We turned around yesterday, after our wine tasting trip, and began our descent down the Canal du Midi on our way back to Argens-Minervois. The descent is much more civilized than the ascent, with the water calmly draining out of the lock chamber, rather than the water crashing in to fill up the chamber like it did on the ascent. We cruised under many of the simple, picturesque humpback bridges that Pierre-Paul Riquet had to resign himself to constructing when his funds were running low during the construction of the Canal du Midi.
Two Wild Men Cruising down the Canal du Midi
Yesterday we had cloud cover, but the temperature was warm and we were still wearing shorts and piloting the barge from the flying bridge.
Changing Weather on the Canal du Midi
Today the weather has changed, with cooler temperatures and intermittent light rain showers, causing us to seek cover by piloting the barge from inside. Maybe this is why we pretty much had the locks to ourselves each time today, rather than having to squeeze in with three other barges each time like we did on the ascent.
Alouette Squeezing through the Locks
The only time we had to wait for the locks today was when the passenger barge, Alouette, arrived. Even though we had arrived first, and we were poised to enter the first chamber of the double locks, we were stifled when the gate suddenly shut, and the locks were immediately readied to handle the very long barge heading in our direction, with its sole passenger deeply engrossed in her reading material from atop the deck. It turns out that the larger barges have priority in the locks over the smaller barges like ours. It was fun to watch the two-man crew squeeze the barge into every inch of the barely-big-enough locks, with such nonchalance and ease, while Dave & Mike (in dark fleeces & jeans) watched on from the bridge behind it, and I snapped pictures of it from near the front.
Laurens Waiting Her Turn in the Locks
While Alouette was exiting the locks, we headed back to Laurens and took our turn in the locks, and then headed back toward Homps, in search of more bottles of the delicious apéritif we picked up earlier, called Prélude. We couldn’t remember exactly where we had found it before, and we continued to be disappointed when we would pull up to a new set of locks, and they didn’t have it. Finally, we recognized the lock-keeper when we pulled into the right place, and he seemed to remember us when we asked for a case of the sweet white wine. Unfortunately, all he had was six bottles, so we promptly took all six, and then headed toward the winery that he pointed us to that produces it. Unfortunately, they were closed by the time we got there, and we could not find the wine in any of the shops nearby, so we had to be satisfied with splitting the six bottles between Mike to take back to California, and us to take back to Antibes – a fitting souvenir for all.