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 3rd, 2020

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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