Monday, 15 July 2019

Castets-en-Dorthe to Buzet-sur-Baise (Or….Eiffel’s Shelf…..)

Back to the garden mooring at La Falotte where we could be firework free for 14th Juillet
The port at Castets offers the service of ordering croissants and pastries from the local bakery should you wish and having decided to take up this offer realised probably a bit too late that we had forgotten to do so.  Just as we were heading out to dinner, Pierre, the Capitain, was showing another boat into its mooring so Mike asked if we were too late.  ‘No, what would you like?’ As Mike gave our order, Pierre dialled his phone and called it through to the bakery there and then – such service!
This was dessert at Ecluse 52 - the little boat even had Quaintrelle green!
The next morning, Friday 12th, we were up, showered, cats were out on morning parade and we were thinking about who should go and get the bakery goods, when there was a cheery ‘Bonjour!’ and Pierre appeared at the hatch with our goodies!  After breakfast, both cats were back on board and we made ready to cast off and start the days cruise, at which point something caught Eiffel’s eye and he slipped out the front door.  We were dithering a bit so not worried but a few minutes later we couldn’t see him, so I called and heard him crying back to me with his ‘mummy I’m scared/stuck/hungry/needing a wee cry’.  The stupid sod had gone on to the towpath, up the bank there, onto the edge of the road, where, frightened by a car presumably, he had shot up the steep cliff on the other side and was now stuck!  We couldn’t see him, but could hear him crying but the towpath verge was so overgrown we couldn’t get up it onto the roadside, so Mike ran along the towpath, and up onto the road then back along – following me?? By the time he got there the meuwling had stopped and there was no sign of Eiffel.  A quick check of his tracker showed us where he was and we rang it to get a closer location.  It was on the bank, but no calling promoted a response from Eiffel so we figured he must have become detached from his collar and headed further into undergrowth leaving his collar attached to a weed.  We went back to the boat for the hook and pole and borrowed a gangplank from a neighbour to try and climb verge, which was not far off vertical and about 15 feet high.  We cleared all the undergrowth but couldn’t find the collar, it was ringing further up.

As Mike continued thrashing away the undergrowth and trying to get higher, I walked up into town and along the road that was at the top of the verge and called and called, but no Eiffel.  Back at the verge, we were despairing with no idea of where he was, but Mike was determined to get the collar, as he was worried that Eiffel was attached to it but injured or something hence no meuwling.  It was all a bit distressing and Mike started to look along the verge to see if there was an easier way to get up it.  That’s when I heard Eiffel’s bell….. Such a little tinkle I thought I’d imagined it.  Then I heard it again and called him and he mewed back.  I shouted to Mike and with a rethink, we got the mooring pins from the boat and the hammer and Mike started to climb using them to make hand and footholds.  He got so far up, and at last we saw Eiffel still a few feet above on a ledge – too afraid to come down off it, so sheer was the verge.  We coaxed and coaxed and he finally came within tickling distance to another ledge Mike had created above a rock and sat there a few moments whilst Mike assessed his hand and foot holds for coming down.  Alas, a flurry of traffic sent Eiffel scuttling back up to the ledge he’d been on…….

A sudden brainwave – “Amber, I’ll get Amber, she’ll call to him and he’ll come down.” I ran back to the boat (quicker now that Mike had also cut a path directly through the overgrown verge between the road and the towpath), grabbed a slumbering Amber from under the settee and took her up to the road side.  By the time we got there she’d woken up and was so terrified herself of the traffic going past, there was no way she was going to be any good and we didn’t need two cats stuck on the ledge so I quickly retreated back to the boat with her, put her under the settee and reckoned she’d think it was just a dream she’d had…..

We didn’t know what to do.  We were realising we’d need to stay another night and maybe just leave him to get down on his own once the traffic stopped in the evening, when a voice piped up beside us, “Where is your cat?”  In the maelstrom of cat rescue, Anne had gone along to the capitain to ask if anyone had a longer ladder and had bumped into Louic and his wife and told them the story.  They were out walking their dog and seeing we were still at the roadside came to help.  Well, we pointed Eiffel out, Louic handed his dog to Anne, and like spiderman, he began to ascend the verge, kicking footholes with his toes and moving fast before the soft earth fell beneath him, up, up and in no time at all was at Eiffel’s ledge.  “How do I lift him?” was the next question.  A good question.  Eiffel hates being lifted with a passion…… “Erm……”  Probably not the best time to go into Eiffel’s neurosis… “….by the scruff…..pick him up by the back of the neck, like his mum did when he was a kitten.”  Something Ann, his foster mum had told me had come back and rung a bell.  The first attempt was met with a loud snarl and hiss and I hope Louic wasn’t injured.  He tried again, bingo!!  Once in this grasp, Eiffel dropped all defences and hung there like a great big lanky legged baby, and Louic started the descent with him, passed him down to Mike and then to me who promptly burst into tears.

Eiffel's Cliff - rather hard to see.. The pathway cut through the undergrowth in the light, by Mike, was between the towpath (where the parked car is) and the road above.  The cliff is in darkness beyond this cutting....
Eiffel was taken back to the boat where he once more performed the ‘I don’t  know what all the fuss was about….’ preen and settled under the settee with Amber.  We thanked Louic with a bottle of wine and got all our paraphernalia back on the boat and made ready to leave, 5 hours after we’d first tried to go………  Delayed departures were to become a feature of the holiday…….

Just as we were casting off, Louic returned by car with a box of biscuits for us.  This is the second time this has happened to us..we thank someone with a gift and they then give us something back in return??  It must be a french thing………

Then Dave pitched up to chat… A New Zealander who was currently moored at Meilhan sur Garonne.  A lovely chap, so we made our apologies for being rude and darting off but said we hoped to see him that evening as we were going to Meilhan.

We pushed off and continued east for a few hundred metres to the last lock on the canal, just so we know we’ve been right to the end, then turned and headed back the way we came.

The last lock on the Canal Lateral de la Garonne
One of the few other boats on the canal - it's so quiet.

Anne enjoying her cruise.

From the Gironde department back into our home department of Lot et Garonne
It was a quiet cruise for the three and half hours or so to Meilhan as we enjoyed the scenery once again and mulled over the morning’s happenings. 
We got to Meilhan and decided that as we were on the end of the quay and near the road, this was not a cat-friendly mooring so shore leave was cancelled.  This enabled us to relax with a glass of wine on the quayside and catch up with some fellow boaters, Dave and Barbara, and Trish and Tony, whom we’d met briefly at Moissac last year.  In the port that evening there was a barbeque and live music, so we joined the festivities and thoroughly enjoyed the company.

Little Narrowboats moored at Meilhan

All the way from Edinburgh!!!!
Slightly woolly-headed the next morning we woke to find a loaf of bread on the boat that we later found out had been left by Dave – he’d been up at the bakery and getting bread for others so picked up one for us too.  Anne headed up the hill into town for a look and came back with tarts as the bakery had run out of pastries.  We had a chat with Dave and Barbara about their electric bikes, which we are keen to get at some point.  They kindly let us have a try of theirs and we were amazed at how good they were – going uphill was a breeze!

For some reason I have no photos at all of Meilhan.  I think my brain was still digesting Eiffel’s ledge and it just didn’t occur to me to take any.

Our target for Saturday 13th was to get back to Pont-des-Sables, as Anne was heading off on Sunday morning for Marmande where she would take a train to Aix-en-Provence to continue her travels.  As shore leave had been cancelled the previous night, there was no problem herding the cats up to leave as they were already on board, so we cast off and had another very pleasant cruise along the canal.


It was quite weedy towards the end of the canal and this weed cutter was out working hard.

Nice easy locks, even going up!
At Pont-des-Sable the cats were allowed back out and we went to the Capitainerie to pay and see if they could help organise a taxi for the morning to take Anne to the station.  Again, they were so helpful and said if they couldn’t get a taxi, they would take Anne, that we weren’t to worry, they’d sort something out.  The young chap, who speaks English like a native, London accent and everything, came by later and said they could get one for 9.30 for us – a little early as Anne’s train wasn’t until 11, but if that was the time they could come, then that was fine.  So he rang them there and then and confirmed the booking and gave Anne’s name.

