gite as the hordes arrive. Most of my nieces turn up, some we haven’t seen for many years and all with boyfriends in tow it’s an opportune time to get to know everyone. Sightseeing around this gorgeous city we’re still blessed with great weather. With only a few days together we cram in dinners, cafes, some of the sights, a market visit and what visit to Bordeaux would be complete without a wine tasting at the Bar a Vin.


Basking in Pays Basque ………….Our last jolly for October is a trip down to Espellette deep in the French Basque country. Every hotel in Espellette is full as is pretty well every hotel in the surrounding villages. We’re billeted in Souraide just 2 kms up the road from Walt and Gail (Vieux Papillons).

Our hotel in Souraide

The local bakery – Souraide

Madame Bergara making chilli chains

They’re notorious for arranging visits to events where ‘beverages’ are likely to be served and put this idea up some months earlier. The idea being a jolly to Espellette for the Fete de Piments that’s held here every year. The Basque region is well known for many things apart from their unique and almost incomprehensible language, their distinctive architecture, black or red berets and their culture there’s also the regional cuisine where pork is a common ingredient, sheep’s milk cheese (Brebis) a personal favourite, and then there’s Espellette famous for being the centre of the piment or chilli pepper growing region. These large red peppers are spicy but not ridiculously so, adding just the right amount of heat to many dishes. Once harvested they’re hung out to dry for use as is or processed into all manner of pastes, sauces, dried powder and such. Many of the buildings are decorated with garlands of chillis giving the place a festive air and the stuff is sold just about everywhere.

Drying chillis – Fete du Piment, Espelette

Hot chillis perhaps?

The fete attracts literally thousands from around the country, with the town closed off to all traffic for the weekend, streets are one heaving mass of good natured humanity weaving past hundreds of stalls selling everything from Basque tourist tat to regional foods of every kind imaginable plus a few that aren’t.

Fete du Piment, Espelette

Fete du Piment, Espelette 2

Fete de Piment


Speeches addressing the confrereis (brotherhoods)

Some of the gathered brotherhoods of France

Walt and the cap fitting

Looking very at home with the new headgear

Double teapot

Sangria flows, and scores of bands roam around keeping everyone entertained. No-one goes hungry at the Fete de Piment with food stalls everywhere with plenty to whet most appetites and Basques really know how to put on a BBQ, though in all honesty given the appetite for pork I reckon the average vegetarian would struggle and vegan’s would die of hunger, horror or likely both!

Street Band in Espelette

Traditional Basque musicians

Street Band in Espelette

Now that’s a BBQ – Fete du Piment, Espelette

The sangria fountain


Wonder where the rest of the pig went?


Pots for pigs, padrones ( green chillis deep fried) & octopus

There are wine producers from all over the place and even a couple of champagne producers who come down to sell their stock including our friend Arnaud Marle who’s champagne still fills our barge bilge!

Evey, DR & Arnaud Marle ( Bob!) Our champagne vigneron from Cuchery, champagne

Basque women making corn totillas – then filled with thick bacon, sausage and cheese

Chillis for sale – Fete du Piment, Espelette

Basque sheeps cheeses


Sangria time with Walt

It’s a full on two days leaving us exhausted at the end of it and looking forward to resting up back in Toulouse which brings us to the end of October, wondering what November might bring.


September 2017 – A Tough Month at the Trough

Arise Sir Lunch a Lot…….Let’s get this straight right from the start, I know it seems all we do is waddle from one restaurant to the next and for the most part there’s some truth to that but it’s not entirely down to me. I readily accept that when it comes to food, discipline is not my strongest suit and faced with the prospect of a decent lunch any willpower I may once have had disappears faster than cold beer on a hot day, something to do with having the backbone of an amoeba I guess. Now I’m getting all this out early in this piece ‘cos September turned out to be a particularly busy month for lunching and, like the proverbial lamb to the slaughter I was herded from menu to menu at the behest of others, well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Busy Weekend with a Fork ….I’d been looking forward to a return visit to Chateau Gayon for some time having visited back in 2013 it’s a bit of a drive from Meilhan to the vineyard at Caudrot near Langon but the wines are well worth it and owner Jean Crampes who’s family have been making wines here for over a hundred years will spend as much time as you want with a ‘degustation’ (tasting). http://www.chateau-gayon.com  The car’s groaning as we load up cases of his delightful ‘Prestige’ red (Merlot, Cab Sav & Cab Franc) and Bordeaux Blanc white wines (Semillon / Sav Blanc). Meanwhile back at Meilhan the fuel tanker we’d ordered arrived rather earlier than expected, to top up L’Escapade’s fuel tank with 600 litres of white diesel, we should have listened to Mike who pointed out that drivers often come early on a Friday as no-one wants to work late, and of course it was, a Friday. Luckily Mike covered the bill until we got back.

