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

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Chateau du Fontainebleu

Welcome back.  It's taken me a week to find a powerful enough internet signal to upload my photos from Fontainbleu. I hope you enjoy them.

In the past we've had a quite few short breaks to Paris but we never had time to take the train out to the Chateau du Fontainebleu.   Our mooring at Moret-sur-Loing was only 20 minutes away by bus so it was the perfect opportunity to pay a visit and tick it off my bucket list.

The buses only run every 2 hours on a Saturday and unfortunately for us it arrived a couple of minutes early and we just missed it.  After a quick Google we decided to try the train and set off to walk to the nearest station 2kms away. We had to ask directions to the station and luckily the lady I asked was going to Paris on the same train that we needed and also luckily for us the train was 17 minutes late so we didn't have too long to wait.  We got chatting on the train and she suggested that we'd need to get a bus from the station to the chateau but we couldn't find the bus stop. We spotted a walking route signposted towards the chateau 2kms away so started walking. I thought it was too good to be true and the signs quickly disappeared.  Time to practice the French again and I collared a delivery driver who gave us directions. By this time it was almost 1 o'clock and 28'C . Fontainebleu town has some lovely shops which we passed on our route. It would be worth coming back just to have a wander round them another time.

We eventually made it to the chateau main entrance.......WOW

It was certainly as impressive as I'd imagined, but first things first.....We needed somewhere shady to eat our picnic.

The gardens of the Grand Partere are just fantastic. It's the largest French-style formal garden in Europe and is imaculate.  All the pyramid shaped trees are trimmed to the same height and diameter and there wasn't a weed to be found in any of the flower beds.

This is the view of the "canal" which stretches 1200m away into the park

There were many unusual statues dotted about. This was one of a pair, her partner wasn't in quite as good condition.

On the other side of the chateau was the Diana garden, complete with her bronze statue and fountain. I think my grandchildren would like this statue - checkout the dogs 😀  It was a very tranquil, lush garden and would have made a much better spot for our picnic.

You can see the scale of the chateau and gardens in this painting I found during our tour inside.

Restoration of the Chateau is being carried out by the state but the front staircases are still in dire need of renovation and there is a collection box for donations to help.

It must be my past life in the construction industry still lurking in the background, I thought these roof access steps built into the tiling were brilliant

After the gardens we decided to go indoors. Most of the tour buses had left and it was fairly quiet. It's 12 euros to go inside and worth every centime!

This is the Chapelle de la Trinite, loking towards the alter.

Royalty worshipped from their own private balcony at the back of the chapel, Lords and Ladies had balconies along the sides and the more lowly artistocracy were on the ground floor

This is Napoleon's bedroom

He was a little man with a big attitude. You can tell how short he was from his short bed

and his short bath

He had big gold taps though...... bling was all the fashion back in the day

Every room had fantastically ornate ceilings and chandaliers

The Ballroom was simply stunning

Just look at the detail and the amount of gold paint used here

The corridors are just as amazing, filled with murals and statues

I'm not sure I could sleep in a room as fussy as this. It's the bedchamber of Anne of Austria and must have been a nightmare for the servants to keep clean....imagine all that dust!

It's a fantastic place and we had a great day out, despite all the walking and the hassle actually getting there. We found the bus stop that we would have been dropped off at if we'd managed to get the bus in the morning and had a beer in a bar while we waaited for the next one back.  It was only 2 euros each and apart from one other passenger we were the only ones on it, definitely not a profit making route!

Bye for now, see you soon

Monday, 18 June 2018

A long weekend at Moret-sur-Loing and Saint Mammès

Bonjour, nice to see you here again.

We arrived at Moret-sur-Loing last Wednesday and moored just above the last lock which drops you down onto the rivers. There were two reasons why we decided to stop there, the first being that it was half the price of the river moorings as it had no facilities and the second and more important being that all the recent storms had brought flood waters down the river Loing and the current below the lock where the canal and river met was quite strong. The lovely Capitaine came to collect her mooring fees and recommended that we wait a couple of days for the levels and current to drop back down to normal and then when we found out that there was to be a free rock concert on in the next town we decided to extend our stay till after the weekend.

Moret-sur-Loing is a very pretty little town that grew up around the river which was used to power the mills that were used in the leather processing industry. The town was famous for producing very soft chamois type leathers used for making gloves.

