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

  • November 2014
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Archive for November, 2014

Beaujolais Nouveau at Void-Vacon

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/11/2014

Not being in a hurry, as we are doing a bit of an exploration to see if it is possible to continuously cruise in France, we spent a very happy week in Pagny. The evening light was amazing as were the ‘wild’ goats. I say wild because although Muttley and I were walking for a couple of hours or more we never saw a fence confining them throughout the entire walk.

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We also had the opportunity to take up Kevin’s (WB Avalon) recommendation to eat at the local truck stop. Kevin hooked up with his ‘personal restaurant advisor’ who recommended the excellent steak restaurant at Commercy and then the Pagny truck stop. Kevin and Debbie had no opportunity to check out the authenticity of the latter, so we thought it would be rude not to check it out on their behalf!

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I have NEVER before and probably will never again eat ANYWHERE like it. A vast place broken down into more intimate areas where you could dine alone or sit with mates or just join a long table to eat and chat with mates or strangers alike, but no ‘greasy spoon’; every table beautifully dressed (to use modern parlance). Eat all you like massive buffet for starters plus a selection of soups, a choice of main courses and eat all you like desserts. The bread, of course, kept coming and  ‘on tap drink fountains’. Use of the latter required grabbing a 75cl bottle and filling it with still or fizzy water, syrup, or rose, white or red wine – all 7 if you wanted and repeat visits perfectly fine and, of course, coffee. Cost: less than £12.00/15 euros per head. They charged for overnight lorry stop but deducted that from the meal if you ate there and they also provided hot showers. They opened at 5.00pm and every cover was taken by 7.00pm; the staff were incredibly funny and friendly – worth going out of your way for? You bet, even if you don’t have a lorry!

Time to move on towards Void-Vacon in time for Beaujolais Nouveau day. A lock free cruise via the aqueduct over the River Meuse which was back, more or less, within it’s banks after the previous flooding. Due to the lack of locks and the rather miserable weather I was happy to hand G back the helm and we moored outside the VNF offices amongst the working vessels – an excellent spot for Daisy who found the mice particularly fat and, therefore rather sluggish, due to the proximity of the grain silo!


Void is a little bigger than Pagny – more tiny town sporting a small store, butchers, bakers, post office a bar/tabac and two little restaurants, hairdressers plus, important for me, a variety of dog walking and rubbish disposal – don’t mock the latter; it’s a tough job being the rubbish disposal fairy but someone has to do it.

I confess to not being good at making the effort to leave the boat when it’s dark, so we chose the restaurant that was open at lunchtime to see in the Beaujolais Nouveau. Very nice it was too and so, again, was our set meal.


After returning to the boat for an afternoon snooze we realised that Daisy was using the rather attractive planters as a toilet so, under cover of darkness and when I thought everyone had gone home, I set off wielding a trowel to make good any damage; as I started work a lady opened the door and looked a bit bemused to see the mad English woman from the bateau digging in her plant pots – Muttley, of course, took advantage of the situation to dive through the open door into the offices so I was forced to follow still wielding the trowel. My French does not improve when flustered, embarrassed and unexpectedly forced into use. With hindsight, in ‘ello ‘ello parlance, I think it went something like this:

“Sorry. My cat toiletted in your flowers. My bad dog quicked into here. Very sorry. Hello. Good evening, goodbye. Sorry. Extremely sorry” As I retrieved the lap searching Muttley and beat a hasty retreat. If I carry on like this I’ll get a job in stand up!

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It can only happen in France bless ‘em!

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/11/2014

Last Thursday we moved MR up into the marina, just one lock and onto the  finger pontoon but we couldn’t get enough of MR on to reach the electric point so had to reverse off, wind and reverse back on. Such a joy to manoeuvre (albeit only for 30 minutes) and change our scenery. Poor old G had to do the front end as I daren’t risk my shoulder hanging on to ropes in these deep rising locks, or mooring up.

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Friday morning saw us dismantling MR and de-camping to Reims to meet up with our UK mates – beds, litter tray, basket. wack wack, bed time treats, waterproofs ……. and that was just Graham! Apart from 1 night when we shipped MR out from the UK, it’s been over 2 years since we all left the boat; what a performance. The minute you start packing on a narra the place is in chaos and, I must admit, having spent 2 nights on a widebeam, the shock of unloading back on the narra was even worse! I know we’ve spent a lot of money on new batteries, new boiler, etc., etc., but we like it here and the call of the widebeam gets louder.

Thank you so very much for lending us your boat guys. It was massively kind of you and very much appreciated – as was the toy library.

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We had a brilliant weekend in Reims with Pete and Sally with scrummy (and not extortionate) food, champagne tour, brocante and 3 remarkably well behaved animals given that they were in a strange environment. G, bless him, did all the driving and it stayed mostly dry (well the weather did!). A nice city, quite looking forward to mooring there in a few weeks and a chance to explore properly.

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We had intended to leave Toul (finally) Monday, but we thought it was a bank holiday so couldn’t book passage up through the 12 locks. Except it wasn’t a bank holiday, so, by the time we discovered it wasn’t and we tried to book passage for Tuesday we couldn’t leave because Tuesday WAS a bank holiday!

The Marne au Rhine Canal is open but, after 1st November, you have to phone and book passage before 3pm the previous day. We managed, eventually, to book passage for the 12 locks up to Pagny sur Meuse for 11.00 am yesterday and set off in the rain but it soon cleared up. We assume (but don’t know) that passage needs booking to make sure that there is someone around to help if you or a lock gets into difficulty as this set of locks operate automatically when you break the radar beam thingy. In the bottom of the second lock in the flight I was greeted by a VNF eclusier who turned up in a van and told me that I couldn’t go up the flight without booking (where the hell else I was meant to go at that point I don’t know – mind you, it wouldn’t have been the first time we’d spent a night in the bottom of a French lock!). At least, I think that was the gist of it, but they do talk very fast when excited (and/or upset). I told him that I had booked passage and he responded with a great deal of gesticulation before driving off. I seem to remember Kevin and Debs having a little spot of bother with officialdom on this stretch too! I had a great day and, although quite lively, none of the locks bothered us with G making a good anchor at the front.

We awoke in Pagny this morning surrounded by a fishing competition. A study in total concentration until 12 o’clock then?

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You’ve got it. France; 12 o’clock food and wine shared over a convivial lunchtime! Out with the tables and chairs, steaks on the fire, voila! Lunch over and back to the competition ….. priceless.

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It seems a very poor show to moan when mates are going through seriously bad times

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/11/2014

….so I’ve tended to shut up but, I guess, life doesn’t work like that long term. Take this as a warning (now I know that Les has pulled through) that I’m about to have a whinge. Everything I do has to be without putting pressure on my right arm so I can only take one dog/rubbish bag/shopping bag etc. So most of the jobs in my day have to be done twice. As my mate Brian Holt quoted from Andy Capp, “ don’t struggle with that bucket of coal – make two journeys”. Then I ate some dodgy pate and had 24 hours of deli belly and now, I suspect, a cold.

Pete and Sal are coming out from Norfolk to meet us for dinner in Reims Friday evening for the weekend, and I have now been cleared to drive the boat, but with caution. There is, of course, no way we can do 168 kilometres and 120 locks between now and Friday evening. Thank goodness we have monumentally great mates; one of which, whose boat is a lot nearer to Reims, that are willing to lend it to us for the weekend. If you are wondering why we don’t just book into the same hotel as Pete and Sal, I couldn’t agree more – nothing would be more wonderful, but that is the price you pay for pets and there is no way we can meet with French requirements to book 2 dogs and a cat into French kennels at such short notice, so it’s a case of making the best of my bad job. It’s rained solidly for 24 hours and the dogs hate it – they just won’t go out and do the necessary until they are 14-11-02 1293714-11-02 1293914-11-02 1294114-11-02 12942desperate – desperate is currently middle of the night/early hours and we are both very tired. OK, that’s it – enough whinging…sorry!

We have had lots of sunshine and the Mutts and I have enjoyed the walks when he’s not sleeping to build up energy to wake us during the night.

(sorry, I’ve jumbled the pictures again). We have booked a passage  up through the lock tomorrow to leave MR in the marina – goodness, will I remember how to drive the boat after 4 weeks?


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We had a new neighbour tonight – first boat movement we’ve seen in days – lovely lines.

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Sorry to grumble, but if I don’t where is the honesty in the blog

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