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The first week in January brings temperatures in the 70s; the astonishing
weather gets the whole city outdoors. We are no exception and take the opportunity
to rev up a new team of petanque players composed of Domi, Bruno, Rob and myself.
The petanque courts in Toulouse are numerous, most of them line the Garonne
River; walking along the Garonne during winter I can imagine the endless stretch
of boules games. But a popular court is just a short walk from the marina,
in front of the Grand Rond Park that boasts a beautiful fountain all year including
Rob and I were doomed from the start of the game, playing with two seasoned
Provencals such as Domi and Bruno. But we achieved numerous points so enjoyed
a respectable game that had them worried, okay, maybe a little concerned once
or twice. We were dressed in t-shirts and jeans and the whole place was full
of players, no empty courts at all. It is wonderful to watch seasoned teams
of old-timers in berets play along with young guys in hooded sweatshirts. There
are a few women but it would be nice to see more involved. Petanque is aiming
for an Olympic tryout and is easy to learn. Getting good is another matter.
I can only dream of smacking an opponent’s ball with the precision and
force these guys do. The courts are not clearly defined; they just sort of
run into each other end to end. So during the game another team literally plays
into our space; we just sort of play around each other and try not to interfere.
It’s all good fun.
The freakish summer in winter does not last and more normal conditions return
before long. For the first time ever we are shocked to wake in a snow-blanketed
boat; it doesn’t last and melts before we manage to take a good photo.
The ice freezes briefly but passing peniches break it up before it gets too
thick. Outside it’s chilly but inside we are cozy thanks to the diesel-fired
heater. In fact occasionally the roof hatch has to be opened for some cool
air, it gets so warm inside.
A new crewmember has brought another kind of warmth to the boat. Nikita is
a beautiful Bengal tiger kitty that we adopted from the local “Chat Ecole” or
cat refuge. She was only two months old when we got her and luckily in excellent
health despite having spent some time abandoned at such a young age. She is
a natural boater and loves watching the sea gulls dive bomb for bread. I’m
training her to go outside on a leash since her environment will change frequently.
This will be interesting for all of us. When she goes out with us the other
liveaboards greet her with enthusiasm and invite her inside. So she sees boats
as houses and has no qualms about jumping onboard from the dock all by herself.
As we did last year, this winter the curtains were changed for a completely
new look inside the saloon. The old pattern of purple and green birds was not
to our liking and simply had to go. We now have a Provencal pattern of golden
yellow and deep blue floral strips. It looks great when the fierce winter sun
shines through, illuminating the yellow brilliantly. The cost of the new curtains
is very low since we are using a local curtain maker whose shop is just down
the street. Mr. Saint-Noy is a real pro and has more business than he needs
but took time out for us and we really appreciate it. Nikita is now over her
curtain climbing days, which she spent on the old ones, so the timing is perfect.
Our artist friend, Jacques, says he has a special use in mind for the old curtains,
what I don’t know, but he happily took the lot off our hands.
The New Year brings thoughts of spring travel coming up in only a couple of
months. So the boat is being spruced up and checked already. Toulouse is a
great city to live in and sometimes we are tempted to stay, but the muse is
still with us and we will be on our way come end of March. Already some boats
have journeyed by; the lock work is completed along much of the Canal du Midi.
We are not interested in cold weather cruising, however, and will bide our
time until it warms up a bit. Until then we take pleasure in wintering over
in this romantic metropolis, there is still so much we haven’t seen and
hope to squeeze in before leaving.
.....on to February 2003