Ann and Peter join us later than expected on Thursday evening after a troublesome journey starting in South Africa where the baggage handlers are on strike thus delaying their flight resulting in them missing the connecting flight in Frankfurt for France – eventually they secure a flight to Paris and then onto Marseilles where they take a train to Avignon followed by a taxi as by now all the buses have stopped running to Aramon and arrive tired but thirsty – think in 24 hours they have managed to travel on most modes of transport. I had prepared a fish pie earlier in the day so just needed to warm it up and we settled down to a good chat and catch up. After a quick 5 mile run/cycle on Friday morning we head off on the last stretch of the Rhone river together with the last lock for us; Beaucaire.
Olivier had warned us that it can very windy so to call up the lock keeper early and hang back until we are given permission to enter. This we try to do but for the first time at any locks we have been through on The Rhone we are told we have a 40 minute wait so Charles decides to moor up on the pontoon. Peter is a nervous wreck watching me walk down the gunnel and throwing ropes to secure the boat – he needn’t worry its all in a day’s work. A commercial arrives behind us and enters the lock and then 20 minutes later a commerical arrives from upstream. We then get an apology from the lock keeper to let us know another commercial is arriving from downstream and as they get priority we will have to wait – the capitaine of this one decides it is lunch time and moors up so we are able to go through. The wind is pretty ferocious and we are experiencing a ‘Mistral proper’ so Charles has a fight on his hands to get Bluegum off the pontoon which he does successfully but one of our new large fenders gets caught and is punctured – why couldn’t it have been one of the old ones? The rest of the journey is very smooth and we are quite relieved when we leave the river and get onto the Petit Rhone and then onto the Canal du Rhone á Séte and settle down in St Gilles – there appeared to be no room and no-one willing to leave their boat to let us know if we could moor at the port for the night so we end up mooring by the towpath- this would not be my favourite place as it has a run down feel about it but we all enjoy a nice fish supper in a nearby restaurant.
On Saturday (26th) we travel to Aigues-Morte, quite a long trip and unfortunately Peter is not feeling too good so stays in bed to rest. It is certainly a relief to be off a river and rather refreshing to be navigating considerably narrower waterway systems without strong currents – I am of course speaking on behalf of Charles is in this respect.
We are like children in a sweet shop – ooing and arhing at all the new sights – pink flamingo’s bobbing their head under the water, pirouetting on one leg, seeing the beautiful white camargue horses roaming near the canal edge and of course catching sight of the Mediterranean Sea – its all a bit of a dream.
The port is rather full as many boaters have already moored up for the winter – part timers!!! but we find a mooring under the bridge. Apparently Aigue-Mortes is one of the marvels of the Rhone á Séte Canal with its fortified ramparts having seven gates which date from the end of the 13th century. The ramparts are dominated by the Tower of Constance, whose walls measure 6 metres in thickness in some places. Many political and religious dissidents were imprisoned here, Mari Dunard being the most famous who was kept shut away for 38 years and was saved only by her faith and moral strength.
One afternoon is certainly not long enough to see everything so we will definitely re-visit it in the future. It is very much a tourist resort having beacoup de magasins et restaurantes. Ann and I enjoy a ride on the carousel although we do notice that we are the only adults on the ride. I decide to make a beouf bourgignon but it is a dish that cannot be hurried so we don’t get down to eat until after 9pm – but the wait was worth it apparently – I wouldn’t know……
Charles has decided that Frontignan is the best place to be on Monday morning as it has a railway station for Ann and Peter to get back to Marseilles airport so on Sunday we head for this small town. On route we encounter a very low floating foot-bridge which requires us to toot our horn to summon a nice young man to open it for us.
This stretch is very long and straight and if I’m being honest a bit boring although we do have to maintain due diligence as at one point I noticed the water level gauge read 0.5 and Charles quickly realises we are on the wrong side of the channel markers but fortunately we are able to get across without incident. We arrive in Frontignan late Sunday afternoon and initially worry there won’t be a mooring but find a nice spot. Suddenly at 4pm there is quite a commotion as the bridge opens and a ‘confusion’ of hire boats race to get through it in both directions. This bridge is only open at 8.30am and 4pm and it would seem these hirers are not taking any chances of missing this slot – I believe this could be classed as a novel form of dodgems and is great entertainment as we prepare a bbq.
We then take a long walk heading for the plage – which we never actually get down to and settle for the Marina before heading back towards another lovely sunset.
The next day we wake up to a beautiful mild and sunny morning and take the boat though the bridge on the dot at 8.30am. After our petit déjeuner of croissants, jam and baguettes, we say our good byes to Ann and Peter after a great few days as they leave us to get the train back to Frankfurt and then onto Philadelphia – it was just a shame that Peter wasn’t feeling too good.