Family and Sightseeing In Southern France

It is always a special time when anyone comes to visit us on our travels. 

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When we picked up Wendy in Beziers, we had booked in to  magnificent “Camping Les Sablons” campsite in Portiranges Plage just 20 minutes from the airport.  It had half a dozen swimming pools and direct access to the beach where we watched a kite flying display.

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There were even a couple of good looking guys willing to chat up the English Tourists.

 

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Beziers has an interesting medieval centre with many churches such as this Eglise De La Madeleine

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The shopping centre had a rather unusual way of keeping the shoppers dry

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and the trees warm.

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This building had no windows or doors so someone kindly painted them on.

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All is dominated by the Cathedral Saint Nazaire over the river Orb. 

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Beziers is also famous for its proximity to some of the most impressive 17th century engineering achievements on the 240km long Canal Du Midi.  The canal effectively cut off the bottom half of France ant the entire Iberian peninsular allowing cargo to be taken from the Med to the Atlantic and vice versa without all that messing around with pirates,Spaniards, Portuguese,  Gibraltarian rocks, English privateers and Biscayan storms.

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The Fonserannes Locks were originally eight locks taking boats up or down 21.5 metres in just about 300 metres distance.  Much of the original construction is still in place and used very frequently.  Whilst we were there, a dozen boats went through and a dozen more waited for their turn. 

 

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The “Cargo” is no longer horse or man pulled “Ivory and apes and peacocks sandalwood, cedarwood and sweet white wine” but petroleum powered tourists in 300 seater cruise liners, converted houseboats, sleek motor launches and “cheap tin trays.”

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The canal is lined with 42,000 lime trees (I counted them!) which stabilise the banks and provided shelter for the horses and men who pulled the boats.  (A horse can pull a barge 120 times its own weight.—Ha! Bet you didn’t know that!) Unfortunately the trees are succumbing to a “canker” and will have to be replaced.

Here are some of the inspectors counting and checking out the trees.

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Parallel to the Fonserannes locks is a sloping concrete channel over which a decrepit blue leviathan resides.

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Built to replace the eight ancient locks, the Fonserranes Waterslope operated only sporadically between 1983 and 2001 when it was de-commissioned so it never achieved its goal and the ancient locks still plod on.

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The moving lock was powered by diesel engined hydraulic torque converters driving 16 rubber tyred wheels up and down the 22 metre rise. The waterslope hauled many vessels (and can be seen working on utube) but unfortunately the hydraulic fluid persistently leaked on to the concrete driveway causing the wheels to slip so the project was abandoned.  I mean abandoned.  It looks as though they simply didn’t turn up to work it one day 16 years ago and left it to rust away.  There is a tourist information office within 100metres of the slope so I asked them what they knew of it.  Even though the girl could see the great blue monster from the counter she knew nothing of it and seemed surprised that it was there and very much regretted my bringing it to her attention.

 

The highlight of the entire time was getting Wendy in the sea, the first time for over twenty years.  By the looks of their faces it may have been a little chilly.

 

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