The Last Journey

Saturday 10th July 2021

Today is Geoff’s escape day, so up early to do some shopping, I move the car back to the port and notice some of the barriers are still in place, oh dear what is happening today.At 10am the streets were packed with excited children, they re ran the parade again. I managed to escape, by using back roads, and Tom Tom, and finally arrived in the hospital to collect Geoff, yippee

Busy streets

Sunday 11th July

Woke up to the usual sunny day again, but sad nevertheless as we have to return the boat  by 0800hrs tomorrow so need to have Daisy “tucked” up in her Bram Marina “bed” by close of play today.  In fact it is doubly sad as for the past 6-days the only use we made of Daisy was to use her as a hotel for Christine whilst I was stuck in Carcassonne hospital, rather than heading along the nicer parts of the canal towards Toulouse.  Oh well there is always another year🤞🤞🤞

Due to the “restrictions” I have!! plus we were unsure if I would even have been on the boat today, ChristIne took the bold move to ask a couple, fortunately English who we had previously chatted to in Trebes, if they would be able to help her take the boat back to Bram.   I think Ray was taken aback by Christine’s directness but after he had time to mull it over with Eithne, they were more than happy to agree, so we waited for their arrival.

As agreed, Ray and Eithne arrived at the appointed time and we slipped our moorings and headed to Bram, 12-kms away and interrupted by 5-sets of locks.   Like me at the beginning of our boat hire, Ray found driving this “tub” with its electric motor, “interesting” at the least!!!!  Like me, he is used to a conventional motorised prop with a good old fashioned rudder, still we were away and the four of us settled down up on the fly bridge, enjoying the surrounding countryside chatting away like old friends.

Enjoying the trip

Arriving at our first lock might have been an issue as ChristIne and I work well as a team, and I have no doubt Ray and Eithne also are a well oiled team, but here we were mixing up the teams!!!   Anyway we completed our passage through this double lock with no trouble so any fears any of us had we’re unfounded.  Heading towards the next lock gave us time for a well earned coffee.

The time passed very quickly as we chatted and laughed our way upstream on the canal du midi, passing through locks without delay as today the canal was unbelievably quiet.  Perhaps it was change-over day.

We arrived at the fourth lock, the advance party, “the girls” went up then returned as the lock was closed for lunch: yes, the French Lock keepers stop all activity whilst they have their lunch at the prescribed hour.  OK, we moored onto the waiting dock and also proceeded to take lunch.   Today was typically French, assorted French cheeses washed down with several glasses of local “Vin Blanc

Lunch over, cleared up, and the lock gates opened so we were off.   Again, we were so busy chatting that we nearly missed our destination, Bram!

Manoeuvring “Daisy” into lock

Adjacent to this very small marina is a bar and restaurant, so after securing Daisy up for the last time, the four of us headed to the bar.  We tried to persuade them to stay and have dinner with us in the restaurant, but unfortunately this evening was the “Euro Cup Final” and they wanted to get back to watch it, still in the mean time the four of us polished off several more bottles of the local “stuff”, which incidentally is extremely quaffable 😁😁 after a very pleasant early evening,  we said our goodbyes, then ChristIne drove them back to Carcassonne.

I had earlier booked a table for dinner, a last supper for the two of us, but as we approached the late afternoon I was getting extremely uncomfortable, so we cancelled and ate on board.

As the evening progressed, ChristIne showered and went to bed, whilst I was watching the final but as the night wore on, I realised I was in trouble.   At 0230hrs, ChristIne dressed and whisked me back to casually at the Carcassonne hospital.   No one waiting this evening, good, as I walked into casualty and was immediately accosted by a very nice security guard preventing me access.  I explained my problem but the duty nurse said nothing could be done for several hours, casualty????   After a few words were “exchanged”  they gave us the address of another clinic 10-minutes away and told us they would help.  This very friendly security chap even keyed it into apple maps on Christine’s phone for us which was kind.   Off we went following the SatNav instructions and as we headed along this country road SatNav told us we had reached our destination, what, there was nothing about here.  By now I was feeling suicidal, the pain was excruciating and here we were in the middle of nowhere.

We knew the address was the road we were on so turned round and headed in the opposite direction, past the road we came on and pitched up at a roundabout and to our most welcome surprise, there was a sign pointing to the clinic, hallelujah!!!

On arrival we parked “right outside” the emergency entrance and I was there, sitting on the bell until a nurse arrived.  I explained my predicament and she in turn asked for certain papers, which naturally were still on Daisy.  At the same time a doctor wandered over to see what was happening, then told me to follow her whilst the nurse agreed whilst I was being sorted, ChristIne would head back to the boat and get all the papers.

Ahhhhhhhhh the relief, thank you doctor; at which point she informed me it was minor, there would be no charging and that I could re-call ChristIne.   Fortunately she had only got halfway back to Bram.    

After some more treatment we headed back in the early hours of the morning.

Monday 12th July

Up early to complete the boat clearance and after a satisfactory inspection, headed back to the hospital; we had to settle our bill!!!

Our intention was to head back using “Peage” all the way as that was the fastest route.  Apart from a couple of comfort stops we we were back home by 1830hrs, a very quick and easy journey.

We are signing off this adventure with a very brief history of this area and in particular the Canal du MIDI.

The Canal du MIDI is a 360-km network of navigable waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels, etc.) and is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering in modern times. It was built between 1667 and 1694, it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution and was an economic boost to the local wine and wheat producers.

The canal was the brainchild of Pierre-Paul Riquet who wrote to a minister of King Louis 14th in 1662  suggesting a waterway was built between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, “Les Deux Meres” this canal is now a world heritage site. Just as a reference point, England at this time had just come out of a civil war and it would be another 76-years before the Sankey canal at 25-Kms long, would be the first canal to be opened in England in 1757, quickly followed by the Bridgwater canal in 1761. 

Middle of nowhere

Unlike England fighting each other, Europe in the 17th century was on the brink of a major philosophical change, an Age of Enlightenment one could say.   They had the grand idea of manipulating nature for human purposes, and the canal was a chance to do just that. It was during the reign of the famously “ostentatious” Sun King, Louis XIV, and the engineering designs of Pierre-Paul Riquet, together with the toil and sweat of 12,000 workers who laboured for 15 years to build the canal, brought enormous economic benefits.

This area of France prior to the canal, was always a region of significance, starting when the Romans arrived in in late BC and more importantly starting the wine industry.

Fresquel triple lock

With Europe in perpetual turmoil through the centuries, this area was no exception and has been fought over many times from the Religious crusaders in the 1100’s then later by the English Plantagenet kings during the Hundred Years’ War, and particularly with the Black Prince reeking havoc in 1535.

Today the canal is mainly used for pleasure craft and hotel boats and a new economy has emerged to support this though in our humble opinion, there is much more potential to be had if some simple basic business rules are applied.

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Tour d’France

Friday 9 July 2021

Up quite late this morning, due to a bad night, brain would not keep quiet, still never mind.  After the usual chores, I decided to wander to the town, and to my horror, we are completely blocked off road wise, barriers were in place, concrete blocks to stop you going anywhere, so no hospital for me until after the Tour d’France is over, poor Geoff will have no one to moan at!

Love the umbrella

I walked up the town to find the market, but it was for meats today, so didn’t need anything, I found a lovely square, where people were having their morning coffee’s, thought of Geoff missing out on all this.  Meandered round the streets, lots of lovely shops, and many of the bigger brands were here.  The smaller shops interested me, several were full of different cheeses, whilst the bakeries, and the chocolate shops, were full of goodies.

One of the busy squares

Back to the boat, and met the man we had seen at Trebes, and told him our woes, we laughed about the taxis, then parted. I was cooking lunch when Ray my new friend came to the boat and has offered to take the boat back to Bram on Sunday, so that’s a load of my mind. So Sunday is taken care off.

Another side street

Later in the day, I went and watched the Tour D’France, they had a massive parade of various floats, police bikes, and eventually the bikes came through, they were so fast, blink and you missed them, still it was interesting watching.

After it was all over I tried to go and see Geoff, it was a nightmare, still locked in, whichever way I went, eventually another charming man moved some barriers for me, and guided me out, bless him, people can be so kind.
Geoff was sitting up, and not expecting me, so I think he was pleased I had come, although he was still loosing a lot of blood clots, I think on Monday the doc will operate, he talked about it yesterday, we will see, but he is not coming out anytime soon.
When I left, to do the ten minute journey home it took me one and a half hours because of road closures and barriers, so the car has a different home tonight, and I walked the rest of the way.  Bedtime calls.

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Tuesday 6 July 2021

Approaching Carcassonne

Having had three hours sleep, it was decision time, shall I collect the car? With taxi’s being expensive and also unreliable, not knowing how long Geoff was going to be in hospital, I decided to go to Bram and get the car, and discuss our problems with the boat people. Another taxi, another 50€ , still I have the car now, so I am free to come and go.
Went into hospital, where Geoff was wired up to many tubes, one feeding him, the others flushing him out, apparently the problem they think is the Radiotherapy he had twelve years ago, apparently it is a common thing, it can cause scarring and blood leaks later, we knew nothing of this.  All I know the poor chap is suffering, hopefully things will be better soon. We are both knackered from lack of sleep so early night.


Wednesday 7 July 2021

I woke after ten hours solid sleeping, feeling so much better today, went to check on Geoff, he has the normal private room with en-suite, but unlike Spain I cannot stay!Also the food is better than Spain, well it certainly could not be worse!In the evening I wondered around the town, to have a look, then back home to bed.

Thursday 8 July 2021

Up bright and early, filled the water tank, did some washing, then caught the bus to the old City, it certainly is a fantastic place, I managed to get there before it was overrun with tourist.  Walked all around, went into several of the small shops, but only tempted by a magnet.
Situated on the right bank of the Aude, the City, a medieval village that is still inhabited, has 52 towers and two concentric walls totalling 3km in length.  Open at night as well as during the daytime, a large part of the medieval city can be seen on unguided tours by visitors.   History is Geoff’s department not mine!

Having been here before I didn’t bother with a tour, I enjoyed a walk, and people watching as they were all piling in, to see this enchanting place.

Tiny streets with tiny shops

I then headed to the bus stop, when No.4 came I popped on, the driver tried to say something but I didn’t understand, so I gave him my €1 and off we went.  Quickly realised he was not going down to the town, but other places, so I enjoyed a scenic trip all around, we finally came back to the castle, and eventually went down to the Port, oh well I enjoyed the ride.
Back on “Daisy”, I grabbed a snack before going onto the hospital, Geoff had been for a scan, and the doctor reported back that it was all clear, they were taking the catheter out, and all he had to do was pee normally, then he could go home tomorrow.   It’s amazing that after 12 years the scarring from the radiotherapy causes problems today, let’s hope it is not a regular occurrence.  Oh dear Catheter back in, so another day tomorrow while they decide what to do!

Just one of the many restaurants

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Heading for trouble

Monday 5th July

Woke up in Trebs, and the weather was back to normal.

OK, it’s Monday and hopefully we will get to see a doctor.  Catriona has very kindly said she would organise one for us, living in France and speaking French like a native and knowing the system, perfect.

Soon after breakfast we received a message from Catriona, appointment booked for 11.00am and gave us the address.  When I plugged the address into SatNav the results was impressive, the surgery was 3-minutes away.  Many thanks Catriona, you’ve done it again👍👍👍👍

Opposite our moorings, lots of cafes and restaurants

At the appointed time we arrived at the Doctor’s and after about a five minute wait, we were in.   Fortunately during the morning I had written a short history of what had happened over the past week or so and thanks to Google translate, hey presto, it was all in French.   When he had sat down I presented my ‘phone to him with fingers crossed the translate actually meant something; we’ve experienced times when “facts go in, and dribble comes out” but fortunately not on this occasion, he understood and between his moderate English and my poor French, we made headway.    After blood pressure and Temperature tests followed by a “cursory” examination, as predicted he said I had an infection and needed antibiotics and gave me a prescription.  He also told me to go the the Health Laboratory and have a urine test before swallowing the antibiotics tablets, but he said due to my “age” (red rag to a bull) I must get a taxi as it was about a 20-minute walk.  We had a quick look to see if there was such a beast but no, so with the help of good old SatNav, we headed out; it was hot though, on the Pharmacy Sign it recorded 35-degrees.

