Saturday

October 6, 2007

A long slow trip back up the Canal Garone reaching the fabulous 4 locks and bridge passing over the river and several roads. All made a little difficult by a boatload of Germans insisting on pushing in behind the delightful Dutch couple behind us. Why is it that those of a Tuetonic persuasion, when travelling just keep on reinforcing the clichés. I struggled bravely not to shout at them in my mock German accent! Tonight we found a splendid local bar with a big screen to watch the All Blacks defeat France………..BUT, It was not to be. The French won, of course and the bar went beserk. Every car in Agen was driving through the streets within minutes honking horns continuously jn marvellous celebration. As we walked to the bar before the game, someone had stuck a handmade sign on a lamp post – written on it, the now prophetic observation that “TOUT E POSSIBLE’ Good on them!

Friday

October 5, 2007

Well, the birds chattered all night, waking me a me a couple of times in the process. In a surge of early purpose, Ande and Merilyn have gone to look at yet another church and Alan, to his traditional morning pastry. I’m soooooo overcooked on the products of the goodly boulangiers that I’ll make do with a strong coffee. This morning we shall, reluctantly leave the beautiful Nerac and start back in the direction of Buzet.

Thursday

October 4, 2007

Left the beautiful Vianne this morning and slowly motored down the canal past fabulous ruins and forests with duck accompaniment. Sun filtered through soft poplars. Hardly anyone else on the canals this morning as we manoeuvred through a series of five locks. Crew now very well co-ordinated – shall mention them all in despatches at a later date. Just after midday we arrived at our southernmost port of Nerac – a considerably larger town and another (insert own cliché here) ridiculously beautiful spot. Wandered about the town, found a charcuterie specialising in duck stuff and bought some very interesting looking duck sausages and some more confit, for tomorrow night. We shall all explode imminently. Fantastic (12th Cent) chateau built by (I don’t think he did ALL of the hammering personally) Henri 4th and a Romanesque (ish) church with wonderful windows and the most appalling frescoes. Look like they were painted by a troup of volunteers! There are now suddenly thousands of birds in the trees by the canal. It’s bedtime for them.

Next day

October 3, 2007

Off to Nerac (we thought). So caught up in the beauty of everything that we missed a turn in the river and went a few ks in the wrong direction. However we did get to see parts of the river rarely travelled and huge numbers of heron flying in front of the boat. Soooooo – back in the other direction and on to the most exquisite town that we’ve seen so far. The walled 13th cent village of Vianne. A Templar church of incredible beauty and simplicity. Bought some fabulous ready mades at the store – cassoulet, mozzarella and tomatoes, Roc de Puisseguin St Emillion 2002 – a fabulous wine, perfectly balanced. Delicious fruit at the front, tannins perfectly poised at the back where they belong. This is the best red tasted on the trip to date.

We’re moored at the base of the village by a weir, the sounds of the waters tumbling over the stone face gently invigorating, the still substantial remains of a large mill that must date back at least 5 centuries to our port. The contrast with the last town we stayed at is poignant. This town feels as though the folks here are having a pretty good time. They live in such incredible beauty, one would have to be monstrously misanthropic not to appreciate the legacy left by SO MANY generations before them.

Every landowner has exactly the same amount of land – to quote a rather freeform translation from the French in a local brochure; “All the streets results at the place and their cross sections are in right angles: it’s an hortogonal plan, because any dweller receive same plot for garden and for build house” Amazingly democratic for the 13th century, I thought.

Tuesday night

October 2, 2007

– after dinner on the good ship Mas de Agenais dans la canal at Buzet sur Baise

Potatoes roasted in duck fat (all polyunsaturated, naturellement) from the confit du canard, an extravaganza last night, straight from a tin! Damn, these people know how to put their goodies together. Beautiful, fresh vine ripened tomatoes, lettuce, fresh from some garden nearby and an unspeakably tasty sausage, bought from the supermarche in Agen.

We started the day by working though a series of three canal locks, passing over the highway and another river in the process. Quite apart from the engineering ingenuity, the beauty of it was eye watering. Then mile after mile of glorious quiet waterways, extraordinary old farmhouses with attached barns, most of them in very good nick but not overly concerned with getting the lines too straight – lots of sagging rooves and interesting angles – perfect in their inperfection. Hawks swooping upon the carrion rabbits and field mice – quite a menu below if you’re a hawk around these parts.

The very small town of Buzet sur Baise has a rather strange feel to it. Many of these towns are not quite the rural idyll that we conjure up. In fact, this town has a rather bedraggled, deserted and slightly desperate feel to it. The people do not seem happy – windows shuttered up, closed off, not much happening at all. I think they survive on the income from the tourist season which is now over. Not much of a life if you’re a teenager trying to find an identity or a future. The only option for anyone with some imagination would be to leave town. The charming 65 or 70ish woman running the bar in town however was the perfect model of our clichés. Ah! For some businesses, trade is never a problem in France.