Anne's last night back at Pont-des-Sables
We then headed into the small town for some supplies from the baker, small √©picerie and butcher that has newly opened.  We got some brochettes to barbeque and we reckon they’re amongst the best we’ve had.  In the evening we had dinner at the restaurant L’Escale, right next to the port, with our meal only slightly interrupted when Amber appeared and started to make her way into the kitchen!!!  I shooed her out, much to the amusement of the other diners…..

An early start on Sunday 14th and we were all breakfasted by the back of 9am and headed up to the Capitainerie for 9.30 where a delightful young chap was there waiting to take Anne to Marmande.  She needed a cashline as well and he reassured her that he knew Marmande well and would take her to one near the station.

Back at the boat, the all-to-often ritual of hunt and round up the cats – or, nailing jelly to a wall – was begun.  We knew exactly where they were, in the garden next to the mooring.  We called and cajoled but they were having way too much fun and they just love playing tig with Mike – letting him get so close and then just staying two steps ahead…….  The man and lady who own the garden came to watch the fun and invited us in to catch them.  The man had little to no English but must have looked up, “My cats, they are my cats.” As the pair of little shits appeared to have moved in.  Mike got Amber easily enough once in the garden and Eiffel was at the other end of the ‘lawn’ watching something in the undergrowth.  Thankfully, such was his concentration, he didn’t notice me coming up behind him and asking for a cuddle, then picking him up.  He snarked as usual after a few minutes but a loud, “NO!” from me usually puts him in his place.  Once all the crew were corralled and safely under the settee we set off.  Our original plan was to go straight to Buzet but we changed our plans and decided to stop once again at the cat friendly mooring at the little mineral museum at La Falotte.  As it was in the middle of nowhere, we knew we’d be away from any firework celebrations for 14th July – Bastille Day.
Although the mooring was free, we were so pleased with it, we left some money in the honesty box for use of the picnic tables.

Crew enjoying shore leave.
As it was a safe mooring, we let the crew stay out as we got ourselves settled into bed, but a mossie woke me around midnight buzzing in my face, and as I swatted, then settled back down heard a splash and something swimming near the boat. “Someone’s In!!” I shrieked, leapt out of bed, into the living room, looked out the shutters and there’s Amber swimming between the boat and the side.  I moved forward to the kitchen and called her and she turned and swam to me, I grabbed her, but got more collar than cat, so the collar did its safety release thing and Amber plopped back into the water.  My second grab got all scruff and I pulled her out and up onto the side where I thought she’d dart off like the first time, but she just stood and stared at me, then came in the other window.  We towelled her off and cancelled leave for the rest of the night, shutting us all in until day break.

With no rush, we let them out in the morning as we had breakfast, and with Amber on board, Eiffel was for once reasonably easily called back in.

We headed to Buzet where we pulled in alongside Spes to top up our water and use the car to go to the supermarket for supplies.  By  3.30pm we were back on board and ready to continue our day’s cruising, down a double lock at Buzet which would take us onto  new territory – the Baise.  But that’s for next time!!

Approaching the double lock to take us down onto the River Baise

Leaving the canal behind us.....

Down the first lock and into the second.....

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Buzet-sur-Baise to Castets-en-Dorthe (Or….Wakey, Wakey Quaintrelle – Time To Cruise

Shore Leave Granted at La Falotte

We’re back!!!  And how lovely it is to be back on the water in our gorgeous girl, though I’m not too sure our two new crew are in agreement with that.  Quaintrelle spent a quiet and not too cold winter at Buzet-sur-Baise, with Jim and Jeanne from La Vieux Papillon and Terry and Sandra on Felix keeping an eye on her.  We visited a few times to check the tarpaulin, run the engine and continue our battle with the woodworm we managed to pick up last year…….  I think we may finally have got rid of it………

