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

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

Woke up to sunshine! Moored Commercy

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/08/2014

Up early yesterday morning so that I could enjoy a slow, pottery start to the day in the sunshine. It was nice to hear a ‘voice from home’ on Radio 2 as ‘our Adam’ was on news reading duty – goodness knows what time he had to get up for work, or perhaps he was on nights. The sun also pulled G out of bed so we were underway before 9.00am! We had spotted a good track along this canalised stretch of the river, so I relinquished the tiller to G and set off on foot with Muttley; a lovely walk in pretty countryside accompanied by constant birdsong. It also gave me a chance to take some photos of MR underway for a change.

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I tied Muttley up at the lock and was quickly joined by the lockie who wanted to know what I was doing there. It’s not normal for the public to be lock side here – they are expected to gongoozle from roads and bridges. He was a really happy bunny and very interested in MR when she arrived; only problem was that he told me we were going to have a week of glorious weather and it’s raining again! I would have been happy to keep walking but the next lock was marked as a sort of stop lock (probably a ‘toll’ lock once upon a time) and it may not have been possible to get back on the boat there.

At the next (rather deep) lock, the control rod and ladder were in different places again so I put G off at the ladder – I really don’t like him climbing these but we’ll be going downhill soon (that’ll confuse me after months of going up!). You can see how bright the sun was, leaving my photo in silhouette. We took the last mooring downstream of the bridge which is great for the animals as it is just a few motor homes, parkland and the ubiquitous boule pitches. The moorings upstream of the bridge are right outside Aldi and are quite noisy due to a road running alongside the far bank.

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G went off on the bike to fetch the car and that left me free to set off into town with my camera. The centre is quite small with hardly any shops but huge palatial buildings. By the time I’d fetched some shopping and we’d popped back into town for a beer the day was pretty much gone and all the other boats on the pontoon had been replaced by an Aussie owned Barge which left first thing this morning leaving us Billy-no-mates.

A bit of work around the boat this morning and then we went out to lunch trying, and failing, to dodge the showers. G needs to try and get an osteopath appointment in the morning as his neck and shoulder are playing up again (I knew I shouldn’t have let him drive the boat yesterday – it’s much too big for him). I’m happy to stay another day as I’ve ‘done’ the town and we’re in a good position – and facing the right way – for me to work on the side hatches; weather permitting of course.

This cat isn’t Daisy, just a look alike

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St. Mihiel to …..

Posted by contentedsouls on 29/08/2014

It was meant to be to Commercy but we spotted this lovely rural mooring just two locks and 10k up River. Much more our cup of tea than a large town mooring. I spotted the pontoon and then realised that all was not right with it. There is no way to get onto the pontoon; it’s all folded onto itself and has been semi towed away and tied to a tree. The area immediately beyond is a lovely bank (and no plank) mooring with our own picnic area, picnic table and private wood. It took us quite some time to remove all the weed we’d collected en route: but hey ho, anything round the bow is not round the prop!

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As you can see, a delightful spot for all of us; it’s lovely to let all the gang run free without bothering anyone so we stayed today; G filled the fuel tank, washed the starboard side down and did some work on the chimney. I cleaned the windows and worked up the designs for the starboard side hatches (I wasn’t happy with the first set of designs) which now involve Red Kite, Owls, poppies and sheep.

At 5pm we wandered into the bar/tabac/epicerie for the day’s French Lesson – the locals certainly worked us quite hard as we were, clearly, a bit of a novelty – I don’t think many people stop here as they jump St. Mihiel to Commercy and Sampigny rather sits in the middle – too short a cruise for most boaters. Like the menagerie, I love it and am in no rush to move on but we’ll see what tomorrow brings. I’ll leave you tonight with some photos of the village.

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I am so glad we did this – I don’t want, ‘if only’ on my headstone.

Written Friday 29th August

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I never know when to shut up and a wasted week

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/08/2014

We’ve been hanging around here for a week longer than we wanted to stay because of returning to Verdun to collect our French bank cards – we’re already 40k South of Verdun and our next port of call, Commercy, is another 20k further South. Yesterday we, again, rang the bank (with a little help from ‘translate’) as suggested and all we got was an answering machine. After trying all morning, G sent an e-mail and in the afternoon we had an email reply saying that the bank at Nancy would be sending the stuff to England. We sent another email saying that, if the stuff was at Nancy we’d pick it up from there as we’re heading that way (or could be). Another email reply to say it was on it’s way to England already! Why didn’t they tell us and it’s not a lot of use as they’ve sent both sets of stuff (ours and Avalon’s) to Debbie and Kevin’s address in England We’re all HERE. Grrr, grrrr and thrice grrrr.

Last Sunday I got chatting to a Belgian lady and she said how cold she’d been on her boat so, in the evening, we thought we’d walk down for a pint and drop our spare hot water bottle off for her. She was very grateful and it all led to drinks on boats and then us hosting drinks on our boat on Monday (I was a good girl and stayed with the tea on Monday as I’m trying to lose some weight and not drink alcohol on consecutive days). I think G is astounded that I’m getting through these social occasions without joining in – I certainly am!

Talking of soft drinks, I thought I’d mix myself a ‘Virgin Mary’, having found 3 cartons of tomato juice in the store cupboard. Unfortunately the best before dates were June/Sept 2012; I hope they were best before then, ‘cause they were pretty disgusting when I opened them now! By the time I’d poured all 3 into the River it looked like they’d been a shark attack.

Whilst returning from a dog walk I came across people in wet suits, they were training dogs (Newfoundlands I think) to take rings and boats out to ‘drowning’ people and tow them back to shore. One didn’t seem very keen on the idea but capitulated in the end and got a watery cuddle for his efforts.

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They are so gorgeous; a lady living near us, when we had the shops, used to breed them and we encouraged her to bring the pups in for socialisation. That was a sizeable dinghy, plus outboard, that this one was pulling – they are so solid and the size of small ponies. I must have stood and watched them for an hour or more.

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Tuesday we had a 48 hour severe weather warning. Now, like all good Brits, I’d been brushing up on my French conversation regarding the weather so, when I spotted an elderly French gentleman tending his allotment between storms, instead of trotting out the obligatory bonjour, I thought I’d go for it and discuss the weather warning with him. I was doing well and managed to keep the conversation going (only having to ask him to slow down a bit once) and feeling rather pleased with myself – until he said that the torrential rain we were expecting was very good. I was intrigued by this comment so asked him, ‘why was it good?’. I never know when to keep my trap shut and quit whilst I’m ahead. He returned my question with 10 minutes of rapid fire French, complete with flamboyant gesticulation whilst I stood there grinning inanely like the village boat idiot that I am. I never caught one single word!

We did get some rain and a bit of lightning but nothing like we’ve had in the past so I don’t know what that was all about.

Internet very dodgy again (that’ll make a change) so I do the blogs in Live Writer. I must, therefore, try to remember to write the date as I can’t be sure when the posts will get uploaded.

Post written: Thursday 28th August

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Goodies from the UK

Posted by contentedsouls on 26/08/2014

Sat about on Friday morning with nothing much to do, we decided to walk the dogs down to see if the Avalon crew wanted to come out to play lunch. Of course they did. Saturday was market day – part indoors and part outdoors but, yet again, it was disappointing, although the smell of spit roasting chickens when I hadn’t had breakfast nearly killed me. After a coffee we popped round to Avalon and met Kevin’s brother Malcolm and his girlfriend Dawn who were visiting from the UK. He very kindly brought with him our repaired I Pad, a brilliant book (called, ‘French for Cruisers’) and a gas bill from our postal address. Now the latter might sound a bit odd but British Gas have chased us for a small bill outstanding by one of our tenants. This bill is not our responsibility but is, in fact, worth it’s weight in gold as it is the first utility bill we have had with our name on since we moved onto the boat. It’s the proof of identity that everyone wants. We can now upgrade our bank account to the full all singing all dancing job.

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I forgot my camera on Saturday, but the building that houses the market is impressive. I took the picture Sunday after skipping church.

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The weather was really nice (for a change), so I headed off with Muttley for a steep climb and a long walk to somewhere I’d seen signed as, ‘Promenade du Capucin’, leaving G happily ensconced with all things Grand Prix. It was one of my best ever walks – certainly the best in Europe.

Difficult to choose from so many photos, but here’s a taster

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Does anyone know what these fruits/berries are – just about 3/4” long and 1/2” wide. Soft squidgy flesh inside. More importantly are they edible ‘cause we could do with a change from Mirabelle pies.

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That Otter is a Coypu (moored St Mihiel)

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/08/2014

Our visitor came back this evening and climbed onto the bank, revealing itself to be a Coypu – whilst in the water it looked exactly like an otter but the rat like tail on the bank gave the game away – it’s a busy little feller and quite entertaining.