Chateau Gayon

DR & Wine maker Guyon

Friday’s wine tasting sorted and stocks replenished (don’t ask me where it all goes), it’s on to planning Saturdays jolly with barge buddies the Barley’s from Effie who are always up for an outingthat involves lunch. A one hour drive up to Pujols, one of the prettiest villages in the area, this former hilltop stronghold is perched on a hilltop with lovely views of the surrounding Lot river valley. Ambling around the village past old stone cottages, historic walls and town gates, old churches and the covered market we soon work up an appetite and lob into the Sicilian restaurant ‘Villa Smeralda’.  No idea what a Sicilian restaurant is doing all the way up here, maybe they made too many enemies back home, whatever the reason we’re glad they did. We’d all eaten here years ago and the food was as good as ever and the portions almost too generous, but for a couple of gutsey eaters like Graham and me it was a challenge to be faced head on as platters arrived with fresh asparagus, garlic, parmesan & spinach followed by lobster with pasta, & pork ribs all assisted by some local vino..…..Ooof, what a feast.

Entering Pujols ( Lot et Garonne)



Lunch at ‘Smerelda’ in Pujols

Evey & Linda

Tagliatelle with lobster

Asparagus, parmesan, garlic and spinach leaves

A little vino…..

Views from Pujols

Views from Pujols

Next day’s Graham & Linda’s wedding anniversary, joined by Aussie mates Rob and Cherie from Melbourne we’ve organised a Sunday lunch on deck kicking off with Bloody Mary shots ahead of BBQ’d leg of lamb, new spuds and assorted salads and veg. The recently replenished stock of Chateau Gayon reds take a predictable hit, but what a way to go.

Graham & Linda’s Anniversary lunch on board L’Escapade – Meilhan sur Garonne

Bloody Mary shots to start with!

Shot before lunch

Someone had the notion that there was a market on in nearby Marmande but it turned out to be fake news and so with Graham and Linda in tow again we consoled ourselves with a pleasant lunch at L’Atlantide, a delightful Breton creperie for a light-ish lunch. A couple of days later we’re back into Marmande once again in search of the elusive market and once again disappointed so further consolation and healing is sought through the familiar medium of another lunch, this time to La Grange.

Lunch at La Grange, Marmande

Lunch at La Grange, Marmande

The Consolation Prize Train Ride to Bordeaux ……Once again the best laid plans of mice and men came unstuck. We’d planned to take the barges Effie and L’Escapade down the tidal river Garonne some 60 kms to Bordeaux. It’s not an especially difficult trip but you do need to plan it properly and ensure that there’s mooring space booked on the Ponton d’Honneur which is a brilliant spot located on the city side of the river a short stroll into one of the most beautiful cities in France, in my humble opinion. The planning bit comes about on account of the river, which is pretty wide at Bordeaux being tidal, and a very strong tidal current at that which makes it impossible to navigate against. Guided by the lock keeper located where the Canal de Garonne joins the river you have to go down river on the ebb tide at just the right speed to arrive in Bordeaux just as the tide is turning. It’s a bit unusual in that there’s virtually no slack water between the outgoing and incoming tides so you really do need to be sorted time wise and of course the same is true for the return trip back to the canal. Well as I said the best laid plans came unstuck and between a lack of available moorings and unsympathetic tide times that would have meant leaving Bordeaux in the dark it just wasn’t an option and we’d have to postpone the barge trip until next season. Of course that needn’t spoil a jolly outing to Bordeaux and the prospect of another decent meal when there’s a perfectly good train service close by.

Bordeaux Veille ville

Bordeaux Veille ville from Port de la Lune

Esplanade des Quinconces

Place de l’Opera

Place de l’Opera, Bordeaux

Stop Whining & Get Wining……..The ‘Effies’ (Graham & Linda) and us, joined this time by veteran Bordeaux lunchers Walt & Gail Gay from Texas all piled onto an early morning train and headed off to some familiar turf. Now, in the event you’ve never been to Bordeaux and frankly if you haven’t you really should, there are a couple of places that should not be missed while soaking up the usual visitor attractions and sights in this grand city, oh yeah and before I forget to mention it, the best way to get around if of course on foot, but Bordeaux also offers up a plethora of interesting and inexpensive alternatives such as bicycles – manual or electric, segways and if you’re just into being chauffeured around there’s a novel fleet of modern tuk tuks more commonly seen in SE Asia but here they take up to 6 people for really modest charge, but I digress.

Oh yes, back to attractions, and, as all seasoned travellers know Bordeaux apart from being the 2nd most cited city in France after Paris is France’s largest wine producing region with over 900 million bottles produced in most years. Interestingly the number of producers has actually fallen dramatically over the past 20 years from close to 14,000 active growers in 1995 to around 7,375 in 2015 and those remaining wineries turn out some 10,000 different Bordeaux wines each vintage, so these are impressive stats by any measure, but you can’t taste statistics and with so many wineries to choose from scattered all over the region it makes for a daunting task for any would be sampler of these fine drops. So cutting to the chase, my pick of places to get a fab selection of the regions offerings without driving or being driven all over hill and dale is to make a beeline for the Bar a Vins, http://www.baravin.bordeaux.com/en/ situated in what looks like a mini version of New York’s ‘Flat iron’ building just near the Place de l’ Opera it’s the home of the Bordeaux Wine Council. It’s part wine school part wine bar, funded we’re told by the city and regional winegrowers to showcase their wines, so picture this….comfy surrounds, excellent table service, good glassware and a tasting list of 30 red, sweet & dry white, rose, clairet and sparkling Bordeaux wines that changes regularly and all at modest prices ranging from €2 to € 8 a generous glass or if like us you want to increase the number of wines you taste but not necessarily the volume of wine you consume, you can opt for half measures at half the price and then get to sample a serious number of wines as you can see from our table.

Bar a Vins, Bordeaux

Graham and Linda at the Bar a Vins, Bordeaux

Graham and Walt – The look says it all

Wine sampling at the bar a Vins with Walt & Gail Gay, & Graham and Linda Barley

More samples

Something to Beef About……Fortified with a few wines we’ve all acquired a decent appetite and found this great bistro, the Bouchon Bordelais. https://www.bouchon-bordelais.com

Le Bouchon Bordelais

This quaint cosy restaurant is the perfect place for a decent bit of ‘nosebag’ aka lunch. Now in the past I’ve been very critical of French steak, to the point I generally won’t order it in restaurants as at best it’s a hit and miss decision, expensive and all too often disappointing in the extreme. Much of the reason for this is that they just don’t hang the meat long enough if at all so while it might have flavour you eat it at your peril and are at serious risk of leaving your gnashers embedded in the steak. Reading further I learnt that in some cases the beef comes from dairy cows at the end of their 10 odd year life of milk production so you could find that old Bessey the magic milker gets slaughtered on a Monday, butchered on Tuesday and is on the supermarket shelf on Wednesday – Fresh probably, old likely and tough as old boots definitely. This beef of course should be labelled as such and can be avoided most of the time. Like anywhere however there is good beef to be found here the first key is to be sourced from quality breeds bred specifically for beef production and fed on grass (not corn). Breeds like Aberdeen Angus and Hereford along with French breeds Simmental, Limousin and the famed Charlolais are all ideal. I’ve also read that in France they cut the meat at a different angle to that in the UK, Australia and the US and this can affect the outcome too, but once you have a quality piece of beef there remain two final hurdles, one we mentioned earlier being having the meat hang longer, again I’ve read that a minimum 12 days is a place to start, longer also works. Supermarkets tend not to hang the meat very long at all so if you want a truly good steak while you’ll pay more for it, seeking out a good local butcher and telling him what you want will get the best results. Lastly the quality of your steak salivating experience comes down to you the cook, having found the right breed, cut and aged meat if you cook the bejeesus out of it you deserve all you get and don’t blame the farmer or the butcher…..over cooked steak will always be tough and the beast will have died in vain! Here’s one we had not so long ago………

The ‘Before Pic

Supper’s ready – The ‘After’ Pic!

