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

Saturday 17 August 2019

Auxerre to Chatillon-en-Bazois

Hello again,

It's been a while since my last blog. I have two excuses, one it's been too hot and two the internet signal has been too weak to upload photos.

It was another heatwave while we were in Auxerre  with temperatures reaching 43'C. The day before we left there was a huge fire just across the river.  The smoke was very thick and black and by going on the local town news feed I found out very quickly that it was at the local scrap yard. 400 cars waiting to be "de-polluted" had set on fire. The fire brigade had it under control within around 2 hours but the smoke was full of oily soot that settled on the boats. It took Roger a whole day to wash it off

After Auxerre our next notable mooring was at Saussois beside the cliffs.

where we watched the climbers and absailors.

The next reasonable sized town was Clamecy where we stayed for 3 nights. It's very popular with hire boats who arrive en-mass from 4pm onwards. During the day it's very peaceful and has a really good restaurant the Hostellerie de la Poste. It's also a good town to re-stock the cupboards and freezer as the big Leclerc supermarket is a short bike ride away.

To reach the summit of the canal du Nivernais we needed to travel up the Sardy flight of 16 locks.  It's one of the most beautiful sections of canal I've seen for a while

and there's still plenty of water here with the bywashes running freely

There's plenty to see while you're going up the flight with a bohemian style cafe playing heavy metal music

and a local sculptor exhibiting his works along the towpath

The locks are painted different colours too: red, blue, yellow, purple, green, pink

and the bollards are very decorative 😀

The 16 locks are then followed by a trip through 3 tunnels

and very narrow overgrown cuttings that are one-way and travelled in convoy with small electric trip boats

And the mooring at the end of the day made it all worthwhile.  This is the Etang de Baye, a beautiful reservoir that is still almost full and where we stayed for a couple of days.  We watched the sailing dinghies and did a lot of exploring on the bikes and generally chilled out.

The sunsets were spectacular 😀

The only draw-back to the canal du Nivernais is that there aren't many shops and we were running out of food (and beer) again so had to carry on to the next town of Chatillon-en-Bazois which is where we are at the moment.

We're moored right below the chateau and are staying for a few days.

The water in front of the chateau is the remains of it's moat and this morning I saw a shoal of baby catfish in it.  They were about an inch long and there must have been 200 of them!

Last night a festival was held beside the lock.  There was a bar, set meal of sausage and fries and entertainment from 2 bands

A marching band playing foot tapping rousing tunes

and a trio playing mostly English songs.  Both were really good and we had very pleasant evening out.

We're really enjoying this canal and, as cruising options are very limited this year due to the drought and canal closures, we've decided to turn round and go back to a few of our favourite moorings.  Obviously internet reception will be poor again but I'll write another blog again soon.

Take care, bye for now X

Friday 26 July 2019

Plans changed again!

Bonjour et bienvenue,

Welcome to a VERY hot France. We are currently having the second heatwave of the year, with temperatures reaching 43'C here in Auxerre yesterday afternoon and not dropping below 26'C last night....phew......

Chico's keeping cool by wearing a wet bandana and tea towel and sleeping on wet towels, not the most fashionable of attire but he seems very comfortable in it and doesn't try to shake it off 😂

We had originally planned to go up the river Yonne as far as the Seine, turn round and come back to the canal du Nivernais in a couple of weeks but the morning we arrived at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne the botton lock gates failed, shutting the river until next year.  The gates were already scheduled for repairs/replacement during the winter maintenance but they just couldn't last that long. The lock-keeper was distraught and almost in tears.  Unfortunately the river Yonne is one of the most important routes into Belgium and the closure has forced many boaters to have to try and find alternative winter moorings simply because they can't get where they wanted.  If we'd been there the day before we'd have been in that situation too, luckily all it's meant is that we move onto the canal du Niverais a couple of weeks earlier than we'd intended.

We spent a few days in Joigny moored opposite this 2* Michelin hotel/restaurant but were never tempted to visit, 168 euros for a set lunch is just a little bit out of our pocket. Instead we went to the restaurant owned by the 2* chef's sister and had a fantastic meal for 31 euros each

After the peace and quiet and lack of boats on the canal de Bourgogne the river Yonne has been quite busy, although the lock-keepers reckon it's nowhere near as busy as previous years and the man running the Le Boat hire base at Migennes told us their bookings are well down.

After Joigny we stayed a couple of nights at Gurgy. The moorings are excellent and free, although you do pay if you need water or electric. It's also a very popular camping car stop and the enterprising locals have set up "degustation" cabins - free tasting of local wine, cheeses, cakes and sausage.  They were doing a roaring trade ad we bought a few bottles of wine.

The grapes are coming on well, despite the late frosts and now the heatwave and lack of rain so fingers -crossed for  good harvest this year.

This was the first view we had as we arrived in Auxerre.  It really is a beautiful town, with many very old multi-coloured timbered buildings.

We haven't stopped in the main port as there is absolutely no shade. Instead we've gone up the first lock onto the Nivernais and are moored opposite the weir where we are entertained every afternoon by the young locals swimming. There is an excellent swimming pool complex about 500m away but I suppose they prefer the river as it's free. I'll stick to soaking my feet in a bowl and feeding the fishes and ducks.

That's all for now. Stay cool and drink lots of water wherever you are and see you again soon X

Sunday 14 July 2019

Montbard to Brienon -sur-Arnacon

Hello again

After the heatwave when we were in Montbard the temperatures have been much more bearable, with highs not exceeding 32'C and most days having reasonably strong breezes to make it quite pleasant.

The scenery along this stretch of canal is very different to what we've seen up to now. The wooded hill sides have been replaced by huge open fields of maize, wheat and sunflowers

The harvest is in full swing and tiny bits of chaff cover the solar panels and the surface of the canal every day. We haven't travelled very far, preferring to stay in some places for a couple of days and going off exploring on the bikes.

We stopped at Ancy-le-Franc and visited the chateau

A couple of days later we arrived in Tanlay to find out that there was a firework display due at 10.30pm that night. It was a lovely evening so we sat out and waited, and waited and waited. And it true French fashion it started late at 11.30pm. It was worth waiting for, although Chico wasn't too impressed. His hearing seems to have come back a bit since he had his back teeth out which is a bit weird. He can't hear much but the loud bangs did get his attention.

The next morning we moved on to the next town which was Tonnerre as we'd seen a poster advertising an "apero concert and fireworks" to be held at the capitainerie. The port itself was very weedy and for the first time ever the weed made manoeuvring the boat difficult and we struggled to get alongside the quay. We got talking to people from other boats who had raw water cooled engines who were having big problems with the weed clogging up their pipes. After we'd moored up the water cleared and there were hundreds of fish swimming in the weed. We both spent a happy hour feeding the catfish bits of bread. It was like having our own personal aquarium 😀

The concert was advertised as starting at 5.30 and at 3pm half a dozen vans suddenly arrived and set up tables and chairs, refreshment tents and a small performance area. It was all up and running within 2 hours, everyone being well organised and having obviously done it before....very "un-French" 😉  We enjoyed a very pleasant evening and the fireworks started on time and were spectacular as always. One thing I have to say about the French.....they put on some excellent displays.

The weed continued to be a problem and a couple of locks were full of the stuff.

One night we stopped on a new stone quay just outside the village of Flagny la Chapelle. The village itself was nothing to write home about but we did manage to find a small grocery store and a decent bakery. When we got back from our bike ride we realised that there was a dog kennels just across the canal from the mooring. As it got darker the dogs barks got louder and louder and then turned to howls. It continued all night and I didn't get much sleep.  It sounded like werewolves howling at the moon!

The next mooring was in St Florentin, opposite the port de plaisance.  We didn't expect to have to pay as we needed neither water nor electric, but the capitain came round to collect 11 euros from us. Most places only charge for the services if you use them but as we had to pay whether we used them or not I made the most of it and did several loads of washing.  When we arrived here in Brienon we checked out the cost of the moorings but as they wanted 25 euros a night from us we decided to wild moor instead. We're on the opposite side of the canal but that only means another couple of hundred yards to walk to the village and has saved us 75 euros as we've stayed 3 nights.  On Friday we went out for lunch but it was the worst meal we have ever had anywhere (and we both had different dishes)!  If my french had been a bit better I'd have complained bitterly. So if you're ever coming to Brienon-sur-Arnacon don't eat at the Auberge de la Poterne. We've since found out that it's recently changed proprietor so maybe that explains it.

So now it's 14th July "la Fete Nationale" formerly known as Bastille Day and they're setting up another fireworks display just along the canal from our mooring and opposite the hire boat base. All the hire boats that haven't been rented out have been moved out of harms way just in case a firework goes astray in the wind. Hopefully this will be yet another spectacular display and tonight I'll be playing loud music indoors for Chico while we sit out on the back deck watching.

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

Tuesday 2 July 2019

The Beautiful Bourgogne

Hi, welcome back.

We've been very busy recently, hence the three week break since my last blog.  We're still on the canal de Bourgogne and have come to the conclusion that it's our favourite canal so far.  The scenery is simply stunning and the lock keepers are the most friendly and helpful we've ever met!

Even the lock-side bollards greet you with a smile 😂😂

One Sunday morning we had a team of 4 lockies helping us as we had 18 locks to do before lunch. One of them was really friendly and was quite happy to let me practice my french chit chat on him.  After a few locks he presented me with a bunch of the sweetest smelling roses I've ever had. Oh and for the record, he was fat, forty and not in the least bit attractive but I'll accept flowers from anyone. 

The next morning he brought us pastries

and later on picked us some cherries from a tree beside one of the locks. These were delivered in a kangaroos pouch he made from his very sweaty t-shirt but I'd have rinsed them even if I'd bought them, so no worries.  I reciprocated by feeding the team homemade muffins, which they looked at as if I'd poisoned them because all Frenchmen know that the English can't cook, but they really enjoyed them, ice lollies and cold beer were handed over at the last lock of the day.

We were on a mission to meet our daughter and grandkids at Pouilly-en-Auxois but stopped off at Pont d'Ouche for lunch one day as the bistro was highly recommended by DBA. I wish we hadn't bothered! The food was over-priced and not very nice and the wine was SO expensive that we just drank water. There is no way on this earth that I'm paying 9 euros for  glass of wine when that's what we normally pay for a 50cl carafe! They obviously focus on the American market which is reflected in the quality and prices. There was a table of 6 Americans from a hotel peniche besides us who the owners absolutely fawned over, taking advantage of their inability to speak or understand french and selling them really over-priced bottles of wine. Shameless! The next day we stopped in Vandenesse and went to another little restaurant for a fixed priced "menu du jour" and had a wonderful meal including wine and coffee for less than half the price at Pont 'Ouche. 

As we were approaching Vandenesse we had the most spectacular views of a castle that looked straight out of Disney. Chateauneuf-en-Auxois. We returned a week later by car with the grandkids and had a fabulous day out. My 7 year old granddaughter really believed me when I said that the turreted tower was where Rapunzel had lived 😂😂

To get to Pouilly-en-Auxois to meet the grandkids we had to pass through Pouilly tunnel which is narrow and has to be booked in advance. The lock keepers check your life jackets and tunnel lights and issue you with a permit and a walkie-talkie radio (although in french its a talkie-walkie) Neither of us were looking forward to this tunnel as we're both a bit claustrophobic, but careful preparation, i.e. lowering the bimini, satellite and the mast and putting extra lights on the roof helped a lot and we got through in an hour without ever touching the sides.

We spent a wonderful week at Pouilly with the kids. My 5 year old grandson found it really funny when he found out that Pouilly is pronounce "poo ye" but hey that's what muses little boys! 

It was quite warm when they were here so we bought a paddling pool which kept everyone happy until Granny overheated and kicked them all out so I could cool off and soak my feet. Bad Granny ! 😂

Once the kids left us we carried on, now going down the locks instead of up. The countryside is still stunning although there aren't as many good places to moor.

We stayed at Montbard for a week as the "canicule" (heatwave) hit us BIG style. 40'C during the day and 26'C at night was horrible. We had to become inventive to get any respite and I hooked a duvet cover onto the new bimini to give us some well needed shade.   Chico slept on wet towels and only really had a problem one night when Roger had to take him out at 02.30 to cool down as it was 33' in the boat

The only other down-side to the heatwave has been the sudden increase in flying beasties. I'm like a mozzie buffet and everything bites me with painful results 👹😭 This is one of many!

Anyway, today has been a much more pleasant temperature of 28' with a breeze and we are sat out on the top deck enjoying a glass of wine. The cover is for the bugs which are in abundance but the mozzie spiral and citronella candles are lit so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for no more bites tonight.

Just outside the kitchen window are wild strawberries which I'll pick in the morning. They are incredibly sweet but you need at least 6 to make one normal size strawberry.

That's all for now. Take care and I'll see you here again very soon XXX

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Hotel boats are like buses, none for days and then 4 at once

Hi, nice to see you again,

We're still heading up the canal de Bourgogne. The first few kilometers out of Dijon were extremely weedy and it made us appreciate the fact that our boat is NOT water cooled. A couple of boaters we spoke to in Dijon had had big problems with the weed clogging up their raw water cooling intakes.

Once you get past Plombieres-les-Dijon the weed disappears and the countryside becomes almost alpine. The canal is tree-lined and there are poppies everywhere.

The weather forecast said we were due for torrential rain and thunderstorms, so we decided to wait it out in the new Halte Nautique at La Bussiere sur Ouche. We didn't see another moving boat for two days and then 4 hotel boats arrived!  We moved up to let 2 moor up but the third had to moor in the rough below the lock and the fourth had to keep moving to the next mooring.  And in typical fashion, the storm totally bypassed us and the rain was minimal.

Not a very good photo I'm afraid, but you can just make out the 2 huge hotel boats tucked in behind us.  The skipper of one of them was very appreciative that we'd moved up for them and gave us a very nice bottle of wine as a thank you.

My flower tubs are starting to revive after the decimation of the frosts and I have my first flower

Don't you just love organic veggies? I bought these on the market in Dijon port just before we is carrot shaped 😂😂 and would have been rejected by the supermarket.

We're continuing again tomorrow having just negotiated with one of the hotel boats to let us leave first in the morning. We don't want to get stuck behind them as they travel really slowly.

That's all for now, see you back here again soon I hope

Tuesday 4 June 2019


Hi welcome back,

We've been here in Dijon for a week now. It's a beautiful city with good moorings BUT there's no water or electric here. There are bornes all along the quay but they don't work and the lock-keepers don't know if they will ever work again. They used to be operated by jetons (tokens) but no-one wants to sell them and it's too expensive to install a vending machine.  It's a good job we're fully solar powered so we haven't had to run the generator at all, but we're down to the last dregs of the water tank and will need to find a working tap soon.

The town itself is very picturesque, full of old half timbered buildings and narrow shopping streets

and of course Dijon is famous for it's mustard, although when I had beef for lunch in a restaurant I had to ask for mustard and the waiter had to go and find some!

There are lots of open areas as well as the shops, with a couple of really  nice peaceful parks which were popular lunchtime picnic places for the locals.

The 13th century catholic church of Notre Dame wasn't particularly impressive compared to others we've visited, but it does have some unusual "dummy" gargoyles on the western facade. Dummies because they are just statues rather than water spouts and unusual because they depict animals as well as humans and monsters. I've never seen a sheep gargoyle before (centre below)

I think this was my favourite, grotesque but also quite cute 😇

The weather's finally warmed up and we've managed to get out and about on the bikes spending a very pleasant afternoon cycling round the nearby lake "lac du kir". The French take their leisure time very seriously and the cycle paths are really well maintained. A sandy beach had just been installed for the summer season and was already being well used by sunbathers. The beach volley ball courts were also full but Roger was a bit disappointed that the teams were fit young men 😉😜  There were also several well used fitness equipment areas plus the essential bar/cafe. The perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon

We cycled back along the towpath and met this character beside one of the locks. 

We also met one of the big hotel boats that cruise in this area. How about having a swimming pool on your front deck?

On Saturday and Sunday it was the local festival hosted by the friends of the port. Live music, children's fairground rides and all kinds of displays put on by local dance groups made for a good couple of days, with the highlight being a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday night. 

We've really enjoyed our time here, it's almost felt like being on holiday. To top it all off, it was our 40th wedding anniversary on Sunday.


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