Le Boat Narbonne 24 – 25 Sep

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September 24th 2011
Published: October 23rd 2011
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Narbonne 24 Sep Sat

We had an uneventful journey to Narbonne. After the first 2 hours there were many stops until after 4.5 hours we arrived at Narbonne. The train wasn’t quite as modern as from Paris, but it was fine.

We couldn’t reach Helen & Rob, so we read the Plan de Narbonne at the station and decided to walk to Quai dÁlsace on the Canal de la Robine, despite our previous bag toting episodes. Luckily, only about 15 minutes later we arrived at Le Boat.

The boat we hired is a Le Boat 1503, quite big at 49 feet by 15 feet (14.97m x 4.65m). Here is a link to a virtual tour http://www.leboat.com.au/flotte/15034?bsreturn=stage02&startbase=TRE&endbase=TRE&showdate=2011-10-15 .

Helen, Rob, Dave and Kath had already been there a couple of hours and learnt all about how to drive the boat. The boat has three cabins for sleeping – quite comfortable with their own little ensuites. We dropped the bags, installed the Australian flag next to the Springbok flag on the front of the boat, then we all walked down to the local shop to get provisions for a couple of days. Once again we extended our arms walking back to Le Boat with all the shopping. We are all fairly big eaters so I don’t think the provisions are going to last very long.

The water on the boat has a horrible smell, somewhat like sewerage, so we bought several types of perfume sprays and blocks, and after checking with the Le Boat office, some bleach. The canal has very dirty water, so they say that putting bleach into it will only do good!

We had a couple of drinks on deck and some cold meats, cheese and terrine then went back to the shop for the things we forgot. We found a great little pizza shop in a hole in the wall in the street, so we bought a couple. They were delicious.

Narbonne 25 Sep Sun

Sunrise is quite late, about 7:30am, so no early starts for the boaters.

Narbonne is described as a little like Italy with its Tuscan passages, but also like Spain, Greece and Africa with its very rich architecture and diversity of influences. In fact, for a time, Narbonne was the leading Roman colony outside Italy.

We walked into the village, still following the Canal de la Robine, to the local fresh food market – Des Halles du Marche.

The weather was warm (about 28 degrees), much warmer than we had expected, so I fear my clothes are not going to be suitable.

We stopped on the way at the Information Bureau to get some maps and to practice more French – je voudrais un carte de Narbonne síl vous plait.

We walked over the Merchants bridge which was a bridge over the canal with lots of shops and dwellings. The road was tiled and the buildings compact so it didn’t feel like a bridge at all. It is a UNESCO listed site which has 7 arches and carried part of the Via Domitia.

The market pavilion was built in the early 20th century in the Baltard style. It has a beautiful metal structure, stone pillars, gates and a superb roof. The market was large (72 traditional shops), similar to Vic Markets in Melbourne, perhaps somewhat smaller but oh so French. Lots of boucheries including le cheval, boulangeries, poissoneries, cafes. So, naturally our first stop was coffee and pastries while we pondered who would buy what. I tried a hot chocolate because even the decaf coffee is way too strong for me. Not hugely successful so I will stick to my home made version.

We split ranks with each pair getting different provisions –cote de porc, pomme de terre,haricot verte, terrine, pate, olives, legumes, cassolet, fruit, pain and baguettes and and and….

After 1.5 hours, we left the market and wandered along the Cours Mirabeau, the iconic promenade on the right bank of the Canal. These gardens are very pretty with lots of potted baskets on the walking bridges. We encountered the local gypsies with heaps of dogs – not pleasant as they were drinking and laying about the canal path.

The town hall square (Via Domitia) is evidence of the ancient town 21 centuries ago, and was uncovered in 1997. It had the Archbishops Palace and an interesting water fountain. The Archbishop’s Palace is France’s second most important group of archbishop monumental buildings. We could also see the Cathedral from here.

Back at Le Boat, we had a late lunch using many of the goodies we had purchased – terrines, bread, cheeses and some salad. We put up the big canopy on the top deck as the sun was very hot.

Helen and I decided that the Laundromat was in order as she had spotted the lavarie when we were at the markets. We rode our bikes with a mountain of washing on our backs. The machines were excellent and inexpensive. While we waited, we wandered around town some more – we saw (from the outside) the Archbishop’s Palace, Church Notre-Dame-de-Lambourguier, Place des Quatre Fontaines and some of the other sites we had walked past earlier in the day. The canals were lined with many restaurants and lots of bright flowered pots. The streets are very narrow and it is amazing any cars can traverse one way let alone in both directions. You tend to live in fear as you walk along the street wondering what car or scooter is going to appear around the bend.

The two Dave’s also went for a wander and saw Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur Cathedral, with a vast rayonnant Gothic choir built between 1272 and 1332, which is the highest Gothic choir in the south of France. Unfortunately none of us got to the Roman Horreum, even on our second visit to Narbonne.

The most important mission for the two Dave’s though was to find more beer which was not so easy on a Sunday after 1pm.

When we got back to the boat, it had been decided that we would make tracks down the Canal De La Robine to start our journey. The men started to pack up the canopy but the only problem was that I didn’t get out from under it quickly enough. The canopy collapsed on top of me with the bar hitting my head very hard. I was very lucky not to get knocked out, but could still feel the bruising several days later.

The waterways leading to Narbonne have a remarkable history. When Narbonne was a Roman town, a canal was dug to the sea (30m wide and 3m deep) making Narbonne a thriving sea port. Then in the Middle Ages, the River Aude changed its course and abandoned Narbonne. To bring water to the city, a feeder canal was dug between Gailhousty and Narbonne. After the Canal du Midi had been completed this little canal was made navigable but 5km still remained to link the two together. It was 100 years later, that the Canal de Jonction was dug in 1787 to link Narbonne with Canal du Midi, which was now a busy commercial waterway.

We headed off and encountered our first lock fairly quickly (Gua). With four captains offering “suggestions”, one driver and the least experienced skipper (Pam) staying right out of it, this was an interesting experience. I look forward (?) to the next.

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