Anyway, 20-minutes later, up hill 🥵🥵 we walked into the laboratory.  Who would have thought such a small sleepy town would have a very large complex of laboratories!!!   No queue so immediately given a container, which struggled to fill as I had just stopped en-route, handed it back in, paid my dues and was told I would get the results on line, on Wednesday and gave me the address, password and case number to achieve this; hopefully!!!!

Back down the hill and 20-minutes we were back on board; at my age” huh.

After a quick lunch we were on our way, Carcassonne being our target.  The canal up this end is much more interesting but the price is more locks.  This journey is only 13 kms and     6- big and deep locks and there is more traffic so it was slow progress but more importantly there is a big hospital in Carcassonne and we can also moor-up in the centre of town, and should we need further medical treatment, this was handy.

As we progressed it was becoming blatantly clear my infection wasn’t going away and though I had taken two antibiotics pills, there was not even a small relief.

We arrived into the port basin and had a choice of berths so chose no-13, probably not the best choice under the circumstances, however we did fly from Antigua to Gatwick on Friday 13th at the start of the COVID thing so🤞🤞🤞🤞.

Fresquel triple lock

Resting after a days pottering on the canal usually brings things back to “sort-of-normal”  so After dinner a couple of games of cards and then watching a re-run of the England V USA. Game from Twickenham we were hoping for improvement, but half way through the second half the decision was made to head to the hospital.  By this time it was dark and fairly late but fortunately the main station was across the canal so picked up a taxi very quickly and on arrival he dropped us off at A&E.   

Fresquel triple lock

There was a queue outside we think but hey, by-pass that, I am in trouble.

To cut a long boring story short, I was admitted and am writing this from my room in this massive hospital.

But that’s not all.   Whilst all this was happening to me, poor ChristIne had to sit outside with all the people we thought were in the queue but fortunately it didn’t turn out to be a queue of people waiting admission but rather people like ChristIne waiting for news.   COVID regulations, again!

Once the decision has been made to admit me, ChristIne had to get home and the 24hour Taxi company I had a card for, actually didn’t operate 24hours, and though the hospital ‘phoned on her behalf, it looked increasingly as if she would have to spend the night sitting and shivering outside A&E.

But we all know ChristIne is resourceful and she “collared” some poor old Frenchman (Not a word of English did he speak, good old google!) after he had deposited someone to the hospital she then “persuaded” him  “can you please drop me at the port”!!!!  “Oui Madame” he replied so ChristIne got back to Daisy, albeit in the early hours of the morning ( 2.45am )safe and sound; Thank you Monsieur, whoever you are, what a great chap

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Wet Sunday

Sunday 4th July

We woke up to rain, ouch not really wanting this! Still hopefully it won’t last but the forecast wasn’t too kind about being overcast.  After breakfast we donned our cagoules, and we were off.  Fortunately the rain eased so we didn’t get too wet though the sky looked full of it all morning.   

Very grey day…..

The canal was even less busy, probably due to most holidaymakers being “fair-weather” French folk!

We haven’t described “Daisy” and sometime in the future we will not remember the details of layout etc., and we will be annoyed; an age thing you know!!!!

We are 9.5-meters in length, designed to take 4-adults and that’s a joke.  Yes there are two doubles but minimal space if both put down.  In the centre on the port side is the self-contained head and directly opposite on the starboard side is a wet room with a very good shower.  There are two modesty panels that pull out to give privacy when needed.

Daisy going into lock

Being just the two of us we’ve made the forward bed up, and the stern bed during the day is the dining table as it is directly opposite the galley.  We don’t know where the table goes when this double bed is in use!  As I said, ideal for two.

Opposite our bed is the inside helm which wasn’t used until we realised we were spending all day in the heat of the sun which was made unbearable once we had lost our parasol.  So we go down in the heat but still have to be up top to control the boat when going in and out of the locks.   ChristIne is obliged to be on the chamber wall and I throw the lines to her.   These are big deep locks and being on the fly ridge makes throwing the lines easier.

Daisy being a sort of “tub” with an electric propellor that we think is also the rudder, control is interesting, I hope this isn’t the future or if so, re-design everything to make the system more efficient 

Raining and grey but we are happy!

Having said all this, we are very comfortable and very glad we’ve done it.