As cruising time approached we had intended to do practice runs in the car with the new crew, maybe bring them to the boat for the odd day or two to get used to it, but as usual, time ran away with us and suddenly it was 6th July and as we packed up the house for three week’s rental, the cats, realising something was amiss, took off from their usual napping positions.  We were ready to leave, so sat down to await the return of Les Chats to load them up and leave.  After an hour, we were starting to get anxious so began calling them and within a few minutes Eiffel trotted back across the lawn from next door and I got him into the kitchen and the new ‘Stress Free’ cat carrier – which he immediately detested, got stressed and tried to get out.  So I let him out, but kept him corralled in the kitchen whilst we waited for Amber to come back.  Mike came into the house and asked where I was “In the kitchen with Eiffel, don’t open the door.”  “Amber is sitting in the hall wanting into the kitchen….”….. We got everyone into the kitchen and swiftly into the stress free carrier.  Note the name, “Stress Free”.  I’m not sure who it is meant to be stress free for cos it wasn’t us or the cats! They immediately started clawing at the door and yowling and we quickly got them into the back of the car, secured and set off, trying to do everything quickly and efficiently with the least stress to all parties involved.  Halfway up the driveway, approximately 1 minute 10 into the journey, Eiffel was out of the carrier and on the parcel shelf with Amber quickly following suit.  I was sitting with two bags of rubbish under my legs to drop off but we quickly realised it was too risky to stop now as if the cats got out, we’d never get them back again.  So we carried on on our 52 minute (felt like six hours) journey to the boat at Buzet.  After 20 minutes or so, Amber got herself under my seat and called to Eiffel to get under Mike’s, which he duly did and the panting abated and the yowling got louder.  After about 40 minutes, the yowling stopped and they fell asleep.

So much for the stress free carrier…. Within seconds the seam between the fabric of the carrier and the zipped mesh doorway had split, frayed and pulled apart, and the escapees had been freed.  We’ll have to think of plan B for the return journey.

At the port, Mike got the boat unlocked and moved to a position where we could unload everything (and everyone) easily.  I stayed in the car with the cats, who, with it now stopped were quite interested and having a look around.  Mike came back and took Amber to the boat, then when he came back, I lifted Eiffel and ran him to the boat.  Both cats took a quick look round then went under the settee where they remained for the next few hours.  As night fell and it got cooler, they ventured out, had another look around the boat and out on to the deck.

What the.........?????!!!!!!

They then ventured off and on the boat, having a sniff at the grass and we let them stay out quite late, but decided we didn’t want them staying out all night in case they got lost.  So at 1.30am while we were both wide awake, we got them in and shut all the windows and cooked at gas mark 7 til morning.

Sunday morning brought a slowish start for us after our late night and I went to the nearby supermarket for some supplies – so handy to still have the car!  We then set off for a short trip as we needed to be back at Buzet on Monday for Mike to drive back to the dentist, as he’d been having some pain, and a check up on Friday had confirmed the worst – he needed a root canal treatment.  The dentist didn’t want to leave it, so prescribed antibiotics and set an appointment for Monday at 5.30pm.

So off we went and how nice it felt to be cruising again.  Even the new crew seemed to be a bit more settled.

Unfortunately the shade from the plane trees doesn't hide how dirty Quaintrelle is!!  She had a wash the following morning!
After a couple of hours and one lock we reached our mooring for the night at Falotte, and what a mooring!  A small mineral and rock museum has landscaped its waterfront gardens and offers free moorings and it’s fantastic.  It was a hot afternoon, so we moored up, then set up the deckchairs in the shade of some trees and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.  The crew were still asleep under the settee – their preferred travelling positions for the time being.

Nice large garden for the evening.

Safe enough to emerge from under the sofa once the engine's turned off.

Eiffel's found the best spot......

The lure of the trees is too much and Eiffel ventures forth!
Early evening, as it cooled the wee ginger appeared, closely followed by Eiffel.  They were very cautious but made their way further from the boat and finally ran to the trees to have a good scratch.  Every now and then they’d go back to the boat and have a wander through the boat, and in Amber’s case, around the gunwhales.  By the end of the evening, she was sashaying around them like an old sea cat who’d been on boats all her life. 

