Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, April 30, 2015

An offal mistake -

We do not often trawl through museums.  When we do we tend to become overawed at the ingenuity of mankind, and indeed at the length of time it has been practising said ingenuity.   

We also tend to skip through the written descriptions, picking out words we know and guessing the rest, translating with some effort and usually a reasonable degree of accuracy as it turns out, therefore when the Denon museum so sensibly closed for lunch today we had had enough.  

Our heads were spinning a little, still trying to get themselves settled with the concept of implements that we had just seen that were said to be twenty thousand years old, let alone grappling with the remnants of bridge structures we had seen dating from Roman times.

Doubtless that is why one of us, glancing at the lunch specials menu as she would a museum description, thought the “blah de blah blah of Veal blah blah blah herbs and spices, mustard sauce, steamed potatoes”  was exactly right for her today, while the other settled helplessly for the simple steak, a tiny morsel of eye fillet accompanied by a few dozen shamelessly and very deeply fried potato chips. 

It was the “blah blah blah” part of the description that became the problem. We had completely failed to read, let alone translate that particular bit, entirely confident that one can never go wrong ordering veal.   

The menu, had it been correctly translated, would have read “Tongue of Veal, boiled to a quivering blob, without the need for herbs and spices and mustard sauce, served simply with plain old boiled potatoes.”    In his defence, the waiter did raise half of one eyebrow when the madame declined his kind offer to sell her a salad to accompany said dish.

We shall put that one down to experience, an experience which I am sure Nicéphore Niépce, the actual inventor of photography, would have been grateful that we had not exploited by sharing on social media, just as one of us is grateful we did not share at all.

Lunch did not spoil the happy and entertaining hour or so we subsequently spent poking through the NIépce Museum.  There we were no less astonished as we viewed that first image of his from the early nineteenth century, than we were earlier viewing twenty thousand year old weapons.  

We wondered whether digital images will survive for two centuries, whether iPhones will turn up twenty thousand years from now and of course whether they’ll still be eating boiled tongue. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

To market to market-

These monster hotel vessels are probably leaving town because they know that Friday is a public holiday and all of the locks in France will be closed.  Actually so will everything else, but they must know what they are doing.   

We have decided to stay till they reopen, and inspired by they who are travelling on those ships, will try to spend the next few days lazing around as we imagine they do.

To realise that objective we needed provisions, and the provisions shop is beyond that bridge, and beyond the the next one too, but conveniently close to the little pleasure boat port in the heart of town where the kindly manager said he would allow us to stay without charge for a few hours while we shopped.   We felt a little extravagant steaming to the shops to save a few millimetres of shoe leather, but this is one of those big supermarkets where the staff ride on skates.  It’s of the kind that sells brake parts and gerbils and probably even submarines if you could ever find the submarine department.  By the time we had found just the breakfast cereal and gone back for some hand cream then off in the other direction for baking paper, our pedometers were showing that we had walked a tidy five kilometres entirely within its walls.

Safely back aboard with our supplies safely stowed and glad of the opportunity to ride home, we dined handsomely on fresh ham, mustard and baguette all of the way back “Silhouette” .  

Pleasantly fatigued through all that effort, we wondered if we should do what we imagined the cruise passengers were doing to combat their post lunch fatigue, and decided that if they were sensible they probably weren’t doing anything at all to combat it.  

Sensibly we too succumbed, arising bright and refreshed for another long night of conversation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hanging out with the big chaps -
Seurre to Chalon-sur-Saône

When it came time to stop at Verdun-sur-Saône we just didn’t.  We popped in, did a circuit of the port, took some photos out of the window and said “Well it’s only another couple of hours to Chalon”, and kept going thankful that we had no plan, for that is how simply and badly plans can go awry were one foolish enough to make them.

We’d sent messages to Roger advising that we’d be there Monday, then another saying possibly Wednesday, so it seemed that Tuesday would be a reasonable compromise for our long awaited reunion and if our boats were animals, to introduce at long last, our no longer new puppy to “Silouhette”, the mother-ship.    

Here we lie, catching up on a few years worth of news, just a few kilometres from the centre of Chalon, at the old abandoned commercial port, which in the way of these things, complete with broken cranes and tumbleweed, serves (very Brisbane-like) as the base for a fleet of giant hotel boats.

