Legends from our own lunchtimes

Sunday, July 31, 2011


It seems impossible, but on a canal barely fifteen metres wide, we had passed Paul and Cara heading in the other direction, without noticing them, nor they us. So disappointed were we all, that they decided to break their journey back to Holland and take the train back from Nancy for a final catch up for the year and a spot of lunch.

Lunch with Lil is not normally as long nor as lingering as perhaps one may desire it to be, but after a week or so of being confined in a space which really was not much bigger than a settee, her tolerance for such things was at some sort of peak, and it was late afternoon before we had to excuse ourselves, as we all had trains to catch.

In our case it was Paris that beckoned, and on arrival at our hotel, the freedom that came from living in a room which was big enough to hold a double bed was almost too much for the youngest of our party.

As a grandparent one does not have to be too concerned about ensuring there is a balance between having a good time and the reaching of a state which can be described as "over excitement".

As a grandparent, one's room is disconnected from the noises in the night.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Happy Endings

If we were to conduct a poll among ourselves as to what exactly was our most prized possession aboard, I suspect that even if we owned a full replica suit of medieval body armour in silver polyester weave, the answer would still be "the washing machine". There was more than a little consternation a week or two ago when the behaviour of said prized possession began to deteriorate to the level at which it became socially unacceptable.

It began to bang and jump and spin horribly out of balance, performing not at all as the brochure had implied, culminating one day last week with a hissy-fit that could well have ended in more tears than Miss Lily can produce during a sleepless night, or for that matter her parents the morning after.

After the bang, which sounded for all the world explosion-like, we found it inverted on the floor of what we like to call our "utility room". The only explanation as to how it arrived in it's apparently preferred position in such a confined space, is that it executed a perfect half pike with full twist after launching itself vertically, somehow disconnecting itself from the electricity on the way down.

Clearly this was something that had to be placed on the list of things "to do" and so it was for a week or two, until Lily's dad made lifting and dismantling and remantling and strapping it down look all so simple. 

He did the same with the leaks too.

Perhaps I'll leave them on the list though, just to confuse me if ever I look at it again.


Friday, July 29, 2011


We never miss a chance to visit the Chateau at Haut-Barr. It's a longish walk up a steepish hill and on a warmish day it can be a bit of a grind for a father wearing a pair of single pluggers or a grandfather with more suitable footwear, alternately pushing or carrying a stroller full of one-and-a-bit year old through barely made paths through the forest, but it's a great view and not a bad coffee at the top.

Regular readers may recall that this is the place that Julian's castle ranking places way up there with Ireland's Blarney. We antipodeans are bemused by the common criticism that it is "too touristy", after all, the city did build a restaurant, right there in the midst of the twelfth century ruins for our resting pleasure. The very fact that this "monstrosity" has been in place since 1910 would make it a national treasure in our homeland, but here it is the subject of vulgar derision.

All that aside, it will be recorded in history as the very place where Miss L discovered for the first time, both her shadows. The one which the sun cast became suddenly obvious to her and simply would not go away despite her best efforts to shoo it, run from it, and eventually to try to rub it out with a stick. The other was even more resilient and remained long after the sun had disappeared behind a cloud. It was to remain in place for days in fact, but since we aren't up to that part of the story we can't mention it.

Her grandmother you see, somewhat disillusioned by the absence of compassion as first one, then the other knee lost microscopic segments of skin while variously in the care of parents and grandfather, steadfastly refused to cease hovering.

No amount of shooing, running away or rubbing it out with a stick could dissuade that one either.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

What did we miss?

We like Lutzelbourg.  We like "our" spot beside the house with the blue shutters even though the services costs average two Euros a night for us to stay in the port.  

Perhaps had we not been cruising to a deadline, we might have waited for perfect weather for the run down to Saverne.

Perhaps we'd have stayed a day or two more, just because we can, but If we'd done that, we might have missed seeing the mist in the forests, and the deer ambling about, and we certainly would have missed finding the last available berth in the port.

