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

  • December 2015
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Archive for December, 2015

2015 draws to a close and we wish you all a happy and healthy 2016

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/12/2015

The end of our first full calendar year in France draws to a close and sees us settled into our new home.

Seeking out things for the new boat over the last few weeks has made us realise that there are whole areas of the French language which we still haven’t even touched the edges of and, as such, we are turning into superb mime artists much to the amusement of staff and clients alike in busy stores. For such areas of language exploration, Google ‘iTranslate’ is best avoided – I still haven’t forgiven it for instructing me to ask for a fix in a chemists when I wanted tissues.

We were out looking for a new bed sheet and found the colour and size we wanted in a sealed wrapper – we wanted a fitted sheet but had no idea what the word for that was. I flagged down a smiley young man in the bedding department and did the ‘not this’ before miming Matron’s hospital corners, ‘but this’ as I mimed twanging elastic. He clearly thought he’d encountered the local loony although was happy to follow me up a couple of aisles where I could show him a picture of an elasticated fitted corner on the cover of a mattress topper. As understanding dawned he shrugged and tore the wrapper off the sheet I was holding to have a look – it was fitted. I asked him what the French word was – a further shrug and, “elastique” he replied. Well what do you know ….. not a lot actually, as we later found out from a friend that a fitted sheet is a ‘drap housse’ which it clearly stated on the wrapper. Perhaps he was only on loan to the bedding department from haberdashery.

2015 for the mime of the year must go to Graham though. We were in the supermarket yesterday picking up oysters, chicken legs and fizzy to take to tonight’s New Year’s Eve party and I wanted some of those little chef hat thingies to put on the end of the chicken legs so that you don’t get messy when you eat them. I don’t even know what they’re called in English, but G valiantly struck out in his finest French and asked the assistant to imagine that the bottle of wine he was holding was a chicken leg – he then covered the end with his hat which he said was a chef hat and mimed holding and eating it. She fell about laughing and went off to fetch her boss. G repeated his French explanation and Oscar winning performance and the stony faced boss said, “I do not speak English”. It deserved a better result. You can’t win them all so I’m off to tear up bits of kitchen foil.

More stories to tell but so little time, so they will have to be left until another day. A few photos in the meantime


As soon as the silly season is over we need to sort out trying to get Matilda Rose down here and finding out exactly what is going on with the Canal du Centre which was empty, but some sites say it’s now re-filled and some say it’s still closed. Lesley was moaning that she needs maps to grasp the logistics so here is France with the location of the two boats – about 2 weeks cruising if the weather doesn’t turn bad on us – 3 hours by car.


Thank you for staying with us this year.

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Christmas in Roanne

Posted by contentedsouls on 26/12/2015

Needless to say, we could bear it no longer and untied our ropes for a (very) quick trip around the port when we hoped no-one was looking!


Another first for us was a delivery of 400 litres of fuel from a tanker; currently paying £0.79 pence per litre for white diesel. This was the first time that G hasn’t had to fetch it in containers. Our red diesel tank holds only 60 litres and is  only connected to the generator at the moment as the previous owners never spent the winter on her and, therefore, never needed to worry about running the diesel central heating. In due course we shall install a bigger tank connected to the heating.


There are a family of Coypu living in the Port and we get visits most days; G has been feeding them on apples and they come begging for them around tea time. We also spotted one perched on our ‘battering ram’ at the bow on Christmas night (there must be a more technical term).

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Peter and Jan rounded up all the ‘orphans’ staying in port at Christmas and invited everyone round to their big barge for dinner. Everyone was allocated components to cook and then we split the cost between us. We were 17 sat down to dinner and 7 dogs plus 4 more people dragged in off of the towpath for mince pies and wine – whether they wanted them or not! Great fun was had by all and rounded off with a quiz before deteriorating into (bad) charades. A lot of people seemed a bit taken aback when G set light to the Xmas puds – including some of the Brits.


