Saturday, March 5th

The morning sun shone brightly as we made our plans for the day…..grocery shopping in Colombiers with a stop at Brico Depot for the wood needed to repair a broken bed frame on the boat.  We finished early and headed to the marina for lunch.  After lunch, the sun was still shining and the day was warm so we took a walk along the canal.   

Some of the Plane trees along the banks of the canal were painted with bright green stripes.  We were curious about this colorful addition to these grand trees. 

A sign near the trees might have held the key to solving the mystery but, with our limited French skills, we could only ascertain that it had something to do with mushrooms???    

As we pondered the foreign words in front of us, a gentleman emerged from a nearby barge, the “Oz.”   We asked if he spoke English…..he did…..so we asked why some trees were sporting this green stripe.  He explained that the painted trees will be removed.  One of them is infected with a tree-killing spore and, to curtail the spread of its disease, both the infected tree and its neighboring trees must be destroyed.   He sadly reported that 2,000 of the 60,000 Plane trees lining the Canal have been removed due to this mean-spirited spore.  This was disenheartening news…..these stately trees, with their cooling shade, are so integral to the canal…..its impossible to imagine the canal devoid of their welcoming presence. 

As our conversation continued, Dominic introduced himself and invited us on-board the “Oz”……where we met his lovely Australian wife Gwen….and learned of their new pursuit. 

They purchased and refurbished this 90-year old barge in 2006 and, after all the necessary permits are in place, they plan to run three-day cruises on the Canal…..

taking up to six passengers (in three exquisitely decorated bedrooms) on a round-trip journey to Le Somail.  Since total cruising time is only 10 hours, the three-day cruise allows for plenty of breaks in the journey…..

time for picnics on the bank, biking along the tow path, sipping a cool rosé while lazing on the deck, delicious dinners in charming little villages, evening jazz concerts. 

Cruising the Canal is a truly wondrous experience.  Slowly plying its peaceful waters, absorbed by the beauty surrounding you…..graceful arched bridges, dappled shade, pastoral countryside, fairytale villages…..you feel a calmness, a tranquility, a sense of well-being that’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.  Words, no matter how vivid, fail to describe this enchanting place…..to understand it, you must experience it.  

There are precious few ways to discover this little piece of heaven on earth…..hotel barges are an expensive (albeit luxurious) option and houseboat rentals, though economical, can feel stressful and rushed.  To my mind,  Dominic and Gwen have hit upon the perfect solution…..a captained cruise with plenty of time for on-shore adventures…..without breaking the bank or consuming all your hard-earned vacation days.  

We wish them luck in their new endeavor….. we might even join them on a future cruise. 

If this piques your interest (or if you’d like to see pictures that do justice to this fine, old barge), take a look at their still-in-progress website www.peniche-oz.com.

Bonne Chance, Oz!

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About Languedoc Lady

I'm a newly retired woman from California getting ready to spend a year (or more) with my husband living the good life in Languedoc in the southwest of France.
This entry was posted in Canal du Midi, France, Retirement, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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