I wonder what we missed in Lutzelbourg by moving on?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A little bitty tear let me down.

The fog inside the boat began to lift today, that's the one that surrounds a one year old and her parents when one plucks them from their own surrounds, and unceremoniously tips them over on the other side of the world without regard for the time zone in which they had been living, while at the same time confining them for the better part of the time in a tiny space.

It was just as well that they'd pretty much grown into the space really, as the weather outside wasn't the sort to encourage lengthy exploration of our surrounds.

On the other hand, days like that are just perfect for eating fresh product from one of our favourite bakers, and just lying around with a beverage of choice nearby.

Nothing to shed a tear about, unless one's mother dashes out for a bit.

An apology or perhaps an explanation: 
For those receiving these posts by email, we now have broadband in sufficient quantity and silence sufficient as well, to catch up on the past weeks posts,  so I suspect your in boxes will be filled with a few more days of baby cuteness - it's ok, she's gone now and things will shortly return to normal!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Strange Days
Hesse - Lutzelbourg

Somedays are strange days indeed.

We travelled ever so gently through some of the most marvellous countryside, through tunnels, down boat the Arzviller ship lift while all the tourists lined up to take our photos, and into one of our favourite ports, all without incident. It did rain on and off but the mist in the forests gave the day some sort of etherial quality making it all even more beautiful than usual and looking greener than it really is I'm sure, and it wasn't cold enough to put a jumper on even.

The food was terrific, nothing went wrong, we were in bed early and yet, when I asked what we had done of note, no one could think of anything really.

Perhaps it's the magnets in the bridges.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Mmmm... Cheeses
Lagrde to Hesse

"First thing" as most by now will understand,  is always a subjective measure of time when we are home in Lagarde, so when we told Maggie we were leaving "first thing" she quite rightly assumed we'd still be there after lunch and set about baking some bread to compliment all of Jacques' cheese stock which she had kindly passed to us, to his complete chagrin. I can assure all who may care to be assured, that just as the fury of a woman scorned is unmatched even in hell, then the grief of a Frenchman arriving home for lunch to find his boat entirely devoid of cheese has no equal on this earth, but it couldn't be helped, and all those goats and cows and sheep may rest assured that their work was not in vain.

While I was otherwise occupied moving "that" plumbing leak just one more time, the other of us, the one with a bottomless pit filled compassion, set about preparing a platter of Jacques cheeses to return as a parting gift.

With the leak finally eliminated and the slightest hint of colour returning to Jacques' face it seemed like a good time to declare the time to be "first thing", and so it is that tonight we sit in a forest outside of Hesse, with the bilge drying along with a load of washing, under clearing heading towards balmy skies, thinking we may just stay here till the cheese runs out.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wet Weather Work

Still the rain continues, this time all morning and well into the afternoon, bringing weather which our visitors assured us was colder than at home, although we found that difficult to comprehend, this being summer after all, and they having just left the depths of winter.

None the less a lay day was called, and we just sort of curled up in our respective spots and spent a quiet, reading and playing games round the table sort of day, interspersed with walks of course, and an expedition to a fete in a nearby town, which was a perfect opportunity to give the new purple raincoat another workout.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sight Seeing

We really had meant to go for a bit of a walk to the basilica before we left, but when we had a show of hands we couldn't count any voting "aye" and so we put it off for a later day, once again telling ourselves it's probably just another eighty five metre long, eighty five metre tall sixteenth century church interior, and we'll pop in when next we pass. Probably.

We had according to our plan, places to go, things to do, people to see and none of that would be possible if we tarried too long. Well it probably would be possible, but we'd not have time to tarry along the way, which of course is the most important part of going places.

Jet lag, or getting a tooth, or a cold, or a change of circumstances or just a one year old being one year old, had apparently kept those in the forward end of the boat awake for much of the night. This of course left them with a somewhat more diminished sense of well being long after day had dawned, than those sleeping in their customary aft quarters.

