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

  • April 2016
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for April, 2016

Beaulon to Garnat-sur-Engievre (Thurs 21/04–Sun 24/04)

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/04/2016

Confronting my food issues and unexpected visitors

1 lock, 3 kms, 1 hour

Having, yet again, been deprived of my lunch out the previous day, I persuaded G to postpone his Thursday fast day until Friday. I cycled into the village ahead of himself in order to visit the butcher and grocery store before the witching hour – I needn’t have rushed though as neither closed until 1….. amazing! I chose my goods and put them on Monsieur’s counter (whilst he tried to persuade me to buy local cheeses and wine) before adding a box of 26 bottles of Kronenbourg. It was Monsieur’s turn to gasp in amazement at the strength of this woman who was, apparently, going to cycle back to the canal carrying this lot in her rucksack. Just as I was basking in the glory of his admiration of my Superwoman status, G turned up and spoilt it all.

We wandered across to the restaurant to join the locals sat outside in the sun where we learnt that today’s menu was Mediterranean salad followed by langue de boeuf, cheese, appley pud and coffee (no 1/4 bottle of wine with this one) at a cost of 13 euros. These plat du jour are in all the village restaurant/bars in this region and are kept very busy with local workers; no choices but cheap as they don’t have wasted ingredients and it keeps staffing to a minimum – you need to arrive by 12.15 or, basically, you don’t get fed. Those of you with some knowledge of French will have already picked up that the main course on this occasion was beef tongue. Having ducked the tete de veau on Tuesday and been thwarted by the lockies’ lunch hour the previous day, I wasn’t going to duck this one and committed myself to the set menu. G wasn’t in agreement however and, after discussion with the mine host, was offered a  beef steak – never a good idea when offered on the 13 euro menus – which he readily latched onto with the enthusiasm of a drowning man. There was much hilarity involved when we explained how we had been unable to handle the tete de veau option earlier in the week.

This is it and it was lovely (despite the presence of a slightly furry appearance), as was the sauce – G tried it and liked it too – and the pudding.


We wobbled back to the boat with heavily laden rucksacks and too much food and wine in our tummies, so Muttley and I decided to walk it off.


We had thought that we’d move on on Friday but after receiving a phone call from Kevin and Debs saying that they were back in France and would be with us later, we stayed put as Beaulon provides free hook ups for camping cars as well as boats.

I should probably mention, at this point, that we are heading for the Nivernais Canal but, to do this, we have to use a bit of the R. Loire just up a bit at Decize and it’s currently on stop due to flooding. If it doesn’t re-open soon we will have to change our plans and continue up the Lateral a la Loire, but that will make life a bit awkward for our planned visitors and the DBA rally in June/July. This is the main reason why we’re not covering much ground at the moment although, as you know, we’re never in a hurry anyway – I think that’s the difference between us and those that only cruise in the summer. The latter have to be in a specific place by the end of September ish.

The Dutch guys off of the Dutch barge came round for a drink late afternoon and Debs and Kevin turned up just after they left. The usual chaos occurred as Herbie erupted onto the boat – at least we have a bit more room for Herbie and Muttley to play in now – and the elderly Ted and Baxter tried to keep out of the way whilst shouting encouragement.


After the boys had settled down a bit, we sent the big boys out to play with Kev’s new toy whilst Debs and I put the world to rights over a bottle of wine (or two). We now have amazing aerial video footage of Francoise.


Our plans for Saturday went down the drain with the rain so, leaving the 4 boys on the boat (and Daisy safely separated!), we donned umbrellas and wandered into the village for lunch – I crossed my fingers regarding the main course option!

When we entered the bar it became fairly obvious that they didn’t do food on a Saturday but, being family owned and run and us having returned with friends, they quickly rallied and offered us tete de veau! After the joke they offered us 4 courses. We settled down with drinks and happily nattered, more drinks and more nattering, more drinks and some puppy cuddling – as they were cooking especially for us we didn’t like to hurry them but we were starving by this point.


After more than 2 hours we nominated G to find out if there was any chance of food before we passed out. In the adjacent room the table was laid out for our lunch (we didn’t know there was another room) and they, incredibly politely, were waiting for us to come through and sit down. We were waiting for our food to be bought to us in the bar!