As we watched the turnover of passengers as bus after bus continued their transfers this afternoon we couldn’t help but observe some notable differences between our lives and those on the hotel barges.

They have cabins that are bigger than our boat, but then so does Silouhette actually.  
If they aren’t out of bed by ten, they’ll miss breakfast or their bus.
They go home on Tuesday.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lost in translation -
Saint-Jean-de-Losne to Seurre

In truth we might have left in the morning bleak if it hadn’t been for our quest to see Jim and Monika’s barge, and the need for just one more coffee, and perhaps to refuel, and to buy some bread if it hadn’t been Monday and the baker’s day off, so when we actually left Saint Jean it was under clear grey skies and temperatures that were verging on pleasant.

The bleak had returned by the time we berthed in Seurre though, and brought with it a biting wind which oddly enough did nothing for our enthusiasm when it came to actually summonsing the energy to get out and about.   

Almost as chilling was the realisation that the young harbour master had responded to our clumsy introductions in his language, in perfect English. This is not a bad thing for us, in fact it would be churlish to say we don't appreciate it, except that it has taken one dimension from our travel experience, in the sense that we are not forced to think about communication, or worry when we cannot make ourselves understood! 

We have become aware of the depths that our mother tongue has penetrated his country over the past decade in particular.   It does not seem so long ago that we knew nothing of the French language, and often found it difficult to make ourselves understood.   Now it seems that just as often, sometimes after only muttering a few words in French, the person with whom we are communicating will switch without thought or apology to our native tongue.    The young are adapting to life in a multi-cultural world far more seamlessly than we could ever hope to do.

Sadly street signs and business branding are well and truly fighting the same battle.  We don't notice it happening. It doesn’t seem out of place to see signs clearly written in English now.

Somewhere deep in the bowels of a government building in Paris, there is an old policy-maker repeating to anyone who will listen ; “I told you so”.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The bold and the beautiful -
Lamarche-sur-Saône to Saint-Jean-de-Losne

There was something amiss on the quay at Saint-Jean-de-Losne when we arrived.   We couldn’t put our finger on it, but all the boats were too glamorous, they were all beautiful newly built barges and there were none of the usual rag-tag collection with which we are so familiar.  The place looked strangely almost abandoned. “It’s early in the season” I said as I pulled ever so carefully into the only vacant spot on the wall, oblivious to the “Marine Festival” that was underway, presuming that the band was simply there to welcome us as often it is.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Jim and Monika, whose meeting we had chronicled on these very pages several years ago, and who have recently taken a vow of poverty, or as others would put it: bought a boat, had driven from Germany to spend a little cleaning time with their "new" hundred year old baby.  

Jim had in a moment of driving inattentiveness and quite coincidentally had seen our “Joyeux” from the bridge as they drove into town.  Standing out as we did among all the glittering prizes on the quay, he immediately felt concerned for the Piper Organisation whose product the others were, presumably fearing that we would lure their away their customers.  Simon Piper as it turns out is a lovely bloke, who apparently immediately recognised the potential synergy and kindly allowed us to stay in his last reserved spot, assuring us he’d keep an eye out while we went off for a walk and promised not to sell our boat in our absence.

So there we sat, attracting the crowds like the classic convertible in the town square, with Simon no doubt guiding the hoards towards bigger and better things.

As the sun slowly sank in the west, Simon held court on his wondrous vessel, we did the same on ours, Monika shared their excitement about the changes they are about to make in their lives, and Jim learned to eat green vegetables.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Swanning round -
Gray to Lamarche-sur-Saône

They’re ridiculous things, swans.    

I haven’t yet been able to get a decent photograph of one doing anything but begging for a tidbit.   

Just once I’d like to capture one of them waltzing past as they do, with one leg on its back, foot aloft like a giant tail fin, paddling with the other, face dead ahead, looking through the corner of its eyes like a little kid on a bike shouting “look mum no hands!”, or the way they arch their wings together over their backs like ballerinas in Swan Lake.  Perhaps they really did inspire the ballet.

In life they appear undeniably elegant,  often not so on "film" perhaps they are just ill-proportioned relative to the frame of a photograph.  Perhaps I should just keep trying.  

