Tuesday, September 18, 2012


While we had the rental car we visited the 2.5 hectare  water lilly garden of Latour-Marliac, where over 200 varieties of water lillies are grown in the cultivation pools.The nursery was founded in 1875 by Latour -Marliac for the propagation of water lilies. At the time there was only one hardy white water lily in Europe. He was able to cross this with other wild varieties & build up a collection ranging in colour from delicate yellow to deep red & export all over the world. Monet was inspired by his water lillies & decided to grow them himself, at his home at Giverny, hence, his water liliy paintings, known as Nympheas.
Victoria, Giant water lily. This water lily, sets flowers that measure one foot across. The leaves, (pads) can become four feet in diameter. The Victoria is a nocturnal & hermaphrodidic plant. Each flower blooms for only two nights. On the first night the flower is female, being white, & smelling strongly of pineapple. On the second night the flower becomes male, turning deep pink. The flower is pollinated the 1st night  by a type of beetle native to the Amazaon River basin. When the flower closes up in the morning, the beetles are trapped inside, & it is in trying to escape that they spread the flowers's pollen. The head gardener at the Duke of Devonshire's estate, Chatsworth, named it Victoria, in honour of the Queen.
Lotus. The lotus has enormous leaves that grow high out of the water & has peony-like flowers. Each flower lasts three to five days, after which the petals fall away to reveal a conical seedpod that resembles a water can spout. The leaves, roots & seeds of the lotus are edible. The plant has a long history as a religious symbol, particularly in India. It grows in Europe as a perennial, but,grows best in regions with lots of sunlight
Sometimes, during the summer months on NZ we find we get really itchy bites which are caused by a very tiny black insect like a small sandfly. In France they call them flees. They have been about for the last 8 weeks & are most annoying as they spit a juice (that is what causes the itch) which stains the paintwork on Boats & is most difficult to remove. We tried all sorts of cleaners & with lots of rubbing made some impression. Recently we were told about a chlorine based liquid which is diluted, applied & left fror 5 minutes, then rinsed off & voila! , we have a nice clean boat.
One day we stopped at an extremely interesting museum which was owned by an elderly couple & housed their collection of minerals, fossils, coral, sand & shells, which they had gathered during their travels around the world.
They explained  about the development of  the earth & how all the different coloured minerals etc were formed. It was so informative.
Stromatilites. These fossils can be found dating back to 3.5 million years. They have grown from an algae, which was the first to produce oxygen, which modified the composition of the atmosphere on earth to enable the creation of the first animals. Stromatolites consume carbon dioxide & release oxygen by photosynthesis metabolism.


We went as far as Meilhan on the Canal lateral de Garonne, about 70km from Bordeaux, then turned back & are making our way towards our winter mooring. The weather is a little cooler now.

Barry eating his favourite cake from the pattisierre. - A Paris Brest


A bridge on the Baïse River

A log 1/2 a metre  long  x 1/3 metre in diameter which prevented the lock gate from opening

An old building in Nérac on the Baïse

Barry driving Cézanne    ...Nérac on the Baïse

A croustade

Buzet, where we left Cézanne while we were away

The barge removing the tree which had fallen across the Garrone canal. At the stern of the barge there is a long pole which has been lowered to the bottom of the canal to keep the barge stable when it lifts each heavy piece of log from the water

The last big piece of tree being removed

Judy & Neville spent 2 days with us during mid July, then we had a few days socialising with couples on 2 Australian boats, before Michael & Celia joined us for 8 days. We took them up the Baïse River to Valence- sur- Baïse which is as far as one can go on this River  Twice we had a  problem with the lock (écluse) gates, as logs & bits of wood can prevent them from opening & closing There is a telephone at each lock. If there is a problem one can phone the éclusier , who comes with equipment to remove the offending wood. He usually uses  a type of fork with long strong prongs, bent at a right angle. In NZ we call them a drag fork & use them for cleaning drains.
One evening for desert we sampled a croustade, a tart made of filo pastry, apple & armagnac, which is similar to cognac. Croustade is a speciality of pâtissieres (pastry, cake makers) in the area.  It is a round tart. The filo pastry top is crunched into small peaks before it is baked. Prior to serving, the tart is sprinkled with a small bottle of armagnac,which is then lit. This gives more flavour & helps to make the top crunchy.
Armagnac grapes are grown on sandy soil. The wine is distilled only once, giving the spirit a lower alcohol content but more flavour. Aged in local black oak, armagnac matures quickly, so young armagnacs are relatively smoother than corresponding cognacs.
Some days we were able to get TV coverage of the Olympic games & saw NZ competing in the horse events & winning 2 gold medals in the rowing events.
On the 1st August we took a train to Bordeaux, where we picked up a eurolease rental car which we have had for 4 weeks. It is to be returned tomorrow.
Now we are at the port of Damazan. Damazan is a smallish French village.On Saturday a large tree fell across the canal near here, haulting all boat traffic. A big barge with a crane on it arrived on Monday morning, creating a lot of interest, as it removed the tree, in pieces, from the canal.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tour De France time in France

A garden in Toulouse.

On Friday 29th June, we took the train to Bordeaux, where there was a wine festival, for 4 days. We stayed 2 days, sampling Bordeeaux wines. There were tasting pavillions along the foreshore. We visited Millésima, a fine wine sales outlet. They sold quality wines, only with corks made from the cork tree. we were shown a large bottle of champagne in a metal box, priced at 3000 euros.
At 11pm one night, we saw a 400 sq. M. light show on the Palais de la Bourse. That was followed at 11.30 by a fireworks dispay which was extremely noisy but didn't last long.
As our main course one evening we decided to sample Calamari (squid) with a black ink sauce. The black ink was from the sack of the calamari. Our meal was black, different & a bit tasteless.

Bordeaux wine festival. Along the foreshore
Bordeaux wine festival. Along the foreshore
On Sunday 1st July we flew to Bristol. where we hired a rental car & drove to a B & B in Goodrich, Herefordshire. Lindsay & her parents , Alan & Barbara also joined us there.. The purpose of our visit was cider tasting & to visit that area of England which which we had not seen much of previously.. The countryside is very green & picturesque. It rained every day except for the day we returned to France. We visited cideries. I had cider with lunch & dinner. Barry mostly drank ale, which he likes as he finds it has more flavour straight from the tap & not chilled, as beer is in NZ.
Ledbury, Herefordshire in the rain
 The Cathedrals in Ledbury & Hereford were impressive. At Hereford Cathedral we saw the Mappa Mundi & Chained Library. These are two of Britains most important historical treasures.& are displayed in the new library building with displays of rare books, documents & artefacts dating from the 8th Century..
The Hereford Mappa Mundi is the largest surviving complete medieval world map. It is made of velum (calf skin), I think it must have been a big calf!. During Medieval times people had no idea that NZ & countries in our part of the world existed.. At the Cathedral we also saw the Hereford 1217 Magna Carta.
One day we visited Barry's 3rd cousin, who lives in Shropshire. He has been in contact with her during genealogy research. we had a very interesting day. She gave Barry some documents which she had inherited from her Great Grandfather.
Maise with sunflowers in the distance
On the 5th July we returned to Moissac. Trevor & Isabel joined us the next day. We spent 6 days travelling on the canal de Garrone & then the Baïse River. I had a rest from doing much of the rope work as Trevor was happy to go ashore with a card to activate the mechanism which starts the opening or shutting of the lock gates & emptying or filling of the water, then help with the ropes around the bollards & back to the boat.
Nérac, on the Baïse River is one of the most beautiful towns we have visited in France..
Our turning around point on the Baïse was at Condom. (Nothing to do with the device!) This was once a busy River port where barrels of Armagnac & rolls of cloth were landed onto barges on their way towards the Garrone & Bordeaux.
The Three Muskateers & D'Artagnan, at Condom
Now we are making our way back to Argen.

Cooked escargots in the foreground, ready for sale at the evening market in Vianne

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moissac in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France.

After waiting 2 days for a new throttle cable from Marseille, we continued on our way & spent the night at a quiet bankside mooring. The next day we did a side trip on the Montech/Montbauban canal to Montauban, which is a delightfull city with a large pedestrian area. We bought a new TV dish as the previous one was broken under some trees when the throttle cable broke.
Last year an old lock was reopened. Now boats can go into the Tarn River, so we travelled the 9km's up river & had  a very peaceful stay. The next day we returned do the Garonne canal & arrived in Moissac today. This is where we will be leaving Cezanne for the winter. We are also leaving Cezanne here when we go to Bordeaux & England,later in the week.

Location of Moissac in France.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garrone Canal

Yesterday we left Toulouse & the Midi & are now on the Garrone canal.

Garonne Canal

We enjoyed our  5 Days stay in Toulouse.  It is a city full of high rise apartment buildings. The port, which is very pleasant & well run is in the city centre. There were interesting shops & all the buildings which we saw looked well cared for. There is a large park near the Port. On sunday we went to a big market. We bought  some catalanise olives which Barry says are the nicest olives he has ever tasted.
As we neared the 8th lock on the Garonne we lost our throttle control. As a result we did not have enough power to either steer or reverse. We have found a person who can get us a new throttle cable. Maybe tomorrow it will arrive in Toulouse. Meanwhile we are securely tied up with the main railway line 25 M  from Cezanne. It is not so bad as there are very few trains during the night.
location of where we are stranded with no throttle, train line is behind the trees...
close to a castelnau-d'Estretefonds  which looks like it might be worth a look... a little village just nearby, with population 5000 and a castle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Downhill to Bordeaux

 It is now all downhill to Bordeaux.
The canal du midi is picturesque with plane trees along both sides. Some of the tress have a virus & are being cut down.
There were vineyards in the fields until Homps.---10 days after leaving Agde.  The small villages along the way all had wine sales of the local wines. Most of them sold wine on tap. We could take along a container to get filled for a minimal price. Now in the fields there are young sunflower plants, cereal crops & sweet potatoes, growing.
We have had a variety of weather. Hot sunny days & cool days. Now we are having a thunderstorm & rain.
All the locks, which are an oval shape, have been uphill but oday we reached the summit-----------the parting of the waters between the 2 seas. The Mediterranean & the Atlantic. Now it will be downhill locks which are much easier.
In 1663 Pierre paul Riquet, a salt tax collector, travelled to Versailles & was able to convince the finance minister & Louis X1V of the value of his project to build a canal joining the 2 seas.
The digging began in 1666. The canal was filled with water in 1681 & has operated without interruption since then. Most of the original constructions are still present. There are many little humpback bridges, built on a shoe string at a time when Riquet had no more money.
Today we visited an obelisk erected by Riquet's descendants in the mid 19th century which commemorates his incredible achievment. He died 6 months before the canal was opened.

A plane tree ringbarked, ready to be removed.

Cezannes, parked for the night beside a humbacked bridge.
Grapes growing beside the canal.

looking over the bow, where we are parked for tonight.

The parting of the waters.

The Obelisk dedicated to Mon. Riquet.