Come with us as we travel round Europe in our floating home

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Marne and Seine

Hi, nice to see you again.

We continued to enjoy the river Marne which was practically devoid of pleasure boats. In one week we only saw 3 moving boats. With free moorings like this one at Saint Jean les Jumeaux I just don't understand why it isn't busier. This village had the best boulangerie we've ever found, with perfect bread and cakes to die for. Apart from a few cooler cloudy days the weather continued to be glorious.

The grape harvest was in full swing and we kept getting glimpses of the pickers through the trees.

The Marne gets quite narrow in places and you don't expect to come across a sight like this when you come round a bend. It was OK though as the skipper motored the barge close alongside the tug that was unloading it and merrily waved us past.

We were going down one of the locks when a lady came out of the lock cottage and sold me a big bowl of mirabelles (cherry sized plums) A few hours later and we had jam ๐Ÿ˜€ 

At the end of the Marne Roger tried to persuade me to turn right and head back through Paris but we're now on a schedule heading for a rendezvous with friends coming over from UK, so we turned left back onto the Upper Seine. 12 months ago I would never have envisaged me saying this, but I really like the big rivers. There's always plenty to see and the big boats no longer scare me. The only problem with the Seine is the lack of places to moor. Unless you're a residential houseboat that is and they come in all shapes and sizes too, although this tiny homemade one was the exception to the norm.

The moorings on the Seine tend to leave you vulnerable to rocking and rolling in the wake of passing vessels, although to be honest we had more problem from the passing ski boats than the huge commercials.  You can see the difference in the wakes here

One night it was just going dark and a huge one crept slowly past. It was 4 dumb barges at 40m each, being pushed by a 15m tug - 175m long WOW  The locks here are 180m long and I always feel guilty for using so much water when they let us go through on our own but, as you can see here, there's plenty of water rushing down the weirs beside the locks and we'd be quite willing to wait to share if they asked.

We stayed for one night in Melun which is a large town and we'd be told by several people that the moorings were free and we needed groceries. After walking 25 minutes to the nearest Lidl I was shocked to find BIG beefy security guards on the doors. It was a very run-down store with hardly any alcohol so I rushed round as fast as I could.  We later tried the Carrefour supermarket which was a bit closer to the moorings and again they had security guards checking bags at the entrance and we weren't allowed to take our collapsible trolley into the store with us. We had to chain it up in the foyer with all the other shoppers bags and trolleys. Once instore we managed to buy beer and wine but the choice and stock levels were very limited and there were 3 additional security guards patrolling the store.  I know security is a sign of the times but surely this was over-kill?  I wasn't sure whether it was for anti-terror measures of if there is a mega problem with shoplifters in this town. Whatever the reason I found it very intimidating and doubt that we'll stop there again, especially as the "free" mooring actually cost us 12 euros. We hadn't intended plugging into the electricity or taking on water but having paid I made sure we got the full benefit and started doing the laundry.

The next stop after Melun was in the beautiful village of Samois-sur-Seine. There is only enough room for 2 boats on the wharf but it's sheltered behind an island so there was absolutely no wash from the commercials at all and consequently we weren't woken at 6 am when they started work.

This used to be the village laundry "le lavoir" and dates back to the 18th century. It was at the top of the hill and the water was fed by underground aqueducts from a stream outside the village.

Samois is a very picturesque village and the houses were covered with ivy, wisteria or these ancient, strange but beautiful trees.

We're moving again today to find somewhere good for the weekend so Roger can watch the Grand Prix.

See you soon X

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Bonjour et Bienvenue,

Nice to see you here again. It's still extremely hot and sunny here in France, currently 33'C at 7pm ๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿ’ฅ,

although we did have a few cooler days last week after a couple of spectacular overnight storms.  We woke up one morning to find that a tree had fallen down directly opposite us during the night and we hadn't heard a thing! Luckily it fell along the towpath and not across the canal.

After having the Canal de la Somme almost all to ourselves - where are all the boats? - it was nice to get back onto the hustle and bustle of the Canal du Nord. Even there it was fairly quiet and we didn't have to share any of the locks with other boats, which was probably a good thing as we got stuck in two of the automatic locks when the gates failed to operate and we had to wait for the VNF to come to re-set them.

That happened to us again at one of the locks on the Canal l'Ainse a la Marne . The green light was on for us to enter but only one gate had opened.  I'm getting good at phoning the VNF and to give them their due they always arrive within half an hour.  This one took 2 men 2 hours to fix as the hydraulic ram had become detatched from the gate.

I'm starting to think it must be the heat affecting the locks as we've also had 2 break-downs on the Canal de la Marne as well. It certainly can't be over use as there are still very few boats about and all of the moorings are empty.

There was a strange looking animal with a huge head beside one of the locks yesterday and we couldn't quite make out what it was until I zoomed in with the camera.  It was a red squirrel carrying it's baby in its mouth.

We're now on the river Marne and spent a night at the moorings of the Societรฉ Nautique in Epernay.  It's the first time we've had to pay to moor for a long time and at 30 euros for one night it seemed really expensive, but we were made very welcome by the capitain Bernard and his wife and given a glass of champagne each as well as a free pass to visit the local champagne house which was right behind the mooring.

Our next stop was the village of Cumieres and once again the mooring was empty.

Cumieres has several champagne houses in the village but the most famous champagnes are grown around the village of Hautvilliers which was 3km away by bike, 120m uphill.......not a ride I'd like to repeat as the roads were very narrow and busy with vans and tractors.

It was worth it for the spectacular views across the vineyards

If the quantity of grapes is anything to go on,it may be a bumper year as every vine was as heavily laden as this

At Cumieres there are some amazing riverside metal statues epicting every stage in the manufacture of Champagne.

I never realised that there were SO many different Champagne houses. There are over 30 in Cumieres alone.  Just a shame I really don't like Champagne, although I bet our bank manager woud think it's a good thing as some of these wines start at 10 euros for a bog standard wine and rise sky high for a vintage one.

Bye for now, come back soon X

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Granny Time

Hi, welcome back

We had a fantastic time when our daughter and the grandchildren came to stay last week.  We'd managed to squeeze onto the pontoon at Sainte Valerie sur Somme despite the "lurkers" who had already been there for more than a week - the limit is supposed to be 3 days.

We took the steam train to the town of Le Crotoy across the bay

It's a pretty seaside town with rows of old fashioned beach huts

Although the sand looked white it was only on the surface. Below the top inch it was very black and unsuitable for making sand castles, so we made do with a paddle 

We stayed 4 days at Sainte Valerie as on the evening of the fourth day the local waterways manager came round and issued us with an overstay warning letter and told us we HAD to leave.  He also evicted a French cruiser who had been there for 10 days but didn't do anything about the Dutch barge that had been there for a fortnight. The Frenchman was very upset and was going to complain to his local MP!

So next day we cruised back to Abbeville giving the children chance to drive the boat and when we arrived the moorings were empty. Roger and our daughter cycled back 15km to collect her car. She hadn't been on a bike for 20 odd years and was dreading it, but she hadn't realised that our new bikes were electric and managed it easily.

Abbeville actually turned out to be a better base for the rest of their week. One day we drove out to the Chateau de Rambures which was built in the middle ages and is one of the first castles in Europe to be constructed almost entirely in bricks.

While Roger and I really enjoyed the guided tour inside the chateau the children would have been bored so they stayed outside playing with the medieval games that were on display. They tried their hand at archery, thankfully with rubber ends on the arrows ๐Ÿ˜€ and then lateer tried to play giant chess with Grandad

The rose gardens at the chateau were fabulous and the kids collected a bagful of fallen petals to make rose perfume back at the boat. It doesn't take much to keep little ones occupied ๐Ÿ˜€

While they were with us it was a "blood moon"

All too soon the week was over and they had to go home ๐Ÿ˜ญ The boat is very quiet without them, thank heavens for video chat.

Chico celebrated his 13th birthday in his usual way - being pampered and sleeping in the shade. He's been suffering a bit with the heat and has been off his food but for an old dog he's still in pretty good shape.

We're now starting our journey back towards Roanne and are keeping a close watch on water levels as there hasn't been any significant rain here for weeks. There are also a couple of locks out of order on our route which we're hoping will be fixed by the time we get to them.

That's all for now, see you again soon X

Sunday, 22 July 2018


Hi, nice to see you again.  The internet signal has been very poor again for the past couple of weeks so this catch-up blog about Amiens is a bit out of date I'm afraid.

Our friend David came over from UK for a visit and arrived by train to join us in Amiens. He stayed for a week and we had a really good time sightseeing, eating and drinking. David also brought my new camera as "old faithful" died from overwork, so please indulge me while I get used to it.

One of the main sights to see in Amiens is the Cathedral. We took a wrong turn and arrived at the rear of the building. The architecture isn't quite as ornate as the front facade but we'd have missed the poppies otherwise

The new camera has an amazing zoom........

There were poppies all over the lawn and also bleeding from a window, a bit like the ones that had been at the Tower of London a couple of years ago.

but where the Engish ones were made from metal, these were made from recycled plastic bottles, painted blood red.

The front facade is very ornate with carved saints and angels, although on a much less grand scale than Reims cathedral that we visited last year.

Inside it was very differennt to Reims

There were far fewer statues, instead there were many of these painted, carved wooden friezes

some of which were quite gory

This was my favourite statue. It's the Crying Angel and was originally carved in 1635, although this is now a plaster replica. It became famous during the 1st World War as it was featured on postcards sent by the Allied soldiers back to their families

David was staying with us for a week so after Amiens we cruised down to Abbeville and then Sainte Valerie sur Somme, which is the closest we can get to the seaside.  The weather was glorious and even though there was no room on the pontoon at Sainte Valerie we were made welcome by the French owner of a static converted peniche who gladly let us moor alongside. We only had time to stay for one night as David needed to be back in Abbeville to catch his train back to UK but we'll be back again next week as Sainte Valerie is a beautiful town and our grandchildren are coming to stay for a while. When we got back to Abbeville there was no available mooring so we breasted up with the 38m travelling theatre peniche Le Lapin Vert. We'd seen them several times over the previous couple of weeks, unfortunately usually taking up all the premium mooring places but that hadn't bothered us too much as we've got quite used to mooring in the wild. They were a really friendly bunch and told us (them in perfect English and us in pigeon French) that they were really struggling along the Somme as it's very twisty and narrow in places and quite often they were dragging along the bottom and travelling at only between 2 and 3 km per hour. The eclusiers had to alter the water levels in pounds to get them under bridges and raise the level in others to get them off the bottom. Next morning we awoke to very low water levels as the eclusiers had again needed to lower the level to let them go through the next lock and low bridge to turn round before heaing back the way they'd come.

Moorings in Abbeville and Sainte Valerie are supposed to be limited to 3 days, although we know that boats have been moored in both towns for much longer, so once David left us we headed back up river and spent the weekend in the middle of nowhere before returning to Abbeville this afternoon to stock up ready for the grandkids arriving on Tuesday.

If I don't blog for a while it's because it's "Granny Time" ๐Ÿ˜€ See you soon X

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Bougival to the Somme

Bojour, welcome back

After the exitement of passing through Paris we spent the weekend in Bougival. Just after we moored up a very loud PA system started playing music and when we went to investigate where it was coming from we found that there was a park 200m away and they were setting up the stage and a proper sprung dance floor for a disco that evening. They were also building a bonfire and setting up for a firework display.

We sat on the back of the boat and listened to the music all afternoon going back as it started to go dark, just in time to watch them light the chucking  jar of something flammable over it and giving the mayor a lighted stick to set it off with a blaze

We joined the locals on the dance floor for an hour or so and then watched a fantastic fireworks display that went on and on, lasting well over half an hour!

It was a great evening and totally free. There were lots of people there of all ages and ethnicities. All the kids were kept under control and although many families were having picnics there was no litter anywhere and no drunks either.

I've been very impressed with how clean the canals and rivers are over here. On the Seine they have these floating compounds every 10km or so

They collect any floating rubbish and plastic bottles. Such a simple idea, but very effective.

One day we were passed by a commercial barge towing this submarine on a barge.  It used to be a floating exhibit to show the public the inside of a submarine but is now up for sale for conversion into a house boat

We don't eat many pastries or desserts but occasionally temptation wins. I LOVE the way the patisserie wraps them up to look like a gift.

Mini tarte tatin........delicious with a drizzle of cream ๐Ÿ˜

On a slightly healthier note, I'm growing tomatoes this year. They're tiny but full of flavour

Funny how there's always one mutant one though

We left the Seine and had an uneventful trip on the Canal de la l'Oise and the Canal du Nord and we've now turned off the commercial canals onto the beautiful Canal de la Somme.  It's very weedy in places but the water is crystal clear and there are so many fish it's like havig your own personal aquarium outside the boat

There may be a lot of weed but the weed cutter boats have it all under control and the lock keeper told me that there was much less further up the canal.

That's all for now. We've moored at Corbie for the weekend so Roger can watch the British Grand Prix and we're having a visitor next week so I'll see you again soon.