The following morning it finally stopped raining and it was decided that we’d cruise on to Garnat. Debs and I left the fellas to crew the boat and have lock and mooring rows – it’s sooo funny when you’re not part of it. Kevin walked back with Herbie to collect the motor home and we set about some roast beef and Yorkshire puds for when he returned.


We waved goodbye and went to sleep – they were still on UK time so we hadn’t been getting to bed until gone 1 am our time.

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Pierrefitte to Diou (Tues 19/04). Diou to Beaulon (Weds 20/04)

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/04/2016

Flashers and food issues

2 locks, 7kms, 1.25 hours. 3 locks, 12 kms, 3 hours.

Pulled up in Diou in time to visit my second shop of the day in my perpetual hunt for veg – and all before lunchtime closing! Shortly after we arrived, we were joined by our neighbours from behind us in Roanne who were just stopping off for water before continuing on in the same direction as us. They had left Roanne just last week and already overtaken us. We were also joined by a large hire boat full of jolly French people and an Englishman – we knew he was English as his socks nearly reached his shorts. We wandered off to find the bar/restaurant and have a beer; the restaurant was really busy and I caught sight of the affeared tete de veau on someone’s plate. I have very eclectic tastes in food and enjoy a nice frog leg along with the best of them, however, the tete de veau was grey, gelatinous and wobbled alarmingly – there is something absolutely wrong about wobbling main courses – only puddings should wobble. The only way I could eat that would be blindfolded (which would look more than a little strange) and, even though I hadn’t tried it, I added it to my list of,  “things I won’t eat”. Not much of a list really as the only other item on it is andouilette – tripe sausage (I did try it and it’s gross).


Leaving those two to soak up the rays, Muttley and I set off in pursuit of the Loire – we stopped to watch the football en route but the match had been abandoned.


(I seem to have a major ‘tree thing’ going on at the moment)

A beautiful walk, but we had to turn back when the path was flooded by the encroaching Loire. Still an hour left to sit out and read.


G started chatting to a local reporter in the afternoon and invited him back to do an interview at 9 am in the morning before we left. This meant my having to get up early – again – and parlaising Francais at that hour of the day and before coffee is not for me, so I left them to it and took Muttley off to find the boulangerie (which was closed) and, subsequently, the village store (which had no croissants) …. humph.

My spirits were quickly restored though as we approached the aqueduct by Dompierre. I was taking pictures of a strange looking ‘encampment’ when I heard a bell ring and a Tricolour was raised above the fencing. The holder of this flag was wearing only (and I do mean ONLY) tights over the area of his body above his knees and below his belly! My reaction to this was such that G turned round sharply taking Francoise’ wheel with him and clunked the beginning of the aqueduct. Here are the pics if you have a strong stomach!


We just about recovered in time to straighten the boat and take photos from the aqueduct. We were I was hoping to have lunch in Beaulon but another boat came out from Dompierre and we then had to wait for the lock to be turned – this resulted in the lock immediately in front of our mooring destination being reached at 11.55 so VNF had gone to lunch. We waited just 50 metres from our intended stop over during the lunchtime and ate cheese and biscuits onboard instead.


A pretty little town with most of the things you could need (including fresh veg).


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Coulanges to Pierrefitte–sur-Loire (Sun 17 and Mon 18th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/04/2016

1 lock, 4.5 kms, 1.5 hours

Well, we don’t want to overdo it. The adjacent hotel/restaurant had been reported as closed but it has been renovated with its exterior decorated to reflect it’s name; La Peniche.


Rather apt as we are starting to see the odd ‘small’ commercial again now. The skipper gave us plenty of room though, even if his dog looked down on us!


As the village was quite close to our mooring, I persuaded G and Baxter to accompany Muttley and I for an afternoon walk into the village on Monday. We had a choice of a village shop cum bar or a (very) small supermarket. Deciding to support the little guys we bought everything we could from the village shop before walking to the supermarket – the latter was closed for lunch from 12.30 until 4.15; that’s going some even by French standards. I walked back at 5.00pm to find it still closed; I hadn’t read the small sign that said the owners had gone on holiday that morning and that, in their absence, the shop would only be open from 7 am until 12. I also discovered that my ‘support the little guy’ philosophy had stitched me up with two boxes of eggs more than a week over their ‘best before’ date.