Anyway before I got my teeth into the great tough steak debate I was extolling the virtues of ‘Le Bouchon Bordelaise’ where we’d stopped for lunch, Walt and I at great personal risk to our gnashers ordered the Cote de boeuf to share, cooked rare and I have to say, hand on heart it was, without doubt THE most delicious and perfectly cooked piece of steak I can ever recall having passed my gums, truly fab- u – lous. Sadly however it has now become the bovine benchmark by which all others will henceforth be measured.

Full and satisfied bellies we’d enough time for a stroll to walk off a portion of our lunches, down by the river we caught a view of the big barge carrying a part of the giant Airbus A380 up river to meet it’s road transport onto Toulouse for final assembly. The barge sitting mid river with engines in gear combating the outgoing tidal current was waiting for the tides to turn before attempting to pass under the very tight and low Pont St Pierre, an expensive manoeuvre to get wrong. The other thing we nearly caught was a pie in the face, fortunately the students were raising money for a trip to the USA and for the price of a coin or two they’d slap a pie in each other’s faces………..it was too much of a temptation and coins changed hands.

Airbus A380 body making its way up the Garonne river against the ebb tide

Students raising money for a vacation trip to the USA

Paying for a pie in the face!

 Cosy or Cramped You Decide…………..It’s the end of the first week in September and time for us to depart Meilhan, it’s been a pleasant stay but time to make tracks slowly back to Toulouse as we catch sight of what must surely be the smallest narrow-boat on the canals anywhere, it’s called ‘Cuddy’.

‘Cuddy’ – The smallest narrow boat around?

Lunch at the Lock…………Mooring up for a few days at Villeton with the Effies, it’s a stone’s throw from Ecluse 42 (lock 42) better known as ‘Le Chope et le Pichet’ (Mug & Pitcher) http://lachope-et-lepichet.fr a charming restaurant at the canals edge in the former lock keepers cottage run by Belgian couple Katharina and Thierry, with great cuisine, good regional wines and around 30 Belgian beers if you’re a fan.

Moored in Villeton with Effie & La Blanche Hermine

Lunch at Lock 42, St Chrisophe – Le Chope et le Pichet

Le Chop et le Pichet, Eluse 42, Villeton, Canal de Garonne

Lunch at Le Chope et le Pichet

Lunch at Le Chope et le Pichet

The weather’s getting a bit mixed now as our passage takes us back to Buzet for a few days, a farewell meal at the Vigneron with barge buddies Walt and Gail before pushing onto Serignac where it’s cool and wet as we raft up making new French friends Jean-Max and Catherine on their barge ‘La Blanche Hermine’. Another stroll around the pretty bastide village with its ancient church and twisted spire (Hellicoidal if you want accuracy) before a visit to the local pub for a pizza and a bottle of red then it’s back to the barge for a catnap with a real cat.

Leaving Buzet sur Baise

Moored at Serignac

Serignac Mairie

Helocoidal spire in Serignac 4

Wall flowers in Serignac

Cat nap with cat

Training for another Lunch ………Brilliant, just brilliant, it must be sod’s law being applied again as we departed Serignac in a nippy 16C and then through the four lock flight at Agen the heavens opened up and it rained hippos and rhinos which as you’ve no doubt figured out is the heavier version of raining cats and dogs which doesn’t come close to describing the conditions at this point, oh yes and sod’s law I hear you ask…..well that’s because it’s my turn to be man the ropes on deck today, brilliant! It’s not all miserable though as the downpour eases away and with the Effies in tow it’s back to the Agen railway station, not to catch a train but to catch lunch at Le Grand Brasserie again, a perfect way to spend a Sunday lunch.

Wet & miserable weather up the Agen flight

Wet & miserable weather crossing the Pont Canal, Agen

Lunch in Agen – Le Grand Brasserie, Gare SNCF

Lunch in Agen – Le Grand Brasserie, Gare SNCF

Lunch in Agen – Le Grand Brasserie, Gare SNCF

Lunch in Agen – The wine kicks in!

