France Cruises, Day 5: Exploring Minerve

The violent battles against Cathars are a part of Minerve history.

Overnight the weather has turned. Rain and blustery winds have blown in out of nowhere, and as the thunder and lightning woke us up in the middle of the night, you could hear Mathias working throughout the barge, closing windows, battening down the hatches and making sure all was well. He is always scrubbing or washing or taking care of something on the barge – not that it needs it, but because he takes great pride in the look of the barge.I awoke earlier than normal this morning, just in time to see Oliver make his daily trip to the local market for food for today’s meals. Shopping for food is the morning event for our chef, and when he comes back and stocks the small galley kitchen, it is a visual sneak peek at what we might be eating that day. When the vegetable basket was filled with eggplant, that was a clear indication of an eggplant casserole coming our way. When you walk through the lounge and see Oliver putting a pie pastry into the oven, your mind starts spinning – could it be a dessert or a savory quiche?  Will we have it for lunch or for dinner? The contents of lunch and dinner are a much anticipated event, and the source of conversation throughout the day.

The cascading water of a lock is a sight to watch.

Today we went through our first two locks along the canal. The simple process of sailing into a lower “waiting area,” having a gate close behind us and then the area fill with water to lift us to the upper portion of the canal seems to captivate everyone onboard.In between jumping onto the canal banks to assist Mathias in navigating the locks, Oliver has cooked up a tuna macaroni salad along with a hunter’s chicken served with mushrooms for lunch.

Selene picks us up after lunch for an excursion into Minerve, a 15-minute drive away from our dock in Argens. The ancient city of Minerve was also a Cathar stronghold, where a Cathar massacre took place in 1210. The village is now closed to most vehicular traffic, preserving the ancient architecture and way of life that has existed for centuries. The streets are rugged, hilly and paved with uneven rocks. It is unfathomable to imagine that this is how people actually lived, as the daily grind of walking through the village would have been strenuous.

Family-owned wineries are plentiful in the region.

After a walking tour through Minerve, we had some free time to ourselves, in which we found a shop selling gelato and indulged in a wine tasting by a local winery.Dinner tonight is an unexpected twist from the standard local delicacies. After an appetizer of melon and prosciutto, we dined on Scottish salmon that Oliver had delivered to us as fresh as possible. The salmon and baked potato covered with Provencal cream and herbes de Provence from the region had everyone raving about the meal. A baked apple with cream sauce for dessert rounded out the evening.

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