On our return journey we stayed overnight at the Trianon Palace Hotel, just a few steps from Versailles Palace gardens, and the place where the Versailles Peace Treaty was signed in 1919. The next day being Monday in France the palace was closed. But the grounds were open (and free) so we had a good walk around, followed by an even longer tour in a rented golf buggy.
Afterwards we sampled the delights of a clogged up Boulevard Péripherique for 30 minutes before dropping Ken and Elsbeth at their hotel overlooking the Seine, then continued the long drive home via Calais and Dover. The heavy rain on the M25 reminded us that we were home.
The Bordeaux wine festival takes place every two years at the end of June / beginning of July. In the other years it switches to Hong Kong. We took the train from Aiguillon to Bordeaux St Jean, then the tram to the town centre, where it was all happening. A book of tasting vouchers cost €18 and kept us going all day, with a brief stop for lunch in the street opposite. The last train left at 21:00, so we missed the fireworks spectacular, but still had a great day.
After returning to Buzet we took a side trip to Spain. The autoroute and autopista took us all the way from Damazan to the Costa Brava. Our timeshare at Hapimag, Mas Nou was just about 30 minutes of the motorway on a hill looking down over the sea and the village of Platja d’Aro. Clear blue skies and a temperature around 36 made for a relaxing time on the beach, with 18 holes of par 3 golf and a hot trip to Barcelona thrown in. The yacht shown moored in the harbour at Barcelona was called Mogambo. There was much speculation about its price (£15m, £20M?) until we found that it was brand new, had just been delivered to its new (secret) owner, with an estimated price tage of £100M.
The rivers Garonne, Lot and Baïse had literally been up and down a lot over recent weeks. When we last passed this way in April the Baïse was closed to boaters and we saw torrents of water rushing underneath the aqueduct as we crossed. The heavy rainfall stopped boating on the Lot for a while, but by the time we arrived the sun had been out for a while, the water level had dropped and the Garonne crossing was closed. No-one knew for sure how long it would be before it re-opened.
Our usual stop at Vianne was very quiet when we arrived, but filled up in time for the Friday night market, giving us an excuse to eat out twice in the town.
We started our journey from Moissac. Our cousins from Santa Barbara, California (Ken and Elsbeth) joined us for this trip. They have a boat in Santa Barbara, so there was plenty of boat talk. After a cool and rainy time in England it was was to see the sun come out and temperatures climb into the 30s. After the usual tidying up we set off in the Bordeaux direction.
We are always looking for somewhere interesting to stop on our journey between the UK and south west France. We found Chateau de la Puisaye in the Sawday’s guide. It’s south west of Paris, lots of charm, good food and reasonable prices.
We read in the canal guide that Donzac had been voted one of the nicest small villages in France. Although only about 6km from the canal, our fold-up bikes were not very comfortable to take us there, so we drove from Moissac instead. Being close to the Golfech nuclear power station they seem to have a bit of money to make the village look pretty. It was pleasant, but not wonderful. We drove on to Auvillar, close by. This is a very interesting village, looking down on the River Garonne, with several small good looking restaurants, an interesting church and a fantastic grain market building in the middle of town. The weather was outstanding – clear blue sky, up to 30 C, and the leaves on the heavily cropped trees just starting to burst out.
A glorious day and a great drive through the countryside to Duras. On the way we stopped at Villeneuve-sur-Lot for lunch at a mediocre restaurant, then dropped in to a wine distributor whose name was given to us as a distributor for Chateau Fonseches. This was a wine we had enjoyed in a restaurant and thought we should try to buy some. But they mostly sell through distributors and when we found that it was €9 a bottle we changed our minds – not great value for money. After lunch we went to Berticot, the co-op at Duras. You can see their building in the distance in the picture above. The white bag-in-box was good, so we bought two, but none of the reds great. Afterwards we went on a tour of the chateau. The building had been restored by the commune and was very interesting to see, but like most of these places in France was completely empty insides, so lacked any feeling of what life might have been like there.
The previous day we drove to Montreal and visited Domaine de Caude, a vineyard we visited last year. We really liked their oaked cabernet sauvigon / merlot and bought a small case. The red bag in box was lighter, but similar so we bought some of that, as well as the white columbard.
After nearly a week of work on the boat to clear up after winter we set off with Liz along the canal towards Agen. We visited our usual haunts. The weather started clear and fine in Moissac, around 20-23 C, changed a little to include showers on the way, then thunderstorms developed in Buzet. Liz left us at Agen station on the return trip. As the weather changed to sunny we went for a much promised walk up the hill to Clermont-Soubiron, a tiny town boasting a vineyard, a chateau and a large modern Mairie.
A breakdown just after Valences d’Agen (fixed within an hour by Iain from Moissac port) followed by torrential rain did not dampen our spirits and the sun came out in full force (almost 30 C) by Wednesday. A few days left to buy wine and finish off the few remaining jobs on board before returning home.
The whole of the Normandy coast north of Bayeux is now a living museum to the Normandy landings. The museum at Arromanches was fascinating and explained in detail how the Mulberry harbour was constructed. There are still remains visible at sea and the photo shows part of the original road support.