On that note, I set off around the lake with Muttley where he learned the meaning of a sign saying “terrain humide”!!!

I thought I was in for a soaking too, but we made it all the way round before the heavens opened.

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We had already booked passage for 10 am on the Tuesday, so I had to get up early to get to the shop. I could only just see the sunrise through the mist and there was a severe frost on the roof of the boat. Even getting there at 8 there were only 3 croissants left and, in the veg department, I had to resort to salad and endives; I haven’t seen a mushroom outside of a tin since we left Roanne!


The sun quickly burnt off the mist and we were in for a glorious day.

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Digoin aqueduct to Coulanges (Fri 15/Sat 16 April)

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/04/2016

10km, 1 lock, 2 hours

We awoke Friday morning to more showers than sun. I had a plan (which ignored the rain) and thought that we would cycle into Digoin and stock up with veg, meat and cheese at the little market before having some (long overdue) lunch out; after all, 2 birthdays and a wedding anniversary had been ignored in the interests of finishing the titivation of MR.

G also had a plan which, unfortunately, didn’t co-incide with mine. He didn’t want to leave the boat unattended on pins and also needed to cycle out of town to buy a new sledgehammer as the handle on ours had snapped the night before whilst banging in the aforementioned pins. Somewhere about here my brain stopped functioning (and the grumps took over) because we only needed to move 1/2 km further on and tie off on the stakes that we knew were there; but it didn’t occur to either of us. G went off for the sledgehammer and beer whilst I walked the dogs. I set off on my bike when he returned, but the bike was more of a hindrance than a help – I had to walk it across the aqueduct as the water rushing below me made dizzy and then, when I got to town, I couldn’t get it up the steps from the tow path so I had to go passed and come back again. By this time it was 11.45 leaving me 15 minutes before the market and shops closed. In the interim I had also discovered that I’d left the camera memory card back on board (hence, no photos). The lady on the market stall was downright unfriendly; she was wet and cold (like me) and clearly wanted to go home – they’d no mushrooms, no carrots, no parsnips and no violet garlic. I asked if she had any root ginger – gingembre frais, a pronunciation I’ve had no problems with in the past – and she started playing the, ‘your French is crap and I don’t understand a bloody word you say,’ game and she called her boss over who knew immediately what I wanted. It’s a veg stall – how many things does she sell that sound even vaguely like gingembre and they didn’t have any anyway. By now my grumps had reached the stage of inconsolable and I wheeled my bike most of the way back again with hardly any of the things I needed.

It is a Grand Prix weekend so, if we’d moved up onto the stakes, I could have had a lovely potter around the shops on Saturday morning (closer so no bike required) and there was also a lovely nature reserve down by the Loire to walk Muttley on Sunday but, as I said earlier, my brain had stop functioning. Weirdly, G suggested we moved on and we uhmmed and ahhed and then tossed a coin and left at 1pm – I still have no idea why we even considered it!

When we’d left the Roanne et Digoin Canal, the lockie said we needed to ring to book passage, but the book said that there was free passage, so we didn’t know if we would be able to get through the two locks between us and our new destination; the lake at Pierrefitte-sur-Loire. Not long after we’d pulled pins, we had a hire boat catch us up which increased our chances as they were small enough to fit in behind us and had probably booked. My good humour returned and we were blessed with intermittent sunshine and some lovely views over the Loire valley whilst the dogs hogged the rear seats (where I’m meant to be sitting sipping cocktails in a flowery dress and floppy hat).


Shortly after leaving the first of the two locks we spotted a nice little mooring in the village of Coulanges; it was animal safe and a quick look at the book showed that there was a bakery, shop, bar, restaurant and a path down to the Loire valley. We asked the hire boat guys to tell the lockie of our change of plans and pulled over for the weekend.

Setting off with Muttley to explore it quickly became apparent that I couldn’t reach the track down to the Loire – the only access being via a busy road with no pavement – and that the locals had given up commerce in favour of gardening.

The restaurant is now a private residence and my presence with a camera clearly peed off the lady of the house who shouted angry words at me out of her window. Had my French been up to it my grumps had returned sufficiently to have hurled a few back – but it wasn’t, so I didn’t. Note to self: must learn some abusive French.


The gardens of the other closed premises were equally well tended


On Saturday morning the only option to entertain Muttley and I (whilst Grand Prix qualifying was happening) was an up and back along the towpath, which we both hate, so I decided to add some interest by taking him out for a bike ride – he didn’t have a bike though. He wasn’t that impressed with the cycling business (a bit like me really) and we abandoned the bike when we found a rather nice track and decided to follow it.


These were the first lambs I’ve seen here; you don’t see sheep very often and we’ve only ever seen one pig – pork is very popular (unlike lamb) but the poor sausages (sorry!) are kept in sheds. I suspect that it may have been quite a long while since anyone lived in this house.


This lovely old building used to be the mill house but is, rather strangely, situated a good 400 metres from the present course of the river which disappears under the canal before re-joining the Loire.

P1140551P1140552P1140553P1140554It will come as no surprise to you that we moved on again this morning.

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Melay to Bourg-le-Comte. Bourg to outskirts of Digoin.

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/04/2016

Weds 13th and Thurs 14th April. 11 kms, 3 locks, 2.5 hours and 20 kms, 4 locks and 5 hours respectively.

The weather continues to behave extremely erratically; after I blogged on Tuesday evening we had a fabulous storm which left us with a full rainbow (that’s not my thumb – it’s the top of the rear deck canopy).


When we left in the morning it was sunny again and the dogs chilled out on the back – the ‘step’ is required for Baxter these days and, also, one to help him up onto the sofa; without the steps we find him with his front legs planted up on something and standing, patiently, waiting for someone to come along and lift his back legs up.


Our destination for the day looked good for both village amenities and walking and, before we moored, we had a phone call from Peter and Janet in Roanne to say they had some post for us and would run out with it.


We moored up and enjoyed a late lunch out the back in the sunshine before they arrived. 5 minutes later the weather came in again with hailstorms big enough to hurt!


The rain never really stopped and I abandoned my attempts to walk Muttley when the deluge re-commenced and I realised that we’d moored a long way short of where we’d intended. This is the village we should have moored adjacent too and the last of the manual locks on this canal – the remainder were automatic and we were back on the pull cord system.


We waited for a barge coming up and gave them plenty of space as they seemed to be having a problem coming out of the lock – the chap on the top seemed more interested in the lady’s prowess with a boat hook than he did in steering.


We were also entertained by a man in a dune buggy


and experienced some solar panel envy


With nobody else about we were able to stop in the last lock of the Roanne et Digoin canal and re-water, empty off our re-cycling and let the dogs have a pee before turning right onto the Canal Lateral a la Loire – the opposite direction from where we are heading – for a mooring we’d spotted when bringing Matilda Rose South

Once moored below Digoin aqueduct, we were all intrigued by the two ladies, two dogs and a goat out for their evening promenade; all were off of leads (including the ladies) and Daisy retreated to Francoise’ gunwhales – dogs and cattle she can deal with but the jury is still out regarding goats!


My plan was to stay there today and maybe have some well deserved lunch out in Digoin, courtesy of our bicycles.

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After 8 weeks and 3 days, consecutively, in Roanne we are in Melay

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/04/2016

25km, 3 locks and 4 1/2 hours

If I still have anyone who can be bothered to listen, after my recent tardiness in blogging, this is what’s been going on. Here’s inside MR; with new carpet from the galley back, side panels finished and wood work re-varnished and everything scrubbed up – shame she didn’t look like this when we lived there!

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Although we’ve worked as hard as we could – knowing I couldn’t leave until it was finished is the biggest carrot you can dangle on a stick for me – we were still able to socialise in the evenings; well, the evenings we could stay awake! We have had beef bourgignon borgo stew and chicken provençale with the Brits; curry with the Swiss; cheese fondue with the French and enjoyed a 70th birthday party.

We promised ourselves that we would leave on Friday 8th latest, but it was not to be. Somewhere in that last week we became a four boat family – fetching Francoise’ dinghy from the rented garage (both dinghy and garage came with our purchase) to paint the sides of MR. Watching G trying to get in and out of it was highly amusing!