 The cause of all the angst did not seem nearly as concerned, and seemed quite anxious to explore this new land at any opportunity.  Her parents did manage to snatch some brief periods of respite as we motored along, just enough thankfully to get them through the round of cheery welcomes when we arrived in Lagarde.

I suspect the endless dinner party may not have done their cause much good either, but it was great to be "home", there will be time to sleep tomorrow after all, and the goat's cheese was devine.


Friday, July 22, 2011

We could have spent the day digging further into the fascinating history of Nancy's architecture, or visiting one or more of the incredible museums, or perhaps just sitting in some six hundred year old building, quietly noting every detail.

Perhaps we could have wandered aimlessly through the ancient squares and gardens, breathing in the sculptural masterpieces and the manicured planting as we have done so often over the past few days and months.

The rain though, was continuing, and bringing with it a certain gloom and a chill that most don't associate with July in Europe, and the summer sales were on in full swing in places which were warm and brightly lit. It was therefore not much of a contest.

As a consequence, Miss Lily now owns a brand new overcoat with a hood, and the slightest hint of glitter in the purple weave which makes it look kind of magical even when it's not wet and is sure to make her the dahhling of the kindy set in a year or two if it still fits.

True to form, the purchase of said overcoat brought with it sufficient sunshine to allow us to embark on the next stage of our travels in the manner in which we are more accustomed, and so it was that by day's end we found ourselves on our way again, moored almost eight kilometres from our departure point, where the shadow of the Basilica of St.Nicolas-de-Port would be if the sun were shining from that direction.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

They're Here!

I suspect that if there is anything worse than the weariness of long distance air travel, it's the weariness that comes from waiting for long distance travellers to end their journey.

"Wake us any time after six" we had bravely offered in the wee small hours as we welcomed our progeny to this part of our lives. To be clear though, we didn't expect it to happen quite so soon after six. Actually if it had been any less after six it would have been before.

At least it gave us time for breakfast in a civilised fashion, and an equally leisurely stroll through a Paris that was rising from it's slumber while Miss Lily caught up on some of hers, tucked happily under cover in her stroller.

By mid afternoon when we actually arrived in Nancy we all seemed a little worse for wear, only Miss Lily seemed unfazed by it all, smiling on cue and talking on her telephone to any who would listen.

Sadly for those who hadn't slept for a couple of days, the rain of the day cleared enough for us to force them out at eleven to the square for a dose of coloured lights.   

Welcome to the jet-set!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being French

Yesterday, when I suggested we may be short on sleep, I certainly didn't expect to be awake at a time which could only be described as uncivilised. It came therefore as something of a surprise to find myself staring into the day at least seven and possibly eight hours before our train was due to depart for Paris.

One of us managed to fill in a bit of time by washing and cleaning and tidying and making sure everything would be just so on our return, while I busied myself getting to know the beautiful interior of one of our Dutch neighbours' boats and passing comment on the quality of their coffee.

Despite the distractions, time failed to pass at all, although eventually despite our anxiety we managed to find ourselves in the foyer of our hotel in Paris, with a delightful concierge asking us for passports in accent free English. Naturally being bone fide residents we had not considered passports to be a necessity for travelling internally, so had left them securely on the boat four hundred kilometres away.

Tentatively, I reached for my identity card and placed it on the counter.

"Oh," she said, "You're French!", again the words were spoken in a version of English so perfectly pronounced that the Queen herself would be glad to hear, "You don't need any identification."

We wondered as we waited beyond midnight if it works that way at the bank as well.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Near Miss

The light show in Place Stanislas had ended strangely if not badly for us last night, with an encore of blue flashing lights on the red van which carried Jayne to hospital for the night. She's well now thankfully, the rest of us a little disconcerted at her sudden lapse from consciousness and thankful for the presence of the young Doctor who was in the crowd.

The show itself, when one observes its more usual conclusion, is extraordinary, with simultaneous projections animating all the buildings in the square.  I suppose one should expect no less from the town that Voltaire called home, and it gives us reason for staying up late, keeping our mind from what would otherwise be sleeplessness as the excitement builds while our next guests are travelling to us.

Jan and Ian left today, another week over in a flash, but for now we are distracted.

There is just one short sleep remaining until Miss Lily arrives in Paris with her parents and then I suspect, some sort of pandemonium may reign.

Paris may never be the same, and by hook or by crook we will be there to be its witness.


Monday, July 18, 2011


Sometimes it is hard for us to come to terms with exactly where we are and exactly what it is that we are doing here. This situation is mostly exacerbated by what has of late been a constant stream of old friends who have graciously take it upon themselves to track us down, and pop in for a bit.

Sitting as we were tonight, with Jan and Ian and now joined by Jayne and Peter, we spoke of the good old days, of things like the coffee rolls with pink icing from the bakery in Annerley and riding our bikes to Frog Rock and the year Weller's Hill beat Junction Park in the swimming competition and trying to remember whether the threepenny bus tickets were pink or green and whether it was the 5A or 5B bus that went down Cracknell Road.

All the while we were at our table in l'Excelsior in Nancy resplendent as it was on opening day in 1911.  Peering out into a street devoid of traffic and still so perfectly preserved in the Art Noveau style. We could perhaps be forgiven for thinking we had been transported back a century and a half.

But with each course the food would jolt us back to the present.

There was never any Foie Gras in Cracknell Road, at least as far as we could recall.


Sunday, July 17, 2011


On Sundays, the harbour Capitaine in Nancy is a youngish looking man who is we are sure, considerably older than he feels, with his unfashionably longish hair, Metallica Tee Shirts, chunky jewellery, firmly espousing his love for Australian rock bands.

As we checked into the port today during a brief respite from the precipitation, we spoke of many things.

Conversations of import seem always to commence with a discussion on the weather, and how the rain last night had barely let up, which was fine for us I recall telling him as we have almost no leaks in the forward cabin any more and they don't matter too much because Jan and Ian are sleeping there not us. He sympathised and informed me that his wife and children are assisting him with the restoration of a house from the sixteenth century and there are many leaks in the roof at the moment and he's hoping he gets them sorted before winter.

He told me it began as a project of economic necessity, but has turned into a labour of love, and they are having a lot of fun resorting it to it's original state.

I wondered briefly how one lives restored in the sixteenth century, without heating, insulation, plumbing or electricity but we were interrupted before he could explain.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cruising Again

This morning we were all up and bustling by seven. Today was the day. The water on the harbour was painted in distinctly farewell tones.

Al and Sunny found one last bar of chocolate somewhere that "wouldn't keep" until their return, and it was duly passed over. I assured them that it wouldn't keep till winter on our boat either, but they handed them over anyway.

Eventually the time arrived to finalise the farewells that we'd been bidding each other all week, and just after the "exiting Toul" rush hour, we went our separate ways trying ever so hard to make sure the lumps in our throats stayed exactly there.

I'm not sure what our normal travelling velocity is in any measure that would meet scientific scrutiny. It's somewhere between "tootling" and "chugging" I think.  As we made our way away from Toul, down the Moselle, the morning sun and gentle breeze keeping us in one of those "glad to be alive" moods, I suspect it may have been even a little less than "tootling" speed. 

We were getting used once again, to the concept travelling alone, at our own admittedly leisurely pace when a dark steel shadow loomed.

It was Paul and Bertha's barge. Having caught up the thirty minutes head start they had given us, they hunted us down from the far side of the river, concerned that we may well be having some sort of difficulty.

No, we assured them.

We are cruising again.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Home is..

Nothing I do seems to do anything but move the confounded leak in the water connection from one end of the joint to the other, and back again, so again I have resolved to do nothing at least for a few days and see if it goes away of it's own accord once it realises it's not getting any attention.

Sunny and Al are busy getting their boat ready for winter, a process which seems to mostly involve depositing somewhere in our boat, every manner of foodstuff and confection, not to mention enough potplants to start a small nursery. The surgeon arrives tomorrow to sever the invisible cord which has kept us attached through the last three weeks and almost one hundred locks, and I think we are all subconsciously practicing our best melancholy mood.

We too have been getting ready to move on, topping up water and fuel, fidgeting with things that don't need fidgeting with, looking at maps and ignoring leaking water pipes.

Thank goodness Jan and Ian are here to distract us all, and Paul and Bertha from the barge next door joined us as well for one final celebration. Deep down we didn't want it to end, but it will as these things have a habit of doing, and tomorrow we will say goodbye to the Canadian mob, and to Toul, where we have lived in the shadow of the cathedral for more than twice as long in the past twelve months as we have in our "new" house.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire

It was exactly one year ago today that Jacques popped the cork, spraying champagne all over our dear Joyeux and officially unveiling "his" new name.

It's truly been a marvellous year, one that has been at once all too short yet seems to have been going on forever. We have of course made all manner of new friends, and have become part of a new family in a sense or perhaps a new tribe, I'm not sure.

In the absence of a monster display of fireworks provided by the city, as would properly befit such an anniversary it seemed rather fitting that the end of our first "proper" year on the water should be celebrated quietly with some of our oldest friends, and some of our newest.

Of course the rest of France was celebrating as well, although perhaps they weren't conscious of why, confusing our special anniversary with their national day.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Tony Phoned

After the productivity of the yesterday one would be forgiven for expecting a certain momentum to carry through for the rest of the week at least, and indeed I had given passing thought to doing some more, but when we were woken at 4:30 by a ferociously vocal thunder storm, I took it as a warning that perhaps I should slow down for a bit.

We decided as the thunder roared and lightning flashed that the best course of action for the day, would be to stay in bed until the rain had gone away at the very least, and since the forecast suggested that may take a few days, it seemed as though working through the list had once again come to a quite agreeable end.

Suddenly, the telephone rang. I am not sure that there isn't something redundant in describing a telephone as ringing suddenly, as I am yet to meet a telephone which has worked out an alternative but that notwithstanding, when I answered it somewhat less suddenly it was "Our Tony" checking up on us.

When we told him we were in Toul and fixing plumbing, he seemed bemused if not concerned that we'd neither moved nor actually finished any of the things we'd started in the month since he'd left. Perhaps he had a point.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I must admit some people have the knack of keeping their boats neat as a pin, while others do not.

I think we fall somewhere between the two.  I actually have a schedule for repair and maintenance work although there is a clear note which says "not today" against every item in the "date required" column.

Every now and then, out of the blue something like the main water supply valve, which may well have been close to the top of the list of things not to do quite yet, decides to upset my carefully considered schedule.

Fortunately before I had regained my senses this week and given up any thought of doing any actual work, I had conjured some vague notion that I may need to replace said valve one day, and we'd allowed the water tank to run to almost empty to make it easier.

Unfortunately nothing is ever easier on a boat. In order to replace the valve, the tank needed to be moved and lifted a little, and to do that 150 kg of cement ballast needed removal through a space which was just a lot too small for it to fit in one piece.

When we bought the boat my original list had removal of those cement bags at the very top of it, although clearly marked to be done "not today".  Rather than describe the effort required to break up that much cement using an electrician's screwdriver and a tack hammer while inverted in a tiny enclosed space, I will simply confirm that it wasn't nearly as much fun as as not doing it would have been.

By mid afternoon all the new components of the plumbing were back in a neat row, interconnected with water flowing from tank to pump as it should, and in the process I'd managed to move the leak almost a metre.

I put a plastic bowl under it, picked up the list of things to make and do, wrote "leak near water pump" and marked in the "date required" column: "not today".


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Lazies

We like spending time in Toul, it's a nice harbour with some grass and some trees under which one can sit when like today the temperature hovers close to forty, and there always seems to be an interesting mix of people passing through.

