Sunday, May 03, 2015

Slowing down is so hard to do - Saturday 2nd May -
Chalon-sur-Saône to Chagny



Even if it had not been our intention to continue our flight at the same relentless pace, we would have been foiled by the river which was flowing at a good four kilometres per hour in a direction opposite to that which was our preferred.  This may not sound much but when the river’s pace amounts to half of one’s usual cruising speed the result tends to be a substantial slowing of the pace.

But it was just for a bit, and we soon made the left hand turn onto the canal, where the cruising magic descended in the way yesterday’s rainbow implied it would.  

We smiled and congratulated ourselves on our new found calm and how quickly we'd regained this cruising pace. We ticked along quietly through the morning, stopping at smoko for a coffee and croissant.  Then, feeling ever so self congratulatory we stopped again for lunch in a nice forest clearing just a few bends and a few hundred, (perhaps five or six) from the next lock, although well out of its sight.     

The cheese had barely taken its position between two halves of a slab of baguette, and neither had taken their positions between my upper and lower jaw, let alone between my upper and lower intestine, when a cyclist arrived, breathless and apparently somewhat concerned about something he obviously thought we could help him with.

The lock he said, had been set for us to go through, and he had been waiting above it on his boat for more than half an hour so he could continue his journey in the opposite direction.  He went on to imply that perhaps it would be nice if we forwent our smug little luncheon and that nap that would surely follow, and got a bit of a wriggle on.  

Please.

Which is how, despite our best endeavours, we found ourselves settled in for the night in Chagny, not much after two in the afternoon.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Wet weather work - Friday 1st May -
Chalon-sur-Saône




We didn’t go down to town today, because we knew that it would have been the same as yesterday, except that the shops would have been closed, and the doors and windows shuttered, and there would be no one else there, and it would have been cold and wet and windy and miserable.

Instead, we stayed relatively warm and dry, and fiddled with things that had been in need of fiddling with for a while, and had a nice lunch with Roger and Emal all the while watching the rain drizzling down and the river level slowly rise around us, hoping that by the time we leave tomorrow the current will still be manageable.

In the unlikely event that it’s not, we may just go down to the town again tomorrow.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

An offal mistake -
Chalon-sur-Saône


We do not often trawl through museums.  When we do we tend to become overawed at the ingenuity of mankind, and indeed at the length of time it has been practising said ingenuity.   

We also tend to skip through the written descriptions, picking out words we know and guessing the rest, translating with some effort and usually a reasonable degree of accuracy as it turns out, therefore when the Denon museum so sensibly closed for lunch today we had had enough.  

Our heads were spinning a little, still trying to get themselves settled with the concept of implements that we had just seen that were said to be twenty thousand years old, let alone grappling with the remnants of bridge structures we had seen dating from Roman times.

Doubtless that is why one of us, glancing at the lunch specials menu as she would a museum description, thought the “blah de blah blah of Veal blah blah blah herbs and spices, mustard sauce, steamed potatoes”  was exactly right for her today, while the other settled helplessly for the simple steak, a tiny morsel of eye fillet accompanied by a few dozen shamelessly and very deeply fried potato chips. 

It was the “blah blah blah” part of the description that became the problem. We had completely failed to read, let alone translate that particular bit, entirely confident that one can never go wrong ordering veal.   

The menu, had it been correctly translated, would have read “Tongue of Veal, boiled to a quivering blob, without the need for herbs and spices and mustard sauce, served simply with plain old boiled potatoes.”    In his defence, the waiter did raise half of one eyebrow when the madame declined his kind offer to sell her a salad to accompany said dish.

We shall put that one down to experience, an experience which I am sure Nicéphore Niépce, the actual inventor of photography, would have been grateful that we had not exploited by sharing on social media, just as one of us is grateful we did not share at all.

Lunch did not spoil the happy and entertaining hour or so we subsequently spent poking through the NIépce Museum.  There we were no less astonished as we viewed that first image of his from the early nineteenth century, than we were earlier viewing twenty thousand year old weapons.  

We wondered whether digital images will survive for two centuries, whether iPhones will turn up twenty thousand years from now and of course whether they’ll still be eating boiled tongue. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

To market to market-
Chalon-sur-Saône


These monster hotel vessels are probably leaving town because they know that Friday is a public holiday and all of the locks in France will be closed.  Actually so will everything else, but they must know what they are doing.   

We have decided to stay till they reopen, and inspired by they who are travelling on those ships, will try to spend the next few days lazing around as we imagine they do.

To realise that objective we needed provisions, and the provisions shop is beyond that bridge, and beyond the the next one too, but conveniently close to the little pleasure boat port in the heart of town where the kindly manager said he would allow us to stay without charge for a few hours while we shopped.   We felt a little extravagant steaming to the shops to save a few millimetres of shoe leather, but this is one of those big supermarkets where the staff ride on skates.  It’s of the kind that sells brake parts and gerbils and probably even submarines if you could ever find the submarine department.  By the time we had found just the breakfast cereal and gone back for some hand cream then off in the other direction for baking paper, our pedometers were showing that we had walked a tidy five kilometres entirely within its walls.