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Yesterday was skinny day so we distracted ourselves by taking a drive out ‘off line’ rather than think about being hungry. Our first stop was Butte de Montsec. A memorial to the American dead of WW1 built on the highest piece of ground for miles around and, therefore, fiercely fought for. Ironically, in WW2, the monument was severely damaged by the Americans whilst trying to clear it of German guns. It’s now been completely renovated and the view from the top is spectacular.

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We then thought we’d drive down to Lac de Madine that you can see in the distance. I couldn’t resist these tumbledown sheds en route.

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Lac de Madine was beautifully done for a family day out with wild flower meadows, artificial beaches, pedalos, cafes, etc., but not to our taste so we walked the dogs for awhile and called it a day.

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I’m definitely ready to move on now, but the bank at Verdun still hasn’t had the stuff come through. Kevin’s brother is coming out for a visit tomorrow and he is kindly bringing things out for us too. Specifically the mended IPad which means I get my Kindle back off of G! Mind you, I must have lightened MR’s load by at least 15 physical books during it’s period of absence.

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Lacroix to St Mihiel

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/08/2014

Setting off first from Lacroix on Tuesday morning was Avalon – shock horror, the Avalon crew got their act together and left at 9.45 am!!!

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Only 2 locks and 10k today so no rush and we left 30 minutes later. At the top of the 2nd lock G spoke to the student lockie and then shouted back to ask if I wanted a 50 cent baguette. I replied, ‘no thanks, I’ve baked one this morning’. It later transpired that it was a giant courgette on offer –really! Why would I have baked a courgette in the morning. We can’t communicate in English so there’s no hope for us in French.

When we reached St Mihiel Avalon was just mooring up and there was no more room at the inn so, rather than breast up (which is a pain with the dogs making each other bark), we went up through the next lock and found a lovely bank and plank mooring where Daisy has been stuffing her face with mice ever since. Not only do we have a nice country view, but we are being right royally entertained by an otter.

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A short walk along the river through a park takes us into the old part of town which is charming. Just as well as we don’t want to continue much further South as we have to return to Verdun to collect cards and stuff for our new French account – hopefully Monday or Tuesday. I can keep myself happily entertained here for a few more days, especially as we have the car here for days out.

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A little bit of competition in Lacroix sur Meuse

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/08/2014

We decided to stay in Lacroix yesterday as it was such a pretty spot and the dog walking was excellent. There also seemed to be an opportunity to purchase eggs and fresh vegetables which couldn’t be passed up.

Another day of rain with intermittent sunshine and I set off with Muttley to see what was about

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This pretty stream runs right through the centre of the village and you can walk all the way alongside it until it disappears under someone’s house. I have a lot of wood envy going on and I suspect there’s some kind of upcoming village pumpkin competition about to happen, given the quantity I spied growing in various allotments and gardens.

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Having researched my speech regarding egg purchase, I grabbed G for moral support, and knocked on the door of the indicated house. A happy tirade of French came back at me of which the gist seemed to be, ‘we don’t have any left, they have no papa, they need to sleep, come back Sunday’. All this was conducted with the aid of egg boxes in my hand and I no longer had the stamina to tackle the multiple variable potential of trying to buy veg from the allotment – OK I’m a wimp but you have no idea how exhausting it is to conduct every transaction and interaction in a foreign language.

So, with the sun having a go, G and I thought we’d have a game of boules. Daisy thought she’d join in which attracted irresistible temptation from Herbie the Airedale and ended with Daisy up the apple tree (better than last time when she ended up in the river).

So Debs and I took on Kevin and G at boules and I am delighted to report that the ladies, of course, won.

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2 epic journeys from Verdun

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/08/2014

We planned to leave Belleville sur Meuse (Northern outskirts of Verdun) on Saturday. The fellers set off with the motor home, car and two electric bikes to do a vehicle re-distribution as public transport seems pretty non-existent round here. Meanwhile Debbie and I watered both boats, sorted out the rubbish disposal (far more difficult than it sounds) and exercised the dogs. Whilst we were being busy there were a lot of things happening in the park by our moorings.