We were scarcely here an hour before I'd borrowed a chartbook from Tuppence in the scruffy little yacht, lent it to Paul in the immaculate barge (who has a photocopier on board and kindly copied it for me too), given an electronic copy of our Perkins Workshop manual to Elsa in the little cruiser and had a discussion with the Danish guys in the yacht about our mutual interest (or lack thereof) in their future queen.

Of course the main reason for arriving a few days early was to get stuck in to a few jobs that needed doing, but the reality that not doing them was so much more interesting not to mention relaxing, soon sunk in and I started to put ticks against things that didn't need to be started at least until the day after tomorrow, which of course is the day that Jan and Ian arrive, and I am fairly sure will be too late to start anything.

Oh well, we'd better sit under the tree a bit longer and consider our options.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


We quite like Void.

It's name gives it away really, and there are plenty of spaces to explore in the town if one is patient enough and one has enough time, say thirty minutes or so. It's not as though it's not scenic or pretty or photogenic, it is all of those things, and has lots of little alleyways and vistas and downright charm, but it's the patisseries you see. There were two in town and we tried them both so as not to judge in haste. Both baked baguettes which were quite nice actually, but the other stuff looked terrific but under the sugar glazes had a bit of a supermarket ring to it, and that will never do as one is having coffee in a refuge tucked well out of the way of the westerlies.

It's an ill wind that blows no good they say, and judging by the amount of breeze there should have been plenty of good in the air today, more than enough to share.

Had we needed to traverse any locks on our way the wind may have been very ill indeed, as there is a fine line between neatly fitting a boat that is approaching four metres wide into a five metre doorway, and nearly fitting, and any breeze at all can be exactly the wrong amount while that is going on. However, yesterday's tunnel marked the top of our climb and we had twenty odd kilometres of canal, a canal bridge or two to cross and not much else in the way of challenging navigation.  All we had to do was avoid the hard edges until we needed to stop.

At that time the trick is to hit the hard bit in exactly the spot intended, tie up and hop off looking for all the world as though one has done it a thousand times, (which is probably actually how many times one has done it, so it's not usually a clever trick at all.).

Fortunately we managed to appear exactly as described, although no one needed to know we missed our intended mark by fifty metres or so. We could after all, always tell Sunny and Al that we saw they were having difficulty and wanted to leave them room to manoeuvre.


Saturday, July 09, 2011


If there's anything as black as five kilometres of tunnel, it's got to be not having enough food to share at lunchtime after you've gone through it, apparently.

We'd had a beaut rabbit stew as a sort of pre-tunnel meal with Al and Sunny the night before, and managed to salvage enough left overs to feed either a small army or perhaps two people, depending on one's point of view. As the holder of the latter view, I was a little bemused when the other of us even considered sharing our lunch. After all, we travel together we eat together and we even play confounded card games at night, surely no one will starve if they don't have access to a few molecules of rabbit and couscous with a dash of Harissa for lunch.

After a rather short discussion, we were I thought of one accord and we sat down, each to an adequate, if not generous pile of morsels and accoutrement.

We had barely commenced when her face went white as she saw the other two leave their boat to sit at a picnic table near ours.

"Hide!" she cried in anguish, pushing my head down onto the table at the same time. "The boat's moved, duck lower!" she urged again.

They seemed oblivious, sharing an apple, but she looked at what we had left on our plates and wondered if we could somehow repackage it. I ate faster to make sure we couldn't.

The other of us so choked with guilt, made a full confession to the confused merriment of the others, who as it turned out had had a rather splendid lunch of their own thanks very much. We were forgiven. There was light at the end of the tunnel.

With all that out of the way, we moseyed on to the improbably named but completely guilt-free town of Void.


Friday, July 08, 2011


"What do you think that is?" came the cry from the boat in front while a grey bearded figure pointed sternly at the yellow fields in the distance.

"Colza", I replied using the French name " We call it Rape, but you blokes call it Canola"

"It's the wrong colour" retorted the voice with the Canadian accent, although I'm fairly sure he pronounced it "color".

