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Canal du Midi 31 May 2016

1235 : 777

We moored about a kilometer east of Argeliers, believing (from the guidebooks (plural)) that there was a market there this morning. Not so, the baker's girl told us as she sold us a croissant and two chocolate beignets. But what a lovely tucked in little town it is, even on an inclement, blustery day!

Wisely turning its back to the Canal, Argeliers is all about its terroir, an example setter for the countryside. The wonderfully cared-for house at right belonged to "Antonin," a local hero, who blew the trumpet for "un regiment de dragons" – we'd call them dragoons; mounted infantry – for a revolutionary group of winemakers from the region around Narbonne who were rebelling at disrespectful treatment by a French government that was favoring of imports from Algeria and elsewhere over the fine local domestic wine industry's produce  – a typical north vs. south power play that has characterized French politics since the Cathars and Simon de Montfort. (More about that evil bastard later, I'm sure.) The result of their successful action: France's thriving wine industry.

Here's a picture of Antonin (and his trumpet) ...the interesting endgame to this story is that when Stalin died, Antonin (né Hypolite Antonin Marty) sent along his trumpet as a token of respect. 

1236 : 769

Today, the third windy day, and the windiest, with two more windy rainy days in the forecast, is also grey and occasionally sprinkly. Standing on the back of the boat and guiding it past the incompetently handled fiberglass scows has lost its charm, and so we have returned to Le Somail ... not at all a defeat, just a clear-cut instance of the wisdom of knowing when we've had enough. Anticipated: that the Canal du Midi experience might be better in prospect than in experience – such over-hyped things too often are – and so we are going to Plan B, already mostly in place. We'll just stay here, enjoy the countryside, the lovely restaurants nearby, a nap, and a good night's sleep afloat.

Here's the deal: unlike the Green River, where (1) you get put in and are obliged to go to the end, and (2) the scenery changes constantly, here on the Canal, you can stop when you want, and once you've seen 10 kilometers or so of flat water bordered by plane trees and infested with fiberglass idiots, you have seen enough. Or at least I have. I got it. I can steer a narrowboat. I love steering a narrowboat (especially when there's no crosswind and the weather's even half good). Life aboard a narrowboat is an experience not to be missed. Standing in a 25 mph gale seasoned with raindrops for 5 hours isn't something one needs to do, not this one at least, for more than a day.

1237 : 765

Did someone say restaurant? We went to Le Somail's second rated one, Le Comptoir Nature, and had a magnificent lunch. A super-crisp green salad and a buttery aspargus omelette for the lady, and the Menu Riquet for monsieur, consisting of "black pudding" (whatever that is) and chick peas, and then (and I am desolated that the picture didn't come out) a leg of duck with the best crispiest skin ever plus a little cassoulet of white beans in duck fat, omigod! Plus just a little more wine than usual, so we're both feeling very cheery despite the grey skies.

Food score for France so far: only one average meal. That's astonishing.

If appropriate arrangements can be completed, we'll move along to Mirepoix a day earlier than originally planned, on Thursday.

Very interestingly, I have finally, for the first time in my life, been in France and surrounded by French speakers for long enough that I am finally relaxing and just letting French pop out of my mouth without previous painstaking translation. On reflection, this is by far the longest we've ever been embedded in France – previously it's been ten days here, a week there – and now, two and a half weeks in with three plus weeks to go, four years of studying French is finally kicking in. 

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