Life on the River

posted by Maya

We are a family who likes boats, especially my dad, so the rest of us weren’t surprised when he suggested we go on a boat tour of the south of France.  In fact, we were excited!  We left Rome and took two days to drive hundreds of miles to Agen, France, where went rented a house boat.   Then, it was pretty much “Au Revoir” civilization for the entire week!

Life is good!

The Canal Garonne, isthe kind of place that would be beautiful in every season, with trees and small farms lining the banks; and water flowing freely as far as your eyes can see.

River Baise in town of Nerac


We had to dock every night, but there wasn’t always a port to dock in.  In those cases, we would nature- moor (dock wherever the heck we felt like). When there was a marina or port, we could plug in to their electricity, hook our boat up to a potable water source, and use public bathrooms (see Eva & Rikki’s post).

After two days on the canal, we decided to change direction and go onto the River Baise.  It too, was absolutely gorgeous. One night, we docked in a sleepy little town called Nerac.  It was a summer tourist town, and since the tourist season was long over for everyone except the crazy Goldmans, there wasn’t much going on.  We did meet a very interesting man, though. We think his name was Henri, but we aren’t sure.  He was WACKO!  He owned a bar in Nerac with free wi-fi, which is where we met him.  My parents struck up a conversation with him, and it turns out that he’s from Belgium and that his father invented the can that whipped cream comes in.  Henri knew lots of English, including all the swears, which we all now use in our very best French accents.  Then, he gave us a dinner recommendation and FOLLOWED US TO THE RESTAURANT!  He sat down with us and started telling us about his family.  Often, he would need help with English translations (he refereed to his wife’s headache as an earthquake), so he would call out to our waiter, “Hey, Jean- Francois!”  Our waiter’s name was Giovanni, but that didn’t seem to bother Henri.

Besides strange people and beautiful scenery, we encountered many locks on our journey.  It’s not easy to get your boat through a lock, even when the doors open by themselves.  One person has to get out before the boat drifts into the lock chamber.  When we get the boat into the lock, another person, still on the boat, will throw ropes attached to the vessel to the person on shore.  Then, the person (or sometimes people) on the outside of the boat will pull the boat towards the side of the chamber, using the ropes, as the back doors of the lock close and water either fills it up or drains out of it.  Soon, the boat is at the proper water level and the front doors open.  The ropes are thrown back on to the boat and the person climbs back in.  It took us a while to get this routine down.  The first few times we attempted it, the whole lock process took us around 45 minutes. By the last day, we were doing it in 15.

In the lock, waiting for the water to rise

Eva operating the locks

When we got back to Agen (our starting and finishing point), we agreed that we had spent exactly the right amount of time on the boat trip.  Had we spent less than a week, we wouldn’t have been ready to go, but any more than a week, and we would’ve killed each other.  There’s only so much you can handle in a house boat that’s half the size of your living room!

Categories: France | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Life on the River

  1. Sari Bari

    Mai ❤ Sounds great! I wish I could have met Henri! He sounds like someone our bunk would like!!! 🙂

  2. I very much agree with Sari, did I tell you about that woman at the mall the “I’ll record you if I have to.” lady?

  3. Jim Sugarman

    Have to ask. Did the Goldmans pilot the boat. After reading stories of David’s international driving experiences…..I am a bit concerned.

    • Goldmans did fine driving the boat. But we did go ahead and get the all inclusive insurance policy.

  4. Elisabeth Zetland

    Sounds really great! I know it for sure; you are in my area. My hometown, Lectoure, is 25 miles South of Agen. A beautiful and tourist place, but so quiet…

    • Hi Elisabeth, We thought that we were near your town. We even saw a postcard that showed a young girl on a horse in the region, and one of the kids saidm “Oh, it’s just like Elizabeth!” The area was beautiful and the people were very friendly even at the end of the tourist season, which is saying a lot. It did seem very quiet pretty different from Tel Aviv! How are you and the family? Say hello to everyone for us. We miss you guys, Amy

      • Elisabeth Zetland

        Yes, people in my area are well known to be very nice. Life is good there, but it’s definitely too quiet for me.
        We are all fine. Yasmin will turn 4 in a month (November 27th) ans she’s already excited. My mother will arrive here in November 19th to stay with us 3 weeks, and then with Yasmin I’ll stay 2 weeks in Lectoure. Unfortunately Jeremy has to work and won’t come with us. Too bad.
        Kisses, Elisabeth.

  5. kareen

    I am impressed with the lock maneuvering! Good job Goldmans. I am glad you spent just the right amount of time on the boat. Were you able to swim or tube in the river?? Your boats at home are all out of the water and anxiously awaiting your return! miss you all – xoxo-

  6. Maya-
    Henri sure sounds like an interesting character.
    We love your blog.

    Grandpa and Monga

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