Later on, it also became famous for making barley sugar and for 2 euros you can go in the museum on the island.

Notre-Dame de la Nativité is a very beautiful Catholic church dating back to the 15th century. It's been extensively cleaned and restored outside but the interior is very different.

Despite the glorious stained glass windows, the interior is quite basic

This is the right side wall of the choristry

and this is the left. In 1697 the 15th century bell tower was about to collapse so instead of rebuilding it to match the opposite side they just bricked it up and left it. The church has another interesting bit of history in that it was used as a gunpowder factory during the French Revolution and an explosion blew part of the roof off.

Enough history......

On Saturday and Sunday there was a free rock concert held on the quay-side at Saint Mammès, the riverside town at the confluence of the Loing and the Seine.

It's been a long time since we've been to a music (or beer) festival and this one was excellent.

In typical French style the catering wasn't done by a smelly burger van but by the local traiteur who mass produced meatballs and dauphinoise potatoes for 5 euros a portion. If you wanted something a little more down-market you could get a sausage baguette and frites, but even these were "artisanal" sausages. You've just got to love the French.....if it's food then standards must be maintained 😀

Apart from the concert there were the usual stalls selling jewellery, CD's etc.....

AND a traditional cut-throat barber!    It could only happen in France 😍

Before we went to the concert on Saturday evening we spent the day at the Chateau of Fontainbleu but I'll need to post a separate blog about that as I have so many amazing photos to share with you.  See you soon X

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Sancerre to Souppes-sur-Loing

Bonjour et bienvenue 😀

We seemed to keep leap-frogging the hotel boat Horizon 2 for the next few days and every time we passed it was like meeting old friends. The American passengers were particularly friendly and said what a good time they were having, although one of the men did tell Roger that if he had to go and see another "bloody chateau" he'd scream!

The last time we met them was at Rogny-les-Sept Ecluses. A now disused staircase of 7 locks that reminded me of Foxton Locks back in the UK

Our next major stop was at Chatillon-Coligny where we spent the weekend while we celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. We don't normally go out for evening meals but as it was a special occasion we booked and went to Le Coligny for their gourmet special.

5 courses each with matched wines and including a champagne cocktail, champagne with dessert and coffee was only 65 euros each. I really don't know how they manage it as back in UK it would have been at least twice the price. Roger was very happy as every time he emptied his glass they came back with re-fills. Needless to say we waddled home 😄

The next day we used the bikes to do 2 trips to the supermarket to re-stock the cupboards and freezer and then in the afternoon we visited the local car museum. Bizarrely the main exhibit was a whole room full of British cars.

Internet reception has continued to be very poor (Free mobile) but seems to be improving again as we get further North. The weather is HOT and we've had several storms. Last night's was really spectacular with simultaneous thunder and lightning and an absolute deluge that flooded the Camping Car park beside our mooring.  It's still 29'C at 6pm and it's so heavy I'm pretty sure we'll have another storm later.  The storms don't bother us and luckily now that Chico is going deaf they don't seem to bother him either. The only "downside" is that the torrential rain blocks the satellite TV signal and it's Grand Prix weekend again. 

That's all for now, see you soon 😀

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Ménetréol-sous-Sancerre and Sancerre

Hello again,

After Beffes our next decent mooring was at Ménetréol-sous-Sancerre. Free mooring but quite expensive for water and electric so it was a good job that we didn't need either 😀

It's a medieval village with lots of decrepit buildings, some of which are being renovated like this one but you'd need a bottomless wallet to take on something like this surely?

There's a signposted walk around the village with information boards at all the places of interest like this old tobacco drying shed. Tobacco was grown from 1945 to supplement the income of the vine growers after the war. The shed was built in a sunny but windy spot so that the tobacco could be hung on racks inside and dried by the warm breeze coming in through the slats. They stopped growing it in 1985 but the shed has been kept in good condition .

We had another superb lunch at the Hotel Florione which is just beside the mooring. 4 course set menu with no choice but possibly the best steak we've had so far, and including a litre bottle of red wine which was plonked on the table, all for the bargain price of 13.80 euros

Next day the lock keepers were on strike so the canal was closed. We got the bikes out and rode up the hill to Sancerre.

