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

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

The stunning Dinant in Belgium. 11.06

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/07/2014

Still playing ‘fill the gap in the blog’. I couldn’t miss Dinant out of my blog – it would be criminal. If you want to go somewhere different for a weekend break you would be hard pushed to find anywhere with more drama.

Very pleased to see there was a cable car to the top. Methinks I might have had some difficulty in persuading G to climb it. 8/9 euros a piece included return trip in the cable car and a guided tour of the citadel. We didn’t bother with the ‘guided’ bit. We just poked around and did our own thing. Visibilty was perfik

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Absolutely glorious!






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Yvoir into Dinant 11.6. Technical help required

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/07/2014

Typical, my IT department has gone away and everytime I try and load pics from my files into my WordPress gallery (prior to up loading them into the blog) I get ‘HTTP error’ and nothing else. The pic box comes up with a tick in the corner and appears to load quickly and then just fails with the HTTP error message. Nothing on that message is clickable for more info. Any clever techies out there please (I knew I shouln’t  have let him go on holiday. The only thing I’ve done differently is I loaded from these files (for the first time) onto facebook yesterday. Previously I’ve only loaded from my phone pics to my phone. Just like my French, please keep any help slow and simple!!!


The rain hasn’t stopped all night and all day – put the kayak in the river last night ready to go and play and it’s now completely full of water! It’s also extremely cold so I’ve been scuttling about on the roof in order to put the chimney back on and get a bag of coal down. At least Baxter’s stopped shivering now the fire is alight and it’s quite cheery now.

I thought this might be a good time to catch up on the gap in the blog after leaving the beautiful Namur.  Godinne to Yvoir and we then set off for Dinant, leaving WB Avalon in Belgium as they were returning to the UK for a month or so.

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WB Avalon between Godinne and Yvoir in Belgium last month


Oooo I’ve found a way round it (that’s a first – just goes to show what happens when IT dept isn’t here to hand it over to).

I think I’ll start a new post though just in case.


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Ransacking the boat (moored at Lumes)

Posted by contentedsouls on 08/07/2014

G’s off at 8 tomorrow to make the 13.30 ferry (our time)  from Calais. Why are we ransacking the boat? We can’t find any Stirling for the Dartford tunnel toll. We arrived in Belgium on the 14th April and there is no way we would have arrived here penniless! This is absolutely absurd, but we can’t think of anywhere else to look. How can you lose so much stuff in such a small space? Oh well, I expect he’ll be able to get some Stirling on the ferry.

So this morning was a day of getting everything shipshape before he left – a trip to Aldi to make sure I had enough food for me, Daisy and the boys and a check on keys for the bike, gas bottles, water connectors, MiFi codes,TV, etc., etc., (please don’t go off with them in your pockets). 

We stopped at cafe Renee for a beer and a coffee on the way back from the Match supermarket at Charleville (couldn’t get fresh milk at Aldi) and their daughter was there with her French/English dictionary. She’s about 10 and painfully shy, but she’s learning English at school and slowly getting more confident with both us and the dogs. Interestingly, she’s trying to pick up on our English (between ourselves) and then coming back to us in French. The whole family now seem completely engaged with their new, eccentric, English loonies and were pleased to report today that they were taking a day trip to Calais in August from where they would be able to see England. Much scrabbling in the dictionary produced a translation for ‘the white cliffs of Dover’.

 the WiFi speed is dire again tonight so have given up on trying to load photos – it’s just not going to happen.


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A day trip to Belgium (moored at Lumes)

Posted by contentedsouls on 07/07/2014

Utilised the car for a run out today, it was a skinny day for G and it’s nice to have the distraction. He normally has a skinny day when we’re cruising but he’s off to the UK on Wednesday and we need to stay in Lumes until he returns as it is ideal – when we move on we’ll probably find somewhere I would have liked even more, but didn’t want to get into the ‘there might be a better mooring round the corner’ game. I’m tied off (rather than on pins), I have unlimited water, remote park/sports ground which is good for Daisy and early/late dog poos and pees, rubbish/recycling and, of course, Renee’s cafe for beer, food and French lessons. Pleasure boats only stop overnight (if at all) as there is no electric, which we don’t need anyway, and no access by car for the length of a football pitch plus some, so it’s fabulously peaceful. This is my neighbour – the first Stork I’ve ever seen.

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So up into the hills this lovely sunny morning, following our noses and crossing back into Belgium before an explore down the Ardennes Canal to try and make a decision which way to go when G gets back. Also managed to pick up proper waterways guides for the areas we’re likely to cover this year from the first chandler we’ve come across since hitting Europe. 22 euros a book and 11 euros for an overall map of the French waterways – ouch.

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We came across this memorial to 3 British airmen who crashed and died up in the hills here in 1940, aged 20, 26 and 30, from 88 squadron

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When we arrived back at MR the place was heaving and we had a job to find a parking space! Up until now, our car has been the only car in the car park and not a solitary game of foot, or any other kind of, ball has been seen – just the occasional dog walker.

It was a boules knock -out championship going on. They were utilising any bit of gravel that they could find, even the track to the rubbish bins. Each group in this pic is an individual game going on. Despite the fact that it had started raining, we stood and watched for a couple of hours. Now G and I spent a lot of time playing bowls before we moved onto MR, but this is a very different game and these guys were very skilled. It was fascinating working out the rules.

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I love the fact that there’s no fancy gear involved and no rinks to maintain – just turn up with a set of 3 (usually battle scarred) boules on a bit of gravel or dirt track and get on with it – brilliant!

We’ve been naughty today, apart from a little bit of numbers practice, we haven’t done French lessons today.

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Traditional Sunday in Lumes

Posted by contentedsouls on 06/07/2014

We trundled up to ‘Renee’s’ cafe today for a pre Wimbledon final/British Grand Prix/Sunday roast duck dinner; beer.
I mentioned the other day that we had a five course lunch with wine for £10 and, when we were in there today a chap came in and had the same meal. I slowly realised that his approach to the meal was altogether different and I read the small print on the wall a little more closely.
The same bottle of wine and a glass was put in front of him, as was put in front of us – he drank the small glass of wine that he was entitled to, leaving the rest of the bottle on the table – it seems we should have had a glass each, but we didn’t realise that and sank the bottle. When his cheese course turned up there were various chunks of cheeses and half of a huge brie – he ate a little of each and they removed the rest. Deeply mortified by now, I realised that we were not meant to scoff ALL of the cheese on our plate; but we did AND rudely asked for extra bread to wash it down!
If I’d realised all of this beforehand I’d have been way too embarrassed to go back.
Having realised all this I was about to scuttle out in shame and then a glass of champagne appeared – it was ‘Renee’s’ birthday apparently. Then a large plate of bread and cheese appeared on the house. G was under threat of death not to eat it all, but it was sooo delicious. We managed, just, to leave a little. I tried to appease my conscience by thinking that they would have added the extra wine and cheese to our bill – but we worked the maths out and they didn’t. G reckons that if I go in there when he’s back in the UK they’ll force feed me into fois gras!
I’m beginning to think that the only way to repay their kindness, tolerance and patient French lessons is to take in a big bunch of flowers before we leave – the French love their flowers.

Some more pictures from the missing internet period

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Ancient Village of Hierges (moored at Lumes)

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/07/2014

Popped into the ‘Sport Bar’ (the only bar) in Lumes to see if they would be screening the France v Germany match as a) we thought it would be fun to watch it with the locals b) it would be good for our French c) we had a French boat moored in front of us and a German boat behind and didn’t fancy being referees! Despite the name of the bar they didn’t have a TV; in fact they didn’t have TV at home either. Very difficult to go in there without getting the giggles as Monsieur is the spit of Renee in ‘ello ‘ello. We tried to explain this to them but got into very deep water as they hadn’t a clue about the programme – well without a TV they wouldn’t, would they- but we didn’t know that and I thought it had aired in France. The other thing that gives me the giggles there is their toilet. Would you believe it’s still the old hole in the shower tray with the raised footprints. Twenty odd years since I’ve encountered one of those and my knees don’t handle the experience as well as they used to – at least I remembered to get off the footprints before flushing and, thus, didn’t have to suffer the indignity of returning to the bar with soaking wet feet!

