On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

France 2013 – Days 8/9 Thurs 11th, Fri 12th July – Lot river/laziness

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Up early today very excited  for our day on the River Lot. We were picking the boat up from Lot Croisieres in Bouzies – about 45 minute’s drive away and had to be there by 0900.  I think Mr S rather relished driving the country lanes sans caravan!

We arrived on the dot to find that they had problems with their card machine so ended up having to leave Paul’s driving licence as security. I should mention here that we’d asked for a 2-4 berth but they only had a 7 berth on the day we wanted, which was 50 Euros more. I managed to blag it for the price of the 2-4 berth, though. Result! Bouzies by the way is very pretty and accessed mainly by an attractive one-way bridge. Actually doesn’t look too attractive in the pic but we liked it.

Bridge at Bouzies

Bridge at Bouzies – with Croisieres Lot in the foreground.

We had a quite detailed briefing – in  rapid French. I understood a good proportion of it  but there was also a manual with everything we needed to know,which had at least some bits in English.  We’d be OK.

We set off in convoy for our first and probably most dramatic lock. Another French briefing and we felt it was quite lucky that we had at least done locks before. Although they are quite different, the principle is the same, thankfully – if a bit quirky and VERY hard work.

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On the way to our first lock

The towpath

The towpath

Carvings - see below for more info

Carvings – see below for more info

In the lock

In the lock

The towpath is hewn from the cliff and there are some recent carvings done by a chap called Daniel Monnier- see here for a little more info. There was a boat full of young English chaps, who were very keen to do all the work so we let them. In that heat who wouldn’t?! But  note that their keenness very soon petered out, once they had experienced how very hard the locks were. The first few locks were a doddle, though, thanks to them.

The scenery is just breathtaking. So very beautiful. We could scarcely take it all in.

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St- Cirq-Lapopie

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I’m running out of superlatives for this section, but Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, perched on the cliff is beautiful, amazing, wonderful. In a survey it was awarded the honour of being France’s favourite village and you can clearly see why. It was nice to see it from river level but we later saw it at eye level.

One by one we lost our fellow boaters – a couple to swimming and one to lunch so the next few locks we did alone – including one quite deep lock which was a teeny bit scary as we could not communicate very well. Paul aloft and me in charge of the boat – called Chodoulou by the way. Luckily it was very manoeuvrable and easy to control.

Shortly after this we tied up to twig for our picnic lunch – scrummy. And if the region suddenly starts spouting loads of new cherry trees? That’ll be us and our long-distance cherry-pit spitting prowess. 🙂

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St Cirq-Lapopie Lock

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Me at the helm

SUmps working up a sweat

Sumps working up a sweat

P1010630The base at Bouzies

I can’t tell you how much we loved this trip. Looking back, we both felt it was the absolute highlight of our holiday.  I would seriously consider a full week/two week holiday on this canal. Maybe next year? Need to research.

After we had handed the boat back, we drove to St Cirq to see it from land level. Equally impressive. It was just a quick trip and we resolved to come back another day for a better look. On the way home, we stopped for drinks at a patisserie and picked up some of our favourites – flan. They were also selling something I had never encountered before – Jesuites.  There was just one left – it turned out to be a crispy/almondy/puff pastry delight! We’d certainly eat that again.

Home to a barbecue and the thought of another pool day tomorrow. Happy.

The next day was Friday and also a relaxation day. Hours of reading and dipping in the pool. Just perfect.

It was, too,  Petanque day – or evening to be exact – in Labastide-Murat. Exciting and nerve-racking in equal measures. It’s been a long time for me and never for Paul and we did not want to let ourselves down.

We rocked up to the bar that we had visited a couple of times earlier in the week and which bore the poster for the evening’s event. A couple of beers and it was past 2030 – the advertised time. We asked if it would be going ahead and he said of course, but remember – you are in France. Soon after that a couple of old boys appeared with their boules, so we bashfully sidled over. They made us feel very welcome – if a bit awkward (well I did as the only woman there!).  A few more appeared and suddenly it was game on.

It was a melee – which means one guy throws the cochonnet (jack) and another gathers one boule from each assembled player and drops them near the coch.  I should say at this point for those that don’t know – competition boules have to be stamped with the maker’s name and unique number and also the weight so that they are easily identifiable. Pairs are formed by the person whose ball is nearest the coch and then furthest.  We were 8 in total.  Paul and I played with our partners  – me with Camile (late 60s) and Paul with Ludo (30s).

We played until  about 11.30 and had a lot of laughs. There were some stunningly good shots and also some stunningly bad shots from us but we weren’t alone in that! It was very friendly and at the end Camile told Paul that I had played well. Happy again! He also bought a round of drinks which we wanted to pay for to say thanks for including us but he would not hear of it. We both agreed in retrospective that that had been our best evening. Loved it.  We tiptoed home very quietly so as not to wake the campers, tired but on a high.

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