Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Great day for the beach -

We’d read the reports about the zoos in France have been feeding their tigers with slabs of ice to sustain them in the forty degree temperatures we have been experiencing, and very briefly entertained thoughts of trying to find jobs as zoo exhibits.  

Often in times such as these, we seek refuge in the depths of shade under trees, or in air conditioned museums or sometimes ancient cathedrals, but of course its Tuesday and the museums are closed, and the beach was closer than the cathedral, notwithstanding that we are four hundred kilometres from the nearest ocean.    

In summer, anywhere in France if there is a tub of water that is vaguely able to fit a human-sized object in it, someone will bring in a truckload of sand and an ice-cream stand and call it a beach.   In Meaux with the benefit of a clear running river the result is spectacular. No detail has been overlooked in creating a true seaside environment  Even the sand was too hot to walk on with bare feet, although perhaps the shark mesh surrounding the swimming enclosure on the river wasn’t taking things a little too far.

No matter how glamorous and inviting it all looked, our Antipodean sensibilities would  have none of this skin exposed to the elements stuff.  Instead, we sat all afternoon enjoying the wafting odours of the city in the cool shade of an ancient bridge,  and wondering what colour the skin on those basking on the beach would be by bed time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lunch with mayor -
Lagny-sur-Marne to Meaux

There’s what promises to be a sustained a heat wave rolling over Europe, and if it had not been pre-ordained we may well have thought to find an air-conditioned restaurant off our own bat.

Since Joan and Peter were taking the trouble of finding a train to Meaux for a lunch with us in time rendezvous on their last day in France this year, we thought it only fair that we actually arrived where we said we would meet them, so there was to be no sleeping late this day.

We arrived in Meaux before the appointed hour, and even by midday as we entered the darkened air conditioned heart of our luncheon venue the heat was beginning to be of the searing kind. We had barely settled in when a gentleman dressed in an expensive-looking business suit and tie approached our table, notably without pen or pad, as if to announce the specials of the day.

“I am the Mayor of Meaux” he declared, welcoming us to his city, and then enquiring of our origins, expectations and so forth before giving us a run down on the highlights of the district.   

He wished us well, and departed as quickly as he had arrived having no doubt so overcome by being in our presence that he'd completely forgotten to ask if we’d like something to drink.   


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rolling along! -
Paris to Lagny-sur-Marne

Leaving Paris is never an easy thing to do. There’s the tearing away of oneself from the place itself, then the rounds of farewells to all of one’s friends in the port, then one last trip to the bakery lest we should starve on our sea voyage of four hours or so, and finally the settling of the bill and the descent onto the river through that last lock on the Canal St Martin.    

While one of us was overheard discussing the benefits of getting away early, the other was wondering just exactly what part of ten in the morning that referred to.

But we were away, for a short while up the Seine bidding our last farewell to that same “Train of Wood” which finally arrived in Paris last night, before turning onto the Marne and bracing ourselves for the masses of recreational vessels happily if sometimes haphazardly spending their Sunday in exactly the same way we were.

We were expecting the rowers and the sailors, and shouldn’t have been surprised by the kayaks or stand up paddle boards, but really when we arrived at Lagny to discover “our” mooring consumed by kids in plastic steam roller things, it was surely a sign that the end of the world is nigh.   Surely this is the only country in the world where a town can hold a water festival, and in doing so bans actual boats from using the waterfront!   

Even the hotel barge had to vacate it’s permanent mooring to make way for the dozens of activities on offer.   Children were able to sample without cost,  every kind of water craft, learn to water ski, fish in the river or in a pool suitably stocked.  There were bands and music and odd musical instruments with which five year olds could make squarking sounds, and donkey rides and farmer’s hats and paper making.

We’d have given up our mooring for a week if they could have found a way for the magic to last beyond the evening. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Colour -

The plan was a good one.   We’d get half of what we needed to do done yesterday, leaving this morning to do the rest and this afternoon to get out and about.  The flaw in that of course is that the amount of work left to do is inversely proportional to the time left to do it, and when the time came to be finished, we weren’t.

So we washed and cleaned and generally managed to have things ship-shape by mid afternoon, well enough we were sure to give Cheryl and Ian the impression that we live as models of tidiness.  

We had been so busy that we hadn’t noticed the growing cacophony of sound generally from the direction of the Bastille where hundreds of thousands (although I would have guessed a lot more) people were taking part in some sort of parade on closed streets under clear blue skies.    

Had we known that the annual Gay Pride parade (or any other parade for that matter) would be happening in the afternoon, we may have bought bread earlier, but we hadn’t which is why when the time came to do so, I found myself peering over a sea of moving heads, with little prospect of getting from point A (where I was) to point B (where the bread was).

It might work, I thought if I slipped sideways into the parade, and sort of crab-walked across it to the other side.  The getting in part went well enough, and I soon found myself in the glare of the world’s press, walking between someone dressed as a North American First Nations Person (it was so much easier to type when they were called Red Indians), and a muscle bound chap dressed as a construction worker.

I can’t say that I “get” these iconic gay stereotypes, but I can say that if the next costume symbolising personal freedom turn out to be an older bloke in a Panama hat carrying a baguette, we all know how that came to be.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Half Day -

A small flotilla of motor yachts from a somewhat elite Yachting Squadron, arrived in port a few days ago, and it’s quite clear that the cut of their cloth is of a different cut to that of the majority of we boat dwellers.    If it wasn’t for the splendid outfits they wore both ashore and aboard and perhaps how seriously they took themselves, it would be the notable fact that the staff were in uniform which really set them apart from the rest of us.

There’s no escaping that there is a distinct absence “staff” aboard our little ship to take care of the things that we’d rather not do ourselves, and with one more sleep until Cheryl and Ian arrive, there was no time like the present to sort out a couple of loads of washing, change the engine oil, clean the shower filters and attend to all that is distinctly not glamorous when it comes to living on a boat.

Fortunately in with our usual mix of efficiency and procrastination, we managed to complete most of our tasks by midday, and put off the others till tomorrow, leaving a full half-day for aimless wandering through the streets of Paris in the building heat of summer.   

Half a day of zigging and zagging down arcades and avenues, stopping occasionally to listen to the likes of the young lady singing a passable rendition of “Joline” on the steps of Monmartre, or the stringed orchestra playing classics in the Metro station at Bastille.  Half a day of window shopping in boutiques and antique shops and watching auctions in progress at poster shops and simply enjoying being there.  Half a day of Paris in summer is more than enough to leave one pleasantly footsore and weary at days end, although perhaps the morning’s work contributed to that, but importantly to leave things unseen to explore another day.

Actually, had we had staff aboard, we may well have been tempted to stay out all day, arriving home over-tired and grumpy, without any desire to go out again.   We are thankful for small mercies such as these!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Crash Landing. -

Anyone with a Jules Verne bent could do worse than spend a few hours wandering the Museum of “Arts et Métiers”, broadly the industry and technology museum.  

A visit should be compulsory for devotees of Steampunk, the modern movement that engages itself in “Victorian” re-engineering of modern objects, for here one can find examples of pretty much everything that ever was good, or not so good as machinery and technology evolved.    

The aeroplane that made the first ever flight is there, and no that didn’t happen at Kittyhawk, as is the gloriously steam powered creation with the feather propellers that is perfectly intact no doubt because it never crash landed.  To have done so would have implied a take-off.

What about the first every powered vehicle?  It is a monstrous steam powered ox cart, famous for demolishing a barn on it’s first run, sending its inventor off madly in search of pencil and slide rule to begin development of the “stop” button, and “brakes”.

Then we turn a corner and are  brought back to earth with the same sort of thud that no doubt Mr “of course my steam powered bird will work” experienced.  

We arrive in the last century, (the twentieth one for those who have lost count) among objects which we have owned, yet hold complete fascination for the groups of high school children.  It is the same fascination that we have for the things describe above.  They stand in awe as they are shown a telephone with wires connecting it to the wall, my first digital camera (a Canon Ixus), and a television set with rounded corners that only received pictures in black and white.

We moved hastily on, lest the guide should mistake us for part of the exhibit, artefacts from a century gone. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Selfish. -

We sat in The Orangerie this morning (the Musée de l'Orangerie if I must spell it out), in a state that drifted between wonder and bemusement, having fortuitously arrived in an interval between the departure madding crowds and the arrival of even maddinger ones, trying to absorb as much as we could of Monet’s wonderful waterlilies through a sea of selfie-artists and others apparently intent on capturing a piece of the magic.   

Having only seen these things in print before, we can assure those who were trying so earnestly to capture the moment, that they cannot.   But we sit in silence, feeling so vastly superior to these mere tourists and their selfies and their monster cameras and lenses, as though we have some sort of ownership of this space.  We wonder as they stand with their backs to the paintings absorbed in their own images why they just can’t rely on their memory.  Surely the very presence of the place is enough, the image can only devalue what they were actually feeling. 

And then, to my own horror, suddenly there are only two between us and the wall.  Two perfectly intruders dressed entirely in sympathy with the paintings.  I take out my camera and click.  It’s too late to take back that one thoughtless action.

I am one of them after all.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

St Denis -

For as long as we have been coming to Paris, Raymonde has been strongly encouraging us to visit the Basilica of St Denis.   For one reason or another, the least of which being that we have only mild curiosity about structures ecclesiastic, that particular visitation was a fair way down our list of things to do in Paris.

This morning when we checked that very list, it suddenly loomed quite near the top, and since that district was one which had thus far escaped our footprints today was the day.  It was of course instructive in an historic sort of way, this building being crudely to France what Westminster Abby is to Britain, housing as it does the tombs of an entire dynasty of rulers and their companions.    I could of course go on to describe the architecture and the stained glass in some detail, but while it is definitely noteworthy, so noteworthy that arguably it is of more interest and importance than that other noteworthy Cathedral in Paris,  it is the context rather than the building that interests us, so we repaired to the nearest luncheon spot to discuss that very thing.

There, the young waiter, waived off our compliments at the standard of his English.  “It’s the future for us”, he said before correcting himself with “but perhaps we had better learn Chinese if we really want to be in the future.”   “Yesterday”, he continued, “we have begun to buy petrol from China, and we are not paying in US dollars.”

Whatever the veracity of that statement, one can sense that there may be a dynasty of a very different kind readying it’s resources for the future.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Well, here we are! -

We get a dose of the warm and fuzzies as we walk around our neighbourhood.  Nothing has changed except perhaps for updates to the poster graffiti.   It’s not that it’s not wonderful exploring new places, but when one is back in one’s old stomping grounds the act of exploration takes on a far more relaxed tone, keeping an eye out for updates not new experiences.

We whiled away the morning shopping for bits and pieces that we knew we could find while wandering through the Marais, and the afternoon variously screwing them into place or not, as the case may be, just content in the knowledge that we are where we are, without the need to go out and prove it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

More than the hills that are alive with the sound of music. -
Port Cerises to Paris

There’s a certain madness about arriving in Paris by River on a Sunday morning in Summer, but it’s a wonderful madness too.

The riverside roads are closed for kilometres, encouraging cyclists and walkers and skaters to flock to the inner city banks as though to welcome us, and it’s the summer solstice today, the day of the Festival of Music throughout France, when anyone who can play an instrument or even hum, comes into the streets and cafes and makes music until the day has gone.  The music seems to seep out of every crack and alleyway.

Of course it’s also food market day in the park above the Canal St Martin at the Bastille so arriving before lunch time is particularly clever, and we did and we are.   

There’s nothing like an overdose of Paris on the first day, so we shopped among the kilometres of market stall offering every kind of edible product, bought fruit and quiche and bread and cake, and then took off on foot to join the rest of Paris.   “Vibrant” is probably barely adequate to describe the crowds as we walked along the Seine, stopping every few hundred metres to watch a band or busker, past the ice cream shops on the Isle St Louis with their kilometre long queues, renewing acquaintance with what for a week or so will once again be our back yard.

We caught up with Jan and Toby in the evening, intent on heading out again in search of more, but how were we to know that the owner of the barge ahead of them was going to assemble his own jazz band for the evening just for our benefit.   So we simply sat on the foredeck transfixed waiting for the spell to break.

Tomorrow when we wake, it will be with the sunlight reflecting from the gold leaf on the Bastille monument in our eyes.   We will be sitting in the calm, just a few metres below the Boulevarde de Bourdon, while Paris rolls on by.

Too much of this is never enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rolling along -
Moret-sur-Loing to Port Cerises

It’s not the destination they say, it’s the journey and that expression rings particularly true when one arrives in Port Cerises.  It’s not that there’s anything particularly horrible about the place but It’s a bit of a contrast to the crystal clear waters and classic post-card loveliness of Moret.     Of course it’s in an outer suburb of Paris, so one would expect a certain crustiness with just a few hours steaming from the heart of one of the world’s great cities.

As to the journey; seventy kilometres is a long way to travel in one day on a small boat, and even though we correctly guessed that there would be less commercial traffic on a Saturday, there was certainly enough to add some interest to the voyage, mostly empty behemoths, racing upstream to where ever their cargo lay in wait for the new week.

The commercials though huge, are helmed by experts so there is little to fear as long as one keeps an steady eye out, unlike the recreational craft who seem to run by the “every man for himself” code of conduct.   We could do without the wake boarders buzzing us really just a slip away from disaster, puzzled when they get to us only to discover we don’t have any bow wave to jump, unlike their boats pumping waves far larger than the behemoths produce, but it will be a while before we forget the sailing fleet.

Somewhere along the way we came across dozens of young teens in small dinghies madly racing as is their wont, carefully shepherded by a couple of racing boats, just as a fully laden ship descended from the opposite direction.   That was interesting enough without the insane surf kayakers racing across the river directly in our path, in a mad rush to get to the bow wave of the ship where they rode it, not inches from death!   

Then the rowers arrived.

But we are here, quiet, calm, contented, hanging dearly to memoires of Moret, and looking forward to the lights of Paris.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sweet! -

Why not begin the day with a visit to Moret’s world famous bicycle museum?  

Well that would be silly when there is a perfectly terrific bakery in town and a perfectly functioning coffee gadget on our stove, so we began sensibly instead with Mille Feuille (which the less worldly among us may still refer to as “Vanilla Slice”), and coffee.   I suppose in the interest of accuracy, that wasn’t strictly the beginning of the day either, but it should suffice to say that by the time we’d wandered around the waterfalls and mill races and all the other bits that we love so much about this village, it was perilously close to “the bicycle museum is closed for lunch” time.

We needn’t have worried though, because when we finally got there the bicycle museum was closed “unless you are ten people” and then it will open only if you have an appointment.  We did a quick head count and coming up with eight too few to arrange an appointment, wandered home once again happily through the postcard in which we currently live, for a little rest and regrouping.

The Barley Sugar museum tried the old “we’re closed today” trick on us yesterday, so after lunch it was our turn to catch it unawares, sneaking up on it at a time when it was temporarily open for business.   It transpires that not only was Barley Sugar invented in this very town, but the recipe (often imitated, never copied) is to this day kept in a safety deposit box, handed down from generation to generation known only to the current custodian of the secret.

It’s been sold from the same building since the mid 1600’s too, so we imagine that the plant and equipment for tax purposes at least has been fully depreciated by now.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Where the chicken crossed the road -

Anyone who has been to Moret-sur-Loing will know that it is truly a fairyland.  With it’s gate towers and wonky buildings and waterfalls and mill wheels it’s been the inspiration for artists for centuries.  It’s so sweet and if one needed proof it’s the place where barley sugar was actually invented and the original sugar shop is still there four hundred years later.

But it’s the pedestrian crossings that are a complete highlight.

There are quiet a few places in the village where pedestrians are completely unsighted and traffic is heavy, where there is no vehicular calming or warning of impending doom, places that would benefit from the odd crossing or two. 

A block away from the centre though, it’s looks as though there was a truck laden with crossings which hit a bump, causing the crossings to fall off the truck, sticking where they weren’t actually intended to be.

I suspect that it’s no easy thing to pick up a pedestrian crossing once its fallen on a road, so thinking on their feet, the workers simply added lights and buttons to push so they wouldn’t look like a mistake.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

He just keeps rolling along -
Sens to Moret-sur-Loing

We have no excuse, the weather was perfect, the forecast for tomorrow not so, and we just wanted to be rid of the Train of Wood and the interminable delays it causes us, so we left quietly to be at the first lock at opening time, well before it was due.    Even then the photographers and spectators were starting to gather at the bridges and the lock in anticipation of it’s arrival.

It was at the next lock we met our first obstacle.    A little rowing scull with three and a cox aboard, snuck in ahead of us, while we waited for a ship to pass.   It is a little know fact that small rowing boats can cause all manner of inconvenience in a large lock, if they occupy the one space set aside for small pleasure boats.  It’s probably also little known, that small rowing boats travel faster than small pleasure boats.  They do this deliberately we think, to ensure (fair enough) that they get the good spot in the sloping sided locks and that we will never run short of character building opportunities.

Then of course there are the ships.  They are large things, nine metres and more wide barreling towards us, carrying thousands of tons of stuff, and they appear from nowhere only on the narrow little pieces of canal which appear for short distances, never on the vast expanses of river.   Six of them in a row today in five kilometres of canal, but that’s OK, we can sneak by. It’s not as if we can’t see them.

But all that aside, we are on the Seine now and heading in the right direction.  All that prissy scenery and it’s rolling fields and tree-filled hillscapes is behind us, and we are into the real thing.  The interesting bits.   Broken warehouses and overgrown shipwrecks are interspersed with power stations and shanty boats.

It’s not at all gruesome.  We have to be careful now as it’s easy to be distracted by the details as we are swept down the river.   We set out to travel a few kilometres and ended up more than fifty away, but now we’ll find respite in another chocolate box top for another few days.   We have arrived in Moret.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Testing Time -
Joigny to Sens

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant day on the river today, not that it was unpleasant, but if today was a computer game, the degree of difficulty would be “advanced”.

It was the wind that did it, it would screech across the river blowing up little showers of spray, sending the bow of the boat in any direction but the one marked “intended”, and that was just in the lulls.  When it really puffed, it brought actual waves with it and we found ourselves pounding down river wondering if there would be respite, but there didn’t seem to be and we would have stopped had there been anywhere logical or protected to do so.

But there wasn’t, and we are on a bit of a mission now to get to Paris, so we soldiered on, until Sens was clearly in our sights.   

Sadly for us, Sens was in the sights of the “Train of Wood” as well, and we arrived to find that all who had been mooring on the town quay had been evicted on its behest, and had selfishly consumed all the little nooks and crannies that one can usually find when there is nowhere else to go.   Since the eviction notices had been served a few hours before we arrived, and there were no signs actually preventing us from pulling in, we thought we might just settle not far from the madding crowd, but far enough away so as not to intrude.   For that little manoeuvre we were rewarded by a cheery wave and welcome from the entourage, some of whom we are almost on first name terms with.  Perhaps we don’t actually know names as such, but we know each other to wave at least.

Tomorrow, we will sneak away before they are awake, and we will look more carefully at their schedule lest when we get to the next town the good spots are taken too.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Noticing things -
Auxerre to Joigny

Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.

This evening for instance, having tied off the last mooring line in the only sheltered spot in the river, with some great fear, trepidation and disappointment, it came to my notice that there was a rather large and spreading slick of diesel fuel around the stern of the boat, apparently spewing forth from the still ticking over Mr Perkins.  I have been monitoring a slight weep, but this was a disaster.   At that point, I began to pile anything that was combustible in a huge pile atop of our dear boat, ready to ignite it all and preparing throw myself upon it.

Fortunately the more sensible among us, turned off Mr P, and noted that the slick was still growing.   It actually turned out to be a spill from further upstream, but the damage to my nervous system was done.

Some time later, with pulse still not quite returned to normal, in the village centre the photograph above presented itself.   I am sure that most will note without prompting that the windows are not original, there was once a much larger opening (or hole perhaps) in the space in which they now sit.   Instead of meticulously re-building the structure, in a very French way of acting out “she’ll be right”, some artisan in recent years simply painted on a replica timber structure over the new plasterwork.   Perhaps the planners haven’t noticed.

Since the town isn’t at all original, having been rebuilt a mere five hundred years ago after “the fire”, in the context of half a millenium perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Mr P isn’t all that original either, and having narrowly avoided a fire of our own, perhaps a small oil leak in the context of what might have been, doesn’t matter either.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Change of view -

We moved this morning, down one lock and eight hundred metres across the river.   Now we have a view of the city, and no shade, which as it turns out is no bad thing when one is trying to get sheets and towels dry on a clothes line.   

We didn’t really want to move, and we certainly aren’t tired of living in the park, but we were starting to grow roots.  If we weren't in need of a top-up of our water, we may well have remained under our tree in the park for the foreseeable future.   It’s probably just as well that we did, as we are already a day late in leaving according to the little schedule we have to get us into Paris next week.  Besides  it’s quite pleasant watching out over the waterfront activity of the old town even if it is just for one night. 


Saturday, June 13, 2015

We have coffee again -

The sort of person who just has to know what is around every bend could spend a lifetime in Auxerre, and never find out.  

We do of course spend at least some of our day simply wandering aimlessly down the streets, marvelling at the intactness of it all and wondering what tales could be told in a town whose history has as many twists and turns as its streets.

Somewhere, in the midst of the labyrinth and just around a corner, there is a little shop which sells parts for little Italian stove-top coffee pots.   That these parts are sold at all would indicate that we should not feel too embarrassed about having lost them, even if having lost them “overboard” is quite possibly the most unforgivable sin on a cruising boat. 

I would go as far as to suggest that if one is to lose anything overboard, losing a part or two of one’s coffee making gadget is about as bad as things get.   But lose them he did and were it not for the duplicate pot we have aboard we may well have suffered a far greater crisis than the one we have for the past week or so.

Armed with the new-found parts though, when Ron and Robin breezed by on their way to Iceland, we could sit in our little shady spot and have our coffee all at once rather than in shifts.

Civilisation has returned.


Friday, June 12, 2015

At home in the park -

In a way our arrival in Auxerre marks the end of a particularly nostalgic part of our journey, for it is right here in the park that we met ups with Graham and Iris before heading on the reverse route to the one we have just followed all those years ago.   That journey was the foundation of our successive years and it was at the end of it coincidentally that we found our "Joyeux".

The park isn’t exactly an unpleasant place to stay, it’s a few hundred metres to the centre of the town, shaded, pretty and beside a little weir where children swim each afternoon and we are grateful to the city fathers who have left the old mooring rings in place from times gone by, enabling vagrants on boats to simply stop at will.

The port for pleasure boats is as crowded and barren and shadeless as the park is not, and as these things go not inexpensive. In a day or two when the temperature is set to moderate a bit, we will drift off in that direction and make our little contribution to their coffers, but until then we’re very happy to be park people.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Joining the train -
Accolay to Auxerre

For a few days, the route of “the Train”  has been intertwined with ours.   We have quite deliberately stayed well behind its overnight destination, but each day, a lock or two before lunch we catch it, then suffer whatever it is we suffer as we follow its progress ever so slowly, until it eventually finds itself a lock ahead of us for lunch.

Refreshed, our pattern seems to be to catch it in the only piece of river, for we are on the river now, that is wide enough to allow overtaking, and beat it to the next lock, where we are met by a mob of spectators, patiently awaiting its arrival.   This must be how it feels to be the last car down a road which is lined with people waiting for the Queen.

Tonight their little caravan is Auxerre with us.  Actually we are moored somewhat upstream from the hurly burly of their reception and the little travelling fair that sets up each day, but they are here out of the canal locks, lashed together now in one ninety metre floating footpath, ready for the locks of the Yonne and the Seine.

We will see them again of course, we will no doubt have delays above a lock or two as we make our separate ways downstream, but we will eventually pass, as we have done all week, and we will be there to meet them when they arrive in Paris in two weeks’ time.

For now we will sit perfectly still for a few days, and wonder how we came to be part of their floating entourage.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A plan begins to develop -
Rochers du Saussois to Accolay

We might have bought an ice-cream today or perhaps a cool drink if there’d been anywhere along our little walk that even remotely hinted that there might be such things within, but there weren’t.   

Our little amble of a kilometre or two turned into ten more as we wandered in the shimmering heat through wheat fields and rapeseed pods, then along the river in the shade by streams, through villages bereft of any commerce or even sign of life for that matter except for the trucks that thundered through.   

Back on the boat it slowly dawned on us that we had but one day left until we reach Auxerre.  Just one day left to explore the Canal du Nivernais, and one day of those cute little lock-keeper’s houses.  One day until we are back in commercial sized locks, mixing it with commercial- sized shipping.    We are going to miss it all for a time we think.

But we have come up with a plan.   We had one earlier too, and then another, and we gave ourselves until Auxerre to decide which route we would take next.   Now we have know where we are heading and to tempt fate we have even made a booking.

We are heading to the big smoke.   


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

More wind -
Coulanges-sur-Yonne to Rochers du Saussois

“You are from Australia, aren’t you?”  called the young lock keeper as we entered the first lock of the day.   Since we do fly a small “courtesy” flag on our little mast we presumed that was his point of reference, but no:

“I see “Mooloolaba” is your home port he said, in an astonishing feat of pronunciation,

“I lived in Woolgoolga for two years, and even went to Wooloomooloo.”

None of those words are possible to pronounce with a French accent, so we had no reason for doubt.

We spoke as the walrus did with the carpenter, of many things, of travel and life and this prospects for work, and eventually moved on at the mercy the ever increasing wind, holding it at bay till early afternoon when we found more mountains to climb.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Doesn’t it look lovely? -
Clamecy to Coulanges-sur-Yonne

Imagine cruising through the Burgundy countryside for a week, the master of your own vessel, no permits or licenses necessary.  Being the master of your own boat is so easy that the hire companies by and large don’t even need to provide basic instruction on their use. 

It all sounds so serene, so idyllic, and mostly it is.

Occasionally though, on days like today, yesterday and tomorrow, a great wind arrives when one least expects it.  When one does expect it and sets up one’s manoeuvre accordingly it arrives in even bigger gusts from exactly the opposite direction.   These are the days we feel sorry for the boat hirers.  With even a week at the helm they have little chance of coming away with memories described in the brochures. At best they will remember being embarrassed as their boat hits every solid object along the way or at worst they will leave in separate vehicles, their voices worn hoarse from shouting at one another.

While on the one hand, watching can be giggle inducing, there is no point in becoming smug because we know that we are but one big ill-timed gust away from looking like them. The family we followed today managed on occasion to keep its boat in the wet stuff, but only just, as lock after lock they collided with gates, crashed into walls trying to avoid collisions, or simply spun through ninety degrees when departing.   It was a bit like watching a toddler playing with one of those shape games really, trying valiantly to fit the boat through the gates of the lock in every direction until they found one that fitted.

No matter how much advice is given, little is taken.  Offers of help rarely accepted.  There is pride at stake as the captain invariably resplendent in his newly acquired skipper’s cap tries everything at full throttle.   “Can I help you turn around?”  I called to one such skipper as he pirouetted and smashed his way along the canal in the nautical equivalent of kangarooing a car along the side of a semi trailer.   “I’m just getting my wife off and heading north.”  He replied.

She did end up ashore having taken an almighty leap, and was last seen striding purposefully off in direction opposite, while he continued on his merry way apparently oblivious to the fact that he had turned around in his panic, continuing over the horizon in a not northerly direction, never to be seen again.

Sadly, I can only suspect that neither will be recommending hiring a boat to their friends.   

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Happy Days! -

Sunday in many countries is a day of rest, just the way it was for us in times gone by.    

We like to respect the traditions of any country we are visiting, particularly those that involve doing very little and that’s exactly how our day unfolded.

Admittedly there was a short interlude in all that resting while we waved away the “timber train”, the commencement of a reenactment voyage of firewood rafts that for half a millenium floated fuel to Paris down the river.   

Clamecy was a transition point for the firewood “floaters”, upstream the flitches were marked by the timber cutters and simply tossed into the river where it would form a massive floe, over a kilometre long and the full width of the river.    In Clamecy, some sort of order was given to it all, it was stacked and then bundled into pallets which were in turn lashed into “trains” a few hundred metres long and five wide, and poled to Paris.   

The modern replica differed from the original only in that it was made in two lengths that would each fit in a forty metre lock and would no doubt be lashed together once it got to the river proper, and perhaps no one would notice that it was mostly constructed of thinly disguised timber pallets rather than firewood, but the most glaring slight historical inaccuracy of all given that these things were operating from the 1500’s: the twenty horsepower outboards hidden in little tents in each end of the structure.   

There was a little fair of course, to help farewell the merry band aboard, and a band ashore that didn’t seem all that merry despite the delightful music they were producing, and dancers and demonstration of traditional timber crafts and rope making and everyone had a truly lovely time of it.

Except perhaps for the accordionist.  Perhaps she was wondering how we, and those that follow us during the week will find the means to overtake the floating log jam, err… historical reenactment!.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

A trick of the light -

Saturday is market day in Clamecy.  The day when the people who sell things to the supermarkets, or who don’t, come to town to sell things to anyone who wants to buy.  

It’s the day when one of us shifts her mental state from “we don’t need anything” to, well perhaps “we could just get a few tomatoes” or “don’t the lettuce look fresh”.    Well of course they do, they are under gro-lux downlights, just like the supermarkets use to distort the colours of their produce.

Notwithstanding that, the ritual continues, we buy bread and eggs and vegetables that until this morning we didn’t need, then return to the boat where they are unloaded, new bags are collected and we trudge back to the markets to “pick up a couple of other things”.

The streets may be lined with the usual array of cheap clothing, rotisserie chicken and accordion players  but we ignore them entirely and trot back to buy things directly from the farmers.   Exactly where bananas are farmed in France remains a mystery, but we buy them none the less, and the absence of packaging is something we appreciate, perhaps even more than the quality of the produce.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Hot hot hot -

The old villages with their apparently ad-hoc street patterns and haphazard alignments seem to reflect light and warmth into every nook and cranny.  This may well be a good thing for much of the year, but on the few days that the temperature is approaching forty degrees it is not terribly desirable at least from our perspective.

We had been smart enough, or perhaps lucky enough to notice not long after we arrived yesterday that there was a spot in the harbour being vacated, which seemed to lie in the shade of a tree for much of the day, and in the shadow of a large wall for the entire evening, and promptly made a move to fill it.

In the face of a forecast promising temperatures in the high thirties, we thought that being moored out of the sun would be a sensible idea, but a British gentleman of kindly although somewhat underdressed disposition immediately took it upon himself to warn us that we would be in the shade in the afternoon, as though it was a bad thing not to be slowly burning oneself to a crisp.  

His look of astonishment, then bemusement when we explained that we were hoping that that would be the case, was worth bottling.  “But you are Australian!” he exclaimed although the connection between being Australian and wantonly frying oneself to a bright red tone was never made clear.

Here we sat then in relative comfort, under our tree in the shade, with our roof slid back, once again holding court until the wee small hours of tomorrow, glad that we had no pressing business in the morning.


Thursday, June 04, 2015

There goes our neighbourhood! -
Villier-sur-Yonne to Clamecy

We thought we’d be clever getting into Clamency early, hopefully to find a spot in the delightful little harbour that was to our liking, and there we would sit quietly for a few days, relaxing and gently exploring the village.   

By and large it was a good plan too, and we did find a spot and for at least half an hour before the hordes of Brits and New Zealanders we had been in company with for a few days arrived, we enjoyed a certain tranquility.  After their arrival though, the sort of relaxation we had planned for the afternoon gave way to a different kind that didn’t involve silence and horizontality.

It is just as well that the barbecue had been set up in the shade beside our boat, because if we had come by carriage it would well and truly have turned into pumpkin by the time the washing up was done.


Wednesday, June 03, 2015

You know you are in France when… -
Monceau-les-Comte to Villier-sur-Yonne

We wondered, as we waited interminably for the lock keeper to return from lunch, whether the white flowers had been planted by accident or intent, in the row of red.

In other places we have lived, excuses for tardiness are often offered in the form of outright but mostly believable lies involving the near death of a loved-one, the loss of one’s car keys or perhaps a fatal accident. When the lock keeper arrived back from lunch almost three quarters of an hour after our appointed time, it was a great relief to have him bounce straight up to us and offer the sort of  apology which may not cut the mustard in those places:

“I am so sorry”, he began, “I was having lunch at a restaurant nearby, and by the time I had eaten, and had a coffee and paid the bill…..”

We of course laughed, assured him that we understood completely, were glad that he had not suffered injury nor missed his coffee and besides we still had three months left of our time in France this summer so there was nothing to be sorry about.  He then engaged us in a conversation about all things Australian, things Mooloolaba, and the wonders of all things boating and adventure, while failing entirely to get anything happening on the lock front.

We suggested that the people who had been waiting in the lock below us for almost two hours at that stage may have been less happy.   

“Do not worry,” he replied, “they live their life at a different rhythm to ours”. 

And some ask us why we love it here!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Blue sky and roses -
Chitry-les-Mines to Monceau-les-Comte

Still infused with whatever it was that made us work for most of the day yesterday, we delayed our departure until after lunch to take advantage of another hour or so of shore power.  Thus it was that when we finally left it was with every garment we owned smelling of lemon-fresh-cleanliness and Mr Perkins smelling of some sort of solvent which I suppose is the engine bay olfactory equivalent of fresh sheets.

While we were irrevocably struck with the need to move on under cloudless skies, it must be said this was entirely without the inclination to move for long.

Fortunately, little more than a hop and a step away, we found some lovely New Zealanders on their rather ominously named “Winedown” moored in a spot not far from a restaurant which they promised had a splendid reputation for quality and economy and since there was a recent birthday awaiting celebration, the decision to join them was not one which took much consideration.

Some days just come up roses.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Back to work -

Those who know me well enough will know that when I say I’ll fix something, I will fix it.

There is absolutely no need to remind me every six months.

Somewhere tangled in the boat hooks is a length of curtain track that’s been kicking around the boat for a year or two I suspect, waiting for the moment when the orbital paths of a pair of unknown astral bodies are on collision course, when it will be cut to size and fitted.  Today was clearly that day.  Perhaps it was the dereliction in Ted’s boatyard that spurred both of us on, the reminder that eventually the sum of jobs that need doing will exceed the sum of the ones marked “completed” if we just lie around waiting for them to do themselves.

Besides, they were simple one minute tasks not to be put off a minute longer:  

Remove curtain track from old window.   Drill holes for new tracks.   Break drill bit midway through the second hole.  Cycle five kilometres to the nearest drill bit supplier.  Finish drilling holes.  Break screws inserting them into undersized holes.   Discover the “hole filling gunk” has run out.   Wonder if drill bit supplier sells screws…..

Is this the sort of thing that caused the people who own those boats to give up?
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