Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Being by now well practiced in the where's and wherefore's of this Disneyland place, we were sure we'd be there bright and early, and we probably would have been had we not lingered over a ginormous birthday breakfast for moi while simultaneously talking to family members in all corners of the globe.

Eventually proudly waving my "Bon Anniversaire" invitation printed in black and white on our new laser printer which cost only a fraction more than the price of admission we had just saved, I was ushered once more into the hallowed grounds, along with the paying customers in our bunch.

We had never intended to see everything in two days, particularly as we were quite deliberately moving at a pace somewhat less than even that to which we have become accustomed on the boat.  With the Big E in control of the ride agenda we managed to give anything with a "family tick" a good shot, even luring her good self, the queen of the thrill seekers across to the wild side for a time, working her up gently from Dumbo the flying elephant to the Carousel which even had horses that went up and down as well as round and round.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Still in serious tourist mode the parents hauled themselves off early(ish) to visit Paris' Catacombs while once again the grandparents had sensibly called a lay day for themselves and the boys, who after yesterday's adrenaline charged lack of sleep at one point had black rings around their eyes so pronounced that it looked as though they'd been fifteen rounds in a heavyweight bout.   Well I suppose for the Big E that would be an ultra featherweight or something, but you get the picture.

Once parents were out of sight, a day of serious Pirating began this time armed with some "proper" Pirate gear courtesy of yesterday's excursion.  Despite our best endeavours, the shouted "Aarrrrs" and "heave to my hearties", and our  extra stern warnings about the consequences if they ignored us, none of the ferries passing our little ship so much as throttled back, although some of the passengers wore expressions that could have been mistaken for grimaces of fear if viewed in the right light.

We resolved to lift our game for next time, and took the parents shopping in the afternoon, before sending them off on a bus tour by night.

Having to babysit allowed the remaining adult crew, suffering somewhat from the stiffness that comes from lack of practice in carrying  small boys while walking innumerable kilometres, an early night, and with that perhaps the potential even for attaining close to the requisite eight hours.  

The excitement for him of attaining the age where he may be able to request a seniors discount in the hopefully probably  event of actually waking on the morrow, and for her of no longer being quite so senior on a comparative basis, did nought to lessen the intensity of their slumber.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The happiest kingdom!

For a long time, we've been planning a "boy's day out" to celebrate the zero clocking over on my age one more time, and when we did we decided that Disneyland would be the most appropriate venue, as mothers, grandmothers and fathers could tag along as well to act as pit crew in the event of a nappy blowout.

We'd had quite a lot of discussion about this over the past twelve months or so, and collectively we decided that only way to ensure the big day was to be entirely successful would be to have a practice run.   Since Uncle Walt has kindly offered free admission for anyone on their birthday this year, there seemed no reason why we shouldn't take advantage of his generosity either. (Just ignore the price of admission for the everyone else in the interests of the story, ok?).

Wandering all day in the Happiest Kingdom of Them All" was everything the advertisements proclaim it to be.  As a skeptic of long standing, I must confess that we all actually liked the place, and had a quite marvellous time even if the food did appear to be and experiment from Adventureland gone wrong.

Fears of the little ones becoming over-stimulated were of course completely well founded, with their mother at one point remarking that it's all very well being concerned about them watching TV, but here they are actually IN the TV.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

While their parents, filled with the boundless energy of youth not yet completely spent, combined with a double shot of coffee set off to see the sites, their grandparents who were almost, but not quite as badly in need of a lay day as the boys, sat quietly with them at home.

This was helped by the fact that the Big E had about four years' worth of sleep to catch up on, and Mr Five's until now inexhaustible batteries had reached the sort of low that produces dark rings under the eyes and feet that don't quite lift off the ground when requested by the brain attached to them.

A morning of making treasure maps and pirate hats seemed to lift the spirits of all aboard for a time, but nowhere near as much as the early afternoon nap did.   Post nap it was time for Ken and Robyn to track us down fresh from a 4:30am arrival in London from Australia and incredibly barely showing signs of fading when they left us as the sun was beginning to set, which coincidentally is getting pretty close to bedtime for sensible people.

Jetlag, it would appear, is contagious, as those among us who have travelled no faster than eight or nine kilometres per hour were also starting to feel its impact, but there was still some serious arranging to do, so one of us bravely soldiered into the night on risking certain fatigue on the morrow.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Early to bed, early to rise.

The Big E was up early as was his Mum, he was early half a dozen times throughout the night actually, and finally decided it really was morning not long before the sun turned up for the day.   I read somewhere that jetlag is hard to explain to someone younger than two and we probably aren't in a position to argue with that at the moment.    Mr Five on the other hand, pulled out of his coma somewhere round sunrise as well, firing on all cylinders, in full anticipation of a big day in the playground that is Paris, and the promise of some genuine French food for lunch (a Nutella Crepe from a street vendor).  With the boat filled to the brim with enthusiam, it wasn't too difficult to organise the entire bunch so that we arrived at the Eiffel Tower not too long after opening time.

By opening time however, the queue to buy tickets to scale the tower was close to three days long, so plans to climb it were abandoned instantly, and a short (for anyone who is not a jet-lagged five year old) walk, interrupted only by an interval in a playground involving what seemed like activities of ever increasing degrees of difficulty, had us within climbing distance of the next tallest thing in Paris;- the Arche de Triomphe.  There, Mr Five happily joined his parents for the climb to the top, while his grandparents quite sensibly sat under a shady tree with the Big E in repose.

The Big E himself seemed somewhat fatigued by his nocturnal efforts, compounded by with the strain of concentrating on perfecting his style at his brother's instruction session in stunt slippery dipping, and was quite content not to be climbing a set of stairs the likes of which he'd never seen in the under three's playground.  


Saturday, May 26, 2012


When one's grandchildren are arriving from Australia,  one rises early, takes the Metro and then the overland train to the airport in plenty of time to arrive before the plane arrives, but not enough to allow for alighting at the wrong terminal and catching the shuttle back, or the following complete failure to find a way to the arrival level while a few more precious tens of minutes tick by.  After all that one arrives perhaps a polite ten minutes after the motley crew have resigned themselves to taking up residence in Charles de Gaulle  Airport, but they seem relatively pleased to see one so that can't be a bad thing.

In an effort to make up lost ground,  and to show off our vast compendium of local knowledge, we intended to spirit the throng away quite quickly and efficiently by buying tickets from the express machine reserved for local credit cards.  It is better, we have discovered, not to insert one's credit card in the wrong orifice in one's haste as the machine immediately goes out of service, joining exactly every other machine at the station.

There was a benefit to this though: watching two tired, hungry and jet-lagged boys enjoy pretending to be the drivers of the automatic shuttle car, concentrating intently, leaning for the corners, pulling up at the stops, with running commentary which only those who understood "garbled" could comprehend.

By midday we were running Mr Five ragged while his parents and Mr E managed to get a little badly needed sleep, but we coerced them into joining us for a walk around our village in the cool of the evening.    Mr Five didn't make it back in a conscious state.  Even a concerted effort to insert food into his food insertion point, failed to rouse him from his slumber although it must be said he didn't look quite as tired as his father.

We will tell him of course, when he wakes, about the ice cream he ate and all of the terrific things he did with us,  and he won't have a clue that he didn't.

Friday, May 25, 2012

On the merry-go-round

One of the things that strikes us as being typical of the French lifestyle, is that people seem not to walk without the company of at least one dog, usually well behaved, and in the event that there are no dogs to be had, then grandchildren of seemingly equally well behaved disposition seem to suffice.

We have confessed on these very pages on previous occasions, to having borrowed a dog perhaps more than once in order to feel more entirely at home.   Having not had a suitable dog come our way of late, other measures have been taken, and so it is that by the time we would normally not be contemplating rising from our warm and cosy berth tomorrow, we will have in our possession, not one but two real live grandchildren fully equipped with jet lagged parents ready to take care of the tasks that grandparents have neither duty nor disposition to undertake.

To that end, amid a slowly building crescendo of excitement and stress, we, or at least the one who is the far more industrious of the two, spent all of this morning scrubbing, washing and finding lint in odd corners of things, generally to be ready for "them", while the other found a dark corner of the harbour in which to hide and conduct an impromptu masterclass in rope splicing and knot tying.    

Paris meanwhile seemed not to notice our own little fuss, and continued to turn up the wick on the temperature, and the party that has pervaded the place since the sun came out.   Cheryl and Ian dropped in from Toowoomba at the moment the cleaning was finished,  and promptly marched us off to do some sensible walking and eating and thanks to Toby and Jan's half-used day tickets on the waterbus, some sight seeing too.

Tomorrow we will be off the swing, and well and truly on the merry-go-round.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Seeing dead people.

Yes, summer is here.  With temperatures heading for the high twenties a day underground would, we thought, give us some relief from the oppressive heat as the temperature soared into the mid twenties.

Not being the types to wander for hours gazing at other people's tombstones, the catacombs had never been high on our list of things to make and do, but curiosity got the better of us and by late morning we were at the ticket counter where one of us was able to negotiate her first ever seniors' discount.  The other, being younger was excited by this and hoped she would not spend the two Euros she had saved all at once.  

For the unaware in our midst, the "catacombs" were the mining pits which yielded much of the building stone for Paris.   A few hundred years ago, overcrowded cemeteries were creating fears of epidemic, so someone decided to remove the remains of the occupants to the tunnels where they could be artistically (but respectfully) arranged.  For several centuries now, people have queued to marvel at these arrangements some seven or eight stories below the ground, in latter days with somewhat less respect for those interred, waving cameras and iphones in their faces (no flash or tripods please, perhaps lest we wake the dead), than perhaps was afforded in earlier times.

"Interesting" probably sums up the visit, neither macabre nor sombre and with the city placing more importance on the geology than the tombs, we suspect that others also have difficulty in categorising the experience.

As we sat simply enjoying the balmy evening on the banks of the Seine among thousands of others watching the sun set behind the Notre Dame, it was clear that given the choice between being part of an artistic arrangement in the catacombs, or being above the ground in Paris as summer begins to break, where our loyalties would lie.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reversal of Fortunes

Blue sky and sunshine in abundance brings with it Parisians in the streets shouting "summer is here at last!" and the madness begins.

What better way to spend the first day offering perfect weather, than entirely indoors out of it.  

First stop, the Opera, where we were somehow magically plucked from the back of the queue and escorted directly to the ticket box with half and hour to spare before the commencement of our tour.  The Opera is a magical place of course, made more magical for us after having quite uncharacteristically paid the extra three Euros for a "guided" tour, to find that not only did it buy a place in the express lane, but we were among the only visitors allowed in the auditorium on the day.

With the sun clearly shining on us we decided to try our luck at the Centre Pompidou, which on this particular visit was "open every day including today".  Having missed the travelling exhibition of Mr Matisse before leaving for France, it was a rather large consolation to see his life's work back here in his home town, in between skipping outside to check that the sun was still shining on all those rooftops.