Safely back aboard with our supplies safely stowed and glad of the opportunity to ride home, we dined handsomely on fresh ham, mustard and baguette all of the way back “Silhouette” .  

Pleasantly fatigued through all that effort, we wondered if we should do what we imagined the cruise passengers were doing to combat their post lunch fatigue, and decided that if they were sensible they probably weren’t doing anything at all to combat it.  

Sensibly we too succumbed, arising bright and refreshed for another long night of conversation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hanging out with the big chaps -
Seurre to Chalon-sur-Saône



When it came time to stop at Verdun-sur-Saône we just didn’t.  We popped in, did a circuit of the port, took some photos out of the window and said “Well it’s only another couple of hours to Chalon”, and kept going thankful that we had no plan, for that is how simply and badly plans can go awry were one foolish enough to make them.

We’d sent messages to Roger advising that we’d be there Monday, then another saying possibly Wednesday, so it seemed that Tuesday would be a reasonable compromise for our long awaited reunion and if our boats were animals, to introduce at long last, our no longer new puppy to “Silouhette”, the mother-ship.    

Here we lie, catching up on a few years worth of news, just a few kilometres from the centre of Chalon, at the old abandoned commercial port, which in the way of these things, complete with broken cranes and tumbleweed, serves (very Brisbane-like) as the base for a fleet of giant hotel boats.

As we watched the turnover of passengers as bus after bus continued their transfers this afternoon we couldn’t help but observe some notable differences between our lives and those on the hotel barges.

They have cabins that are bigger than our boat, but then so does Silouhette actually.  
If they aren’t out of bed by ten, they’ll miss breakfast or their bus.
They go home on Tuesday.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lost in translation -
Saint-Jean-de-Losne to Seurre



In truth we might have left in the morning bleak if it hadn’t been for our quest to see Jim and Monika’s barge, and the need for just one more coffee, and perhaps to refuel, and to buy some bread if it hadn’t been Monday and the baker’s day off, so when we actually left Saint Jean it was under clear grey skies and temperatures that were verging on pleasant.

The bleak had returned by the time we berthed in Seurre though, and brought with it a biting wind which oddly enough did nothing for our enthusiasm when it came to actually summonsing the energy to get out and about.   

Almost as chilling was the realisation that the young harbour master had responded to our clumsy introductions in his language, in perfect English. This is not a bad thing for us, in fact it would be churlish to say we don't appreciate it, except that it has taken one dimension from our travel experience, in the sense that we are not forced to think about communication, or worry when we cannot make ourselves understood! 

We have become aware of the depths that our mother tongue has penetrated his country over the past decade in particular.   It does not seem so long ago that we knew nothing of the French language, and often found it difficult to make ourselves understood.   Now it seems that just as often, sometimes after only muttering a few words in French, the person with whom we are communicating will switch without thought or apology to our native tongue.    The young are adapting to life in a multi-cultural world far more seamlessly than we could ever hope to do.

Sadly street signs and business branding are well and truly fighting the same battle.  We don't notice it happening. It doesn’t seem out of place to see signs clearly written in English now.

Somewhere deep in the bowels of a government building in Paris, there is an old policy-maker repeating to anyone who will listen ; “I told you so”.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The bold and the beautiful -
Lamarche-sur-Saône to Saint-Jean-de-Losne



There was something amiss on the quay at Saint-Jean-de-Losne when we arrived.   We couldn’t put our finger on it, but all the boats were too glamorous, they were all beautiful newly built barges and there were none of the usual rag-tag collection with which we are so familiar.  The place looked strangely almost abandoned. “It’s early in the season” I said as I pulled ever so carefully into the only vacant spot on the wall, oblivious to the “Marine Festival” that was underway, presuming that the band was simply there to welcome us as often it is.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Jim and Monika, whose meeting we had chronicled on these very pages several years ago, and who have recently taken a vow of poverty, or as others would put it: bought a boat, had driven from Germany to spend a little cleaning time with their "new" hundred year old baby.  

Jim had in a moment of driving inattentiveness and quite coincidentally had seen our “Joyeux” from the bridge as they drove into town.  Standing out as we did among all the glittering prizes on the quay, he immediately felt concerned for the Piper Organisation whose product the others were, presumably fearing that we would lure their away their customers.  Simon Piper as it turns out is a lovely bloke, who apparently immediately recognised the potential synergy and kindly allowed us to stay in his last reserved spot, assuring us he’d keep an eye out while we went off for a walk and promised not to sell our boat in our absence.

So there we sat, attracting the crowds like the classic convertible in the town square, with Simon no doubt guiding the hoards towards bigger and better things.

As the sun slowly sank in the west, Simon held court on his wondrous vessel, we did the same on ours, Monika shared their excitement about the changes they are about to make in their lives, and Jim learned to eat green vegetables.