Boxing day isn’t a bank holiday here and so we wandered up into town for a change of scenery. Glorious to be sat outside enjoying the sun without coats in late December.


Just before Christmas we had a run out to the Cave of J. B. Clair a small family business who specialise in Champagne – although they can’t call it that as they’re not situated in the correct Region – our gain, as we were able to buy excellent quality fizz @ 7.50 euros a bottle! They had a free tasting, tour and nibbles day which made a change. I love all the old bottles sunk into the wall


I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a very happy 2016 in case I don’t get back here before then.

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Life in Port

Posted by contentedsouls on 14/12/2015

Despite the previous owners, and us, keeping quiet about the sale and purchase of Francoise until the last moment; news travels fast within a port/winter mooring community. As we finished unloading the car alongside the boat on Saturday (a considerably easier job than loading it), we were frequently interrupted from our chores by numerous boaters popping by to introduce themselves and invite us to various events. Although this slowed us down, but it was good to take a break in the sunshine after the previous few days and there were no longer time pressures on us (we weren’t even living in a mess due to the fact that everything was being dumped in the spare room). What staggered me was the sheer amount of information that people knew about us!!

They knew we were British, had a narrowboat, cruised throughout the previous winter and that I was wearing blue knickers!!! That, I suppose, is inevitable but not something we’re used to – we rarely stay put anywhere for 9 days and even if we do it is usually in the middle of nowhere. Having said that, everyone has been delightful; making sure we knew where everything was, inviting us to social functions (including Xmas day dinner on Peter and Jan’s giant converted peniche, “Rook”) and offering us lifts to useful places.

Muttley and I have been adventuring down the River Loire and the gorgeous weather has continued; so here are a few ‘back to normal’ pictures.


We also took time out to pop into town and have a quick look round – and a beer. The indoor market wasn’t too shabby either. All the wet fish stalls had little ‘breakfast bar’ type places where you can have your oysters shucked as you sip Chardonnay – how cool is that!!


We have been quite busy on the social scene too. Wednesday afternoon is ‘stitch and bitch’ on the barge of an American lady. Thursday tea time is happy hour for boaters in a portside bar – a fair few nationalities involved in that eclectic mix. G went on for a meal afterwards with several others but I was shattered and just wanted a bit of space and some peace and quiet – it was lovely to climb into my PJ’s and snuggle down with the dogs and a glass of wine ready to watch Masterchef; until, that is, G returned with friends for drinks.

Saturday morning was a special Xmas market – I imagined it to be a sort of German market like the one in Birmingham, but it was just the usual creperies, cheeses, sausages, jeans and frilly dresses (I’m still curious to know who buys them as you rarely see anyone wearing such ‘frothy’ stuff). One table stand with live puppies, goat, rabbits, etc., on it gave me a nasty moment until I saw the sign on the other side which roughly translated to, ‘animals are neither for sale nor for giving’. Mabe this is the French equivalent of,’a dog is for life, not for xmas’.


We’d picked up a whole leg of lamb for silly money – it’s not the most common of meats here and usually very expensive – frozen, of course; so G set too to put half in the freezer. He needed to try out a few of Francoise’ tools anyway.


As it turned out we were invited for drinks Sunday afternoon on a barge owned by some lovely Aussies (thinking about it, I’ve never met an Aussie yet that I didn’t take to) so we never quite managed Sunday dinner!!!!

Back to boaty bits; we have 8 of these serious sea going portholes which I hope I never have to batten down in earnest!


… and a couple of the engine ‘ole and part of the paint store as requested!


The engine is a Ford Lehman 100 hp 509E which, we think, will use about 3.5 litres per hour … and there is the rub; we ‘think’, as we can’t take her out because the lock is closed and we’re not allowed to cruise around the harbour. Now we’re all unpacked and sorted, this is going to become increasingly frustrating; G is taking this with staggering equanimity as this has to be the biggest and bestest gadget he’s ever had and he can’t try it out although he is busy learning all the systems.

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Moving to Francoise

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/12/2015

Having secured a month’s mooring at St Symphorien for Matilda Rose, on Wednesday morning we dropped the dinette down into the spare double bed and spent the rest of the day and Thursday packing our worldly goods into bin bags. After we received confirmation that our payment for Francoise had arrived Thursday lunchtime, G started loading the car to the roof, making sure to leave space for the boys and Daisy’s cat carrier and litter tray. Loading the car wasn’t so easy as ‘we’ had to climb over the boat we were brested up to and across a single gang plank; not a job to be done in the dark. In the few days that we were there, half of Baxter managed to slide off the plank once and all of him slid off and went straight in once; as did our neighbouring friend’s cat – the metal gangways get extremely slippery.


Alarm set for 5am Friday morning, we finished the final bits of packing and loaded up the menagerie without any further cold water mishaps, setting off at 7.15 for our 2 3/4 hour drive South to the Port of Roanne where Francoise is presently moored. In an ideal world we would have cruised MR down to Francoise and brested up to empty everything out (a 10-14 day cruise) but there are significant closures en route at the moment; the most significant of which being the Canal du Centre which has been emptied!

After a cuppa and pain au chocolat with the owners, Barry and Alison, we spent the day trying to absorb their 8 years of expertise, meet the port Capitan and locate the rented garage. After a thoughtfully provided lunch, we finished picking their brains before they departed for a local hotel ready to return to the Isle of Wight in the morning – a long old journey in rough seas overnight on the St Malo ferry.

It was only after they’d left us that the enormity of how much they’d left us sunk in; tools beyond even G’s extensive range, enough paint to completely re-paint her, spares up the yin yang, etc., right through to electric blankets for each berth, a pair of bicycles and a bottle of Champagne. We unloaded the car contents into the spare room which is a wondrous thing to be able to do as we could remove one bag at a time to deal with and not live in a mess.

Daisy was settled within the hour and loves all the ‘high ground’ – she can get from the wheelhouse, through the saloon and dining area into the galley without touching the floor. The dogs settled well but Baxter is being a bit clingy and didn’t want us out of his sight.

Things wot I have learnt, so far about living on this elderly barge:

* If you drop a bag of spaghetti on the floor the strands line themselves up with the floor boards and disappear down the cracks.

* If you leave a big pantry drawer open Daisy can climb down the back into the bilges.

* If you try and throw rubbish out of the port holes you are thwarted by fly screens

* If you don’t watch where you are going on the gunwales you fall down a small step – 3 times

* If you are a Muttley you can run around the gunwales but you can’t turn round on them

* If you are a Baxter you can sleep out the back in the sun and no-one can leave without going passed you as there is only one way in and out (apart from the emergency hatch in the bedroom).

Here are a few random photos (including some dirty bits). Sorry if this blog is not very coherent but, as you can imagine, we are very, very, tired (and very,very, happy). We should be a bit more organised by the weekend but I wanted to get something out.



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Change of Address!

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/12/2015

We have had a great deal of difficulty in keeping this news a secret from you but, sadly, it has been necessary. As I type this on Thursday evening we are frantically packing. All being well, the crew of Matilda Rose are jumping ship to MV “Francoise” on Friday morning.


2014-07-12 14.43.53

Meet Francoise. Francoise is 19.80mtrs X 4.07mtrs. She is a converted 1902 Dutch Tjalk (pronounced Challuk).

It was becoming very obvious that we had no thoughts of returning to the UK, so several months ago we embarked on the mission of finding our next home, in those months we had trawled the internet(pun intended) without finding the three things that were on our must have list.

Then we found Francoise. In no particular order, No1 on the list was that she must have outside space which allowed us to walk out of the wheelhouse onto the rear deck, where we could entertain and dine alfresco.

  rear deck [125720]

rear deck


No2 was that she must have an island bed,

island bed

No3 was that she had to have a Galley that was an integral part of the saloon, and included in that she had to have a descent amount of working surface and storage.

