Wednesday, August 31, 2016
We are starting to think that the former Prime Minister of Australia who famously stated that life wasn’t meant to be easy was on to something.
Take today for instance. Travelling thirty-three kilometres up the river at an overall average speed of four point six meant more than seven hours at the helm with only thirteen breaks while we negotiated locks. That’s a lock every half hour with seven hours of watching the charts, keeping an eye on river perils, trying to keep weed off the propellor, eating on the run with barely time to snap a photograph under skies so boringly blue one wondered why one bothered.
Surely no one could describe today as easy. This therefore, must be how life was meant to be.
at 4:13 pm
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
We first met Jan and Toby in Meaux five years ago. Through improbable coincidence and without collusion, each year since our paths have crossed and we have had the pleasure of their company for days or weeks as a time until we each continued on our separate merry ways. Today was that day this year but tinged with the slightest sadness for as we moved off, they turned Arjo back towards the port where she will be placed in the broker’s hands.
While that will mark the end of some very happy times, all it really means is that when next we meet it won’t be by coincidence and we will have just one boat (or house) to share, none the less we had plenty to reflect upon as we motored up the river.
And it reflected back.
at 9:01 pm
Monday, August 29, 2016
The first night we had guests on board all those years ago, it rained. Then they found the leaks over their bunks or perhaps after donning rain coats and packing all they held precious in plastic bags held high above their heads, they waded and dog paddled to the saloon table where they spent the night or what was left of it.
Despite annual concerted efforts to find the source, each year brings us a slightly relocated although ever diminishing trickle from somewhere in the hood lining. Fortunately for Les, while the heat was less than comfortable for almost the duration of her visit, blue skies prevailed until the moment we began to escort her to the station.
Fortunately for us as well, the rain was to be not much more than a shower bringing with it the promise of more temperate conditions and allowing us a gentle stroll through the old city back to the boat, and eventually to continue our cruise to Deluz where, as is the way with these things, we discovered that in the leaky roof stakes, things could be a lot worse.
at 9:02 pm
Sunday, August 28, 2016
There was a kind of executive decision made early in the day, so early that it may have been last night in fact, that, spurred on by the success of yesterday we would again divide into two groups.
While one group would wander off to the markets and shop and have a “girlie” lunch, whatever that is, the other could remain with the boats, talk among themselves manfully and perhaps if they felt like it in the fullness of the afternoon, watch the Belgian Grand Prix on television aboard Arjo free of any feminine distraction.
Thankfully Toby had more than sufficient left over from last night’s feast to provide a suitably grand prix lunch, and having duly seen the race to the end well before the end of the afternoon, those not at the “girlie” event even found time to explore the gallery space in the university that had so admirably provided our shelter for the past few afternoons. Unfortunately the exhibition did not live up to the promise so boldly proclaimed by the architecture, but life in its shadow has more than adequately filled our memories with good times.
at 8:26 pm
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Not all of those aboard wanted to spend all day wandering the centre of the village while slowly roasting. There were far too many shops displaying glittering trinkets and shoes and handbags for his liking, so despite the kind and generous offer of the others to allow him to accompany them as they flitted from air-conditioned shop to coffee house to cafe, he chose a different path.
Actually it was the same path, but travelled in a quarter of the time it took his female counterparts, even allowing time to be distracted by the little courtyards that distinguish the architecture of the city, and the visits to its extremities on his way home where he could while away the afternoon in wondrous silence.
Silence that is until the grand reunion over dinner on Jan and Toby’s afterdeck, where perhaps if it were not for the concert across the river and the piano in the cafe above, we may well have given rise to a noise complaint ourselves.
at 2:22 am
Friday, August 26, 2016
After experiencing another blinding start into the mist refracted sun it was fairly evident that another cloudless sky would soon be evident and the only thing that was going to be cooked on our little boat by the end of the day would be us. Thankfully, just as the thermometer nudged “unpleasant” we arrived in Besançon, strategically choosing a mooring that would be in the shade of the University buildings by mid afternoon, and quickly set about finding somewhere air conditioned to spend the intervening time.
The Citadel was out, because we may have melted on the climb. The clock tower doesn’t open till three. The Museum of Beautiful Arts was out of the equation too, as it, though normally open every day was closed for renovation. Just opposite it we spotted a brasserie which appeared to be suitably acclimatised although even in the early throes of lunch hour was bursting at the seams save just one little table for three, vacant, near the window.
Les, who had been rather keen to find a place to take us for dinner this evening, took this as an omen that lunch might just make a fine substitute and under the circumstances who were we to disagree? By the time we emerged with core temperatures moderated, deep shadows covered half the streets enabling us to continue our perambulations into the afternoon in conditions some would describe as approaching comfortable.
at 4:12 am
Thursday, August 25, 2016
These early morning starts are really not all they are cracked up to be. Granted that the temperature is very pleasant, and there’s not much to make one seasick while underway while the landscape seems so soft with colours beautiful and so muted as to be barely distinguishable, but therein lies the rub.
Who can spot the lock in the above photograph? No one. Not even those among us charged with doing so as we sprinted upriver at our customary seven kilometres per hour, Mr Perkins huffing, his propeller snagged with weed that hid and pounced as we squinted into the sun. The mist takes forever to burn off in the little black crevasses which hide the locks, so that even by eight, a time when surely most would be shaking off the rigours of the night, we were still relying on the little signal light on the gate to provide a hint as to which particular bit of blackness we should steer towards.
The lock at Thoraise it turns out is wedged in one of those crevasses, and in the somewhat eerie absence of any other boat bar Jan and Toby’s, we rested all afternoon in the damp shade of the valley just before the tunnel, in temperatures bissfully ten degrees cooler than they had a right to be.
at 1:22 am
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
If cruising to a schedule isn’t on the list of greatest sins one can commit, someone should do something to make sure that it is. Why else would one forsake a perfectly lovely, SHADY place on a crystal clear sparkling river for a pleasant but exposed concrete and asphalt lined cauldron which would send the temperature on board to something approaching what one imagines one experiences if one’s sins are significant.
If it hadn’t been for the cool, moist shade of the restaurant courtyard and the equally pleasant cave-like respite that the space below the bridge provided we may very well have had memories of Ranchot far different from the pleasant ones that came with us the next morning at a time calculated to have us once again under shade before the heat of the day consumed us, but not of course before the baker opened for business.
at 10:22 pm
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
If all our friends could whine incessantly at the beginning of the season about how wet and flooded things were, then by golly we should be allowed to prattle on about the heat. Actually they are doing the same thing, so it’s not just we who are feeling the discomfort of a long hot summer.
Naturally, we found a lovely spot in the shade today, by a little barrage with it’s babbling little sounds that left us in a perpetual state of wanting to wee. Some of our number blamed that on the constant intake of cool fluids, and they may have had a point.
Lest we should give the impression that we have become entirely inactive, let us report that the view from the top of the “fort of rock” was even more breathtaking than the climb.
at 5:43 pm
Monday, August 22, 2016
In the quest to show Les a bit of everything, we stopped to visit the monster supermarket that hides innocuously at the top of the hill at Choisey, way out of sight of the quaint little village itself, before continuing after lunch into the heart of Dole.
We have emotional ties to this place. It is of course where we were when we found the advertisement for our “Joyeux”, where we got hopelessly lost in a car returning from the purchase trip and ended up driving the wrong way in lanes so narrow we had to put bricks against steps jutting out of front doors in order to continue. Where while washing clothes by hand in zero degree temperatures we began to appreciate how harsh life was just a few decades ago and where we made the decision to buy a washing machine for our boat.
Oh and it’s also beautiful. It’s where Louis Pasteur was born, has a market, a cathedral and a network of underground streams which were once the centre of a massive leather industry. It’s a place where one could show off one’s intimate knowledge of its little alleys and and services and of course one’s ever improving language skills. That is of course until one had to actually communicate with the nice lady in the port office.
“Can you speak in English please? My first language is German and I’m getting very confused with your accents,” was her lovely way of telling us that despite our best efforts, we remain unintelligible when it counts.
at 4:07 am
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Nev looked stunned last night when we told him we were going to leave at half-past seven. When the blood returned to his cheeks he questioned our sanity but confirmed that he’d definitely be up to farewell us but something in his eyes suggested complete scepticism regarding our plan.
So it was that after Mr P began to choof at precisely then, we had time to bring in our mooring lines and electricity before he peered through his companionway, bleary eyed and even more bemused than he was when last we saw him.
“I thought you were joking” he protested through a sleepy grin, still unable to equate boating with movement barely past first light, but we weren’t.
Our early start was in vain however, as we caught up with Jan and Toby at a malfunctioning lock well short of our destination and decided that if we had to wait for a few hours on the very edge of the exclusion zone of industrially beautiful but apparently not harmless in the event of an accident Solvay factory, then we may as well stay the night.
at 8:13 pm
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Trains in France run on time all the time, so when the fourteen thirty-one arrived at the opposite platform and heading towards Dijon rather than from it, it’s fair to say we began to exhibit the first signs of confusion. The text message definitely said “Arriving Auxonne 2:30” and the timetable on the station wall just as definitely decreed that there were no other trains but the one from Dole arriving anywhere near that time.
“Are you late?” I replied without stopping to see how the pre-emptive text may have translated by clumsy thumb work. Within seconds the phone rang, with Les unsure of where she was, but she was at the front of a station somewhere in France so that was a good start.
“Why not see what the sign on the front of the station says?" I helpfully suggested.
What are the chances of a train actually travelling in exactly the wrong direction, stopping in such a way as to hide all platform exits including that of the very passenger it wasn't supposed to be carrying? But she was here, and with an entire community in the port to regale with our tale of guest pick-up ineptitude, a long and hilarious night ensued.
Perhaps not for Les though. The forty hours of travel that preceded her arrival left her conspicuously unconscious as the tales grew taller proportional to the length of the night.
at 6:34 pm
Friday, August 19, 2016
The really nice thing about this time of year is that people are descending on ports getting ready for the end of their seasons. Most are moaning about how bad May and June were with the constant floods and we remind all about how lucky we were to have missed them, but are all almost desperate to have our three-yearly catch up and swap news.
If ever there was a penalty to pay for delaying tidying up until the last day, today would have been the day. Such however is the organisational skill of one of us, or perhaps it’s just her ability not to get distracted by things like conversation with newly arrived friends, that everything seemed to be finished by lunch time. Well the jobs designated “pink” were anyway, the ones designated “blue” were bundled in a neat pile and stowed somewhere in the bilge until they become more urgent.
Graeme offered to cook tonight, providing we didn’t mind eating coq au vin from a can, so once again we forced ourselves to sit chatting with he and Nev and Viv until well past our bedtime. Admittedly given that we had to be up by midday at least to get to the station to pick up Les, a gentle retreat was sounded well before our coach turned into a pumpkin.
at 12:23 am
Thursday, August 18, 2016
When one is in a port, the on-water community is large enough so that there is always someone else to help when the cleaning needs doing. It’s funny how it’s far easier to help other people with their jobs that to actually get going on one’s own. Therefore time spent inverted in Graeme’s engine bay twiddling was far more rewarding that simply tidying up at home. Georges must have had a similar problem aboard Black Magic because he quickly volunteered a few diesel drums and a vehicle as well as his services as a driver to make easy work of topping up our tanks, a task that would have taken eight or ten kilometres of to-ing and fro-ing with the hand trolley to the service station a kilometre away.
Then, because we’d not really done anything during the day to make us tired, we spent a perfect evening aboard with Graeme regaling us with stories of his life in the Met, that is the police force, not the weather office all the while providing a running commentary on the river search happening before our very eyes, complete with helicopter, search lights, divers and flashing blue lights. If the night swimmer was found, one can but wonder at the bill he will get.
On the weather front, the rain was supposed to come today, but it was put off till tomorrow, and that is exactly what we decided to do with the majority of our remaining tasks.
at 12:13 am
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
We had a little plan to arrive in Auxonne tomorrow, just ambling down the river doing not much, but having travelled the distance planned for two days yesterday, short of overshooting the town and coming back there wasn’t much we could do to prevent a premature arrival.
We’re going to stay here for a bit, below the window that Napoleon used to gaze from when his mind wandered from his lectures in field marshallry or advanced cannon shooting or whatever it was he was learning at the time. If he could see us now lolling around on his river putting off till tomorrow what we really must do, he’d probably be rubbing that (possibly) ulcerated tummy of his even more vigorously.
That’s one thing we’re determined not to do, give ourselves ulcers, so with a healthy dose of procrastination in mind aided by an ever so slight dose of whatever it was that caused the writer to adopt a Napoleonesque pose for a few days earlier in the month, we might even wait until Saturday mid day to get the boat ship-shape before Les arrives.
at 8:28 pm
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
We’re from Australia. We’re used to the heat. Everyone tells us that, so why is it that with the fourth day in the mid thirties in a row, we have decided that it’s just as easy to keep going than it is to stay moored?
Instead of ten kilometres planned for today, we did forty. There’s a little place we know with room for just two boats and we were set for an afternoon shade. No one ever goes there. Except for today. So we ended up hot and bothered across the river baking under the setting sun in the reflected glare of the stone embankment with the half dozen or so others who weren’t here at sunrise to get the good spot.
Mr Perkins too is protesting in his own disgusting way. Dirty old thing that he is, he’s once again leaking from both ends. Despite having his snozz wiped regularly and his nuts jiggled from time to time, fuel seems to be escaping from somewhere, and oil, well the less said about oil the better. He’s not missing a beat it must be said, so for that we must be thankful, perhaps it’s just withdrawal symptoms since he stopped smoking.
It’s ok though, we know that in the cool of the early morning we’ll wake under a cloudless sky, and look back beneath the bridge at the others in “our” spot among the trees, and wonder what the fuss was about.
at 5:56 pm
Monday, August 15, 2016
We could have stayed longer in Gray. We should have stayed longer. We owe that to all of the people from there who have showed us such kindness over the years, but really, now that summer has arrived, spending days moored on the eastern side of the river without shade, leaves us wilting a bit. Of course it was a public holiday as well, which meant that the silence was deafening, apart from the constant but gentle choofing of a hundred hire boats making their way up or down the river.
It’s odd that at the first sign of summer, and this week has been the first sign of a proper summer with gloriously clear skies and hot days, everything including ourselves has started to wilt a bit. It’s not even particularly hot on paper, with the thermometer barely nudging thirty-five aboard, but it’s not our favourite weather.
I had thought until now that a frost was needed to remind the trees to drop their leaves, but not so apparently, there are trees all over the place that are already deciding they are tired of being green, those that aren’t starting to brown or yellow, are hanging in with a tired khaki look about them that reminds us a little of summer in Australia. It will be interesting to see what the next few months brings. Will we see a spectacular autumn show, or will the forests simply cry “enough” and wilt away before our eyes?
at 7:41 pm
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Summertime and the living is easy, and the air is buzzing suddenly with the sound of a thousand boat engines. We really didn’t think we’d have a ghost of a chance of getting a spot at Soing. Although we did get lucky once years ago but haven’t managed to find a spot since.
Two of the things we derive particular joy from while living on the water are lying in bed till late, and getting out on the water early. Since these are somewhat conflicting aspirations and most don’t share our enthusiasm for the early thing, when we slipped quietly away with the mist still rising off the water, we were quite possibly doing so with a several hour head start on the rest of the sleeping port.
As it turned out we were the first to arrive at our perfect little mooring, secluded, beside the barrage with it’s sparkling running water to lull us into snooze time should we need it, and a great shady tree to contemplate the afternoon beneath.
We did walk into the village of course to visit the Eiffel Tower replica, which is a nice try, but could never be mistaken for the real thing. The cows grazing beside it are a give away, and it’s smaller, and doesn’t have the curves, or the proportions. It is unique though in all of France we think because it has been maintained. This is such a rare occurrence that there is even a plaque on it which proudly proclaims that in honour of it’s twentieth anniversary (in 2012) it was cleaned and painted, no doubt with some paint donated by a combined harvester repairer which explains the slightly different hue to that of the original. Tiny criticisms aside, if one stands back and squints……..
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Once when we were in Port-sur-Saône, we missed an international festival by just a day. If we’d been here yesterday, or any Friday this month we’d have been here for the Summer Terrace too, in the square near the cathedral offering all sorts of refreshments and local produce.
The elephants in the square outside the Mayor’s office may have been a sign we’d missed something else, perhaps the spot on the map where France ends and Africa begins? The Mayor seems to put them out there every year to mark our arrival, so actually we knew exactly where we were but are still none the wiser as to what is behind this obviously annual, but just as obviously (because of the condition of the pieces) temporary exhibition of African Art.
We moored in our usual spot, against the village quay, in what would have been uncomfortable heat were we not wondrously shaded by the very same trees that were just finding their leaves when last we were here. And we were almost alone too, at least for an hour or so until boats started to arrive from all directions, or both directions if one insists on accuracy. It was as though everyone suddenly realised that there wasn’t much left of summer and if they were going to get to see the elephants at Port-sur-Saône well they’d better jolly well get a wiggle on, so they did.
Friday, August 12, 2016
For reasons that seem inexplicable, I dreamt last night that we were on some sort of romantic cruise through the waterways of France, on a massive barge, tiller in hand, straw hat providing our only shade. Through deep forest we glided, waving to the crowds as bridges opened to let us by, stopping only to gasp at each bend as every new vista presented itself.
It was not at all difficult to carry that dream all morning as we continued on our merry way through the forest, right to the end of the Canal at Corre, the place where our river adventure will begin on the morrow. Before then however cruising reality jolted us out of the dream.
It was a pleasant afternoon in port, if not a photogenic one. Two weeks worth of washing done, unlimited internet allowing four devices to be updated, a myriad of other jobs sorted, the sorts of things one has nightmares about, but let's hang on to the dream!
at 10:02 pm
Thursday, August 11, 2016
I know in France there are many “Floral Villages” and “Places Historic” and there's no shortage of beautiful, but I’m not so sure that there are any "tidy towns". Look at Selles, even with it’s dozen “fountains” if everything was perfectly manicured and the paving in straight lines it could never be described as “tidy”, it just doesn't have the bones, and if it did well we’d probably be in Switzerland, or Belgium.
Like so many other places we visit on our travels, at first glance the village appears to be dying. There are buildings in decay or generally unkempt lining the streets, but on closer inspection something marvellous appears to be underway. There are new cars outside, and they aren’t just bottom of the range “it’ll get me there” kinds of cars. Scattered among all this are new windows, the expensive double glazed kind, the occasional fresh lick of paint on a door or trim, and even new bits of sandstone here and there.
There aren’t any businesses to speak of. Well there’s the cheese factory which welcomes visitors two days a week (the day after tomorrow and yesterday), and the hairdresser and of course the bakery which is run by a lady who is quite possibly old enough to have been here when the turning bridge was first rotated more than a century and a half ago. We nod sadly as we take our change, wondering if she will still be here when next we return, and if not her, will her business. Early in the morning though her son and daughter-in-law are there hard at it, a promise of things to come perhaps.
Maybe it’s not just the bridge that’s turning.
at 9:58 pm
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Today was one of those days when so little happened that at the end of it it seemed to have gone on forever. It was so chilly when we woke that we had to invoke our “rule of ten”, waiting for something either time or temperature to hit double figures. Thankfully it was also destined to be a clear and sunny morning, and the cabin temperature rose to the teens in plenty of time for us to be underway by nine.
By eleven with close to eight kilometres under our belt, with a delightful forest mooring in our sights and just as we were getting close to having had enough travel for one day, we were met by an ever smiling Abdullah in our last lock. When we told him where we were about to stay his usual effervescent self became even more animated and he directed that “We must have lunch at the restaurant” (not one hundred metres away). “Tell them I sent you” he commanded, “and you will get very big plates of food”. With that he disappeared into his van and came back with a fresh baguette. “You will only want this and some cheese and maybe a little wine for dinner” he said, hastily adding with a smile “and mirabelles”.
Overcome by his generosity and concern for our well being, we thought it would be rude if we ignored his message. The restaurant as it turns out, was splendid. Italian. Sensational value if not cheap. We were very lucky that they found space for us (sorry you’ll have to be in on the verandah), having arrived with no reservation at a few minutes past twelve. Thankfully we didn’t try for the “very big plates”, because as it was we cancelled all plans for a bike adventure this afternoon in favour of working off lunch in a somewhat more sedentary manner.
And yes, the baguette and a little cheese was sufficient for dinner.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
According to the forecast when we retired last night, it would rain until midday and then we’d see sunshine for the rest of the day. By the time we’d had our statutory eight and a bit, there was indeed a dullness to the day and a gentle drizzle, but it was also accompanied by a revised forecast which predicted a halt to precipitation by nine, with some sunshine by ten.
We therefore timed our arrival at the little village with the bakery for nine, in time to see the drizzle miraculously cease and the merest hint of brightness peeking through the clouds. When we arrived half an hour later at the first lock of the day, the sky had not changed, but the brightness came from possibly our favourite lock-keeper in all of France.
Abdullah, loves what he does and doesn’t mind telling anyone who will listen. After reacquainting ourselves, and receiving his solemn promise that he’d keep an eye on us all day, we couldn’t help but notice that whenever we were underway he seemed to be somewhat manically shaking trees and climbing them and definitely looking for something, but we couldn’t work out what. By the third lock he came to us with a hatful of unripened mirabelles, apologising for the quality and promising, while looking at the sky that if we ever see sunshine again they’d ripen in a few days.
Actually the sunshine he brought to us was easily as good as the other kind during the perfect afternoon we spent cruising gently down the canal to a spot which not entirely coincidentally is fifty metres from the lock house in which he lives. I suspect the sun will be shining on us all day tomorrow as well no matter what the weather!
at 2:51 am
Monday, August 08, 2016
It’s a funny thing, walking into town first thing surprised at the clarity of the early morning light and the complete absence of people and peak hour traffic before realising suddenly that the reason we’ve managed to get everything done, breakfasts and showers, water tank full and the boat shipshape ready to move on before wandering into town is that it’s actually past ten. It's not early at all.
It’s Monday, and summer holiday to boot, so town is pretty much deserted and the bakery we found yesterday is closed of course but we managed to find a happy little shop near the cathedral where we bought the makings for lunch as well, then quietly tip toed out of town, leaving it to its post weekend slumber.
We called a halt to our travels at the top of the chain of locks, it’s all downhill for a few weeks now, and moored quite close to a lake with beaches and cafes and lawns and sailing boats. We wondered at its popularity being as it is, half a day’s travel from town, then recalled filling in the log on arrival:
Fifteen kilometres is a long way by boat and fifteen locks takes a little effort as well, but apparently it’s not too far at all by car or cycle.
at 2:18 am
Sunday, August 07, 2016
It might be time to eat a bit of humble pie, but thankfully we’re a bit full because we found a superb bakery this morning and all is well with the world apart from a slightly uncomfortable feeling arising from having to confess that we spent a fantastic part of the afternoon indoors and walking around following instructions from an electronic device.
Thankfully there were no Pokémon anywhere to be seen, although initially we were a little nervous as we wandered around Epinal’s superb Museum of Imagery, following instructions and allowing it to scan things while it explained in greater or lesser detail what we were inspecting in real time. We thought we’d been in the place for a few minutes and were almost embarrassed when suddenly we popped out in the gift shop and we were astonished to discover that a few hours had simply passed us by.
On display apart from a simple collection of historic prints and some not so, and still in daily use by artisans in the Museum’s studios were some machines so rare that they are listed as National Monuments. Gutenberg presses (two), paper making and cutting machines and two of only six Aquatype presses left in existence (also listed) sat among original and new limestone plates and woodcuts and well it was all enough to make one dribble even more than one usually does peering through a bakery window. It’s taken four attempts, but we’re so glad we tried one more time!
at 12:25 am
Saturday, August 06, 2016
It may seem like a simple thing, ice for Eskimos and all that, but when in France one does like to have one’s little bit of pastry every now and then. In order to ensure that over-indulgence did not occur, we had a sort of informal rule that we’d only be tempted by the baker’s delights on days beginning with “Satur” and ending in “day”. But that wasn’t enough. A careful check of our diary will show that so far this year we’ve had barely a weekend within cooee of a bakery, so the rule had to go.
Our arrival in Nancy was particularly joyous, heralding as it did the disappearance of whatever malady had been troubling your’s truly for some time and “the rule” in a city simply brimming with specialty pastry houses. Sadly though it’s summer and everyone has closed for the holidays, so after a four kilometre hike yielded but a solitary tasty but almost too sensible mirabelle tart we had to admit defeat and began to look forward to that first weekend in August when they’d all be back.
Cheered by the thought of what might be for breakfast this morning, we braved the fifteen degree chill of a summer morning and set out for Nomexy’s finest bake house. “Back on the 8th” said the cheery sign on the door with nary a hint of apology. Holding back the hint of a quivering lip, we consoled ourselves with the thought of a creamy afternoon tea in Epinal and we know the new place beside the port has some really stunning stuff.
But when we got there that cupboard too was bare. Everyone is entitled to close for a holiday, but those big green signs seemed a bit like gloating to me, and no we won’t be waiting until the fifteenth!
at 3:50 am
Friday, August 05, 2016
If I may misquote our dear friend Al (who hasn’t written in a while), the lower end of the rock is pretty much just locks and trees, and occasionally trees and locks for a bit of variety. Sure they are pretty trees, very pretty trees in fact and sometimes the locks are pretty too sometimes not, but it’s interesting travelling it in weather that’s almost perfect for travelling, rather than when it’s too hot or too cold.
When it’s hot, there are dozens if not scores of places to moor in the shade, near babbling brooks and barrages on the river, places that seem designed for simply whiling away the afternoon, while gaining respite from the heat. When it’s cold, there are no leaves on the trees and the views seem to go on forever, begging us to slow and drink them in. Now however, the undergrowth has overcome the view, we are confined in a green tunnel which is, given that it is truly the height of summer, eerily deserted, and the urge to keep going albeit very slowly seems to overcome all else.
We don’t of course keep going all day and we certainly don’t rush, barely reaching speeds above seven kilometres per hour but even so the sixteen locks we passed felt more like twenty-five for some reason, and we are but half a day from Epinal where once again we will attempt to visit the print museum. It will once again be a weekend when we are there, what can possibly go wrong?
at 3:45 pm
Thursday, August 04, 2016
We woke splendidly rested, having missed the dawn by a bit, but none the less with plenty of time up our sleeves to complete our morning ablutions and breakfast before timing our casting off to be at the first lock, not two hundred metres away, by nine.
By one minute past nine and seventeen seconds, one of us had begun to chastise the other for always testing the boundaries of the poor sleepy Authority that looks after the waterways. Thankfully a mere ninety seconds late the signal lights came on and Mr P, by now chafing at the bit, roared off, drowning any further suggestions of returning to the bank for a bit.
The weather forecast had warned of waning temperatures, indifferent skies and perhaps precipitation later in the day and evening, perfect for just tumbling along through the forest with no compelling reason (until the rain came) to stop. We’ve travelled in these parts before, so we don’t gasp as much as we once did at the constant changes from one bend to another as we move between deep forest and river plain, but our fascination with the magnitude of change between seasons remains.
The more observant among us may recognise the trunks of the trees in the photo above, the difference between high summer and spring in April last year is nothing short of amazing to our minds developed in a country where seasons are marked by the amount of rain received in given month.
at 3:34 am
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
I haven’t heard a Goon Show for almost half a century but I think I remember the famous Eccles once pronouncing “When a man gotta go, a man gotta go”. Our friends in port castigate us for never staying long enough and they are correct of course, we really should allow more time with them, but we gotta go and we gotta go today.
We knew it would take the best part of a day to get around to seeing our friends in port, finalising the washing while we still have water, repairing our little safe so at least we could access our medical supplies, and studiously ignoring the looming problem with either batteries or charger, but we could leave late as we weren’t intending to go far, just up one lock via the supermarket and then to find tranquility by banging in some pegs under a tree at the edge of town so that we could get an early start on the chain of locks tomorrow.
Meanwhile the Pokémon players swelled in numbers, having thinned in the middle of the night, relentlessly pursuing their imaginary targets, not at all concerned that hallucinations from lack of sleep would impact on their game.
We are sure that memories of the few hours we were able to spend over lunch with our friend Stéphane before undertaking our annual inspection of work on his boat, now being gently detailed with carved panels, the remnants of ancient bedroom furniture, will be enduring. We did wonder though as we contemplated our time in Nancy in the still of our evening mooring, what any of the wide eyed players in the park would remember of this day in the future.
at 3:33 am
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
No visit to Nancy in summer can be complete without a visit to the grand Place Stanislas after dusk. At quarter to eleven each night the light and sound spectacle projects onto three sides of the square. It’s a sublime way of capping a day spent neck deep in art and architecture and shopping with a dash of lunch on the side.
While all this is happening on the one hand, on the other side of the canal from where we are moored is a beautiful Japanese style garden, which has apparently been designated as something called a Pokémon gym. The kind of humans whose brains are sufficiently large to keep their ears apart, may not be aware of the ramifications of having a Pokémon gym adjacent to where one lives. The silence is almost deafening, as hundreds, yes hundreds of people walk, stand in circles and even cycle as if transfixed, heads bowed concentrating on the screen of a smart phone, oblivious to all that is beyond.
The astonishing thing is that as the day progresses, the numbers of people intent on catching whatever it is they are supposed to be catching increases exponentially. Pokémon do not turn into pumpkins at midnight apparently, (forgetting for just a moment that they are not real) as the seething throng seem to carry on going gently into the endless good night. When last I looked there were still dozens in the early hours of the morning, and they are back when we rise as well.
If their vision extends beyond their screens, they’d probably look at us equally puzzled, comforted by the thought that we don’t know what we’re missing.
at 6:48 am
Monday, August 01, 2016
There are a couple of locks above Nancy that seem to be the nemesis of those who would travel on this canal, but we thought that if we left at nine, we’d have a fair crack at getting through them both by sunset. This turned out to be good thinking because by the time we got to the second of the two there were some very furrowed brows and worried expressions on the lock repair crew, who had thus far managed to avoid the pressures being exerted for them to extractus digitus by at least half a dozen small boats drifting around below, two medium sized barges and a floating hotel.
When an inanimate object becomes misaligned with another inanimate object, we’ve never actually seen the point in getting upset with the people trying to realign it nor for that matter with the object itself particularly when that object is a lock gate, so we spent a pleasant few hours chatting in the sun with a lovely couple from Germany before finally finding ourselves underway.
Not long thereafter, noticing by chance that there was something terribly awry with our very own ship-board charging suddenly the point of getting (only very slightly) upset did become a little clearer.
We have tucked all those nasty thoughts away for the time being though, packed up all our cares and woes, for we are in Nancy, where the streets are paved with gold, and nobody ever gets old. No, that’s another place, but it’s still beautiful and if the flowers in the gardens aren’t enough, you’ll find them on the buildings as well.
at 4:54 am