In any case, we wandered a bit further down the river yesterday in a not unpleasant drizzle, to Lamarche-sur-Saône, where we tied up alone against a small stone wall and spent the evening wondering among other things, about how many other people were tonight in a place where wild swans gathered for a chat at one’s living room window.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Life in a postcard. -

So we looked at the view from our window and decided that Claudine was completely right.   We had absolutely no reason to move today.

So we didn’t, except of course to wander the streets a little and allow the butcher, the baker and possibly even the candlestick maker (heavily disguised as a large hardware store) to separate us from a little more of our money.  I hope they know how hard their Tourist Office works on their behalf!  

Perhaps if we wait one more day the leaves on the last of the bare trees opposite will have burst into being.

There again, if we stay here long enough we can probably watch the same leaves change colour and fall.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thank-you Ma’am! -
Rigny to Gray

In cruising mode now we thought that six kilometres would be a perfect foil to yesterday’s marathon.   We arrived in Gray mid-morning although had we been in cruising mode proper we may well have described that as “early”.

In the event it was early enough to get the washing done and dried and a full load of provisions aboard before an admittedly late lunch.  

We had been hoping to catch up with Claudine but of course on the one day we planned to be in town it was her day off, her phone was not answering, and through a set of circumstances that can bear no explanation, the phone number on our “business” card is wrong.  (If you are relying on that to call us sometime this year, please email now for the real one!)  

It seemed for a time that we would have to catch up on our return later in the year.

That though would have been giving up, and Claudine never gives up.  Although she had taken the day off work to nurse her mother who was recuperating after a minor operation, unable to contact us by telephone, she simply drove from her village and turned up at exactly the right time of the evening to save the situation, armed as always with her camera, and bearing eggs from her very own chickens.   

We braced ourselves for her admonition when we advised that really we had only intended to stay just for the day, and when it came she was of course correct.  We are cruising, another day doesn’t matter and Gray does have a lot going for it……  if every Tourist Office had a Claudine travel would be very slow indeed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BAM! -
Montereaux les Baulay to Rigny

We got ourselves out onto the river at a very civilised and somewhat astonishing “first thing”, in time to catch the lock opening time at nine as a matter of fact.   

There, we let Mr P off his leash, giving him his head for much of the day and he responded admirably, charging along at almost nine kilometres per hour when he could find the current, stopping only at the locks and at Port-sur-Saone when lunch o’clock appeared suddenly and without warning.   

There we could variously marvel at just how many leaves had appeared on the trees overnight, just how dense the forest had become in the background (also overnight), how deserted the streets and waterways were, and how wonderful it was that the best delicatessen in town had a rotisserie rolling away on the footpath with one of those stupendously delicious and no doubt very good for one’s overall wellness little ham joints, slowly basting and awaiting our arrival.

In an equally fortuitous manner, the baker next door had a sensationally fresh loaf still warm and waiting for us to deposit ninety cents on the counter, and thereafter to deposit slices of ham on the bread.

Thus gloriously fortified we continued our merry way with Mr P humming his dulcet tunes until just before dusk, where we found ourselves moored, tired but happy, seventy-five kilometres from whence we had begun.

In one day, we had travelled the same distance we had taken weeks to cover last year, but that's just an aberration, cruising starts tomorrow!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pont de Bois to Montereaux les Baulay

In the space of twenty kilometres, suddenly the bare forests that we were walking through last night were no more, BAM! had happened.  As suddenly as the day had begun, the forest had grown leaves and undergrowth and there was no way of peering through the dense bushland any more.

We’d been expecting it, but when it came it was so complete that it was bizarre.  To complete the madness, as soon as we were we out of the forest we were greeted by our first shard of yellow in the fields that only yesterday had been a deep, rich and no doubt phosphate enhanced green.  Without my Canadian expert on the subject to call upon, I am fairly certain that these are fields of rapeseed.   I’d know sunflowers if I saw them, but whatever they are, this is spring.

Amazed as we were at how great the change in such a few kilometres, and buoyed somewhat by the fact that we had actually seen this spring business happen in real time, we pushed on down onto the river, our highway south.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The smallest of mishaps! -
Uzemain to Pont-de-Bois

While things may be abuzz in the forests, one can’t say the same for the streams or the streets.  

In perfect weather we have barely seen a soul.  

One boat has gone by in the opposite direction in two days, and we saw an old lady talking to another in Fontenoy-le-Chateau today when we stopped for the obligatory baguette and Eclairs for elevensies.   Normally, when in Fontenoy we choose the Coffee Eclair as an appropriate adjunct to our morning coffee, but today despite the astonished look on the face of the proprietor of the little bakery and her query to ensure we didn’t mean “Coffee”,  it just seemed right to break out of our comfort zone and “go the Chocolate”.

In retrospect it seems her look was because I had failed to notice that while the Coffee Eclairs were clearly freshly prepared, with dripping glossy icing and succulent filling, the Chocolate versions had probably been on display since last Autumn.   This was only a slight disappointment given that they were still better than others we’ve tried, and while not perfect provided none the less the perfect kick as we continued to wend our way south. 

Wend we did, and wend some more, finally (at day's wend?) stopping for the evening in the midst of a forest that seemed to be squirming under the load of all that green stuff just below the surface of every living thing.   In a day or two there won’t be any of “last year’s stock” to be seen!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Where are we now? -
- Epinal to Uzemain

Spring has been playing odd tricks on us. The trees are bursting from within with zillions of tiny green shoots, little green pixellations on a background of bare, brown timber.  The effect of this is that there is an overall khaki look about the forest that is so reminiscent of the muted colours of the Australian bush that it gets a bit creepy in places.   Perhaps we could be forgiven for thinking just for a time as we left Epinal, that we could have been on the upper reaches of the Darling River for instance.

The problem with being on the water on these crystal clear, still days is that one is inclined to slow down to make them last.  That makes a lot of sense, but the reality of travelling at an maximum speed of less than eight kilometres per hour is that if one does slow for long, one finds oneself going backwards.

Today we resisted the temptation, charging on relentlessly, travelling almost thirty kilometres through thirty-four locks, and many sections of forest.  We could actually see the change within the forests during the warmth of the afternoon, and it wasn’t hard to form a view that spring will happen tomorrow or the next day and it won’t be coming with a whimper it will be one almighty BAM!    

One can almost feel the pent up energy in the trees, it will be like a bushfire in reverse.  Today the forests are comprised of little more than bare skeletons of trees, but they are simply ready to burst into a flame of new leaves.  

It’s all a bit awe inspiring to say the least.  We have found spring!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Out of sync.-

In our defence it was very cold this morning.  While the rain had magically disappeared overnight, leaving crystal clear skies there were also crystals of ice on the deck when we woke.  

No doubt taking a cue from the campervanners we mocked yesterday, by the time we’d deemed it warm enough to emerge, the sun may well have been well over the yard arm had the good ship Joyeux had one, and even then it was chilly enough to wear a few jumpers and beanies and scarves and things when we wandered down to the markets, dressed as one does for a night of ring events at the Ekka.   By then of course the sun was out and the warmth was starting to seep into the market place, where stall holders were dismantling their stands or already on their way home, save the one elderly couple still intent on disposing of what was left of their rhubarb and asparagus stash, sitting their in their open necked shirts and shorts obviously enjoying the sunshine. 

It’s eighteen degrees people, go and put something warm on!  

How can they be so far out of sync with the climate?

On the other hand, some may notice this post is a bit out of sync with the calendar.  

Due to a small technical glitch, our email provider advised that we had used ninety-nine percent of our storage, and would soon be cut off if we didn’t do something about it.  At the same time our internet provider advised that our new plan would cut in on the twenty-third and we could very well run out of bandwidth if we weren’t very careful and perhaps now would not be a good time to do too much rearranging of one's email account.  Without going into details, let’s just say that we have passed the test and the time frame and all is back in sync.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Playing Spot the Aussie-
Thaon-sur-Vosges to Epinal

The boating crowd are by and large a gregarious lot. Because of the nature of the mode of transport it tends to spend a fair amount of its time out of doors, dealing with locks and moorings and so on, and there are therefore many opportunities for interaction with one’s surroundings and those within them.  The old seamen’s code relating to providing assistance to ships in distress tends to translate in this modern age into some very civilised food and beverage sharing practices when in port, which in turn leads to lengthy evenings of information sharing of varying degrees of usefulness depending in no small way in the proportions of said food and beverages shared.

The camping car mob on the other hand seem to be a different kettle of fish, zipped up tight in their little hermetically sealed cans.   They arrive, park on a piece of bitumen that could pass for a supermarket parking lot were it not for the distinct absence of an actual supermarket, adjust their television dishes, level their wheels, readjust their television dishes, then simply disappear into the cavern. 

Interestingly for us, it’s usually quite easy to spot the Australian touring in a small camping car among this lot.   They are the ones with the van parked so that the windows face the view (in this case the canal), with the doors open and the screens down, and a couple of chairs outside so they can hijack any passer-by who needed to be given the time of day.

When the day dawned cold and wet even they were snugged up in their dry, warm van.  We were intent on leaving, so took pity on them and brought them out for a cruise, not a long cruise but a cruise none the less, just a few hundred metres and up one lock. Enough to get them wet and cold and well and truly aware of what they were missing.

And we think we left them wanting more, as they motored off, heater on full no doubt to some warmer, drier spot on the planet. We powered on to Epinal in the drizzle and the cold and lived happily ever after without ever finding out if there was actually any life aboard any of those other vans.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Meals on Wheels -
Charmes to Thaon-sur-Vosges

For reasons that are completely inexplicable, the bit of canal between Charmes whose very name is full of promise but which in the eyes of the writer at least fails entirely to deliver, (except it must be said when it comes to first class pastries and bread,) and Thaon-sur-Vosges is little more than a bit to be got through in the most efficient manner.   This isn’t always easy, as it is the last bastion of full time working gravel barges, a fact which in practice quite possibly detracts even further from it’s potential as a desirable place of relaxation.

When the call came therefore that Thaon-sur-Vosges was exactly on Warwick and Julie’s trajectory and they would be there for lunch and could we stop and perhaps Julie could make dinner as well, the offer was more than an incentive to get going before the frost had thawed from the roof of the boat.  The necessary walk to the bakery to find sufficient armaments to see us through what we were hoping would be a long day was ‘bracing’ to say the least, tempered substantially on our return by the discovery that baking a cake first thing is a perfect means of raising the apparent cabin temperature to levels adequately sub-tropical.

We’ve never met Warwick and Julie at home in Australia, we generally live in opposite hemispheres and return to our respective nests in opposing seasons, they to use winter in Australia to travel within, and to plot and plan excursions further afield, while we are here escaping it's cold. (One day all will be revealed I am sure!) 

Fortunately for us they think nothing of driving their little campervan laden with Julie’s cooking and whatever produce they’ve picked up along the way, across a continent or two just to ply us with food and conversation for endless hours without regard to sleep or even the world outside, then they send us home with strawberries in case we get hungry mid twenty-yard wobble back to the boat.

Now they are on their way, and we will no doubt have to wait another year for Meals on Wheels.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Towards an Australian Landscape. -
Richardmenil to Charmes

My recollections of stuff I learned half a century ago at high school are plainly clearer now than they were at exam times back then.   

I recall now that it’s too late to take a test, hearing stuff about the early history of painting in Australia.  We were told no doubt by a teacher who had been told by someone else, how the light in Australia was so different to the places the early settlers had come from that many of the early landscape painters were painting from a European perspective, so that their pictures would be accepted by the establishment. We accepted that without question although without any understanding of exactly what it meant except that it seemed like an excuse for not being able to paint things to look the way they should, and nice work if they get away with it.   

My thirteen year old brain figured they couldn’t paint trees that looked like ours to save themselves either, so why should they bother getting the light right?   

Today, as we drifted slowly through the Vosges forest, something of a revelation transpired.   It’s too late to sit the exam I suppose, but really today was a bit like sailing through a John Glover catalogue without the people in white breeches.  The colours of this week in spring are not at all what we identify with.  The character of the place has changed, albeit fleetingly. The forest looks for all the world as our bush does a few days beyond the the first rain after a bushfire.  

The haze isn’t smoke, but if we closed our eyes and sniffed I reckon we could have smelled the damp eucalyptus ash.   But we are too busy charging on down the canal to stop and smell anything, too entranced as around each bend the landscape changes wondrously.

And we have to do it again tomorrow too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This Cruising Life -
Sommerviller to Richardmenil

This cruising life.

Contrary to all that we know and understand about cruising, we made a plan for today.

That is without doubt the most incredibly stupid thing we have done so far this year. In the blink of an eye we had decided that we’d have many miles under our keel and be resting in some shady dell in a forest in the afternoon.   

So we braved the morning chill in the village and had bought pastries for our morning tea by eight, timed our departure to perfection, and arrived at the first lock exactly when its lights came on for the day.  Naturally we were a little nonplussed when those very same lights shone a very bright shade of red, indicating that the lock was out of order and “could you please wait a bit while someone comes to fix the problem?”.

We did, thankful for our splendid morning tea as an hour slowly passed.  

Finally underway, we arrived at the very next lock in time to see a fully laden barge entering ahead of us.  This is the canal equivalent of pulling onto a patch of highway with no overtaking lanes behind a Morris Minor towing a caravan.    

After three mind numbing hours during which we encountered another lock breakdown, we had travelled almost six kilometres but had arrived at the point where we could finally detach ourselves from the behemoth and skip gaily at our own pace.   The nice man at the lock promised a fault free ride up the chain of locks and we would finally be on our way.    

We were too, until number six of the eighteen, then number seven, with nought to do but wander up  then down the cycle path and as patiently as we could, wait.

Had we been on a weekend excursion, we might have become perturbed.  But we aren’t and we didn’t.  The weather was glorious, the spring springing around us and when we did eventually find ourselves happily watching the sun go down at Richardmenil, we took consolation in the thought that tomorrow we will have no plan.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Off with a spring!
Lagarde to Sommerviller

Astonishing everyone, least of all ourselves, an hour before midday we slowly motored out of Lagarde, with the big wide world at our feet.   Eleven in the morning is as close to us getting underway “first thing” as anyone around here can remember and in order to make up we decided to stop a bit early too.  

After all we didn't want to overdo it and we had plans to travel further tomorrow which could test Mr P’s mettle a bit.   After last year he has a bit to do to prove himself entirely trustworthy in our eyes,  although it must be said thus far he has behaved impeccably, appearing to have given up smoking entirely although there was just one small splutter of that vile dark substance on the bed of his bay which perhaps is an indication that he will not be giving up easily.

This spring thing is getting to us though, we’ve not seen the vegetation so brown before, even in spring, nor the trees so bare nor the villages that usually hide behind them, but we can see the buds appearing everywhere before our eyes.   I suspect if the forecast for the next few days holds, we shall see not a season, but an explosion within the week.

We get the distinct feeling that nature has opened the shutters, drawn back the curtains and is just about ready to thrust open the windows and shout to the crowds at the top of her voice.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Of fond farewells.

We are starting to wonder if we have our own little Groundhog Day happening. 

We have been here for five days and seem to be constantly finding excuses to go out with the same people.   Actually we don’t need excuses, but since our stay in Lagarde is set to be the shortest on record, if indeed we do depart tomorrow as planned, our breezy round of welcome parties has settled into a “well we’ll see you again soon” round, or perhaps a “you aren’t really going yet are you?” round, and this is exaggerated somewhat by the early time of the year and the distinct non-arrival as of yet of the rest of our little portside gang.

Today it was a sort of “glad to see you are still here” and “well you aren’t really going tomorrow are you?” and “besides it’s lunchtime and we all have to eat”, lunch with Maggie and Jacques although we have no idea why they ever invite us for lunch when they really mean stay for a couple of days and while you are at it eat enough to see you through the summer.

As always a splendid time was had by all, tinged with the half-regret that we can’t do it again next week at our place, but I’m sure we’ll all get over that in due course.

So the penultimate farewells have been done.

There’s naught left to do now but to have one more micro hibernation (we certainly don't need to eat), swap over the empty gas bottle, and cast off our lines.

How simple that all sounds.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


We had been invited to attend a small function to celebrate the official opening of the little port in Xures so lovingly developed by our friends in Lagarde.

It was to have been held outdoors, at the new port, where old friends and prospective customers many of whom had travelled some distance to be there, could sample the romance of life afloat, voyaging under perfect spring skies, past romantic French villages with even more romantic melodies wafting from below the decks provided by a real accordionist.

No-one predicted the sudden chilly, wet and grey change in the weather that forced a sudden change of venue.  Instead of celebrating on the pontoons of the new harbour where food would be sodden and guests at risk of hypothermia, invitees were guided to the town’s modest reception rooms adjoining the mayor’s office.  This was a warm and welcoming gesture by the village intent, on encouraging any business within its bounds.  There was a risk in that though, as perhaps on the closer inspection provided by the walk to the venue, the “romance” perceived from the waterway could also be perceived as being dangerously close to being “unkempt” in much of the village, and then there was a risk that the darkened mural that loomed over us within the building itself, illustrating times far less happy than these could detract as well.

The ancient musician, no doubt sensing that an extraordinary effort would be required, or perhaps just to show off his undoubted talents and through this happy circumstance armed with access to a power point, decided to abandon his squeezebox in favour of a more modern electrical contraption.  This turned out to be a portable keyboard, from the days when they were called “organs” and came in a particular shade of pastel green, this one with it’s tone button stuck on “trumpet” and it’s volume button stuck on “full”.

So there we were, sampling the regional delicacies of Lorraine, being regaled with the lesser known compositions of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, under grey skies but with all the warmth in the world from the people of the company and the village, and all the light (and romance) we needed from the early flowers of spring.

Sunshine is so overrated.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Springing to life.

Spring is on the way.  Despite appearances, on close inspection there are tiny green shoots appearing now on all of the trees that weren’t there just a few days ago.

It’s the same on board too.  Despite appearances, everything is close to clean and tidy and mostly properly stowed, with only a load of shopping and a quick rub over some oily bits in Mr Perkins’ domain to be done and we’ll declare ourselves ready for summer.

After one last trip to town (the other town this time Sarrebourg, the one that is a freeway drive away) the car went back to it’s home, our umbilical cord to the land gone.  Tomorrow we might even go for a little run to see that all is in order.

Then all we have to do is to shoot off ourselves, and we’ll declare our own season underway as well!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

A day in town.

It had not been a terribly late night out, nor had we had a terribly early morning, but when we did deign the time appropriate for us to rise, we felt as animals must as they slowly emerge from hibernation.    Despite the clear blue sky or some would say because of it, even with almost no remnant of the overnight frost to be seen the chill was still bordering on uncivilised as we sprinted from our little heated space to the warmth of the car. 

There’s nothing not to enjoy about the drive between Lagarde and Lunéville.  It’s the the sort of gently winding undulating country road that makes one feel as though one is in a cigarette commercial or perhaps an after-shave one, although come to think of it being in either of those would require the absence of a roof and long locks of billowing hair and perhaps a galloping white horse, none of which were to hand, which possibly tempered the romance of it all ever so slightly as did the fresh loads of winter manure being ploughed into some of the fields. 

All that aside there was the serious town business to be done: sorting out our banks and internet and buying enough provisions to get us through the next famine or at least for a week or two or tomorrow, until we can access a supermarket again.    

And then we just had to take that drive one more time, enjoying being in it far too much to stop and take a photo. 


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

but baby, it's cold outside!

We have a rule that says that we don’t get out of bed unless something is in double figures.  It matters not whether that is the time or the temperature aboard but one of them has to co-operate or we don’t get up.

Our little five hundred watt heater can get our tiny sleeping cabin up there in adverse conditions given enough time, but even after four hours of effort on its part, it was touch and go this morning whether time or temperature would win the battle.   

Just three nights ago, ice was what we were putting in our drinks, now it’s nasty stuff we can slip on if we aren’t careful, even more reason to remain tucked ever so snuggly under every doona we can find.

Temperature notwithstanding, it’s good to be back among our friends in the port, and in truth it’s good to have an excuse to simply stay in bed for a bit. 

Yesterday the covers were away and the decks were scrubbed.  Today almost everything inside is ship-shape. In a day or two the post-winter chaos aboard will be gone, replaced by a semblance of normal life aboard. 

Bill is a bit puzzled though. With all of our major renovation work complete and for the first time in six years, no great list of things to do appearing each day, things just don’t seem normal.   When he started Mr P after completing his post-winter service, there was no smoke and he had to check whether he was on the right boat.

Perhaps we have stumbled into a new “normal”.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Waiting for our brains to arrive.

Because we are wise and experienced travellers, we know when to say enough is enough, so we planned a night of respite in a pleasant if somewhat world-weary, which is to say “cheap” hotel in Lunéville. There we would have a warm meal, a nice, hopefully long sleep in a warm bed without the need for too much comfort, and a sustaining breakfast before setting off on our merry way in the warmth of a clear spring morning.

Because we never like to plan things in any detail beyond perhaps a quick hunt for accommodation on the internet the night before, or in this case the week before we were due to arrive, we never seem to get the hang of checking whether there is anything which might impact on our ability to get to where we think we want to be.   For instance, we now know that if one arrives in Lunéville on Easter Monday, one discovers in very quick order that the town taxi business will resume normal service tomorrow if one would care to wait.

By tomorrow of course it would be today, so if one was to indeed enjoy the planned respite that one had planned, it would be wise to stride off on one’s own volition, which we did with the usual happy result.

When today arrived, having dined and slept and woken refreshed and sustained by a leisurely breakfast we decided that another leisurely walk to the hire car place would be in order.  Thankfully we had waited until the morning chill had gone before setting out, as the temperature may well have been minus zero had we not, instead of the plus boldly proclaimed by the animated neon signs of each pharmacy we passed.

Old habits do die hard.  Our instinct as Australians is to hide from the sun.  Therefore it was not for the first time as we walked that we found ourselves crossing the road for no reason other than that our brain was telling us to walk in the shade lest we should fry to a crisp.   

“To heck with the sunburn, brain, let’s just for once enjoy the warmer bits … shall we?”

Monday, April 06, 2015

The glamour of long distance travel.

On any long journey, one spends an inordinate amount of time looking at one’s feet.   

We’ve never done the “P to P” analysis before, that is to say “Pillow to Pillow”, and now that we have it turns out the statistics of our journey were far more interesting to contemplate than the various patterns of carpet and travertine we’d enjoyed during the journey.

By the time we had our heads down for a snooze in Lunéville this afternoon, it had been forty-six hours since being rudely awakened by our alarm, warning that we had to leave our pillow and make our way to the airport.  In the intervening time, we had travelled by planes (two) and trains (two) and automobiles (two if you include the bus) and had spent an astonishing fifteen hours of our journey simply waiting, staring variously at the floor or ceiling in all of four airport lounges, two train stations and two cafés. 

These simple statistics do nothing to explain the weirdest feeling of all, that of having lost the past six months entirely.  We are back to pick up life exactly where we left off.  Usually we describe this as a sort of time travel, but that does not take into account that the rest of the world has moved on since we left, 

Inspired no doubt by a subliminal message from the life support system we are attached to during flight (although others may call it “in flight entertainment”), the other of us has concluded that it is not time travel, that instead the aeroplanes are taking us through worm-holes in the universe.

We arrive completely oriented yet disoriented at the same time, without any need to regain our bearings and except that our brains are still sitting somewhere between our destination and our departure point it is as though nothing as happened since last we were here.   

Even the clothes we are wearing are the same, although she has new shoes, a fact which only seems to highlight the normality of it all.  Is this how amnesia feels?

Puzzled as always, we are back.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Well that came around quickly enough!

Suddenly, we are in Hong Kong, watching the sun set and feigning being puzzled as to how we got here.

To those we missed, if you aren’t so miffed that you are no longer reading this blog: don’t worry, we’ll be back in even more less time than we were at home, and we’re sure to catch you then.

I suspect that just as commentary of the latter weeks of our travels of the past two years may do, the former of this year will somehow magically retrospectively appear. We may not have caught up with our reporting but least we made a bit of progress on DickyWorld, had a holiday or two and managed to get at least some of the photo books done and at least one of the web sites sorted to boot.  The rest of the things that remain undone will just have to wait I’m afraid.

Tomorrow when the sun rises we will be in Paris, in weather that is expected to be around thirty degrees cooler than that to which we are accustomed, and with a little luck there won’t be a hammer, paint brush or wheelbarrow in sight, but for now we’ll sit and wait and make small wagers as to how much sleep we will snatch on the flight, and wonder just how late in the flight we can sneak off and slip into our thermal underwear.
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