Jeanine Guichard and her partner have been travelling up and down France’s canals on Locaboat pénichettes© for the past ten years or so. Jeanine tells us how their last trip to the south of France was a chance to rediscover their own region.
This year we’re going to take four mini-cruises, mainly in the south of France, near Marseilles where we live. Over the Easter weekend we went along the Canal du Rhône à Sète, setting off from the base at Lattes, which is an hour and half from home. It’s nice to spend a long weekend on the water without having to pass several hours on the motorway. Sailing close to where you live is a way to get the full benefit of all the relaxation that builds up on the boat.
We crossed the Camargue on our Penichette© a steady 6 kph and saw the pink flamingos and the bulls, and all the wildlife of the marshes and the countryside up to the Aigues-Mortes ramparts.
But our real find on this trip on the Canal de Midi was the cathedral of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Maguelone, which stands on a little island near Palavas-les-Flots. To reach it, you go across on kind of passageway. A picturesque touch is that there’s an attendant on the island, rather like a guardian of paradise. That’s how you get to this sturdy and imposing Romanesque structure dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, surrounded by vineyards, in the middle of the lagoon. You get the feeling there’s something really spiritual here, the force of the elements, this closeness between sky, water and earth. Also, the cathedral is now home to ‘Les Compagnons de Maguelone’, an organisation which has a cultural as well as a social mission. You can go to concerts during the various classical music festivals, and see many painting and photography exhibitions (www.compagnons-de-maguelone.org). The spiritual and artistic worlds are echoing each other now. Soon we’ll take another trip, on the Canal du Midi, stopping off at Narbonne, and we hope to make some more discoveries just as good as the last one.