Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Exploring the battlefields
Veneray to les Laumes-Alesia (and back)

As best we could tell, the battle of Alésia did not take place three or four kilometres from our mooring, so when the day dawned clear and hot we decided to strike out on foot to the village of Alésia itself, still sitting at the top of the hill where bits of it have sat for almost two thousand years, overlooking just about everything including the plain where the battle did not take place.

The Gallo-Roman remains of the original settlement are exposed to view on the outskirts of the "modern" village, and on the plains below the new "interpretation" centre sits as a portal into the past, waiting for Sunday when the troops will arrive to re-enact the battles of old.

By the time we had walked past both, I was grateful that I'd brought my new fangled hiking poles, although when our short-cut home went slightly awry, and we ended up hiking through the actual Alésian hospital, the others in my company could not decide whether or not I was endangered by the looks of the hospital staff as I strode with my sticks, boldly where no hiker apparently had been before.

The staff on the other hand, did not act in haste, and allowed us to leave by the fire exit, perhaps understanding that it would lock automatically behind us.  

We gave some consideration for a time, to starting a new internet meme about "people hiking with poles through public buildings" but in the absence of any photographic evidence and after a good deal of late night discussion, sensibly decided not to tell a soul.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Move along, there's nothing to see here.
Montbard to Veneray-les-Laumes

Our guide book says of Venery-les-Laumes: 

"Although there were indeed major battles between the Romans and the Gaulles in the Laumes plain, it is now almost certain that the decisive battle of Alesia did not take place here."

I can't recall another time when I've been so keen to get to somewhere where almost certainly nothing happened.

We set our sights on spending this night at that very village some ten kilometres away. The journey could hardly be described as onerous, even with our little ship laden with produce that simply had to be eaten, fresh from this morning's market, but once again with friends aboard, we were unlikely to retire while the night was young and the usual result of that is of course that neither were we likely to be found leaving the port while the morning was young.

Therefore made plans to depart when the afternoon was young, which is exactly what came to pass.

We arrived in Veneray far too late to undertake any strenuous activity, so immediately set about ensuring that it would not be recorded as the place where the afternoon snooze did not occur as well.

Tomorrow, refreshed, we shall set about discovering remains of things that did not happen.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Imagine if..

Summer is no longer a figment of our imagination.   

Blue skies by day, violent thunderstorms by night, temperatures well into the thirties and ice in every drink was the order of the day.

Neale and Trace stumbled off the train into the midday laziness, in time to join us for both our early afternoon snooze and our late afternoon one, and in between our first proper exploration of the town in all its historical Buffon-esque glory, although there was no explanation that we could find for the plaited golden locks hanging from the tower on the ramparts.  

It was the sort of thing we thought best left well alone, so rather than stepping up our enquiries we found a shady tree, and sat in its cool for the duration of the evening, not once giving another thought to the state of being of the owner of those tresses.   

For just a few hours, the world had disappeared from our consciousness, taking all its problems with it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hard at work

Arriving a day early is not something to which we have become accustomed, neither for that matter is brilliant sunshine and temperatures touching the high twenties or perhaps thirty with absolutely no humidity.

Instead of bounding out and about and exploring all the town has to offer, we, and the crews of the other two boats in the harbour did the only sensible thing we could.  We cleaned, and varnished and we washed until there was nothing left to be washed or varnished and cleaned, and we wondered if the summer was going to last more than this one day.

For the first time this year we sat in the evening cool with the roof open, reading about all the things we had not yet seen, becoming something of an authority on the Buffon family.

Tomorrow perhaps we shall build on all this book learning, or perhaps we shall just sit under a shady tree, or wander among the wildflowers along the canal, one of us happily photographing the wretched things with the other just as happily murdering them with a flash of her kitchen scissors, bundling them into something she calls a "posy"as she goes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A new race against time
Cry-sur-Armançon to Montbard

A new deadline was slowly appearing, something that we thought may need a plan, as we are due to pick up friends in Montbard on Thursday, and we are almost twelve kilometres away.

A few weeks ago that wouldn't have been a challenge, we would have laughed manically and dug the silver spurs into Mr P, roaring off towards the horizon, and we would have been in town by quarter-to-lunchtime.   Now, however we are cruising properly,  and we are in Buffon territory and it's raining in a misty sort of way, or misty in a rainy sort of way, we aren't sure which.
Buffon, was arguably the greatest naturalist who ever lived, (of the study of animals and plants kind not the walking round unclad variety.)  He was also quite wealthy and owned the town from which he took his name, although even that didn't go as smoothly as one would have preferred it seems.    He may not actually have told his father that he had assumed the affectation "de Buffon" while traipsing around with the English gentry, and was a bit surprised to find that his dad had sold the town in his absence.

He did the only reasonable thing under the circumstances, and bought it back, and left a whole bunch of stuff for us to discover three hundred years later including a botanic gardens and a water powered forge complex.  

We thought his forges might well be worth a visit, so arrived a polite time before lunch and rather than placing any stress on the system, decided not to venture into the bleak until after that sacred hour.

When we eventually stirred ourselves, wandering to the gates of what is a world heritage listed monument, we were greeted by one of our very favourite notices.

"Open all days"  with a line below proclaiming what should have been obvious, given the day we were there; 

"Except Tuesdays".

So we pressed on into the afternoon, all the way to the town of Buffon's birth, Montbard.

A day early.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hanging round
Ravierres to Cry-sur-Armançon

It was probably that we were mindful that those pesky Canadians had forced us to travel at breakneck speed for a few days, or it may have been the rigours of long distance train travel,  that hour spent being whisked through the countryside at two hundred kilometres per hour can tax one, but whatever the reason we unanimously decided that a slow start would be quite appropriate.

When we eventually stirred, we remembered that some friends had recommended a little lunch cafe in the next town along the canal and despite it being already inarguably some considerable time  past the hour normally described as "lunch", we decided to make a move.

Four kilometres by boat seemed to us to be a not overly taxing day, even with a couple of locks thrown in, so without fear of "overdoing" it we set off on a long and unremarkable amble through the village, failing entirely to find the ruins of the chateau, the crypts from Roman times and probably half a dozen other historical artefacts of world heritage significance.   We did cross the bridge that has been providing service to the likes of ourselves for one and a half millennium, and we did find the restaurant too.

It was closed till lunchtime of course.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Smiley Faces
Dijon back to Ravieres

Not much had changed on Sunny and Al's boat since our farewell last year although it was just a little colder than we remember.

We are an odd couple of couples. As two of us slept snug in our winter pyjamas under doona and blanket in temperatures just a few degrees cooler than our family was experiencing in the depths of winter at home, the pair in the forecabin, the Canadians, slept comparatively naked in what they considered to be verging on not at all comfortable heat. 

Eventually the sun almost shone, and we meandered uptown dressed for the weather, we in jeans, jumpers and wooly socks, they in shorts and tee shirts, each wondering how the other was surviving.

When we are together time travels far too quickly, and after eating close to too many Mussels accompanied by just enough chips and a selection of desserts, we were forced once more to wend our separate ways. 

As we wended ours in the twilight, on foot from the station in Nuit, back to our lonely little boat in Ravieres, cheek muscles aching, we quietly began planning our next encounter.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The trials of commuting.
Ancy-le-Franc to Dijon via Ravieres

We'd been invited to travel to Dijon to spend the weekend with Sunny and Al whose path we still hope to cross in coming weeks, but a weekend off from all the arduous cruising of late suited us both.  After all, we'd travelled almost five kilometres yesterday alone. 

We thought we'd take a train, so after leaving Tanlay yesterday we puttered along the eight or nine kilometres or so to Lezinnes and walked to the station in plenty of time to get to Dijon by evening.   That was when we discovered that many of the small stations on this line have been closed including the very one we stood in.  However as compensation there is apparently an almost-free taxi to the nearest station which is not.

Excellent we thought!   

Our enquiries about how to arrange said taxi were answered something along the lines of; 

"You have to book it yesterday.  Actually since the taxi service only runs on weekdays you would have to be here yesterday and arrange the taxi for yesterday, yesterday, and to be even more clear, you can't come home tomorrow, you will have to wait till Monday and to do that you will have to arrange the taxi yesterday as well."

Since doing anything yesterday was a bit beyond the scope of our current skill-set, we decided to try our luck at Ancy-le-Franc, where we forwent the pleasure of discovering the internals of it's own amazingly recently restored chateau, for a similarly pleasurable conversation with the young lady in the tourist information office, who kindly repeated the news of the previous day, but advised that just down the canal a bit at Nuit, a regular service was still running.

Which is how we came to be in Ravieres not much after lunch, showered and scrubbed up for a trip to the big smoke waving our senior's rail passes as we went.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Horses for Courses
Tanlay to Ancy-le-Franc via Lezinnes

When we arrived in Tanlay yesterday in the cool of the evening, which was just as the cool of the afternoon abated actually, the port was abuzz with activity.