Killing Time in Moissac We were in Moissac only six weeks ago and here we are back again for another week with time on our hands, we’ve got pals from the UK coming for a cruise early next month and need to be somewhere nearby to pick them up, so Moissac is one of the prettier places to hang until then.


Rural scene near Pommevic

Views to the Tarn river near Moissac

Views to Moissac

Entering Moissac

Swing bridge at Moissac

Pink Umbrellas for breast cancer week – Moissac

Moissac market

Moissac Port de Plaisance

Moored back down on the Tarn river quay it’s an utterly gorgeous setting we never seem to grow weary of. The weather takes another dramatic turn and we get a week of gorgeous warm temperatures a chance for me to finish that wheelhouse painting job I started about a month ago back at Le Mas d’Agenais, this time it’s the interior sides that need freshening up, haven’t been touched for at least 10 years I’d guess, anyway the job gets done and we swap the summer ‘cabriolet’ wheelhouse soft top and replace it with our winter hardwood and glass wheelhouse.

Hard top wheelhouse back on again

In the meantime the early mornings are perfectly still apart from the occasional rowing club outing nearby and the evenings put on yet another round of spectacular sunsets as the perfect backdrop for our evening apero’s and Patcha gets another bath.

Pont Napoleon, Moissac

Pont Napoleon, Moissac

Morning rowing regatta, Moissac

Morning rowing regatta, Moissac

Sunset over the Tarn, Moissac

Sunset over the Tarn, Moissac

Sunset over the Tarn, Moissac

One wet washed and bedraggled Burmese Patcha

Shortly before buzzing off to meet our guests we’re joined on the quay by more Aussies on ‘Highlander’ which for reasons best known to themselves manages to make an intimate acquaintance with the submerged weir that’s craftily submerged across the river marked by big yellow buoys you can’t miss……or can you? Luckily there’s no damage and Roger gets free of it before we have to head out and tow him off, nothing like coming into a mooring with a crowd spectating and missing the mark! I suspect we all breathe a sigh of relief that it’s just not one of us….I know I’d never live it down!!

Highlander hitting the weir at Moissac !

Papillons Last Hurrah…….Retracing our course of a week ago it’s back to Serignac to collect our UK pals coming for a cruise that will take us back to……you guessed it Moissac, don’t ask it’s just the way the planning worked out to find a pretty scenic route that would be interesting for first time visitors. Texas pals Walt and Gail whose barge ‘Les Vieux Papillons’ is usually based in Buzet, meet us in Valence d’Agen along the way they’re coming to the end of their long term cruising days but Vieux Papillons has a new lease of life with new owners as they’ve sold it to their daughter and son in law who will soon begin their own canal adventures, maybe they should re-name the barge ‘Les Jeune Papillons’ whatever the name we have a fine evening as the legendary lethal cocktail making mantle passes from Walt to son in law Jim, and there was me thinking that Walt concocted some dangerous mixes but Jim’s in a whole new league of his own as we’re served up some rum based brew laced with fresh chilli, whoa, that thing packs a serious punch for a punch and gets us ready for October and the last little leg to Serignac tomorrow for us and back to Buzet for them.

Vieux Papillons arriving at Valence d’Agen

Gail looking relaxed on Vieux Papillons – Valence d’Agen

Vieux Papillons coming to Valence d’Agen

Turning around in Valence d’Agen

Moored in Valence d’Agen

Jeanne & Gail





August 2017 Canal de Garonne, Old Friends & Good Times

Old Friends and Good Times: I may have mentioned it before but one of the reasons for our return to the south was to catch up with old friends from our first three summers down here, and a lot of that was going to take place this month as we made our way beyond Toulouse and along the Canal de Garonne all the way to Meilhan sur Garonne. It goes without saying there’ll be plenty of lunches and dinners, as readers will by now have a handle on where and how we spend much of our time. This end of the canal is especially sociable and it’s not without good reason it’s sometimes referred to as the Betty Ford canal on account of how much of a certain type of beverage is consumed. Most folk head down to this part of the waterways network drawn by the well deserved reputation and publicity that the Canal du Midi attracts but it would be a great mistake to miss out on the charm of the Canal de Garonne that runs for 193 kms with 53 locks from Toulouse Castets en Dorthe where it joins the navigable part of the tidal Garonne river for the last 60 kms to Bordeaux.

