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 2017
    M T W T F S S
  • Meta

Archive for April, 2017

Dropping down onto the Meuse

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/04/2017

We left la Cassine in glorious sunshine, but the frost was still hanging on tenaciously in the shadows. Glorious views as we went through the tunnel (more of a stretched bridge really) and dropped through the last four locks onto the Meuse.



Mooring at Lumes (3 years since we’ve been here), G decided to cycle into Charleville-Mezieres to get the train and recover the car. We were out of cat food, beer, fresh milk and veg and expecting a visit from Kevin with not a shop in striking distance. Only one problem with this plan – we had a senior moment trying to remember where we’d left the car! Scary.


We did a monumental shop on Tuesday and had a domestic day Wednesday before discovering that Kevin would be delayed; so we moved on having dumped the car again – this time, hopefully, remembering where we left it.

Why is it that you buy a big, fat, boat (after years of living in a narra) and everyone wants to be in the same space at the same time ……?


Loving the Meuse (I’m definitely a river, rather than a canal, girl); it’s even more beautiful than I remember.


Pulling into the mooring at Joigny the pontoon appeared to be at an odd angle – then we realised it was grounded!


The French do love their outside spaces: two identical little plots of land, one owner has turned theirs into a little weekend ‘cottage’ for BBQs and family fun, the other owner has erected a poly tunnel and is growing veg.

Man on bike waving baguette – who’s a clever boy then.


Any ideas about this deciduous/coniferous planting strip?

Yet again Daisy exerts her authority and forces Muttley onto the floor!


Unfortunately, Joigny had nowhere for Kevin’s motorhome, so we moved on to Montherme, arriving as it chucked it down with rain but in time for lunch. It being Friday and a bank holiday weekend, it was our last opportunity to enjoy a ‘menu du jour’ before Tuesday, so it seemed rude not to. Over lunch we concluded that we didn’t really want to stay in a town (albeit small) centre for four nights (locks closed on Monday) so, after 40 winks, we moved on again through 2 locks to Laifour.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

A weekend at la Cassine

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/04/2017

This female/male gender designation drives me potty. Le bateau/la peniche. Le Chesne/la Cassine (the last two places we’ve stopped). We were told (but it may well have been someone taking the pee), that when a new noun hit the dictionary someone – no idea who the ‘someone’ is – decided whether or not the ‘object’ was more male or more female orientated. So who decided that curtains (yep, the stuff at your windows) were male; as in, ‘le rideau’ – I’ve never yet met a heterosexual male that showed the slightest interest in either curtains or cushions and yet both have been assigned the male gender.

Anyway, I digress. The only reason I know about this curtain stuff is because, when we climbed the automatic lock flight, a VNF man in a van drove down and asked me to close the curtains across our big windows. I didn’t understand why, but our windows seemed to be giving him a problem; we wondered if the reflection off of the glass was upsetting the radar beams but, given that we had not had any problems with any of the locks – either prior or subsequent to the closure of the curtains – it will remain another of life’s many mysteries. On the upside, I now know the word and gender for both cushions and curtains.

We couldn’t drag ourselves away from this lovely mooring and it’s ruined Chateau, although it was bitterly cold on Saturday so Muttley and I didn’t explore a lot. We did, however, discover that the chateau was struck by lightning in 1697 and burst into flames – the chap that owned it deemed it to be an act of God and, thus, wouldn’t let the latter day pompiers put the fire out.

The only access into the ground now is on son et lumiere  days and the 3rd Friday of every month when there is a local farmer’s market. Where were we on the third Friday of the month? Here. Am I peed off about being here, not knowing and missing it? Yes. Very. Especially as our fresh food supplies are running low and we can’t replenish them for several days.


Returning from our walk, I noticed that G had moved the boat backwards


This was so that he could plug into the nearby lamp post … as you do


Sunday was glorious and Muttley and I had a lovely long circular walk whilst G made the Sunday roast.


A lovely weekend which ended in another fabulous sunset


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Downhill all the way now

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/04/2017

We stayed at Le Chesne for a chill out day, but we were still up at 7 am. Funny little place this – I had called round to the Marie’s office the previous afternoon, to ask if they could turn the water on for us, but the office was closed. So I popped into the Post Office  to ask when the Marie’s office would be open, but the Post Office was closed too. I knew I would be OK for groceries though, because there was a small 8 to 8 shop.


….or then again, maybe not!

I managed to find the Marie’s office open in the morning and a delightful young lady dispatched someone to turn the water on – he was there within 5 minutes and we soon had the bed stripped and two loads of washing drying on the rear deck in a sunny, but rather sharp, wind. We have had frost on the solar panels in the morning for several days now. After doing all that and walking the dogs, it was still only 12.15 and I hadn’t had breakfast, so I suggested that we have lunch out at the nearby restaurant which advertised it’s presence at the mooring. To start with, I thought it was too expensive and then I read the sign properly.


If you are as old as me, you will remember that there were roughly 10 French Francs to the pound; so our menu du jour at 14 euros for 3 courses hasn’t been badly hit by inflation. It was also the best menu du jour I’ve ever eaten and – shock horror – included vegetables. After lunch we managed to catch the 8 til 8 open and get a new gas bottle; we don’t want to have to pay for Belgian and Dutch bottles, so we need our French bottles to see us through Belgium.


Muttley should have been carrying a stick in the above photo, then he would have made a perfect Easter cross; good job he has no concept of his giant shadow or he’d be impossible to live with!

So here is the profile of our journey. Le Chesne is at the top of the second peak, so now we just keep going down – at one point we disappear below sea level which is somewhat scary – do we need a submarine as I don’t think Francoise carries a sub mariner cat? There are a couple of ‘uppy’ bits, but nothing of significance.


For the first time in about 10 days, Baxter dragged me out of bed at 5 am this morning and needed to go out again at 7.30. I really did not want to get out of bed this morning – the contrast between the recent me and the me this morning just goes to show the effect of sleep deprivation and the impact it’s had on our lives since last July. Poor love, it must have worn him out too. Let’s hope it was just a one off. I dragged myself out of bed at 8.20 and, despite a quick trip to the shop and boulangerie, we were still away before 10. We were moored up again by 12.15 though as this little spot couldn’t be ignored – it’s not often that you find somewhere that the entire menagerie can roam at will.


Only 630 kms to go

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Rethel to Attigny on a mission and then to the summit of our journey

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/04/2017

Only 18 kms and 4 locks away was a lady I have become very friendly with on Facebook. She is the only other bargee of my acquaintance that, like us, travels through the winter over here and is doing exactly the same journey as us, but in reverse. We have been following each others journeys and today was, finally, the day we would meet – so I was more than a bit excited. I nearly took G his tea in bed at 6 am, but thought that was pushing it; so I restrained myself until 6.45 and we left just before 8.30. We are going up the locks and I was quite disconcerted to see that the push and emergency stop rods didn’t even reach lockside, let alone down into the lock, so my superhero volunteered to clamber the ladder with a rope and push the ‘start’ rod up. Half way up the ladder he realised that there were another pair of rods set behind the ladder within reach. It doesn’t matter how long you cruise are here, they still throw new stuff at you. We’re on our 4th year now.


Loads of traffic coming against us, but none held us up and we were mooring at Attigny by 12 with a lovely welcome from Rod and Anne.


We spent most of the rest of the day together and were joined by a young German couple on the most beautiful sailboat. I did take an hour out to walk Muttley and watched a peniche cruise gently passed Viator and Francoise, the gap between us is due to a pine tree dropping cones. The sailboat moored there later in the day and I suspect that that they may well have been kept awake by things that went bump in the night. We waved Anne and Rod off in the morning and we decided to spend another day in Attigny prior to heading off up the big flight on Wednesday. That puddy cat is 20 years old and has just moved onto the boat; cats are far more resilient than we give them credit for.


On that Tuesday we must have seen at least 6 boats coming down so I kind of thought the season had started. We set off on Wednesday; 28 locks and 17 kms knowing it would be a long day, but we never saw another boat. Every lock sets the next lock and all were already in our favour; it took us just 6 and a half hours – we probably lost 30 to 45 minutes due to doggy needs but, other than that, I don’t think it could be done quicker. Despite the sun though, it was perishingly cold and, walking with Muttley, I quickly called for a scarf and gloves.


There was one place in the flight where you can stop with a canalside restaurant and I had high hopes of lunch, but it wasn’t to be; it was well and truly closed but reminded us of our friend Dave’s narrowboat, also named Sans Souci – no worries.


So we continued onwards and upwards to Le Chesne. This is the summit of our journey – it’s downhill all the way now.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

33 kms and 13 locks–we did a Dolly; 9 ‘til 5

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/04/2017

Firstly, my apologies for stopping the last blog short (ran out of day) and not altering the ‘mega cruise’ title.

We were up early and at ‘em (courtesy of Mr Baxter sleeping through the night again), cruising straight through Reims (done it twice) to Berry au Bac.




The following morning we couldn’t travel far as we needed to collect important post and we were too far ahead of ourselves (doesn’t happen often). After 1 lock and 7 kms, G spotted this gorgeous mooring at Variscourt which we shared for the night with some horses and a red squirrel (latter pics taken by G).


Now, the observant amongst you will have noticed that I am wearing a rather posh headset in that picture of me above. It didn’t take us long to get fed up with screaming at each other from one end of the boat to the other whilst in locks or mooring up. Happy as I am to scream like a fishwife should the occasion demand it; it really pees me off in a routine situation, so G purchased these. Cheap they were not, but they are wonderfully comfortable and allow us to operate the boat with both hands free and ‘discuss life’ in a civilised manner; the mics are mega sensitive though so we have to be really careful about the volume of our voices; do not shout ‘bonjour’ to passing locals. We have a deal; I won’t sing if he doesn’t whistle!!!!!

After 11kms the next morning we – rather randomly in the middle of nowhere – move from the canal Lateral a L’Aisne to the Canal des Ardennes. The only thing which marks the transition is a lock; PK 0 one side and PK 60 the other; weird. 3 kms further on from this lock we had arranged to pick up our post at Asfeld and I was quite concerned that, with it being Easter and all that, we could be lurking here for several days waiting for this post. We all walked into the village thinking maybe lunch or a beer but there wasn’t as much as a bar/tabac – the post office was so well hidden down a back street that I was beginning to feel we had had our post sent to somewhere that didn’t exist. It did exist though and our post had arrived the previous afternoon – amazing, it only left the uk Tuesday and arrived Thursday.

So that was it; all done and dusted and it was only 12 am so I suggested we carry on to Rethel, another day’s tally of 35 kms and 6 locks. I tell you, I am a woman transformed; up at 7 am every day, waking (a very confused) G with tea in bed each morning and on a mission to Friesland.

That’s G listening to me attentively in the lock yakking with the VNF guys.



675 kms to go

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Old friends and new and a mega cruise to make up for lost time

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/04/2017

I was sat in the middle of nowhere on Monday evening typing up a blog whilst G determined that there was time to slop some more paint on whilst the temperature/humidity levels were still good. After all those years on a narrowboat of keeping it all shiny and polished, I cannot tell you how joyous it is just to ‘slop’ paint on various bits of our ancient tjalk as and when required. I was taken by surprise by this peniche ‘a creeping up on me’ – he had spotted G on the roof and politely slowed down so much that I neither felt, nor heard his approach. The day turned into a beautiful evening.