It was still shining on us as well towards the end of a longish day, when we decided on a whim to amble home through the Marais.   As we did, we happened upon a retail outlet operated by our miscreant internet provider.    Pushing our luck, and knowing it was not yet Friday, we walked in to a smiling team who seemed to think it was a pleasure to not only provide the gadget we were after, but to offer us a brand new contract.

"If you are contacted by my company and asked to rate my service, could you please give me a ten?"

You betcha!  But then, that's about what we'll rate the day as well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We never seem to be in the picture!

To get the most out of visiting any city most guide books recommend thorough research and careful planning.  We think that principle is good in theory, and one day may even try one or the other, but for the time being we are happy for our day to go something along these lines:

Planned early start to the Centre Pompidou thwarted by strong desire not to get out of bed.

After a leisurely breakfast, we walk to harbour office to purchase the VHF unit on sale in their display case, thwarted again, this time by the fact that it's just on display for their mate's up the road although yes it is a very special price.   A little later, at the shop up the road, loud arguments could be heard to the effect that there is no VHF set in the display case in the harbour office and even if there is it certainly doesn't have a big "sale" sign on it with the price we have clearly invented.   "Look it's nearly lunch time take it for the reduced price just this once OK?"   

NEARLY LUNCH TIME?  Well let's have lunch and get to the Pompidou Centre then.  

Alright we'll go after a visit from Bill and Jane, and maybe a coffee.

It's early afternoon when we arrive, and the Pompidou Centre is looking suspiciously quiet.   We'd checked the web site and re-read the signs.  "Open Every Day 10:00-18:00" they say but there in the smaller print where it says students can get in free, the damning confirmation appears "except Tuesday".

Well there's the catacombs then, let's go there!   They are definitely open, but the cashier closes for the day at 4:00 and by carefully pacing out the length of the queue, we calculate we would be at the door at about 5:00 am tomorrow and we haven't brought our pyjamas.

We were only five or six or perhaps seven kilometres from home by now, so a gentle stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens, St Germain, past Notre Dam along the streets of the Island of St Louis was a perfect way to round off another near perfect day, particularly with a coffee and sugar crepe thrown in for good measure.

All of that marvellous adventure without a whisker of planning!

Tomorrow;  we'll talk to the nice guard about letting us in to the Opera one more time. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

In Paris, Invisible.

The weather is once again, in the interests of total accuracy, appalling.  

Sadly when there are places to go, things to do, people to see, one can't do hide in bed much beyond ten or so before the day starts to get away from one.    Even more sadly, if one has a job to go to, say in a telecommunications shop, or a consumer electronics store, one tends to really resent those who may have had the opportunity to do just that, apparently.

We timed our assault on the telephone shop until after lunch time, when staff should have been happy, and when perhaps we would be alone in daring to brave the by now torrential rain (and the appalled looks on the faces of Bill and Jane next door, who asked if there was anything they could do to help so that we didn't have to go out), so that perhaps we might receive some special attention.

And we did.  We were told in no uncertain terms by our telecommunications provider that we should deal with the store across the road, where we would be treated more kindly apparently.  So we braced ourselves and waded across the street to a large consumer electronics store.

What we could see of the ceiling was flat white with fluorescent lights, but in the eyes of some, the ceiling in this store must at least have equalled in splendour the dome above poor Napoleon's corpse. Whenever we came within "hello" distance of an assistant, he or she invariably lifted their eyes heavenward, completely avoiding our attention.    The game became so intense that as we walked around in growing desperation to attract the attention of one young man who had carefully positioned himself with his back to us between a column and a cabinet, he actually turned and walked in the opposite direction!

Eventually by using teamwork and spy strategies that would make John le Carre proud, we captured a startled "assistant" midway between blinking and gazing heavenward.   He seemed quite surprised, firstly that we had caught his attention, secondly that the people in the first store had told us such a whopper  apparently just so they could go on staring at their own ceilings unimpeded, and kindly suggested we try them again.

This we did, to no greater avail, although we now know that perhaps they do indeed sell the product when they have it in stock, but the item will not be coming in tomorrow or even Wednesday.  Perhaps we could find one at the Opera?

Actually it might not be coming in on Friday either, and no it's not possible to reserve one, perhaps we could phone sometime after they finish painting the ceiling.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Foiled again.

I think 'surprised' would be a reasonable description of our reactions when Dennis and Fredrika popped by to suggest we continue with our plan to visit the Opera today, mostly because we we weren't sure that we'd had quite enough sleep when they did, but also because the weather was a tad inclement.   So inclement is it that people are beginning to talk in loud grumbling murmurs about how this is not summer and indeed whether it will ever come. 

"Surprised" was also pretty much their reaction too, when we alighted from the omnibus to be told that we couldn't actually go in today because, well we just couldn't.    

"Can we come in tomorrow?" I enquired.
"I don't know, I just work here," replied the nice young man on the door who was barring the way.

So we ambled quietly away, across town popping in to places from time to time to marvel at the resilience of the cafe patrons sitting in what they hoped would soon be sunshine, at the suits of armour and the weapons from a time when war was right up with hunting as a pass time, and to check that Napoleon was still in his tomb.  For the record we didn't find any evidence to the contrary so concluded that on the balance of probability what's left of him probably is.   

Adopting the resilience of those cafe patrons somewhere in St Germain, we indulged in our second banana and Nutella crepe in as many Sundays, and couldn't help but ponder how quickly all of this has become so familiar, how quickly we have come to feel that we have been here for ever and how quickly the need to see "everything" has dissolved.