Whilst balanced somewhat precariously to paint the bow – and trying frantically not to paint myself ‘into the corner’ – Daisy decided that she would come and help as there was enough space for her too; she was wrong and ended up in the dinghy which, to her good fortune, was in just the right spot to catch her!

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All improvements on MR came at the expense of poor Francoise as she increasingly became a dumping ground, ‘we can sort Francoise out as we go’ we told ourselves! Yep, that is supposed to be a wheelhouse!


Insult was added to injury when we watched NB The Puzzler make a break for it on Saturday (we had intended to leave long before them). They did a lap around the port before entering the lock and we all sounded our horns – I suspect the locals thought they’d just been married. This spurred me on to greater effort and I completed MRs polish in the one day and we booked the exit lock for 10.30 the next morning.

Before we could leave we had some boat juggling to do. We needed to get MR off of Francoise, get Francoise out and tied off somewhere, then get MR moored against the towpath wall and secured to be safely left. Added to my woes (as I was the one moving MR), the port Capitainerie had insisted we move our pair back a metre or 2 to let in a little 7 metre power boat with outboard squeeze in between us and the pair in front. MR is a little longer than Francoise too, which reduced my parking space even further! Just to add to the mix, it was a beautiful, sunny, Sunday morning so boaters and gongoozlers en masse were also in attendance; oh and, of course, the breeze had got up a bit and the stream was running too. Graham asked me if I felt confident to do it or would I rather swap boats in mid-stream!


In the first picture I’ve done a double twirl and am holding off whilst G gets Francoise out, turns and moors her alongside the two barges which were behind us (you can see the three in a row in the bottom picture). The second picture (I took from MR also) shows my view of where I need to moor – what view?!!!!!! I need to get round the front of Francoise and into the side with my nose pointing up that little boats outboard. The owners of the barge behind me were, of course, in attendance too.


As I got off of the back of MR a Frenchmen came over to give me a double thumbs up, which was lovely, and even Graham said I’d done a good job – I was so charged with adrenalin that it took me nearly an hour to ‘come down’ again (I used the energy to wash the desert dust off of poor, neglected Francoise as we travelled).

So I said my goodbyes to MR and walked up to the lock whilst Francoise and Lily Yang headed in convoy to the lock with, once again, the other boats sounding their horns. Cassandra on Lily Yang was single handing her for the first time and, at 11 metres, could fit into the locks with us so we could help her if she needed it.


There was a lot of getting on and off of the boat at the lock for kisses and cuddles as loads of people turned up to say goodbye and wish us well – pleased as I was to be on the move, we’ve made some good friends and I felt quite emotional. Needless to say we have, once again, reduced our home to Beverly Hilly Billie’s status with top boxes, dinghy, kayak, bbq and goodness knows what else on the roof – and that’s before we add solar panels.

We had one minor problem during the trip and it was with F’s posh navigation system which was absolutely convinced we were in North America and refused to be told otherwise.


Safely through the 3 locks, we left Cassandra to do the French thing and stop for lunch in Briennon before mooring for the night, whilst we carried on to moor at Melay.


We arrived in time for us all to enjoy a beer in the sun and  invite our friend Nicolas round for a drink when he finished work later. We were too ‘peopled out’ to have anyone round for dinner.


Just as Nicolas was walking down to us, we were surprised to see Cassandra make an undignified arrival on the bank a bit behind us – she had a front pin in but lost the back end to the wind. She’d been blown off by the wind (which had got stronger as the day progressed) when she tried to moor at Briennon and again at Iguerande, so she and her little dog were able to join us for a drink. As requested she passed us very quietly when she left early in the morning.

I didn’t get out of bed until 9 and didn’t get showered and dressed until gone 12 – waking to a day where the only thing that had to be done was walk the dog and make dinner was sheer joy. I took Muttley on my favourite walk – it looked totally different with it’s spring clothes on – and the rain didn’t mar my pleasure; although it did spoil the photos. The storks are still about.

Moving on tomorrow after two full days of rest and recuperation (although G teak oiled the rear decking) so, hopefully, normal blogging should be resumed – no more frantic rushing for us. Normality returns.P1140354 - Copy - CopyP1140356 - Copy - CopyP1140364 - Copy - CopyP1140365 - Copy - CopyP1140350 - CopyP1140368 - CopyP1140372 - CopyP1140347

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