Monday, September 19, 2011

Boozies, San Sair La-Poppy and Truffles 13 Sept 2011

13th Sept 2011 - St Cere Lapopie

Genil towpath up ahead
  This morning we woke up to a thick fog which cleared into a fine day and, thankfully, Luke's malade had started to improve as well. We cycled into the supermarket for supplies at the same time as 6 people from the English boat went. I thought I had a hard time shopping - they were a wandering disaster, couldn't work out what anything was, complained the whole time. The lady we spoke to yesterday asked me if I could see any canned minced beef on the shelf. I was tempted to ask why she'd even want that.

Yesterday the older English blokes were poking apples off the tree with their poop stick. The lady said she'd make stewed apples and custard but Luke couldn't work out why they wouldn't just eat them fresh, he said they tasted fine. I meant for us to get more apples but I forgot.

I managed to make off with a few useful things from the suprette while Luke, who came along to help, waited outside looking sick. He bought an espresso from the bar tabac and I noticed a lady who may or may not have once been a man. Couldn't work it out, though I was only curious. We saw her several times later today, she is on a boat with her dumpy but cheerful female friend, older style barge boat from Babou marine.

We got on our way, tootling up an extensive area of lock-free Lot. Luke retired back to bed but I enjoyed the drive, admiring the swooping vertical limestone cliffs, jumping fish and general wilderness. Actually had to keep right today as another boat went past, felt like a real riverboat captain, yaaar.
While waiting for the lock, Luke rode along the towpath
We approached our first lock and got through it well enough, cute little weir with fishermen. It would be nice to have one that's actually open, for once. Our second lock was at the impressive Genil towpath area. This is where a path was carved out of the sheer limestone in 1850 and it makes for a good walk, as evidenced by the many tourists who were making their way along. We had to wait for the tourist boat to come through the lock, which was just as well as we wouldn't have fit into the subsequent canal if we'd had to pass it. A friendly handsome young bloke on a bike told us to wait for it to come through, giving us time to take photos and generally muck about (Luke rode his bike along the path for a bit).
Luke driving the boat up to the lock. I'm supposed to be operating the gates, not taking photos
Beyond that was Bouzies. That's pronounced "Booz-yeahs" not BOOZIES as we are currently saying. Better yet, there's upper and lower Bouzies, no doubt with suburbs of Petit Bouzies, Perkie Bouzies and Bouzies Le Droop.

I'd planned to stop at Bouzies and head to the Grotte Peche Merle today but Luke being sick changed that so we charged on ahead to St Cirq Lapopie, about 4 hours travelling by the time we got there. Alas, there was a final lock before the official mooring area which we did by ourselves, filmed by several tourists. I felt like asking them to help, it being such a charming experience and all. But I did my best to look competent and thankfully didn't crash the boat while driving it into the lock.

St Cere Lapopie from the river
St Cirq caravan park/haute nautique is actually really nice, lots of shady trees along the river and a swimming beach. Campingcars are charged E7 to stay, we are supposed to pay E2 for showers but I'm not sure who to... or where the showers are. We rode along and found a closed amenities block so that was that.

It was another warm sunny day so after a short reconnaisance mission on the bikes we decided a swim in the river was the best option. Very pleasant, if a bit cold. Smells like the Namoi and the Mary but the river rocks under your feet are very slimy and very round. Lots of relaxed older people swimming quietly.
There was one older couple with an airbed, we almost felt obliged to wade out and tip the old lady off, like you do. Australian tradition, claim the airbed and stand on it in triumph. Or is that just us?
Caravan park at St Cere Lapopie. Our dingy boat next to all the big ones.
Having swum in the cool water and dutifully sunbaked as well as possible using my Mr Bean 20cm square towel, we finally decided it was time to walk up to the village. After a quick calming wine because it seemed like the thing to do. Everyone on the boats had spread out onto the grass, sipping their drinks, playing cards and generally being relaxed and summery.

The boats offer a weird vibe of class warfare in a way. The Le Boat rentals are better looking, faster and more impressive and they all seem to be occupied by older groups of six or more people. It feels less egalitarian than motorhomes or camping, there's a few airs and graces going on. When Luke reversed our crappy old 2 person Petit Sirene into the mooring the French people next to us looked on with disdain. Admittedly, the disdain may have been caused by our out of control reversing where the front end bumped into their boat a little bit or the way we may have ground the propellor into the bank. But they didn't accept our laughing apology very graciously. Indeed, they just stared at us a lot.

In any case, we just carried on and smiled our way through.

Halfway up to the village on our bikes
At 6pm we took the bikes and set off up the impressive hill to the St Cirq village. Flat for about 200m, then straight up. Quite the walk with plenty of photo opportunities on the way. I think we picked the best time to visit, after all the tour buses had left and when the sun was making striking angles across all the old buildings. The town is mainly historic houses, art galleries and restaurants, plus the hill fort, remains of the chateau and old church. We doodled about the small alleyways a bit, getting puffed from going uphill so much, then finally climbed the ramparts to enjoy the view. All very nice, photos taken, wish you were here.
View from the ruined fort, snazzed up with colour selection in-camera
Luke is pointing exactly at the location of our boat.
For dinner we went to the restaurant above the Musee de Vins, specialising in truffles, foie gras, walnuts, duck and goose. Which is pretty much what we both had. Mine came out in a huge pile on one plate, salad, potato gratin and truffle omelette going everywhere. Luke's was more refined, well placed foie gras with fig jam. Before that we giggled our way through the amuse bouche with tiny soup tureens and spoons, very refined.

Most of it tasted fab but I must admit I felt the omelette didn't do the truffles justice. It just tasted like an omelette so that perhaps 10grams of truffles were wasted on me. I enjoyed the potatoes more.

Truffle omelette. The biggest plate of food EVER
Perhaps the best thing was Luke's aperatif - Vin de Truffe. Somehow, they've made alcohol out of truffles and it was amazing, like pure mushrooms in a glass, really subtle but alluring. A well spent E4.50

Having ordered a 500ml pichet of Cahors wine, I was a little tipsy by the time we left the restaurant. We'd bought our bikes up the hill to make it easy to come down... and damn, it was good. Hurtling downhill constantly for about 3km, no cars on the road, lit only by the full moon. We had no lights, no helmets, no early warning systems. Just us, drunkenly screaming down the hill in the utter darkness. So. Much. Fun.

I was on such a high after that I was tempted to go skinny dipping in the river but chickened out. The only thing for it was to have a shower in the boat (water dumping unceremoniously out the side in the process) and go to bed.

Tomorrow we're heading back to Bouzies (snigger snigger) and we'll do an exploratory ride to the Cave Peche Merle inthe hope of getting into a tour group. If not, we'll reserve it for the next day. I've been told it isn't hilly to ride from Bouzies to Cabrarets so here's hoping.

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