Southern France and the Canal Lateral a la Garonne was the destination in 2017. Our dirty dozen, on three boats, cruised from Castelsarrasin west to Le Mas d’Aginais. We took a side trip up the River Baise to Nerac, finding out just why it’s necessary to pull in the fenders while in narrow locks! The weather was exemplary, with warm days and only a little rain. The food along the way was wonderful, and the wine was plentiful.

Starting with dinner in a Old West themed hotel-restaurant right out of Route 66, this trip had plenty to see. Two long canal bridges over the Garonne, cruising the river Baise, the bastide town of Vianne, and the city of Nerac were all fantastic. The Baise was particularly beautiful, with the trees coming right down to the water. The locks on the Baise got a little narrow, though, with tricky approaches. We watched another boat get stuck in the lock while descending, due to the tight clearance and the fenders. However, that sight saved us from making the same mistake!

The bastide town of Vianne had a glass museum and gallery that had some beautiful work, and the artist who currently operates it working on a new piece as we looked on. It was fascinating to watch the process, although you wonder how many times he’s been burned; his hands were awfully close to the molten glass!

The last morning we got some rain; as we had to get the boats turned in by 9 am, we had no choice but to slog through it. Running the boats from the lower helm is rather difficult, as you can’t look around to see where the stern is and visibility with the windscreen fogging up is lousy. Steering from up top was cold and wet, but fortunately we didn’t have very far to go.