Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rather pleasant. Sunday - May 21
Lagarde


It seems like a lifetime, but it was barely three weeks ago we since we were here, shivering in our boots, looking out over a landscape that was on the bleak side of comfortable.  Yet here we are, spring is over and we are barbecuing in bare feet and tee shirts, looking out at trees in the final flush of finding their new summer coats.

That really is what we have never understood about spring.   It’s called a “season” but it is over in not much more than a morning, which coincidentally perhaps is about the same time that spring cleaning inside the boat took.  The outside remains the victim of some sensible procrastination.  Given that at the last opportunity he constantly complained that it was far to cold to venture outside with buckets and suds, what possible excuse could he find now you may ask.

Well, why would one waste such a perfect day cleaning? 

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

So much for mental notes. - Saturday May 20th
Nancy to Lagarde


The problem with writing things down in such a public manner as this, is that eventually one can be held to task for what one writes.  When writing this stuff, one holds on to a very faint hope that even in the unlikely event that it is read, no-one would bother to remember any of it. Therefore it was with some confidence that no-one would take us to task these words were written almost three weeks ago:

We made a mental note of things we’ll definitely do on the way back.  We will walk the new history trail in Einville, we will visit the Brewing and Cinema museums at St-Nicholas-du-Port and we will definitely take four or five days to travel the distance that usually takes us one or two, and we will linger everywhere for more than a night.”    

That was the plan when we set out this morning.  There can be no doubt about it; “four or five days”, we said, “usually a night or two”.  We motored off into the morning gloom without hurry, stopping between squalls to visit both of the canal-side supermarkets above the first lock, while the rain held itself at bay.   

Events took a curious turn after that. Lock after lock presented itself to us ready for entry, not one of them breaking down or causing delay.  We watched helpless as village after village crept past without giving thought to pause.  With minutes to spare before the locks closed for the night we arrived in Lagarde, a little confused and perhaps a week earlier than we had intended.    Thankfully we are among friends, they will no doubt ply us with a few glasses of special counselling fluid and in the morning we won’t even remember what we missed.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Gathering Moss - Friday May 19th
Nancy


We thought we might be in trouble this morning, well it was barely past midnight but it still counts as today when we were shocked out of our slumber by what sounded like a truck in the middle of a major accident involving huge quantities of combustible materials.   Thankfully the explosion turned out to be nothing more than a lightning strike somewhere very, very close but not close enough to do more than wake us with hearts pumping a bit more than their usual resting rate.

That turned out to be the most exercise our hearts would get during the entire day that followed.  The storm that shook us so in the middle of the night turned into a solid sheet of rain that did not relent until well in the afternoon.   Under the circumstances, going nowhere seemed to be a particularly good idea, perhaps tempered with a spot of reading and generally doing not much but listen to the sound of that slow drip from the badly repaired tap.   

One of us did venture a few metres from the boat during a brief lull, to record the fact that we were actually here so that when we wake up tomorrow we’ll remember where we are.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Another day in the office - Thursday May 18th
Pont-à-Mousson to Nancy


If life only comprised floating almost aimlessly along rivers under clear blue skies, watching the relics of thousands of years of history pass by as we did all day yesterday, where would the fun be?

That is doubtless why, after just one day in shorts and tee shirt, we were back in jumpers and rain gear.  The clouds which formed overnight began emptying themselves even before we left our snug little bunk to get the morning bread. It’s quite possibly why once again the breeze picked up when least we wanted it, from the wrong side when we were wanting to moor, from dead ahead when we were trying to pick up speed, from behind when we wanted to slow down.

It’s probably also why we had delays with lock repairs and when we finally got to stop to buy our new tap fittings and even install them, the leak persists.   It’s definitely why after resealing the front window for the third time, that leak persists too.   It made us wonder why the Romans went to all that trouble to build aqueducts, if they had wanted a continuous supply of running water inside, all they needed was a boat.
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bobsledding in Jamaica - Wednesday May 17th
Metz to Pont-à-Mousson


We may be four or even five hundred kilometres from the nearest beach, but there's no reason why we can’t have the kids round for the odd game of beach volleyball or “volley” as it is known here.   The elections are over so the town square won’t be needed for a riot in the near future and the market stalls don’t mind setting up on a bit of sand for a month or so apparently, so why not truck in a squillion tonnes of sand, bus in kids from anywhere we can find them every evening for a month or so, and hold a regional championship?

