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

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

Pont a Mousson to Millery

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/09/2014

So we trundled off on Friday morning and found we were third in line at the first lock and 3 more waiting to come down – that was 4 more boats than we’d seen in the previous 48 hours. We turned into the backwater to the Halte Fluvial at the village of Millery in glorious hot sunshine. A pleasant enough spot except it was right by a smallish but busy and noisy road. I trundled off with the dogs for a looksee whilst G set up the satellite dish (Grand Prix weekend).

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That was it – nowhere to walk the dogs, couldn’t let the cat out and, therefore, couldn’t open any doors or hatches and it was hot. I have absolutely no idea why he moored there – we never moor alongside roads – so I humphed a bit; then I humphed louder; then I humphed louder and more frequently. Finally, ‘would you like to move?’. Yes I would please.

So we moved across the river to a huge island where I could play Robinson Crusoe with the menagerie for the weekend and beat the boundaries; still a few blackberries left and tons of sloes. Both Friday and Saturday were scorching and it seemed crazy to be sun bathing whilst autumn leaves fell on the lounger! Saturday night though the storms moved in and obliterated the telly signal – it rained most of Sunday too but we weren’t too fussed and G did a slap up Sunday lunch whilst I pushed some paint about indoors. We were away just after 9.00 on Monday morning in quite thick misty fog – it was really cold and I resorted to long trousers, woolly hat, gloves and scarf. Wow, what a contrast.

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I liked the approach into Nancy – we did this once before in a hire boat 24 years ago and I remember ….absolutely nothing! A variety of permanently moored boats with a couple of quirky ones. The ‘shed’ boat can be purchased for 30,000 euros if it takes your fancy. 2 lift bridges operated automatically and we were moored in the centre of Nancy by 12 o’clock. A cruise of exactly 3 hours.

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We spent the afternoon having a look round but were decidedly underwhelmed. I like the ‘muriels’ though – not one of those windows in that building are real.

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We went back in again today to the old quarter which was much nicer. We also ran the gauntlet of a conker hailstorm in the park – it really was raining conkers! I know it’s steeped in history and has some amazing architecture, but it’s not for us so we’ll be moving on in the morning.

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Pont a Mousson

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/09/2014

Having left early without breakfast I was starving by the time we’d moored at Pont a Mousson at lunch time. We headed straight for the restaurant which had been really busy when we stopped here before. All the outside tables were full despite it being 1.30 (quite late for lunch by French standards), but they were able to fit us in inside – I was glad they did as the inside decor was fabulous; shabby/chic with a lot of the ‘shabby’ painted in along with the cartoons. I’m spoilt for choice as to which pics to use. The dinner was glorious too with the ‘sauté’ potatoes charred in a pizza oven … yum yum. G had the cafe gourmand for pud; always a good choice as you get several puds plus a coffee (literally means ‘greedy’) and I the profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce.

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So back to the boat and, I suspect, a snooze for G whilst I went off to fetch some badly needed supplies. Failing to find the pate I wanted (or, indeed, any pate), I asked the assistant – at this point my French became, apparently, completely incomprehensible. Now there’s always potential for confusion with pasta, or even ready rolled pastry (although that is pronounced ‘pat’), but not when you add fois gras, de Campagne, etc. It’s the first time this has happened to me and it’s bloody annoying – I obviously caught the chap on a bad day and it, clearly, embarrassed his colleague who intervened and showed me where it was (all in tins – no wonder I couldn’t find it).

G later surprised me by declaring an interest in walking the dogs with me, so we set off down the river and headed home back across town, stopping for a drink and watching the world go by as the sky darkened.

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Well stocked up for the weekend we decided to leave in the morning (Friday) and try and find somewhere to hole up for the weekend away from people, bars, restaurants, patisseries and temptations in general. The jobs were stacking up and the boat a tip.

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Pagny sur Moselle

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/09/2014

Once we were sure the big boys going passed the end of the backwater weren’t going to bother MR, we wandered into town with the dogs. Pretty though the mooring area is, when you head off towards town it looks as rough as old boots – I expected tumbleweed to roll down the street; well the railway lines. The town itself was OK though and we found ourselves a friendly local bar for a beer. The boucherie/charcuterie was next door and it was perfectly acceptable to nip in and bring something to eat back to the bar – we were starving so shared some game pie. Baxter and Muttley did rather well from the chaps sat at the next table who took quite a shine to them and kept feeding them slices of meat.

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Wherever we went we seemed to be watched – I suspect they don’t see many tourists there.

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Given that we’d been burning the candle at both ends in Metz – not to mention the 2 nights grappling with the CO levels – we decided to stay on Wednesday and enjoy the grassy bank and sunshine and just chill for the day. I offered two men who had been fishing next door, both days, a cup of coffee and they were overwhelmingly grateful and we ended up having quite a chat; also solving an irritating mystery for me. Often when I’m out with the dogs people ask me, ‘brousson?’ well that’s what it sounds like to my untrained ear. I asked the bi-lingual TV guy what it meant and he had no idea either! It transpired that the two fisherman were brothers and when they try and say ‘brother’ in English it comes out like brousson. Easy when you know! No wonder they can’t understand my French half the time when the pronunciation of the two languages is so vastly different.