As we enjoyed the peace and tranquillity a familiar call reached our ears, Eiffel’s high-pitched “Maaaaaaaahhhhhhmmmmmm”.  I shouted him and he called back until I saw him on the other side of the canal!!  The numbskull had gone over the bridge then couldn’t remember how he’d got there to get back.  I headed over and called him back to the bridge and he trotted to me, as Amber, looking panicked started coming after me over the bridge calling for him.  At this point a local dog in his garden spotted us all and started barking, Eiffel froze and Amber abandoned her rescue mission and turned tail and fled back to the boat.  I reassured and called Eiffel and he followed me back over the bridge and to the safety of the boat where he proceeded to do the preening ritual of ‘I don’t know what all the fuss was about’…..

We stayed out and barbequed and let the cats stay out most of the night which was great as we could leave the windows and doors open to stay cool, but we didn’t get a lot of sleep as we were keeping half an ear out for them and they kept coming in and out and bouncing on us to come and play with them……

The following morning was another scorcher and we didn’t have to rush back to Buzet as Mike’s appointment wasn’t until later.  The morning was spent finalising travel arrangements for my dad’s cousin’s daughter, Anne, who was coming to join us for a few days during one of her epic travel sessions.  I had just taken this shot…

Pride comes before a ............
…when a few seconds later the shower pump was triggered, right under Amber’s feet and she got such a start she fell into the canal.  Five years Mike and I have lived on the boat and not fallen in, Amber didn’t make 24 hours…….

So she can swim, we found out – good.   And she swam around the front of the boat and back down the other side looking to get onto the bank, which was impossible, as it was an iron piling.  We were ready, however, having discussed this scenario and made a plan, and had our trusty retrieval net at the ready, which I grabbed, ran to her, shoved the net in front of her, she grabbed it and I grabbed the scruff of her neck and hauled her and the net out.  She ran off (without thanking her servant) into the bushes to dry off.

We were a bit shaken by the episode and Mike was particularly stressed and was starting to question the wisdom of having the cats with us, but I felt it was early days and we should persevere.  A couple of hours later, we corralled them up, reasonably easily and got them on board, ready to leave.  As soon as the engine started, they went under the settee and stayed there for the journey – perfect.

Back at Buzet for the night, our first stop was to Bricomarche for a tap, as just as we were leaving that afternoon, I heard a ringing/dripping sound and we realised the bathroom sink had failed and was no longer shutting off.  Mike then headed to the dentist and I started on the first of my jobs for the afternoon, which should have maybe taken half an hour but I still hadn’t completed by the time Mike returned three hours later.  Everything takes longer in France….. His treatment had been successful and after the dooking incident earlier we decided to cancel shore leave for the crew.

It was an early start on Tuesday morning to fill the water tank and head for Pont des Sables, where we would pick Anne up just after 5pm.  The crew assumed their travelling positions and we had a glorious days cruising arriving at Pont des Sables mid-afternoon.  

Nice easy locks...

More plane trees

Enjoying the view and cool breeze

Feeling quite comfortable on board now.....
The Capitain and staff at the port of Pont des Sables are new and cannot do enough to help – very nice people indeed.  The down side of the evening was that we had planned to eat in the L’Escale restaurant only to find it is only open in the evening Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  All the shops were also shut, so Anne’s first meal onboard Quaintrelle was a hastily put together cheese and meat board, which, as it was so hot, we all agreed was all we were really needing.

The crew were authorised leave overnight and made use of a canalside garden to do whatever crew do when not onboard.  Whilst Eiffel was easily corralled the next morning for cast off, Amber slipped through our fingers – well boat, really – in at one end, shot straight through and out the other before I could get the bloody door shut.  Mike spent a good 30 minutes and a tin of sardines getting her back.  I think she really liked the garden.

