contentedsouls

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

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Archive for September, 2015

Heuilley Cotton to Villegusien–le-Lac (Sat/Sun 26th/27th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/09/2015

8 locks and 7 km

With 43 locks and 64 kms to run down to the Saone, we made a start on Saturday morning by starting on the first –chained– flight of 8. Once the first lock is set, each subsequent lock in the chain automatically sets for you but, although we’d booked it, we had to ‘phone and then wait for someone to come out and start them. Once again we had to answer all the questions about where we were going to etc., etc. despite having provided this info already. The locks in this flight are over 5 metres deep and, now we don’t need them, have one and sometimes two wall bollards and paint marks on the walls in line with the top bollards. We don’t need them now as we’re going down – in all honesty we don’t need a rope on going down at all, but we put one on if VNF are around – it saves arguments.

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Once we started we whizzed down the flight in no time at all and were moored up and settled by 12.30

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Given G’s failure the previous day to check out Daisy’s tracker collar, he picked a mooring where he was sure to be able to put it to good use! Under normal circumstances I would have thought twice about letting her out here at all. We had moored outside a huge, disused and derelict – but highly accessible – silo. It wasn’t long before he needed to activate the tracker which, fortunately, worked extremely well.

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After lunch Muttley and I retraced our route on foot, leaving G to watch the Grand Prix qualifying and/or Rugby. I said I’d get the car if he made dinner. A cruise that took 2 1/2 hours in the boat took me just 1 hour 20 minutes, uphill, to walk back.

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The village of Heuilley Cotton was really pretty – I hadn’t had time to look around when we were moored there overnight.

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Arriving back at our mooring a small sailboat had moored behind us and was being thoroughly checked out by Daisy; much to the amusement of the skipper. We had a good natter before he moved on; he wanted to be in St Jean de Losne by Tuesday and had just stopped for a break as he was single handed. Very kindly, he came and checked that we knew where Daisy was before he pulled pins as he was afraid she was still somewhere on his boat.

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G was up at 6.30 on Sunday to watch the Grand Prix which left time for us to go up into the hillside villages exploring and to do a bit of ‘food for free’ harvesting before dropping back down to the Reservoire de Vingeanne – one of 4 in this area that supplies the canal. Driving back through the village of Villegusien we were fortunate enough to catch the bar in time for a beer before it closed. The walnuts were given to us by a lady passing by the boat in her van and we picked sloes and pears.

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Later on Sunday afternoon we could hear noises in the silo – then smoke started drifting out of one of the doors. Shortly after that the Gendarmerie arrived and pulled a load of teenagers out. Very long ‘discussions’ were conducted and then parents started to arrive to collect their children – I suspect a few of the kids may be grounded for awhile.

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Later, at dusk, G took the dogs out and this little chap wandered out of the silo right under Muttley’s nose. G was able to rescue it whilst I put the dogs on the boat. We put it back close by the doorway and just above ground level with shelter and checked back a bit later to find it had gone – hopefully a good sign.

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Brian Holt sent us a link regarding what should be done if you find a young fledgling owl; basically fetch a ladder and you must put it back into the correct nest. This is the inside of the barn it hopped out of.

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Hmmmm. That wasn’t going to happen I’m afraid. I do hope he/she made it. I suppose we could have kept it as a boat owl and used Daisy’s mice to feed it until it was all growed up enough to catch it’s own.

A long and lovely day ending with pretty skies and a big moon that was still there at 6.45 am in the morning.

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Within half an hour of G taking the picture of the moon, the sun was fully up and bathing everything in glorious light

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Langres to Heuilley Cotton (Fri 25th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/09/2015

12 km, 2 locks, 1 tunnel

Recovering the car with the bike becomes extremely problematic when tunnels are involved – although emergency/maintenance towpaths run through them, their use is forbidden for any other reason. We did a reccy in the car and ‘we’ decided that G would split the bike climbs by parking the car halfway along on Thursday and cycling back to the boat at Langres; then cycling back from where we moored on Friday. It’s not just a matter of the climb over the tunnel but it’s very hilly in general around here – very pretty too – and was going to be hard work.

The tunnel is ‘one way’ and we didn’t know how long we’d have to wait so we thought we’d set off early at 9 – that’s when the locks open for plaisanciers. 2 other boats had the same idea so we gave them a 15 minute start to clear the first lock knowing they’d be way faster than us and we wouldn’t see them again. A bright but chilly day so Baxter kept his Aran on whilst nipping out for a quick wee.P1090984P1090986

Through the first bridge and we could see the magnificent walls of Langres rising out of the forest and mist. It was just two, automatic, locks to the summit pound and we’d been asked to ‘phone at the last lock regarding the tunnel. A keen gardener clearly resided at the last lock and the remaining canal on the Marne side was lovely too.

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We ‘phoned at the last lock and were told to ‘phone at the tunnel. That’ll be 3 ‘phone calls (we called it in on Thursday too); our compulsory and expensive fixed base VHF radio has been gathering dust since we left Belgium. When we joined this canal we were given a leaflet showing all the locks up and down, whether they were chained, automatic, manual or any other ways you can think of for operating locks – but no mention of ‘the tunnel’, just marked at nearly 5 km long. No instructions at the beginning of the cutting or at the tunnel mouth either – just a single red light. Fortunately we had been given the heads up by Peter and Glen who had just come through it the other way when we met them. We understand that they let boats through from one end at 1 km intervals and have a light system, within the tunnel, to maintain that 1 km gap. If you’re going too fast you get a string of red lights in the roof which means you must slow down – if you don’t, you get verbals  over the tannoy. If you’re going too slow you get a string of greens (lights; not cabbages and brussels) to speed up, followed by more verbals if you don’t respond. A single green light means you are maintaining the correct separation (I’ve no idea why they need 1 km of separation). Clever but how the hell are you meant to know? The 2 boats that went ahead weren’t about,P1100010P1100015P1100019P1100022P1100024so we reckoned we were in with a good chance to go. Sure enough, when we ‘phoned, we were told to hit the telecommander and the red light went green allowing us to enter the cutting. The light stayed steadily green all the way through (just over the hour) and we returned to daylight ready to start heading downhill towards the Saone. This canal used to be called the Marne a la Saone canal for very good reasons. I’ve absolutely no idea why it was re-named.

We moored up just through the tunnel at Hueilley Cotton (pronounced Wheely Cot on), 340 metres up, where the left bank is the left bank again. We’ve travelled 155 km uphill through 71 locks on this canal with the left bank being on our right and it confuses the hell out of me. Whilst I’m on this subject, which bank is which on the summit pound if there’s no tunnel? One of you clever people will know!

After lunch G set off by bike to find the car – he tried to take a short cut which, as so often happens, turned out to be a ‘long cut’. On turning round to re-trace his steps wheels he fell off into the mud but, undeterred, he reached the car and returned to Langres where he actually, finally, managed to collect Daisy’s tracker collar from the post office – hooooray!

Now you all know how much G loves a new gadget and the tracker was fitted to Daisy’s new collar (standard, elasticated, with bell – just the old one was tatty) in the blink of a cat’s whiskers. So out of the side hatch she was thrown went, whilst G stayed on the boat, closed his eyes and counted to 100. With a cry of, “coming, ready or not” he was off with the bleeper control in hot pursuit – I don’t think he explained the new game properly to Daisy who was sat on the gunwales in the sun. On the 2nd attempt we could see her from the side hatch sitting next to the boat in the grass. A third attempt wasn’t instigated as she curled up on the bed for the night – some cats are just no fun anymore.

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The stunning Langres

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/09/2015

We didn’t wake until 7.45 am on Tuesday which resulted in an unseemly scrabble to hit the coffee machine before the electric went off at 8. G had recovered the car the previous afternoon so we drove into the city to offer up some cash into the local economy. I binned my old boating waterproof (not surprisingly torn, lock slimy and no longer waterproof after about 15 years of use!), designated my ‘better’ waterproof to be the boating coat and purchased something a little more chic for wet days in town; together with a rather nice winter weight cotton jumper. Being France, of course, I wasn’t allowed to leave the shop without buying a new coordinating scarf – it really is compulsory. We just had time to call in at the post office to see if Daisy’s tracker collar had arrived (it hadn’t) before everything closed for lunch, so we thought we’d find somewhere for lunch too. My chocolate fondant was disappointing but the rest was excellent.

The town is built on an escarpment 130 metres up and can be seen from miles around. It is a fortress town and surrounded by 3km of ramparts and ancient gateways and towers – some of which date back to the Romans. Amazingly traffic is allowed to drive through the narrow streets although, rather cleverly, if you leave your car below the town walls you can park for free and ride up in one of the free funiculars. Wednesday (having got up at 7 to put on a wash whilst the electric was on) we went back with the dogs to walk the parapets and used the funicular – Baxter was fine but Muttley became quite anxious and clamped his curly tail firmly between his legs for the short duration. I’ll let the photos do the rest; choosing which photos is going to be difficult.

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Yeah. I know. Too many photos again. By the time we’d done all that lot poor old Baxter was wilting fast so it was time to find a bar and let him have a drink, porky scratchings and a rest. ‘Mine host’ made a huge fuss of the dogs and happily complied with G’s (aka big mouth again) request to keep our conversation strictly in French.

All good fun must come to an end though, so it was off to do a big supermarket shop as (even hopping the car) we will be unlikely to see any major shops for a week or more once we leave the summit; the next 65 kms and 43 locks down to the Saone go through the remotest of countryside.

Back at the boat a call from my mate Sally (our postal drop in the UK) informed us that she’d received Daisy’s tracker collar there – we’d still been charged the European postage + VAT though. To cut a long story short the company had another sent to Langres on 24 hour delivery from a French stockist – so we stayed an extra day and went in to collect it yesterday. It wasn’t there of course.

Our neighbours had certainly made the most of their hour of electricity!

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Lovely skies whilst walking Muttley late ish last night.

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We decided to leave this morning anyway and sort the package out later.

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Thivet (Sun 20th) and Rolampont to Langres (Mon 21st)

Posted by contentedsouls on 24/09/2015

9 km on foot and 7 locks, 10 km on the boat

Whilst up in La Tufiere on Saturday, we spotted a map for a 9 km circular walk from the village of Thivet. The village was only about 20 mins drive up the road so we went and had a looksee to see if we could find the start of it. We, eventually, found the sign for the start of the ‘Circuit des Caivottes’ and returned to the boat.

Sunday morning was 8/8ths low cloud and by lunchtime it hadn’t improved, but nor had it deteriorated. I made sure that I had the GPS locator ‘on’ on my fully charged ‘phone, this picture of the map on my camera with a new battery off of the charger, a bottle of water and wet weather gear in my rucksack (I can be sensible sometimes). Leaving G to the Rugby and, more importantly, the cooking of Sunday lunch, the intrepid Muttley and I set off to tackle the wooded hills.

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It should be a doddle, just needed to keep going in a straight line until the blue and yellow paint stripes marked where to turn off. The walk started with a steep climb up onto open track before turning off into the woods. I was soon confronted with a choice of three tracks and no sign of blue and yellow paint anywhere. So I consulted the map on my camera only to realise that the battery hadn’t charged and was nearly flat; it certainly wasn’t going to last for fairly continuous scrutiny. Twice I ‘phoned G to look at the map (also on the computer at the boat) and ‘ping’ me to give me directions and then I found some more paint marks and thought I would be fine.

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Wrong!!!! The paint marks vanished again! Worse, as I was indulging in a necessary call of nature I heard an ominous rustling in the undergrowth; I just had time to wonder if I could climb a tree with my trousers round my ankles to escape a herd of wild boar (sanglier) when Muttley shot off and put up a herd of red deer. Initial relief gave way to worry about how long it was going to be before Muttley returned and would he get lost – Floyd and Muttley pulled this stunt on us one winter when Lesley and I were in the Fens. Eventually, of course, he returned looking immensely pleased with himself and more than a little out of breath.

The sun finally broke through the cloud so, like all good boy scouts, I was able to get my bearings and work my way back down towards signs of civilisation.

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The village itself was quite nice and the new bus shelter had a ‘muriel’ of the village on the back wall. P1090818P1090819P1090821P1090823P1090825P1090827P1090828

By the time we arrived back at the boat I was very pleased to see my roast lamb and Yorkshire puds followed by apple and peach upside down cake; both Muttley and I slept well that night.

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Monday morning we left for Langres and our lockie for the day was a delightful young man in a van. We were met with the usual giggles when we told him that we only needed one gate open. However, he didn’t get the bit whereby you can’t change direction in a narra until your bum is clear of the closed gate – he opened the left gate, but then tried to take my rope on the right; we, of course, were still on the other side of the lock so it was all a bit of a muddle. He quickly realised the problem and, thereafter, opened both right hand gates and took the rope on the right. We whizzed through the locks after that and he happily accepted a couple of beers before waving us off with a cheery bon voyage. A pretty cruise and impressive new hydraulics on the lift bridge.

 P1090834P1090842P1090852P1090854 The moorings here are lovely and, like Rolampont, we have free water and electricity. There is, however, a snag with the electric in that it is only switched on for one hour three times a day; 7-8 in the morning, 12-1 mid-day and 7-8 at night. We think this is to coincide with meal times as many of the European boats don’t have gas; all their cooking is done by electric.

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Rolampont (Sat 19th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/09/2015

It had rained nearly all night and Saturday didn’t really manage to ‘dawn’ it stayed dark and dismal and very, very wet. As we settled down for the day with a second cup of coffee we spared a commiseratory (if that’s a word) thought for poor Peter and Glen moving in those weather conditions. A knock on the boat revealed a well waterproofed VNF man wanting to know if we were moving, we explained that we had booked for Monday so he toddled off again.

Shortly afterwards we learnt from Peter that a different VNF man had been round to see him and, basically, told him not to move as it would be raining all day (VNF man clearly didn’t fancy getting wet) and Peter mustn’t change ‘his’ mind later as said VNF man was busy elsewhere in the afternoon. Peter really did want to go and, when we compared notes, we realised that he could have gone with ‘our’ man who was chirpy an up for it! Oh well, hindsight is ……..

So, resigned to his fate, Peter accepted a lift with us up to the small supermarket in the village which also housed an excellent butchers where we found an actual joint of lamb – G just managed to stop the butcher slicing it up. They think we are most odd for wanting our meat in a lump. Back at the boat the rain stopped and, as has happened so often recently, the sun came out so I prized poor G off of the Rugby and we took the dogs off in search of La Tufiere.

The British equivalent would be a geological SSSI I guess. I’m still not absolutely sure but I think the Tufa is a kind of rock which causes the formation of pools and is also mined; the translation boards don’t make a great deal of sense, I can’t get on the internet and it’s way beyond my Collins French Dictionary. It was very pretty though.

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The boys also had a lovely time and there were some great circular walks of varying lengths marked out. Sadly I couldn’t pursue them there and then as I had G and Baxter with me – it did give me a chance to make plans plans for a good walk on Sunday though.

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One for Facebook

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Foulain to Rolampont (Fri 18th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/09/2015

7 locks, 15 km

Friday dawned bright and sunny bringing out the delights of our mooring area

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As it was so lovely and the first lock was only 2 kms away, Sheila and Derek joined us for the short cruise and 3.35 metre rise in the first lock of the day before walking back down the tow path to Cyril. Not before, of course, introductions all round to our lockie of the day (man in a van this time) – explaining what we were doing and what D & S were doing was a very simple matter with the presence of our bi-lingual visitors (I wish we could put him in the cupboard and pull him out when we’re stuck and for lessons). The lockie was extremely patient whilst coffees were finished and goodbye hugs given and received – we should meet up again around this December though which is a vast improvement on the previous gap of 5 years.

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Our lockie for the day was very efficient; opening the bottom right hand gate for us and taking my rope up over the bollard on the right (a first for France – common practice in Belgium). For some strange reason, however, he opened the top left hand gate which meant manoeuvring across the lock against the prevailing wind. Hey ho!

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He spoke immaculate, unaccented, English and refused both coffee and a ‘tip’ of beers saying that he didn’t drink either. I don’t think he was a Frenchman at all, just masquerading; further proven by the fact that he wasn’t wearing a beret or a string of onions and there wasn’t a sight nor a whiff of garlic to be had. He complied with Graham’s (aka big mouth’s) request to speak to us only in French and helped me patiently with my pronunciation but, unlike the lass on Thursday, he didn’t really engage with us – he’d probably had enough of idiot foreigners by this stage in the season. Conversely to previous days; this one started sunny but degenerated into rain but we passed through some lovely countryside so weren’t too worried. I was particularly intrigued by these well muscled ponies, clearly some kind of native species but do any of you know what type? We thanked him for his help and his French lessons as we left him at lock 10 and booked passage for Langres at 10 am Monday morning.

