PICTURES FROM WINTER 2002 - 2003
MONTECH on the
CANAL LATERALa la GARONNE
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The Port at Montech bordered by plain trees reflected in the glass still waters
Just outside Montech are five locks within 2 kilometres which take about an hour and a half to navigate. They can be bypassed by use of the Pente D'Eau, a tractor that pushes water (and your boat) up an inclined plane made of a concrete channel. Here, Van Nelle is preparing to move in front of the huge blade that does the pushing. You position your boat in front of the blade, tie onto it and the tractor drives you and the water you float in, up hill or down hill.
Now Van Nelle is in front of the blade, which is lowered, and we are being propelled uphill.
The area we are now in is shown by the little green bits towards the bottom of the France Map, right in the middle of the south of France.
Gascony is to the west (left as we look at the map), Provence to the east, Spain very close to the south - separated only by the mountains.
Many towns in the south were 'bastides' or fortified towns. First developed in the 12th and 13th century, they feature a grid design with a central market square with streets radiating out from it. The towns in many cases were fortified and the design endured through to the 14th century. Some major towns like Monauban began as simple bastides.
Many monasteries and abbeys populate the south, especially on the famous pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. One such abbey is in the nearby town of Moissac. The abbey church of Saint Pierre is still attached to the biggest cloister (covered courtyard) although the original abbey buildings made way for a train track.
The town of Moissac has more than a lovely church, it's famous cloister and a large market, it has a booming population, some of whom are seen here remembering a more recent history. Veterans of the war parade through town.
Modern history is also evident around the south of France, especially in Toulouse, home of the aero-space industry in Europe. The Toulouse airport area is home to Airbus Industry where the range of modern jet aircraft are assembled from parts brought in from all over Europe. Just to the south of Toulouse is the City d'Espace, a space museum and park, containing exhibition halls, planetarium, theatres, a Mir Space Station full size copy, made in the USSR to train the cosmonauts and replicas of the Arianne Rockets and engines.
Of course, entertainment is not all we do during the winter months. We spent Christmas at the home of Kate Hill, our American friend who teaches Gascon cuisine at her charming, centuries old home on the banks of the Canal Lateral near Agen, headquarters for the wonderful gastronomic tours available throughout the year, home stays and cooking classes.
Stay at Kate's, learn to cook and eat the rich foods of the south, visit markets and historic sites, meet like minded French and English speaking friends. En-JOY !!!!
A night time view from a porthole in Van Nelle. The light, situated across the canal, illuminates the Montech cemetary.
Drained canal ! This is what it really looks like underthe waterline - note the lumps in the middle foreground, the sloped sides from erosion and the lack of depth in general.
Kate Hill's house 'Camont' near Agen. The path leads down to the canal where her Dutch Tjalk is waiting for another season of cruises.
This is where the alchemy takes place - in Kate's kitchen. Foie gras being prepared for slow cooking, pressing and eating !
Xmas 'dinner' started with fresh Brittany oysters, washed down with Moet and Chandon's product, outside - al fresco.
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