The fellers returned having deposited the motor home about 45k away and the car 30k before cycling a l l  t h e  w a y  b a c k! Flushed with triumph they were (it’s very hilly) especially as Kevin’s battery went flat towards the end. Not bad for a pair of unfit blokes of a certain age. By then the happenings in the park had materialised into a ‘beer tent’ and stage with some rather nice traditional French music playing. It will come as no surprise to you that we stayed where we were for another night. Sadly the evening music was not to our taste!!! When Kevin took his dogs out at midnight he saw a chap sitting quietly on the roof of our boat – Kevin told him to get off and he did – no problems. We didn’t know he was there – nor did our dogs!

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We actually managed to get away just after 10 on Sunday morning (no point leaving together as the locks aren’t long enough for both of us) and we were soon cruising into Verdun. From the river it’s quite impressive although we were distinctly underwhelmed when we looked round it.

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Just through Verdun we met our first lock of the day with the lock all set and managed to pick up a load of weed round the prop – more or less cleared it but there was a lot of weed about. Passed some campers where the trampoline was bigger than the tents. Every lock was open and ready for us with G helping the (pretty female) student lockies open the top gates, so we made excellent time and I was rather enjoying myself – I think G and Kevin were amazed when I suggested carrying on passed our first potential mooring. In the end we covered 7 locks and 30k in 5 3/4 hours, mooring at Lacroix sur Meuse – that’s MR hiding to the left of the barges in the last pic. Avalon turned up about 40 mins behind us in the nick of time to bag the last mooring 3 minutes before a big Dutch barge turned up (they breasted up to the big New Zealand barge). Free water, electric and rubbish skips.

I really enjoyed the long cruise after all the short hops – especially as Avalon provided us with an excellent supper, G made pudding from scrumped apples and I didn’t have to cook anything. I was quite tired as I’m not used to concentrating for that long. Apart from meeting a big barge on a narrow bend and the wind getting up towards the end, it was a pleasant and uneventful trip down ‘Kingfisher alley’ (Marten Pescher en Francais) – we spotted at least 12 … perfik.

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The curious case of the ‘one way’ inflatables!

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/08/2014

Whilst we were moored at the pleasant little village of Vilosnes it was extremely hot and at 5 o’clock in the evening we watched a group of around 30 children and adults strolling down the opposite bank all carrying inflatables of all shapes and sizes – from straightforward lilos to dolphins and dragons. Apart from the sheer volume of people, I was aware that there was something else odd about this group and it took awhile to work it out. There was not a towel amongst them nor any other items other than swimming costumes and beach shoes – even the ladies of a certain age weren’t wearing any kind of cover up.

I kept an eye out but not one of them came back! Being a nosy cow I had to find out what was happening so, the next day, I set off with the dogs to see what I could see.

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First I headed off in the direction they had come from and found a car park and realised they could have jumped on their inflatables, coasted downstream and climbed out here. Determined to prove my theory, I determined to stroll casually down behind them in the evening. Except it rained and no-one turned up, so I dragged Muttley down to check it out and this is what I found

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Now you’re not going to float downstream on an inflatable in this lot are you – not without serious punctures anyway. We moved on the next day and I shall never know – presumably it wasn’t a mass suicide or I’d have seen it in the papers!

Anyway this is the village and our mooring

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Joined in Verdun by WB Avalon

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/08/2014

Despite leaving Debbie and Kevin in Belgium from where they returned to the UK for 5 weeks – Tuesday they pulled in behind us in time for supper on MR and a good old catch up. It just shows how slowly we’ve been travelling. We all trundled into the centre of Verdun Wednesday to try and sort out some French bank accounts – if we can achieve that then we can get reliable internet at more sensible rates. It took several hours (but Debbie and I managed to pop out to do a little shopping whilst the discussions were going on). Ironically, the post ‘boy’/ gofor man was the only person in the bank who spoke any English – thank goodness he did as our French certainly wasn’t up to it and everyone sitting typing things into I translate makes for a very long process. It lashed it down with rain all day. We managed to get some lunch eventually, but hardly anywhere was open so, what with the weather, everyone was packed in and we had to wait a long while for pretty grotty food although Deb’s and Kevin’s was OK.

I managed to get a few pics, despite the weather.

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Just look at that chocolate work – window shopping here is a delight.

The weather was better yesterday so G and Kevin cycled back into the bank with passports and as much paperwork as they could muster. Kevin succeeded and G partially succeeded with a more limited account which should serve our purpose – our problem (as it was in England) is that we don’t have any utility bills. A few showers yesterday but we copped some storms and heavier rain in the evening. We could see it coming.

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