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Published: August 29th 2010
The Locaboat experience is to be shared by, Kevin, Caroline, Stephen, Sue, Kathy (All Russell-ites) and Brenda, Russell and Gary (friends of Stephen and Sue's from Auckland).
The representative of the company explains the ins and outs of the boat and is rather sheepish as he tells us that the boat has a holding tank, but there are no pump-out stations on the canal. All of the effluent goes into the River Baise and the Canal Garronne. Yes, the turd police are lacking and what has worked for centuries continues into the 21st century. There are several companies that are running very lucrative boat businesses on the river and the Garronne canal, and we Kiwi's are very surprised that there is not a single pump out station or even a pump-out truck. What is also surprising is the French Govt. or the Regional Councils allow this to happen.
Boaters Beware!!! Do your homework first......... It all looks so good on Rick Stein, however it can be boring!!
Locaboat also provides bedding, cooking facilities, but no towels, we spend the holiday sharing an improvised “sheet-towel”. Another negative is the major towns such as Agen are the return depots for
rental cars, but a sleepy little town such as Valence Sur Baise does not have return facilities, and there are few buses, so it is up to you to find your own way in. This can be a costly experience at 85 Euro for a taxi from Agen. Locaboat's attitude is sort it out yourselves.
On the positive side, the canal doesn't seem to stink, despite its color, and the boat is roomy and well maintained. Monday, August 16 - Valence Sur Baise
The first night we stay in Valence, walk into town. There's a fete, small night market and an Brass Band in Centerville of this small Bastide town. We look for a restaurant, and find that there is a 14 Euro set meal for the evenings festivities. Yes, plastic plates, plastic knives and forks and a 5 Euro bottle of wine that is a stinker. Anyway, it's a fun evening and then we head down the hill to our bunks. The boat is moored close to a boat of Italians who seem to enjoy themselves and have a rowdy good time. Tuesday, August 17 - Moncrabeau
Our first days cruising. Our skipper seems
is very diligent and appears to have his route planned down to the last second. Anyway, we cruise until we reach the town of Condom, pick-up supplies and then cruise until 5pm and then raft up for the night. After we dock we go to the local campground for a swim and a beer before returning for dinner. Then it's a walk into the Bastide and back to the boat for a very hot nights sleep. It would be so nice if you could swim in the canal!!!!! Wednesday, August 18 - Nerac
Today, myself, Kathy and Sue decide we will bike from Moncrabea to Nerac. Yes, it's hot again and the distance by road is around 12km. Pretty uneventful, other than I take off with Kathy's wallet and cycle purposefully looking for a cafe to have coffee. In the meantime, Sue and Kathy loose out on a tour around a Chateaux because of lack of funding.
Nerac is a picture postcard town and was the seat of Henry IV, otherwise known as the rabbit for his nocturnal escapades.
In the evening, we head out for dinner, Caroline, Kathy and I eat at a restaurant by
the river, while the remainder of the crew find a restaurant across the road. After dinner we head for a vantage point above the town to take photo's. As we head back to the boat there is some kind of procession following a medieval jester or fool. I feel that this is a little like the Pied Piper of Hamelin and finally we break off and head back to the boat.
Nights on the boat are hot, hot, hot and it is very difficult to sleep Thursday, August 19 - Buzet
We cruise down the tree lined canal for most of the day on the River Baise. Along the way there are locks that break the tedium and these require a little bit of expertise. We loosely secure the boat forward and and aft as the lock fills. Caroline also takes her turn on this chore, although I don't have a photograph to record the fact. Cruising and locks take up our day and finally we spy our destination for the evening.
The port of Buzet is on the Garronne. We dock, and immediately spy a six seater bicycle which we are told can be used
The man on the right is from Middlesborough and obviously craved English speaking company.
the visit the local Caveau, for wine tasting. It's town for supplies and then on to the wine venue. The pictures of this outing say it all, there's whooping and hollering and the locals in the village seem to find it all very amusing. After doing our wine taste, we purchase a 10 liter box of wine that tastes reasonable, mount our trusty steed and then head for the boat. It's all down hill and we reach some pretty heady speeds before turning back into the port. We have a dinner of duck breast prepared by Kathy; I think we all agree that the duck is pretty damn good.
After dinner, myself, Stephen and Russell go for a walk and run into “The Italians” , there is more whooping, hollering and a game of petanque ensues, which is played in fading light where a torch is required to light up the jack.
Good fun and then it's back to the boat which by this time is in total darkness. It's hotter than hell all through the night. Friday, August 20 - Grande Route
Bikers today are Gary, Brenda, Kathy and Russell.
We are on the
Garronne after being raised about 8 meters by the lock system before Buzet. The boat continues to cruise down the tree lined canal. However, we do stop at a little Bastide and walk in for coffe. On docking we are helped and given a history lesson by an English Man from Middlesborough who has taken to life on the French canals with his Dutch partner. He is working on the engine and asks me to excuse his boat being a shambles. It seems that it even contains his train set, but I cant see it for the mess.
Back on board we head to Grande Route. Now, this really is a one horse town and is built either side of a very busy road to Bordeaux. We should have known better, but Caroline and I find a restaurant where we can all eat. It seems to be reasonable, but turns out to be expensive and the worst meal that we have in France. And then there's the flies, the flies, we trap them under wine glasses and still they continue to come. We're all laughing until we get the bill.....Auberge la Miotiere is given the “worst Restaurant in France”
label by the group. Boaters beware!!
Saturday, August 21 - Buzet
Back down the tree lined canal to Buzet. We all take showers and Kathy cooks a very nice meal. The temperatures are 35C, so another night where we just smolder in our cabins. Sunday, August 22 - Agen
Our final cruising day, lots of locks and finally reach Agen at around 5.30. Caroline is leaving tomorrow for LA while I carry on with my travels. We have made the decision to leave the boat on Sunday evening because we have to catch a train to Toulouse the following morning at 6.45am. Getting an early taxi will be a major headache and the amount of luggage we have definitely requires a taxi. Goodbyes are said and Caroline and I leave the boat for a hotel that supposedly has air conditioning. The hotel turns out to be hotter than the boat. However, we do have a first class meal of filet mignon and profiterole. I lie on the bed covered by a wet towel... Ugh..... Monday, August 23 - Toulouse to Barcelona
A taxi takes us the 600 meters to the train station, and we
are off to Toulouse. French railways are great, fast, normally on-time and we are in Toulouse by 8am. My bags are put in a locker and I then accompany Caroline to Toulouse airport by bus. It's all very smooth and she jets her way to London before heading to LA. In the meantime, I head back to Toulouse and immediately spy the the rest of Russell-ites. We check out the Marie, have lunch, and then catch the 2.30pm Eurolines bus to Barcelona. Air conditioned and comfortable seating, I close my eyes and wake up 2 hours later. Arrival in Barcelona is 8.15 where we are met by our host, Judith. We now have 4 days in Sant Cugat a suburb of Barcelona and a 30 minute subway ride to the center. Would I do it again?
The answer is "No". However, the company was great......
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