The rain eased by lunchtime and by mid afternoon our cagoules were drying in the sun along with the bits of washing we had done.

One of the many fields of vines…..

Sunday night was spent in “Trebs” a very small un-interesting French town with plenty of empty mooring spaces; I wonder why!!!   We moored directly behind an English couple who, in their “Steel Cruiser” had been circumnavigating the European Canals for the past few years, and they intend to keep doing so.  They try and do 6-months a year, broken into a number of visits. They now have to work out the best plan for their circumstances bearing in mind the 90 day rule in 180 days now U.K. have left eu.  Just as an aside they voted “out” even knowing it might screw up their holiday life!!!

Force if water going into lock is amazing!

On the opposite quay were a number of bars and restaurants all doing good business, nice to see.

Tonight we had the Sunday Family Zoom chat  and then it was the Austrian Grand Prix highlights and the 1st Lions match on tour in South Africa to catch up with, followed by bed.

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Le Somail

Saturday 3rd July

Being a very hot night, surrounded by Pine trees and of course on the water, leaving the windows open wasn’t the best idea, however we either took our chances or slept in a sauna; we took our chances and boy did we suffer, we were both bitten by midges, we both suffered and disturbed each other during the night.  When morning arrived it was a welcome relief, and as we were still on mains with water on tap, straight into the shower.

Apart from the “midges” last night, we are in a very pretty and peaceful spot and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast discussing amongst other things whether we were bitten by “Midges” or “Mosquitoes”; I said Midges and ChristIne said Mosquitoes, who knows, but they “nipped” us!!!

The local grocers

Off we went, our next stop “Le Somail” where according to “the book” there is a grocery shop on a Dutch barge, which is very important as we need a few basic provisions.  The other place of interest is an “Madame Gourgues antiquarian bookshop shop”: this village was also a staging post during those heady days when there were passenger boats plying their trade transporting people from end to end, a four day trip.  We travelled the two and a bit kms arriving in time for an early coffee, but no, chores had to be done first so off we pottered to the water-based grocer and replenished our cupboard with wine, and oh yes, some other minor essentials.   Opposite the grocer’s barge was the wonderful book shop mentioned, so naturally had to pay a visit.  Goodness me, how many books are there here, the aisles  between the bookshelves were quite narrow as they had squeezed in extra shelves, at the rear there was a mezzanine floor, probably held up by the book shelves below!! And naturally full of books.  They seemed to have everything, well in French anyway.   I know Hay-on-wye is famous for secondhand book shops but I reckon this shop held as many books as all the shops in Hay put together.   If that wasn’t enough, in the centre they had display cabinets showing the rare valuable editions, naturally under lock and key!!!!

Madame Gougues antiquarian bookshop

Back to Daisy for coffee and a brandy before heading off to Argens where we hoped to find a pharmacy.

Amazing place

Apart for a short stop for lunch, we motored on and arrived in the original Marina where we knew we could get help in finding an open Pharmacy, being Saturday afternoon we were a little worried.  With their help they located a chemist and they organised a taxi for us.   

We don’t know how lucky we are in Spain where you can get medicines over the counter with little problem, but we were informed that here no antibiotics, whatsoever, are sold without a prescription, oh dear after all that, so back to the boat with some herbal stuff instead.

Le Somali, pretty little village

Back on board and we headed out, our intention was to leave before the “fresh intake” of boaters got going.  We watched several of them receiving their “instructions”, made us wary hence our eagerness to be out in front!!!

Arrived at our next lock accompanied by two other boats, the canal from now on looks more spectacular so we are pleased about that though to achieve it the original builders have added many more locks for good measure!!!!!

On route

My little problem became more of a bigger issue so when we arrived at Homps, we moored up for the night.   When we collected the boat we paid extra to get mobile WiFi, and after dinner, thanks to “Martin”, who sorted me with a U.K. VPN, we were able to watch the Austrian GP qualifying on Channel 4; many thanks Martin.  ChristIne was also able to join “the girls” for the usual Saturday “chat”.

With my little problem and knowing I would be “up-and-down like a fan dancers draws” we decided to make up the spare bed using the plastic seat covers from outside, just in case!!!

We both had disturbed nights unfortunately and in the morning we woke up to rain; whatever next!!

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