Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The road trip begins!
Lagarde - Luneville - Lagarde, 3 September

In the absence of anyone in a position to offer a lift to Luneville, and for reasons which are otherwise quite inexplicable other than there was probably some cleaning that needed to be done and I was looking for a reason not to be around for an hour or two, I decided to cycle the twenty-seven kilometres into town to the hire car place and fold the bike neatly into the boot of the car for the return trip rather than engage the local taxi service.  

At the moment of my decision however, the other of us seemed to be looking around for something to clean to avoid accompanying me on the journey.    

This is the sort of thing that was part of our thinking when we bought the bikes last year after all.  We had gone to a lot of trouble to find a cycle model with geometry which would give some hope of providing some comfort over a distance and would be able to travel at touring speeds.

We really should act with the courage of our conviction, so it was decided that perhaps it was only right that the one who held those firm convictions should test them and report back.

The day began clear and crisp and perfect for a ride through the countryside, a little warm in the sunshine, a little too cool in the shadows, but perfect for a ride none the less, and I set off in great spirits pedalling like a champion for the first two hundred metres at least.

It had not occurred to me before during the many taxi rides and drives that we had taken along the route, that the reason there is no canal to Luneville is that it is on the top of a hill.   Conversely, the reason there is a canal through Lagarde is that it is at the bottom of a hill.

The road as it turns out is relentlessly in the up direction for the first nine kilometres, after which it tends to steepen generally in the same direction not reaching anything like a plateau until the outskirts of Luneville itself.   This turned out to be a fine test for old legs and little wheels, which it must be said combined valiantly to make quite a good pace, even if at the expense of the leisurely meandering envisaged at the outset of the journey.

At my destination, as I folded the bike into the boot of car as the nice man handed me the keys with a cheery reminder that we had unlimited kilometres allowed in our agreement, and as I always do, I feigned surprise and thanked him very much, with nary a hint of a smirk.  Will they never learn?

She does like her comfort
Lagarde - 2 September

Tomorrow we pick up the car, and the productivity fever that hit so suddenly yesterday reached something of a peak as we cleaned and pulled things apart and had deep and meaningful conversations with Bill about what did and didn't need to be done to the boat over winter, or for that matter in our absence so that it would be ready for Duncan's visit on our return next week.

We were having a little think, Bill and I, about ways of solving the minor leaks which have plagued us for years, without completely dismantling the windows when suddenly inspiration gurgled past.

By taking a leaf out of the book of this craft and simply not bothering with any windows we would overcome the need for any sealant with all its attendant unreliability.  We would never have trouble with their heater either, but would need to have a goodly number of blankets and sleeping bags in those boxes for when the temperature took a turn for the worst.

We've seen this intrepid couple a few times now over the past couple of years and while their raft is called "With Pleasure III and on those glorious summer days it we're sure it livse up to its name, in some conditions it does have the potential to be a little less pleasurable.   Indeed when conditions take a turn for the worse, in sleet and rain and cold for instance, we can only think that it is so much less pleasurable that the fate of its two predecessors needs no further description.

On balance, I suspect we'll be thinking some more about those leaks.


A short break - Lagarde 1 September

For the first time since the beginning of summer, we seem to have the right combination of weather, tools spare parts and motivation to get some serious maintenance projects underway and there is a small window of sunshine on its way so we need to make the most of it.

So we have decided to go away for a week or so until that feeling has gone.  Most of the year's washing is done now anyway, and it's really only the terrible, grubby unexciting work that remains to be done, the sort of work that we put off last year until this, and this year until now, so a little more delay won't hurt.

We have been inspired somewhat by being in the midst of all those holiday makers so we have arranged to hire a car and will embark on a short driving holiday through the Netherlands, catching up with several of our cruising friends in the process.

That decision to do nothing seemed to snap us out of our lethargy, and suddenly the boat became a hive of activity, a hive in which even the drone was suddenly hit with an urge to make and do.

It's nice to be home
Lagarde 31 August

Oh it's fun to be back home, and as if to emphasise that we belong here, the weather has taken a sudden turn for the better.  Sparkling sunlight greeted us this morning, and we responded by waving a line full of washing at it.

The sun has created a buzz around the hire boat base as well.   There is a real excitement in the sunshine that is often noticeably muted when the weather is poor.   We rather enjoy sharing the excitement of the families and groups as they turn up to hire their boat for a week or even a weekend's adventure on the high seas.    Watching them earnestly and nervously taking their lessons on what for many is the first time in a boat, and returning at the end of their cruise either in the same high spirits, or wrung out, hung over and ready for the relief of another week at work.

There is a sort of symbiosis between us, the live-aboards in the port and those weekend sailors.

We laugh at them and take photos as they drink their beer bare topped in fifteen degree sunshine, in their sailor hats and their funny flags.  In turn, they laugh just as incredulously and point and take photos of us in our jumpers hanging out our washing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sluggish - Einville au Jard to Lagarde - 30 August

First thing in the morning the world is at peace, but for some reason today, perhaps it was the mix of colour and mist, it seemed to broadcast a little melancholy and somewhat sluggish at first before warming to its task as it got underway and we with it, willing it on.  It was as if the day was as aware as we were that it was our last day on the water this year and it was somehow giving some thought to going out in sympathy.

It's always a funny happy-sad time for us, one of disbelief that our time has gone so quickly combined with the same realisation each year that we have a lot of work to do on board in a fairly short time, and a few hours from home we always seem to be overcome with an urge to slow down, to prolong the journey as much as we can.

When the schedule for the day calls for no more than two hours of travel, prolongation is not a simple thing, but we manage to make it three before slipping quietly into our berth in Lagarde, giving Mr Perkins his leave, and setting about doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day, presumably in some sub-conscious celebration of the cruising year that has been.

How then, some may ask could I possibly have slipped almost three weeks behind in updating this journal?  In response I can only explain that the day doesn't have a mortgage on sluggish.

Champigneulles to Einville au Jard - 29 August

The leaves seem to have become muted of late, blending with their backgrounds, not their cheery selves.   Like teenagers who are out of sorts it's just a phase they are going through, and they will change soon enough, and bring a carpet of red and gold to the roads and waterways; reward for their unhappiness perhaps.

Its as though they know that we are in the process of heading for home,  the colours of our surroundings as subdued as our moods really, not sombre, but the memories of summer are already fading and there are new colours for us too, just around the bend.

We always enjoy our last days afloat for the year in a different way to the others, willing as we always do for them to pass more slowly, making the most of what time we have left.   We are in very familiar territory now of course.  It's like driving down our own driveway.  As we pass them we note summer's progress on houses that we have watched under construction for years, animals that have grown older or which have disappeared from the paddocks in which they usually reside.  

It's a comfortable familiarity, although we did note that the children who are often at the Einville lock selling mirabelle tarts were missing this year, and had a sudden urge to contact others with whom we'd shared the mirabelle experience in the past.

We need not have worried though, as dusk settled a proud father accompanying his daughter on her rounds of the boats in the port knocked quietly on our window.   Desert had arrived with the same sublime sense of timing as the change of colours in the trees.

Nancy to Champigneulles - 28 August

Nancy to Champignuelles 28 August

When there is a light at the end of the tunnel, one has to be absolutely certain before one continues along it lest it turns out the be the headlight of a train coming the other way.

Therefore just because the weather looked as though it was becoming a little better than it had been didn't mean that any washing should be done, and the forecast of sunshine in the coming days made it much more sensible to wait at any rate.

We busied ourselves none the less, making lists and thinking about all that needed to be done to ready the boat for winter and decided that a visit to the hardware store was probably in order to stock up on the bits and pieces we'd need.   This as it turned out, was exactly what Ron had planned and there is a giant of a store just a few kilometres down the canal in the direction they were intending to travel today, and equally exactly in the opposite direction to the one we were intending to travel, but none the less, we found ourselves perhaps for the last time this year, cruising in company again.

We had planned one last visit to the lights in the square tonight, but of course as we have noted many times "planning" and "cruising" are mutually exclusive terms, and when the time came we were several kilometres downstream and in the middle of yet another farewell dinner aboard "Tiara", perhaps our fifth sixth this year had we been counting.

With our holds full of hardware, cameras full of photographs and heads full of tales of a cruising paths crossed many times in the past months, it seemed too soon to reminisce, but we did anyway and made do with photographs of the lights that we'd taken earlier.

Bad Press
Nancy - 27 August

We were a bit hang-dog for part of the day.

We'd discovered a blog published by one of our countrymen which was quite disparaging of among others, the very folk with whom we had had such an enjoyable time the previous evening, and whose talents and zest for life in our eyes seem to have no limits.  It seems that for some, travel is something that should always provide an experience that is akin to being at home, and any variance from their accepted norm is some sort of threat to their obviously well structured lives.  For a time I was going to rage, rage, and not go gently into the good night, but Stephane would have none of that I knew, so the only thing to do in the fullness of time seemed to be to go to lunch.

Ron and Robin are never backward in agreeing that such a proposal is a splendid thing, so in gloomily recovering weather, but not quite good enough to wash the sheets, we set off into the Old Town to find a suitable venue.

It's amazing what a plate of Toulouse sausage and mashed potato can do for one's spirits, particularly when it's followed by some sort of Apple dessert from Normandy and then a little later by a nap.

It is a dog's life after all!

Wet, not miserable
Nancy - 26 August

We are beginning to think that the rain is with us for a rather lengthy stay once again, but as the saying goes all things must come to an end eventually, and rain or not the gang of three had to press on.  

"To Paris" they chorused as Graham turned the car out of the port and into the morning traffic, doubtless not giving a passing thought to those they'd left behind, rattling around in an empty boat, occasionally peering out wistfully into the wetness for signs of approaching company.

But we were doing our absolute best to avoid missing them, so quickly took up a long-standing invitation to visit Stephane's barge where we spent a happy afternoon pouring over a small sample of his amazing photographic work, watching mystified as his photographic centrepiece a barely coloured photograph stood before us, apparently breathing.  

Then, lest we should suffer withdrawals in the absence of a crowd we thought we should introduce him to Ron and Robin and even then the five of us weren't equal to having one May aboard, so we our other neighbour Jean-B in as well for a long and productive cultural exchange!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Road Trip!
Nancy-Metz-Lagarde-Nancy 25 August

Nothing says "Lets overcome cabin fever" on a drizzly day more than a road trip, and it wasn't terribly difficult to devise an entirely suitable circuit, which would take us home to Lagarde for Sunday lunch at Restaurant PK209, dessert in downtown Metz and back to Nancy in time for tea with Ron and Robin who had very conveniently arrived a few days before we did and held the adjoining spot so we could be neighbours not for the first time this year.

The plan went swimmingly until it was time to take leave of the restaurant, and May, bless her asked if would be kind enough to ask the waiter if she could buy two of the little pirate decorations that she had noted were accompanying children's sundaes.   The French language holds few mysteries for us now, apart from the one big one about how on earth one goes about communicating in it, we are very comfortable with it.

So I rose to the occasion, and believe that for the first time I may even have dropped a verb into the sentence, although it may not have actually been a useful one if the puzzled look on the waiter's face is to be used as a gauge.   Oh to heck with it I thought, and covered one eye, madly waving my make-believe sword under his nose while shouting "AArrrrh, Arrr!"

I suspect it's a sad reflection on my language skills, that he understood perfectly and gave the toys to us presumably in recognition of my performance.   He must have phoned Metz as well because when we arrived there was a parade with bands and clowns and floral floats presumably in our honour, or was it part of the Mirabelle festival, we couldn't be sure.  

We couldn't leave Metz without dessert of course, although it didn't come with pirates, nor popping into the cathedral just to remind ourselves that people in this country have been been apparently speaking to one another with no difficulty for thousands of years.  Surely one can't bluff and mime one's way through the construction of an entire cathedral?

Just Desserts
Nancy 24 August

The common sense card is not one that I am particularly used to playing, some might argue that I rarely do, but with five aboard, drizzle and fogged up windows outside, and more to come, it really made no sense to leave our snug little berth a short tram ride from the heart of Nancy.

It was a short tram ride after dinner last night that took us to Place Stanislas in time for the evening light projections, and to take advantage of Graham's kind offer to buy dessert and coffee for the lot of us.   It may have been some sort of subconscious thing with someone else footing the bill that we didn't object when the others moved to sit at the most expensive corner of the square, or it may have been that it just looked like a really nice place to sit.

Whatever the case, we had our usual struggle with language, failing entirely to order a weak black coffee for Jill, and failing entirely to obtain a dessert menu even though we clearly knew what we meant.    Actually the waiter did eventually return without a menu, but with news which he imparted after a significant and terribly meaningful pause, regretting that the chef had some problems with deliveries this morning and there is no dessert menu this evening and if we all would like to have the same thing he would make something for us anyway.

We had a quick show of hands, and after determining that the chef didn't actually know what he might make for us, but he is usually very good at this sort of thing, we decided to proceed, and began our wait.

Eventually the extraordinary outpouring of chef's emotion was placed before us, without description, but with every change of colour came a subtle change of flavour, incredibly, each one complimenting the other, like snipers aiming at our tastebuds rather than launching a full-on artillery assault.

 Actually when the bill eventually arrived, Graham changed colour too, grateful I suspect that he had already paid for his return airfares.

Liverdun to Nancy - 23 August

Liverdun in cruising yacht parlance is a little gunk-hole, tucked in a tiny inlet off the Moselle River, full of weed and ducks and a few swans and not much else, with overhanging trees and steep hills and cliffs providing a backdrop to the mooring, and to set it all off an ancient village is perched on the top of them.

There is room for two or perhaps three boats against the little wharf, and it's the perfect place to sit in the still of the night over a long dinner with a bunch of friends, of say, cassoulet and fresh baguette.  Disturbingly though, the algae in the clear water is so close to the surface that anything thrown to the fish just sits a few inches below the water and stares up at the thrower.

I suppose it's just as well then that the river is so amazingly still for much of the time.  Its mirrored surface reflects anything, hiding said morsels from view until eventually the catfish have a chance to clean them up.

This was a day that began with a light show as the rising sun created stunning reflections as we motored down the river, and ended with the one that no visitor to Nancy should miss, the illuminations in Place Stanislas which don't begin until late into the evening.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig