Languedoc - Roullisson

23rd. August 2009

We know nothing about this coastline from the Rhone delta to the Pyrenees, and it is apparently not very well known. It has been developed with five huge marinas. From the sea some of the vast new modern buildings and apartments are in the shape of pyramids. It all looks very artificial, and such a contrast to where we have been recently with old cities and walled towns.
We pass Aigues mortes, a walled town near port Carmague, where Louis 1x set off for the crusades.
Today we have time to read. Ross is reading The Boat by Nam Le, and I am finishing The book Thief by Markus Zusak.
We come into the marina at Palavas des Flots, where we are welcomed by a very friendly and helpful capitainerie into this newly developed marina. We tie up at Port des Flotes at 5pm. after 10 hours tracking. We are pleased there is room in this large marina which has 1,000 berths, but with only 50 visitor´s berths. It is choppy outside and a bit rolly for a good night´s sleep. It is quite a difficult tie up here between two large poles and a slight cross wind (it reminds us of the n.east coast of Australia).

Swimming Carnival

There is a swimming carnival in full swing when we go ashore. This is held in the River Lez which divides the town in two as it flows out to the sea. The participants are swimming down the river, enjoying the current, and around the small headland back to the beach. There is a great atmosphere with all the supporters cheering. Later there are live bands.
The walk along the sides of the river is colourful with many small fishing boats tied up, and numerous cafes and restaurants, and souvenir shops This was once a tuna fishing town but is now focusing on tourism, more for people from Montpelier than foreigners.

Palavas des Flots

This used to be a major tuna fishing town but is now more involved with tourism. The town is buzzing tonight with a great holiday mode about it. We decide having dinner on the boat is the best option so buy some fresh fish and Ross is pleased to find a wine shop selling wine from a huge wooden cask. It is Vin de pays de l´Herault Rouge ou Rose´, which is very favourably priced at €i.20 a litre. It went well with the dorado fish!

Wine Cave

24th. August 2009
The wine last night was so good we walk back into town this morning to buy two more containers of it. This is partly because the owners are so lovely, and they manage such an attractive shop.


Ross spoils me with some new bathers and a summer dress!
Marseille is described as a dirty and busy town, amongst its other attributes. The point of this comment is I can´t believe how dusty the interior of the boat is. It keeps me busy for sometime this morning trying to clean her.
We refuel here as there is no wind and it is an easy dock to approach.
With a good forecast for the next two days we are just tracking 12n.miles today to Sete. It is so calm we motor with no sails up. It is a good day to spend time lying out on the foredeck soaking in some sun. We don´t do this very often but it is very pleasant when we do. We are very conscious of being out in the sun too much.
For some reason we both felt a bit homesick today. I guess it is three months since we left. I guess you adjust mentally to time frames and so now we are looking forward to being home in a few weeks. But first we have more exploring to do and Ross particularly will be pleased to finish the passage across the Golfe du Lyon.
We are snapped back into the reality of our trip when we go ashore at the old port. At first we comment on how the holiday season has suddenly dropped away, but as we walk further into the old town we find crowds of people are lining the bridges of the canal, and its sides, to join in the celebrations for St. Louis, their Patron Saint here. I can´t believe I haven´t brought the camera with me to capture this spectacular scene. There are giant video screens set up each end of part of the canal which is closed off for what looks like a jousting competition between two teams at a time, on large row boats. Each boat is rowed by ten people and has a man at the stern with a wooden shield and a pole. Each team is dressed smartly in their uniforms. As the boats approach one another from opposite directions the men try to push each other off, with great encouragement from their supporters.
This is still a working fishing town. The harbour and canals are lined with various sized fishing trawlers from small to huge. There are fishing nets drying everywhere.

Fishing boat returning tinto the port

From this port, which is the second largest along the french mediterranean coast, the herault wine and oil are exported. Before we approached the entrance to Sete harbour we could see the large tanks on-shore.
We walk up to the Musee´Valery. It is closed for renovations, but the view back down to the canal and sea give a good overview of the houses in the old town with their colourful shutters.
The place actually looks a little seedy and in parts smells of a fisherman´s port, as we look for somewhere for dinner. We find a cafe alongside the canal out of the way of the traffic, and beside some of the large fishing trawlers. The people who run it look a bit questionable but we have the best paella here. As the night settles in and the lights come on around about, this area develops quite a character and comes to life.
When we go to bed there is a slight wind and we can hear the rigging of other´s boats slapping on their masts. Most of these boats are local so their crews aren´t sleeping on them. It doesn´t keep us awake though.
During the night we are woken by live bands swinging into louder action. The young woman in the marina office tells Ross she was up celebrating until 5am. She was at work by 7am! Unfortunately we won´t be here for the fireworks tommorow night.

Leaving Sete

25th. August 2009
Today we set off to track 56n.miles in a s.west direction to Collioure. We are able to sail for a while until the wind drops out, so we motor-sail with the mainsail up, and then we have to bring that in too. We are not disappointed though as the important thing is to have a calm crossing here.
The wind picks up again and for the last few hours we motor -sail with the headsail up and average 7-8 kts, arriving at Collioure an hour before scheduled. This small town looks very attractive tucked into the mountains, all covered in cloud. This has been our first overcast day for as long as we can remember.


Collioure a is a gem. It is built around its small port where we are able to tie onto a mooring just off the main beach near the old church, in front of the walled town. This is lucky as you are not permitted to anchor here and there are only nine visitors moorings. Two years ago, in many of the Costa Brava ports, the regulation was brought in that you are not permitted to anchor, but only to use the provided moorings, which limits the availablility to stay in thee different places. It helps to arrive at these places sooner rather than later to increase the chances of securing a mooring for the night.
We can see why impressionist artists were attracted here, and still are. We have a drink at the Hotel les Templiers. The owner here used to accept paintings from artists for rent and the hotel now has a permanent exhibition of 20th. century art. We follow the path around the port which displays works of Matisse and De´rain. We enjoy these very much, especially their use of colour.

Painting by Matisse

Hotel des Templiers

Typical boat in the small port here

Buying bread at the market here

Cooking a barb-e-que on board

26th. August 2009
We track 4 n.miles around to Port Vendres. This is another charming small port but is still a working fishing village. It has exceptionally good protection here. There are strong winds forecast over the next few days so we secure the boat well and hire a car to go exploring.
Reading the pilot book Ross is concerned we may have a problem because we didn´t check into immigration when we came into France. We assumed it is the same as entering the E.U. by plane ie. once you have entered the E.U. (as we did in Greece) you may enter other countries without checking in. After checking with the Customs officer it is clear all is well.
Now we are free to set off in the car, with no fixed plans. We drive north up the coast to Perpignan and then westwards to Quillan.The contrast of the scenery entering the area of the eastern Pyrenees is fantastic. Driving through the glacial valley with its high, rugged and barren peaks each side is spectacular. Many of the slopes are covered with vineyards. Later we are driving by he Aude river, lined with wooded areas. This is the site of international canoeing and rafting.

Views of the Pyrenees

Rock overhang enroute

We stay in a hotel which serves delicious traditional french cuisine.

Breakfast on the terrace

27th. August 2009
This morning we take the "Sentier des Oliviers et Roc de Capio". It is three and a half hour walk, and eleven ks. We don´t see many olives at all, in fact only one stand high up just out of Ginoles. It is said it is unusual to grow them at this altitude, so when they were grown here in ancient times it was very special.
When we climb to the top of the mountain ridge there are wonderful panoramic views down into the valleys of farmland below and across to other nearby mountain peaks. Fortunately there is a lot of shade along the wooded parts of the track. The landscape changes a lot as we walk up and then descend again. This walk gives us a better feel for he area.
We have a late lunch in the town square at Limoux in the Haute vallee´de l´Aude, a well known wine region.
Late afternoon we arrive in Carcassonne, a UNESCO world heritage site. This is a medieval walled town, set up high. It is interesting trying to imagine what it was like to live here all those years ago. We enjoy our stay here very much including walking around the town through the cobbled and narrow streets, and some fine dining. Cars are not allowed access here which is sensible as it is not a large town and is crowded anyway.

View looking up to Carccissonne

L´Aude river below Carcissonne

28th. August 2009
From Carcassonne we drive via Tribes, a delightful town, out into more open countryside where general farming is happening. In the towns and by the canals we pass along many attractive avenues of trees (they look like a variety of plane trees). Through this area are many fields of sunflowers which look ready to harvest.
Chalabre is a lovely town but everything is shut down for lunch.
Now we drive through a wide river valley where there are signs for deer everywhere. We don´t actually see any but we enjoy knowing they are here.
We venture up to Chateau de Puivert , which is very old and is being renovated. It has an interesting history from C11.

Chateau de Puivert and view of the farmlands below

Tapestry in the chapel at the top of this chateau

We return to the steeper Pyrenees country now as we travel west via Quillan towards Axat to a Band B up in the mountains at Cailla. This is one of the smallest towns we have ever seen. It is another great area for walking with wonderful views.



Ross is really stretched with his french with our host and hostess, and the other five guests at the B and B, Les Terraces du Cailla. The dinner here is excellent, with all the fruit and vegetables out of their garden.

Serving cheese after dinner

29th. August 2009
Rafting is the excitement this morning. We have two hours rafting on l´Aude river , including Les Gorges St. Georges, with a guide. It really is a great activity and such a wonderful way to see this beautiful scenery. There is fun in the air too as several of the rafts are filled with guys making up a buck´s party.Rafting on the L´Aude river through Axat

We are actually very cold at the finish. It is amazing how quickly the season is coming to a close. It is actually the last weekend of the rafting season here because the dams to this river are being closed off from the power stations on Monday. We notice the early mornings and nights are cooler now.

Driving back down to the Pyrenees foothills

We have a hot drink and wickedly rich french pastry at Axat, another attractive town (which we rafted through) and a picnic lunch at Argeles.

Picnic lunch on the beach at Argeles

After a taste of the Pyrenees we would both like to see more of this area. We are interested to learn more about the Pilgrim´s walks.
It is always a relief to come back and find Impulsive safe and sound. There are signs of the strong winds forecast ( to gust up to force 11 on Saturday). Many of the fenders have been rubbed up hard on the jetty arm and are black in places. A tramontane was predicted which was to last about three days, and then typically there are about ten days of calm. This is great news as Jenny and John arrive tomorrow only for a few days so it would be disappointing if we couldn´t take the boat out.

30th. August 2009
John and Jenny are on their way, driving from Barcelona. It is so wonderful to see them and hear all their travel news too.
They also bring with them the perfect weather for their few days with us. We have our best sail for a long time with a beautiful n.easterly of 15 - 20kts. for the three and a half hour sail to Cadaques. John and Jenny had emailed their friends who live in Barcelona who wrote back to say they wouldn´t be there because they would be at their holiday summer house in Cadaques. Incredibly this afternoon we get the right wind to sail there. Jenny hasn´t been able to call them on their mobile number but when she tries again it is successful. Ramon is amazed to hear her voice and happens to be out on their boat too. Apparently he thinks Jenny is joking! He kindly organizes a mooring for us next to theirs and he and Marie Angeles, and their crew of three come on board for a drink and rendez-vous. What fun! They have a very attractive boat which seems unique to the area. It hasn´t got a sail but when the fisherman used them years ago, they did.

Ramon and Marie-Angeles´ boat moored next to Impulsive

We are treated later to drinks in their magnificent home, which they built. Then we all walk into town to dinner at a local restaurant they recommend. It is a magical, still night with reflections of the moon and village lights over the water.
Marie Angeles is Catalan which is fascinating to learn more about. She speaks the language (one of five) and still enjoys being involved with the culture and dance.The catalan language is spoken in eastern and north - eastern Spain, and in the Roussillon region of France. Catalonia is an autonomous community.


31st. August 2009
Today we have a SSE wind gusting up to 35kts. It is what we need to take us back in the direction of Port Vendres where Jenny and John have left their hire car. It is so difficult to drop cars off and hire another one this seems the best solution. All this coast is lovely so it works out well.
We can sail the whole way. We start out with the mainsail up and then the spinnaker.

Sailing with the spinnaker flying

Unfortunately the wind gets up a bit and is a little variable so we have to bring it down, with some difficulty. It is good we have John´s extra strength on board. Then we sail with the headsail and mainsail up, and as the wind gets stronger we "come home" with just the mainsail up. We have a lovely four hour sail back to Collioure. Ross and I are pleased to return to this village to share it with Jenny and John.

Walking out to the Chapel

Looking to the the far side of Collioure

We have a rolly night here with the swell, especially when the wind drops out. Dinner on board is quite a fun affair, including dancing.

Dinner on board

1st. September 2009
We track the four n.miles back to Port Vendres in time for a farewell brunch with Jenny and John at the fishermen´s co-op. on the wharf. This is a great experience we discovered when we were provisioning a few days ago. There are two market - type shops selling fresh fish, and one of these offers different platters of seafood with a glass of beer or wine. What a marvelous way to start the day and a suitable way to end our time with Jenny and John.

What a delicious platter!

Oysters and beer (or wine) for brunch

Favourite recipe this leg:
Paella for 4 persons
Use a large heavy frying pan or saute pan. The traditional pan has two lug, or loop handles and is made of earthenware, iron or heavy metal.
For four people 10-12" in diameter and 2" deep is a good size.

12 large prawns
(chicken - if desired)
2 teacups of arborio rice
2 tomatoes
seasonings of saffron (I used "epices paella which contains saffron from a jar we bought at the fish co-op)
pimento (spanish paprika)
pepper to taste

fry the chopped and peeled tomatoes in the same oil
stir in 1 teaspn. paprika
add the rice and the prawns (shelled if preferred)
cook steadily for 15 mins.
add .5 teaspn. of saffron
rice should be cooked in 5-7 mins. add more water if necessary or cook more quickly if too moist.
Serve in pan it is cooked in