Peeing with rain this morning and we set off in the car for Sedan as we had heard that they had a good market on Saturday mornings – apparently everyone else agreed, as we couldn’t get a parking space within miles and we gave it up after doing a little out of town shopping and drove down to Pont a Bar on the Ardennes Canal to try and get better waterways maps. Guess what; they were closed for lunch and, although we hung around, didn’t re-open at the appointed hour.

No pics today due to the weather so a chance to catch up with loads that got missed, due to no internet, between Namur and Fumay. We were moored at Vieux Wallerand waiting for Sarah and Andy to come out for a cruise and took a trip out in the car to Hierges.


A gorgeous old village up a winding road with a dead end and an old fort.


The four of us climbed up to the ruins and the chateau


A pair of wild boar stood guard over the gates to the chateau (privately owned). These were the first we’d seen, but they have become a recurring theme subsequently.


Looking back down to the village


Quite a scarabble on loose shale in places, I envied the dogs their 4 legs


Then we crossed back into Belgium for a much needed paddle and some dog walking along the R. Viroin; 35km of dedicated kayak water ooooh. Lovely. Should have got G to help me in upstream and then collected me at the ‘end’ here. I’d love to do a long downstream (of course) run instead of always out and back – the kayak equivalent of a circular dog walk I guess, so much nicer. Oh well, one day.


G set the sat nav to take us home and we ended up travelling through Belgian forests along cart tracks. I was all for turning round but G stuck with it and, eventually, hit a bit of smoother track that came out by an old border post as we crossed back into France.


A fun day out and we need to make more use of the car. We bought an old fashioned Road Atlas today to make more sense of where we are and what’s worth visiting.

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A day in Lumes

Posted by contentedsouls on 04/07/2014

No intention of moving yesterday and G set off for a 17k bike ride (about 5k of it cross country – sooo good for him). By the time he got back it was time for an exploratory walk into the village with the boys. The ubiquitous patisserie was there (good to go for croissants and baguettes in the morning then), a tiny little fair setting up and a small bar.

Popped into small bar (rude not too, Lesley Yarwood and Sue NP) for a beer and, having had no brekkie, couldn’t resist their fixed price, 5 course meal, including a bottle of wine for £10 each


Having stuffed ourselves stupid we went home and slept it off under the shade of the trees and then went out on the kayak when it was a bit cooler in the evening. We are close to a junction – River Meuse continues to the left and the Canal Ardennes to the right and I wanted to find somewhere nice for Daisy, the dogs and me (in that order) while G goes back to the UK to see the family – even his sister Linda is over from Australia. Sadly, the price you pay for the daily love of your animals means that I cannot go with him. UK hotels are not great on 2 dogs and a cat (and nor is our budget!).
Now I’ve always understood the blokey fascination for a garden shed – this ‘river’ shed ticks ALL my boxes, can’t you just see yourself down there with a bbq or a picnic, a bit of nice music or a good book – bottle of wine at your side?
But I did find this rather nice little mooring and stopped on the kayak to speak to an English person (very few and far between) who had been here for 20 years running a self-catering holiday boat (he’s the crew; the itinerary is his) the shopping and cooking is done by his guests. Thought I might go for the ride whilst G in the UK but shorts, black socks and sandals soooo doesn’t do it for me!
I was under strict instructions to report back on these moorings including satellite direction (no satellite where we were moored). Pleased to report back that there was satellite potential, free mooring, free water and rubbish/recycling disposal (that conversation conducted entirely in French – very proud).
Before I could finish that report (around 7pm) he was pulling pins and gangplanks and heading for the TV and footie!
As I pulled in to moor in front of the Dutch Barge,(a bit of parallel parking required between the barge and the Dutch yacht) the ‘nice’ Englishman came out to take G’s rope and then promptly started giving me instructions on how to moor! Bloody men, (for once) I executed a perfect manouevre without his help grrr….
Who needs two bossy men.
Today we took the car into Charleville and I bought a pretty dress (the first I’ve bought in 20 odd years – France is having a strange effect on me – more opportunities to wear nice things away from greasy lock paddles and muddy, thorny towpwaths) although the shops closed before I could find shoes (lunch is pretty much from 12 – 3).
Stopped at the supermarket on the way home (amazingly open at lunchtime) and bought 5 litres of red wine at a pound a litre – very quaffable and stocked up on cheeses.
We guzzled a few glasses of wine, ate the crevettes, scoffed the Brie and washed it down with creme caramel and mousse au chocolat. We’ll not be having supper and I can’t, now, get into my pretty new dress!
Oh well, tomorrow’s another day.

