Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: France - 2003

France Map - showing our current area of travels, click to view larger version
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(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on the image)

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 winter.

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.

OO-LA-LA & Snow!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.

Femme NikitaA 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.

* *
Marlane Tails Mr Saint Noy Rob Domi * *

.....on to February 2003


canals, cruising, boats, travel   canals, cruising, boats, travel