09 November 2010

La peniche Anjodi

We were lucky. The weather was better than expected. Especially as this was the last week in the canal cruising season in the south of France.

The Canal du Midi - the normal route for our barge ("la peniche") Anjodi - closed the week before our cruise, so we headed off in the opposite direction towards Provence.

Forget the superliners that cruise around the world. Cruising the canals and waterways in the south of France on a hotel barge offers so many opportunities to just simply sit and reflect, and move at a pace that is very much in harmony with the local culture.

Please indulge me while I quickly catalogue what was fabulous about this cruise: the location in the ancient region of Languedoc-Rousillon - and our cruise covered the most historic ports in France, through the "sauvage" Camargue, to the edge of Provence; the barge and her crew - of which more later; wonderful excursions to historic towns; and a mad bicycle ride into St Gilles.

I think we had the best crew one could imagine - four crew for five passengers - we couldn't have had better service or attention had we been in a five star hotel. Our captain Julian had the challenging task of rounding us all up in Montpellier and helping me to leave one of my bags at a local hotel to save space on board - and then drive us to our first port Marseillan, a charming, historic fishing village, just south-west of Montpellier. Here's the pier where we moored overnight, taken very early Monday morning.

Throughout the week, our chef Ken and supergirl Lauren kept us well-nourished, but more than that, made us feel like we were the only people in the world (and we really do know that we aren't!)

I've put an album of Ken's cuisine online - I can't do it justice in words, so will let the pictures talk for themselves!

Lauren was and is one of the world's quiet achievers, who managed to anticipate our every need, before we even knew we needed something. Not only were our beds made in ship-shape fashion each day, and turned down each night, she somehow managed to clean the boat from top to bottom one day while we were touring the countryside. And we suspect she also managed to keep the rest of the crew very much in line and organised from day to day.

And last, but by no means least, was Jules - our matelot, our tour guide, and fixer of all things that needed fixing (including, finalement, my SFR internet connection). It was Jules who had to run between the boat and the van, trying to find the three of us who went cycling in the countryside while the Anjodi sailed quietly to her overnight mooring near St Gilles. It would have helped if my phone hadn't been on silent, and that I missed two calls from Jules, while my mother was quietly wondering whether we would return in one piece or not.

Our new friends from the US, Gregory and Brenda, and I decided that after all the rich food, we really needed some exercise, and we imagined ourselves quietly cycling the quiet villages en route to our overnight mooring. Instead, after a km or so of quiet village roads, we ended up on the main road between Aigue-Mortes and St Gilles and on to Arles. We really did hit peak hour traffic, on a two-lane road that generally had no shoulder and had deep ditches very close to the edge of the road. After quietly panicking for the first little while, we found that the french drivers are very careful and respectful of cyclists - perhaps because they feared the french bureaucracy they would face if they killed a foreigner more than they cared for us I suspect!

The most amazing part of this trip was that Gregory managed to video the entire trip, with his camera strapped to the front of his bike - I have a copy that I can bore everyone to tears with when I get home.

To everyone on the Anjodi - vous ĂȘtes sans pareil. Bon jour, bon app et bon fromage!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sue,
    We are loving your blog! Oohh, nobody does food better than the Europeans......mmmmm! Enjoy every single moment of this wonderful gastronomic adventure.
    Take care,
    Love Dani, Graham, Lauren & Scarlett xxx