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 May, 2016

St Bouize and St Satur/St Thibault/Sancerre (mon 16/05 to 21/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/05/2016

4 locks, 22kms and 9 hours (including shopping and re-fuelling)

St Bouize was one of those idyllic stops for us; perfect for the menagerie, lots of lovely walking alongside tiny rivers and an all things to all people bar/traiteur/depot du pain/epicerie, although we neither ate nor drank there.

Any of you that have met Muttley will know that ‘brave little soldier’ he aint and he did have a small misfortune. One shouldn’t laugh, but it was extremely funny poor sausage. He ran ahead of me onto a track which suddenly had low level electric fencing on either side – he put his nose on the live fence, screamed like a stuck pig, jumped backwards and then got a belt off of the other side straight up the bum. At this point he took off vertically and then came down in the middle of the track and refused to move, still screaming at the top of his voice – poor dog was traumatised for at least 5 minutes.

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We expected to spend a few days in the Sancerre region and we spied our first decent sized supermarket in quite awhile. G hacked down some undergrowth and managed to get Francoise in and secured right across the road. By the time we’d sorted ourselves out though, guess what? Yep – closed for lunch. We dodged the traffic and re-fuelled main tank, genny and spare cans at the self-service (doesn’t close for lunch) and re-provisioned. The fuel strike was unknown at that point ,but we have not heard of any boaters having problems – it seems to just be motorways.

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We found a good mooring without going into the 10 euro a night rubbish port – made even worse by road works in St Thibault causing traffic to divert passed the end of the ganplanks’ of the boats in the port. There were some sad sights in that port, particularly an aptly named narrowboat. Once again the walking in the area was brilliant, with access to the Loire.

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We had lunch out in St Thibault on Thursday and contemplated how we were going to get up to Sancerre (that’s it; 4km up that hill – definitely NOT bikling country). Problem solved when Kevin and Debs turned up and stayed overnight, taking us up to Sancerre for a bit of sight seeing – you can’t come to this area and not visit. As Kevin had climbed the tower before, we left them too it whilst we huffed and puffed our way to the top – fortunately the cloud had lifted enough to make the climb worthwhile.

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My three wise monkeys couldn’t even manage to get themselves in the right order – what a bunch!

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We were all tickled by the loos at the restaurant where we had lunch – it was clearly meant for hobbits – the door came to somewhere around my armpits and it wasn’t a lot bigger inside.

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Our visitors left Friday ready to pick up their canopy, which was being repaired up the road a bit, and return to their own boat. So I fitted in a bit more countryside before we moved on.

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I don’t know if you remember, but there was another of these boats (apparently stranded) outside Never with no obvious way of reaching shore. I know I have some clever readers and I wonder if any of you know anything about these craft. At our next mooring there was something similar on the bank which allowed me to take a closer look.

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Beffes, La Chapelle Montlinard, Charite sur Loire (11/05–16/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/05/2016

5 locks, 17km + 1 bike ride

Over these 6 days we have had the most dismal weather, some of it really cold and most of it wet; if it wasn’t actually raining we seemed to be in cloud. G’s work on the outside of Francoise has been mostly thwarted although it did stay dry enough for just long enough to repaint an unsightly patch of damaged paint above the waterline. We also had just enough sunshine to sit out on the back deck with a drink and our French neighbours before a storm broke – in consequence I have now added the French for ‘storm’, ‘thunder’ and ‘lightening’ to my struggling memory banks and, for reasons I can no longer remember, ‘halfway’. I have, subsequently, had plenty of opportunity to use the first three of my newly learnt words. We also met Guy and Ruth Toye and their son Raymond who are Brits who have lived in France for 40 years – Guy is the Vice Chairmen of the DBA and owns a tjalk moored at Chapelle Montlinard which still has it’s original mast and leeboards.

Very little of consequence to report; I continue to explore as much as I can and we continue to watch the swallows dipping and diving (especially now the Mayflies are hatching) with the bats taking over after dusk. So just a picture gallery really to allow me to catch up a bit.

We passed through the pretty port of Marseilles les Aubigny

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and continued on to Beffes where the small supermarche closed for lunch from 12.30 until 4pm! Beffes suited us for a couple of nights as we were able to turn Francoise and get access to the other side – all our moorings for sometime seem to have been portside to bank. It didn’t particularly suit Muttley though as, everytime we went out we had to run the gambit of the local geese – not to mention goose poo! Daisy, also wasn’t very happy as she had to stay in for two nights and managed to get herself shut down in the engine ‘ole. We thought this poor little fledgling was a gonner to the cold, but it did live to fight another day. The Mayfly spent it’s entire life with us.

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En route to la Chapelle we started to see working boats again and it was a bit disconcerting when I spotted this one coming around the bend as we’re no longer used to them – there was plenty of room though.

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The mooring at la Chapelle was typical of the old silo moorings; not the most scenic but quiet and safe for the menagerie and the closest point to the bridge crossing of the Loire into the town of La Charite-sur-Loire which I wanted to visit on Saturday morning; market day.

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We left on the bikes in cloud and were staggered at the speed and power of the Loire since we’d last clapped eyes on it.

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I liked La Charite, a UNESCO world heritage sight, and we bought what we needed at the market, had a look round and enjoyed a beer and a waffle in a companiable, albeit steamy, little bar before cycling back.

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G spotted these unlikely looking companions way up on the balcony enjoying a bit of time out

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Le Guetin to Cours les Barres (Mon 09/05 to Weds 11/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/05/2016

1 lock, 9 kms 2 hours

After cycling back from Apremont we decided to pull pins and head to Cours where there was reputed to be free electric and water. The weather forecast remained awful and I thought I might as well run a few loads of washing through whilst it was going to be too miserable to do much else.

My lovely lockie from the weekend was now on duty at our only lock of the afternoon and greeted me with a big grin and a cheery wave as I jumped off to close the gate on the other side. in English, this time, he told me that he hadn’t forgotten that my name wasn’t Francoise (although after the day’s bikling I probably looked like I’d been born in 1902!).

The mooring was a perfect Daisy spot and, in addition, to the free electric and water had an immaculate shower block and landscaped gardens with a pond and water feature. Whilst I understand the logic of free services to encourage trade into local businesses, it rarely seems to be the case. Whilst grateful for it, I don’t understand the reasoning behind the investment here as the only business we found open was the boulangerie. In other places there has been nothing at all in the village, but charges were levied for both moorings and services.

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There was one enterprising restaurant in the vicinity though that had erected this advertising board – sadly, having eaten out the day before, we couldn’t support them. We have no idea how far away they were located.

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There was just one other boat on the mooring, which was occupied by Belgians and had the appearance of having been there for a considerable time. G plugged into the electric and nothing happened – well nothing electrical happened, but it galvanised the occupants of the other boat into leaping off into our faces ranting about their electric having gone off. Their reaction was so extreme it was comical (so we had a coffee before G went to check fuses) and they were insisting that we go to the Marie’s office to report it (which wasn’t open at anytime on a Monday, let alone at 5.30pm).

The following morning Mr Belgian was banging (with considerable force) on the side of Francoise at 9.00 am, again ranting that we should go to the Marie’s office. At this point we couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t go himself given how stressed he was but hey, ho – we pointed out that the office wasn’t open until 10 and we finished our excellent croissants and drank another coffee or two whilst he paced up and down outside Francoise with smoke coming out of his ears. We, eventually, sauntered up to the Marie’s office to say that the electric wasn’t working but we weren’t bothered about it although Mr Belgian was – she rolled her eyes and smiled.

Having seen quite a lot of water this week I decided to hit the forests with Muttley for a change. Looking at this map from the Navicarte, we couldn’t possibly go wrong – go out through the village turn left, left and left again. Simples!

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After an hour or so, as we got deeper and deeper in; it became darker and darker and the sound of birdsong was replaced by the snuffling and grunting of mating sanglier and the roar of lions………….

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Just as I was thinking I’d best turn back whilst I could still memorise my route, the canopy lightened and – much to my relief – I came across signs of civilisation.

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I passed Mr Belgian on the way back down to the mooring and wished him a jolly, ‘bonjour’ but he wasn’t in a talkative mood; nor did he wave goodbye to us when we left on Wednesday morning.

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Apremont-sur-Loire (Mon 09/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 14/05/2016

1 totally amazing lock, 10 kms by bike

There is an amalgamation of villages that are marketed as ‘the most beautiful villages in France’ and 5 km away, down a closed (sadly) embranchment of the canal, lies one of them: Apremont. Monday was the appointed day to go bikling with a picnic, unfortunately Monday didn’t approve of our plans and we woke to steady rain which improved, at best, to intermittent. I checked out the tinternet which said there was a restaurant (likely to be pricey) and a cafe/sandwich bar which closed on Wednesdays. It being a Monday we decided to go for the latter option and abandon the picnic.

The little road runs parallel to the now closed Lorrains branch of the canal and used to provide navigable access to the River Allier, a lock-free 247km waterway – that would have been a pretty amazing cruise. The old round lock (32m in diameter) still remains – think railway turntable.

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You come in off of the canal (the open gate), empty or fill the lock according to the river conditions, turn yourself around and then spit yourself out onto the Allier (closed gate above). The pipe across the middle has been added since the lock closure and has to do with hydro-electrics on the river weir. Evidently you had a choice of entering the river above or below the weir, but I couldn’t find any sign of a third gate which would have put you above. This is what awaits you the other side of that closed river gate. The entrance to the lock from the river is tucked around to the right in the third photo below – plenty to test the skills of any skipper!

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We arrived at Apremont close to lunchtime and, in view of the shitty weather, decided not to pay 20 odd euros to go into the gardens as there was plenty to see in the village itself. We also discovered that the cafe bar was closed Monday and Tuesday as well as Wednesday; leaving the restaurant with a monopoly. Despite it’s monopoly the food was reasonably priced and of good quality. The village was exquisite and every blade of grass and leaf trimmed, sculpted and manicured – if you ever need a bit of extra cash you could do worse than present yourself for work with a pair of hedge trimmers. Due to the inclement weather the photos don’t really do the place justice but, despite my aversion to bikling, it was still definitely worth the 10km round trip.

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There was a large group of Canadians there who were doing a sponsored tour of France in 2CVs. Some passed us on our way out there and there were more parked in various places around the village with some on trailers. They must have been serious enthusiasts as the whole ‘circus’ would’ve cost them a small fortune.

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Lovely as the village was, the highlight of the day for me was the round lock and it’s beautifully proportioned lock house

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Nevers to Gimouille (Fri 06/05 and Sat 07/05) and Le Guetin

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/05/2016

2 locks, 11 kms, 6 hours (including shopping); 2 locks, 2 kms, 1 hour

Just as we were preparing to leave Nevers the hotel boat decided to do the same, so we went and did other things for 40 minutes.

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As we approached the first lock (2.5k further on) they still hadn’t gone in, so we waited some more and then moored back from them in Plagny – they to pick up passengers and us to bikle to the Intermarche 1.5 kms away. Having seen the arrangement on the bike in Decize, we modified our assets and set off with two rucksacks and my granny trolley tied to the back of the electric bike (AndyWindy has since pointed us at an excellent collapsible trolley with attachment which would also carry fuel). This system worked well when G remembered to keep the trolley wheels out of the rain gutter on the side of the road!

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Nicely re-provisioned, we set off for a mooring which I had been really looking forward to; where the canal, l’Allier and Loire all meet. Unfortunately, just before we reached Gimouille, G spotted these oiks on the bridge and, sure enough, the stones duly followed as we passed under.

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Once we moored, G cycled off to find the Marie but, instead, found the very concerned owner of the village store/bar who said that the Marie wouldn’t be available until Monday as they were in Paris for the weekend. He also found out where the oiks lived and verbals were exchanged. The following morning – whilst still in my PJs and with G in the shower – I saw a lady climb onto our rear deck. It transpired that she was the Marie (about to leave for Paris) and the story unfolded (in French) that these oiks were being a total nuisance locally. They had broken into a big property (amongst other things) and done damage, but the Gendarmes said they had no proof; only CCTV footage of them from behind. She was thrilled skinny when she realised we had a photo of their faces AND they were wearing the same clothes as on the CCTV.

A little later (when we were both dressed fortunately) a sporty little boat went passed pointing at one of our flags and the same on their own. It’s the sign of membership of an international ladies boating group on Facebook – so they turned and came alongside for coffee; as usual (with members of this group we’ve previously met), we got along famously and Muttley thought Deborah and Cliff were rather nice too. Graham then threw coffee over them and, unsurprisingly, they didn’t stay for lunch – we know how to give our visitors a good time!

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We’ll let them off as they have very ambitious cruising plans between now and the DBA rally on 8th July. Ambitious by most people’s standards – incredible by ours. We look forward to meeting up with them again at the rally.

We then wandered into the village for a beer and a sandwich to support – and say thank you to – the nice man who had been concerned enough to see the Marie out of hours and send her round to us before she went away for the weekend. G introduced me and he was charming.

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Whilst we were sat outside in the sun, two of the three oiks cycled passed and recognised Graham, so it seemed sensible not to leave Francoise moored where we were on our own – well, I did anyway. I hate any kind of confrontation and I know I would have kept one ear open all night and not slept. I also discovered that we weren’t in the right place anyway for the best walking etc. so we moved across the aqueduct and down the double (staircase) lock.

The lockie was delightful and wanted to know when Francoise was built, I told him 1902 and – with a cheeky smile on his face –  he asked if she was named after me! In under 2 kms we went from Gimouille to Guetin and were adjacent to Grenouille, with an hotel of the same name – strange name for a village – and yes there were legs on the menu.

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Sunday morning I set off with the Mutt to walk the l’Allier to it’s confluence with the Loire, passing my nice lockie (who gave me a jolly wave) – this is a real honeyspot but there was not a boat in sight. Here are one or two pictures from my long walk.

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Nevers (Weds 04/05 to Fri 06/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/05/2016

2 locks, 11kms, 2 hours

Summer is definitely here: the sun is shining, the Swallows are on a feeding frenzy and G is shaking his fist and muttering as boats tear passed us – not that they have much impact on Francoise’ buxom stability, but old habits die hard. We pulled pins early and hung a left through 2 locks up the embranchment which now terminates at Nevers. The last lock which used to drop down onto the Loire has now, according to my guide book, “been obliterated by a multi-tiered municipal swimming pool complex”. A huge French equivalent of a “Wet ‘n’ Wild” water park wasn’t anticipated, but I did expect a large and rather grand genteel lido.

This certainly wasn’t what I had in mind.

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Once again the trusty bikes were pressed into service as we hit the city with our rucksacks but the large indoor market was closed even though it was post witching hour. There is no doubt that that this a beautiful and historic city but, for us, it was just too big and impersonal – like most big cities no-one engaged with anyone (well, not in a positive way).

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I stopped on the way back to take a picture of the city from the far side of the Loire and, in order to do so, I walked a few yards inside the entrance of a motor home and caravan campsite. Within seconds a young man came out of his reception hut shouting at me to get out, no ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ involved in this interaction even when I explained I was just taking one photo. He was horrible and so over the top that I, rather rudely, reverted to English and told him he could carry on all he liked as I didn’t understand a bloody word he was saying and I had my picture anyway – at which point he switched seamlessly into English whilst still in full rant, “get out, this is trespass, you wouldn’t like it if I walked into your garden” etc. I didn’t know it at the time, but this turned out to be the first of three unpleasant encounters we were to experience over the following few days – worthy of mention only because they so rarely occur.

The following morning was a bank holiday for VE day and scorchingly hot. It was also Thursday and therefore G’s fast day. We had a long debate about whether or not he would postpone it until Friday and in the end we tossed for it. The coin came down in favour of fast day which we quickly overturned when the smell of moules and frites wafted out from the very nearby restaurant and the artisan creme glace sign came out – we are so weak. This was the result of my lunchtime excesses; sadly I am no longer of an age where a large belly can be mistaken for pregnancy.

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I did rally enough later to take Muttley down the beach though and was intrigued by the presence of the houseboat which seemed to be firmly aground with no access to either bank although, apparently, occupied. The coypu kept us entertained in the evening.

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Decize to Chevenon (Mon 02/05 to Weds 04/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/05/2016

5 locks, 25 kms, 5.5 hours (see, we can do a proper day’s cruising).

Our narrowboat, Matilda Rose, is for sale with a year’s mooring in Roanne. If you fancy living the life in France for awhile before cruising the British and Welsh waterways, this could be the boat for you. She comes fully equipped; ready to go (with solar panels, ample battery power, solid fuel burner and central heating) and to live onboard through all seasons. With a full 6ft 4” of headroom throughout she presents no problems for the taller person; for full details click on the link http://www.apolloduck.fr/feature.phtml?id=460724

As we left Decize we picked up a delightful, and very capable, English couple in a hire boat and we travelled through two locks with them before pulling over at Fleury-sur-Loire whilst the lockie had his lunch. This is a nice enough mooring but, with only a boulangerie in the vicinity, we were surprised to see this substantial Capitainerie’s facility with attached marquee! Furthermore, it cost 9 euros a night to stay there with a further 2 euros each for electric and water respectively. I wonder how long it will take for someone to wonder why no-one stays there anymore!

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Sadly, we had to wave goodbye to our new travelling companions as a barge was ahead of us waiting for the lock to re-open. I helped them lock down with the barge and was rewarded with a packet of McVities digestives – it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen those. I helped lock another up before we could go in (busy – 4 boats in all!) and was highly entertained by the menagerie:– Harry the goose (with serious, ‘this is my lock’ attitude), 4 dogs and two goats. As the lock filled, Harry jumped in the water and escorted the upcoming boat out of the lock; ensuring that they left very slowly!

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At the following lock we were highly entertained by a large Golden Retriever who decided he was not walking any further despite his owner’s ministrations; like Delaney’s donkey he was pushing it, pulling it, shoving it and shushing it – all to no avail

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Talking of donkeys (sorry, dreadful segue), once moored up for the night Muttley and I encountered some more adorable critters on our evening constitutional.

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I set off in search of the epicerie and boulangerie in the morning; one shop serves the dual purpose now and I had a delightful chat with the lady; me in French and her in English (we find that this happens quite often) as she had English relatives. On the way back down I found a castle – as you do – and Daisy found a mouse or six. Although when I found the weeping angels I thought I might be in a spot of bother!

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In the afternoon the huge hotel boat, Deborah, passed us at a very courteous snail’s pace and didn’t even wake the dogs from their afternoon snooze! We were to catch up with them and moor beyond them the following day.

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Gannay to Decize (Thurs 28/04 to Mon 02/05)

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/05/2016

4 locks, 16 km, 3.25 hours

En route we spotted a stork sitting in her nest – every time we see one I’m freshly amazed at the size of them; they’re huge!

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Decize is situated on an island within the river Loire, with the canal lateral a la Loire to one side and the Nivernais canal on the other. Both canals run North towards Paris from here and we had been waiting(ish) for the Loire to subside in order for us to cross onto the Nivernais.

