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French Wine is Fabulous

Paraza, France

So I was up in the middle of the night and I don't know why. Maybe I'm not used to the nature sounds. I can hear the wind blowing. There is something that sounds like a plastic bottle being thumped against the side of the boat periodically. (It's probably one of the bumpers.) Maybe the moon is really bright and it reflects off the water, so it's not quite dark. Maybe I didn't move about enough yesterday to be tired. For whatever reason, my body doesn't think it's sleepytime, so as soon as I fall asleep (my super power), I wake up again.
Now that I'm up and on my phone, it's telling me that there's a meteor shower that's supposed to be happening now, per what I put in my calendar. Maybe I somehow remembered that and my body really wanted to see it?
I'm sitting outside on the back of the boat. It's dark enough that I can't see what kind of animal just made that big splash in the water, but bright enough that I can see the outline of the trees and the moonlight reflecting off the water. It's not very cloudy, so I can see tons of stars, but no meteor shower. Although it's interesting that the stars all seem to be flickering and wobbling. I'm assuming that's some sort of effect due to the boat bobbing gently + what clouds there are, but maybe I'm just seeing things.

I was ultimately able to get back to sleep.
When I awoke, we checked at the lock house and saw that it didn't open until 9am. So we had plenty of time to get organized. Fortunately, it had been cold at night and the food still seemed ok, although it won't be by the end of the day if we don't do something.
For breakfast I threw some butter in a pan, added sliced leeks, and then some boxed bechamel sauce after the leeks had cooked. Finally, I threw in some eggs. I didn't have good temperature control, so it didn't turn out exactly how I wanted, but when they were done, I plated them and threw a chunk of stinky French cheese on top to melt in. It was heavenly. I usually cook much bolder food, but the ingredients here are so good that even subtle food is delicious. My guy even commented that he didn't think we would have been able to get something this good any anything short of a super-fancy restaurant.
Lock Filling

Lock Filling


After breakfast, he showered as I got everything organized for the day. By the time he was done, the lock was open and we went through. It was only a few minutes to the next town, Argens-Minervois, which was where we had tried to get to last night. But it was just enough time for me to take a quick shower and hop out to tie the boat up.
Argens-Minervois

Argens-Minervois


We popped in to the little grocery market, hoping to buy bread and ice, but they were all out of ice. We got some frozen potatoes to help keep our fridge-turned-into-a-cooler cold temporarily. I called Le Boat and they said they'd send a technician to fix it, but it would be about an hour.
We took advantage of that hour to wander through the town. There's not a whole lot to see- an abandoned castle, a tall church, and some wine tasting place that was closed when we arrived. It is pretty though.
abandoned castle

abandoned castle


We rested on the boat a bit as we waited for the technician to show up. When he was a half hour late, I called Le Boat, but didn't get an answer. At an hour late and leaving 2 messages, we took off. The lock was reopened after the lunch break and we wanted to get through it so that we could keep going.
This time, the lock keeper had us fit into the lock with 2 other boats. It was a bit cramped, but he managed. One of the other boats was "normal" and one was super interesting. It wasn't a mass-manufactured boat at all, but more of a house built on a floating platform. The house even had plastic roof tiles that imitated the red corrugated ceramics that are typical on Mediterranean roofs.
Left is the house-style boat

Left is the house-style boat


We passed Roubia for now, but may stop there if there's time on the way back. We did stop at Paraza though. This cute town has a very fancy docking area. Small cafes and restaurants line the "promenade" for the docking area, and one had some customers. They sat outside drinking and singing.
Canal Town

Canal Town


We hiked up the hill to the winery, Chateau de Paraza. We didn't really find the entrance, but we went in through the factory side. I enjoyed seeing the machinery they used to transport the grapes, the big fermentation vats, and the industrial equipment.
Wine Machinery

Wine Machinery


I also enjoyed the wine tasting. It was free and they were generous. But most importantly, the wine was GOOD. I've had wines before that people insist are good because they're expensive. And I am usually unimpressed. I don't like wines where you can taste the alcohol strongly like they just mixed grape juice with rubbing alcohol. The wine we bought the other day (Languedoc region) and the wines here aren't like that at all. They've certainly got alcohol in them, but you can't taste it. You just get various grape flavors, although not necessarily sweet like grape juice. We both really enjoyed the white. I enjoyed both reds we tasted, although my Guy only appreciated one of them. I find reds too spicy to just drink though. They're much better for adding a lot of flavor to cooking, in my opinion. In comparison, the rose was just ok, even though it was better than 99% of the wines I've ever had.
We got a bottle of white to bring back to the boat.
Around this time, Le Boat called to apologize that the technician was running late and ask where he should meet us. I get that he has other things to do and am not at all upset at the timing of his arrival, but they should have called hours ago to say that he'd be late. We met him at the boat, he went in to check the fridge, and boom. It worked. Apparently, pressing the on button (which we tried) wouldn't turn it on, but holding it a long time would. (We did try holding, but I guess not long enough.) I knew it was something stupid like that, but it's just sad it took us so long to figure it out.
View

View


We moved on from Paraza, past Ventenac-en-Minervois, which seemed to also have a winery as the main thing to do in town, and on to le Somail.
The scenery here is dominated by vineyards. I'm hoping that we can hike through some tomorrow. I'm anxious to sit on my butt less and get off the boat more. While there's a great view from the top of the boat, driving it is a bit boring. The scenery is nice, but repetitive. And I want to be in it and touch it and experience it rather than just float through it.
Le Somail is a bigger town that was much busier than the others. We struggled a bit to find boat parking as the spots were already taken by dozens of boats.
Store-on-a-boat

Store-on-a-boat


After parking, we went into town to visit the boat grocery store I had heard about. It's really just that- a store that is on a boat. It's small, but had a surprising selection, including vegemite. We just got a baguette.
We had pre-dinner dessert at an ice cream shop. I got a crepe that was decent and my guy got 3 scoops of ice cream. The caramel butter salt flavor was really good, but the pistachio and nougat weren't particularly impressive.
We also stopped at a huge bookstore. It seemed bigger than some of the towns we passed. If only I could fully understand written French, I would have picked something up. Still, I enjoyed looking at the wide variety of books in the shop. They had antiques under glass, an entire Agatha Christie section, and modern cookbooks.
Book store

Book store


As we left town, we heard the church bells toll. It was as if they were saying, "go home, your day is done now."
Since we need to turn around tomorrow, we changed the direction of the boat, although in a somewhat unconventional way. We didn't really steer it, we just kind of used the ropes and push pole to manually turn it. It's probably not what they'd recommend, but it worked since our boat is so small.
For dinner, I continued enjoying my French ingredients. I had picked up a pomela-sized celeriac root. My original intention was to do something au gratin style with some potatoes, but we don't really have an oven pan. Also, the knives here suck. I wish they had published a list of what the kitchen contains and then offered some sort of "chef package" we could rent that contained proper cooking knifes, a peeler, a grater, an oven pan, a whisk, and other cooking utensils that might help someone who likes to cook. I would have paid extra for that since I'm really just here for the food. Peeling and cutting a huge celeriac root with an unsharpened paring knife was not an easy task. I have the blister to prove it. Still, I eventually got it and the potatoes and onions chopped, got them cooked in a pot with some deglazing wine, the rest of the boxed bechamel sauce and some cheese. It was good, although had I had just a bit of salt or mustard to add, it could have been great.
After dinner, we chilled on the boat. We played Carcassonne, which is fitting as we're headed there in a couple of days.

Posted by spsadventures 05:16 Archived in France

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