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 2019
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for December, 2019

The lady of the house speaking

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/12/2019

Our second night stop was in the woods just outside Luxembourg, with plans to walk to a bus stop and go into the city in the morning – we woke to a filthy morning and subsequent lack of enthusiasm. Rustling up plan B, we decided to drive through the city for a quick looksee and were glad we hadn’t made the effort to do more, as the entire city was being dug up – they appear to be installing tramways?


Not exactly picturesque! So we saw what we could and decided to carry on to Metz.

We have very fond memories of Metz from when we cruised there on our narrowboat 4 years ago and we were both keen to go back there. Park4the night suggested a spot just off of the river and we managed to ‘stealth park’ overnight in a little rural square without drawing attention to ourselves. Having given Muttley a good run down by the river and eaten dinner quite early, G set off on a mission to find the little bar that we’d had so much fun in last time we were there. Amazingly he found it – his memory of places is incredible – and it was disappointingly quiet at first. By the time we’d downed our first Picon beer, it was filling up rapidly. It’s a tiny place, so very intimate; you really can’t avoid socialising. Sure enough –just like our previous visit – we were soon involved in a number of diverse conversations in a weird mixture of languages. The evening didn’t disappoint.

The next morning we headed off towards Strasbourg, stopping for coffee in a little village tabac. Each person who entered did the usual round of bonjours and shook our hands; how I’ve missed that aspect of France – much as my head loves boating in the Netherlands, my heart really misses the charms of France.


Having, eventually, worked out how to get tram tickets for us and Muttley (although we strongly suspected that we paid way more than we needed to), a fellow traveller explained that the trams would not be stopping in the city centre for security reasons. Unbeknown to us it was the first day of the Christmas market and everyone had to be security checked before entering the city. Poor little Muttley not only experienced his first tram ride, but he had to endure over 30 minutes of being down amongst a throng of feet as we slowly shuffled forward towards the security checkers; we tried to guard a space either side of him but it was nigh on impossible, he stayed completely calm and I was so proud of him – we certainly wouldn’t have gone if we’d known.

on Sunday we arrived in Bresse and scrounged a bed for 3 nights with Marcelle and Gorge (well, Gorge wasn’t there for the first two nights); they’d come out to the boat for dinner with us previously in Friesland whilst they were travelling on their camper. Bless Marcelle for her wonderful hospitality, despite the fact that she’d only got back from a month’s camping safari in South Africa the night before! She lent us her car so we could go to the market and, at least, I could muster provisions a meal for her and Gorge whilst she picked him up from the airport. It was my first chance to cook on a woodburning range and I loved it – it goes without saying that I now want one! Somewhere around here my camera finally, completely, died so this is a picture of Marcelle’s Mum’s dog, and one pic from the livestock market – I have no pictures of Marcelle’s Belgian Shepherd but, as you can imagine, Muttley was somewhat dwarfed by his new friends!


Wednesday we stopped somewhere between Montpelier and Nimes before moving on to our first house sit, where we were due for supper with the home owner’s (HO’s) Thursday evening. We thought we’d visit Carcasonne during the day and have a light lunch but, even in the winter, there was nowhere we could park the van and the trailer. So we pootled through some villages and found a little restaurant for lunch in Fanjeau – France being France, a ‘light lunch’ wasn’t going to happen and we arrived at our new, temporary, home embarrassingly stuffed. Fortunately for us, our blushes were spared because the HO’s had also been taken out to lunch by friends and their stomach’s had suffered a similar fate. So we introduced the dogs and enjoyed a convivial light supper with them before they left in the morning.

So, yes, this is the lady of the house speaking and there is plenty of room for a Mercedes AND a pony.

We also have a river at the front of the house and that was about to make it’s presence felt!

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On the road again

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/12/2019

Having, finally, got the boat generator fixed, we moved to one of my favourite dog walking moorings and Muttley and I filled our boots, with loads of playmates, for a week.


Then he had his op to remove a nasty growth, right on the bend of his rear elbow; so we had to curtail his excercise for two weeks.


So we went North in the van along the dyke to Den Helder for a bit of an explore


We spent a few days on our beloved Rabbit Island before heading into Koudum – where another boat had the audacity to join us! We quickly forgave their intrusion however, because they bought playmates for Muttley (we had taken his stitches out by then).


Koudum is also a lovely little town with nice walking, but it does seem to have a disproportionate number of cats which stop Muttley and I using the footpaths; having been under Daisy’s thumb since he was 8 weeks old, there is no way he’s going to try and squeeze past a hissing cat with an arched back. Even the ones watching us from a distance stared at him malevolently.



Before we left, we needed to re-insure the camper. We then discovered that the camper wasn’t registered with the British driving authorities as a camper; just as a transit van and, as a transit van, we could only get insurance for 180 days cover outside of the UK. To re-register it as a camper we had to fit a table, an awning, and have a minimum of two windows on one side (not including the windows in the driving compartment). G made an excellent table on a swivel stand which lifts off and clips to a cupboard and we found somewhere to get the retractable awning fitted not too far away. Cutting a hole to provide a second window is an issue still to be addressed before our 180 days are up,we also have the luxury of a proper diesel heater this year. We also have a new, dedicated, box on the A frame of the trailer to house the generator so that it can be run whilst remaining securely in situ (photo below). Our thanks to Oba for the welding and Gerrit for the construction and enhanced design mods.

We then jumped through hoops on the ‘phone to get our S1 reciprocal health insurance cards (yes, we are both now officially OAPs) only to find that they will only issue them two weeks before we get to Spain; by then, of course, we have no address to receive them!

A monumental amount of organisation was required by the catering, provisioning and domestic department. We were leaving for 5 months and covering 3 seasons, so I made copious amounts of lists. Summer and spring clothes were vacuum packed at the bottom of the trailer together with a basic store cupboard; winter clothes for our 5 week stay (we now have a second house sit) in the mountains of France went in next; then travelling provisions for 6 days in the cold, and meals I’d made earlier and frozen. The situation was not helped by the fact that we took the van into the garage for a bit of engine tuning on Monday and we didn’t get it back until Tuesday afternoon –my intention had been to shop and load over Monday and Tuesday – before leaving Wednesday late morning. Without transport we could do neither, so it was all a bit of a scrabble. I always organise everything in appropriate bags and G is forbidden to get involved in the operation, or pack anything into the van – we can’t both move on the van simultaneously, so the domestic and house keeping department has to know exactly where she can put her hands on things. As head of IT, G is responsible for packing ‘phone/battery chargers, conversion plugs and all the myriad of things that accompany modern technology, and all I ask is that he remembers where he put them and that the stuff we need in transit is accessible.

Having winterised the boat, he then lurks over my last 4 shopping bags which aren’t quite full (waiting for the last bits to go in) and could not contain himself whilst I left him alone to have a pee! He grabs the paperwork I need (not all of it, naturally), slings it on top of the jam and marmalade and hoofs it to the van. Knowing we are going to be living in a very confined space for a number of days and need to be really, really nice to each other, I try not to shout, ‘bring that bloody bag back – why can’t you just leave things alone?’, but I can’t help myself either; although I did try to modify my phraseology!

We did get away on time and found a nice quiet stop in Belgium for our first night – when we left last winter, we stopped in the south of the Netherlands the first night, and were dug out of bed and moved on by the police, so decided not to risk that one again.


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