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

  • January 2015
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for January, 2015


Posted by contentedsouls on 31/01/2015

Woke to over an inch of snow this morning but I was taking no prisoners – out G must go to fetch the bread and croissants whilst I had a leisurely shower. Jolly good bread it was too.

We ventured forth at lunchtime for a well deserved beer – G fixed the leaking water pump and I cleaned the oven – mine host was our favourite type; spoke to us slowly in French and interjected with the odd word in English when we were stuck. Also, politely, corrected our ‘le’ and ‘la’ and general pronunciation. This is what really teaches us.

Afterwards I wandered off with Muttley in search of the Supermarche – couldn’t find it! Evidently we can sort out our groceries and they will drive them to the boat: Mr Pargny (uncle of mine host). Just the ticket as we don’t have the car at the moment; if only I could find it!

As I left the gendarmerie were all over a car they had pulled in, including sniffer dogs, so all is still a little tense here.

The big peniche left this morning so we were able to drop back and lose the skinny gang plank – treacherous in the snow and ice this morning. Also on free electric so water making laundry day today.

Only 9 more sleeps until we collect the No Problems


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Contrisson to Pargny-sur-Sauix

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/01/2015

6 locks, 9 kms

I think we’ve gone stark staring bonkers. Moved again today to get to civilisation for the weekend. Driving snow and reached the first lock – we’re on the, supposed, automatics now – and when we broke the beam the lock didn’t go to ‘set’. At this stage G resembled a snowman. A quick phone call and all was well and we were soon joined by our VNF lady escort. All the locks were against us and, so, she pre-set them to our favour before we arrived at each one. We were a little concerned that the carte said that the moorings at Pargny were for a max of 11 metres (we’re 20), but thought we might get in anyway at this time of the year. We need not have worried – a stonking great peniche and a small cruiser were already on the moorings, so we’re back on gang planks again. This must be something of a record; this is the second consecutive day that I haven’t put a foot off of the boat. I don’t do the skinny gang plank.

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Revigny-sur-Ornain to Contrisson

Posted by contentedsouls on 29/01/2015

6 locks and 4 kms

We really shouldn’t have moved today, the bad weather deteriorated into atrocious weather, himself valiantly on the helm and we were accompanied by a lady in a VNF van – for no apparent reason other than jobs for the troops. I have no idea what the village of Contrisson has to offer and, in this weather, I have no intention of finding out.

I was molly coddled today and stayed within the boat (going down so can easily single hand) hovering and cleaning until mooring stations. The wind was off the bank so had to use that well known technique of ‘beaching’ the bow whilst himself re-assembled the front end and threw a gang plank ashore and a sturdy stake so I could get the back end in.

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It was only 12.30 when we moored so I decided to face the job I’d been avoiding for sometime – going in

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That’s the oven – not the local cattle.

Moving again tomorrow to get into a town for the weekend, running out of milk; that’ll be 4 days cruising on the trot.

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Mussey to Revigny-sur-Ornain

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/01/2015

6 kilometres and 5 locks

!0 am start today and my services were surplus to requirements for the first 3 locks as they were operated by a VNF man following us in a van. It became apparent that they were controlling the water at a lower level whilst they were re-enforcing the banks – a stunning job they were making of it too. I had to laugh though, one man was passing a pole down to a man in the water who held the pole vertically whilst the man on the digger hammered it in with his bucket – the lady on the bank in a hard hat, like me, also appeared to be surplus to requirements. Perhaps she was supervising and making sure the man rammed the poles in and not the man holding the poles.

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A lovely quiet mooring surrounded by woodland (so no satellite) makes an idyllic stop for Daisy who returned with a mouse within 5 minutes of mooring. We had intended to linger here a little but, having walked into town after lunch, we quickly booked passage for the morning! It has a massive pharmacy – probably so large because of the vast stocks of anti-depressants it has to hold for the poor sods who have to live here; I say, ‘have to’ live here as it’s not something you’d do by choice. It also has a railway station which should contain a government health warning advising people not to get off the train. If you’re reading this and live here then I’m sorry – not for what I said, but that you have to live here.

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To add to the ambience is this power station – you’d think amongst this lot they’d be a socket for a bit of shore power somewhere!

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So, although the mooring is lovely, it’s pastures new for us in the morning. That’ll be 3 days on the trot we’ve moved; albeit only for 2 or 3 hours (plenty out the back in this weather) and try to find somewhere nice to spend a couple of days for the weekend.

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Bar le Duc to Mussey

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/01/2015

9 kms, 8 locks and 2 lift bridges

Well I’m delighted to say that today’s plan actually went according to plan – the only, delightful, variance was that it didn’t rain all day as forecast. I’m afraid it makes for a dull blog because we left at 10.00 am, as booked, and cleared both lift bridges clear of lunchtime – we hit the second lift bridge just as it re-opened after lunch, so plan ‘A’ , for once, achieved. Both lift bridges were those funny ones attached to locks – you sit up on high and watch vehicles cross down below immediately in front of you.

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No more signs of the men in uniform; just a nice friendly VNF man who didn’t understand my French at all, nor me his, and then spoke perfectly good English to Graham later in the day, grrrrr.

I walked much of the way with Muttley and managed to do most of my chores between locks whilst on board, so by the time we’d moored it was a quick lunch and I was free to explore. A nice little rural mooring and Mussey is a funny, almost abandoned little village. I made the effort to climb the hill to the church and it was worth it, but that was Mussey done.

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Pastures new again tomorrow

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Another encounter with the Gendarmerie

Posted by contentedsouls on 26/01/2015

Well the snow has gone and been replaced by rain. Apart from our visit to the market, we never did get to see Bar le Duc. Never mind – it’s charms await us on another visit.

We went to an out of town shopping area today to fill the jerry cans and pick up a few bits as we’ll not have the car for awhile now. On leaving a shop and returning to the car, we were met by the Gendarmerie who wanted to know if it was our vehicle. We responded with our usual, ‘we’re English, please could you speak slowly’. They immediately made the association that we were the people on the boat it seems we have earned a certain notoriety. It’s not rocket science for them to have worked out we were English – right hand drive car with a GB sticker on – they’d clearly clocked the Red Ensign on the boat and had seen the car parked near it before. Evidently the car had been reported as a ‘suspect vehicle’. I can understand that they’re a bit jumpy at the moment, but I can’t see a terrorist drawing attention to themselves by driving an English car; if you wanted to merge into the background a French motor home would be the ticket. There are still loads of motor homes about.

We paid £0.85p per litre for good, white fuel today. It’s gone up a little but it’s still pretty good.

On the move tomorrow in, I suspect, full wet weather gear looking at the forecast but we do need to be a little mindful of the time now. Hey ho, at least it’s warmer. My apologies for the lack of pictures but the charger for my camera has broken. Sue and Vic are bringing a new one out for me, I’ve dug out the old camera for tomorrow.

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Wintry weather in Bar le Duc

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/01/2015

We awoke yesterday to particularly unpleasant weather, but we had to get up early and brave the snow being driven into our faces on the icy wind and the slippy conditions underfoot. I emptied the dogs and then we set off for the market as we were down to onions, shrivelled potatoes and half a leek. We knew we’d have to go early or, as Kevin Too said, they’d have packed up and gone home. The market, fortunately, turned out to be indoors and consisted entirely of produce, with fabulous vegetable stalls – amazingly the first decent market we’ve come across (except Metz, but that’s permanent and doesn’t count), all the others, contrary to my expectations, have been pretty manky and rather dismal affairs.

We returned to the boat laden with wonderful veggies, cold meats, pates, fish and meat (although we resisted the oysters – they do love them here).

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No messing about, I dumped the perishables in the fridge whilst G cleared the car of snow and we set off to Lidl for dairy, cat food, beer and wine and home again before the witching hour of 12.00! Unheard of. I even had time to muck out and clean the fridge and root out those UMOs (Unidentified Mouldering Objects), whilst G made lunch, and walk the dogs again and still be in time to watch the world bowls semi-finals – a sport we were both passionate about when we were static landlubbers.

Now I have a confession to make. We are moored opposite the station and at the station is a big ‘M’ sign, so we had a McDonald’s for supper. It must be at least 4 years since I’ve had one and the French version is identical to those I remember – the menu board looks a tad different though and, ‘to go’ is replaced by, ‘emporter’. The chips were nice and so was not having to cook or wash-up.

G was making Yorkshire pud to go with the lovely beef tournedos that we bought at the market when a lady knocked to say she was putting the water on for an hour. That was nice and so was the fact that I understood what she said (for once). So we’re full of water and delicious provisions and the weather can do what it likes now, providing we can get through the stoppage and pick up the No Problems at Vitry on the 9th February, but we can always get them by car.

Pack your thermals and winceyette’s Sue and Vic. Can’t wait to see you

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More lunchtime closures

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/01/2015

Longeville en Barrois to Bar le Duc

I toddled into the town of Longeville yesterday morning for much needed supplies before the dreaded lunchtime curfew. I was determined to be ‘all chores done’ by 2.00 pm to sit and watch the ladies’ world bowls final. Although it’s quite a large place all I found was a bar/restaurant, tabac and boucherie. Not even a boulangerie. I managed to get eggs but no milk or vegetables.

We made some water this morning before heading off towards Bar Le Duc. I walked the dogs to the first two locks with the sun trying it’s hardest to provide us with our shadows. Baxter had had enough by then so I popped him back on the boat with G. On the approach to that lock MR crossed a pretty aqueduct over the River l’Ornain. Muttley and I had to get back on at the next lock due to a towpath closure where they were repairing the canal edge but, by then, the sun was fabulous for a little while, bathing this roofless barn and a tree laden with mistletoe in golden light.

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By 12.00 we had reached our 5th and last lock of the day which, rather interestingly, had a road and lift bridge running below and immediately behind the downstream lock gates – quite weird as you watched the tops of buses drive across MR’s nose. Unfortunately I couldn’t time it well with the camera and only caught the woolly hatted head of a pedestrian and no vehicles.

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The lock empties and then barriers stop the traffic before the lift bridge rises. So the lock emptied and we waited to see the bridge lift and the lock gates open….and we waited…..and we waited……and we waited. Bloody lunchtime again! A search through the small print of our Fluvia Carte said the lift bridges were closed for lunch until 12.30. It was 12.40 before anything happened (could have been 2.00 pm so not bad) so we sat at the bottom of the lock and waited whilst VNF food was consumed and digested. As for us, well you’ve heard of cup-a-soup; we had lock-a-soup. The next picture is taken looking back into the lock with the bridge raised. Heaven forbid you should raise the bridge and stop people from getting home promptly to lunch.

The second lift bridge responded immediately and lifted two sections as separate parts of a dual carriageway.

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There is no doubt about it, we are going to have to adjust our body clocks to French time. It’s market day in Bar le Duc tomorrow – they’ll probably have closed and gone to lunch by the time I get there.


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A summons to the Gendarmerie

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/01/2015

Tronville-en-Barrois to Longeville-en Barrois

Due to our boat lay-out, if we are on shore power we virtually never go out onto the stern deck when moored, so it was purely by chance that G went out and found a note from the Municipal Gendarmerie insisting that we contact them – no idea how long it had been there. It’s much more difficult to communicate over the phone so, fortified by a beer, we presented ourselves at the Marie’s office (largely as no-one seemed to know where the police station was) and were met there by  one of the local constabulary. The problem seemed to be that we had not appeared and declared ourselves as sleeping on our boat, a requirement which we were not aware of, and that there is a tax of 20 cents (about 17pence) per night for stopping and that we should have reported on arrival. As you may appreciate, it took some time and concentration to grasp this, so when we said we were leaving the day after he lost the will to live and wished us bon voyage – all adds to life’s rich tapestry.

Before leaving we were also invited to join the family at the White Horse for what appears to be a mid-January custom: a gallette (puff pastry and gooey apple layers) is divided up and one portion contains a charm (a bit like our silver threepenny bit in the Xmas pud). Whoever gets the charm is king or queen for the day and gets to wear the crown – it was me! Perfect for the drama queen that I am. Then Monday we left with our guests (previous blog) and spent two nights in Tronville, funny little place – elderly Massey Fergusons in the middle of the houses; here’s one for the boys

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Now I’ve been in some strange little bars before and this one is up there with them………

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This morning we’d booked passage through 6 locks and six kilometres but woke up to significant ice. This gave us a dilemma as, due to the ice forecast, wherever we stopped tonight was where we would be likely to spend the week – should we/shouldn’t we go. We decided to give it a couple of hours to see if the sun would burn off the icy fog and then decide, so we declared serious breakfast and fetched un pain and croissants which we devoured with eggs cheese and marmalade (I like the mix and match). Digesting this little lot over coffee we heard the sound of breaking ice – first boat movement in over two weeks. Action stations and we were hot on his tail after 25 minutes.


We made good time as Muttley and I walked on and lifted the bars as MR came into each lock but at the 4th lock our ice breaking friend was in the lock with the gates still open and the lights out (denotes non-operational). Oh no, breakdown of lock, boat or both


I shouted to see if anyone was about and had no response, so called the control centre on the lock intercom thingy. My comprehension is a nightmare when not face to face and worse still over these crackly intercom things. I established, during the long conversation that ensued, the following:

There was a stationery boat in the lock (we told each other that)

The chef of said boat had gone to eat

No, the lock wasn’t closed

The answer to my question as to when he was likely to finish eating/start moving was completely incomprehensible; despite my memorising the words and rushing back to look them up, it still made no sense so we reversed up and paid due homage to the French lunch and put the pins in


When we were under way again he re-set all the locks for us before we reached the ‘lock set control point’ so we forgave him.

We encountered some interesting characters at a lock – look away now if you are easily offended.


We’ll stay here tomorrow by choice but it may be longer due to ice – hey ho, the car is only a lock away

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On the road again, at last.

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/01/2015

We’ve loved Ligny –en-Barrois but, for various reasons, we’ve been there for 4 weeks. With Christmas done and dusted and G back from his family visit to the UK, it was time to move on to pastures new. We need to clear lock 70 before a 5 week stoppage and get to Vitry le Francois to collect Sue and Vic at the beginning of February. We’ve moved through lock 27 today to Tronville-en-Barrois.

A beautiful frosty morning with no wind and we had French guests on board. 5 locks, 5 kms and just a fun day. A two hour cruise and a three hour lunch with Lititia and Guy (pronounced Gee) from Le Cheval Blanc. The sun stopped us being frozen and a simple lunch of fennel and leek soup with fromage and pastries ate the time away over a great deal of laughter – it’s amazing how you can get over the language barriers if there’s a will to communicate.

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