We are playing in our own back yard once again.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Sign

Every now and then we come to a place in our travels when we stop for no particular reason, perhaps there are signs we don't understand, or perhaps we do but don't want to, whatever the reason we come to a complete halt.   We just sort of stop for a bit.

Today was one of those days.

Yes, yes, I know we were going to visit the old Opera House with Dennis and Fredrika but we sat around whiling away the morning over coffee and almond croissants which we decided clearly weren't going to sustain us on the journey we had planned, so we wandered across the harbour to the cafe for something more substantial and ended up whiling away what was left of the afternoon as well.   That involved quite a bit of whiling, far more than would allow a visit to the other side of town, and we had received an invitation to while away the evening elsewhere as well so we definitely had no time to explore.

Through good management we did manage to catch a small snooze between whiles though, which was quite fortuitous, as by the time the evening was over it was already tomorrow.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Time flies when you're having fun apparently, and it has suddenly become clear to us that in a few days time we will have been here a week and it's probably about time we got on with the job of seeing some of the bits we haven't seen in a long time, and perhaps the bits we haven't seen at all.

As Julie observed in a comment a few days ago, one of the nice things about being "home" as opposed to being "tourists" is that we are free from the shackles of the tourist paths, but today we chose to follow them, joining Frank and Carol and perhaps two hundred million Americans, half the population of Italy, most of Spain and some of Germany along with a smattering of others in the early queue to enter the Museum d'Orsay.

There's not much point in describing the extraordinary former train station or arguably the greatest collection of the work of the great impressionist painters that it houses, as many have devoted their careers to doing, but it is suffice to note that by the time we were in a cafe not quite far enough away from the afore mentioned tourist path, we had already decided that in the event of a sudden mishap during lunch, today was already a "die happy" day.   Perhaps more correctly that should be "die happier" but who cares?

Exactly why we chose to walk to the Arc de Triomphe after lunch is a complete mystery, but we did. Perhaps it was simply to watch the traffic on that extraordinary roundabout for a while.  Just as  extraordinarily, everyone else who had been in the gallery that morning had thought similarly,  joining the remaining fifty million Americans for an assault on Avenue Champs-Elysees.  Who knows what we would have done if we'd had to ask directions of someone in French.

Tomorrow, perhaps we will climb the hill at Sacre-Coeur and wave back at the people peering out of the clock at Orsee, or we may just come to our senses overnight, and hang around for a while, drinking coffee and sampling some fine pastries.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It was a public holiday in France today, so out of respect for our host nation, we thought we might have the day off, call it a weekend we thought.

More of a Saturday than a Sunday it was.  The washing wasn't going to go away, and while I must admit I may have been a little reluctant to co-operate, nothing provides greater incentive to yours truly to connect a washing machine hose than being told that if it didn't get connected NOW,  almost three Euros was going to go down the throat of the machine in the amenities block.

While the tools were out, it seemed reasonable to finish a few other odd jobs, the shelves beside the steering binnacle for instance, and it was a great time to get started on the great LED change over as well, an experiment in economy if ever there was one.

While I was having fun, the washing somehow magically appeared dry and ironed, (yes, IRONED!), all before the magic lunch o'clock.    By then it was time to start the ritual tidy up before the guests arrive, prepare everything that needed preparation, and nonchalantly wander over to the Latin Quarter to guide Frank and Carol back from their hotel for dinner.  

It would seem that at least half the population of Queensland is in Paris at the moment.

Dennis, the almost recluse as American's go, from three hulls down the dock, has become bemused observing the comings and goings from our little boat over the past four days.   This morning he flagged us down, suggesting that perhaps if we don't tell anyone next time we change our address, we may end up having the occasional night alone.

But if the sun is going to turn the Bastille Opera and the July Monument pink every night, right there in front of our dining table, why wouldn't we want to share our view with the world? 


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Work Day
- Paris

Without the prospect of visitors this morning, we really did expect to spend it knocking off a few items of housekeeping, perhaps a load of washing or two, a tidy here, a clean there, a bit of paint touch up, nothing special, just the jobs that needed doing.     

When it's cold in the morning though there is little incentive to leave the warmth of the spare-no-expense all seasons doona from Mr Ikea's top shelf, so that although we were awake at what some may think was a terribly indecently early hour, we certainly didn't waste an opportunity to have a long lie in while we waited for the temperature to become more civilised.   We may have waited a little too long in retrospect, because once we had risen it seemed more appropriate to set out on a small foraging mission than to get on with the jobs in hand, and by the time we returned to base with a few odds and ends it was ten past lunch time.

Then of course there was the need to catch forty winks after such an early non-start, and by the time that was done we both felt we needed a bit of a walk to get ourselves back in the mood to do some work.

For an hour or so we wandered aimlessly round the Marais, a district renowned for its colour, in contrast  the painter strangely dressed in a single monotone of grey oblivious to his celebrity.  For a time I wondered if he was trying to be one of those human statue things and I almost started fishing through my dictionary to find enough words to tell him he'd have to move just a bit less if he wanted any decent tips, but thought better of it in the end.

With a seemingly never ending variety of things to discover, we noted that we'd need a year just to get to know that little piece of the city alone, as we turned beside the Centre Pompidou, scooting through Les Halles and finally meandering along the length of the Avenue Champs Elysees.    

With the blood in our bodies by that time circulating nicely as blood is supposed to do after a seven or eight kilometre walk, we were well and truly ready to become productive, but alas as we'd run out of time to start any jobs.