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We moored at Rolampont to find we would have free water and electric for the weekend which was handy as there was going to be a lot of TV on (Rugby World Cup and Grand Prix). What wasn’t so handy was the high ish bank; G got stuck after tying off  – I tried to help him up but got the giggles; as you do. It also, of course meant lifting Baxter in and out and we are extremely grateful he only weighs 17 kilos. The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that we are moored in front of another wide beam narra., ‘Slo Motion’ owned by the delightful Peter and Glen. Having waved goodbye to Sheila and Derek in the morning, I’d hate you to think we were fickle for accepting the invitation round to Slo Motion in the evening! These guys had holed up during the storms with our friends Chris and Jaqui on the WBNB Joli Roger and had messages to pass on. Both Avalon and Joli Roger have similar layouts so it was interesting to see the completely different lay out on Slo Motion. We had a great natter and reluctantly left them, so we could eat our respective dinners, before we all starved to death, agreeing to say our farewells before they left at 10 am in the morning.

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Chaumont to Foulain (Thurs 17th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/09/2015

8 locks, 14km

I haven’t lapsed back in to not blogging – we just haven’t had sufficient WIFI signal to do anything other than read emails and words, not pictures, on Facebook. It’s likely to be Monday (so we’re told) before I can post anything or read/reply to any comments.

First thing Thursday morning I found a message from Sheila and Derek (NB Clarence) to say that they were only 45 minutes away from Chaumont in their motor home; Cyril. We explained that we’d booked our lockie for 10 am and therefore had to move to Foulain, so we agreed to meet there mid afternoon. Despite having been good boys and girls and booking before 3 pm Wednesday afternoon, I was just out of the shower when VNF called round to find out if and when we were leaving! I do wish they’d talk to each other. We pulled pins in the peeing rain and formed an orderly queue behind two cruisers at the first lock of the day because it had broken down. It was soon fixed, however, and the two cruisers went in together -we never saw them again as they, like everyone else, move a lot faster than us. The next lock was fine and, at the following one, we picked up our lockie for the day; a delightful lass on a posh moped. She was quite tickled when we explained that we only needed one gate opening! Like us, she was in full wets and couldn’t get any reprieve from the weather on a moped, but she never lost her sense of humour; we warmed her up with a cup of coffee and, eventually, the rain eased and then stopped.

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At our last lock we thanked her for her help and handed over some choccy bars and she passed us some peaches. We continued on to the delightful, and deserted, mooring at Foulain. A phone call from Sheila saying they would be with us at 5.30 left G time to cycle off to retrieve the car (and fetch bread and pastries) and me time to walk the dogs. Baxter was having one of his better days and managed a reasonably bouncy 45 minutes through the woods where we found some strange things in the middle of nowhere.

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Cyril arrived conveying Derek and Sheila and we opted to eat on MR – more time to natter than walking up to the restaurant, plus we were also still getting intermittent, but heavy, rain storms.

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Their drive to visit us turned out to be considerably more than 45 minutes – it took them 4 and a half hours. Chaumont sur Marne (where we were) was quite a long way away from Chaumont sur Loire (where they were)!! We, however, were very glad to see them and extremely grateful that they still made the effort once they discovered the ‘discrepancy’ in our relative locations. We worked it out that it was about 5 years since we last met up, so there was a lot of catching up to do. I hadn’t realised before that Derek is half French and therefore fluent, so I’m afraid we picked his brains regarding a few of the many things we didn’t understand. We’d hoped that they would be able to cruise with us in the morning but, sadly for us, they had to be in Le Touquet by Friday tea time.

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A photo for Facebook

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Chaumont. Hatches duly battened

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/09/2015

We only have 2 more automated locks on our ascent before 19 manual ones. The manual ones require a man in a van to escort us and operate the locks and we, therefore, have to phone through before 3pm the day prior to our intended departure to book someone. With the forecast for strong gusting winds and torrential rain all week we have been somewhat reluctant to make that commitment, plus we were waiting for post. Hopefully the worst will be done with today and we’ve booked to leave at 10am tomorrow. There may be some confusion tomorrow though as G phoned and said we were going to Foulain (which we are) whilst I got two pages in the map book stuck together and told the VNF guy that came round that we were going to Rolampont (which we’re not – not yet anyway). Oh well – it keeps them on their toes!

We had been hoping to collect Daisy’s new tracker collar (admirably researched by our Kevin Too) which should have arrived Poste Restante at Chaumont yesterday. Instead we received an email from the supplying vet to say that they could no longer get the device – a lie as we have been able to purchase one direct from the manufacturer. Why they waited a week to let us know I’m not sure and we’ve also had to ring them to get our money refunded – not very professional. Anyway, the device only weighs 5 grams and attaches to her collar so it’s just what we want – it’s now being delivered to Langres up ahead of us.

In the meantime we’ve been having a look round and doing a bit of shopping – I loved this ostentatious wine cooler.

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G has been doing good things with the fruit we were given, making an excellent peach in red wine sauce to go with our duck and a truly scrummy apple turn-over sponge cake. Which tasted every inch as good as it looked

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The supermarket here is vast and, in common with many others, you select your vegetables and then take them to the scales to be auto weighed and priced. I didn’t know this when we first arrived and, to my huge embarrassment, held up the entire queue at the checkout whilst someone was sent to get my veg weighed and priced up – I have to say that no-one seemed to mind. I guess that they are so used to waiting ages at check outs that a bit longer didn’t make a lot of difference – I however left muttering apologies and with a very red face.

Yesterday, for the first time in months, I spied parsnips (generally considered to be cattle feed here) and him and me are very partial to roasted parsnips in butter and honey. Grabbing my trophies I headed off to the scales for the weighing and pricing procedure – there are two ways of doing this; hitting the button with the picture of the veg you’re purchasing or using the product number displayed on the veg price sign. The latter is particularly useful when purchasing items like tomatoes as there can be 15 or more different types. I had checked for a number on my ‘panais’ and there wasn’t one, so I scanned through the pictures of veg and there wasn’t a picture of a parsnip to be seen anywhere. I checked and checked again more carefully – anything else and I would have gone without but I wasn’t letting go of my treasure. By this time, of course, I had attracted the attention of 3 French ladies who were anxious to help the mad English woman who was trying to buy cattle feed and they had no more success than I did. Eventually we found them listed as the last item, with a picture of parsnip leaves, no pictures of the bit you actually eat …. grrrr! Well do you know what parsnip leaves look like?

Muttley and I have managed to get out and about a bit between squalls and we still have a few sun flowers left tenaciously hanging on but I’m beginning to think this might be a long winter – we were still in shorts and T-shirts a few days ago.

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A day trip to St Jean de Losne

Posted by contentedsouls on 14/09/2015

0 locks 280 km

To anyone who has ever had anything to do with boating in France, St Jean de Losne will be a very familiar place name. If you haven’t, it will mean nothing to you. It’s a place name that comes up in conversation with nearly all boaters; nearly as often as the subject of toilets! Frankly, I have become more than curious about this ‘mythical’ place so, when yesterday dawned wet and windy and G mentioned that the port of St Jean de Losne was having an open day, I jumped at the suggestion that we take a drive down.

The harbour off of the River Saone is enormous, housing hire boat companies; residential and winter moorings; boat brokers; visitor moorings; chandlers and anything else you can think of.

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Plus some things you wouldn’t think of!

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The ‘open day’ bit was the boat brokers. They had around a hundred boats for sale, so we grabbed a handful of keys and took ourselves off for a look around some barges. When you have been fortunate enough to live on a well built boat, the finish on some other boats can be quite a shock to the system; all but one boat we saw would need completely re-fitting, fair enough if this was reflected in the prices but it wasn’t. One boat, on at 155,000 euros, was 20m long and over 4 metres wide and didn’t even have a bedroom – there was plenty of storage though!! When you make a comparison to the boats for sale through Apollo Duck, I’m surprised that these guys are still in business.

The town itself is situated on the magnificent River Saone and is picture postcard pretty, with cafes all along the front. The skies had cleared to brilliant sunshine so we sat outside and indulged ourselves in a fabulous seafood lunch – scallops for himself and giant gorgeous garlicky gambas (I love a bit of alliteration now and then) in a champagne sauce for me. Messy, but worth it and then we washed it down with various flavoured boules of ice cream. The entertainment during lunch was provided by the strong thermal wind gusts which, at one point, had staff hanging on to each corner of their canopy before declaring defeat and winding it in.

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After lunch we had arranged to pop round to say hello to Helen and Chris. I have got to know Helen through a Facebook group and they said they would be having lunch, quayside, on a barge belonging to French friends of theirs. Having ‘found’ barge Elisabeth we realised that we had met their friends when they moored behind us at Joinville – they came and had a look round our boat. They invited us round for coffee but they were still eating desserts (never intrude on a French lunch) and we had the dogs with us – we had intended to pop them back in the car, but once the sun blazed down it wasn’t an option.

Now Elisabeth is not just any old barge. She is still in her original condition, fully rigged and with her lee boards (Graham Trimmer eat your heart out).

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There were quite a lot of people roaming about in Napoleonic costumes as they were celebrating the anniversary of the formation of the Legion of Honour – or at least I think that’s what they were up to.

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Anorak Spot. The Legion of Honour was formed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802; the highest decoration in France given for excellent civil or military conduct – if you remember, it was awarded recently to the 4 guys who took out the terrorist on the French train. There are 5 levels of increasing merit:- Chevalier (knight), Officier, Commandeur, Grande Officier and Grande Croix (cross).

Before heading back to MR, we walked the dogs by the old mill just up the road a bit and we made it back to Chaumont just before we were hit by monumental storms – beautiful colours in the sky warned us of it’s approach – sheets of rain and thunder and lightning; I love it, best nights sleep I’ve had in ages.

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Note: When I share this to Facebook it shows the last photo on the blog. I make no apology, therefore, for putting up another photo of the glorious barge Elisabeth.

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Riaucourt to Chaumont

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/09/2015

5 locks, 9 km

We were moored immediately below the lock at Riaucourt and, hence, any traffic had to pass extremely close to us. Yesterday we had a rather rude awakening when an early peniche came passed us which knocked the rudder across with a clonk. It frightened Muttley half to death and he shot out of the saloon and landed in the middle of the bed with the cat! Once he’d recovered from his fright (and Daisy) he thought that it was terrific fun and started wriggling and kicking – needless to say we got up.

By the time I’d walked the dogs and we were ready to leave we had to wait for a peniche which was on it’s way down; I know it was empty so ‘sitting up’ but it looks huge from this angle. An uneventful cruise in the most perfect weather arriving at Chaumont late lunch – we were passed by one peniche and one cruiser. We’re actually moored just short of the halte fluvial so are away from the other boats and multitudes of motor homes. It’s mostly the faster cruisers that are left now; they are all flocking to migrate to their winter moorings and (most of) the boaters are departing to all parts of the world. Soon it will be just us and the peniches again.

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We were up early again this morning (by our standards anyway), dogs walked and heading for the market in Chaumont by 9 am. If we’d left at our normal hour the market would have been done and dusted.

I left G queuing for the meat whilst I queued for the veg. The queues were long and no one was in a hurry – there was plenty of time to straighten the odd leek or turn a potato in between serving each person. Madame had plenty of time to give me the correct word for sweet potato (rather than my guess at ‘potato sugar’) and fine tune my pronunciation of spring onions. I just love the colours.

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By the time we’d filled our bags with fresh goodies I was starving. I ‘d had no breakfast due to the early start and, at the moment, my appetite is enormous. When we came out my nostrils were assailed by the smell of roasting chickens and it was all G could do to stop me savagely attacking them whilst they were still on the spit. He placated me with coffee and a snail – a circular thing stuffed with raisins.

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We then set off to find the viaduct that is promoted all over the place – it was quite impressive.

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600 metres long, 52 metres high and 50 arches. Completed in 1857 by 2,500 men with the assistance of 300 horses all working night and day. It was damaged in 1944 but repaired fairly quickly and has featured in a fair few movies. Don’t yawn, it’s taken me bloody ages to translate that lot – I had to look some of the words up in the dictionary!

After that it was the usual supermarket shop – the last one was 10 days ago so the cupboards were pretty bare. We just finished unloading the car as it started to rain at last. So that’s us for today, an early dinner then flags and song sheets out for our traditional ‘Last night of the proms’ – now you know why we are moored by ourselves! Sadly we won’t be joined by our Aussie mates this year as they have already migrated.

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