Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A day doing not much

The National Quay in the heart of town is stepped, and barely above us the restaurant decks hover with their umbrellas and the gentle clinking of glasses and clattering of cutlery which begins in the middle of the day and continues into the night.   It's barely audible, one of those holiday sounds, like the sloshing of the water that accompanies the gentle rocking of the hull when a barge passes.

The quay, the restaurants and I suppose even the waves are all relics from a time when thousands of commercial ships passed by each year, and the port was a thriving industrial centre.  Now all all the services are aimed squarely at a new industry; leisure.

I'm not sure how "leisure" and "industry" came to be used as complimentary terms.  I have always been led to understand they are diametrically opposed concepts.

Never the less when a town is prepared to provide free mooring and electricity for us, the least we can do is to contribute to its leisure industry.   We thought perhaps the best way of doing that would be to watch the sun go down from one of those restaurant decks.  Perhaps to fully appreciate its trajectory we thought that it might be a good idea to start this observation process at say, lunchtime.

To sustain us while we did so we thought that partaking of the menu of the day at the Cafe de la Navigation might be quite a sensible thing to do as well, so with Doug and Susan with whom we would part company on the morrow, we attempted to deplete Burgundy of all its snail, rabbit with mustard sauce and crème brûlée.

Sadly perhaps, not one commercial ship passed while we were there, this was not a day for making waves!

Monday, July 30, 2012


While the tranquility of our overnight spot was seductive to say the least, I do feel compelled to shatter a few illusions about the reason for us being there.  

Alas it was not because of the natural beauty overlooking the cornfields,  nor because of the entertainment provided by the parade of morning dogwalkers, or even the mist rising slowly above the mirrored surface of the almost crystal clear water on which we rested in complete silence.   


Just beyond the shrub hedge at the edge of the cornfields, a hundred metres or so down the path, almost hidden from view is a supermarket. and when one finds a supermarket within what some would call "spitting distance" of one's boat, one stops and purchases the heaviest of life's necessities, and having done so moves on around the corner after lunch to one's preferred mooring place.

Today's log reads a total distance travelled of eight hundred and ninety metres and we have passed through the shipyards which seemed to positively glow in the sunshine, or perhaps it was the excitement of our passing, and we are sitting happily on the Soane on the town Quay catching up with Uli's news of the past four years and trying to recall when last the sun radiated such joy upon a stretch of river in our presence.

Everything seems so bright and clean and well to put it bluntly… happy.

Summer has been worth waiting for!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Down the highway
Dijon to St-Jean-de-Losne

We didn't set out to travel all day, intent as ever on taking it easy, stopping for lunch and perhaps not starting again.

I can't say for sure whether it was the break in the weather that made conditions so pleasant but it turned out that we took it easy, stopped for lunch and then accidentally travelled all day, drifting among the cornfields on a mirror and we may have kept going were in not for simply running out of road in the end.

The "road" from Dijon to the Saone is long and straight, thirty kilometres long and straight as a die, and if one wasn't aware of the twenty-two locks along the way, one would swear it was dead flat as well, which I suppose given that it is comprised of water it probably actually is.  

Our path took us across the Burgundy Plains named presumably because they are not hills, through fields of corn and wheat other stuff which we couldn't recognise from the boat but which was probably edible. We've often heard the journey described as "uninteresting", some even see travelling the distance as a bit of a chore.   

We wonder at just how uninterested it's detractors would be after the first thirty kilometres driving anywhere west of the Great Dividing Range, so we tend to differ in that appraisal, perhaps because it was the place we saw our first proper autumn, the water invisible under a carpet of golden leaves, or perhaps in parts it reminds us of places in another land, where long straight roads stretch out the blacktop replaced by mirages  which make them look incredibly like these very waterways, albeit it's been quite a while since we've seen kangaroo among the roadkill.   

The urge to continue through the day may well also have stemmed subconsciously from long days travelling in those other places, but whatever the reason, we stopped a few hundred metres short of the place most consider to be the crossroads of the inland waterways of Europe, St-Jean-de-Losne, bashed some pegs in to a grassy bank, tied under the trees in the quiet, sat back relaxed, cool, and looking forward to a few days of catching up with friends.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Finding the temperate zone

Today, as was yesterday and one or two other days in the week for good measure, was market day downtown, and we were once again happy to spend the morning wandering under cover in the among the melons and the leeks and the mushrooms, stopping occasionally to sniff the cheese  of course.

We like Dijon, we really do, but when the mural on the side of the flat market building starts to pop off the wall and look for all the world like actual structure, and all we seem to have done for the last few dasy with varying degrees of success, is seek out shady places in which to sit, in the absence of a better reason to stay than we haven't seen everything yet, we made an appointment with our friendly lock keeper, to depart tomorrow morning.     

"Haven't seen everything yet.." is admittedly not one of our objectives, but there are several galleries and museums that are quite noteworthy yet in the current climate we simply couldn't summon the energy or enthusiasm to visit.

Our decision having been made and set in the lock keepers diary which we are reliably informed is of a substance of much greater compressive strength than stone, we once again began the now familiar rounds of bidding those in the harbour a fond farewell, and we are sure it contributed to the early onset of a not unexpected change in the weather.   

With thunderstorms building and sunshine in retreat, a visit to the archeology museum seemed like a particularly logical way of spending our last afternoon here for a time and at least that would be one thing we could say we saw, should anyone ask.

Note to file:  when next in Dijon in a heatwave, the museums are in really really old  buildings with really really thick walls and really really deep basements, and contain relics that are thousands of years old and for reasons of conservation of those priceless artifacts, the interiors are climate controlled.  

That's a fancy way of saying air conditioned.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Lake Kir, Dijon

A few years ago in Dijon, we would start each day with a cycle ride along the banks of the river Ouche, around Lake Kir and back along the canal.   We'd dress in layers with scarves and beanies and gloves and dash between patches of sunlight where we'd linger over the carpet of yellow-orange leaves soaking in as much warmth as we could before once again gliding into the shadows.

Today, we bad our cycles farewell with a nostalgic journey that was an exact contradiction of our former experience.   Clad in broad-brimmed hats, forgoing helmets even as a concession to the heat, shorts and sandals, we dashed from the patches of sunlight, lingering in the dense shade that covered the path for most of the journey.

In the shade, gliding with the wind in our faces the temperature lost its edge, and we wondered why everyone in Dijon wasn't gently cycling along shaded trails.

But clearly not everyone in Dijon feels as we do, there seems little point to some, in having a beach on one's lake if one is unable to boast about last summer's sunstroke after all.   So while we soft-shelled Antipodeans hid in the shadows under shirts with collars, exposed bits daubed or even lathered in parts in fifty plus, those with no summer to look forward to later in the year frolicked near naked until their skins turned pink.

Now we will never be sure again, if the pink in the sky we see on a clear evening is actually an effect of the setting sun, or the happy glow of a thousand swimmers returning shirtless to their barbecues.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cows (and thinking of Al)

For the better part of the last twelve months we've been contemplating swapping our bikes for ones of the folding variety.   The biggest reason for not doing so to date has been the effort that we'd have to go through to rid ourselves of our existing stable.

We'd already discussed the fact that in Dijon it wouldn't be too hard, we'd just have to leave them unattended for a time, but in that event it was unlikely that we'd find a few hundred Euro taped to a post with a thank-you note, so that option didn't really appeal.   In a strange twist of fate, or perhaps it was simply heat stroke after yet another day of thirty-eight degrees in the shade and forty-five by morning tea time aboard our boats, Phil and Kathy confided quite out of the blue that they were looking for some bikes just like ours.

In an instant a deal had been done, and in an instant more we began to suffer seller's remorse as we walked up town in heat that was still stifling in most languages, through the shade of every park we could find.

We did linger for some time though in the in the leafy and therefore almost delightfully temperate grounds of the natural science museum to take in a fine exhibition of Cow Portraits hanging therein.  

Perhaps we thought, we are not the only ones the heat is getting to.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Polar Bears

After a summer of what could only be described as discontent with the weather, a good old fashioned heatwave has hit, suddenly and without mercy.   I don't know why in the old measurements one hundred degrees was considered to be hot, but with the city temperature hovering around the mid thirties with no breeze, we can confirm they had a fair idea of what they were considering.

Without notice the thermometer  on board reached the mid forties this morning, and our hopes for enjoying it here suddenly become hopes for survival!

Air conditioning units in the town unused to working on the cooling cycle didn't seem to be making any difference at all.

In the middle of the day, the entire population of the city seemed to be huddled under whatever shade it could find, waiting for night to fall, but in the middle of the day night is still ten or eleven hours away, so there is a lot of huddling to do.

We have discovered in the course of the day though, that huddling under trees is one thing, but  absolutely the best place for a huddle, is under some trees near a fountain.

If it's good enough for polar bears, it's good enough for us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


We might have been in before lunch, but for a couple of slight delays which meant that we wouldn't reach the last lock of the day until five minutes to, which doesn't give enough time for a self respecting lock keeper to unwrap his sandwiches, so once again we waited happily in the shade of the lock and eventually arrived at half-past lunchtime.

Apart from our fleeting visit last month, our previous visits to Dijon had been in cooler weather, MUCH cooler weather.   Our memories are filled with overcoats and scarves and the smell of roasting chestnuts in the streets among swirling autumn leaves, nothing like the bikinis and ice-cream vendors and tropical sunshine that we found this time.

Our mooring, is exactly where we had visited last month, beside the children's playground, and that mysterious shallow circle of concrete which in previous times we'd seen teenagers use as a cycle track and slightly less youthful (perhaps less useful) people use as a bottle smashing venue.  Admittedly haven't wasted too much time trying to determine it's purpose, we generally thought of it as a good plan not so well executed.

But today all was revealed.

It was full of little bodies (with  few larger ones supervising) - a purpose built area for water play, and one which is very popular indeed at the temperatures close in on the thirties and beyond.

Summer in Dijon is the sound of children laughing and playing.

We think we like being here in summer.


Monday, July 23, 2012


We saw two boats heading in the opposite direction this morning, which our friendly travelling lock-keeper assured us was "many" and provided him with a logistical nightmare.  Not wanting to disrupt to the poor chap's  sleep patterns too severely, we once again decided that we would not travel terribly far, trying to delay our entry into Dijon as long as we possibly can.

It's not that we don't love the place, we do, but it is a city, and since leaving Paris almost two months ago we have enjoyed a good deal of, as they say in France, "places tranquil".  By evening we had not much more than ten kilometres to travel, and it came as a bit of a shock  to the system to be back in the 'burbs, moored next to a supermarket beside a driveway, under the arches of the railway line, with a freeway a few hundred metres beyond the trees. 

We are about to suffer from a fairly serious dose of being back among humans, but never fear it will only last for as long as we choose to stay in Dijon.


Sunday, July 22, 2012


There was clearly some magic stardust floating around last night, and it's effects were still on all of us as we slowly emerged from slumber, none of us sure whether we actually wanted to eat another thing ever again, or for that matter not sure if we were even ready to start a new day, all trying the keep the memory of last night alive for as long as possible.

It was captain Jojo who cracked in the end, cracked eggs and beat the contents into submission to fortify us for our day's journeying, not that any of us felt as though we needed sustenance of any description beyond perhaps a coffee.  

We have been travelling for a week since the time we called Pouilly-en-Auxois home, but we are in Jacques' old stomping grounds and in less than twenty minutes in the car we were back, ten minutes later we'd turned back on ourselves and we once again found ourselves in Chateauneuf.   We had taken about half the time to drive in this roundabout way from the boat to Chateauneuf than it took us to walk there last week when the boat was moored at the bottom of the hill! 

It seems that we have actually found a recipe for making time travel slowly, and if it isn't actually time that is travelling slowly, there can be no argument that we are.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dinner under the stars
Ecluse 34S Canal de Bourgogne

Blazing heat and a clear blue sky!  However improbable that may sound after the chill of yesterday and the weather pattern of the year to date, it wasn't at all unexpected for those of us who had been frantically scanning every forecast available for the slightest hint that a week or two of summer may finally and just possibly be on it's way.   

Jacques and Maggie weren't entirely unexpected either, and they arrived right here in the middle of nowhere a little after lunch, right on cue so that we could spend the weekend celebrating Maggie's "coming of age".

Yesterday, after Urs, Doris (they being the keeper's of the lock house) and we discovered where it was that we had met before in the tiny world that is the canal cruising community, (for the curious it was when they were on their barge at Parroy on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin ) we also discovered that in this very exclusive establishment they run, serving ice-cream and toasties by day, by night for groups of at least four people who make sensible prior arrangements, dinner may be served.  

The menu?  "Well we just cook whatever you want", said Urs in his matter of fact way, and we were informed although we found it difficult to conceive, that he and Jacques gained as much joy from concocting the menu as we did in consuming the finished product .

That in short, is how we came to be sitting in a garden in Burgundy, by the running water of a lock, under a clear evening sky, eating stupendous Italian style food made from fresh local produce  prepared by a Swiss  couple who have an interest in a vineyard somewhere to  the south, with some dear friends, the youngest of whom is now old enough to be issued with a senior's rail pass, and a dog.

I have struggled for a few days to do justice to the evening in writing, but  the simplest pleasures in life need no complications! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Busy busy busy...
Ecluse 34S Canal de Bourgogne

Tonight we are as close as it is possible I suspect to being in the middle of nowhere in France.  We knew as we visited lock 34 yesterday on our bikes, that we would not be able to pass it by when we approached by boat, so here we sit in what would be the shade of the pine trees if they weren't in the shade of the clouds.

We are almost two kilometres from a village in any direction, looking at rolls of hay, and rain falling on the hills beyond.   It's summer and of course the weather is cold and wet but weatherwise there are much brighter prospects on the horizon for the week ahead.

I'm sure that once again we'll watch as once again the the trickle of cyclists turn into a flood as the weekend clears and warms, but for now we are content to just sit in our solitude, watching the trees grow, quietly reading or wandering up to the cottage for coffee with Urs and Doris and wondering why it will be a week into the future before I find time to post this note.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On the go
Pont d'Ouche to La Bussière-sur-Ouche

When a girl who once, having missed her cruise ship departure in Greece, hitched a ride on a derelic ship through the Suez to the breakers in Thailand, says she is going to paint while underway, there is little point in doubting her.

Team Sweden had wisely concluded that if they were to wait until their boat  was ready, they may not get underway at all this summer, so with the lack of dauntedness that they seem to display in all things, they simply untied and went on their merry way having decided that it was no harder to do the work when underway than it was tied to a dock.   

We left in the morning and they promised they'd follow, but they had some ends of the loose variety to tie up, so reckoned on getting away after lunch. 

Lunch of course was about the time we'd found a shady little in the bush which seemed to be begging us to stay the night, so we did, having travelled a comfortable eight kilometres further towards Dijon.  Enough journeying for one day we thought as we set about exploring the villages along the edge of the waterway by velocipede.

We had cycled a further eight kilometres down the tow path in the afternoon when we came to a lock which seemed to be attracting a crowd.   

On investigation the Swiss couple who rent the house have established a delightful spot to rest and fortify those en route to nowhere in particular, and as that pretty much described us in the course of the afternoon, we would have felt disrespectful had we not had at least a coffee and some bread and butter pudding and a long wait in the shade to fortify ourselves for the journey back.   

On our return journey, a plan for the next few days had begun to crystallise.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chez Bryony - Pont d'Ouche

The morning mist had well and truly cleared by the time Dave and Ria left, let alone by the time we were ready to strike out for the market at Bligny eight or nine kilometres away.

It always takes longer than one thinks to say goodbye, and get a few loads of washing on the line, and order a roast chicken because Bryony's subliminal sales technique with the scent of the things slowly revolving on her rotisserie wafting ever so gently into our psyche is impossible to refuse.  

Actually the morning mist had been gone for so long by the time we arrived, that it was precisely four and one half minutes past the time the market closes and since everyone seemed very focussed on getting everything packed away before it was time to eat, we decided to cut our losses and strike out for the supermarket about ten minutes away at a brisk cycling pace.

Even those of us without any extrasensory abilities whatsoever could probably have guessed that were we to arrive at any given location, say a supermarket, at any given time, say fourteen and a half minutes past the hour of twelve, providing that it was not one of the "except" days on the sign which proudly proclaimed it to be open seven days, then we were certain to arrive just after it had closed for business for lunch.   This little supermarket did not disappoint.  

Arriving exactly thirty seconds before the scheduled twelve-fifteen closing time, we were of course invited to return after "fourteen forty-five", an invitation which we chose to ignore, although so as not to return completely empty handed we did manage to convince the tardy fruit guy at the market who had not quite completed his packing, to part with a few pieces.

We returned to a busy little harbour.  Bryony was being run off her feet by a throng of cyclists intent on eating her out of next week's supplies, the other residents were variously painting, provisioning, or as were we, preparing for imminent departure, with growing disillusionment.   Those from colder climates than we (One French, four Brits and two Swedes) unanimously decided that it was far too hot to continue and who were we to argue?

So we all downed tools and sat together in the shade, doing what hungry, thirsty, sunburnt people do after a day of modestly intense endeavour, until the sky went dark and the mist returned once again to cloak the waterway.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chez Bryony
Vandenesse to Pont d'Ouche

Dave, having only yesterday discovered that he could open all the windows of his car if he sat on the "unlock" button of the key for long enough, busied himself in the earlier part of the morning by opening and closing the windows from the comfort of the breakfast table.   The rest of us decided if there was to be sufficient battery power left in the car to get it started, we should put an end to this behaviour by leaving as early as possible, which fortunately coincided with exactly the time I had previously arranged with the lock keepers two days before.

Perhaps it was that we were still quite full of yesterday's lunch that there seemed little point in pushing ourselves too hard,  or perhaps that we just don't see a lot of point in pushing ourselves at all, but the village at Pont d'Ouche was almost eight kilometres away and we saw little point in not stopping there.

We actually had barely finished our morning coffee by the time we arrived at the eccentric little harbour  run by the almost eccentric Bryony, with her eclectic mix of umbrellas tents and sheds seemingly all branded "Chez Bryony - English Spoken", from which she cheerily dispatches her own brand of Franco-English hospitality to anyone who requests it, or who passes close enough to have it foist upon them.

Our travelling eclusier couldn't believe his luck when we told him where we were going to stop for the day.  

"But we will be stopped before lunch-time" he remarked with eyebrows raised in mock incredulity.

"Then we both get to sleep all afternoon."  I replied to his amusement, and while we didn't quite achieve that objective, we did spend a grand portion of the afternoon sitting in the shade, listening to the dull whine of a pair of British friends updating their last few years of adventures, while our crew quietly absented themselves by bicycle, returning some hours later with a car which did not fail to start despite Dave's earlier efforts.


Monday, July 16, 2012


Vanenesse lies in the shadow of the village of Châteuneuf which sports a castle has been casting it's shadow for more than six centuries and bears a sign which declares it to be officially "One of France's most beautiful villages".   

Therefore, despite its own undoubted attraction, with babbling streams running past quaint hotels, and even its genuine French version of an English Tea Garden it was never really going to be the place we spent all of today.   Instead, we breakfasted heartily (although perhaps in fariness no more heartily than usual) to fortify ourselves for the climb to the village itself.

Not for us the taxi ride up, (you know who you are!), or the air-conditioned comfort of the Hotel mini-bus, it was after all only a few kilometres away and a few hundred metres above us, and the day was sunny and warm.   I mean sunny and quite warm.  Perhaps warm verging on quite uncomfortably hot might be a better description, but none the less we struck out, the four of us, armed with hats, sunblock and water bottles to the very summit.  We had a Chateau to explore!

When we arrived at the castle gates, a little red of face but surprisingly intact, ready to reap the reward for our effort, we were once again greeted by one of our favourite signs in all of France:

"Open every day"… excellent!

"Except on Mondays" …. of course!

Well if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us we decided.  We would close for the rest of the day too, and with that, we adjourned to the neighbouring restaurant where we had a jolly good time, pacing ourselves to ensure we had sufficient reserves to allow us to roll down the hill and sit under a shady tree to watch the changing light as the sun receded into the evening, to be replaced by the glow of  the sunburn on Dave's neck and arms.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tunnel Vision
Pouilly-en-Auxois to Vandenesse-en-Auxois

Pouilly-en-Auxois, as I noted on our arrival, is at the very top of the Burgundy Canal however it is not exactly at the top of the mountain, so to get to the other side we must aim our little boat at what seems like an even smaller black dot on the side of the mountain.   If we manage to do that, we become enveloped in darkness (except for the bits where the tunnel lights are working), so the next navigational  activity is to take aim at the tiny speck of white light three and a half kilometres away and attempt to hit it without hitting anything else in the meantime.

Driving through tunnels is not a terribly fearsome thing, but it does require a good deal of concentration as even for a small ship such as ours the fit is quite snug.  For instance in the case of the Pouilly Tunnel, at the point where the curve of the roof has two metres of headroom, a little less than the total height of our boat, it is exactly five metres wide.   We have seventy centimetres clear each side so there is not much stress while concentration lasts, but for those who pilot the five metre wide commercial ships, there is no substitute for precision!

Eventually, all good things and tunnels come to an end, and when we emerged the world seemed to be a different place full of blue sky, sunshine and castles.

Welcome to the valley of the Ouche.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Normal transmission resumes

Despite the best intent of the weather, a few thousand people turned out in our back yard at eleven, just after sunset, braving the chill and the damp, some could uncharitably call it downpour of the evening, and while we may have been the only ones wearing warm underwear, we were not alone in finding the conditions "bracing" to say the very least.  

The show did go on however, which meant that it would not be necessary to do it again tonight and just as soon as the children's fishing competition finished in the port this morning, we were able to move back to our familiar positions against the dock.   The competition itself was an anti-climax for us, all so very serious as it was with copious quantities of parental coaching, and grand-parental guidance along the way, nothing at all like the excited rabbles which assembled every hour or so during the preceding week for very earnest instruction on the finer art of their new sport.

We have twice seen fish almost a metre in length removed from the harbour in the cool of the evening, but saw no evidence of anything but a few maggots on a hook during the contest.   

I suspect there were were plenty of prizes in categories such as for instance "most enthusiastic angler", "cleanest rod", and "best looking grandmother" and although no one was in a hurry to leave the presentation, eventually they did.

By the time Dave and Ria arrived from Belgium intent on travelling with us for a few days, the harbour was once again deserted, as indeed they observed was the rest of France, which actually pretty much meant things were back to business as usual, except of course the canals along with everything else would not be open until tomorrow, and as tomorrow is Sunday, everything else will still be closed too of course, but at least we know it's not a holiday any longer. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Cold and Wet but far from Miserable

Today is the day before the fourteenth of July, France's national holiday.   In a flash of brilliance someone in power has decided that it would be a good idea to have a fireworks display tonight, presumably so that no one has to interrupt their day off tomorrow by going out, but in fact the weather is not exactly fireworks friendly, and by scheduling them a day early if they have to be delayed then they will be exactly on time.  I'm sure that's how it goes.

Despite what we would like to believe, ports are built not for the harbouring of boats, but specifically as places where fireworks can be exploded harmlessly in front of vast crowds of people, so our little fleet now finds itself tucked around the corner in the canal joining a couple of derelict working barges, one or two unoccupied vessels and three more new arrivals unaware that the harbour was to be closed, as indeed will all navigation be for the duration of the holiday. 

On cue, the rain has begun to fall by the bucketload, the temperature has plummeted and the wind is starting to become quite uncivilised, but we are all huddled together so no doubt should the fireworks not  happen, at least we will be warm.


Thursday, July 12, 2012


Tomorrow, our little international fleet of transients has been directed to move a hundred metres or so, just around the corner.  This is apparently so that the National Day celebrations can explode above the port without impeding the view of the crowds.   

The forecast though suggests rain.  Lots of it.

Perhaps the event will be cancelled, but in that event we certainly won't miss our splash of colour.

I'm not actually sure if we've actually been ordered to move out of the port because of the planned fireworks, or if someone has tumbled to the reason for the tow path being denuded of wildflowers for several kilometres leading into the village.

While I've been busy ensuring that I don't get busy, the good Captain has been so efficient with her scissors that I'm surprised that she hasn't been offered a full time job controlling the growth beside the waterway.   

Perhaps if I surreptitiously post a photograph of her handiwork I won't even have to begrudgingly admit that just maybe, in their place, sometimes, just possibly for a short period of time, they do give the place a bit of a lift, although I hasten to add this is only in certain light conditions and only fleetingly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rosé coloured glasses

Goodness is that the time? 

I wondered how it could be Wednesday already.  Just yesterday I'd thought I had a week to get all the mundane little jobs done and now I think I'm going to have to reshuffle the deadline if I am not to look terribly inefficient.

Yes, that's exactly what I'll do.   

I will give myself until the end of the month, or perhaps next month to get them done, so the pressure is off.    

I did polish a bit, but really, the afternoon international boules competition under the trees ashore seemed to be far more important, as did ensuring the duck fillet didn't get burnt on the barbecue.

We found ourselves agreeing with our English and American friends that despite what may be being said in the newspapers and on television,  as far as we are able to see, which admittedly is only a glimpse or two of the Burgundy hills beyond the village, there really doesn't seem too much wrong with the world at all.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All is calm... now!

Ahh yes, the cleaning.

Up bright and mid morning I was, ready to get into it.

I donned my working clothes, got out my bucket of tricks, and without hesitation strode boldly through our after door, only to have what little hair there was blown off my head in the gale that was dropping the outside temperature to a level far below civilised.

Fortunately it was coffee time about then, so I returned to the comfort within, and set about making morning coffee stretch till lunchtime, by which point the book I was reading was getting pretty interesting, and well, before I knew it there was no point in going outside for just a bit, because the sun was pretty much ready to do it's magic thing with the buildings opposite, and anyway we are here for a week aren't we?

Cleaning is over rated anyway.  I'll bet they haven't been cleaned in a hundred years and if one looks that them in certain light conditions, they look OK.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Shed Time.

This year we just haven't seemed to get on top of cleaning and polishing.  

That's due entirely I suspect, to the fact that it's inarguably my job and I have far too many excuses for not getting out there and simply starting. The new mattress is partly to blame, no doubt about that, and perhaps the lack of suitable weather could also be a factor, but whatever the reason, it's not done yet and it's almost time to start the end of season clean.   

It's not that it's disgustingly dirty or anything like that, but  it might be if we don't get on top of it soon.

But it's windy and sultry and cool and reminiscent of an August day at home.  It's exactly the sort of day that is just begging to be spent fiddling in the shed, or perhaps reading a book.

Perhaps I'll start tomorrow.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Smell the flowers

We might have even gone out to lunch today.  We were in that sort of mood and if it hadn't been for the Sunday closure of everything that resembled "out" we probably would have.  Maybe.

Instead we remained gently reclined, variously reading or watching an internet broadcast as the Tour de France rolled through the countryside, each day covering more distance than we would consider civilised to traverse in a month.

Someone ought to tell them I thought, that they should take time to smell the flowers, that there are other ways of travelling through France.  Ways that allow time for lunch under a shady tree, that don't involve a sprint to the death up a steep hill at the end of the day.

I even thought for a brief moment in time that it would be me that would tell them.  I would email someone immediately I thought, and give them the drum.

Then I thought about how little I'd like to have another two hundred boats ahead of me waiting for a lock, rolled over and slept off all my day's thinking.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Prelude to the tunnel

While yesterday I made mention of being at the top of our climb, I perhaps deliberately left out the bit about the tunnel.   In order to continue our travels in the same direction, before we can go down we must go through the bit of mountain that remains.   There is a tunnel to assist us in this process and it's one with a bit of history.

It is of course old enough to have been hand dug, to have been opened when ships were without mechanical power and instead relied on gangs of men lying on their backs and "walking" along the tunnel roof and sides.  Hundreds of tons would be moved through the three kilometre darkness in this manner in a trip that took up to six hours.    

About the time in the Antipodes that Eyre was stumbling around a great red rock and pretty much before "Queensland" even existed, someone invented steam engines and someone else got the idea of putting one in a tug, and towing the ships through the tiny tunnel to speed up the process a bit.  I'm not sure if that is the point in time when carbon monoxide was actually discovered, but whether that was the case or not, on the tug's inauspicious maiden voyage or at some time later (I'm not sure), at least one crew member succumbed to smoke inhalation.   Perhaps not a disaster of Titanic proportions, but not a promising outcome none the less.

Fifteen years or so later, acting swiftly to avoid further fatalities, the tug was replaced by an electric one, which went on tugging ships through the tunnel for another hundred years or so, before being retired in the latter part of the twentieth century, to be displayed for posterity  in it's very own tunnel-like shelter, deliciously constructed of cardboard tubes and bizarrely designed by eminent Japanese architect Monsieur Shigeru Ban.

Now with no more than a few pleasure boats a day passing through, the tunnel is deemed safe for us to traverse under our own "steam".  

Perhaps our Mr P will provide any following boat with an experience a little akin to the smoke-filled tunnel of a century ago.

Well it's Saturday, what better day to ponder the details of one's surroundings? 

Friday, July 06, 2012

On reflection.

Yesterday our climb ended.  We are at the highest part of the waterway in Burgundy, sitting quietly opposite the Dijon Cereals silos in a spot where, if there had been any exertion involved in getting to here, we could wait to catch our breath.

It's been six weeks more or less since we left Paris, and in that time we have travelled a few hundred kilometres along the waterways and almost four hundred metres in direction up.

That's almost twice as many kilometres, although half the distance climbed as the tour de France boys will do tomorrow.

To try to find some comparison closer to home though, it's as though we've just spent six weeks travelling from Surfer's Paradise to Maleny.

On reflection, perhaps we have been travelling too quickly after all.  Perhaps we do need to sit for a while.

Pouilly seems nice, the port is quiet, the view quite pleasant.

Perhaps we'll stay here for a few more days.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Weather for Ducks
Port Royal to Pouilly en Auxois

The first shower of the day arrived as we entered the first lock.

There must be something in the material of our rain jackets that sucks water out of clouds, because invariably the rain commences at exactly the moment one of us has to go outside, and doesn't stop until we are both inside again. 

The lock keeper smiled as we took off our rain jackets and made it stop.   His smile widened as we passed him a freshly brewed coffee, and asked if we'd mind waiting for ten minutes or so for a following boat, so he could save himself the effort of doing everything twice on the climb to Pouilly.   At the same time we were stunned when he asked if we particularly wanted to stop for lunch, perhaps, he suggested we could keep going.

This suggestion had us reeling in confusion.  It contravened all that we thought we knew of the culture of this country, all that is held sacred, not to mention the labour regulations, so I replied that we would be happy to stop if he felt it appropriate.

But he was insistent. 

A few minutes later his new trainee appeared on her moped.   

Four locks of instruction later she appeared to be fully trained, and our intrepid keeper disappeared quietly behind us in direction lunch time, leaving us in the care of his young student.   We couldn't see through the misty rain whether his shoulder's were jiggling up and down in a sort of "gotcha" chuckle, but we bet they were.

She, on the other hand, guided us in good humour between locks and thunderstorms, declining all offers of sustenance, until the very top of our climb, where she took her leave, and we settled in for a few days of waiting for clearing weather.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Going Up!
Marigny-Le-Cahouët to Port Royal

No matter how  much we enjoy simply sitting with friends, there comes a time when we are glad to be rolling again, and there are few better ways of spending a day than going not too far while ascending a staircase of locks.  

The locks on the French system are a standard five and a bit metres wide, mostly with walls around three metres high.  At first, the experience of entering them is a little akin to driving a large car into a small garage on an ice rink, but eventually a new set of reflexes emerges and like most things repeated often enough, the routine of entering and securing the boat becomes close to effortless.

All that is left to do is to wait and hold on, while the lock keeper (or in some cases the automatic system) closes the gate, and opens the floodgates which will pour close to half a million litres of water into that very same garage in about five minutes, lifting us to the next level, where the upper gates can be opened and we can be sent on our merry way.

The best part for us happens as the boat begins to rise and we have our first glimpse of what exists at the top of those black walls.   Will the house be quaint or derelict?  Sometimes we are greeted by a family of garden gnomes, once or twice by a goat or a chicken, occasionally an old car lies in wait.

Often the texture of the surrounds changes so markedly in that three metre rise that it is as if life was a television set and someone has just flicked the channel.     

Today the channel changed a few dozen times before we rolled into Port Royal, where of course the facilities were closed, it being Wednesday, and will be closed tomorrow too as far as we can tell, should we decide to stay.

But there are more locks tomorrow, and more channels to flick, perhaps we will move on after all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Fine and warm

It was almost one in the morning when the phone rang.   

I hadn't been asleep for long I must confess, thanks to those pesky Canadians keeping us up, but it was just long enough and deep enough so that I was completely disoriented when the friendly Australian voice on the other end asked me what the weather was like. (You know who you are!)

For those among you who understand that time is slightly different on this side of the world, and kindly waited until now for a report, it was a a brilliantly warm, mostly fine day, of the sort that is best suited for sitting for much of the day at a picnic table under a shady tree with good friends, chatting with passing cyclists and simply watching the world go round.

When there's a year's worth of news to catch up on (except for the bits that were caught up on a week or two ago) what better place to do it than on the banks of a canal in yet another almost anonymous village in Burgundy. 


Monday, July 02, 2012

Another marathon
Pouillenay to Marigny-Le-Cahouët

There are places on the canal system to be avoided if one doesn't like travelling through locks.  It is fortunate for us that we are not of that disposition as we are now in  exactly in one of those spots. Perhaps the most common comment we have heard from others who have travelled this route, is that it's quite beautiful but they felt rushed as the young lock-keepers raced from lock to lock until they were through.

We were determined not to feel that way, and told our itinerant lock keepers from the start that we'd be stopping for two nights please, and yes we thought that four kilometres should be enough distance for one day once again thanks very much.  There is no sense in straining ourselves after all.

We actually quite enjoy our time travelling vertically, but we happened, through the miracle of the internet, to know that Sunny and Al would rendezvous with us near the little village of Marigny, so having watched Neale and Trace whisked away by taxi at ten minutes to lock opening time, we steadied ourselves for another exhausting day and our next round of social engagements.

Sigh, another great day, another pretty village in Burgundy.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Apprentice
Venaray-les-Laumes to Pouillenay

Neale and Trace leave tomorrow so there didn't seem to be any point wearing out the regular crew when a freshly trained deckhand was at our disposal for the beginning of our climb to the summit of the Burgundy Canal.   

We have but fifty-five locks and  half as many kilometres to go until we reach the highest point  and today is probably technically the beginning of the steep bit with eight locks in two kilometres.

Our apprentice seemed to be carrying the bargee-cowboy gene, as after a short period of instruction he was lassoing bollards and securing the boat in the locks with almost as much efficiency as the Captain herself, which is no small praise, and this time we do have the photo to prove it.   

With so much able assistance, we were able to complete our four kilometre journey in as many hours, stopping of course for lunch, arriving in plenty of time for an amble through the village, all the while not wishing we were anywhere else in the world.
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