We really enjoyed Capestang. Le Bateliere restaurant proved time and again that it was a lovely place to eat – not just the stones throw it was from the boat (easy staggering distance) but also the food was consistently good. Not top of the range but certainly good enough to be great value for money, a telling statement given it is not the cheapest place we have eaten.
We had a couple of nice trips out with the boys on the scooter, going up into the hills North of Capestang and looking down across the valley to the Corbiere’s and, in the distance, the Pyrenees.
We met a couple of really nice members of the Midi canal cruising community and it seems we are not the only ones to have had reservations about others we had met previously.
Eventually, on Wednesday 31st July, our week was up and we decided to move on and pottered to Poilhes just 6kms along the canal. Again, a nice little village but not really our thing and we stayed just one night before moving on to Colombiers. There is an ancient lake just outside of Colombiers and we were keen to see it. Unfortunately where we’d moored it wasn’t possible to get the scooter off, and the only way to really see Etang de Montardy was to get up into the hills either side so you could look down onto it. It was very hot and the thought of walking or cycling up a hill was soundly rejected by us both and we contented ourselves that at least we’d seen one small section of it.
The following day (Friday 2nd August) we continued to Villeneuve les Bezier, having traversed the dreaded Fonserannes locks above the town of Bezier. Thankfully we made our way down much more gently than we had on the way up and shared the lock with a friendly German family. All went without a hitch…..phew!
We stayed at Villeneuve for 3 nights and spent a couple of days on the beach, which was about 8kms from us. We took the boys with us the first day and set up a big shady area for them using the umbrella that Alan had given us when we were staying in Homps, with a great big canopy over the top of it weighted down by a couple of lumps of driftwood. It worked a treat but after a couple of hours the beach security came and told us that dogs aren’t allowed on the beach and that we had to leave. It is so annoying that they have these rules about dogs – and we all know it’s because they don’t want dog mess everywhere but we always pick up after our dogs, keep them on their leads when there are lots of people about and generally ensure they aren’t a nuisance. Clearly others in the past haven’t been so considerate and so we have to suffer a blanket ban. Shame.
It seems we hit Villeneuve at a good time because there was a festival going on the whole weekend with live music, a kiddies funfair and fireworks. The firework display was held at the lock and so once again we had ringside seats!
On 5th August we continued on to Vias, through the Passage du Libron, an unusual sluice system that allows the canal and the river to cross each other on the same level but can be closed in times of flood.
We found a spot at Vias and as we arrived the bowthruster gave out on us…….again! he following day we opened up the front locker and proceeded to investigate the cause of the problem this time. Just at the point of us being up to our elbows in grease and dirt the VNF came along to say we had to move. I showed them my hands and said “désolé, nous avons un problème avec le bateau”. I wasn’t expecting any sympathy but he shrugged said “ok, just go as soon as you are able to”. Merci!
We identified the problem part and have placed an order for it. As we are heading to Aigues Mortes we asked our friends Dave and Fiona if they would take delivery of it and they were happy to help. You can’t beat good friends!
On 7th we left Vias and headed back through the round lock at Agde and made our way to Bessan on the Herault. We decided to stop just after the lock because we knew there was a roadside stall selling fruit, veg, bread and an assortment of different local products. As we approached the quay a French boat was just leaving to enter the lock we’d just left. So, he is moving along the quay towards the lock and we start to slip in behind him – heading in the opposite direction. It was all going beautifully well until, for some unfathomable reason, he gunned his boat into reverse and smacked straight into our scooter platform knocking the bike into the back rail. I was shouting “Attention, arret arret, avance AVANCE!!!” Crunch! He then shouts at me “you are crazy, why did you do that!”. All attempts at French dissipated along with my usual ability to remain polite and he got a full-on Basildon toned mouthful.
Thankfully he didn’t damage the platform or the bike so there was no need for us to set off after him to get insurance details.
After I got a few bits of shopping we continued into and up the Herault, not really expecting to find anywhere to moor or anchor but as we approached the small pontoon there was just one motor cruiser already there and about 10ft free on the end. We crept up, tied on and couldn’t believe our luck. It is a beautiful spot. A lovely restaurant resides among gigantic plane trees and a brilliant activity centre operates from the other end of the pontoon. The paddle boards, canoes, kayaks and pedalo’s are all in mint condition, along with the various paddles, oars and lifejacket accessories.
The guys who run the operation, Coco and Coco, are the most friendly, helpful and fun people we have ever seen running this type of business. And their beautiful collie dog Mika is not a problem at all, even though she has the run of the place. She is a bit shy but the boys have both taken quite a shine to her!
A couple of hours after we arrived the motor cruiser left and we moved Thirza into a more comfortable spot along the pontoon. Soon after Del and Jane arrived on Amethyst, the syndicate boat that we have met other members of in the past, including Alan and Jenny and John and Wendy. They rafted Amethyst alongside and we moved the swim ladder so we could all use it to get back on board after a lovely refreshing swim.
The day after we arrived, 8th August, we booked a 2-hour paddle board, because neither of us had ever tried it, apart from standing on Nick’s when he launched it in the swimming pool in Portugal! It was interesting, we got 1-2-1 tuition until we got the hang of it. This was much more than we’d seen the hire boat companies give people when they were taking out 50ft destroyers!
We both got on quite well with it and I was pleased to have not fallen in the entire trip. As we approached the pontoon to give the boards back Coco asked how it went. “It was great fun” I started to say but lost my balance and fell in right there – in front of everyone! Oh well, it gave them all a laugh!
Brody joined Frank on his board for a quick spin round and he loved it! I think he was more comfortable on it than Frank was!
Once again, we found that Bessan was having a festival weekend and last night we walked into town and spent a few hours watching the local dancers strutting their stuff. A pop-up bar served cheap wine and beer – half a pint each for just €3.50 and we, of course, made the most of this great value.
Del and Jane had also headed into town and signed up for the community meal, similar to the one we’d had in Salleles d’Aude. We had a lovely evening and headed back to the boat in a slightly more wonky line than we carved on the way out.
This morning we awoke to find that Del and Jane had managed to get away early, as planned, and will now be well on their way to the Etang de Thau.
We will leave tomorrow (Sunday) and take a leisurely journey back to Aigues Mortes. Happy days…….
If you are ever in the area we highly recommend that you visit Coco and Coco at Bessan Aventure, Base de Loisirs, and take one of their craft up river to the barrage. The birdlife and natural surroundings are well worth experiencing. To book call +33 6 04 49 76 54or visit them on Facebook.