Abuzz in this case is code for "the single person left to guard the hotel barge" shouted that we couldn't moor in front of them as there was another hotel barge coming in shortly.   Hotel barges are very large craft which generally cater for very small numbers of passengers  who part with enough cash to almost cover the purchase price of our little boat for the privilege of spending a week on the Burgundy Canal.  Since the two barges would consume exactly all of the space on the quay in the designated harbour, we took her warning as a sign that we should moor on the opposite bank.

Having spent the night in solitude, we expected that our exploration of the village would be similarly lonely, as indeed it was until we arrived at the chateau where we were joined on our conducted visit by the entire passenger list of one of the hotel barges.  All six of them being driven the three hundred metres or so from the boat to the chateau to be returned in the same manner after their visit, presumably lest some ill should befall them en route.

Not for them the quiet amble through winding cobbled lanes with baguette tucked under arm, the conversation with the baker's daughter about exactly which of her sugary treats she thought best suited our morning coffee plans, or for that matter the quiet little sit under the roses covering the old wash house in the next village during a rather pleasant diversion back to base.

I suspect that later in the morning as their ship ghosted past us en route to its next destination, they, cheerily waving amid quiet enjoyment of their "elevensies", watching us sitting there quietly enjoying ours, were to a person thinking; "They don't know what we're missing!"

Which is exactly what we were thinking as it happens.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Farewell dear herb garden
Tonnerre to Tanlay

Cruising time means thunderstorm time apparently.  

We'd planned a rather arduous eight kilometres of travel today, and with the forecast and the sky both telling us that thunderstorms were probable, it seemed prudent to delay our departure by exactly the time it takes to scrub the boat inside and out, walk to the far away shops and back, and by now it should go without saying; have lunch.

Having a squeaky clean and newly shiny boat guaranteed that it would end up covered in leaves and bits of broken tree after the storm, so when we eventually left port we left in a vessel which to a casual observer may have resembled a typical pile of debris in a gutter awaiting kerbside collection.

In the process of clearing the vegetation, we looked despairingly at our sad little planter box, and having at first mistaken its contents for something that had blown in on the storm concluded that if we had not made a successful garden in three years, it was probably not going to happen ever.   So with heavy hearts, we said goodbye to all those heady dreams we had had, of ever looking like a "proper" canal cruiser like the ones we see skipping daintily down the rivers laden under blossom like a float at the Carnival of Flowers.

There are plenty of flowers to see on the way we tell ourselves, there are after all still some locks with beautifully tended gardens, and there are wildflowers aplenty for now at least, and bits of green on every stone wall. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


They had exactly thirty hours when the alarm went off, to eat, pick up their pre-packed bags and find their way to the airport before lift-off.    But they seemed to be enjoying themselves too much for our liking, so we hustled them and bustled them to the station accompanying their every change of transport until just before lunchtime when we booked them into their airport hotel and could relax.

All that remained was to have a celebratory lunch, and what a lunch it was.    Mr Five will now have to get used to the fact that Nutella Crepes are no longer a way of life I suspect, the Big E is now probably used to eating off his grandparents' plate(s), but there was no point in spoiling a party by telling them then. That, we think is their parent's job.

Three hours, two trains and a short walk after lunch we were back in Tonnerre, staring at each other, through the silence of an empty boat, at once wondering what we would do with ourselves and revelling in the space that had miraculously returned.

We will miss them.  We think.  

Tomorrow we will provision, clean and get on with cruising!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Near Miss

Trying to get all six of us to eat, drink, bathe and be out the door by a particular time is, it has to be said, like trying to herd cats.

By nine, about an hour past the time the train was due to (and probably did) leave, we were not quite up to the having breakfast stage, so the premonition if that's what it was although I suspect it was more resignation, that I had yesterday about us not actually visiting Auxerre today, came to pass.

This was not necessarily a bad thing, as the weather was on the awful side of poorly, the boys really didn't need another big day on foot, and when we idly checked their actual aeroplane departure time on Thursday, we discovered that there really wasn't any practical way of arriving at the airport in Paris from Tonnerre in time to actually board the flight home without relying on a series of happy coincidences en route.

So with great difficulty we set about finding accommodation for four in one room in Paris, and walked father and daughter, to the station to buy the tickets, one way for them, return for us.

We walked again to the station after discovering that the tickets for us, were indeed return ones, but had no "going there" sector.

Then we walked again to the station because when we walked there last time, of course they had closed for lunch.

Now all they had to do was pack, and set the alarm for "far too early" and providing the cat herding goes better in the morning than today, we would all live happily ever after.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Being Tourguides

We've been in Tonnerre long enough to know a bit about the place.  It's surprising how familiar a village becomes after a week as bits of it start to fill the empty creases in one's brain.

It was therefore almost as residents of a lifetime's standing we were able to direct our happy band to the sites and sights.   They were astonished to find that in contrast to their experiences of the past week on a cruise ship, that not only was were out guide services provided without cost, but that gratuities were included.

The weather of course was back to the indifference that has marked this summer across most of Europe, and while I had planned an excursion for much further afield on the morrow, for reasons which never became clear, but may have had something to do with some friends arriving in Port, and the evening turning into a rather late night, we never quite got round to organising ourselves.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I finished a book this afternoon, of the reading rather than the "colouring in" type, about someone else's barge adventures in France.

I am fascinated with how other people seem to have such extraordinary tales of derring do, how they always seem to be running aground, or into things or having to make fancy last minute manoeuvres to prevent their "160 tons of steel" tangling with some immovable object.    Today for instance, while lying around reading and pre as well as post-snooze we didn't come close to hitting anything, and tomorrow I expect we'll do just as well.

It's not as though we were completely inactive though.  We did ride to the village down the way a bit, wander round its church and its wash house, past fish and beavers and watermills and to the station where, late in the evening the scruffy horde returned, fresh from their week on a somewhat larger ship than ours.

We were no longer alone.

They were back with all their glorious cruise ship chatter and excitement.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ponderrings around the Fosse Dionne

We happened upon a thing called the Fosse Dionne on our wanderings today.   It wasn't one of those accidental happenings upon though, as there are signs on pretty much every street corner with little arrows pointing to it, and others declaring it to be a monument of some significance.

Fosse (I'm sure it won't be offended if I call it that) is is a truly amazingly beautiful and apparently bottomless spring in the heart of Tonnerre which was used by the Romans as a source of water in their settlement here.  Much later, but still a good few decades before Europe discovered Australia, it was turned into a feature at the centre of a public laundry.

Above it looms a church built some time in the twelfth or was it thirteenth century, it doesn't matter too much exactly when it was built, it was designed to loom and loom it has done for almost a millennia.  Perhaps strangely for all it's looming impression or perhaps oppression, it was the small grouping of bullet holes around the tiny window in its clock tower that impacted most on our demeanour. 

For all the swords and paintings and tales of death by grisly contraption that we have seen, those half dozen scars on the clock tower graphically told the tale of a human being on a mission from which he would not return.

And the Fosse, having seen it all and heard even more, just keeps bubbling away.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Places to Go

Empty vessels are said to be the ones making the most sound.

As of today, we are not certain of that.  Our vessel was as near to empty as  is possible without us actually leaving it and when we woke there was no sound at all coming from within it. 

This happened to be at a very sensible hour too, there was no desperation to mash weetbix in a bowl, and the plastic sipper cup sat idle on the bench.   There was nothing to trip over, no cereal encrusted cuddles to be ha,d no early or post breakfast tickles to dish out.

Nowhere to go, no one to see, nothing to do!  (Except perhaps catching up on the last week of these posts.)

We filled it in the day quite happily at the beginning,  by fixing a few things, reading a bit, and of course there was lunch, but Tonnerre has been around for quite some time and there are alleyways which seem to exist for no purpose other than our pleasure, so it would be rude we felt if we didn't give them at least a cursory inspection.

If we can keep the rain again, we may well do the same tomorrow.

And the day after.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Roar of the Crowd

Of necessity things began buzzing dawn or something like that, with the boat full of hustle and bustle to get them all  off to London for the weekend.  We even took them to the train to make sure they got on.

Then we returned to blissful sunshine accompanied by a silence that was deafening.

The Big E wasn't carrying my boots or trying to find a better vantage point in some prohibited place.  

No one was asking why I was doing whatever it was each time I moved a millimetre. 

No "I love you" stares shot across the cabin when they thought we weren't looking, nor when they thought we were for that matter.

We'd forgotten what it was like to be still.   Alone and not moving.  So we washed and did a bit of cleaning and not much else.

I told the Australian bloke in the hire boat who moored behind us that we were going to be here for a week when he enquired.

"There are a lot better places to stay a week than here", he offered.

"Well we'll stay in those places for a week too", I replied.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flogny-la-Chapelle to Tonnerre

There's nothing like a bit of hard work to warm the cockles.  

That's what Mr Five thought at least, with temperatures well into single figures and rain that was a little chilly, even with gloves and hat he suffered badly at every lock, but there was no way he was going to let me try to open those gates alone.

Grateful for the help I was too, and I'm sure that's what got us the remaining half dozen kilometres or so to Tonnerre, where, tired from all this travel, we shall remain for a week we think.

We have bought their tickets and tomorrow, rain hail or shine, and the forecast says "shine", they will be off.

"Papa, why are you using the black lead today, aren't you afraid of elephants any more?" spoken by Mr  Five in an all knowing "I've got you now" sort of voice.

"No elephants round here, it's a bit cold for them. The black lead is for Rhinos, but I'll keep the orange one ready just in case it warms up a bit."  I replied to his wide-eyed self.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

High Summer - 2012
St-Florentin to Flogny-la-Chapelle

Two days from now the horde are due to leave for a weekend in London, so we really do need to give some consideration to getting close to a railway station by then.   Despite the cold and rain, we decided to push on, get another fifteen kilometres under the belt.   

As has become usual that meant that the only respite from the rain came when we weren't actually needed to be outside in a lock,  or anywhere near a playground, or wanting to go for a walk to find a sheep or a cheese factory.

Undaunted as those who are desperate to have a good time often are, we discovered that after the first five or six kilometres of our evening stroll some of us were warm enough to unzip our top layer jackets.   

I suspect this is just an acclimatisation programme so they won't be cold over the weekend, and while they are away, the sun will shine on our little boat.

I hope.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Brienon-sur-Armançon to St-Florentin

The journey to St-Florentin wasn't particularly taxing, although we did manage to scale one more lock than yesterday, with a tradeoff of one kilometre less distance travelled.

The small boys, starting to thaw after their week on an entire cruise liner have been surprisingly less taxing than we feared as well.   The Big E seems content to drag my boots around the boat to wherever I may be in the vague hope that I will don them and take him into the great outdoors, which does seem to happen with a good deal of regularity, while Mr Five just does what five year olds do best.  

He asks "Why?"

And that's exactly what he asked after our walk through the winding and windy streets of St-Florentin as he watched me plug in our mains electrical connection.

"To keep the elephants away," I replied matter of factly,"They'd make a terrible mess of the boat if they visited in the night"

"There aren't any elephants here, Papa."

"That's because I plug in the orange elephant cables every night."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The merest hint of blue.
Migennes to Brienon-sur-Armançon

All we ever hear about whenever we engage any local person in conversation, is how terrible summer is.  Actually it's not at all terrible, it just hasn't arrived, but if we agree with whoever it is that is describing the horror of it all, we then get both barrels about what a shocking spring we've had to boot.

But there was a little patch of blue today, we kicked off back in cruising mode proper today.  Nine kilometres we thought would do it nicely, perhaps with two locks to round off the day.

Even with what seemed a battalion of small boys aboard, there seemed little point in leaving before our morning coffee, and by the time that had been done, well the locks were closed for lunch, so we thought it would be a jolly good idea to follow their lead.

Not too many people stay in  Brienon-sur-Armançon apparently, the main claim to fame of which, according to the guide books is that several attractive buildings survived the fires which ravaged the town in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but we found the smallest patch of blue sky there, and thought we'd sit under it for as long as it would allow.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Waiting for the return.

By the time the scruffy horde arrived it was eight at night, and they were a little bit fatigued after their marathon day from Marseilles to Migennes via Paris.  

We were a little on the less than bouncy side ourselves for reasons we couldn't really fathom, but which we thought had to do with having spent the day in the sun (or variously not) doing much of the scrubbing and cleaning work we haven't been able to do since April because of the state of the weather, or because we were too busy, or because there were too many people on board, or perhaps because we simply had many better things to do.   Even refuelling, meant ten trips to the service station which was not quite three hundred metres away, which of course meant not quite six kilometres of walking with the jerry can.

Migennes is the sort of place where finding better things to do is not a particularly simple task, it's a sort of "whistle stop on the highway" town, a place to travel through rather than visit.  One of the occupations of its citizens seems to involve studiously ignoring young persons of Mediterranean appearance hanging about in shadows or contrarily revving their strangely eastern European registered Porches to ensure we know they are about.     I suspect the particular noises we were hearing was a bit like listening to Greensleeves played endlessly by the ice cream van of old.  I also have some suspicions that the snow cones on offer didn't need refrigeration.