Tuesday morning we were on a specific mission with just 3 locks to Sillery: supermarket shop, re-cycling and a meet with a Facebook friend. A ‘phone call just before we left added a visit from Mike and June (who live over here on NB Temujin) who were travelling passed us by car. Muttley and I were able to walk part of the way leaving G to pull pins and follow on behind us.


With two lots of visitors arriving and not a great deal of time, I needed to prioritise. I had to get the recycling off of the boat and do the walk of shame – after several weeks, I would have preferred to have done this under the cover of darkness but that was not an option so I sneaked (nay, staggered under the weight) behind the hedgerow towards what I knew, from previous visits, to be an enormous bottle bank re cycling station. To my horror, it had gone and been replaced by this weeny thing.


There sure as hell wasn’t going to be a lot of space left for anyone else!

I called around to find Sharon and Stan (who had arrived from the States the previous day) already working hard on their barge Encore and happy to come around for pre-dinner drinks after they’d knocked off for the day. Mike and June had arrived by the time I returned to Francoise and after a cuppa or two I had to hit the supermarket.

Now here I need to up the anti for visitors. Whilst, in the past, I have been delighted to receive a loaf of Warburton’s from UK visitors, my American friends brought Champagne  ….. just saying (although it doesn’t toast well!). Half way down the first glass I realised that G and I hadn’t eaten since around 11 am; so we scrubbed on the elegant nibbles which I hadn’t had time to make and went for cheese and pate, not exactly what I had intended, but it stopped us from falling over. I love the way that plans get dumped on boats when company arrives – flexible living!

Stan’s 6’ 5” didn’t quite fit into our boat – nearly! The second photo looks like we were playing Twister.


After stuffing our faces, we didn’t bother with dinner and the day faded into another lovely evening as I walked Muttley somewhat later than he would have liked.


Baxter slept well again (and therefore so did we), so I was up early – so early in fact that when I went to the supermarket for bread it was still shut!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! who says I can’t do mornings.

The war cemetery watched me back in the bright morning light


We left at 9 am and then left again at 9.15 having returned for a BOB LAM exerciseNyah-NyahBuoy Over Board Left At Mooring. When I went to pull it up I realised that it wasn’t there and it was bobbing up and down all by itself where we had moored, so a quick volte face to recover it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Onto the Canal de l’Aisne a la Marne–moored near Wez

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/04/2017

Whilst we over-nighted at Tours, Daisy had to defend her borders to prevent a further incursion of Francoise by the local ginger tom – he was extremely handsome (I thought) and young enough to be her toy boy; but she wasn’t impressed. Let’s face it, it takes a lot to impress Daisy.



Baxter went through the entire night without needing a pee! As a result we overslept and didn’t wake until 8.30 so we were later leaving than we had intended. We still managed 22 kms, 8 locks and a 2.5 km tunnel though so that wasn’t bad going on the canals (by our standards). As soon as we turned left onto the l’Aisne, we had 8 up hill locks to do over the first 8 kms. You twist a pole for the first one and then each lock is linked to set ready for you automatically; 3 commercials came down but even they have to wait for us once the ‘chain’ has started. Last time we came through this flight we were on Matilda Rose with Mike and June on NB Temujin – taking both boats in side by side; looking at the lock entrance from the perspective of Francoise, it doesn’t seem possible that the locks are wide enough. They don’t look wide enough for Francoise either after all this time on the rivers and big locks – they certainly don’t look wide enough to accommodate these peniches; but they do, of course. There are some nasty sidestreams on the lock approaches too.


It was immediately obvious that we were not going to get a rope up and over the bollards lockside, so G just held her on the engine and Muttley and I got off to walk. As Francoise came up in the lock a peniche was waiting to come down – on ‘our’ side of the river (not that I would have disputed it with him!) but, needless to say, he sorted himself out before G reached him although he kicked up a fair bit of mud and water in the process.


We met 3 oncoming peniches and 1 barge today, but none of them held us up and we had an immediate green light for the ‘one way’ tunnel too.


We moored up in the middle of nowhere which did please Daisy.


We now have confirmation of our dry dock, blacking and insurance survey up in Friesland later this year. We have also found a surveyor which our insurance company has approved. When we worked out the journey accurately on 1st April we had 969 kms to cover by the end of August. So far we have covered 164 kms.

Only 805 kms left to go

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

From the river Marne to the Canal Lateral a la Marne

Posted by contentedsouls on 11/04/2017

Up at 7.30 (please note 6.30 am UK time), I was greeted by the most perfect weather; wisps of mist and a ball of sun reflected in the water. The light was fabulous as I whisked Muttley around the woodland and I was highly amused by the taped up, clearly dangerous, litter bin.


It was a little bit of a performance to leave and turn onto the canal. We had to turn the boat, go passed the canal back down river, then turn the boat to come back upstream to catch and twist the dangly pole. We were trying to work out how long we have been on the rivers for and recalled that we left the Canal de Nivernais for the river Yonne back in September. Other than a few little short cutty canal bits on the Marne, we’ve been on the rivers ever since and I love the wide views from our big windows; virtually no danger of getting iced in either.

Photos are horribly grainy taken into the early morning sun; sorry.


There are some definite advantages though, like when Mr Baxter was suddenly caught short; we were able to pull into the side to let him off. It also means that Daisy can be let out of the bedroom and be allowed to roam and sun herself on the top of the boat between locks; should she go in, she swims perfectly well enough for us to be able to fish her out or for her to just swim to the bank in still waters. It also means I can walk the towpaths again so I don’t have to do all the Muttley walking after we’ve moored up.



We actually saw two pleasure boats today (only three in total that we’ve seen on the move since we first met Voirrey and Andy at the beginning of last winter. The second boat really peed G off as it pulled out in front of us (close enough to make him have to throttle back) before going into ‘our’ lock. Adding insult to injury, we had to wait whilst it turned around and came back down again when it could easily have turned before the lock; it must be summer!!!!


Approaching our last lock of the day at Tours-sur-Marne we had plenty of time to admire the view as it let us in and then broke down. Called on the radio; no answer. Telephoned the number provided; no answer. Yep; we’re back on the canals.


The lift bridge came as a bit of a surprise – it’s been a very long time since we’ve activated one of those – as neither of us had noticed it in the Fluviacarte; I suspect we’ll be getting a fair bit of practice with lift bridges later this year though. A pleasant enough spot, but onwards and upwards tomorrow.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Mooring haggles–Damery to Epernay

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/04/2017

Thursday we had to drag ourselves away from the enchanting Champagne houses Damery; but not before I nipped up to the market to do a veg re-stock. A fairly diminutive market but a massive veg stall, plus butcher/deli and an Italian ‘ready meal’ van. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen such massive piles of asparagus; much earlier here, I guess it is coming in from Spain. I couldn’t get the basil plant I wanted, but I did manage to get a big bunch of fresh basil and one of coriander; only after I arrived home did I realise the two bunches had cost me the best part of 10 euros! I had already eschewed the avocados at 3 for 12 euros and a small Romanesque cauliflower at 6 euros 50. It seems that even vegetables come with Champagne price tags in this area.


The previous afternoon G had clipped the dogs out – no prizes for guessing what effect that had on the weather. Gone was the sunshine and the temperature had dropped 10 degrees as we left. Baxter was already back in his winter jumper but lay shivering at my feet (it is a truly heart rending sight) so I wrapped him in a blanket and he then rested his head on my step and went back to sleep.


An uneventful, but pleasantly winding, journey up to Epernay where we were greeted by metres of empty moorings – just one little sailboat that had, clearly, over wintered. The plan was to stay for two nights and have a look around the town on Friday and lunch out as it was G’s birthday. We pulled over and I zotted off to find the Capitaine.


I looked in the open door of the canoe club but all was deserted, so I walked around to the club house/cafe where I found half a dozen salty sea dogs of a certain age who were all in various stages of inebriation (I don’t know why, but at this point I thought of my mates Chas and GT). The ‘barman’ was pouring another round and had all the Champagne glasses lined up on the bar in a row and chucking Champagne across the lot – a bit like your 15 year olds line up Tequila shots. I mustered my best French and enquired as to where I could find the Capitainerie as I wished to stay for two nights; one of the salty sea dogs escorted me back to the canoe club shed and round to a ‘secret’ door hiding around the back. The Capitaine was charm personified and shook my hand warmly before gathering a bulging file under his arm and taking me back to the cafe, whereby he spread the contents of his file around the table with an air of great importance and donned his spectacles before proceeding with his French interrogation. “Madame, where have you come from?”. “Madame where are you going?”. “How long do you wish to stay?” (me: 2 nights). “What is the name of the boat? How long is your boat?” I tried frequently to interject and to get a price out of him but he was determined to fill in his forms and would not be deflected; so in the end I gave in and just answered all his questions. When we finally got to the end (which I do believe included the colour of my underwear and what we were planning to eat for dinner), I was, finally allowed to ask how much it would cost to stay for 2 nights. His response, “80 Euros Madame”. “2 nights, not 2 months,” says I. “80 euros Madame”. “I don’t need water or electric”. “80 euros”. “the moorings are empty”, “ 80 euros”, “It is my husband’s anniversary tomorrow and we want to spend our euros on dinner” (dinner usually gets them) “desole Madame”. If I pay you 80 euros we cannot have dinner. “desole Madame”. My dogs are starving and the cat is having to catch mice, “desole Madame”. “My Aunty needs medication”. “80 euros Madame, je suis desole”. Sometimes you just have to face the fact that the battle is lost! We shook hands and wished each other a nice afternoon and I was extremely pleased that I managed the entire conversation in French – albeit with some gargantuan gesticulations.

I returned to the boat in fits of giggles; G said I’d been gone for an hour. We turned around and headed back towards the main navigation thinking we would go through the lock onto the canal to moor at Dizy; but after about 3kms we spotted this rather nice bank on the edge of some fields and woodlands. As the river is not navigable passed Epernay, there is no heavy commercial traffic ( no traffic at all except the odd canoe) so we banged in pins, found a tree for the centre line and stayed. G recovered the car and so Friday we drove up into Chatillon for lunch – with lovely views across the Marne valley – and Saturday G deposited the car on the Canal des Ardennes at Rethin; about 3 weeks ahead on our journey North.


Fortunately the weather restored itself to glorious warm sunshine and the dog stopped shivering so we stopped feeling guilty. Great spot this with fabulous walking and hardly anyone around; but we must move on – words I may be repeating quite often this summer.


Still glad of the fire at nights despite the rising daytime temps.


Don’t they look sweet in their summer coats – butter wouldn’t melt?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The rest of Damery

Posted by contentedsouls on 08/04/2017

The whole area here is immensely pretty. The fallow fields are now bursting into colour with wild flowers – the department of the Marne actually gives wild flower seeds to the farmers to scatter (what a brilliant idea) and the tubs on the bridges are all planted up.


I couldn’t help but think canine red light district at this poodle parlour – or, ‘how much is that doggy in the window?’. Also need to be out of the area before the adoption event – we do not need additional crew!


This big, flashy house with enormous lawns had a bigger than life size red metallic painted bull in the garden – now what is that about?


The usual bits of art work around the village and a lovely sunset rounded off our two night stay (with free electric and water).



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Itchy Feet

Real time travel tips from a duo travelling Europe by motorhome

Alex Grehy Fiction

Playing with words....

Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

Aurigny Aperos

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


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


Never grow up, Grown-ups are boring!

Avalon Abroad

Exploring Europe on W B Avalon

M. B. Willow

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

%d bloggers like this: