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

  • January 2020
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for January, 2020

The Cement Mixer

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/01/2020

Not a phrase I ever expected to head up a blog with. It sounds like one of those dodgy Duolingo short story titles – ‘a stranger in the park’ or ‘my passport is under the cat’. Now, before you think I’ve completely lost the plot, although I am willing to accept that I probably have, we have been living a very isolated life since around the middle of November – although we did speak to some nice people on Christmas day – and yesterday we had a lot of excitement.

Firstly, our HO’s rang and asked could we stay on for an extra couple of days, and then……….wait for it ……….somebody drove up our hill. I was fortunate enough to be sat outside and could, therefore, get the maximum excitement out of this long, slow process and the anticipation of their imminent arrival – so what could they possibly want? I was down to the gate with my best welcome hat and the bestest bonjour accent that I could possibly muster. Now some of you, who have stuck with my travelling ramblings over many years, may just recall my attempts to acquire a hot water bottle in a French pharmacie. I, at the time, was pretty impressed with my dodgy combination of minimal words and miming abilities ‘une bouteille d’eau chaude por le pied’ etc., etc,.

I was nicely warming up to being on the ‘guessing end’ for ‘cement mixer’, which is what my visitors were after. Washing machine? Spinning clothes drier? Jacuzzi? Clearly, their miming abilities were not up to my standard, as I obtained a hot water bottle; whereas they did not obtain a cement mixer – well, not until after I made a ‘phone call to the HO’s.

We had three little rescue Dacshund/cross dogs to cuddle here and each had a totally different personality. Betty, bless her, was very elderly and had moments of not quite knowing where she was – it was reminiscent of Baxter’s last year and nice to be able to gently re-assure her . Charlie just wanted cuddles, and Eric could bounce for England if he thought anything exciting might happen; like someone coming to borrow a cement mixer. Breakfast and dinner times were hilarious as the house turned into a race track for the four of them (Muttley soon picks up on other dogs’ habits and joins in).

We went to the nearest, and very beautiful, neighbouring 14th/15th century town on a desperately raw and cold day, where everything was still shut down for Christmas and New Year.


The weather turned a lot nicer and we were happy to just chill in the sunshine and walk around the lakes apart from a couple of trips out. Albi and it’s vast cathedral was impressive.


Gaillac was stunning.


Most of all, we loved the company of the dogs and the contrast of moving from the bottom of the valley to the top of a hill and the views.


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Time to pack, again, and start the next road trip into Spain. 200 and something bloody days I’ve been trying to learn Spanish……time to put it to the test!

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Eric (other dogs are available) that’s disgusting!

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/01/2020

So who’d have thought it? Yet again it’s not light and I’m up and talking to you lot again for the second time in less than a week.

Now, as you know, I’m new to this pet sitting malarkey, but I’m beginning to suspect that pet sitting with your own pet brings a whole new dimension. All those wise and experienced dog trainers will tell you it’s all about routine and consistency with dogs, but poor old Muttley is now having to fit in with OBR’s (Other Bugger’s Routines). Although he is particularly enjoying OBRs this week – we are not.

The current gang of Daschoundy guys have breakfast. Muttley has never eaten, or wanted, breakfast in his entire life. Now he does. He’s always had a dodgy stomach, and more so recently with the medication for his cushings, glaucoma and stuff so, if you are house sitting and he wakes you up to say he needs to go out, you don’t argue; particularly when there is a rather nice abstract rug in the bedroom which has a WHITE background. Did he need to go out? – did he hell, he went straight to the utility room where the OB’s breakfast is stored and dispensed. This, of course, wakes them all up so they need to go out for a pee and then come in for breakfast … so, result, Muttley gets breakfast and then goes back to bed downstairs whilst I’m left cuddling Eric on the sofa. This, in itself, would be a rather nice start to the day if it wasn’t still dark and extremely early and Eric didn’t release his gastric juices with great gusto. Eric’s farts are bad enough to evacuate the entire neighbourhood, except we don’t have a neighbourhood, as we are even more remote than the previous sit. So, for company, we rely on each other’s conversation which, largely, consists of, “Eric, that’s disgusting”. If there was such a thing as a ‘farting for England’ competition, I would wager every last penny of my pension on Eric to win.

What we do have, however, are the most spectacular views across the valleys and hills. This week we are up high with a 360 degree panoramic view, which means we get to enjoy every drop of sunshine available. Some days it’s been glorious and we have been able to sit out and bask in the warmth with a G & T, and others it has been bitterly cold. Not a shabby view to wake up to on New Year’s day 2020.



This was the town on the opposite hill from us, Castelnau de Montmiral, which was incredibly beautiful but like a ghost town and absolutely freezing. A drop of sunshine would have made these pics spectacular.



Friday we trundled off into Gaillac. Wow! I thought Mirrorypoiks was amazing, but Gaillac was sensational.


Just Albi (ALBI, not ALDI) to be done now, and then it’s off to Spain to see if, after all my hard work, I can understand anything anyone says to me. I’m also intrigued to see how Muttley fairs back into his own routine on the van without OBR’s.

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Our first house sit experience, Southern France in the Midi Pyrenees.

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/01/2020

As I mentioned at the end of the previous blog, our beautiful house – our home for the next three and a half weeks – had a lovely little ‘trout tickling’ type brook running through the front garden, babbling happily across the pebbles. En route, the sat nav had told us to cross the adjacent bridge; the home owners (HO’s) had warned us not to follow the sat nav and had given us very exact directions. It transpired that, back in 2014, our happy little babbling brook had turned into a raging torrent and taken the bridge out and flooded their house. Friday it rained, and it rained, and it rained. By Saturday lunchtime, our babbling brook had, again, turned into a raging torrent and risen by 2 metres. The water was now coming across the road and threatening to cut us off from civilisation as we know it – it’s quite an isolated location. Muttley chose the increasingly dramatic situation to have a problem with his eye and needed to go to the vet. So G left with Muttley in the camper – higher clearance, than the car that they left us, from the rising water level and also providing him and Muttley with somewhere to sleep should conditions deteriorate further and the house get cut off entirely – whilst I stayed with little Roly, the Norfolk Terrier, and we moved their little car to higher ground. My anxiety was not soothed by a phone call from the HO’s friend to make sure we were OK.

Nothing else to be done but ‘wait and see’. We contacted the HO’s and appraised them of the situation, but they were remarkably sanguine about it all. What a delight not to be up and down all night adjusting ropes. The ‘babbling brook’ broke the bank beneath the house and then the rain stopped and, eventually –after a few days – the water receded. The problem being, in the bottom of a valley in a mountainous area, that the water continues draining down into the river for several days after the rain stops.

Meet Roly; he and Muttley were hilarious together. I only ever saw them touch noses and bums once, but they were always together and, rarely, more than six inches apart, with a studied air of indifference.


The weather improved dramatically, to the point where we were able to sit outside Christmas day, and we did loads of pootling about in the snow capped little mountain villages and the local markets, buying way too much food and finding lots of gorgeous places to walk the dogs. For the first two weeks I was without a camera so, I’m sorry, you missed the ‘snow capped’ bits and the chateaus that are now Michelin restaurants; unless you saw them on Facebook from my phone – I have absolutely no idea how to get my phone photos onto the blog; I have always been technologically deficient.


We do make me laugh; as boat dwellers and, occasional, transit van dwellers, we are totally used to abiding in very small spaces and, despite his making a monumental amount of noise whilst I’m trying to write or learn Spanish, and I nag him to death and ask him to be quieter, we have co-existed for many years without either of us committing murder – so far! So here we are in this giant sized beautiful house: 5/6 bedrooms (not sure; more than I can count), 3 bathrooms, library, craft room, gym room, study, drawing room, movie room, et al. I dreamed of going to be able to sit in a separate room for a bit of peace and quiet; to study, read, write and paint – bliss.

Where do we end up living? In the dining room and galley kitchen together, with the rest of the house shut down for fear that we would loose all our ‘stuff’, the dogs and maybe each other! Then there were the STAIRS! We were two flights up; four really as each staircase curled around and was the equivalent of two; not only did they provide us with excercise but, also, endless amusement. I don’t know if you’ve seen the English TV advert (Stena stair lifts I think?) where the elderly man struggles to the top of the stairs carrying tea up to his wife and she shouts, “Graham love”, because she wants him to bring her something else. I know it’s juvenile, but neither of us managed to climb those stairs without the other shouting down, as we neared the top, “Graham love” or, “Jill love”.

Our other source of constant amusement was the sat nav ladies pronunciation of the local place names. Castelnaudry became Castley nordree and Mirepoix; Mirrorry poiks. I know; we are easily amused.

We found a charming little bar/cafe in a neighbouring village owned by a delightful English couple who had lived in France for 20 years. Their clientele was a delightfully eclectic mix of French and English people and, on Christmas day, their guests; Bulgarians, Spanish, Italians. Our two visits to that place, with interesting people to speak to, just rounded off our very isolated sojourn and stopped us from going gaga. Would we go back? Yes, but not for the best part of a month. Two weeks would be lovely, but we found out that we are much more gregarious than we’d thought!

On our outing to ‘Castley nordree’ we spotted a boat belonging to someone I know through Facebook, so we invited ourselves round for a cup of tea, as you do.Thank you Brenda.


Here’s some pretty pics of some of our outings; the quality is not great yet as I’m still learning how to get the best of the new camera. This is Foix in the mountains to the south.


This is our nearest village, Bastide sur L’Hers, a 10 minute walk, but 30 minutes if you have Roly with you! It sports an excellent butcher, small store and a dog groomer (who was delightful, but took a large chunk out of Muttley’s ear!). The river was up to the top of the arches at it’s worst. The pictures here show it well on it’s way down again. At one point this must have been navigable as there is an old lock.


Dog walking round lakes


And then there was the magnificent Mirepoix and another drive up into the mountains.


The rest are a somewhat random collection of pics from our dog walks.


Suddenly it was nearly over and time to start cleaning, packing and cooking for the HO’s return. My apologies for the blog overload but when the sun is shining, you are in the Midi Pyrenees, and you have a new camera……

Out of respect for the HO’s privacy I have not included their beautiful home or precise location – they were wonderful and fascinating people and made sure we were left with everything we could possibly need. Thank you both for your company and hospitality. Bisous to Roly, who near broke my heart, again, when we had to say goodbye.

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