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and here is the rest.

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Line drawing

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2011-10-14 12.13.50

2014-07-11 08.10.21

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Rochefort to Dole (Weds–Sun 18-22/11)

Posted by contentedsouls on 01/12/2015

3 locks, 19 kms

The whole time I stayed at St Symphorien whilst G was in the UK I was desperate to moor in Dole; but it was not to be be due to low water levels so we had to make do with a visit by car – call me ungrateful but it never feels as good as doing it on your own boat, it’s never quite so special somehow. The only photos I’ve shown you are the ones as we cruised through. Heading back into Dole the Plane trees had lost practically every leaf but still looked magnificent – I love that stretch from the lock approach down, through and into the centre.


G knew how much I wanted to stop in the centre so we decided to have another go at mooring against the wall on our left – more than a bit of a struggle as we found ourselves fighting against a nasty off shore wind which had sprung up from nowhere. I did, jokingly, suggest that we moor at the lock where we had waited whilst the VNF guys retrieved the rock that was blocking the lock gates; it would be blocking the navigation but we hadn’t seen any boats since Baume and not a peniche in months.

So there we were on the wrong side of the river, trying to achieve mooring impossible, against the wind and heartily shouting instructions at each other when I spied a rather large vessel coming towards us. I increased the volume of my instructions to shout, “oncoming peniche”. G giggled, so I re-iterated, “NO, ONCOMING PENICHE”. I wasn’t expecting that!


We clearly weren’t going to be able to moor there, so we carried on down through the ‘lock with a rock’ and moored back out on the river on a pontoon about 2 or 3 km outside of the city.


Our main priority on the Thursday morning was to retrieve the car which we had left at Baume station. It had previously attracted attention from the Police last winter due to it’s foreign registration and our tendency to leave it lying around – in the current security state I wouldn’t have been totally surprised to find it subjected to a ‘controlled detonation’.

We walked into Dole station for the 100km journey and paid just 10.90 euros each and 7.30 euros for each dog – train travel here is so cheap. Our first train to Besancon was an old one with steep steps so G had to carry Baxter on; but the Besancon to Dole train was a doddle for him and he charmed the socks off the the two ladies that chose to sit next to us; G did alright too!

As we left the station we were stopped by a lady who had clearly heard us talking in English – she didn’t speak any English but, very emotionally, wished to thank us and all the English people for standing by France and singing their National Anthem at the French/English football match. This has happened to other Brits here too and it really matters to them.

Given that we had a half hour train delay we were too late to be choosy about lunch so we settled for a pizza and a taste of the season’s Beaujolais Nouveau.


Baxter was extremely grateful to slump down and sleep in the back of the car (which hadn’t been detonated) on the way home and, to be truthful, the day was too much for him – his days for doing adventuring live only in his (noisy) dreams now.

Friday rained on and off most of the day and Bax was more than happy to snore his way through the day by the fire, only sticking his head above the parapet for essentials, whilst I felt guilty and was extra generous with the dog biscuits. Saturday G dropped me off in town whilst he went off to get combustibles for the fire (can’t get coal), but the intermittent icy rain did little for my enthusiasm and most of the photos here are those I took on the way up – this has to be one of my favourite places on this waterway.


Whilst Parisien parking is fairly notorious, I rather think this chap wins the gold parking medal! The guy to our left has blocked off a third of the road to our right, but the man in the white Peugeot finishes the job and ensures that no-one can turn in or out. Whilst at it, he also ensures that he covers the pedestrian crossing too. I’m not being sexist – it was a he – and, in fairness, he was on an important mission; an urgent need to join the queue at the boulangerie for a baguette and he wouldn’t be gone longer than 10/15 minutes anyway.

Only in France.

The beautiful Dole:


The surrounding countryside isn’t too shabby either


This is a place I will return to.

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