"We've seen heaps of this stuff," I shouted above Mr Perkins gruffness, "and I know a paddock of Rape when I see it."

Ten minutes later as we reached the yellow, the cruel, heartless and unforgiving northerner was laughing so hard he nearly ran his boat into the middle of the paddock.

Note to file: Canola is a Canadian invention - even a simple Veterinary Surgeon can tell the difference between Canola and Sunflowers.

At least tomorrow we will travel in the darkness of the five kilometre tunnel so we won't be able to see his shoulders move as he sniggers.


Thursday, July 07, 2011


Through green forests and golden wheat fields we cycled, through the bright morning chill, hedgehog and deer scuttling out of our way as though on cue, while our path remained fringed by what must surely be the last of this year's poppies. It was a truly glorious morning, the sort that always makes us wonder why we don't do this more often.

It was Julian's fault we think. It was he after all who led us on a wild goose chase across thousands of kilometres of English countryside looking for what the map said was a Roman wall. When we got there it turned out to be a bunch of fair-sized stones piled on top of one another in a line. Just like all the other lines of stones separating one sheep from another across the country.

Then there was the Roman road we saw in Carcasson a few years ago, which could have been mistaken by a layman for a Roman wall which had fallen over.

Undeterred, or simply forgetful, we struck out this morning at a time when sensible people were still lying in bed, staring at the ceiling contemplating what they were going to have on their breakfast croissant, to find an entire town.

Nasium it was called, home to 15,000 people just a few thousand years ago, and the place where to this day Roman Legions march through the fields on the third Sunday of each month, apparently.

"The fields"; a penny dropped.

No one had actually said anything about "the streets", and while it had occurred that the entire town may not have made it through two millennia in one piece, perhaps deep down we were hoping to see more than the brand new roadside obelisk guarded by an aged and somewhat obese golden retriever.

Just how much more, we still don't know, but we took a photo of the word "NASIVM" engraved in the stone, and cycled off.   Another Roman site explored.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Moving in Concert

That little buzzer in our brains went off this morning, and suddenly and illogically it was time to push on another few kilometres.

We are due to meet Jan and Ian in Toul a week from tomorrow.

 Coincidentally Al and Sunny have a similar deadline, and we have happily slotted into a pattern of crusing in company for the past week or so and consensus seems to be part of our habit now. While some would choose to travel that distance in a couple of days, visions of breaking wives flashed before the eyes of Al and I, and we thought that ten kilometres or so would be enough to round out our day nicely thanks very much, which would just enough to find us in Naix-aux-Forges in time to check out some cows, as is his want, and to photograph some buildings, as is mine.

It would have been nice to report that we moved silently out of the port in tandem as if moving to some invisible signal, perhaps a quiet nod from one to the other acknowledging that it was time to move, two boats moving in unison as if attached by a thread, but the only thing that was invisible was everything really, as Mr Perkins yawned and belched into life.

Al understood though, and at least one of us slipped quietly and unnoticed into the first lock followed by the other, disguised as a cloud of white smoke making a dull chugging noise.

To be fair, Mr P does settle quite quickly and seems to enjoy his outings these days, and the ports from which we depart must remain insect free for days after his fog lifts.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


The Kiwi bloke from the campercar saw our flag and wandered over.

"How far have you come today?" he asked.

I replied that we had actually decided we needed a break from travelling and it was time to do some washing and other chores. Besides, we quite like it here so we'd not actually come from anywhere today, nor probably would we go anywhere tomorrow.

"So how far did you come yesterday then?" he persisted, offering that he and his wife had driven pretty much directly from Pompeii, and probably hadn't stopped for a week.

"Almost four kilometres." I explained.

He blinked and checked that he'd heard correctly. Well we didn't start till latish, and we didn't feel like going any further once we got here. I explained that our schedule was starting to close in on us though and within a fortnight we needed to be in Nancy.

 I think that may have been the point at which he became incredulous.

