Canal de Garonne and la Baïse
Late in the day the Morons grew tired of Buzet-sur-Baïse and pressed for an immediate departure. In a rush we stowed the mooring lines on deck and headed in the boats down the Descente en Baïse double lock. With a right turn we were headed up stream on the Baïse River.
Two miles from Buzet the Baïse River crosses underneath the waters of the Canal de Garonne suspended in the Pont-canal sur la Baïse. It was clear now that we were no longer on a manmade waterway. Here the river meanders as it wills in a gorge. The banks are choked with vegetation; there is no towpath. On canals boaters are allowed to tie up for the night pretty much anywhere they want but that is not the case on the Baïse. For a variety of reasons mooring at undeveloped spots is forbidden. Not that the legalities matter. The shrubbery is often so thick on the bank that finding a way to tie up to shore is near impossible.
The Baïse continues with a backwoods feel until it reaches the first lock at Vianne. The lock was closed by the time we arrived so we tied the Castelmoron and the Herault to a minimalist village-side dock for the night.
Vianne is a bastide town. Bastides are purpose-built fortified towns created to stabilize and consolidate Royal rule in the area. It is a trivia point that Vianne is the only one of the many bastides to be named after a woman.
Viewed from outside its walls Vianne gives the impression of a fortress. The inside is different; the ramparts surround a village with a well-organized street plan. Though the village is old–Vianne was finished in 1287–it feels distinct from the chaotic arrangement of most medieval towns. Like all bastides, the town’s layout reflects a coordinated level of urban planning not typical in its age.
Vianne is a good place to explore a bastide. Indeed it would have been worth a visit even if we weren’t forced by the closed lock to spend the evening. But the truth is we likely would never have come upon Vianne if we weren’t traveling by boat. It is these unplanned discoveries that make barge travel intriguing.
Travel time*: 1.8 hours
Cruising time**: 1.8 hours
Distance traveled: 10 kilometers
Lock chambers transited: 2
Weather: Cool and cloudy; Fall has come
At the end of the day, our trip across France was 64% complete based on cruising time and 62% complete based on distance covered. We had passed through 170 of the 246 locks (69%) of the locks that we would cross.
* The time between the start of the day and the end of the day.
**As measured by the hour meter on our boat. When the motor is running we were either moving or standing by to move (like in a lock).