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Joigny to Lumes

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/07/2014

When we left this morning (not until 10.45am as we had a problem with the hot water heater) we were, supposedly, going to the city(?) of Charleville Mezieres. The weather was glorious and I really didn’t fancy city living in the heat – plus we’d had a bit of a shufty in the car the other day when we’d sorted our comms out and I’m more of a country girl. So we set off with an open mind and the first lock was just round the corner where the cruiser in front closed the gates on us (we seem to be a bit of a threat to the cruisers), so I swanned about for a bit to kill time and a Belgique boat turned up coming into the lock behind me. G climbed the ladder and sorted out their ropes but they were clueless and had 3 attempts at ramming me. Ho hum, the damage would be theirs, not ours.

They roared past me as I left and were long gone by the time we hit the second lock. Pressed the RCU; lights red and green (lock setting) green light and in we go. G hit the blue rod (start button) and …. absolutely nothing. He climbed the ladder and found two red lights on the far side = Lock out of service.

So a phone call from the lock that we had a problem, which was acknowledged, and I sat it out in the baking heat at the bottom of the lock, waiting to be rescued. I thought it would be hours before they sent an engineer as it was lunchtime – lunchtime tends to last from 12 – 3! Amazingly, someone was with us in about 45 minutes although I became immensely bored with the view out of the back of the lock gates.

The 3rd lock of the day was round a blind bend but went very smoothly – the 4th lock I didn’t get MR into the side in time – I thought the control point was a lot further down, so had to reverse up and have another go – we by-passed the city and encountered a load of army guys on manoeuvres.

Then found a nice bit of bank amongst the trees.

Before taking the dogs (with Daisy in convoy) for a swim (even Muttley) and a bit of playtime

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Montherme to Joigny sur Meuse

Posted by contentedsouls on 01/07/2014

Having, finally, been able to buy a data sim for our MiFi, I now have the slowest signal ever, so the photos may be very limited tonight. Most of the time we were wild moored outside Montherme it rained with heavy thunderstorms – quite dramatic amongst the steep, tree lined hills which enclose the river valley and somewhat of a relief to have MR’s searingly hot metalwork cooled down a bit. It did stop for long enough for me to get out around the old part of the village.


We awoke this morning to low cloud rolling down the valley – I managed to get possession of the lock remote control unit so that made it my helm for the day! Joking apart, the Ardennes locks are operated by an RCU that we were given when we bought our licence. The lock approaches have a radar box which you activate with the RCU as you pass. This activates the lock for you which starts to set. When you enter the lock there are two bars on the steps and you push the blue bar up which closes the gates and starts the lock fill (or empty). Now the steps are often half way along the boat and therefore the bar can’t, safely, be reached; equally of course the red emergency stop button can’t be reached either. The front of the boat needs to be held very firmly to the steps and the back held in on tiller and engine (never anywhere to put a back rope). It makes sense, therefore that I take the helm and put G off at the (usually very deep) steps; he goes up with a rope to the top bollard and I move the rest of the boat in before he activates the rod – from there he can also reach the emergency rod. It works for us as long as we’re on our own. Every lock is different really – you never quite know where the control will be. As the locks are every 2k or so it means I get the helm for 3 or 4 hours and G gets the tea making! I like France




a happy Jill on the helm in gorgeous sunshine

We were away by 9.30 this morning and the sun soon burnt off the last of the cloud. We had a glorious cruise and moored on a pretty pontoon with water and electric – not that we needed the latter as the solar panels have more sun than they know what to do with.

I’m going to have to give this up as it’s taken 3 hours just to get this far – maybe a better signal tomorrow.








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