"We were there this afternoon" he said, and that one line probably sums up why we choose to travel by boat!


Monday, July 04, 2011


We were only explaining for the two zillionth time the other day, that yes we do have things that bite in Australia, and no we do not need to be particularly brave to live where we live even though there are barely sufficient children who survive all the perils which present themselves to us in our vast untamed continent, to keep the place running while the likes of ourselves are occupied elsewhere, brave snake/spider/shark/crocodile evading soles that we are.

In the process of doing so I remarked quite truthfully that I had seen more snakes in France in the past three years than I have in the past half century at home.

It was barely surprising then, as I was peering into the stillness of the morning while sipping on my "wake up" coffee, to see a snake swimming among the lily pads.

In the early chill I recalled an acquaintance once telling me that he didn't enjoy a party he attended with a "gangster" theme, because it reminded him too much of work, and I must confess as I stared vacantly into the reflections that I may well have inadvertently made associations between the creature as it swam and a client or two from a former life, but that thought passed as the snake made its way up the opposite bank and the water and my thoughts returned to their perfect stillness once again.

Eventually the faintest zephyr of a breeze arose and erased all the reflections of the morning, and we bravely summoned the energy for the four kilometres that was to be our journey for the day.


Sunday, July 03, 2011

On any Sunday

With Shelley on her way back to London, we resisted the seductive powers of the old town and the magnetic allure of the festival at the top of the hill, and we too quietly slipped away from Bar le Duc into a perfect Sunday afternoon.

We had agreed with those pesky Canadians, that we'd meet them at the first place there was space, which turned out to be a town called Tronville.  Between there and our departure point was nothing but a few hours of clear sky and water lily lined canal, and rolling fields of wheat and corn. Occasionally the tranquility of it all was interrupted by a cyclists cheery wave, or a friendly "bonjour" or twelve from a family strolling along the tow path called in a volume great enough to be heard above Mr Perkins' dulcet throb.

It wasn't particularly hard to pretend that we were quite enjoying ourselves. We even made a brave show of it all when, were faced with quietly watching the sun subside over the lily pond in which we were forced to moor for the evening.


Saturday, July 02, 2011

Renaissance Festival

The Renaissance Festival has begun, and it would have been remiss of us not to have spent at least one day wandering among the stalls, eating crepe chocolate crepe until we looked like one, while watching the amazing array of performers as we walk the streets.

The atmosphere in the daytime at least is gentle and relaxed, the streets busy enough but not crowded, the visual feast sublime.

We spent an hour watching the indescribable: Children riding a carousel of cows fabricated from parts scrounged from the set of Mad Max, and powered by fathers pumping on the udder of another quite separate bovine, while mothers took turns to grind the organ accompaniment, the organ itself clearly built as a project by inmates of an asylum.

All the while a farmer silently watched and blew feathers over the riders in his charge.

Pure magic.

So this is what the Renaissance was like.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Having a daughter clogging up a tiny corner of our abode is all rather pleasant. She eats little, doesn't make much noise and thus far at least has barely complained. Perhaps she has repressed her memory of the last time aboard, when it was raining quite a lot, and it was easier to stay dry by donning a raincoat and standing outside than remaining aboard the good ship Joyeux, the extent of whose perforations had not yet been discovered.

Those times have long passed though, as for the time being has the rain, which gave us a perfect day for drying clothes just washed, walking in the sunshine and checking on progress on preparations for the Festival.

It's been a long time since we've seen a genuine thunderbox and here there are dozens scattered around the old town, newly erected complete with what presumably is a sufficient supply of sawdust to last the weekend.

Gentlemen may rest assured that there is no need to soil the millennia old walls of the church either should they be caught short, as behind the partition so clearly marked, have been placed at their disposal two half drums complete with sawdust lining to ensure that no nasty drumming or even splashing sounds will be audible.

I wonder if, to completely authenticate this journey down memory lane, the containers will be disposed of in a nearby waterway.

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