Gardouch and a light lunch……1st August and we’re closing in on Toulouse where we’ll spend a few days before heading further west, it’s pretty hot now and our run from Ocean lock to Montgiscard only 26 kms but still takes us over 6 hours and it’s 30C. Maybe that has something to do with discovering a wee place to stopover for lunch at Gardouch as we’d arrived at the lock at lunchtime and it seemed appropriate to lob across the canal to the converted lock keepers cottage, now a bar restaurant, and share some love whilst having a spot of lunch. The place was packed and while it may not ever grace the pages of a Michelin good food guide, it was pleasant, honest, good fare and great value…oh yeah, and massively convenient being just a few metres from where we’d tied up, so why not right? On then to Montgiscard, the overnight stop is a place we’ve been to a few times before and while not the most scenic, it’s a good and safe place to tie up for the night. On the other hand what is scenic are the fields of sunflowers around the locks at Sanglier that seem to go on forever and ever. We’re entranced by the views around us as these vast fields of sunflowers cover every hillside in every direction and we ‘re compelled to stop and take it all in.

L’Estanquet restaurant – Gardouch

Bridge & Ecluse Gardouch

The old washhouse at Montgiscard

More Sunflowers from the Canal du Midi

Sunflowers from the Canal du Midi

Sunflowers as far as you can see

Among the sunflowers at Sanglier locks

Evey among the sunflowers at Sanglier locks

Sunflowers at Sanglier locks 2

Sunflowers at Sanglier locks

Only 20 kms and before we’re back in Toulouse, the pink bricked city and a favoured mooring, there’s still some pretty countryside around but it’s a hot one and by the time we reach town the mercury’s hit 35C sapping all our energy, best I can manage is raising a cold beer or two to keep hydrated…ok so it’s a pour excuse but one has to take opportunities as they come right?

Pont de Deyme

Castanet ecluse – the last before Toulouse

Last leg on the Midi canal

Donneville bridge


Coming into Port St Sauveur, Toulouse

Toulouse ……feels like home…… It’s hard to describe but we’ve come and gone from Toulouse several times over the past few years, so maybe that’s just it but it always seems like we’re coming home when we get to this city, maybe it’s because we love it so much, maybe because it’s laid back, casual, cool and has no airs and graces, whatever it is it’s a great place that’s for sure.

Our old friend Serge and his wife, the glamourous Vanessa comes to dinner one night while we’re in port and typically comes in style by boat, or is that just a way to avoid having to drive……for those that don’t know Serge he’s one of the Canal du Midi’s life savers….hell no, I don’t mean in the traditional sense but he is a lifesaver in so many other ways. Serge is welder, but don’t dismiss him as just a welder. There are few things going on along the canal in these here parts that Serge doesn’t have a handle on and he’s the main ‘go to guy’ for most barge repairs, but of course his main stock in trade is metal and welding, and, whether it’s just a bit of over plating you need or an entire new bottom of your 30 metre barge that needs replacing, Serge is the man, but for us he’s become a dear friend we met in our first year on the water here back in 2012.

Serge’s & Vanessa -Arriving by barge for dinner at L’Escapade

Serge & Vanessa – Dinner at L’Escapade

A late lunch – Port St Sauveur

L’Escapade moored up – Port St Sauveur, Toulouse

Leaving Toulouse it’s an understatement to say it’s not the most scenic of passages, the canal from Port St Sauveur snakes around the city for 6 kms dropping you down through 3 locks into the Port de l’Embouchure basin which marks the end of the Canal du Midi and the start of the Canal de Garonne, and, for the next 30 odd kms it’s pretty damned dull until we get past Grisolles when the scenery starts to open up a little. There’s the four lock flight at Montech now fully automated and while it’s efficient enough we miss chatting with the lock keepers who previously accompanied us down the flight operating the locks as they went.

