Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

  • June 2014
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for June, 2014

Moored at Montherme (R. Meuse in the Ardennes)

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/06/2014

Having recovered the car we drove in to Charleville Mezieres, the first big town/city since crossing the border into France as we desperately needed to sort out MiFi access. The very fact that I’m posting means we succeeded and we are immensely pleased with ourselves as we had to conduct the entire transaction in French plus body language/gesticulation. We finally selected our preferred tariff in the first shop and went to pay for it only to find that it wasn’t possible without a French address or bank account. We re-grouped outside the SFR shop and started the conversation with the fact that we had no address as we lived on a boat and only had English bank accounts although we would probably be here for several years. Again no English spoken but, with a couple of referrals to the French/English dictionary, here I am. I love the fact that our English mates said they all speak English and, if in doubt, use Google translate. They DON’T speak English and Google is no bloody good to you if you’re not on line. So, mission accomplished, we had a little explore; checked out the moorings (we’re heading this way) and had an excellent lunch in the sunshine which has returned after two days of rain.



Again we have found a wild mooring outside Montherme. Wild mooring (d’accostage sauvage) is possible now as only the small 300 ton peniche pass us on the Meuse and, if you can find one bollard or some kind of post as an anchor point then the rest is safe on pins.

The electric bike is worth it’s weightt in gold; not just for retrieving the car but also sending G out for the morning croissant and baguette run to the nearest patisserie – leaving me to brew the coffee and shower in peace. We pop it inside the boat at night and on the bow when we’re travelling so it’s nicely out of the way.


I guess the blogs will come thick and fast now whilst I catch up but, in the meanwhile, I have a French football match to support.





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This is now scrummy

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/06/2014

Fumay is where we are now moored. It is heaven on legs. The right bank (get me) is a National Parc and there are no cycle tracks, just wonderful paths through woodland and scrub so the boys and I went for a good old walk (sorry Baxter) whilst G headed back to get the car on his new electric bicycle.


We now have a daily French lesson over a verre of beer – if it had been like that when I was at school I would be bi-lingual by now. Seriously though, we ARE determined not to be ex-prats.


In the bar was a poster for a local joust.. Amongst the list of attractions was something I didn’t understand so I asked Madame and she did the best EVER impression of fire eating you’ve ever seen – you would SO want her on your charades team at Xmas

Well my (dodgy) free WiFi is about to leg it so I’m going for a few pics














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Pirate raid!

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/06/2014

If you think you can avoid being raided by Andy and Sarah (Greygal) by shipping your narra out to Europe; forget it. Last night they caught up with us at 10.30 pm, just across the French border at Vireux-Wallender; bringing with them our new electric bike, G’s new Crocs, a gas fitting thingy that allows us to fill our UK gas bottles with LPG at a filling station (instead of changing bottles and fittings everytime we cross a border), Marmite, Ginger Beer, Pork Scratchings (for the boys), porridge and FRESH MILK – that cup of tea this morning was glorious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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As a thank you for their efforts, we woke them at 8.00 this morning (total disregard for the fact that they’d got up at 5.00 am the previous day – a previous engagement – and we hadn’t gone to bed until gone 2.00am. Their body clocks thought it was 7.00am so I doused them in coffee and Sarah and I set off for the Patisserie where she ordered croissants, pain au chocolate and baguettes before I could mutter bonjour Madame.

Sarah set off with MR down the beautiful River Meuse through the 3 teeniest locks we have encountered so far – so teeny that there was barely room for us and the (very worried) plastic in front (she now thinks we’ve invented the big ones). On leaving, the plastic engaged full throttle to ensure we didn’t share his next lock!

I’m only here by virtue of the fact that we have (dodgy) free WiFi with our moorings as we haven’t sorted out our comms in France after leaving Belgium.

So: we are alive and kicking and having a ball. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


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Namur is going out with a bang

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/06/2014

Have just watched a free professional pyrotechnic display from the side hatch and we’re now watching nature’s own magnificent thunder storm – guess who’s winning!

We trundled back into the city again yesterday and ambled gently about due to the heat (what are our chances on the Canal du Midi?) before stopping for a beer. The church was impressive.




It’s the first time I’ve seen deck chairs and bean bags in a ‘pub’. Then (not quite sure how) we got tangled up in someone’s stag weekend – I blame it on Graham.



