Sunday 2 October 2011
Villepinte to Villesequelande
Getting into the rhythm of life on the canal. Today is the first day we’re able to sleep in and everyone welcomes the extra shut-eye. As usual, Captain Rick is one of the first up and he prepares his excellent trademark breakfast, a crew ritual, including scrambled eggs with some salty, flavorful bacon (purchased in Castelnaudary), fresh croissants (picked up by Rick on an early morning bike ride into Villepinte), jam, and coffee.
At some point during the night, the bathroom electronics reset and all lights return to green. Nevertheless, we call Le Boat to have them come check it out. Though we feel as if we’re miles from anywhere, it takes the Le Boat technician less than five minutes to get to us from Castelnaudary. Within half an hour, he’s fixed the problem.
We pull up the gang-plank and get under way in time to make it through the first two of the day’s four locks before we have to stop for lunch. With our previous day’s experience under our belts, and the more leisurely pace of eleven fewer locks on the route today, we do well and there are no major incidents.
Each lock continues to be more charming than the last, stone and terra cotta cottages with green wood shutters, surrounded by lovely Mediterranean plantings. Lock keepers are friendly but not chatty, most of them controlling the lock doors by a remote control they wear around their waist, communicating with each other up-and-down the waterway via walkie-talkie.
At 12:30, we stop for lunch, eating up on deck under the shade of overhanging plane trees. (Canal traffic stops between 12:30-1:30 when the lock keepers break for the midday meal.) Afterward, we push off and pass through the third lock of the day and tie up to shore near the town of Bram, again under the canopy of the tall trees that line the bike path along the canal. We walk half an hour into town, traveling on a path lined by more plane trees. Bram is known for its town center, built in concentric circles.
Strolling the sleepy town of Bram. It’s Sunday, so Bram is mostly deserted. Every shop is closed; only a beauty salon and Chinese restaurant appear to be open. Other than a few groups of kids playing in the park, not many locals are out and about. We cross paths with fellow canal cruisers from Southern California, searching in vain for a grocery store. Having done quite a bit of research on each stop we might make along the canal, we mention to them more than once that it’s Sunday, nothing will be open; after circling the town center twice, they discover what we say is true. One person in their party suggests we all crash the Chinese restaurant together, but we beg off. That’s definitely not on our culinary tour of the South of France.
We walk back to the boat, eager to get down the canal in time to make our final lock of the day. What follows is a gorgeous twisting-turning, gentle ride along the most beautiful section of the canal that we’ve seen so far. The light at the end of the day and the chorus of lightly fluttering leaves overhead are in perfect combination. We drift along peacefully. It’s altogether perfect.
Overnight in Villesequelande. Gliding under the last bridge of the day, we arrive at our destination, Villesequelande. A gentleman from one of the other boats moored along the shore comes over to catch our line and help pull us in. We’re “home” for the night. Laundry is hung on the rails up top, cheese and bread make for a pre-dinner snack, and Anne manages to string enough hose together to reach the water spigot to top off our water tanks.
Tonight, dinner is on board. Rick and Mary prepare roast chicken and while it’s cooking, we all gather on deck to watch the sunlight fade as we sip the complimentary champagne from our Le Boat gift basket.
We eat in the galley, sitting around the large dining table loaded with chicken, pasta, salad, bread, and two bottles of red wine, Minervois, of course. Everything is delicious. Over dinner, we discuss our plans for tomorrow and laugh as conversation turns to misadventures of the day and from trips past in the BVIs.
Clicking on any of the photos above will take you to my Flickr site where you can see more photos from the trip.