Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Le Fin!!! The End!!

Dear Family and Friends  

Our friends Keith and Margaret from Edmonton arrived for a 2 week visit near the end of September. We took the train to Bordeaux to meet them which gave us an opportunity to see the city as we wouldn’t go that far on Calypso. Even though they arrived with colds – which they kindly shared with Phil – they were still able to take part in cruising and tourist activities. It was wonderful to have help in the locks - made it a holiday for us!! They seemed to enjoy cruising along the Canal du Midi and the Canal Lateral à la Garonne admiring the little villages, the serene canal and the changing country side even though at times the weather didn’t cooperate.  As members of a wine club at home, they loved sampling the different wines native to France. After a week in Paris and travelling to Tours and Bordeaux, they were slightly French-fooded out but we still managed to have a few gastronomic treats – the famous cassoulet among them. But for the most part Keith’s new favourite dish - and best ami - was the beautiful French omelet! 

    Rows and rows of vines! 

    Ready to Harvest 

We enjoyed a short stay in both Castelnaudary and Toulouse. Both cities were wonderful but the captain and I especially loved Toulouse. After Paris, it is our favourite large city and I hope to go back someday. It is known as the Rose City because a lot of the buildings are built with red brick as opposed to the lighter limestone bricks of other towns and cities in the south. It also has amazing parks, pedestrian only streets in the heart of the city and museums and art galleries. Not to mention the incredible churches and monasteries.   

Toulouse has the Vierge Noire (Black Madonna) 

                                                   And fabulous parks and green spaces 

          And sits on the banks of the Garonne

Bordeaux is similar to Paris in that many of its buildings are from the 1840’s Napoleon III period. Built at the mouth of the Garonne river, much of its prosperity came from being a major trading port to and from the rest of the world.  
With Keith and Margaret in Bordeaux 

                                                          Monument to the Girondins 

          Bridge over the Garonne River at Bordeaux 

We had one more amazing adventure when we rented a car and the four of us headed off on a whirlwind tour of the upper Lot and Dordogne Rivers, down to Albi and back to Moissac where the boat is moored for the winter. OMG – how gorgeous! We had the most amazing hotel room which looked across to Saint Cirq Lapopie, one of the most delightful villages ever. But it was rivalled by Rocamadour which is built right into the hillside above the Dordogne River.  And the icing on the cake was Cordes, a  hilltop village with a steep climb to the remains of a castle at the top. Stunning – all of it! We didn’t have enough time to do Albi justice so I am definitely going back to this part of France. I’m hoping to talk my friend Susan and anyone else who wants to join us to do it in the near future! Walking or biking would be the best way to see it the next time. 

 Rocamadour  - built right into the hillside

                                                   Saint Cirq Lapopie – gorgeous view from our hotel

            Saint Cirq Lapopie is stunning 

.                                                                       ... and fabulous 

       The Lot River – notice the lock on the right  
                                                               Climbing to the top of Cordes 

We are still overwhelmed by what a great summer it was. We saw and did so much that at times it is hard to take it all in. From the charming Canal du Nivernais, the mighty (read terrifying) Rhone, the Carmargue, the Mediterranean and finally the Canal du Midi!! Our side trips to the Cote d’Azur, Cathar country, the Black Mountains, Perpignan and Collioure on the Med and the Dordogne and Lot Valleys were awesome – we couldn’t pick a favourite – they were all great. I’m in sensory overload just thinking about it! 

After four summers travelling through 3 countries, 25 different canals and rivers, approximately 3100 kms and over 600 locks, we have reached our final destination! Our goal was to get to Carcassonne and Castelnaudry in the south of France and we did it! Sadly, Calypso is up for sale but we take heart knowing that the next couple who own her will have as much fun as we did. 

Our lovely little Calypso was a very comfortable home on the water, giving us all the amenities we could wish for as well as fostering a life style that finds us living in the great outdoors - something that’s not always possible in Canada. Our aft deck became a second living room where we drank our coffee every morning and ate a lot of our lunches and suppers. On cruising days the Captain sat perched at the wheel on the captain’s swivel chair and the Matelot sat beside him on her folding chair tucked in beside the steering station and the starboard rail. On non-cruising days we both sat in our folding chairs reading, researching and drinking but mostly people-watching. It was an absolutely delightful experience in every way – both the great times and the scary times.   

                                                                Our lovely little Calypso 

Along the way we met so many amazing people - some of whom will become lifelong friends - cruised through a multitude of wine regions, visited stunning historical monuments, villages, towns and cities. It was also an amazing learning experience. We came to appreciate the different nuances of culture, language, geography and economical regions within the same country – something you can only know if you’ve lived in the region as a local for a period of time. Truly we’ve accumulated a lifetime of memories to relive and recall during our golden years.  

So, we sign off what is likely our last blog for some time with mixed emotions. Sad to leave our beloved Calypso but excited about what the future may hold. We don’t know what form the next adventure will take but we are certain there will be one! It may not be as monumentally challenging as buying a boat and cruising with no prior experience, but it will involve travel, meeting new people and seeing new places. And who knows - another blog may appear for your reading entertainment!  

Much love to all 

The Glad to Be Home Captain and the Snuffling Matelot Who Misses Her Little Calypso

..... and we came home to this??????????????????

                                                                   Edmonton in November


  1. Enjoy the snow. We have loved your blog.
    Love Helen and Charles

  2. Charlene, It was with great joy I read the blog. I spent 6 weeks in St Cirqu Lapopie in August/Sept of 1996. I walked the same roads & in fact lived in the second house on the right as you walked into the village. I had a fabulous view of the Lot Valley every morning when I awoke. Loved the read. Larry & I are great. The Ice Cream Store is fabulous.All is well In Stratford. Ontario. Love to you & Yours. Gail

  3. Snow..... where......I don't see any!
    In the telling of your travels I've had quite the adventure also!You did it in such a way it made us feel we were right there with you.
    I've enjoyed my 'trips' for the last four years. It was something I looked forward to and now sad to say goodbye.
    It brought tears to my eyes but I now look forward to hearing of your future adventures whatever they may be.
    When's the travel book coming out?
    Love you

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    1. Hello! My apologies for not responding sooner but I haven’t visited my blog for over a year. We are now back in Canada full time – our cruising days are over sadly. Our goal was to go from the north of Holland to the south of France and we did it! And we had an awesome time doing it – I highly recommend it as an adventure of a lifetime especially if like us, you have NO boating experience whatsoever. The learning was part of the adventure.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the blog – I had a lot of fun writing it. It was intended as a means of communicating with family and friends while we were away and letting them know how we were doing. Phoning or Skyping keeps you in touch but it doesn’t let you really share the experience – only pictures will do that. Thus the blog. At the same time, I wanted to make it fun to read so I tried to tell the stories with humour and a little bit of exaggeration.
      Blogspot was easy to use and set up. The first couple of years I wrote in my diary every night which made writing the blog very easy. I just referred to my diary and added in the pictures. The last couple of years I was a little lazy and used both the excel spreadsheet which mapped our journeys and the pictures themselves to remind me of where we’d been and what we’d done. Then I wrote the blog and posted it.
      The only downside to blogging on the move is that strong connections were not always available so uploading pictures took forever but worth the effort. Sometimes rather than use my French connection (no pun intended) sitting on the boat, I would go to MacDonalds and use their free wifi connection. Things went much faster then!
      So my recommendation is this – blogging is fun and a great way to share experiences and secondly, if you ever get a chance to cruise the canals of Europe, you will never regret it!!!
      Sincerely, Sharlene (canalcruisingwiththecosses.blogspot)

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