Wednesday’s target was Fontet and as we continued along the Lateral de la Garonne, we found ourselves increasingly taken by its sheer beauty and tranquillity (other than yowling crew complaining that their shore leave had been unfairly cut short), only passing the odd boat here and there.  The plane trees are simply magnificent and provide a shady canopy as you cruise along to the soundtrack of bird song and insects.  It’s a gorgeous canal, we love it.  Arriving at Fontet we checked in for the night, then had a bite of lunch at the caf√© before we spent the afternoon swimming and sitting in the shade at the ‘Plage’ – a man-made lake with sandy beach, fully equipped with a lifeguard and lots of families with their collections of inflatable water toys.  As we barbequed the evening meal, the crew enjoyed shore leave in a safe garden environment.

Plane trees and some renovation of the tow path being done.

Our mooring for the night at Fontet

Boat cats
The next day, Thursday, was another milestone for us.  We would reach Castets-en-Dorthe, at the end of the Canal Lateral de la Garonne, marking the end of the canal for us – our furthest point from Strasbourg last June.  We had mixed feelings, excited, cos we like a milestone, but a little melancholy as it felt like reaching the end of everything we planned to do on Quaintrelle in France (even though we will be on new waters on the Baise next week!).  It was another glorious day and the crew having been out all night, were already asleep under the sofa as we prepared to cast off.

Our last downward lock on the Lateral de la Garonne

Coming into Castets-en-Dorthe

For the first time we got held up in a lock, Ecluse 50, having entered the lock, the gates closed behind us, then nothing happened.  There was a tremendous amount of weed in the lock and the canal above and below and it looked like this had stopped the gates from closing properly and allowing the lock to empty.  A quick buzz through to the eclusier on duty and 10 minutes later she was with us and with trusty hook in hand, opened the gates, cleared the weed, closed them again and sent us on our way.
As instructed, we rang Pierre, the Capitain at Castets as we reached Ecluse 51, just above the port and as we reached the start of the port moorings we spotted him on the end of a boat waving and pointing us into our mooring for the night.

Another hot afternoon, we closed the shutters to keep the boat cool and headed off in search of a post box and the little supermarket where we stocked up on necessities like ice creams……… We then walked back from town down to the last lock from the canal which takes you onto the River Garonne.  This is navigable and takes boats up to Bordeaux, but it has a strong tide and is too powerful for us to do.  So we made do with looking at the lock and the river stretching westwards into the distance.  In the evening we had a fantastic meal at the restaurant at the port, Ecluse 52 and then back to the boat to settle down for the night.  At around 1.30am, I was awakened by what sounded like a dog’s squeaky toy, and opened the shutter to see Amber staring in with a squeaking mouse in her jaws….. “You are NOT bringing that in here!” I said, to which she gave a guttural growl, turned and strutted off, tail in the air, most offended at my lack of gratitude.  The rest of the night passed peacefully, well, sort of – but I guess it may be considered a bit rude to mention Anne snoring in the blog…….

....and it would be even more rude to post a picture, so here's one of the crew instead....

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Castelsarassin To Buzet-sur-Baise (Or….The Final (and long awaited) Entry for this year!)

Leaving The Tarn at Moissac to head back up on to the Canal
Well, that’s it for this season’s cruising and whereas previously we’ve lived on the boat over winter, this year we have moved into our house and after much deliberation, I’ve decided that it’s not really fitting to hijack Quaintrelle’s blog of her travels and tribulations with tales from terra firma.  So this entry will close Quaintrelle’s blog for this season and it will recommence as we do with our travels next year. 

But to continue from where we last left off (apologies for such a long delay), the morning of 21 September dawned bright, warm and sunny and we pushed off from Castelsarassin only to pull in after the first lock for Mike to make a quick visit to the large Brico store before Ilona caught up with us and we made our way together to Moissac. 

