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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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2 Responses to “Mooring haggles–Damery to Epernay”

  1. Kevin TOO said

    So proud of you standing your ground Jill, €80 is certainly taking the proverbial ! 🙂
    Perhaps it would have been cheaper if the Capitainerie had been drinking Pastis !! 😉

    Yes the boys do look very smart indeed, an excellent photo of them too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • ….and just as I have learnt to stand my ground in French, I need to start again in Dutch!
      I love that photo of them.

      Can I say how nice it is to hear from you Kevin – I have finished the, very excellent, Wildside marmalade now; but was rescued by a food parcel of Warburton’s and marmalade from Sue Cook via Sarah and Andy

      Liked by 1 person

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