Up at the crack of dawn, John and I wandered into the village to use the public conveniences (which were very convenient), collect fresh bread for the boat, stock up on a few supplies (for instance, we’d finished off a few bottles of cider which needed replacing) and then wandered back. In typical French fashion, the charcuterie does not open on a Monday.
We set off on the canal at about 9am with most hands awake and drinking tea. We navigated through a few locks – The Captain did try and ram one but we’ll not mention that here – and managed to miss the dock at St Laurent. This pissed Matt off to the extent that when we reached Malestroit (he more or less accused John and Darren of deliberately missing the dock), he and Bev took off, walking back so they could visit a prehistoric site, as the rest of us went up to the medieval centre ville.
What a lovely place. A fantastic collection of gargoyles adorn the outside of the church. The inside had a bit too much Jesus in it for my liking (I prefer a good sprinkling of saints as well) but did have a wonderful construction of wooden scaffolding in the tower. It was a very impressive bit of engineering and we all marvelled at it. Actually we marvelled more at the scaffolding than the church.
Interestingly the bell started pealing as we entered the doors. Lorna claimed it is because she’s a lapsed catholic and they like to let everyone know when one returns to the arms of the church.
We wandered around for a bit before sitting at a bar for a few beers (Sean had a Kir, which he said was very refreshing) before setting off for the supermarket for supplies. While I was wandering around on my own I found the world famous Malestroit lintel. It’s hidden down a little alley and is not that easy to find, except by accident. I tried to convince the others that they should see it but they decided to wait for the photo.
It has, carved into its surface, three ancient maxims in three ancient languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. They say, roughly,
Hebrew: I have hope in your mercy, Jehovah
Greek: Know yourself
Latin: The ground is only one short stay, it is the sky God has reserved for us, like a fatherland
From what I can translate from the sign, it was originally made in around 1470 and was part of a convent. It somehow ended up in Malestroit, over what appears to be a barn door, down a nondescript alley, in 1828. I have to say, the Greek one is the only one that really appeals to me.
At the supermarket much time was spent in the cheese section as we debated which ones would make the boat the smelliest and then duly bought them. We have a cheese drawer on the boat. It’s very good at keeping the smelly stuff at bay…until it’s opened. You realise pretty quickly that it is the cheese drawer. On the hotter days we’d have to scoop up the runnier stuff and pour it into a bottle for later consumption.
We gradually wandered back to the boat, unpacked our groceries and then settled down for a nice lunch on the top deck. At least John, Lorna, Darren and I did. Sean and Carlee had disappeared and Matt and Bev were…well, who knows. It was lovely sitting in the sun enjoying French smelly cheese, cider and salad.
Eventually we had a boat full as they wandered back in dribs and drabs and we once more set off. The prehistoric site which Matt so wanted to see was a bit of a damp squib, by the way.
The canal progressed through the countryside, arrow straight in parts, as we headed towards our next nights stop, Le Roc Saint Andre. It has an amazing bridge! Before the bridge is a big campsite with a pontoon for boats to dock at but this was full so we continued under the bridge. On the other side was a lovely long pontoon, completely empty. We claimed it for all Weaseldom and tied up.
Next to the pontoon was a small park which contained a cavern with a statue of the Virgin Mary with gifts of flowers (it sort of resembled a very small version of Lourdes) and a couple of young, hormone inflamed youngsters, clearly practising for their dentistry exams.
After docking, we took a wander into the small town. It’s high up on a hill and has a bizarre steeple on its church. It also sells weasel beer. It’s not really weasel beer but the beer I had last time I was in Brittany with a label that looks like a weasel. Suffice to say, Lorna, Darren, John and I settled outside a small bar and consumed a few. We were soon joined by Sean who also had a few.
The decision to eat at the same establishment was an easy one. There wasn’t anywhere else. Fortunately the food was delicious and we all stuffed ourselves, drinking cider like it was running out.
Feeling somewhat full, I decided to go for a bit of a walk and was eventually joined by Lorna and Darren as we searched for a chateau that was distinctly indicated on a sign post but, in true French fashion, did not indicate how far it was.
I have a game I play in these cases. I decide how long I aim to walk for and if I have not found the thing I am walking towards by then, I simply turn around and come back. It saves a lot of shoe leather. I explained this to Lorna and Darren and they agreed to play by the rules. We had 15 minutes and then it was back to the boat.
When we reached our limit we turned and spied a couple of shadow figures approaching us. And then there was a great commotion as two owls fought it out in a night time dogfight, high in the trees. It was extraordinary and had us fearing for our lives! Actually, that’s not true. We made up a silly story to account for it. The story ended up somewhat embellished and broadened to include a kitten in a wheel chair that served the older owl in return for the gift of flight. I guess you had to be there.
Anyway, we gradually made our way back to the dock, choosing a path we hadn’t been down, testing our resolve to trust in the gods of night time wanderers, who didn’t let us down.
By the way, we didn’t see the chateau as it was further than 15 minutes away.