All towns situated in such strategic positions tend to have big and ancient histories and I had been looking forward to exploring this one. We moored where the blob is on the right hand side of the canal to the left (keep up at the back) and accessed the town by bike – I’m still not at all sure about this bikeling business but, as it was market day morning on Friday, it had to be done. I definitely need additional carrying capacity on my bike and was struck down with envy at the capacity of this one.

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After we’d loaded our rucksacks with fruit & veg, meat, cheese and bread, we chained up our bikes and wandered into the rest of this delightful little town filled with friendly people. We spied an immaculate little electrical shop – even though it was a sunny day Madame had put a t-towel on the outside step to avoid her white floor tiles being sullied. Despite her OCD she was delightful and, much to my surprise, we were able to replace our pressure cooker (cocotte minuite) and buy hair tongs and drive a deal for the two. Carrying these items back meant emptying the veg out of G’s rucksack into mine and, during the process, we scattered carrot tops all over the floor – I was frantically trying to pick up the bits whilst G unboxed electrical goodies and stuffed them into his rucksack. We thanked her profusely and beat a hasty retreat – leaving a trail of greenery behind us – to go and annoy the man in the green grocers who sold more exotic produce than the market stalls – he understood my pronunciation of ginger and supplied me with both fresh and ground. Nice man.

It was in Decize that I, finally, twigged onto the egg buying malarkey over here and wish to offer profuse apologies to the shopkeeper in Pierefitte-sur-Loire whose character I maligned by accusing him of selling me eggs beyond their ‘best before’ date. The French verb ‘to lay’ is ‘pondre’ and boxes are often marked with the date of ‘pondu’ rather than best before – it’s taken me two years, but I’ve got there now.

Muttley and I did a town walk……..

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…..and then we did a country walk

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The Saturday was a wipe out due to non-stop heavy rain and we gave some consideration to our cruising plan which involved doing the Nivernais (Decize to Auxerre), Yonne, Loing, Briare and Loire canals back to Decize to pick up our mates on 30th June. The Nivernais alone is 174 kms long and has 110 locks and unless we tore along (= missing everything) it was never going to happen. Our new plan is to continue North up the Lateral a la Loire instead and pick them up from where we get to and then drop back down to Briare with them in time for the DBA rally – simples and no time constraints! We’ll complete the ring after our visitors have left and we’ve done the rally. You can see the ring in the bottom right hand corner of the map.

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So, after spending a night with a little sailing craft attached (too deep drafted to get into the side) and watching this couple have a MAJOR domestic over trying to reach the pull cord to operate the lock (they never did come up the lock so they, presumably moored below to file divorce papers), we left on Monday without pressure.

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One for the Facebook link:

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Garnat to Gannay-sur-Loire (Mon 25/4 to Thurs 28/4)

Posted by contentedsouls on 01/05/2016

2 locks, 11 kms, 2.5 hrs

Not a lot happening in the sleepy village of Garnat

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So Monday morning we headed off to Ganay. Daisy was convinced that G couldn’t steer without her assistance and she could be right – his performance at the helm of Francoise was definitely improving!

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Having moored, walked Muttley and made dinner, I left the village exploration until the following morning – except the following morning we woke to rain which never let up all day. There is a small restaurant adjacent to the mooring where we had a perfectly acceptable menu du jour, 4 courses and wine, for 13 euros (no ‘funny stuff’ on the menu either). I spent the rest of the day trying (and failing miserably) to take pictures of the dipping, diving and, occasionally, landing swallows whilst Daisy stayed in to watch the snooker – remembering to nominate the pocket.

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Walking into the village on the Wednesday morning I was annoyed to discover that the epicerie had changed it’s closing time from Monday afternoon to all day Wednesday …. grr,  although the boulangerie and boucherie were open so all was not lost.

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