Leaving Touluse and the Canal du Midi


End of the Canal du Midi

End of the Canal du Midi & start of the Canal de Garonne

The 5 lock flight at Montech

Castelsarrasin, Pals & The Pulverised Poulet ……While familiar turf Castelsarrasin’s been busy since we were last here back in 2014, the scruffy boatyard along the canal just before you enter the port, or leave it depending on your direction, is gone, relocated to a larger and more suitable site just west of the port, lots of new landscaping, flower beds and new utility services have been installed, they’ve done a very good job of it and it’s a vast improvement. Moored up opposite the attractive rail station we’re here for four days as the reunions and festivities begin, but first some emergency surgery for L’Escapade’s mascot chicken ‘Evelyn’, a carelessly thrown mooring line in a lock caught the chicken unawares and it was injured, a little glue and red paint did the trick but the eggs remain hard!

Last lock before Castelsarrasin

Arriving in Castelsarrasin

Train station – Castelssarasin

L’Escapade moored in Castelssarasin










Our chicken after emergency surgery ….sadly the eggs are still hard!

Fish & Chips….You Want Some Ear Ache with That? ……Our second evening in Castelsarrasin sees us whisked away to nearby Moissac, we’ll go there by barge in a few days but it’s the first Monday in the month which means Fish & Chip night and nice change from traditional French fare provided for by the roving ‘Cod en Bleu’ van.

The Fish & Chip van

So that’s the upside of the night along with catching up with a host of friends from our last visit to this area……

Fish, Chips & Karaoke – a toxic mix

DR diversifying from French food

The Barley’s and Evey

but there’s a sting in the tail and every bright cloud has a dark lining it seems as the fine fishy fare shares the billing with a karaoke night. Now in my book there’s a clear line of distinction between entertainment and torture, so what is it about karaoke that propels folk the world over in kamikaze like fashion to hit the self- embarrass button. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that in most cases it’s fuelled by too much grog until it reaches the point where you either know or should know that you can’t hold a tune but then decide that now is the time to get up and make a complete plonker of yourself and I freely accept my singing voice isn’t one that needs any further amplification! But what truly puzzles me then is how do you explain the sober and near sober ones? I’m just left thinking, What, are you thinking!!! Worse still there are some that walk among us who should never be given access to a microphone, you know the ones, this is their moment and once that mike’s in their hands there are few forces in nature that can prize it away from them again, and it never gets any better no matter how many times they insist on inflicting it on the rest of us. Finally there’s the odd individual who can actually hold a tune and revels in this bizarre ritual probably because it makes them look good but the bad news here folks is that any cursory examination of the competition reveals they’ve just set themselves a very low bar. Setting low standards is rarely a recipe for success especially after reaching rock bottom only to discover you can go so much lower, but why keep digging? Phew, I feel better for that rant and hey, look on the bright side you didn’t have to hear this set to music, and you never will!

There’s few greater pleasures in life than sharing good food and wine with good friends (preferably without karaoke….just kidding I’m really over it) and a BBQ’s lamb lunch on board was as good as any we’d had in a long time catching up with Don and Laura from Largo and Graham and Linda from Effie for a marathon feeding frenzy, just glad I didn’t have cycle home afterwards.

L’Escapade in Castelsarrasin – The 1st 8 hr long lunch

Summer evenings in this part of the world are often celebrated with local night markets and our last night in Castelsarrasin found us heading for the nearby hills to the pretty village of St Maurin for such an event, little doubt these local food and entertainment fests began life as a way to bring villagers together socially while enjoying a raft of great local produce but have now become an integral part of the local tourism scene and with good reason, they’re just great fun. This outing coincided with Evey’s birthday and loads of friends turned up to help celebrate, the band played ‘happy birthday’ and Evey became the first to don what was to be a regularly featured birthday hat for the rest of the season.

Crowds in the town square, a perfect summer evening

Evey’s birthday table

Evey and Tony

Next…the cake

Fairy floss moustache

Trust me,  it wasn’t my idea

 Moissac and the Tranquil Tarn is our next port of call, a pretty short three run over 8 kms with 9 locks that finally drop us down onto the river and a spot on the long quay among several other barges with delightful views up and down the river.

The pont canal (aquaduct) at Moissac

View up the Tarn River from the pont canal

Approaching Moissac

Port de Plaisance – Moissac

Moissac / Tarn River locks

Heading onto the Tarn River – Moissac

Low air draft on the Tarn river locks