Monday 16 September - Toulouse, Capitole, basin donuts, Ecluse 1, cassoulet

Since this was to be our last day in Toulouse (because we had to get back to Moissac for other reasons) we were up early for breakfast, with the intention of leaving port around 1pm. That morning, we wanted to take some time to explore a bit of central Toulouse, since all we had seen on our visits to date had been centred around the port and the Matabiau rail station. So we cycled into central Toulouse and were impressed by what we saw. The wrought iron lacework on many of the buildings reminded me of Agen.

We then wandered over to the Capitole Building precinct, and went for a walk through the building itself - most impressive, and a good legacy from the heydays of Toulouse. The outside of the building, dating from 1750, was impressive enough.

But the inside was even more impressive; I especially liked the room full of impressionist paintings by Henri Martin, including two huge paintings on opposite walls measuring around 10m by 5m each.

They even had one that reminded us of our own Oscar the Goat back home in Taggerty (even if this one was decidedly skinnier than Oscar!).

We could have stayed and explored Toulouse for much longer, but our own self-imposed time deadline was soon approaching, so after a quick coffee on the Place du Capitole, we started cycling back to the port. As we cycled past the WCC Tech Expo, we were asked by the EcoTank guys to do a TV interview with them that afternoon for a documentary they were making to help them infiltrate the Canal du Midi ports; but we unfortunately had to explain to them that we were leaving within the hour.

So almost on time, we sadly began to depart from Toulouse around 1.30. It had been a surprisingly good few days, and we look forward to catching up with all these barges somewhere else on our travels.

The trip down the canal out of Toulouse was much quicker than it had been coming in, since there were no canal-sweepers to wait for. As we passed under one of the bridges, we spotted Stuart on his walk to return the melodeon that he had hired for the weekend.

We arrived at the Basin, to find a large tourist barge that had just arrived from the Brienne Canal, which connects down to the River Garonne. It entered from the south, did a 180degree turn and immediately exited stage left. Not to be outdone, we entered from the west, did a 450 degree donut turn and exited to the north along the Garonne Canal, burning rubber all the way.

Once we were in the Garonne Canal, I let Peter take the wheel again and I headed to the bow to take a rest and just watch the world go by. After a while, we reached Ecluse 1 and I indicated that I would do the twister to notify our arrival. However, as I grabbed it to turn, I noticed that it was not a rubber pole as per usual but an aluminium pole. I was so surprised by this situation that I held onto it a little bit longer than usual and when I left go it started to swing as it headed towards the wheelhouse. I shouted out a warning but as it was such a strange situation, no one really knew what I was warning them about. At the last minute, Rita realised what was going on and the danger of having a metal pole crashing into the wheelhouse window, and tried to intercept the pole, but it crashed painfully into her shoulder, jumped of the cable holding it over the canal and promptly sank to the bottom!! As if this wasn't enough drama, we noticed that the boat just coming out of the lock was doing so very slowly. As this boat finally reached us, we called out to them to see if anything was wrong, but the two ladies on board kept the heads down and looked straight ahead, not responding to our question. As we approached closer to the lock, however, we saw that the gate on the left had not fully opened, and the lights were still red. We debated amongst ourselves as to what we should do, and decided to enter the lock (there was still enough room to do so) and then call the VNF guys. Once we had done this, we inspected the gate and found that it was jammed open by a large log that had wedged behind it and stopped it from opening fully, and hence turning the red light off.

Once the VNF technicians arrived, they manually over-rode the lock cycle with their electronic box, and closed the gate (whereupon Peter and I manoeuvred the log out of the way and into the overflow sluice beside the lock). We also told them about the metal twister pole sinking to the bottom of the canal. They did not seem overly surprised, and said they would come back in the morning to fix it, since they would need a boat to either retrieve the pole or simply install a new one. We had no idea what would happen if another boat wanted to come through from the south today, as they would arrive at Ecluse 1 and find no twister to twist!!

The rest of trip to St Jory was wet and windy, with crew staying indoors unless it was necessary to go out for lock preparations. The slider poles were still bent and broken and will, I suspect, remain that way for quite some time. We will check again when we head south to see Serge next September!

We were rewarded for our busy day when Judy prepared cassoulet for dinner. It was absolutely scrumptious (-: