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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