Fiona and Richard on Ilona following us over the Aqueduct across the River Tarn
We’d reckoned it would take us a couple of hours, but with everything going smoothly we got there a bit quicker much to the surprise of Jim the Capitaine who wasn’t expecting us for another hour.  We pulled into the port and filled up with diesel and then took our lunch break to wait for the lock-keepers to put us through the two locks that would take us down to the Tarn and our mooring.  We headed down to the mooring to find Billy and Jane on Lazybones and it was lovely to see them again.  We hung out there until it was time to move and Billy came with us for the ride.
Exiting the locks from the canal down on to the River and our mooring on the quay there.
Once settled into our spot next to Lazybones we enjoyed a few bottles of fizz with Billy and Jane and Fiona and Richard before all too soon it was time to head to the weekly Port Social in a local bar.  We were introduced to some of the other residents of Moissac Port and had a lovely evening, finished off with more wine on Lazybones – well, it had been ages since we saw them!!
Sunset on the Tarn
Needless to say, we weren’t feeling to sharp the next morning, eventually heading into the market after a dose of paracetomol to ease the heads.  We’re familiar with Moissac as we spent a few nights there in September 2016, and it’s where our beloved Kitty Cate(rham 7) died and had to be taken home on the truck of shame.

Thankfully Quaintrelle did not follow in Kitty Cate’s shoes………

After a lazy afternoon, we joined Fiona and Richard for drinks on Ilona in the evening before heading into town to enjoy a meal at Le Florentine, where I paced myself with a non-alcoholic aperitif!

The next morning provided a slightly cooler start to the day as we bid farewell to Lazybones who headed up the locks just before us, turning right at the top towards Toulouse.  We would be heading left towards our winter mooring at Buzet sur Baise.
Such a nice picture, I've put it in twice! :D
The Canal Lateral de la Garonne is quite delightful on this stretch with trees overhanging the canal and few boats on the move and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise of 17km and 5 locks which took us to the town of Valence d’Agen.
Leaving Moissac through the port which is very popular for over-wintering.  We're just passing Kendra Erin here, Kevin and Michelle's boat, who we travelled with last year.

Waiting for the swing bridge at Moissac.

Much excitement as we pass into our home department; Lot et Garonne
With it being Sunday the town was shut, but it was bigger than we expected and had some interesting statues dotted around the town and a beautiful circular ‘Lavarie’, ancient wash-house.
The unusual round lavarie at Valence
Back at the boat we took advantage of the warm afternoon to polish the paintwork on the starboard side.

There were showers overnight and it was only when we went to cast off the next morning that we realised the gas locker had been left open and everything inside was wettish.  We left it open to dry out and headed off on our 4 hour cruise to Agen where we would meet up with Nikki and Gorette on Puddleduck.  Having only met a handful of people to socialise with over the summer, we were now making up for it, catching up with our friends from Roanne who had headed south at the start of the season.

Moored opposite the hire base in the large basin at Agen, after saying hello to Puddleduck we set off for the VW dealership, where we had ordered car mats and a boot mat for collection for our new car.  We figured they would be too awkward to carry on bikes and couldn’t find a bus so by foot off we went.  As usual, the route seemed much longer and further than predicted on google maps – and this was without getting lost! 

After an exhausting and very dull 8km round trip, carrying flapping boxes all the way back, we celebrated back at the boat that we won’t have to do that again once we pick up the car at Buzet in 48 hours.  The walk of shame along motorway verges is an element of boating life that we have not entirely enjoyed………….  The evening was spent with the girls on Puddleduck catching up on their exploits over the season and enjoying a most delicious curry for dinner.  It wasn’t a late night as we were so knackered after our walk, so much so that we decided to stay put at Agen the next day and take our time to catch up on some chores.  After a coffee with Nikki and Gorette, they headed off back the way we had just come and we got on with stripping back and oiling the worktops.  A rewarding job in that they look fantastic when they’re done, but one of the worst for the dust that it creates!
Looking across at our mooring at Agen.

Nikki and Gorette head off on Puddleduck

While we get on with sanding and oiling......
In the evening we walked to the edge of town and treated ourselves to a kebab for tea.

Another cool morning on 26th September as we headed off but as with the previous few days, once the sun was up it got hotter and hotter and as we were enjoying our cruise decided that we would just push on to Buzet today and stay the night there, which would mean we could take our time in the morning loading up the car before locking up Quaintrelle and heading to the house for winter.  With the weather still being so hot, we hoped to get use of the pool for a few days, but an email from our friend Katie who has been looking after the pool for us put paid to that.  The hard cover was jammed – shut!!  She put in a call for a technician but there would be no swimming for a few days at least.
Crossing the aqueduct coming out of Agen.

The few boats on the move are now making their way to their winter moorings.

Another aqueduct.....
At the last lock of the day, we came face to face with a double red light and gates that were fully open on one side and nearly fully open on the other.  Clearly something was stuck and preventing the lock from operating correctly.  We went into the lock and tied off and I called VNF who said someone would be there in 15 minutes.  Meanwhile a hire boat had pulled up further back and sent someone to find out what was going on.  She asked in French, so I replied in French that the lock wasn’t working and I had called VNF and someone was coming in 15 minutes.  She cocked her head and looked at me quizzically, so I repeated, “Quelqu’un arrive, quinze minutes.”  She shook her head apologetically, “Quinze minutes…” I repeated, nope – she still didn’t get it.  “15 MINUTES. SOMEONE’S COMING IN 15 MINUTES. QUINZE!” Mike offered.  “Oh….” She said, “QUINZE……You are English.”  “Scottish.” I replied, “Ah, you don’t speak French.” She concluded.  I didn’t know what to say to that.  I don’t speak French well but the VNF people on the other end of the phone had understood me……… I felt rather insulted by her as she proceeded to say in fluent English that she didn’t really speak English, French was her second language, she was Swiss German.  “Oh piss off!”  I said, but only in my head.

Anyway, she asked if they could share the lock with us and we said yes (begrudgingly as it would have felt good to make them wait), so she toddled off to report to the rest of her crew and bring their boat in.  Thirty minutes later the eclusier arrived and I pointed out the partly open, stuck gate and said (in French!), I thought there might be something behind it.  Sure enough, after fishing with a large hook, a huge piece of vegetation embedded in a monstrous lump of clayish soil was pulled from behind the gate.  It was so large and heavy that the eclusier couldn’t lift it out so just had to steer it to the side to get it out of the way.  The gates were then closed behind us and we went on our way.

The Swiss then sat up our arse as we continued our voyage, so I pulled over and let them pass, only to pass them again a short while further on as they pulled in to lock down on to the river Baise.  We hope to do the Baise next season.  A few minutes later we passed through the new port at Buzet and a few minutes after that arrived at the old port, Quaintrelle’s home for winter.  We pulled in alongside DB Papillon and went to check in with Kevin and Sara, but it was Wednesday and the restaurant is closed on a Wednesday, so Sandra had a chat with us and said we’d be able to catch Kevin and Sara in the morning.  Finally reunited with our new car, the first thing we had to do was wash it as it was filthy from two weeks of sitting under a tree in the port.  We then started to load up as much of our belongings as we could before having dinner and watching tv.

We had a leisurely start the next morning before doing the rest of the packing, cleaning and some maintenance.  Then it was time for lunch at the restaurant where we caught up with Kevin and arranged making payment for our mooring, passed our contact details onto Sandra, just in case, and all too soon, we were closing up Quaintrelle and tarpauling her rear end (to stop rainwater getting in the engine bay) and getting in the car to head home for winter. 
Getting safely tucked alongside DB Papillon for winter.
It felt a bit surreal.  It was the end of the most amazing season of cruising.  We had clocked up an impressive 2743 kms, rode the Ardviller Inclined Plane up and down, swam in the Med and conquered the Mighty Rhone.  It’s probably the last full season of cruising we’ll do for a few years, now we have a new home to enjoy and new adventures to unfold on Terra Firma, but we couldn’t feel sad as we had had such a fantastic time and were so excited about what was to come!

So what happens to this blog now??  Well, as I said earlier, it doesn’t feel right to hijack Quaintrelle’s blog with housey stuff – this is a blog about Quaintrelle and her travels, our travels, so I will put this to bed now for winter and wish you a ‘Bonne Hiver’ and hope that you will join us on our travels next summer.
Night, night everyone xxx