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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Back to Paris for the night

We got back to Paris and our room at Hotel Atmospheres in time for happy hour, wine and dinner at another small St. Germaine bistro with a resident dog and a nonproductive search for the gelado shop near the Partheon that I remembered from our first visit.

Took a longish walk in St. Germaine area on Sunday but it was too warm to enjoy Jardin Luxembourg.

We went to Mass at St. Sulpice Church on the Left Bank, staying for a short organ recital. The church and its astronomical brass line on the floor and obelisk gnonom are a big part of the DaVinci Code.

Then a late night flight back to Newark where we spent the night. Then two more flights back to Richmond. An eventful three weeks!

Gnomon of St. Sulpice

Did you read Dan Brown's DaVinci Code?

Luxembourg Garden

Friday, June 1, 2018

On to Carcasonne

Many locks to pass through today as we moved even HIGHER. I had pictured this canal as near sea level, but that is far from the truth. I thought we'd be moved up and then down in the locks (as we did on MicMac on the Great Dismal Swamp), but we are only going higher in this part of the canal. It is quite "entertaining" to watch the water rushing in, then out, through the locks. We even motored OVER a few small rivers.

We left our mooring "in nature" early this morning to get to Hompes, a small town near Carcasonne,  the ancient walled, hilltop medieval city that is a destination of many tourists. MANY tourists! We saw more people today than in the entire week before--except at the Louvre. And it was the first really hot day that we have had on this trip. Perhaps 80 degrees.

Within the walls are MANY shops, cafes, hotels, and a lovely cathedral of St. Michael where Rex explained all the things we would have otherwise missed.

The "artist" Felice Varini installed a humongous (and hideous to me) arrangement of concentric yellow circles using a kind of yellow aluminum tape on the western walls of this beautiful UNESCO fortress to celebrate its 20th anniversary on the UNESCO list. There certainly had to be a better way to commemorate this, But the stuff CAN and WILL be removed in September 2018.

Felice Varini's idea of art
Final dinner onboard Esperance, then back to Paris tomorrow. Uh oh, the train we were booked on is canceled. Pete booked us on a flight from Perpignan to Paris tomorrow. Captain Mathias has offered to drive us there. It is about a 90-minute drive.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Market day in Narbonne

We cruised to the once prosperous port city of Narbonne this morning. It was a regional capital of a Roman colony in 118 B.C., so there are many preserved Roman ruins here. An excavation years ago uncovered a REALLY old Roman road. And the imposing but still unfinished St. Just and St. Pasteur cathedral (built in the early 1300s) where marauding Huguenots chopped off the statues' heads is worth a visit.

On Thursdays local vendors display their goods (clothing, flowers, pots and pans, etc. etc. ) across from the very lively Les Halles de Narbonne Market. Our Williamsburg Farmers Market will look so tame when we get home. In the Narbonne Market, one retired rugby player owns a few sandwich and butcher stalls and during the lunch hour, catches sandwiches to serve to his customers--kind of like the fish market in Seattle. And so many cheeses!!!!!

We will "moor in nature" tonight which means no town nearby when we tie up to shore in the countryside. Sounds peaceful.

Les Halles de Narbonne Market

So MANY olives

So MANY cheeses

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Old Roman Road

St. Just and St. Pasteur Cathedral

Flying sandwiches

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

LOTS of olives

No trees?
Another day of cruising followed by an olive tasting, a drive to Aine illage, the historic hilltop village of Minerve and the night moored in Le Somail.

Dying sycamores
The traditional view from a barge on the Canal du Midi showed overhanging plane trees (a kind of sycamore). But alas, we missed it by a few years because many of the trees have succumbed to a blight from a bacteria that has been dormant in the soil since the 1940s. It seems that the World War II munitions crates from the U.S. and Canada imported a nasty bacteria that finally killed many of the trees so many years later. Thus, the canal is now treeless on one side or lined with newly planted sycamores that are genetically developed to be resistant to this awful stuff.

This restoration project is VERY expensive and will take many more years to complete. So glad that we are here, but feeling the same regret as when we snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef last year and witnessed the dead or dying coral.

I had never liked green olives--until our tasting an an olive pressoir today. Rex took us to a unique tasting that combined a presentation of four different kinds of green olives and the olive oils made from them. But we "discovered" Lucques--a cultivar of olives grown primarily in this Languedoc area of France. We consumed quite a few that day and later in the week. They are so mild and rather sweet. Gotta look for them at home at Fresh Market. Or Amazon!!!

Then we were the only ones walking the narrow streets in the small town of Aigne (other than a lone black cat).

Canal du Midi goes OVER a river

Poppy field near Bize

Olive oils for sale

Aigne village

No one home in Aigne?

Minerve from afar

town of Minerve

a local garden in Minerve

Many killed in this town in 1210 during Crusades

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

An afternoon in Pezenas

I never heard of this small village before today, but Moliere did. I read his Tartuffe play in college although I am not even minimally fluent in French today. Bon jour, bon soir, merci, pardonnez moi, comment va tu?, quelle heure est-il?, and a few other phrases are about it now.

After a few hours of cruising down the canal, our knowledgeable tour guide Rex walked us around the delightful village of Pezenas, the long-ago seat of the Governors of Languadoc and  where Moliere lived so long ago. This famous French playwright might have only resided here for a few years, but the local businesses and craft shops certainly know how to capitalize on his name: Moliere Bistro, Le Grand Moliere Hotel, etc., etc.

Without Rex, we would never have discovered a unique weaving shop where beautiful scarves and other items are made by a talented former Syrian. His ancient loom is quite remarkable. Of course, Myra and I had to buy scarves here.

Nor would we have learned the legend of the special chair with a hole in the seat in which the Pope needed to sit during medieval times. Probably a scurrilous legend, or a Rex tall tale, but it is the reason behind a local fig jam.


Deux siecles de soie shop

weaving fabrics

Profiteroles for lunch dessert