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A nice little spot with great dog walking and good to be away from it all for a couple of nights. Feeling a bit less jaded we were up early Thursday morning and off to Pont a Mousson – a fabulous, lock free, run in the sunshine although the wind was quite strong by the time we were moored up.

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Leaving Metz, heading for Nancy

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/09/2014

We set off from Metz in glorious sunshine, albeit somewhat late in the day. I actually managed to extricate MR from between the vertical mooring poles without any collisions – just as well as the TV crew were still filming me.

Big blue skies and open river with not another boat to be seen. We had to wait for the first lock to be turned and went in on our own. As we were re-tracing our steps towards Toul we were determined to moor in different places, so my first port of call was to put him off here to check out it’s mooring potential. Some of it’s benefits were very obvious but G wanted to put down some rubber matting before taking on wood. It was very over grown so I picked him up and we carried on. We scoured the banks for a suitable wild mooring but there was nowhere to be found.

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At the second lock I hovered whilst it was set and the gates opened but the lights stayed red so I started to move to the side; then the lights turned green so I started to go forward and then they went red again! Then G spotted the nose of a bloody great commercial coming round the corner behind me – why didn’t they tell me on the VHF (we’d already spoken) instead of playing the light dance. Needless to say, I was heading very rapidly to the side of the lock mouth at this stage to get out of the way.

G was at the pointy end and getting a bit excited and saying lots of things that I couldn’t hear as my revs were quite high – I was quite happy to deal with the situation but G looked a bit sad so I offered him the helm back. The commercial came by us most courteously.

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As we came out of the lock we then reversed back on ourselves, into the mooring, on this side of this concrete ‘finger’ that formed the lock mouth upstream where another commercial was waiting to go in.

This mooring provided us with hours of boat spotting entertainment from our lovely safe grassy bank – having not seen another boat all day it suddenly became very busy. The shipping was so big that you couldn’t photo them from our side hatch without putting the camera on ‘panorama’.

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One of the biggest we recorded was ‘Deo Juvante’ @ 135m x 11m. When you think that a football pitch (so I’m told) is a maximum of 100m. It puts it into perspective!

The lock and mooring are at Pagny sur Moselle

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We’re on the telly in Metz

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/09/2014

If I don’t jump to Metz I’m never going to catch up and we shall be going back the same way to reach Nancy, so I can cover the in between bits as we return.

We did have a bit of excitement en route when we spotted this peeking through the bridge ‘ole – it was quite a tight fit.

We arrived in Metz with Avalon on Thursday and it really is lovely. Avalon went on and winded in front of the bridge and we moored ‘bottom in’ to the pontoon against the poles provided and had a sensational view of the bridge – particularly at night. There was a river monster or two about as well

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G and I found ourselves in a rather eclectic musical bar on Thursday night and engaging with the locals fairly effectively – I’m not sure how, but it ended up a rather cheap night out! Unfortunately their loos went kaput so I was escorted to a bar up the road to use their facilities; this, inevitably, involved much explanation, cheek kissing, shoulder shrugging and hand shaking.

Friday morning we set off into the city to explore and lo and behold the Aussies, Peter and Jo, found us again (did I mention that when they popped round in Toul they ate half our dinner). This time they had two more Aussies with them (another Peter and Joan) and, before I knew it, G’s and my skinny day aubergine curry had turned into a curry party for 8 – they did bring some food with them this time (well their friends did). Peter TOO also bought his guitar so we had a brilliant evening. Kevin is there, honest, but up the other end – 8 people on a narra is .. well, quite friendly (not to mention two dogs, two guitars and a cat). Herbie rather wondered why he and Ted weren’t invited.

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Saturday the ‘other Aussies’ left and we went round to Peter and Jo’s for dinner – much to our amazement we didn’t have to take our own – and then they ended up back on MR to join us for our annual ‘last night of the proms’ ritual. Sunday morning and the Aussie were off. We joined Kevin and Debs for coffee before they also left just before lunch and that was us Billy no mates again. That is until Monday when Phil and Helen arrived on their Lux motor type barge; so it was round to their boat for drinks until gone midnight.

Not a lot of sleep was had by us either Sunday or Monday as we had a carbon monoxide problem – the last time this happened was also when we’d been stationery on shore power for several days and we have no idea why – the fire hasn’t been lit and all the doors and windows have been open as it’s been glorious. I spent most of the two nights watching the reading on the monitor; not daring to go to sleep in case we didn’t wake up again!

So, a good time was had in Metz with plenty of sight-seeing, kayaking and walking thrown in amongst the socialising. A stunningly beautiful city.

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By Tuesday morning we were shattered, but it was time to move on so I set off across the parks with the dogs and returned to find G doing a ‘piece to camera’ in his ‘English as a foreign language’ voice for a French TV camera. Before I knew what was happening the dogs and I had a TV camera in our faces; unusually, I had put a bit of slap on before walking the dogs – unfortunately I’d also put some nice white sudacreme on my zit and split nose. They were also in the boat which was a total tip – G hadn’t even washed the dishes! Oh the shame – there is some consolation however, we have no idea what channel it will go out on or when and the chances of anyone seeing it that knows us is zilch. If the French get the impression that all British narra dwellers are sluts well, I’m afraid, that’s our fault! The camera and sound guys were delightful though.

