The Port is located adjacent to the exclamation triangle symbol on this bicycle map. It is at the edge of Ville Basse, which is referred to as the New Town. New because it dates only to 1247, when Louis IX founded it below and across the River Aude from La Cité, the fortified citadel on the hill.
The first settlement in the area dates back about 5500 years, but it wasn't until about 2100 years ago that the Romans fortified the hilltop. In 462 the Romans formally ceded the province of Septimania to the Visigoth King Theodoric II, who had captured Carcassonne in 453. Through the following thousand years and more, Carcassonne was the target of attack by seemingly everyone with any aspiration to power in Western Europe. Among these were the Goths, Franks, Saracens, Burgundians, Moors, Albigensians, and the Cathars.
Carcassonne is home to about 50,000 people. It is about mid-way along the Canal du Midi from the Mediterranean to Toulouse, and is within a few kilometre from being the most southerly part of the French canal system. A major portion of its businesses is tourism, centered around La Cité and the Canal du Midi, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Wine growing is also a major focus here, it being in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region, with many famous areas, such as Minervois, Corbières and Limoux nearby.
Since we left Harlingen on 19 June, we had come 2072 kilometres and had worked our way through 332 locks as we navigated 75 different canals, rivers and lakes and crossed three countries.
Our assigned moorage spot for the winter was through the bridge, up the adjacent lock and across the basin. There was a hotel barge in our spot until Monday noon, so we remained on the quai below the bridge and lock. Edi hauled out the sewing machine and began assembling waterproof nylon covers to protect Zonder Zorg's lier, coo coo, fries, roer and kilk.
While she sewed, we were entertained by bangy boats going past us and under the rail bridge. There was no wind or current, they were not sailboats, but they appeared to be tacking down the canal. The first one made it through unscathed. But the second one...
Bang! Oops, can't go that way, there's a stone wall in the way.
Let's back up a bit.
Bang! Oops, another stone wall. They seem to be everywhere.
That's better, we're through the bridge hole now. Bang! What's the bank doing there?
Let's straighten up a bit.
Now let's scare that oncoming boat by steering toward it.
Wow! Look how quickly we made it swerve. This is fun; let's go bounce off the bank again.
Bang! Boy, these things sure don't handle like cars.
Look at that boat way over on the other side of the canal.
Let's go over and see what attracted it there.
Bang! What a stupid place to leave a boat, right where we wanted to go.
On a more professional level, we watched as Lady Sue approached Pont de Marengo, which at 3.33 metres is the lowest bridge on the entire Canal du Midi. They gracefully glided through and into the lock.
Écluse Carcassonne is immediately beyond the bridge and lifts the canal 3.32 metres to the basin of the port. We went through late on Monday afternoon, after the skipper of the French hotel barge had finally been convinced that he was more than five hours beyond his promised departure from our contracted mooring.
After a rather gray and cool few days, Tuesday was a splendidly clear and warm day, with the temperature passing through 25º before midday. While Edi continued sewing covers, I worked at little jobs to prepare Zonder Zorg for wrapping-up for the winter.
We began planning our trip back to Vancouver. We looked at standby seats on Air Canada flights from Barcelona, Paris and London, with one, two and six daily departures respectively. We chose London, primarily because it had the most departures, but also because it was the only one with a non-stop flight to Vancouver. Getting to London began with catching a train, so I walked up to the train station, which is directly beside the port, to look at schedules. Of the six departures listed on the board, three were late: 15 minutes, 25 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes. We needed to leave lots of slop time in planning the first leg of the trip.
From the Capitain de Port I got the contact information for a young man who had two years previously set-up his own boat service and repair business after years doing similar work for a boat rental company. He agreed to come at 1400 on Thursday to winterize Zonder Zorg.
We spent much of Thursday morning buying train tickets to Toulouse, checking bus schedules from the Toulouse train station to the airport, booking seats to London Gatwick and printing the boarding passes, booking a taxi from Gatwick to Heathrow, reserving a room at the Ibis Heathrow and printing boarding passes from London to Vancouver. It was more complex returning to Vancouver from Carcassonne than it had been two years previously from Patagonia. In our spare time, we cleaned and packed.
We had only carry-on luggage, so the walk to the train station was pleasant. The train was on time, the bus connection was easy, as was the Easy Jet to Gatwick. Our taxi was waiting for us and the hotel reservation had worked. Friday morning the shuttle bus efficiently got us to Terminal 3, our seats were confirmed on the flight to Vancouver and it departed on time, a SkyTrain was waiting as we reached the platform and it wasn't raining for the block and a half walk from the station to our loft.
We'll now have to find things to do to fill our time until we head back to Zonder Zorg.