Happy Birthday to us…

October 20, 2006


Our Blog is 1 year old today.
  They don’t make birthday cards for Old Blue Trucks – so (instead) I Googled “Morris J2 Van” to see how many were still around… Answer – a few – but no sign of ours – yet!

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Our Last Supper…

July 2, 2006

And, for the first time in several days, Patricia didn’t have to look after four hungry lads… My opinion?  The food on board was better…  It was a subdued evening.  We knew that something very special was coming to an end – we would be saying our farewells in the morning – and…

For the second time in 40 years, we would go our separate ways…


Then to Agen – the Canal de Garonne & La Baise…

June 30, 2006

 

The drive South, from Le Mans to Bordeaux was an uneventful 500 km drive (OK David – 300 miles) – and we only got lost once.  Another of our famous ‘left turns’ at Bordeaux – and a final 150 km dash to Agen – to take delivery of the boat by 3:00 pm. 

Then a radical change in pace for the next 7 days… 

Across the famous Agen Canal Bridge – down through 4 locks to the Canal de Garonne – several more locks – a tight turn at Buzet – another lock – and down into the River Baise.  Two full days, cruising at 4 knots, to the navigation limits at Valence sur Baise.  And back again – slowly this time – five days – through the 17th Century (and older) villages of Condom – Moncrabeau – Nerac – Lavardac – Vianne – Buzet (again) and back across the Canal Bridge to Agen.  Glorious places…

We’ll tell the story in pictures – and keep the captions brief…


Never piloted a boat OVER a bridge before… You sure this thing will fit?

REALLY sure?

Yup… Just!

Going Down?  Our first of many locks…

What happens if I pull this?

What do I do with this coil of rope?

And this one? (Some people never learn!)

The American Lady from the Rick Stein Series video…

A new skipper emerges…

Buzet – and a reflective moment for Keith. The text pulls no punches!

No – NO!  You tie it like this – here, let me show you…

Taxi back to Agen – retrieved bike – & he was waiting for us in Lavardac!

A bridge somewhere… One of many…

Yes – he fished… No – he didn’t catch a pike… so shut-up OK?

Lavardac on a quiet Sunday evening…

We were NOT able to choose the name of our boat!

A dancing (Canadian) lock keeper…

Just another Chateau… but whose head is that?

A younger (non-dancing) lock keeper…

Nerac – where our pilot had (just a little) trouble exiting the lock…

…before mooring gracefully for the night…


JB on the camera?

And wandering the streets of old Nerac…

Sundry sunburned sailors…

“Caution, slow down in 150 metres, cows drinking. Thank you!”

Keeping an eye on his bike…

Day after day – boring landscapes…

Patricia! Stop that!

Rose from Maman’s private supply – a toast to absent friends…

Our lock keeper – resting…

Two Little Maids from Spain are we… JB’s fan club

What’s that up ahead?

Bow rope duty (in the locks) was the hardest…

John, David and Patricia

OK – so what now?  Turn around – and go back…


We wanted to go ashore – and those rotten buggers wouldn’t let us…

40 years ago, WE looked like that too…

What the bloody hell are they doing? Waiting for the lock to clear ahead…

On the Fore Deck…

On the Poop Deck…
 

So – we have just (3 hours ago) arrived back in Agen – and, as you can see, we had a terrible time – and did not enjoy ourselves at all…  More tomorrow – after we have returned the boat…


Back to Le Mans – and Dinner with Maman…

June 24, 2006


Later on day 1…
  Checked into our hotel in Mans and taxied to the restaurant for our reunion with Florence, her Mother and friend Marie.  The 40 year “gap” might have caused some awkward moments – but it didn’t.  It was as if we had been together all the time.  The food and wine were excellent – the company even better!  The night flew…

And on day 2…   we were invited to reconvene at “Maman’s” for lunch.  A very long lunch… which ended just before breakfast.

We spent the morning in the old town…

Then to Maman’s – the house (and meal) was just as we remembered…

But this time we got to visit the 3rd floor!

Clockwise:  John, Keith, David, Florence, Marie – somewhere between the 5th & 8th courses – and well into the 2nd case of wine.

JB and (for him) Grand Mamam…

Maman’s three prodigal sons… the picture is not out of focus – WE were!

Mid-afternoon, we went in search of the old Seminary we had spent a few weeks in (yes – you read that right!) and found this little bar…

Not sure if this is the Seminary (it was extensively renovated) but this is certainly the staircase we used every day… (Click here – scroll down)

Our Steps again – just to be sure…
Then to find the Cafe and Service Station where the Old Blue Truck (and us) had been taken, for repairs, after our accident.  No idea where (and no old photos)…  We could remember it was on the 24 Hour Race Circuit – and something about a ‘Red Slope’.  So we drove the circuit – and almost immediately… there it was… the garage had gone years ago and the Cafe had become a bar and restaurant – but it was ‘our Cafe’ – and – CLOSED!   But – we knew our way around the back – where we had lived in the mechanics’ yard – and found the new beer garden… and the new owner…
 

Isabelle was cleaning the entire place prior to closing after The Race season which had ended 2 days earlier – her husband Damien and a friend were settled down to watch ‘Les Bleus’ play in the World Cup.  She listened to our ‘Le Mans reunion’ story – opened the bar – and later prepared dinner for all of us – just like the previous owners did – 40 years ago.



  Comparing Race Posters… 
  from just one week earlier,  
  and 40 years ago!  That year’s
  poster was given to John by
  the Cafe du Tertre Rouge’s
  owner – in 1966.


Leaving for France…

June 24, 2006


Trip day 1 …
  Time to go – farewell the dogs – pack the car.  It was noted that Keith presented with a bad back so early in the trip – he never did like manual labour… Then a quick 25 km trip to Dover.  (I intend using kms in this story – because David still thinks in miles – and it REALLY pisses him off!)  So – Dover – and driving the cars onto the ferry.  Then a nice surpise (from the one who thinks in miles) – he had organised an upgrade for all of us – to the Club Lounge.  Very civilised, real coffee and real Champagne.  A nice start to a special day.  Arrived in Calais – turned right – and headed south for 550 kms – to Le Mans.  The navigation was of a very high standard – but the driver still managed to get us lost – probably because he was translating kms to miles – and not concentrating on the highway signs…

Pictures above (Clockwise) – JB & Archie (JB’s the taller one) | A bad back? | Just the 2 of us – JB and his Dad | Keith | David | John.


A Canterbury Tale…

June 24, 2006


0 days to go…
   I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Canterbury, but I’ve never taken the time to visit the Cathedral – until this trip…  I mean, there’s just so many Cathedrals – so little time…  WRONG!  This one is a must see.  So much school boy history – brought to life…

Pictures above (Clockwise) – David and Milo | JB, David & Keith, in front of Canterbury Cathedral | The site of Thomas Beckett’s murder – with a couple of suspects looking down on the scene | The Reverent Keith |  Inside the Cathedral | A Pub Lunch.


All together – for the first time in 40 years…

June 22, 2006


1 day to go… 
It’s 0300, I’ve just slept for 7 hours, walked through the Kent countryside (JB has run from Ickham to Canterbury and back) and everbody else is asleep!  The day (when it dawns) will be spent packing the cars for tomorrow’s crossing to France – and visiting Canterbury Cathedral.  Dinner tonight with about 10 guests – then an early start for the drive to Le Mans.

Pictures above (Clockwise) – Asleep, again | Studying the form guide, for Le Tour | Keith, stowing “Le Bag” | The 3 of us – all together for the first time in 40 years – at Terminal 4.

As a photographer, David makes a good Insurance Broker...
David got a ‘great’ shot of us arriving at Heathrow’s terminal 4 – got JB, got the bike – and some little stranger – but almost missed me completely.  Looks like I’ll be the designated photographer on this trip!