With the way the weather forecast is looking, nothing is going to need refrigeration for a day or two.


Friday, June 08, 2012

We leave the river
Villeneuve-sur-Yonne to Migennes

We started the day just one more lock to negotiate before reaching civilised country once more, that place where nothing happens before nine, and no-one can be seen at lunch time.  Even the locks close for a snooze in the middle of the day.

Just one more.  We thought if we could time our run so that we  arrived at the second lock a little after nine, we'd be well on our way to a well earned lunch in yet another mediaeval city, and who knows, we could be tucked up on the canal by mid afternoon at worst.  

Our friend at the last lock of last evening, the one whose dogs took great joy in accompanying him as he walked to each end, responding to the merest tilt of his head, had made an appointment for us and assured us his colleague would have the next lock ready at quarter past eight.   That seemed like the perfect time to arrive, so we did, not a minute before, to find the lock far from ready.

Not only was it still filled with water, which can be a great inhibitor for those wanting to go up, but there was no sign of life to be found.   The door to the office was open, the doors and windows to the cottage were open, the workshop also open, was completely devoid of life-signs.    I'm not sure whether he saw me first or vice-versa, but a harried looking lock keeper poked his head out from behind a curtain and explained with some concern on his face that he was very sorry to have kept us, he was not hiding, but his cat had gone missing and it was a very fat cat and would not be very good on the road.

He emptied the lock while absenting himself from time to time, and we entered and secured ourselves at the exact time an elderly lady made some signals for him to come and to be quiet as he did.  He excused himself and tip-toed over to his vegetable garden.  With the joy that only a father looking at a sleeping child could know, he smiled at the cat curled up in his turnip patch, hiding in the sun.   Returning to us bursting with relief and to his astonishment that he discovered that he could suddenly speak English, and proceeded to do so as if he had until the lock filled to tell everything he knew.

Tonight we are back on the canal, at Migennes at the very top of the Canal de Bourgogne.  A few days ago battling wind and ships and current and a schedule that was very close to being far too optimistic,  perhaps we would have been happy to have the river behind us.  

Tonight it is fair to say, we are going to miss it.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Bordeau to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne

 If we had a diary it might read something like this:

"Left early, had a spot of lunch after walking round a mediaeval city (Sens), bought a chocolate eclair for afternoon smoko,  arrived early and walked around a mediaeval city (Villeneuve-sur-Yonne), talked to a coupe of people, had dinner, went to bed - another nice day."

I fear the river has become repetitive, but we have a plan and we're sticking to it, like chewing gum to a post, we are going to be in the Burgundy Canal by week's end, which when I think about it, occurs tomorrow evening.

We actually did think we'd leave our charming mooring mid countryside early, get to the lock at opening time, good start to the day, that sort of thing and for once that's exactly what happened.   We arrived in fact a nice polite ten minutes after start work time for lock keepers, but were perhaps not at all surprised to find no one home.    After mooring in difficult circumstances, and wandering around in search of an errant lock keeper for a bit while doing a bit of quiet wondering to myself, a head appeared with a body attached to it, from the keeper's cottage door.

"I'll be with you in a tick" is more or less what it called over one shoulder "I just have to take the kids to school" and with that both head and body disappeared in a direction which was of entirely no help to us.

So we sat, and waited and thought about how we could still be asleep, until he arrived back without apology and got the show on the road almost an hour late.  

To be fair, he did phone ahead to ensure we were treated very nicely indeed for the rest of the day, and he must have been important because we were, except for the occasional time when someone let a thunder storm drop on us from out of the blue. 

 Presumably thunder storms are run by a different department.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Moret-sur-Loing to Bordeau

Having almost, but not quite broken ourselves during our marathon yesterday, we wandered around Moret-sur-Loire for a time, had a coffee, conferred with the Swiss guys who had decided quite wisely that they had done three days work yesterday and weren't going to move again for at least that long, then quietly resumed our journey.

Quietly except that the wind began to make its presence felt and if we were to feel displeasure at travelling on the river while tired, that would surely have added to those feelings.

Despite the strike being abandoned, the locks seemed busier than yesterday, and we had delay upon delay when we left the Seine.  The locks on the River Yonne are horrible things for us, with sloping sides which took just a little more from the pleasure of being where we were. 

We were on the verge of trying to decide if the day was becoming unpleasant, or whether it was just less pleasant than usual when it happened.  We'd heard of it a few times, a couple of our friends have experienced it, and now so have we.

Half way through the day, having been delayed by more than two hours on the first three locks, we arrived at one which was ready and waiting for us with a green light  and we thought our luck had changed.  The green turned red as soon as we called on the radio, and a rather blunt message barked to the effect that we were to wait.

We did, for ten minutes or so, until a ship came from nowhere and filled the lock.   Puttering around in the water below the barrage was fortunately not too difficult, as we heard the eclusier tell another ship that he would wait for his arrival with the lock filled.   So for thirty minutes, almost forty we sat puttering into the rapids, until eventually that ship arrived, and taking all the time in the world, eventually departed and we were waved in.

The lock keeper was profuse in his mock-apology, but seemed taken aback a little when I responded without a sign of frustration, that we understand completely, the ships have to make a living, and we are after all, on holidays.    I then apologised for my terrible French and thanked him for instructing me to enter with a clear "OK", which shocked him even more.

When I responded to his question (prompted by my language-apology) about where we were from, his demeanour changed to one of horror and humility all at once.   He apologised more profusely than ever, so profusely that I actually started to believe him, and when he explained that he had thought we were English, things became very clear indeed!

So we talked about Koalas and sunshine for a bit, wished him well, and for the rest of the day by some miracle which may or may not have had anything to do with a phone call or two having preceded us, every lock was prepared, gates open, green light on, and hugs and kisses all round on our arrival.

Bah to the English I say!


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Not Cruising
Port Cerises to Moret-sur-Loing

A small problem had developed overnight and it had a little to do with working out where we were going and a lot to do with working and who is and who won't be.   It seems that there is talk of a national strike, and no one can be sure that the waterways will not be affected.  

With a trainload of grandchildren and their parents arriving to an as yet undisclosed, and for that matter unknown place on Saturday, the responsibility falls on us to find a suitable location that we can reach in time, has access to all services, particularly railroad from the South and for lots of reasons it would be good if this were on a canal rather than a river.  

Rivers are big and wide and fast flowing and full of rather large ships which travel at twenty kilometres per hour, and while the chances of ever coming into physical contact with one are very slim indeed, sometimes as they zoom past it's hard to avoid the sort of feelings that one imagines a lady bird must have while flying along a major motorway.

We didn't intend to travel for twelve hours, that's not anywhere in any of the colour brochures we've seen, but we had woken early and we did leave, turning into the outer suburbs as quietly as Mr P could whisper, so as not to disturb Swiss guys.    They in turn, also not intending to travel for twelve hours noticed that we had gone once our fog had cleared and set off in hot pursuit.     The river locks themselves are two ships long and two ships wide, and our length is less than their width and every ship that ever there was was on the river today to get to where they were going before the strike, so at each lock we two ladybugs waited and slipped in to the cracks between the fleet that had passed us since the previous stop.

On the penultimate wait, Phil and Julie caught up in their much more fleet of foot barge, having that morning received a call to be in Singapore tomorrow for business, so during the wait they busily unloaded all their perishables into our little blue boat.   

We caught them eventually, at the end of day, and they came for dinner made from their ownwe  groceries, then fell gloriously unconscious, wondering how on earth, and why on earth for that mattter, we'd come to break our distance and time record in one day.

This is not cruising!

Monday, June 04, 2012

On the road again. Paris - Port Cerises

It was a perfect day for a long stay in bed, which made us question what was motivating the Swiss couple in the boat behind as they left before the sun was up.    When we actually checked though, the sun did appear to be up, and the darkness we were experiencing seemed to be due to our eyes not having been quite open at the time, but none the less they inspired us to greater things, and we were at the Supermarket not too long after opening time.

We hadn't set an overly ambitious starting for ourselves for our first day back on the move either, because we know only too well how long it takes us to pick up a few things from the supermarket, and to bid everyone we know in the village a fond farewell, but it was surprisingly perhaps, a little before lunch time when we found ourselves on the Seine and feeling sorry for Mr P .  

The poor old thing now has to push us against a considerable current for days on end, and try as we might to find a compromise, coaxing a cruising speed of not much above six kilometres per hour up river was never going to happen.
With Mr P grumbling away in his little box all afternoon we arrived well before dinner time at our evening destination, Port Cerise and to their amazement, we moored in front of the Swiss guys who had left so early.  When we did we couldn't help but wonder if they thought it had been worth their while sacrificing all that snooze time to get away before us.

Much as we truly love Paris, it has to be said that it was terrific to be back on the water and moving again.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


If Mr Perkins can be woken from his slumber tomorrow, today would be our last full day in Paris for a time, so we thought we should spend it tidying up, doing odd jobs and generally getting ready for what will be the beginning of another few months of steady travel.

Immediately after that we thought that a few hundred metres from where we are moored, the Paris Rando was about to start and since we didn't feel like doing any of those things anyway, what better way to gently  round off our morning, and in fact our time in Paris, than to have one last intimate stroll through its streets of Paris, thoughtfully closed for the day along a twelve kilometre circuit.   

The Rando is an interesting, completely non competitive event.  A walking course weaving its way in a loop through twelve kilometres of roads, bridges, parkland and everything in between.   Maps and information about the route are provided, as are apples, caps and bottled water.  The roads are closed for the morning, and the whole event is gently managed to ensure that as many people as possible will get to the finish, and to make sure that no one gets lonely along the way, the circuit is shared with thirty thousand others who start and finish as nearly as possible to the same time.

We started somewhere in the third ten thousand as far as we could tell, and even though the first kilometre was a little like walking through sideshow alley on people's day, once we could assume our normal comfortable walking pace we were clearly travelling faster than many.  So fast were we travelling, that by the half way mark we were very close to the front, although that is no indication of any sort of athletic superiority as among our midst was a blind person, a girl in high heels, and a donkey.

Returning to the boat completely enthused and invigorated, we immediately set about doing nothing at all, before heading off to a long and arduous evening with Joan and Peter, swapping stories we'd swapped before, which presumably means we now have our old ones to tell again.

Tomorrow we must away, first thing!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The return to tranquility!

They've worn us out!

Seriously, they have. 

From the minute we arrived back after making sure they caught the Rocket train to Marseilles we planned to resume what we were doing before the alarm went off, but with only a small detour we managed to find some pastry and the Bastille Art market and before we knew it it was after ten.   

Undeterred, and revelling in our new found alone-ness, we were barely back aboard before we were hijacked by Peter and Joan inviting us to accompany them to a little restaurant they'd found just near Notre Dame, where we could have a proper lunch.    Despite our weariness, none of that seemed like a bad idea at all to us, nor did the walk back via the steel bands and the jazz musicians on the bridges.

Eventually though, we returned and succumbed in one smooth, well practiced action, sleeping soundly for a time in the late afternoon warmth, to the beat of a miscreant drummer who may well have been a kilometre away but had somehow perfected the art of throwing his sound to a point just above my pillow. 

Time to rest is time to reflect, and I was mid reflection when I suddenly felt a wave of concern.  

In one of my letters to Mr Five when he was Mr Four, my illustrations may have accidentally implied that the trains in France are actual Rockets, and indeed that is exactly how he and I refer to them.  They are of course quite fast, for instance the journey they embarked on today is a mere eight hundred kilometres and will take a little under three hours to complete including stops, but the reality is it is also about as smooth as sitting in a lounge room and not at all like riding in what a five year old perceives to be a Rocket.

I do have a week to work out a plausible explanation. . . . . . . if only the drumming outside my head would stop!

Friday, June 01, 2012

The end of the road.

We've worn them out!   

Seriously we have.   

Completely stopped 'em in their tracks.  They can't go any further.  

The parents of the two were up and about almost but not quite before the rest of us and shot off early to the Tower Eiffel, where they had less than an hour to wait till opening time, and not much more than that again to get to the top.

While mother and daughter found some second wind in the afternoon and reluctantly (apparently) dragged themselves into Paris' retail heart, the boys among us were content to sort of hang around.   

The two themselves meanwhile were content to accompany their grandfather to the lock, where we once again practiced our pirating skills without success despite having a succession of captive vessels at our disposal while the lock alternately raised a lowered itself.    I spent the rest of the morning with as little success trying to convince Mr Five that if we can't come away with any booty even after boarding a barge in a lock while waving an actual plastic sword, it is perhaps time he tried some other pursuit like banking or stockbroking (sorry Nick!).

So exhausted were they that they were content to sleep for almost all of the afternoon, along with their father, while the grandfather celebrated his second afternoon as a senior citizen delightfully confined to his own bunk while the Big E used his tummy as a pillow.   

It seems there is some benefit in having forgone the classic "six pack" after all.
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