Slow down; you move to fast……

What’s the difference between a hire boater and a boat owner? Time……one cannot help but feel some empathy for these holiday makers who have to get from A to B in a limited amount of days only to find themselves behind a 30 ton barge tootling along with nowhere to go and definitely not in a hurry  or in the case of Maggie and Nigel a hire boat who had to wait at each lock for them to catch up.

30 metre hotel boat – converted from an original Midi barge. Unlike most of France – apart from being oval shaped the locks on the Midi are also only 30 metres long.
So now its Monday the 25th April, we have stocked up again in Trébes and set off reasonable early to our next port of call; Carcassonne. It’s a 13 kilometer trip with 6 locks which takes us a good few hours.  The three locks at Fresquel are interesting as the lock keeper sits in his control tower enabling him to survey all the goings on.  After rising from the first single lock we enter a large pound to wait until the next staircase locks are prepared.

Three lock staircase at Fresquel
The lock keeper is very patient with us as Charles tries to throw the ropes up to me – whilst he steers and manages the boat excellently, the same cannot be said for his roping skills which are atrocious to be honest.  The rope ends up in the lock so is now wet through but he succeeds on the second attempt ensuring I get wet in the process from the spray.  The lock keeper  appears to be finding our escapades very amusing and we manage a conversation through hand signals and a final thumbs up when we are all secure and ready for the onslaught of water as the lock fills.

On mooring up we find ourselves next to another Piper boat; Hilda May.  Being nosey folk we stalk the owners through their blog when we get a knock on the door by  the owners themselves – Stuart and Christine.  Its good to exchange boating experiences and getting to know them and its rather sad we only have one evening but I’m sure our paths will cross again one day.

Hilda May leaving Carcassonne
….and racing Sally!
We enjoy our time in Carcassonne and wander around the many streets and alleyways. It has proper shops as well so I enjoy a bit of browsing and cannot resist buying a pink jacket for our forthcoming trip to Barcelona.

Daniel, Sally and Jonathan
Sally with Jonathan’s mum, Joni
On Thursday (28th) we take the early train to Barcelona, as the train station is a two minute walk from our boat it is not necessary for a rude early alarm call.  From Barcelona we take a train to Sitges where we meet up with Daniel, Jonathan and his mother Joni.  This is a vibrant town and is apparently the weekend retreat for many of the Barcelona folk.  It has so many shops, restaurants and bars and a lovely long beach walk.  Daniel and Jonathan have been here since Tuesday and unfortunately for us are returning to the UK on Friday so we enjoy one day together.  They have rented a super apartment overlooking the beach so its just lovely to sit on the balcony watching the world go around.

View from the balcony
Luckily for us they know the nice places to go and we enjoy a leisurely lunch and then a super evening meal.  Its lovely to meet Joni at last and enjoy our opportunity to talk about the boys when we have breakfast on the Friday morning.  In truth from a health perspective its a good job the boys have left us as I am sure all the booze consumed cannot be good for us – I even took two trips to the bottle bank just in case anyone was watching the first time!!!

Leisurely lunch …
… in the harbour at Barcelona
Charles and I enjoy a few days wandering around Barcelona. We take the tourist bus on our first day as it shows us most of the main tourist attractions and enjoy a leisurely lunch on the marina from the numerous restaurants to choose from.

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia – one weird building. Started in 1892 and due to be finish in 2030!
The down side of being activists is that we don’t plan and learned too late that we should have booked tickets to enter The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia but we still enjoyed walking around it – it is something you would expect to see in a Harry Potter movie.  Fortunately the weather changed on our last day and we enjoyed walking around the many rambling streets and soaking up the atmosphere.

Le Pedera

Casa Batlló
The first thing I noticed when we returned to Bluegum was that one of my flower pots was missing – initially thinking it may have been blown into the canal with the heavy winds a bit of detection work – the fact there was no soil or debris anywhere drew the conclusion it had been nicked – very annoying as I do like symmetry  but if that is the worse thing to happen in our absence it no big deal.

We enjoy a week in the countryside mooring in a remote spot at Sauzens and then a little further up to Villesequelande where we stay for four or five nights.  The village is a 10 minute walk away and has a well stocked store.  It is a beautiful spot and we enjoy cycling and of course running in the mornings.

400 year old elm tree planted in front of the church in Villesqualande
Enjoying the sun
…. and the music!
We move up to Bram on Saturday (7th May) to hook up to shore power and fill the water tank – good opportunity to get all the washing and ironing done.  The town is a good 10 minute cycle ride away and has the usual shops plus a good size supermarket. The circular layout of the village is interesting as the streets and houses are built around the the pretty 13th century church. Bram was an important staging point  being half way between Carcassonne and Toulouse. We only intended to stay here a couple of days but as the weather is atrocious we hunker down and get on with some DIY – we don’t begrudge the fantastic weather being enjoyed by everyone in the UK…..honest!!!




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