Then Yvon and Carina who live on a residential peniche up the road cycled out to see what and who we were which ended up with us popping round for nibbles and a glass of fizzy late morning today. Yvon helped me out with some useful French that I was missing. There really is no English spoken here in Wallonie but Carina is from Flanders so her English is brilliant.

He carries 18 tonnes of water (18,000 litres), and tops up 3 times a year. His 8Kv generator is fed by an 1,800 litre fuel tank. Main engine is a 6 cylinder 225 horse power which uses 12-18 litres per hour.


The blokes doing a boat tour


Yvon writing down and sorting my French out

Then we went to WB Avalon for an excellent Sunday BBQ. It’s nearly 1.00 am but the thunder and lightning is still rattling around and there is no hope of sleep yet. 








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Namur is stunning – as is the weather

Posted by contentedsouls on 06/06/2014

Just had uncle and eleven year old child come waterside on paddle boards to collect a mooring fee of 7 euros – I can live with that for mooring nice and peacefully in Wallonie’s capital city. Yesterday being a skinny day and horribly wet/overcast, the blokes went off to shuffle car and motorhome and Debbie and I did a good dog walk and then hit the shops …… ouch. Did our very best to re-inflate Namur’s economy.

Today we had the forecast glorious sunshine so we walked the dogs up to the citadel, had a pint and returned the hot and shattered dogs to the boat before lunching out and (Debbie) hitting the shops again. Sat and chilled on the boat roof as the day cooled down a bit.






A photo from the previous days cruise that Kevin brought round – MR looking minuscule next to the boat of my new mate that helped us get water. 


A lovely day and I wish you goodnight





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River Sambre onto the River Meuse

Posted by contentedsouls on 04/06/2014

Totally mortified when I cleaned Daisy’s litter tray out – found half the bottom of the broken butter dish in amongst the wood chip after the ‘little’ incident on Thursday (she’s phoning the RSPCA help line as I type). Then off we set from our moorings for the first lock of the day.


G did his best rehearsed speech in French about taking on water and they OK’d it so leapt out at the top of the lock (did NOT tie off) and shoved the giant pressure hose into our filler and then some bugger appeared to come up. Frantic removal of hose pipe and rope sorting before they pulled the down plug on us – we’re getting a little sharper and I reckon we got a days’ worth of water in 3 minutes. Not sharp enough to get the rubbish into the skip as well though – we will, we’re learning. G at the back of the lock had a weeks worth of showers!!!!



The monastery at Floreffe with Avalon ahead

Last lock of the day had a breakdown – large ship in the lock, two ahead of us and more piling in all around – 2 hour delay in the rain but Deb reckons I pulled the skip of Tunica who actually helped us get water as we descended in the lock – hoooray, full tank after one load of washing. Sadly the day was a bit diminished by an unfortunate incident with the dogs – not my story to tell.






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Charlerois to Auverlais

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/06/2014

We tried for an earlier start yesterday and managed to get our ducks in a row around 10 as we knew it would be a long day. We hit the first lock with good timing, waiting only briefly for a big bugger to come out and Kevin spotted the water point in the lock so, calling for water (and no traffic around according to the AIS and the VHS) we breasted up and Kevin grabbed the hose to start filling Avalon. There was much housewifely delight at the thought of water and rubbish disposal (Debs and I know how to have a good time). So there we were with Avalon all happily tied off at the top of the lock and us loosely attached to Avalon when off goes the siren and they start emptying the lock – a mad scrabble to untie Avalon as it starts to hang. So down they went with the hose pipe still in place and we had to leave at the bottom and wait. I think they made most of a tankful before an oncoming boat got them chucked out by enthusiastic gesticulation. My rubbish has now been fed into Lidl’s bin.

At the second lock G called with his best google translate and apology for lack of linguistic talent and all we got was a rapid incomprehensible essay (or was it novel) of French back. So Avalon tied off and we went round and round in circles (because you can) to see what transpired. It seems we were waiting for something to come up and also something to catch us up to go down with us. Wouldn’t it be nice if they just told you how long, then you could put the kettle on, empty the dogs etc., etc.

I think that lock passed without incident except for a chunk out of the wall right next to the bollard which I was worried my rope might snag on (can’t think why I worried!!!!). I tell you, if we are visited by the police as we cross into France I am likely to be arrested before I go on a mass murder rampage – I’ve got more knives within reach than Edward scissorhands now. A long and dull day on the whole and very glad to see our nice rural mooring pontoon for the night. No wild camping here as we are on a Class 4 canal still. Needless to say that there is no evidence of the advertised electric or water here. Nicely moored up with 5 ropes, 2 boat attached fenders, 2 pontoon attached fenders and the satellite tuned in (yeah, we have the replacement LNB), the fellers set off by bus and train to recover the vehicles from wherever they’d been left. Then 3 cruisers turned up and Debs and I had to untie everything and move MR back 3ft so they could squidge in front and tie it all up again; our fault for leaving the gap but it was late and we didn’t think we’d see anyone else and we try and leave a bit of space so Daisy cat can see Herbie come calling! We actually had a better TV signal after and the couple, Sandy and Trevor, on Cariad (that is how they spelt it my Welsh Sues’) were good fun and invited us round for the evening. Now we’ve got the TV back the Ipad has gone down – I’m not that worried about the TV but a working satellite is the only way I can get my beloved Radio 4 cost effectively – I can sometimes get Radio 4 LW but that consists of mainly cricket at the moment rather than the afternoon play.

I’m about to loose my Facebook shortly and I’m not renewing it as we’ll be in France in a few days with new comms, new boat licence, new paperwork (you can bet on it) and, we are reliably informed, frequent access to water.



A little splicing required now


One person’s graffiti ….. I love it.                      More of my door obsession.



We waited for the empty one to come out of the lock


Pretty much all of the cargo round here is scrap metal


….. and the full one. “Loaded to the gunwales” has a lot more meaning for me now

So far we’ve paid for one mooring at 15 euros each boat and 500 litres of water at 6 euros. Not a lot when you remember that we only paid 120 euros for the boat licence in Flanders for a year and Wallonie is free – maybe that’s why all the water and electric for the pleasure boats has been disconnected. Fuel is around 1 euro 30 ish and we are using a bit more as we’re going faster!

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Woops a Daisy

Posted by contentedsouls on 01/06/2014

Yesterday I was very snug in my bed when I was woken to the sound of the front doors opening followed by sploshing noises and the boat rocking.  I thought G might have fallen in but know that he’s a good swimmer so turned over for more snoozles before realising it wasn’t G. As I leapt out of bed I was greeted by an extremely wet Daisy cat. G had let her out just as Herbie ( the enthusiastic Airedale) was leaving for his early morning necessaries and she nearly jumped into his mouth, did an about turn and went down between the boat and the dock. It happened so quickly that we’re not sure Herbie even noticed bless him. G oicked Daisy out (kindly saving her the long swim down to the back button) and she sat eating her dinner on the galley work surface with water literally running off her tail – one way and another my galley floor has never been so clean or well oiled!

Kevin and G spotted that there was a boat coming down the Ronquieres lift and made a dirty dash for the return ascent trip (miss it and it’s at least 2/3 hours before the next chance); I had one toe in the shower and I’m not sure Debs was out of bed!! Great fun going up as we were joined by a flotilla of 8 cruisers out for the week; all tres jollie and throwing beers between boats and passing them in landing nets – their commadore spoke some English although none of the rest did, but we all gave the conversation a go and it was a very ‘happy hour’ in the sunshine. We let them go on at the top as we pulled over for dog walking. 

I find it extraordinary that both G and I are now using, inadvertently,  a little French between ourselves (when we’re speaking) and to the dogs and Daisy – even the dogs now recognise bonjour as the replacement for the ‘h’ word. There really is no English spoken here so every breath has to be thought in French and it is quite exhausting – it’s certainly curing my insomnia; I’ve never slept this well since I was a teenager!

We are on the outskirts of Charleroi now at a place called Marchienne au Pont. One of the most delightfully pretty moorings we have had in the last 7 weeks with our own personal mini Chateau de Cartier but leave the moorings and the town is a dump of rubbish and dog poo. The approach to the town is derelict power stations and graffiti and I found it photographically beautiful and atmospheric – all it needed was tumbledown rolling down the cut.

Nearly time for roast lamb and visitors, it being Sunday.


The jolly group in the ascenseur




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