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A long weekend in Toul with Avalon

Posted by contentedsouls on 14/09/2014

We made good time through our tunnel and 13 locks on Friday and caught up with Kevin and Debbie early afternoon. It seemed strange to start going downhill for the first time since long before we left Belgium. The first lock was quite deep, and therefore manned, and the Lockie took my our RCU from us and didn’t give us anything back in return! We found out later in the day that the navigation was closed at that lock shortly after we left – no idea why as there are two separate locks to choose from – he probably wanted an early start to his weekend as the weather is so glorious! The next 12 locks were all automatic and set for you when the boat breaks a beam, so all were ready and waiting for us. After the next 5 or so I was getting a bit bored so jumped ship and walked the dogs in the sunshine; although I had to put Baxter back on board after 30 minutes. Muttley and I continued on to walk into Toul, raising the activating bars in the locks as we went.

Once in Toul we found Avalon breasted up to a huge Swiss cruiser below the lock and beside the old castle ramparts but, being narra, we could moor behind without making life difficult for the peniches coming out of the lock. It took less than 2 minutes for Daisy to come home with her first mouse.

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After a catch up on Avalon we went back to MR for lunch before heading into town for a looksee but, just as we were about to leave, we had a knock from John who had moored his beautiful hotel boat opposite from us – we had met John in Lumes in the beginning of July and his was our first ‘repeat visit’ from someone we’d met over here.

This young cat was dangling high in the rafters, over the pavement, trying to catch birds – I just hoped it could get down again. I like Toul, it’s still small enough to be friendly but has everything you need and some lovely architecture.

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We got chatting to a French chap in a cafe – he called himself Rocky and was a bit of a Jack the lad but he took a shine to us and ended up taking G to the nearby cave and buying a bottle of the local speciality liqueur for Debbie and I to try (oops, sorry Debs I’ve still got it!). Kevin got himself man kissed when we said goodbye!

2 locks out from Toul and we were down onto La Moselle and back to giant commercial boats and giant locks again, it’s a lovely river – we also saw a Great White Egret; very rare in Western Europe according to my bird book

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We also caught up with Jo and Peter again – the delightful Aussies that we’d met in Pagny. Jo writes a blog for their grandchildren that Peter illustrates in ink and water colour. If you look at the second blog in August you’ll see their take on a narrowboat; it’s lovely frompapa

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We have reached the top of the River Meuse

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/09/2014

and are now on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. We joined the Meuse at Namur on 4th June and travelled 46km and 9 locks to the French Border (which we crossed on 11th June) and 272.5km and 60 locks from the border to the summit today, the 4th September. Not exactly rapid travel but we have had plenty of time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ during those 3 months.

G couldn’t get an osteopath appointment until 6pm Wednesday night and it was back at St.Mihiel, so we stayed put at Commercy. On Tuesday I started trying to paint the side hatches – I say ‘trying’ as G decided to tick a job off of his list and do a ‘permanent’ fit on the VHF cabling. His job involved jumping on and off of the roof to drill holes and things. A wobbling boat and a wobbling pontoon are not massively conducive to painting delicate birds eyes and feathers!!! Finally he broke the drill bit so, I thought, I’d get some respite from my moving target whilst he went off to buy another one; but it was not to be. Another boat turned up which necessitated jumping onto the bouncy pontoon, plugging in electric and getting bicycles down! It was time to admit defeat and give up for the day!  The crew of the new arrival were soon forgiven though when they introduced themselves as Jutta and Reinhold and invited us around for evening drinks to try some of their German wine and beer. A bit too good a time was had by all and there were a few headaches about in the morning!

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When I walk the dogs now I never go anywhere without carrier bags – Wednesday I came back with pears and Mirabelles – the blackberries aren’t quite ready yet and there’s going to be a lot of sloes this winter.

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Does anyone have a clue what this grey construction is? It sits next door to the re-cycling shed/bins but is made of metal with a pay to enter lock on the door and the fish are cut outs in the metal, as are the holes front left and right, and the top half of the door is mesh – it’s not a pissoir (unless you are extremely extroverted as you can see in). I’m completely baffled.

So we left on Thursday morning and had a lovely run down to the pretty village of Pagny –sur – Meuse. 5 locks from Commercy to Pagny – one on it’s own and then 4 together. Great views from the second lock of the day looking back down through the bridges as the gates closed behind me.

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It was late when we arrived and, by the time I’d walked the dogs and made a skinny day dinner, the light was fading and I didn’t get to look round much, but it seems to have all the facilities (village shop, baker, butcher, hairdresser and bar/restaurant) so we’ll probably stay there for a few nights on our way back after Toul, Metz and Nancy. We probably lost another hour chatting to the delightful Aussies and their friends – as you do – who had moored up just before us.

We left Pagny at 9.30 this morning (Friday) as we had 13 locks and 14.5 km to do to catch up with Kevin and Debbie on WB Avalon in Toul.


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