Day Sixteen: I Am My Own Wench

Today started with Leslie and Carmen up before me. Yet I still had to fetch my own fresh baguette… Carmen says that makes me wench number 3: the tertiary wench. Since C is the secondary wench of the primary set, she oughta know.

Breakfast was baguette and then we turned our boat in the port and headed back downstream. Leslie’s back on duty so we hum along like a well oiled boating machine. The first couple of locks went fine but number 3 closed up and then wouldn’t drain. We reinitiated the cycle a few times but nothing. I picked up the phone and called the emergency number only to encounter someone who had no English. After repeating the same words a couple of times we both established that we knew there was a problem but we had no idea how to communicate it. Coincidentally at that point the lock started to cycle properly; so I said bien, thanks and bye.

Just before noon we pulled up the quay between Lavardoc and Barbaste. We tied up, greeted the neighbourhood goats and walked into Barbaste. There we espied the old roman bridge and the 12 century fortified mill. We all picked up some souveiniers for various of you readers, briefly contemplated a very expensive lunch in a cave, enjoyed the view and headed back to the boat.

On the way we stopped at the Super U to pick up some bread, ham, beer, wine and ice. This was sort of the European version of Walmart albeit much smaller as befits all things Continental. I grabbed some pictures of the booze section; seriously why are we so uptight about booze? I do wonder however if the French, or the Spanish for that matter, ever learn about good Australian or American wines. I haven’t seen any in the stores; there is usually a small selection of foreign wines, but they are usually bordering countries. Maybe in a way our system has an advantage, but oh the plethora of good wine…

Back aboard we cast off and started on lunch. 6 kilometres or so later we pulled into Vianne, ate, took on water and shuffled the boat down the pontoon for some privacy. At this point we realized to our horror that we were out of red wine. We’d been concentrating so hard on replenishing the white that we were down to out ‘take-home’ stock in the reds. After we awoke Carmen from her swoon we determined to head into this lovely walled bastide in search of wine sustanence.

Vianne was originally an English village built in 1284 under Edward 1st just before the start of the Hundred Years War. There are still 1250 metres of original walls and 2 out of 5 towers. All 4 gates are still extant. It is also home to Joël Gallo, a glass blower who makes some gorgeous sconces and glass vanity sinks among other things.

The Templars were based here in the 1st century and built a small romanesque church at that time. It was quite serene with wide roman vaults defining the tiny nave. Outside we had a chance to clamber over the ramparts. Next on the walk was the mid 19 century bridge: tiny; I didn’t believe a car would fit on until I saw one barrel across. We walked almost completely around the town. What makes a bastide unique is that they were built rather than evolved. Thus they are more like a town we are used to with streets a right angles to each other and the lots being of similar size. All in all, it is a lovely town missing only a bank.

We ended our tour a a small market where we replenished the wine stock with a local 2000 that the owner recommended, oh and one Carmen picked and everyone will “love” and shower praise on and Carmen will make that self-satisfied smacking noise and she’ll be the wine buying hero ‘again’… Sigh…

I picked up a mini armagnac there that I can open here and not have to wait until we’re home before I too become a character of mysterious foible.

Next it was across the street in the town square where we stopped for a couple of pression, a coca, et un vin blanc. Afterwards it was back to the boat for quiet time until dinner. We’ll likely head back to the market square and eat outside. The weathers been cloudy all day but it’s still been warm. Unfortunately people have docked fore and aft of us so our privacy disappeared, but we are the loud drunken ones (or at least Leslie and Carmen are) so it’s their problem. Actually as time passes more and more boats pull in so it looks like it might be a full port tonight.

We had dinner in town: gambas, magret pasta, seafood soup and steak with a pleasant Sauvignon blanc. Desert was sorbet for them (Carmen’s was bitter lime and vodka… blech) and chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce for me. We retired back to the boat to find our hopes for an early bed time for the screamy kids was in vain and it was too dark for cards on deck.

Still, a bottle of rosé, some tea lights, and a headlamp in a bamboo holder and Leslie and I triumphed in a lightening round of cribbage.