So, farewell to Paris and on to Carcassonne. Because we got a late start due to our car issues, the decision was made to travel on the Autoroute. It took us 7 1/2 hrs to travel from the outskirts of Paris to Carcassonne and the tolls were €27 ie $40 to travel the distance from Calgary to Kelowna. Needless to say, we are going to try to avoid the toll highways.
Carcassonne is the site of the oldest citadel in France dating back to the 4th century. While it was interesting, I think I have seen enough of citadels. It is amazing though to walk on something that is 2500 years old and it makes one wonder what have we built today that will still be standing in 2500 years. Not much I would say. Heck, the colosseum in Edmonton didn’t even make 50 years.
So off now to Homps to pick up our boat to tour the Canal du Midi. But wait. What’s that? Our boat is in Colombiers and we have to pick it up there. No problem, but we have to drop the boat off in Homps. What’s wrong with this picture. We drop the boat off in Homps but our car is in Colombiers where we start the journey. No problem. We can solve this. So off to Colombiers. But wait. What’s that? Our car won’t start. Oh no - a flat battery. Back to Citreon who again were excellent in helping us and two hours later we were on our way but once again having to travel on the toll highway.
Finally, we arrive at Homps where we are to leave our car and are transported to Colombiers to pick up our boat. What’s that. It needs a little repair? Five minutes you say? Ok. Several hours later we are on our way. We travel a total of 45 minutes that first day when we reached the first lock. But we decide to bunker down for the night on the shore and go through the locks the next day. Uh oh! Problems! Our toilets are not working. Well, let’s run the motor for a while and they should be working in the morning. No such luck. Six seniors waking up in the morning and not able to use the toilets and moored at shore nowhere near a toilet. Our call to the base for help resulted in a mechanic coming to fix it but unfortunately he can’t as the alternator is gone. So we have to go back to the base - a 45 minute trip. Keep in mind, we still haven’t been able to use a toilet. When we finally docked, it was a B-line for the WC. So almost 24 hours later we are back where we started from.
We finally get under way and soon we face our first lock. Did I say lock? I should have said locks as there are seven locks in a row one after another. It is actually a drop of 22 meters ( 70ft). That is why it needs seven locks. We timed it just right as it allows passage of boats in one direction only at certain times of the day. There were 3 boats going through the locks at the same time and one of the boats were people from Calgary. They were telling us they had a little car trouble on their first day. They used gas instead of diesel as well.
The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO world heritage site built in the 1600’s. It is really a marvel of engineering for that time. It was built originally to provide a shipping route for the movement of goods to the Mediterranean Sea and then to world markets. Today, it is primarily used by tourists in their boats as well as a small amount of commercial traffic. It has changed very little from the 16th century. The Canal passes over several rivers and in order for that to happen aqueducts were built. It felt weird being in a boat on water going over water.
The one thing that has changed is the amount of plane trees that are lining the Canal. These are beautiful trees that overhang the water. In the US they are known as sycamore trees. Unfortunately they have a disease that is slowly killing them. It was explained to us that the artillery boxes carrying the guns for the US army in WW 11 were made from the sycamore tree but they brought a bacteria with them. It has slowly been annihilating the trees here. You can see patches where new trees have been planted but between each lock it is a now a different kind of tree. Not just plane trees. At one point, we came across a work crew removing the dead trees. The whole section was dead. They then put the cut down tree on a barge and take it to the burning spot where they are burnt immediately. It is really sad to see such beautiful old trees cut down and burned.
Audrey and Tom have been our Captain and co-captain but we are really starting to wonder about them. Audrey tried to wash her hair in white wine and Tom took a swig of olive oil thinking it was water??? Tom has done a great job of driving the boat and John and Rob and Audrey have been hearty assistants.
Day 2 - We are now well away from the base and moored by a farmer’s field, cows and all. Robbie is off to use the toilet and all we hear is ‘oh no, oh no!’ Yep. No toilet flush. However, this time, after running the engine for a while, we were able to flush. Phew!!
Day 4 on the boat and we have RAIN. Day 5 - RAIN. Day 6 - RAIN. Day 7 - date to return the boat - sunshine. I have learned from this experience that I am not a boat person especially when it rains. I like the comfort and dryness of dry land. This has been a different travel experience for us but now - been there, done that. I have also learned how wasteful we are. I thought I conserved water and power a lot. But that is nothing compared to what you have to do on a boat. Water and electricity are valuable and ever increasingly expensive resources. We all have to learn to conserve our resources.
Back at the boat base and ready to load up our van and on to the next stop. Uh oh. You guessed it, dead battery. Six hours and two boosts later ( we only made it about a km on the first boost when it quit and we had to push it out of an intersection), we are sitting at the Citreon dealership waiting for our van to be fixed. The mechanic found the problem. It was a sensor that was not working so power was being drained from the battery when the car was parked. However, he can’t get the part. He did give us a solution. Every time we are parked for a good length of time, the battery has to be disconnected. So we are going to live with this. Citreon offered to give us a rental car but it won’t work with dropping it off in Rome.
On now to the French Riviera and our first night at Frejis/St Raphael.