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 2015
    M T W T F S S
  • Meta

Archive for July, 2015

Jussy, Chauny and ecluse No 3 at Crecy

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/07/2015

Still in splendid repose in self inflicted isolation on our island on Sunday, we received a ‘phone call from Debs and Kevin at 7 pm saying they were 30km away. So, all hands on deck, we rounded up the menagerie and pulled pins to move the lockless 5 km to Jussy where narrowboat and motor home could moor adjacently.

it wasn’t long before a good old catch up commenced and Muttley and Herbie were soon stuck into their own catch up, whilst the oldies, Ted and Baxter, tried to keep a low profile.


On the Monday they kindly took us to the vets (for Baxter’s medication), supermarket (chorizo and tinned veg was beginning to wear a bit thin) and outdoor/sports clothing retail outlet – yoga mat for Debs, shorts for G and new walking sandals for me as our car was back in Saint Quentin. Thanks guys. Herbie disappeared and came back covered in mud, requiring utilisation of the motor home’s outdoor shower.


We waved goodbye on Tuesday morning – us heading for Chauny and they heading for Amiens and then Calais.

There was no space for our 20metre boat in the little port at Chauny, so we moored on the opposite bank in front of a very unusual barge called Trojan, flying a red ensign and DBA flag. In the morning Chris, from Trojan, came round to see if we wanted to go with him to the supermarket which was a lovely offer but we were OK thanks to Kevin.


We trundled into town with the dogs and I bought a pair of shorts before heading to the ‘Lucien’ for lunch – we received fabulous service from the happy and sociable waiter who, initially, bought the dogs a coffee cup of water out each before replacing them with a giant glass champagne cooler full of water. The food was great and I managed to wade my way through pudding.

P1080979P1080980 - CopyP1080981P1080982

Due to my offering pork scratchings to the French families, on the adjacent tables, for their non-existent dog (don’t ask!), we started chatting and they helped us no end with our French – how much we’ll remember I’m not sure. We had great fun with them and lunch turned into a prolonged affair.


Back row L – R Bruno and Johann, front row L – R Lino, Severine and Isabella. Severine works in the Marie’s Office and was being visited by her friend who is a teacher. It was a long time speaking French for us and we had brain ache by the time we left them.

We eventually returned to MR in time to have a short snooze before Chris & Janet (from Trojan) came round for drinks at 6 and we started all over again, but this time in English. We have certainly ended our island sojourn with a massive social bash.

We headed off this morning and were heading for Pinon but spotted this rather lovely mooring above lock 3 at Crecy so pulled over here for the day where the boys could sleep outside, undisturbed, in the sun and Daisy could go hunting after being confined to barracks boat for the last 2 nights at Chauny due to an adjacent road.


It’s still shorts and T-shirt weather although we have had brief showers mixed in with the sun – the forecast looks great for the weekend

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Macquincourt Tunnel

Posted by contentedsouls on 26/07/2015

The tunnel is 5,670 metres long and an electric chain barge is attached to the first boat; subsequent boats are tied together and all pulled through in a ‘train’. There are only 2 trips in each direction per day, starting from the South (the other side to us). It takes about 2 hours plus tying/untying time.

Saturday 11th we trundled on towards the summit and the tunnel, knowing that we had 1 more day’s cruising to reach it. At lock 9, a manned control lock, G was asked when we wanted to travel through the tunnel. The only choices were 9.00 am or 5 pm – with no time to think about it he booked 5 pm Monday. We stopped at Tordoir that night and I didn’t want to move on on Sunday in case we didn’t have a TV signal in the cut close to the tunnel as I was heavily into the tennis. I cajoled G into cycling back to re-book the tunnel for 9 am on the Tuesday.

When we left on Monday morning it was peeing with rain and we steamed in full wets. Fed up, we moored at Honnecourt, 3 locks short of the tunnel. I’d mentioned on FB that we were going through the tunnel in the morning and someone pointed out that Tuesday was the 14th (Bastille Day) so we were very unlikely to be going anywhere – like most boaters I had been totally unaware of the date. Yet again my intrepid cyclist set off for lock 9 – further away now – to check out the validity of our Bastille Day booking. The lockie confirmed that the tunnel and locks, of course, were not going to be open (clearly the lockie that took the booking in the first place had no more idea of the date than we had!) so he re-booked for 9 am Wednesday only to be told that we had to be at the muster point at 8 am. It was going to be tight as we had 3 locks and 5.5 km to run and the locks won’t operate until 7 am when a man in a van comes and turns each one on individually.

We were up at 5.45 (gasp!) and hovering outside the first lock at 6.55. We arrived at the red light/muster point by the entrance to the tunnel at 7.58 and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. At 9.20 we phoned the controller at lock 9 who responded with, “no, no, no – 1700 hours” (only in French). We protested but met with a brick wall – I was a long way from being a happy bunny. We were the only boat waiting to go North/South and we could only deduce that no boats wanted to come South/North so they wouldn’t come through ‘empty’ just for us.

Trying to make the best of what was going to be a long day – we now had no chance of mooring on the South side until at least 8 pm – I started to put together a cooked breakfast when I heard the sound of a small engine. It was a little sailboat with an out board which had just come through the tunnel. There in front of us and throwing ropes in our direction was the chain barge – it was 9.40 and we were off!


As we were the only boat in tow we made good time and were through and untied in just under the 2 hours. The guys on the barge were off for their obligatory lunch before their final out and return starting at 2.30/3.00. The guy in the so-called ‘control’ lock clearly hadn’t the faintest idea what was going on and, as is normal over here, there seemed to be absolutely no communication.

After 7 km there is a 2nd tunnel – Lesdins, a mere baby at 1,098 metres long. No problem with this one as we were allowed through under our own steam. We moored quite early at Lesdins village for lunch and an afternoon snooze.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

St Quentin to St Simon

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/07/2015

Monday morning we drove to the supermarket to stock the new fridge freezer. I needed enough for about a week as we planned to leave the car by the station again – the plan being to do the non-food shopping in the afternoon. It was too hot and we couldn’t be bothered, so decided to move up into the little port in the morning which was nearer to the shops. An overnight stay on the Tuesday would also provide us with water and electric and allow me to catch up with 3 or 4 loads of washing. 1 lock and 1 kilometre and we pulled in to the VNF port onto a decrepit, bouncy finger pontoon. Here we spotted NB Last Farthing but there was no-one home.

Last Farthing  Saint QuentinP-D-Plaisance Saint QuentinSaint Quentin P-D-Plaisance

When we discovered that our shore power connector wasn’t compatible with the electric supply, it was a unanimous decision to abandon the retail, fill with water and leave. We found a lovely overnight mooring opposite the Marie’s office at Fontaine-les-Clercs where Daisy spent several happy hours decimating the local mouse population.

Fontaine-les-Clercs MooringFontaine-les-Clercs

We set off in the morning in spectacular weather and thought we might do a really long day as we’d moved so little recently. However, at lunchtime G spotted this fabulous island mooring. There is no access other than by boat and we have shade (we’ve been having temperatures of consistently above 30 degrees here), a brick built BBQ with cut logs supplied, boule pitch, picnic tables and good canal access for the dogs. As there is no-one for the dogs to bother and no security issues it means we can leave all doors and windows open to keep the boat as cool as possible and the menagerie can come and go as the mood takes them. It is also the perfect place for G to do a bit of welding (repairing loops and chains on mooring pins) and get on with re-painting the back end.

P1080934P1080936P1080937 - CopyP1080938 - Copy - CopyP1080939P1080941

It is so perfect that, although it’s cooler today (only 25 degrees), we’ve just stayed and I have no intention of moving until we run out of food; which might have been quite soon now, but Debs and Kevin have rung to say that they are going to stop over with us on their way back to the UK either Sunday or Monday and I’m sure they’ll bring us fresh supplies. G did, at one point, try and make a run for it when we ran out of beer!


I know we can’t stay here forever, but it’s very difficult to leave somewhere that is perfect, as anywhere we go to now won’t be as good.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Cambrai & the Tour de France. Sun 28 June–Thursday 9th July

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/07/2015

En route to finding somewhere for G to leave me whilst returning to the UK, we poled up in the large town of Cambrai on the Sunday. The towpath was such that Muttley and I were able to walk nearly all the way, at times giving us a glorious view of MR and the surrounding countryside. The only vacant mooring in the little port said ‘no mooring, reserved for fishing’. The Marie is a keen fisherman. Annoyingly there was no-one fishing there – they were all busy fishing between the moored boats! We reversed out and moored the other side of the ‘finger’ on the main bank. This, in fact, was superbly safe for Daisy (although deprived us of water and electricity) and was free.

P1080687 - CopyP1080703P1080816P1080820

So safe for Daisy, in fact, that she took to sunbathing on the bank edge. Shortly after I took that photo she stretched further, rolled over and fell in. Daft cat. Not long after we moored up we were joined by 2 other Brit boats; John and Hilary and dog Ben on barge Iskra and Geoff and Dot on a tiny, 40 year old cruiser which they had cruised across the channel – respect! Then there was Carol and dog Guillemot on barge Plover (husband John and other dog Kestrel visiting UK), down the canal a bit on a converted peniche and owner of the fab incredibly dog friendly restaurant The Jolly Sailor was David with one huge dog and one tiny dog. Needless to say we quickly and shamelessly formed a temporary ex-pat community – it’s not something we’ve done before, but it was nice to be able to relax in the mother tongue and humour and they were all such good company.

Once I discovered that there was an Aldi and a Lidl just up the road; the Tour de France was through the following week and Wimbledon was starting; we decided that I would stay put and G hastily booked his ferry for Wednesday morning from Dunkirk unaware of the strike at Calais. It took him an hour and a half to do the last 4km into the port and then he had a 2 hour departure delay. Just to add insult to injury, customs took him and the car to bits at Dover – it was only a matter of time really given the amount of times he crosses.


As you can imagine, with all these distractions the time flew by and everyone was back in time for the Tour de France stage which ended in the town on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately we arrived unnecessarily early to secure a good position and, after 3 hours I was extremely bored and beginning to need  a pee, so I decided to give it a miss and return to the boat. These two gentlemen had other ideas and would no longer let anyone cross the road. People who were there by chance were getting extremely annoyed about being ‘held’ there. Somebody came passed throwing these silly hats into the spectators.

2015-07-07 14.31.01P1080705

Finally the ‘caravan’ arrives, which is basically lots of silly vehicles advertising this and that; the occupants of which chucked useless tat into the crowds – I have to admit that the grabbing of this useless tat took on life or death importance as I wrestled the local French children to the ground in order to possess a particularly tasty rubber wrist band or biro. This caravan was greeted with great enthusiasm by the crowds largely, I suspect, because we were all so bloody bored that we would have cheered a dog running into the road to have a poo! Here’s a few of them:



Oooo look! Here’s some cyclists. Don’t blink or you’ll miss them.


and that’s it ………. it was all over, after 3+ hours of standing around. The best bit for me was watching them dismantle these amazing hospitality suite lorries.


Wednesday was declared a day of rest and Thursday we headed off towards the tunnel that sits between Cambrai and Saint Quentin.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Saint Quentin

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/07/2015

Friday, if anything, dawned even hotter and the only way to survive was all doors and hatches open and all windows and portholes out, which meant we couldn’t leave the boat together. At 35 degrees you can imagine what the temperature would have reached had we shut down and secured the boat. G decided, therefore, that he might as well get the train and retrieve the car from Cambrai after I’d walked and dunked the dogs. As it turned out it was just as well he did.

Saturday morning I went to the fridge to get milk for tea and the temperature inside the fridge was 24 degrees! Much as I’m not much of a believer in co-incidences, I’m assured by the technical department that the freezer and the fridge are on different circuits and that the freezer had power reaching it. The 10 year old fridge has been a bit ‘temperamental’ for awhile now and, with the boat temperatures being consistently between 30 and 40 plus, it just gave up. As neither of us fancied living on warm water and noodles, we needed to do something.

We shot over to the industrial estate and bought their only 50cm wide fridge freezer.  Whipped the old one out and the new one in and I sent him down the local ‘decheterie’ with the old one, whilst the new one ‘rested’ for 3 hours, and I started clearing up. The decheterie was listed as being for St Quentin residents only but they gave him no grief.

We had intended to shop that day as we had no food in at all so G picked up a McDonald’s on the way back – no staff, just an automated ordering and payment system which wasn’t easy to understand. He came back with 2 blue cheese burgers, 1 large fries and 1 large coke between us which came to $25.60!!!!! It was ‘orrible – no lovely sesame seed bun but a brown, shiny brioche thingy. The dogs enjoyed my 10 quid’s worth and I boiled an egg.

We were woken in the night by torrential rain (I bet steam came off the boat) and this morning we awoke to a delightful temperature of 24 degrees. Couldn’t do the shopping – it being Sunday – so we had to eat out and we walked the dogs the 1.5 km into town to the ‘Golden Pub’ which Trip Advisor ranked 9 out of 86. The food was perfectly pleasant but the staff and the service were appalling. I had to get up twice to find someone to chase down the dressing for my salad. It took 3 attempts before G could get a clean spoon for his dessert and me 3 attempts to get a dessert menu; let alone the dessert itself. What really annoyed me was the ‘Parisien’ attitude of the waiter who made no attempt to engage with us and, I think deliberately, misinterpreted our French. A card came with the bill encouraging us to comment on Trip Advisor – we did that alright; they won’t be 9th tomorrow!


Although the storm clouds were gathering, we had a quick look round. The rather splendid Hotel de Ville had created a massive beach across the whole square – it was fantastic. The 3 littlest grand kids would have thought all their Birthday’s and Christmases’ had come at once. The attention to detail included water areas, sand dunes and beach volley ball nets – if we hadn’t had the dogs with us I’d have been shoes off in there and first in line for a bucket and spade and candy floss!


Immediately outside, of course were the traditional pony rides and carousel.


So nice to see such imagination – I don’t know how long it will stay there; presumably the summer holidays. It’s going to take an awful lot to clear away all those tons of sand. Oh, I forgot to mention it was all free!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Lesdins to Saint Quentin, Weds 16th July

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/07/2015

It’s me – back again. We’re on the Saint Quentin canal and not the prison and it’s pronounced San Can Tan. I could make a number of excuses for not blogging and, in reality, we had no internet whilst in Belgium (and anyway we were too busy working on the boat); then, back in France, I was too shattered; then we met lots of lovely people and then it was too hot. Oh – I just have made a number of excuses!

I can’t possibly catch up with everything that’s happened, so here’s yesterdays fun and games and then I’ll do a series of hi-lights and low-lights (another rope cut!) of what we’ve been up too.


Lesdins is not a particularly pretty village, but is well kept and has everything you need although well spread out over long up and down hill streets. So before we left I made the long trek trek up to the boucherie/charcuterie and bought a couple of days worth of meat and ham. We ate the fillet steak last night and it was one of the best we’d ever eaten, before collecting fresh fruit and veg from the tabac by our mooring (strange things for a bar/tabac to sell I know). I should, at this time, point out that when we went to get meat out of the freezer the other day and that the freezer had broken down and everything was defrosted. We hadn’t taken anything out for awhile so it could have happened ages ago and I daren’t, therefore, even risk giving it to the dogs. It all went overboard. As we had left the car somewhere long term it was fully stocked and I tried not to cry. We can’t get a similar replacement anymore ( a chest which sits under the dinette seating) and we don’t have anywhere else to put an upright. The problem is that my fridge doesn’t have a freezer compartment, so we’re going to have to suck it and see – watch this space; we may end up living on salad and getting skinny!


As the boulangerie was in completely the opposite direction next to our second lock of the day, we decided I’d nip off and get the bread. Best laid plans – only 1 of the twin locks was working and this chap was waiting to come up – so that wasn’t going to happen as there was no other way to get me off/on other than the lock. We didn’t disturb the Heron downstream – he was too busy concentrating on his own lunch.


In fact at each of the first 3 locks there was something waiting to come up and we were praying that there was nothing at the 4th as we desperately needed to get water – we weren’t keen to make our own water here as it looked more than a bit mucky. If push comes to shove though we could use it as grey water and by bottled for drinking.

At the 4th lock we were delighted there was not a boat insight and pulled into the left hand basin – the only one automated; the right one was closed.


Trouble is, it turned out that the water wasn’t in the centre – as is normal – it was on wall of the house behind me, where I’d taken the picture from. G jumped off and weighed up the situation and decided that it was no problem; he would reverse out, go round and put MR’s nose on the top gate of the defunct lock and that our hose would reach. At this point I did suggest that that probably wasn’t a good idea as the automated lock would probably throw a strop if a boat went in (there are boat detectors) and then a boat went out (they have no idea that it’s the same one reversing) without the lock emptying. G said it would be fine and reversed out and round to the other lock. At which point (yeah, you know what’s coming here), the emergency system activated and red lights flashed.


I mentioned to G, as we tied her off, that the lock had de-activated and G said it would be fine; the green light was still on and it would re-set when we re-entered. I promise, I didn’t look the tiniest bit smug when the VNF man in a van came to sort it…..well, maybe just an eensy weeny bit, but I did resist those other 4 deadly words. It didn’t take long of course before man in a van came to talk to us so, like all embarrassed cowards, I found something terribly urgent to do indoors when I saw him approaching. He was remarkably sanguine about it, but thank goodness a peniche hadn’t turned up from either direction – I don’t think they would have been very happy with us. What we should have done, of course, was go down, wind and come back up; but it’s such a fag. What VNF should have done, of course, is put a sign up saying go the right for water before entering the lock or, far more sensibly, automated the one by the water point and closed the other one. Too easy I guess.

That was our last lock of the day before finding a very nice spot which was Daisy safe, good for dogs and with woods and lakes opposite, whilst still being within easy walking distance of St Quentin. G started setting up the water pump to spray and hose the boat roof to try and bring the 33 degree temperature down and I took the dogs into the canal and chucked water over them. If it ever cools down enough, we have quite a lot of stuff to do in town – my (guaranteed for life!) best kitchen knife has broken and I’ve walked right through my walking shoes. G’s shorts went in the bin after blacking.


I’ll try not to leave it so long next time

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Itchy Feet

Real time travel tips from a duo travelling Europe by motorhome

Alex Grehy Fiction

Playing with words....

Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

Aurigny Aperos

…"I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."


Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise


Never grow up, Grown-ups are boring!

Avalon Abroad

Exploring Europe on W B Avalon

M. B. Willow

Life afloat on the 1935 ex-Severn and Canal Carrying Co. motor, Willow

%d bloggers like this: