After a couple of nights in Nérac we stowed the Herault’s mooring lines and headed up river. The Baïse was now narrow and winding. Dense vegetation lines the banks. The waterway feels less like a navigable barge channel and more like a backdrop for gunboat scene in Apocalypse Now.
More or less halfway from Nérac to Condom is the small village of Moncrabeau. Our map book told us that Moncrabeau is home of the “academy of liars.” This we had to investigate further. Along with the Morons we moored at the dock and headed up the hill to learn more.
Our map book, Guide Fluvial: Aquitaine, tells the story of Moncrabeau:
“At the beginning of the 17th Century several old soldiers who were enjoying a peaceful retirement at Moncrabeau met regularly in the market place to talk about local events. But in those times, without radio or television, news traveled slowly so the gentlemen began to ‘add news if their own invention to those which they did not receive quickly enough.’ A monk from Condom, greatly impressed by this unusual gift of the citizens of Moncrabeau, proposed to create an academy of liars, of which he would be president, and Moncrabeau became officially the ‘the head town of…liars, boasters and story tellers of the kingdom’.
“The tradition has been preserved and even today the members of the academy have the right to ‘lie delicately without causing prejudice to anything but the truth’….”
A walking loop through Moncrabeau provides ample evidence of the village’s commitment to stretching the truth. Signs tell fanciful stories of the history of the town. It was all pretty funny. Of course, in Moncrabeau all of the signs were in French so for us to say it that it was humorous might well have been a lie.
Before we left both Becky and our dog Gigi took turns sitting the Liar’s Chair. It is told that taking a seat in this large stone chair in the center of Moncrabeau enables one to distort the truth. In the throne of liars Becky said same things she always does. Now that has me wondering; is she always lying? Gigi too behaved normally in the seat of liars; she just looked as confused as usual. Somehow I doubt that this was a lie.
Back on the boats we transited several more locks cruising from Moncrabeau to Condom. The locks and weirs on the Baïse are particularly attractive. Unlike canals, the particular arrangement of each dam and lock on a river is unique. Sometimes the lock is located near the weir. In other places a lengthy narrow channel has been dug to bisect a bend in the river leaving the lock well away from the dam.
Our day of cruising terminated in the town of Condom (pronounced differently and no apparent relation to the birth control device). Though it lacks the medieval feel of Nérac, Condom is still a quite pleasant town. It is considered to be the “capitol” of the Armagnac brandy producing region. The streets and the neighboring area offer plenty of opportunities to sample and learn about the area’s famous eau de vie.
There’s more than brandy in Condom. The village sits on the Way of St. James and has a pilgrimage worthy cathedral that has been included as part of France’s Routes of Santiago de Compostela UNESCO listing. In front of the church a statue celebrates the towns connection with d’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers .
At the end of the day, with the Morons, we walked over for a good meal at the Michelin starred La Table des Cordeliers. As usual, our dog Gigi came along for dinner. She sat mostly quietly at our feet as she usually does. Even after many meals France it is still hard for us to get used to the idea that we could dine inside a fancy restaurant with our canine. In nice places it always feels like we are getting away with something. At least we feel that way until we see another dog at a table nearby. Or when recently made friends at an adjacent table want to give Gigi table scraps. The French like their dogs and Gigi likes France. Thank heaven for little girls.
A stop action video from part of this day has been posted.
Travel time*: 7.2 hours
Cruising time**: 5.3 hours
Distance traveled: 25 kilometers
Lock chambers transited: 10
Weather: Cool and cloudy, fall has come
At the end of the day, our trip across France was 69% complete based on cruising time and 67% complete based on distance covered. We had passed through 186 of the 246 locks (76%) 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).