Bluey

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

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Reims to Rolompont

Hi, nice to see you again. Doesn't time pass quickly when you're having fun? I didn't realise it was 2 weeks since my last blog!

We're now on the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne and the locks are once again operated by a telecommande. We had a bit of a problem  at one particular lock which was out of sight round a couple of sharp bends.


We'd pressed the zapper and got a red and green traffic light which meant the lock knew we were waiting and was being prepared for us. We knew there was a commercial barge coming down the lock as we'd seen its signal on the radio screen and after a while it appeared round the bend. We should have then been clear to go up the lock as soon as the boat was out of the way. Strange things started to happen with the lock lights though; first the lights went out, then we had 2 red lights which meant the lock was out of order, then red and green, then nothing again!  As there was no place for us to moor up below the lock I had to get off and go and see what was going on. Another commercial barge was in the lock! Somehow they'd bypassed the controls and refilled the lock without waiting for us to come up. They finally descended and  went on their way leaving the lock out of order. A quick phone call to the VNF control centre had them remotely reactivating the lock and almost an hour and a half later we finally made it up.

By this time it was lunchtime so we moored up at the first village we came to. The moorings at Chamouilley were really well cared for and would be ideal for a weekend, or longer, stay.


It's a pretty village with a restored communal wash-house.


We've seen several of these in the villages we've stopped at, but this was the best we've seen. I'm really glad we've got a washing machine. I couldn't picture myself doing the laundry here, too much like hard work!


We also found a little hotel, the  Auberge du Cheval Blanche, with a great value "menu du jour". There was no choice except for how you'd like your steak cooking, and was absolutely delicious. The place was packed with locals, workmen in overalls and businessmen in suits and at under 12 euros for 4 courses it's no wonder!


The weather's changed and I've had to dig out my waterproofs. It went from Summer to Autumn almost overnight and we're now wearing jumpers and putting the heating on in a morning.


The stretch of canal we're on at the moment has 17 locks that are operated by VNF personnel and we need to pre-book our passage the day before we want to travel. The staff have been amazing. Nothing is too much trouble for them and they have all been happy and smiling, even in the torrential downpours that we've had recently.


The last few locks were operated by a single man instead of a team and he let me help open the top gates. It was like being back in UK and I really enjoyed the exercise 😃


We've spent the weekend in the little town of Rolompont sitting out the heavy rains. There's not a lot in the town, just a bakery, pharmacy and a small and very expensive supermarket.

Oh, and a road-side shack housing an egg vending machine! On display inside the shack are the certificates from the local health board stating that the eggs are free-range and have been tested.



We've booked our little man to go up the last couple of manual locks tomorrow and then we'll be back to using the zapper for the final climb up to the summit. It'll be downhill all the way then, to the end of the canal at Maxilly-sur-Saone.

That's all for now, hope to see you again next time.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Reims

Hi, how are you?

We've stopped off for a few days in Reims (pronounced rance or ranz ) and what a beautiful city it is!  We've passed it many times in the past, hurtling down the motorway on our way south, but never thought to stop and visit.

If you don't need electric hook-up and can avoid the Port de Plaisance which is quite expensive (and has been practically empty the whole time we've been here) the moorings are good and free. The only down-side is the traffic noise from the main road alongside the canal but it's very quiet overnight so hasn't bothered us.

We've had a couple of excellent lunches out and there are many, many restaurants to choose from, catering to all tastes and bank accounts 😃

The fountains in the city centre are quite spectacular and as usual, photos just don't do them justice.



The highlight however, has been the Cathedrale de Notre Dame.  We're not "culture vultures" and are also very much agnostic, BUT we do like architecture and this cathedral has some of the most spectacular that we've ever seen.  I'd go so far as to say that we found it more impressive than either Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur in Paris!


There's a major restoration project underway at the moment and where work has already been done you can see how intricate the carvings and statues are. This is a statue of David and the display photograph shows it before and after restoration. Luckily it wasn't damaged by the fire that destroyed many of the original statues and only actually needed cleaning.





Even the lead gargoyles are pretty impressive


This is my favourite statue in the whole cathedral. She's  L'Ange au Sourire - the smiling angel and was carved between 1236-1245


I'd like to think that she was based on a real person, she has such a cheeky smile and looks to be telling the "saint" beside her to chill out and party 😀


As spectacular as the outside is, the inside is just WOW!



Unfortunately it was so sunny outside that photos of the stained glass windows didn't really show them to their full glory.  This is the main pulpit


and the marble alter


On the shadier side the windows were easier to photograph, once I could find a gap in the tourists that is. The cathedral is very popular and was very busy.

This is one of the newest stained glass windows, installed in 2011 and designed in colours to compliment the older, original windows.  It's not my cup of tea though, too modern for me.


There are two organs in the cathedral, a small one


and a much larger one


Surprisingly there is a type of cuckoo clock in one of the chapels. L'Horlogue du Chapitre was originally built in the 15th centuary and was installed here in the 17th centuary. It chimes it's carillion every hour and the angels above the clock face rotate as if on parade.


Every evening at 10pm the cathedral hosts a Son et Lumiere display. We haven't seen a Son et Lumiere before but it was well worth the 20 minute walk back into town.


The display commenced with atmospheric bag-pipe music and told the history of the cathedral with images projected onto the main facade.

Starting with the original church which was destroyed by fire in 1211


They showed how the designs were drawn


and then built


and then to finish, there were several scenes illuminated in multi colour


Spectacular!


We've had a couple of really intense storms over the past few days, very welcome for the water but a bit scary too. The first one woke me in the middle of the night as it was almost overhead. Even with blackout blinds in the bedroom and my eyes shut I still "saw" the lightening. It must have been very bright outside! During the day it's been HOT!  Yesterday 29'C and only slightly cooler today at 27'C and the forecast for the next few days is more of the same......phew 😅

Bye for now, see you soon I hope

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Bonjour, Ca va?

Last Sunday we encountered our first tunnel.  We'd heard horror stories about it and as we're both a bit claustrophobic we were dreading it.  Ruyaulcourt Tunnel is 4354m long and controlled by traffic lights. When we arrived they were on red and we had a 20 minute wait while this commercial barge came through.



The first 1600m are single file


and then there is 1100m two way section in the middle which is again controlled by traffic lights. We had a red light so moored up for 10 minutes while 2 cruisers came past.



Once we got a green light we did the last single file section and cruised out into the sunshine.  I don't know what we were worried about, it was no problem at all 😃


We moored for the night at Au Bois Henry in a lovely basin off the mainline canal. The weather was gorgeous and we sat our till late soaking up the rays and listening to the radio of a fisherman across the other side of the basin.


Just before we set off next morning, a little old man arrived on his scooter selling tomatoes from his garden.  3 euros for 2kg.  They were all different shapes and sizes and nothing like shop bought ones.


The largest was a real handful


and we had half each for lunch in a salad.  They may have looked a bit manky but boy were they delicious!  They tasted how tomatoes used to taste and I'll never buy a bright red "plastic" tomato again.


Our next stop-over was at the Port de Plaisance at Peronne.


We moored on a floating pontoon beside the camp site and for 18 euros a night we had free water (electric was extra) and full use of the camp site facilities, which included a bar, friterie (chip shop) and a small swimming pool.


Of course we used the bar and friterie (well it would have been rude not too) but we gave the pool a miss as it was full of kids.

The local brew was one of the nicest beers I've found yet and the name was pretty good too 😉 (actually Colvert)


We've had a total change of cruising plans which is nothing unusual for us!  We've heard so many stories about how good the Canal de la Somme is that we decided we just don't have enough time to do it justice, so we're going to leave it until next year and plan to come back and stay for a few weeks. Instead, we carried on along the Canal du Nord to Pont l'Eveque and then turned onto the Canal Lateral a l'Oise and then onto the Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne which is where we are now.

Although it's still a commercial canal, all the locks are operated by a telecommande (remote control)


We got to the first lock and pointed the zapper at the board, the lights went green and the gates opened and in we went. We got roped up and waited for something to happen...... and waited.....and waited. Then after about 5 minutes I noticed this at the very front of the lock.  We haven't seen this type of operation before although I have read about it.  We untied and nudged the boat forward until I could reach the pole which I tried to pull down.....nothing happened. Then we realised you don't pull it down, you push it up!  Success 😃


It's a huge leaning curve but we're getting there.  How many more different types of lock operation can there be?

Last night's mooring was at the Halte Nautique at Guny, a few hundred metres from the village which has a small bar and a boulangerie where I bought a baguette and croissants this morning. So far we haven't felt the need to buy bikes as most places we've wanted to go have been well within walking distance, but that may change later on. I haven't been on a bicycle for over 20 years and do not relish the prospect at all!

Tonight's mooring is at another Halte Nautique at Pinon with a Carrefour supermarket adjacent.  It's so close that Roger did a few trips with the Jerry cans to fill up with diesel. Info for all you British boaters paying 70-80p a litre , we thought it was cheap at 1.18 euros a litre!

He's now enjoying a beer "up top" to recover.


Cheers! See you again soon I hope 😃


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Lille towards the Somme

Hi, nice to see you again.

We enjoyed Lille so much that we returned for another 3 nights. It's a good mooring, although the water level goes up and down by as much as 2 feet every time a commercial barge goes past the end of the arm.  There's not enough bollards but there are rings set into the wall that you can tie up to.


Monday was gloriously sunny so not long after we arrived and moored up we headed off across the canal to the zoo.  It's only small compared to others we've visited and was an absolute bargain at only 4 euros each.

We could see these birds from the boat


so we had to go for a closer view. They were Pink Ibis


Every morning and evening you can hear the monkeys screaming, presumably at feeding time. They are gibbons and live on this island



I felt sorry for the Barn Owls


The Meerkats were charming as always


The White Rhinos were impressive


but my favourite creatures were the armadillos which scurried around their enclosure so fast it was difficult to get a decent photo.


After walking miles around Lille taking in the sights, and indulging in a few more delicious meals out, David finally left us on Thursday morning to catch the Eurostar back to the UK.   We left Lille for pastures new and moored on the Canal de Lens at the Halte Nautique de Carrieres.

It was raining when we arrived and we were disappointed to see a British boat moored right in the centre of the 40m pontoon. As soon as he saw us he came out waving his arms to tell us that it wasn't a Halte Nautique but a landing stage for kayaks and was unsuitable for barges ???  B*****s.... it was just a floating pontoon similar to several we've moored on previously and he wasn't tied up properly.  Anyway, as we pulled onto the end of the pontoon with the intention of overhanging as he hadn't left any room for another boat he decided he wasn't sharing the pontoon and cast off. That was fine by us. Shortly afterwards a 20m Dutch barge arrived and moored behind us and we had absolutely no problems all night.


Just across the road was a beautiful park and I dragged Chico out for a walk next morning.  It was raining and he hates getting wet so I did literally have to drag him 😃

Do you like my new wellies?  They're Crocs and totally slip-proof. It's the first time I've needed them since we arrived in Europe but it's been dry for so long I didn't mind having to dig them out.


Several of the locks have had guillotine gates and at first I thought this barge wasn't going to fit underneath, but the wheelhouse is hydraulic and dropped down at the last minute. Clever eh?



This was the first time we've encountered rising bollards. They are wonderful and float up with you as the lock fills.  If only every lock had them 😃


On Friday night we moored just inside the Scarpe Superieure canal, in between 2 commercial barges. The rain was long gone and we spent the evening sitting out on the top deck soaking up the rays.

On that note I'll say "Cheers, see you soon"