May 20,  Mont-de-Marsan --> Xaintrailles -->Moissac

Once in France we turned inland, driving secondary roads and truck routes to a pleasant looking municipal camp ground at Mont-de-Marsan.  There was no registration, only a credit card operated gate where you paid for your stay and optionally purchased time at a central electrical post before the gate would open. The campsite was pleasant with grassy pitches, large shade trees, and a central sanitation centre.  It was nearly empty when we arrived, but before long motor-homes began to cluster around the power post, one would plug in a multi-outlet power cord and several others would draw from this one. They would take turns paying for the single outlet and sharing the power among the group. Unfortunately, the sanitation centre was closed and the only WCs were outside the park fence. Access required walking out to the main road, around the fence, and back to the automated, self-cleaning WC just opposite our van. A dull overcast greeted us the next morning as we did the long walk around the fence to the WC and back to do our morning ablutions in the van. The drive, mostly through forest-land, a little agriculture, and small villages took us into the Midi-Pyrénées and towards the city of Moissac. While unremarkable, we had clearly left Spain. Near the Canal de Garonne, on a hill surrounded by rolling forest and rich farmland, stood the village of Xaintrailles. The conical peaked towers of a château and the crenulated tower of the château's castle keep looked down on the old village with its modest church and cemetery. There were no stores, restaurants, or shops in the village and the streets were empty as we drove through. We parked on the edge of town and walked back towards the château. The walled and gated château and fortress were beautifully restored.  Painted plaster homes lined the village streets. In places fallen plaster exposed the underlying stone construction, a mix of dressed and undressed stone with ancient hand- hewn timber lintels above doors and windows. Rather than suggesting decay, these buildings emphasized the heritage of the village, giving it added character and interest. Scattered antique public taps, pumps, and pools, now mostly decorative, were reminders of the days before indoor plumbing. Alcoves and wrought iron balconies, some supporting grape vines or roses, gave an air of gentle hominess to the streets. A white haired woman, stooped and bent with age, emerged from a home and carried a bouquet of roses towards the church and cemetery. We could hear children in the school and around noon parents began arriving to pick  them up for lunch. The simple, rather humble church and cemetery were a marked contrast to the elaborate churches and mausoleums of Spain and Portugal. The history of the village and the changing times were evident in the family plots marking generations of the same family, and also in the number of plots no longer maintained, either because the family had moved or died, or had simply become indifferent. Many of these were marked as abandoned and available for reallocation. We checked out the canal and then had lunch beside a small cottage winery and public park near Bouzet-sur-Baise before driving through rolling fields of grain and orchards, past more chateaux, and through alleys of tall plane trees lining small lanes into our campsite on the Tarn River just outside Moissac.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
Chateau de Xaintrailles Narrow boats on the Canal Lateral a la Garone, Coustet

May 20,  Mont-de-Marsan -->

Xaintrailles -->Moissac

Once in France we turned inland, driving sec- ondary roads and truck routes to a pleasant looking municipal camp ground at Mont-de- Marsan.  There was no registra- tion, only a credit card operated gate where you paid for your stay and option- ally purchased time at a central electrical post before the gate would open. The campsite was pleasant with grassy pitches, large shade trees, and a central sanitation centre.  It was nearly empty when we arrived, but before long motor- homes began to cluster around the power post, one would plug in a multi-outlet power cord and several others would draw from this one. They would take turns paying for the single outlet and sharing the power among the group. Unfortunately, the sanitation centre was closed and the only WCs were outside the park fence. Access required walking out to the main road, around the fence, and back to the automated, self-cleaning WC just opposite our van. A dull overcast greeted us the next morning as we did the long walk around the fence to the WC and back to do our morning ablutions in the van. The drive, mostly through forest-land, a little agriculture, and small villages took us into the Midi-Pyrénées and towards the city of Moissac. While unremarkable, we had clearly left Spain. Near the Canal de Garonne, on a hill surroun- ded by rolling forest and rich farmland, stood the village of Xaintrailles. The conical peaked towers of a château and the crenulated tower of the château's castle keep looked down on the old village with its modest church and cemetery. There were no stores, res- taurants, or shops in the village and the streets were empty as we drove through. We parked on the edge of town and walked back towards the château. The walled and gated château and fortress were beautifully restored.  Painted plaster homes lined the village streets. In places fallen plaster exposed the underlying stone construction, a mix of dressed and undressed stone with ancient hand-hewn timber lintels above doors and windows. Rather than suggesting decay, these buildings emphasized the heritage of the village, giving it added character and interest. Scattered antique public taps, pumps, and pools, now mostly dec- orative, were reminders of the days before indoor plumbing. Alcoves and wrought iron balconies, some supporting grape vines or roses, gave an air of gentle hominess to the streets. A white haired woman, stooped and bent with age, emerged from a home and carried a bouquet of roses towards the church and cemetery. We could hear children in the school and around noon parents began arriving to pick  them up for lunch. The simple, rather humble church and cemetery were a marked con- trast to the elaborate churches and mauso- leums of Spain and Portugal. The his- tory of the village and the changing times were evident in the family plots marking generations of the same family, and also in the number of plots no longer main- tained, either because the family had moved or died, or had simply become indifferent. Many of these were marked as abandoned and avail- able for reallocation. We checked out the canal and then had lunch beside a small cottage winery and public park near Bouzet-sur-Baise before driving through rolling fields of grain and orchards, past more chateaux, and through alleys of tall plane trees lining small lanes into our campsite on the Tarn River just outside Moissac.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Route Map Route Map Slideshow Slideshow
Campground, Mont-de-Marsan Chateau de Xaintrailles Narrow boats on the Canal Lateral a la Garone, Coustet