Tomorrow is a public holiday, and it has "washing day" written all over it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The tables in the cafe in which we ended our day were topped with actual green laminex, not the modern reproduction kind, but the genuine 60's real McCoy with aluminium trim screwed on with screws that had a single slot across their faces. The rest of the decor, matching or not matching its surroundings with complete impartiality, looked exactly as a mad aunt's place would look at Christmas time.

Barely a city block from the Moulin Rouge, but just a few tens of metres too far from the theatre district to be fashionable or even able to be discovered by anyone who is not already lost, it's menu was as eclectic as its decor, as were its customers this evening, everything somehow matching perfectly the manner in which our day had unfolded before accidentally wandering through its doors.

Celine and Dume had been attending to some business in the outer suburbs, and surprising themselves as much as us, arrived on our transom steps at about the time we were trying to decide whether we should make ourselves known to the world, or simply have lunch.

Four relaxed and rather satisfying lunches later, followed by snoozes all round, we were still no closer to deciding what we should do with the rapidly depleting rest of the day.  It was Celine who declared that it was time we were shown where to find the best bread in Paris just a few kilometres in one direction, and the best pastry a few kilometres in the other, perhaps we should visit an avant-garde sculpture exhibition at the top end of town, (where we found ourselves standing with chins in hands, contemplating the inner meaning of a line of fresh fruit, invisibly suspended a few inches above the floor), before tearing off in the yet another direction one more time, to find the theatre where she and Dume were due to attend some sort of obscure and what turned out to be a not terribly satisfying theatrical performance.

We sort of happened on the little dishevelled cafe while leaning against its window in the act of contemplating how we would fill in the thirty minutes that were all that remained of time together.   Drinks inside seemed like a good idea, and the conviviality ensured that the two of us who weren't being driven by fate to waste the next ninety minutes of our lives being tortured by a plot that wasn't resolved, could well benefit from remaining to sample so of the fare on offer among the specialties from the northern regions.

And that's exactly what we did.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Where are we exactly?

We are here.   I know, we said that yesterday, but when we woke this morning we were really here, it wasn't just a dream, and by this afternoon it felt to both of us as though we had been here forever.   Can it be possible that we have contracted jet lag while travelling at eight kilometres per hour?

We've experienced this odd kind of dislocation deja-vu on other occasions too, and it's usually as was the case today, when we receive a visit from someone from our "previous life", an event which our brains find impossible to place in its correct context.  In downtown Paris, having lunch with Kerry,  and Vanessa, who now sounds so amazingly Dutch when she speaks that it's hard to believe she was once thirteen years old and washing dishes in the back of one of our stores, and Maarty who is the reason for her accent, was just one of those events.

The topics of our conversations are so familiar that our brains are telling us we are having them on the other side of the world.  We just can't explain the feeling of disorientation which goes on for the entire time they are aboard, except for every now and then as a tour boat glides past our window when we are brought back to Paris again.

They left to catch their train to Amsterdam, we had a snooze, and when we woke were are again in the right hemisphere, the one where our internet connection doesn't work as it should except when we go into the provider's shop to demonstrate our problem.  The shop where the nice young man smiles and shakes our hand as we leave, delighted to have been no help at all.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


We broke our cardinal rule this morning leaving the comfort of our bed when everything was in single digits, time and temperature.  We were on a mission, we had places to go.

I'm sure if Lars and Britt in the yacht behind us had actually heard Mr P splutter into life, they would have rolled over from their slumber with one half opened eye out of the window and seeing what they thought was fog, returned to their repose without further ado.    In front of our fog machine though, a glorious clear day was beckoning, and through good luck, animal cunning  and the kindness of a large peniche captain who arranged himself in the lock to fit us in, our timing was so perfect that the last lock brought us onto the Seine and central Paris just one hundred and fifty seconds before its lunch-o'clock close.

Half an hour later we were moored in our new home for almost the next month, fifteen boats from the Arsenal Metro Station, close to the heart of Paris.  The monument at the Bastille looms large in our sky.

Our emotions are a little taxed for no reason.  We feel as though we have completed some sort of major journey, when the reality is that we have done no more than having taken a long, comfortable drive through the countryside. 

It matters not, we are here, watching Parisians worshipping the sun and the clear blue sky, watching us watching them.  

Photographing us photographing them.

We are in Paris, but we have brought our home with us.  We don't feel like tourists this time, perhaps that is what we are coming to terms with!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

As we slid slowly along to the tune of Mr P's dulcet tones, in what would otherwise have been the stillness of the  early afternoon except for the odd sixty kilometre per hour gust of wind to keep us on our toes, with variable thirty to forty at other times, we remarked to each other how quickly we'd resumed our old cruising pattern.

The frenzied travel mode has once again given way to wander round the market after breakfast, elevensies at ten, something else at eleven, an early departure followed by a very civilised seven kilometre an hour pace for a few hours, with a stop for lunch under some trees in the country somewhere. By half-past two we had done enough to catch up on some sleep we may have missed between breakfast and lunch and after that, a bit of a walk around the new village nicely rounded off the day thanks very much.

Then we thought about last night and our spot in Meaux and the sunset over the cathedral and the things there that we didn't see and almost felt guilty, quickly assuaging that by resolving to go back one day for a longer stay.

We don't really care though, because tonight we are less than twenty kilometres, three locks and a tunnel  from our destination.