Roger had googled the cycle route to Sancerre but it had shown him the mountain bike route through the vineyards!  It was too difficult for us and we ended up pushing the bikes

It was hard work but gave us some spectacular views and let us get close up the the vines

We eventually found our way up the the town at the top of the hill, recovered our breath and took shelter in the Hotel de Rampart where we enjoyed another great menu du jour. We were eating on the terrace and could hear the rumble of thunder getting closer and closer. Half way through our meal we had to up sticks and carry our food indoors as the heavens opened and the storm broke overhead. By the time we'd had coffee it had passed and we free-wheeled all the way back down to the moorings. Another very pleasant day to add to the memories 😀

After the strike there was a back-log of hire boats so we had our first ever queues at the locks. We pulled into the first decent mooring which was at  Léré and I caught up with the laundry.

Every day the temperature rose another degree and by Friday it was up to 30'C 😎. We stopped at Bellville-sur-Loire for the weekend and Roger watched the Grand Prix. In between programmes we got the bikes out and went exploring.

One of the lock-keepers was a stone carver and was selling these little statues

One of the most famous places on the French canal system is the town of Briare, also known as "Little Britain". People rave about it and it's a very popular place to moor for the winter.  We found it to be very expensive and totally underwhelming when we cycled in for a look around. The only remarkable thing was the Pont Canal, aqueduct, which is having  major face-lift at the moment.

We decided to stay on a rough mooring just outside the town and had a flock? herd? of gorgeous Alpacas in the field beside us. The baby was so cute!

We arrived at the first lock after Briare at 11.00 but there were no lights on and we thought that it was possibly another strike. I phoned the control office and was told that it was a power cut. A car had crashed into a local substation and all power had gone off in the neighbourhood. They anticipated that it wouldn't be repaired until that evening so we roped up to the fence and settled in as best we could.  At 12 o'clock the huge hotel boat Horizon 2 arrived. They hadn't been notified of the stoppage so we moved out of the way to let them moor up and we fastened alongside them.

Because they cruise to a schedule the captain decided he couldn't wait and phoned the boss of the whole canal who sent a team of men out to manually work the lock to let them continue on their way. They managed to get into and up the lock but the top gates wouldn't open and they were stuck there for almost 2 hours while the VNF men worked out how to by-pass the electrically controlled hydraulic gate rams. Us being mere pleasure boaters, we had to wait until the power was restored but that suited us just fine. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful spot and I got talking to  couple of old guys who were fishing in the stream just across the towpath from us. They really wanted to chat, but unfortunately for me the chattiest one was over 80, continuously puffing on a fat cigar and dressed only in a pair of black "budgie smugglers" and as his "budgies" were just at my eye level that rather put me off practicing my French 😞 The electrics were finally repaired at about 9pm and we continued on our travels as soon as the lock re-opened the next morning.

Time for another coffee.......back soon X

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Three weeks is a long time without decent internet!

Hi, nice to see you here again.

As you will have gathered by now we travel slowly, cruising only a couple of hours a day and stopping off at every nice place we find. Well that's great BUT when you cruise into a bad area for phone and internet signals it means that you're out of contact for a while. It's been like that for the past 3 weeks so I've now got plenty to catch up with.

We found a pretty little mooring in the village of Beffes that wasn't shown in any of our guides. The mooring was free (water and electric extra) and there was a little grocers in the village. Buying the e-bikes was the best thing we've done as they've opened up the French countryside for us. We got them out and rode to the fabulous medieval town of Charité-sur-Loire which was just over 12km away. It was an easy ride due to the brilliant velo route.

The velo routes tend to follow either the canal or the river which means you get to see views like this that you wouldn't get if you went by car or bus.

The river Loire was still running very fast and canoe trips were cancelled until it had subsided a bit.

The town was full of narrow, steep cobbled streets. The steeple on this building was gleeming in the sun

but was a bit wonky

Swallows (or Swifts, I can never remember the difference) were nesting in every available spot

and were continually darting in and out carrying food for their chicks

The town was built on a hill and, thanks to the turbo charged e-bikes, we easily managed to get to the top for the magnificent views of the anciant cathedral

and the panoramic view back down to the river

It was a hot and sunny day and temptation won out on the way back. The beer at the lock-side bar was wonderful 😀

Part 2 of the catch up coming later (I need a coffee)  See you soon 😀