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

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Canal de Bourgogne

Hello, nice to see you here again

With Narwal safely installed in the dry dock we stayed for a few days on the steps at St Jean de Losne. It's a busy spot with a high turnover of holiday boats who turn up and immediately plug into the electric.

While we were there we had 2 visits from the gendarmes. They wanted to see our papers and licences and also checked our extinguishers and life jackets.  Some boaters I talked to think it's an intrusion of privacy but I think it's a good thing. I wish the same regulations also applied to the hire boaters who can rent a boat with no tuition or licence and who often struggle to handle these large cruisers and have no idea how to moor up safely. I've lost count of the number we've helped recently, and before someone comments that everyone has to start somewhere, it's not rocket science! You don't throw unattached ropes or jump off the boat 4 feet from the bank wearing high heeled sandals! Some of them are just accidents waiting to happen and it makes me cringe.   The second time the gendarme knocked on our door I explained that we'd already done the "controle" and he stopped to chat for a while. It's nice that the local crime rate is so low that these guys have the time to be friendly and not too officious.

We've now left the big river and are slowly working our way up the canal de Bourgogne.  It's new territory for us and so far we like it very much.  It's quiet and the countryside is beautiful. The first section from St Jean de Losne is typically French, very straight and tree lined both sides.  The lock keeper who helped us the first day told us about a really pretty, secluded "wild" mooring which was so quiet that we both overslept and were almost late for the first lock next morning 😀

Unlike the canal de Centre where the lock side houses are mostly derelict, here they are well maintained and lived in.

well almost all are lived in, 

and the flowers beside the locks are stunning too

It's now Sunday and we've spent the weekend on another peaceful wild mooring, surrounded this morning by a fishing match. They take it very seriously here, arriving at 8.00 and having a meeting which lasted till 10.15.  They then drove down the towpath in a procession to their allocated fishing pegs and set up their gear. At 10.50 there was a loud blast of an air horn with the "start fishing" blast going at 11.00. Not much talking between themselves and no real sign that anyone was catching anything either.  It's 3pm and with the blast of another air horn all rods have been taken in. I wonder how long a meeting they'll have now to decide the winner?

That's all for now. I'll try and keep to a regular weekly blog but the Internet signal is getting weaker by the day. As the city of Dijon is our next port of call it may improve in time for next week's instalment.  Watch this space 😀 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Narwal delivered!

Hi, nice to see you here again.

Well we made it to Saint Jean de Losnes with no further maintenance/repairs to Narwal required 😀 It was a huge relief all round and we celebrated with a really nice lunch in the local restaurant La Cotiniere.

When I left you last time we'd just arrived at Fragnes. The wind died down slightly but was still fierce enough that we thought we'd stay put for a couple of days.  Chico is now almost 14 years old and it's showing.  Before we left Roanne he had a couple of seizures and the vet put him on heart medication and told us to try and not get him excited.  The meds seemed to be working and he didn't have any more seizures until we got to Fragnes when he had 3 in 36 hours.  It was very distressing for him and for us as we thought his time had run out. I've doubled his medication and this seems to be working, he's back to normal and as soon as the wind died down he resumed his sunbathing position on the gunwale. Fingers crossed the new dosage continues to work.

While we were in Fragnes it was my birthday, no I'm not saying which one and Roger took me out for lunch.  We chose not to eat at the restaurant in the port as it didn't get very good reviews on t'internet. Instead, we walked for 10 minutes down the towpath to a small place beside the long term moorings at le Bassin de Fragnes.

We arrived at 12.45 and got the last free table. It was packed with workmen which is always a sign of good food.  The meal was excellent. 4 courses, with plenty of choice, inclusive of wine and coffee for 14.50 euros each. As they were leaving the workmen were all saying "see you tomorrow" which says it all really.  It's definitely a place we'll be visiting again.

The final lock on the Canal du Centre is the deepest we've done so far this year. At 35ft deep it looks quite intimidating, but actually it's one of the calmest we've done and has the benefit of good floating bollards.

Narwal looked quite small down at the bottom of the lock. We followed shortly after.

It was a beautiful sunny day, although still quite windy, and it was great to be back on a river.

I love the wider waters and the added interest of passing commercial peniches.

We passed this one a couple of hours later, loading up with gravel for the return trip.

As there was only the one lock to do I had plenty of time to do a spot of baking en-route          mmmmm.......cake 😋

The only problem with rivers is that there aren't very many mooring places. We stayed at Gergy for one night and then moved on to Seurre.  The Halte Nautique there has been totally renovated since we stayed in 2017 and the town itself is undergoing a big make-over with roadworks everywhere. It'll be lovely when it's finished. The pontoons are only for boats up to 15m and although they were empty when we arrived, by 6pm they were full of Le Boat hire cruisers. The wind had finally died down and it was a perfect evening to sit up on the top deck and open the bar.

Cheers!  See you again soon X

Monday, 13 May 2019

Wild wet and windy

Bonjour et bienvenue

As I've mentioned before, we don't make plans because they always change.  This week has been no exception, again. The first plan was that I was going to blog more regularly.........that's great providing you have internet signal but it's been weak and patchy for the past 10 days, so here's a bit of a catch-up.

We caught up with Dave and Jane on Narwal at Paray-le Monial last Saturday after a very long long days cruise. Two of the "automatic" locks failed to operate and I had to contact the VNF on the lock-side intercom for them to remotely re-set the mechanisms. Little did I realise at the time that this was going to become almost a daily occurrence! I'm almost on first name terms with the lady in the control centre 😀

The weather has been unseasonably cold and we had frost a couple of nights which has decimated my new roof-top plants. That hasn't been helped by the extremely strong winds, torrential rain and even HAIL that we've been having.

One of our moorings was just before Montceau-les-Mines. We'd planned to go into the newly refurbished marina but the weather was just so dreadful that we pulled in early. The view wasn't very nice but we were only 200m from two of my favourite shops which was a definite bonus.

Milly this is for you, Grand Frais and Thiriet within easy walking distance from the mooring.

On the other side of Montceau-les-Mines, between locks 9 & 8, you can moor right outside Leclerc hypermarket which is the perfect place to stop and restock the heavy essentials like beer, wine and dog food. The attached restaurant does a reasonable "menu du jour" too 😀  We were halfway through our lunch when Roger got an email from VNF saying that the canal was being closed in 3 days time for urgent lock repairs and would be closed for almost a week!  So plans changed again.

We had a long way to go to clear the proposed stoppage which meant long days and LOTS of locks. We normally like to travel for around 3 hours a day but we've needed to put in a couple of 8-9 hour days and with the weather being so dreadful we're all knackered.  We got through the damaged lock late yesterday afternoon with the help of a very nice lock keeper. He was there to make sure all boats stayed away from the damaged wall which was leaking badly where the pointing and render had failed. It was like a fountain pouring out of the wall but by the time I'd got the camera it didn't look too bad, although you could definitely see why it needs urgent repairs before the wall totally collapses.

Many of the original lock side cottages are now derelict and when you see the lengths they have to go to to get building materials across the lock when there is no access road it's no wonder.  This crane was huge!

It'll be interesting to see what it looks like next time we come this way.

On Saturday evening we managed to get moored outside the famous wine producing village of Santenay. The moorings are normally full of hotel boats and we couldn't get in last time we passed this way.  For once, the rain stopped, the wind died down and it turned into a very pleasant evening so we walked into the village. There are some very grand houses, I particularly liked the pea hen and peacock guarding the entrance to this one. 

There were a couple of caves in the village and we tried one of them, but with bottles starting at 25 euros and going steeply upwards we beat a hasty retreat. It may be Premier or Grand Cru but there's no way I'm paying that much for a bottle of wine!  We found a small wine shop with bottles a little more reasonably priced and we bought a Pinot Noir for dinner. To be honest, it was nothing special and I've had much nicer wines at a third of the price.  The shop and caves do seem to cater for Americans from the hotel boats though, so maybe that's where they make their money?

Today, Monday, we arrived in Fragnes. The sun is shining and it's a bit warmer but the wind is fierce. We really struggled at the first lock as the wind pinned the boat to the bank. I'd had to get off to go and talk to the VNF lady in the control centre again as the lock was out of action. We're always following Narwal who never seem to have any problems but it's happened 6 times now and is always the same problem. The traffic lights aren't working and the electrics have tripped which means the bottom lock gates don't close after Narwal has gone out. I give her the same message each time, she flicks a switch and the electrics reboot, the gates close and the lock fills ready for us.  Given the choice, I'd rather have English DIY locks any day 😂

At least it gave me chance to get a shot of the boat that I don't normally see.

That's all for now, see you soon X

Friday, 3 May 2019

Going nowhere slowly

Hello again,

This week has flow by.  Roger managed to fix Dave and Jane's boat Narwal and we finally got underway again on Sunday morning.  We'd booked the flight of 3 locks for 10.00am and moored below Chambilly lock at around 11.30. It rained but that didn't stop me catching up with our lovely lady lock-keeper who remembered us from last year. Roger stayed indoors and drove the boat in the warm and dry while us "girlies" got wet.   Over the winter a new Halte Nautique has been built above Chambilly lock and it would have made a good mooring place for us for a couple of nights except that it's overlooked by very tall trees so we wouldn't have been able to get a TV satellite signal and it was Grand Prix weekend. C'est la vie.........

The reason we'd stopped at Chambilly was so that we could visit the market at Marcigny on Monday morning. It's one of the best markets in the region and we'd arranged to meet friends from Roanne there for lunch. It's a 3K walk from the canal, but with sights like this beautiful wisteria en-route it soon passes.

Marcigny market has a large livestock section where you can buy all kinds of pet birds like canaries and budgies, laying poultry such as quail, hens and guinea fowl and rabbits.  I really hope these two cuddlies were meant for pets rather than the pot!

Over in the main food section of the market there was a stall with this amazing roast pig. I'm not sure if it was real though or just a display model as the stall-holder wasn't selling any. He did have a poster promoting a hog roast business but his main produce for sale were pork pasties. The sample I tried was pretty bland tasting so I didn't bother buying anything.

We met Milly and Robin, Jan and Pete from Roanne and went to the bar du marche for lunch. We've been a few times before and as usual the set meal was really good. 4 courses including wine and coffee for 13.50 euros. We'll definitely be stopping here again on the way back in October.

We set off again on Tuesday morning, once again having booked the lock for 10.00am. To be honest, having to pre-book passage through the locks is a bit of a pain but when they're this deep you really appreciate the fact that someone comes and operates them for you and the good thing is that the lock-keepers are always on time 😀

We only had the one lock to pass through and are now moored at one of our favourite Halte Nautiques in this region.  Croix Rouge is a lovely quiet mooring and hardly any other boats ever stop here. Occasionally one or two camper vans park here overnight but apart from them the main "traffic" seems to be cyclists who stop to use the picnic facilities and the toilet block.  Another benefit of mooring here is the lack of light pollution and on a clear night the stars are amazing.

For the past two years the water and electric have been free as the Jeton machine was out of order, but it's recently been fixed. It looks like a Las Vegas slot machine and you buy jetons (tokens) for the electricity and water borne using any credit/debit card.

Electric is 2 euros for 8 hours and water is 2 euros for 20 minutes. Thankfully it's been quite bright and sunny while we've been here so we only needed to plug in once to do the laundry. The rest of the time the solar panels have been keeping the batteries topped up.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the recycling that we do here in France?  It's a big thing over here and there are bins for separating your glass, plastics, paper etc. as well as large containers for gerenal unrecycleable waste.  Yesterday this huge wagon turned up to empty the recycling containers that are in the car park.  There were 2 for plastics, packaging and paper, all with separate compartments and another for glass. All 3 were overflowing so the locals obviously recycle well.  Each container was lifted in the air and emptied into the back of the wagon.....everything that had been carefully separated was dumped in together, even the glass!  Makes me wonder why we bother........

Today is Friday and was to have been our last day here at Croix Rouge.  We've been trying to get to a local restaurant here for the past two years but something has always cropped up to curtail that and this year is no exception.  First thing this morning we got a phone call to say that Narwal had broken own again and could Roger go to fix it?  We're at least two days away from them by boat so a lift was arranged and Roger has gone off to see if he can get them going again.  The restaurant will have to wait until we come back in October. Oh well, that's what friends are for and two lunches out in one week was probably a bit much for my waistline anyway.

Bye for now, see you soon X