Tomorrow, if the sun is shining, we may even roll into town with the roof back and then we'll know that summer has arrived.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Sleigh Ride Continues!
60 kilometres!-Nanteuil-sur-Marne to Meaux

A few days ago I may have accidentally made some passing reference to the flooded Marne bearing some resemblance to the upper reaches of the Brisbane River.  This was of course in principal an awful thing to do, like comparing one's mother's cooking with that of one's new bride.     Having now travelled a further hundred or so kilometres down it's swollen path,  I must say however that it does remind us a little of the Brisbane River, except of course for the vineyards of the Champagne Hills rolling past, and the seven hundred year old buildings and the stone bridges which all seem to have had the centres of their spans err, "forcibly removed" at some point in the past, to be reinstated at some later time and in some cases there is evidence that this may have happened more than once.

It provides, perhaps not surprisingly a rather calm and peaceful back drop for one's wanderings and it truly deserves a journey involving weeks or months of idleness to enable a satisfactorily thorough exploration, but,  if we hadn't quite made up our mind completely before we retired for the night, the tapping on the hull of flood-borne logs wandering past during what was supposed to be slumber time contributed to a steely resolve come morning to be done with the river post haste.

Sixty rather relaxed overcast and too-damp-to-go-outside-anyway kilometres and seven hours later, a new and we suspect never to be repeated record, we were wandering around the streets of Meaux congratulating ourselves on our efficiency, which in the space of two days, has sent our carefully prepared schedule into its final death spiral.

We are here, where Brie was invented on market-eve, and there is so much to see and do but if yesterday we could hear the sirens of Paris looming large, today we are but fifty kilometres away, and we can smell it.

Or is it Mr Perkins we can smell?   

Or the Brie?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Slow down we're going too fast!
Dormans to Nanteuil-sur-Marne

By the time we had walked up the hill and poked around a bit, the supermarket was open for business, so just in case we become marooned on a desert island between here and Paris which is now but a breath more than one hundred kilometres distant, we dropped in for among other things, ten spare electric toothbrush heads, three bottles of injector cleaner, some bedwetting pads for Mr Perkins, a dish drying rack, and some bananas.

This delay meant that we were barely back at base before ten, the magic hour when civilised cruising people are but beginning to stir from their slumber, which enabled us to say a "proper" farewell to Eric and Linda before once again taking our place on the monster waterslide to Paris.

Admittedly the excitement of travelling at what we think is near breakneck speed is tempered a teensy bit when we actually look at the figure blinking at us on the GPS, but today even after being held up for an hour while police divers tried to locate a sunken car, we managed to travel an incredible best ever, personal unlikely to be repeated record of fifty kilometres, at an average speed of more then eight per hour!

When we berthed this evening, we checked our schedule, and realised that today we had consumed three days of it!   We may never again travel fifty kilometres or drive for six hours consecutively, but the moment it seems easier to keep going than to try to stop somewhere in the near rapids, which for some inexplicable reason seem to accelerate near every dock in every village.     

All that aside, we can hear the sirens of the city beckoning, luring us to their wails, so who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

No worries!
-Mareuil-sur-Ay to Dormans

"No no no no no no no no" replied the lock keeper when I asked if there was a possibility that we'd have a problem on the river today.

Eight "noes" seemed reasonably emphatic, but just to be sure I asked him what speed he thought the river was running at; three, four kilometres per hour perhaps?    He shook his hand in that sort of wobbly rocking motion that that means "approximately" and said four, five, but there is not a problem.

Hmmm, five.   That's getting very close to being a problem, but not quite, so we swallowed hard and called out something in French that we hope meant "bewdy mate well get on with it then", and he pressed the button which dropped us the last two metres down to the river level. 

The water wasn't overly terrifying, although it was hardly pretty with it's flood-pus colour and the swirls and eddies made it look much worse than it really was.  I hate to draw these sorts of comparisons, but really it wasn't unlike the upper reaches of the Brisbane River on an outgoing tide.

Revelling in our new found ability to travel at a river speed limit in double figures, and that with the engine barely ticking over, we would have arrived well before lunch if we had left sometime before morning tea, but we hadn't.   We were early enough though to be mid pre-mid afternoon snooze when the only other boat on the river today arrived and moored behind us.  After Linda and Eric introduced themselves we knew that mid afternoon and late afternoon snoozes were not going eventuate either and if we didn't exercise a good deal of discretion perhaps our late evening one may be greatly impaired as well.  

They've just been where we are going and we've just been where they are going, and even if we hadn't had eleventy-three mutual friends there were many notes to swap and that all takes time.

We chatted for so long that the lights went out in the sky, and came on on the church spire and the flood level of the river dropped by almost fifty millimetres. 

The lock keeper, as usual was right.  Today, there was not a problem.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The day we went to Epernay

We stood silently on the big round-about with the memorial at it's centre in Epernay, among a crowd so small you could almost count its number on the fingers of one thumb, listening as the music from what was clearly the second-best band in the district slowly gathered in volume as it approached.   

The old soldier stood with a woman and her children who may have been his great-grandchildren, silently waiting.

As the first of the police escort marched into the street, stood to attention, and quietly joined the parade for it's circuit of the roundabout, clearly any greater distance would have stretched the limits of his stamina, standing once more to attention while the brief remembrance ceremony formalities were complete.

The party today, wasn't exactly in our honour it turns out.  

Today is a public holiday celebrating VE day, the anniversary of what is known as Victory in Europe day, and clearly one of remembrance for the fallen in that conflict.

Fewer than a hundred metres up the road more speeches were conducted, but since that was happening precisely opposite the House of Moët and Chandon, where as it happens on a completely unrelated, but distinctly more musical note than that produced by the band, the Ferrari Club of Romania had gathered for an outing.  We excused ourselves silently and turned to tour through some of Moët's twenty-eight kilometres of underground champagne cellar, which fortunately we were able to complete in time to partake of a rather satisfactory public holiday luncheon.

Returning to Mareuil-sur-Ay we were relieved to find that the accordion player had been accidentally booked elsewhere for the day, probably filling in on cymbals in the Epernay band, and the loudspeakers which had been strung among the trees, each pointing exactly in our direction were were gently drizzling out some very mellow jazz with the odd track thrown in from an unknown "greatest hits on the Hammond Organ" album.   

The flower market, itself equally mellow, slowly melted away as the colour of the sky turned into a different sort of drizzle in the fading daylight.  

By then Grahame and Aileen should have arrived at the next stop on their JetLag journey, and a very Sunday feeling Tuesday turned into a perfectly still and silent evening on the Canal Latéral à la Marne.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Changing Gear
- Tours-sur-Marne to Mareuil-sur-Ay

We finally seem to be back in the swing of this cruising lark.

Determined to get an early start, we woke not much more than half an hour after the locks had opened for business, and within another half an hour or perhaps a little more we were on our way, with two locks and seven kilometres to travel in what was left of the day.  

It probably goes without saying that those kilometres were completed without incident, although we were slightly disappointed to discover on our arrival in Mareuil-sur-Ay that preparations for our welcoming party were only just beginning.   The party itself is scheduled for tomorrow, a national holiday apparently and the organisers have thoughtfully erected the bars and cafe tents where patrons will have a terrific view of all the boats in the harbour, specially the blue one, which in turn will be in a position to receive with extraordinary clarity, every note as the accordionist hits his stride long into the night.

Forewarned is forearmed we thought, and if we are destined to have a late night tomorrow, then tonight in the French way, we should have an even later one to get into some sort of routine.    This was not a difficult thing to do as Grahame and Aileen, being completely unaware of what lay ahead, turned up as scheduled en route to their boat, bravely feigning absence of jet lag  and stoically swapping notes and tales of the past year  until it was almost tomorrow.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Chalons-en-Champagne to who cares?

Perhaps, in our concern  for the ex-garden yesterday, we may have omitted confirmation of the fact that we are now, exactly as planned, in cruising mode.

By now I should not have to repeat that cruising mode means making no plans, not caring about deadlines, getting up late or maybe very early, going to bed early or maybe very late, having cups of tea with the others in the harbour and so on, which is exactly how our day began, except that we thought we'd wander around Chalons for a bit in the misty rain as well, buying some carrots and bread and cheese and except for one of us mistakenly referring to the gentleman behind one of the counters as "madam", generally passing ourselves of as indigenies.

Even when our morning coffee with Bob and Anna from next door turned into early afternoon, we weren't at all phased, in fact we were happy to be leaving in sunshine several hours later than we thought, after all we were only going to be travelling for a few hours, through four locks and we had all afternoon to do it.

Leaving Chalons-en-Champaign after a very pleasant stay indeed, the brilliant young lock keeper "reminded" us that we couldn't actually move after four thirty today as the locks will be closed for the election.   I am not quite sure what the deeper meaning of that no doubt symbolic closure is, but at a lesser level it did mean that on our first day of not making any plans, we had to change them.    Ironically though when we had the opportunity to change them again just a little later, because of that very same closure we could not.

We were not long out of our second lock of the day, with the clock ticking around four, the point of no return, when we could not but notice a pair of young ladies power walking with hiking poles and if I may say so, with a good deal of gusto to boot.  Because of recent and hitherto unpublished news about a certain predicament one of my knees, we've taken to noticing people walking with poles, and we duly noted that this pair had clearly had a bit of practice.   

They seemed to recognise the flag flying from our bow as they approached at about double our speed, managed to have themselves understood by speaking with an accent that I suspect was from somewhere near Melbourne, in the process telling us that they were walking to Rome.  Regretfully at the time we were in exactly the only circumstance that could have prevented us from giving them a lift back to Chalons, or for that matter even stopping for a proper chat.

Thanks to the miracle of the modern internet though, we now know who they are and what they are up to!  http://wheresnetia.wordpress.com/

Netia and Jill, sorry, all the best with the rest of the trip, if you get up early (say round ten), and go down to the port, knock on Bob and Anna's door, they are going your way!


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Victims of a Natural Disaster
Bignicourt-sur-Saulx to Chalons-en-Champagne

One way of instantly telling a "proper" live aboard boat from all the rest, is by the quantity and quality of potted plants growing aboard.  Even as I sit in the Port at Chalons-en-Champagne typing this, the small barge moored beside us has every herb known to man growing in pots on it's deck, some green vegetable that could be bok-choi (or maybe just odd shaped lettuce) and two whole rows of nasturtiums neatly setting off the front cabin.

We of course long to be "proper" but have been well and truly foiled by any half hearted attempt we have made thus far to grow stuff.   Our offerings last year began well enough; a clump of basil and some rosemary and thyne offset at each end of the self watering planter with some marigolds.   Maybe we aren't cut out for growing things in pots, or perhaps it was our frugality that was our undoing, having bought less than premium stock, offset with the clever use of some random bits of dirt which came from the ground somewhere in our travels.

Oh we ended up with a fine looking garden for a couple of months, because before returning home Sunny bequeathed us her geraniums and basil which she had loved and cared for for most of spring and half of summer, handing it to us in its prime.

This year was to be different.   We paid money for proper dirt, bought parsley and basil and chives for our planter as we passed Nancy a week ago, lovingly planted it as we rested in Toul, nurtured it all through all those other places, through the tunnel, and we finally had what looked like something, given time, we could be proud of.

Then, just as everything was starting to reach for the sky, (I'd tip pruned the basil, plucked some undesirable parsley, and combed the chives every day after making sure it was fed, )a black cloud rolled over Bignicourt-sur-Saulx.

In that black cloud was hail.  Crop flattening, basil killing, parsley destroying, chive chomping hail.  We farmers are a hardy lot, but it may take a bit to bounce back from this.

Hopefully, Sunny will see this, feel sorry for us and eventually track us down with another "proper" garden in hand!


Friday, May 04, 2012

Smooth Sailing
-Fains-les-Sources to Bignicourt-sur-Sauix

Because of certain decisions taken a long time ago, in reality three days after we had made our plans (there's that impossible word again) and had actually bought our tickets to make them a reality, this first two weeks has by our standards in particular been something of an unseemly rush.  Today however, with another thirty kilometres passed, we are but twelve kilometres from our next milestone, we reach the end of the canal, and enter the Champagne region.

The decisions I refer to, among others, were the ones taken by the VNF, the body responsible for management of the inland waterways, to close the canal between Paris and where ever we were going to be at any given time until three weeks after we planned to be there.    The VNF is at once our nemesis and our guardian angel, sending chaps in blue and green uniforms and little white vans to ensure we are where we say we will be, and to fix any little glitch that may happen whilst negotiating locks.   

Because the locks are operated "automatically" which is a French term which means "manually, but motors do the work", glitches are not infrequent.   When they occur they are usually something to do with the telecommander, another French term which means "garage door remote control", and we all go through a well practiced routine.

Firstly we bark into the intercom at the lock, something which we think means we are stuck at lock "X".  Then they bark back something sounding like an announcement at a railway station.    Then, despite quite rightly conducting business in more or less the language of their country, a kindly voice always finishes off with "Someone is coming, OK?"

The little white van arrives, bearing a knight clad in  blue and green within minutes, or an hour or even two if the call is around lunch time, and the knight pretends that we have arrived from space.  With no understanding at all of the undoubted certainty that we have actually arrived at lock fifty-three in this particular chain, by travelling through every single lock before it, and by now we are actually reasonably good at pressing the only button on the telecommander, we get the lesson on how it works, then a lecture on how "terrible" the technology is, and then the switches are flicked manually from within his little control room and we are on our way.  After the third, or sometimes fourth lesson in four consecutive locks, the knight takes the errant instrument from us, tries it himself, mumbles something unpublishable and sends us on our merry way with a replacement, wishing us a great day as we go.

Four locks later of course, that kind of "automatic" system is replaced by another kind of "automatic" system, and we hand back our brand new and perfectly functioning telecommander with thanks!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Thursday's Washing Day
Tronville-en-Barrois to Fains-les-Sources

When the sun comes out and we're on the road, we look for one thing only, a port with water and electricity.

Forget all you've heard about Monday for clothes and Thursday for sheets, there's a new formula that is strictly adhered to round these parts:

Fortunately, we had a place in mind which had the first two of the requisite elements, and by the time we'd dropped in to Bar le Duc to address a small administrative matter, (actually to our shame until this point we still had last year's photos in the "grand-children" frame), and we may as well top up with groceries, because you never know when we might find ourselves stranded a kilometre from anywhere that sells food, the latter of the elements had appeared with some gusto.

Barely an hour later we were settled in our little gunk hole in Fains-les-Source with the washing machine humming happily in the fore cabin, the owner of the machine humming happily in the galley baking a banana cake, while the other of us was humming at the prospect of devouring it at some later point in the evening, all the while topping up the water and eventually (after he had plucked up significant quantities of courage) enquiring as to why, after all the days we have spent searching for sunshine, when it finally arrived, was the drying rack placed in the shadow of an electric light pole.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

-Demange-aux-Eaux to Ligny-en-Barrois

Some days were meant for travel, and whether this was one of them or not, travel we did.

I'm not sure how the sky knew that the holiday was over, but it returned to its more customary 2012 chilly  grey uniform for the duration of the day, which seemed to match much of the forest we were travelling through, still completely denuded of it's summer or even spring clothing.   Thankfully the rain merely threatened us all day, and conditions were nowhere near as bleak as they appeared.

Twenty-four kilometres and twenty-seven locks we ticked off in the course of the day, as we poked along, and lest anyone laugh and suggest that we are not really intent on travelling quickly after all, may I remind one and all that last year we travelled this exact same route.


And each time it took us exactly five days to do what we have done today.  

What is it, that drives us so madly one may ask? It's just that in three week's time, Mr Five and the Big E will be in Paris (with their parents) and we MUST be there!  


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Stuck in the middle of nowhere!
- Demange-aux-Eaux


So here we are, stuck in the middle of nowhere for the entire day, France's national holiday, how sad to be us.

The silence is deafening, truly deafening, not a creature is stirring not even a mouse, and that's the way it's been all day except for the times when people were out and about heading off somewhere to lunch, and a few hours later walking off their lunches beside the waterway.

What a glorious day it's been!

I hasten to add that our day was not all lying around in the sunshine though. We did cycle through the fields for a dozen or so kilometres, poking around a couple of nearby villages, and in the latter stages of the day even strolled along the water's edge for a time, gathering snippets of local knowledge one syllable at a time.

Ah well, tomorrow it's nose back to the grindstone. 
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