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

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Bonjour Paris!

Welcome back,

Moorings are few and far between here in the River Seine and we thought it was too good to be true the other night when we found a good quay just above one of the locks. A French boat was already moored there and he came out to help take our ropes. It was a beautiful afternoon so I hung the laundry out to dry and we sat on the poop deck and chilled out in the sunshine. An elderly man cycled past and stopped for a chat and between his English and our French we passed a pleasant half our. Turns out he used to be a writer for Fluvial magazine - the French equivalent of Waterways World back in UK. In the meantime a German cruiser had turned up and the elderly couple decided to strip off and hang off the boat ladder with a bar of soap and bathe. She wasn't too bad as at least she stripped to a bikini, he was less inhibited and went au natural........not a pretty sight 😕

The locks close at 8pm and we were just finishing dinner when a commercial boat arrived and started shouting that we had to move! No problem, the French boat moved back to the end of the mooring and we doubled up. The Germans refused but soon had a change of heart when the next commercial arrived and was heading directly at them. In the end 14 BIG commercial barges arrived and moored up 3 and 4 abreast to wait for the first lock in the morning.

By the time I got up at 6.45 next morning they'd all gone.

Our last day's cruise before Paris was quite eventful too. Commercial traffic was the heaviest we've seen so far but we had no problems sharing locks with them. On one stretch of the river we came across the French river police practising anti-terror tactics. There were a couple of high speed ribs going up to the commercial barges when they were at full spreed simulating boarding from the sides and the stern.

It was a bit more sedate when they came alongside us and they rode our propwash for a while to give us a good view inn the rear camera

All the heavy commercial traffic plus high winds churned the river up and there were white horses on the surface. We struggled to find a mooring but once again a lovely Frenchman gave us a hand and one bollard and a tree made for a safe but VERY bumpy night.

Friday morning saw us both up at 5.30 and after a quick coffee and emptying Chico we joined a medium sized commercial in the first lock of the day. I don't remember that last time we were up so early!  It was a beautiful morning with no wind and an almost flat river.

Because it was so early there was no other traffic on the river and once the barge pulled away from us we were all alone. 

We passed the floating swimming pool

and the bateau phare du pont de Toliac

and caught up with them 8 km later when they were waiting for the traffic lights to turn green at the Pont de Sully. There's an alternating traffic system around the Isle de la Cité and we could only go through between 25mins to and 10 minutes to the hour. Typically, a 100m fully laden gravel barge arrived at 26 minutes to and as he was at full speed we both had to wait for him to go first.  The lights turned to green and we were off. The two commercials soon left us behind and we didn't see another moving boat until we were well through the main tourist section. It was wonderful!  Crystal blue sky, calm water...couldn't have been better if we'd booked it 😀

Our first tourist sight was Notre Dame

and the Palais de Justice

our first glimpse of "The Tower" and the Palais Burbon 

You get a much better view of the bridges from a boat. The gilding on Pont Alexandre III was glittering in the early sunshine.

and the statue of Liberty beside the Pont de Grennelle

But let's face it....this is what we'd come to see

This has always been on my bucket list. Ever since we got our first boat I've wanted to cruise past the Eiffel Tower.  There were still no other moving boats so we had it all to ourselves and enjoyed it to the full.

 Although the tourist boats hadn't started work yet the commercial boats were being loaded/unloaded and the riverside building sites were hard at it.

Each commercial barge carries enough gravel or sand to keep 2400 wagons off the roads of Paris each year

The restaurants were also coming to life and this window cleaner was standing on a tiny ledge without a harness or life jacket......crazy!!!

There were some huge hotel boats moored up, like this 135m long river cruiser. Prices start at 1000 euros a week

The floating dry dock had 3 boats inside and was just starting to pump the water out

The Seine is a really busy river and we enjoyed it all, the touristy bits, the docks and the general riverside life. We shared the lock at Suresnes with yet another commercial barge and finally moored at Rueil-sur-Seine 57 kms and 6.5 hours later

It's the longest we've cruised in one day on this boat and with all the concentration etc. we were both knackered. There was a posh restaurant close by and we just managed to blag the last table as they were full and had had a no-show. Fabulous food and wine made a great end to a great day.

Now to plan the next thing I need to tick off my bucket list

Bye for now X

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