There’s no fancy stadium, even at centre court, no security, no charge to watch and all the fun you can eat.  Oh, and as a bonus no one asked any of those present with cameras not to take photos?

This is what we like about summer in Europe, there's a joy about it which seems to know no bounds when it comes to celebrating it.  Why today even we were out and about in our shorts and sandals.
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Laugh if you must. - Tuesday May 16th
Metz


When the temperature gets to around thirty-two degrees in our own Antipodean summer, it’s pleasant enough at first but by the third day of it, after the mildest exertion even women cease to ‘glow’ and simply sweat like the rest of us.  Then the humidity begins to bear down on us like some sort of cross we must endure.  At that point we start blaming things for our discomfort; land clearing, humidity or global warming or perhaps dare I say it, a cumulation of years.

It’s different here.  Here when the sky turns blue and the temperature dial begins to rise, it’s time to take off all but that which is necessary for decency and to sit in the sun or to frolic out there as though it may never come again.  Warmth, no matter how excessive it may be, is something to celebrate.  It should be noted though that these temperatures never quite make it to the shadows, and that is precisely where the habits of a lifetime would have us lurk.

Today when ubiquitous pharmacy thermometers proudly flashed their bright green neon telling us that it was thirty-two degrees on the sunny side of the street we were surprised to say the least, still dressed as we were in wooly socks and jeans, with jumpers around our necks “just in case”. There was a definite chill in the wind in the depth of those shadows in which we hid.

Perhaps if we could sit in the dappled shade for a to convince ourselves that no harm will come from the sun.  If we learn to go out in it we’ll be able to leave the jumpers at home like the rest of them.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Mystery of the Torii Gate - Monday May 16th
Metz


Travel does nothing if not fill one’s head with information that otherwise one would have considered useless or perhaps not considered at all.   Take for instance the traditional Japanese Torii Gate, a structure with which, given our recent journeys we are not entirely unfamiliar.  At the entrance to a Shinto shrine the gate symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred.  Profane is used here in the literal sense; “that which is secular” rather than when used to describe of a bunch of very rude words.

Armed therefore with just enough knowledge to be dangerous, we set out in search of a reason for this particular gate’s being.   Were we moored on the profane side of it or on the sacred?  Had the Shinto followers in Metz decided to save on construction costs by usurping part of the cathedral for their own shrine?

A quick scan of the resources available to us yielded no clue, but we did discover that increasingly smaller versions of the gate are being used in Japan as a symbol to discourage littering and public urination.  If indeed that is the underlying reason for its being, it seems to be working at least as far as we can tell, although it doesn’t seem to have a hundred percent strike-rate on dog poo.
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Monday, May 15, 2017

But I know what I like. - Sunday May 14th
Metz


 “The immersion in a garden sometimes goes as far as the act of absorption, leading to the culture and consumption of psychotropic plants…...healing, intoxicating or poisoning chemistry, the ingestion of plants produces recreational and toxic uses, leading to new states of consciousness. Alchemy can even go further  ...... pushes this symbiosis to its utmost limit and imagines a “fantastic universe of seeds, germs and ferments where the human species would have become permeable to the plant and animal kingdoms.”

With those cheery thoughts, and many more buzzing in our heads, we left the Centre Pompidou wondering exactly what we had just seen.  The exhibition entitled “Infinite Garden” was challenging in parts, often leaving us in awe of the artist’s skill in convincing the world that his humble experiments were worthy of inclusion in a major exhibition.  This process made even more astonishing in many cases by the fact that many of the artists have long been pushing up the very daisies that inspired them so.

It was Monet who left the greatest mark as he often does: “When he starts to create his famous garden in Giverny, where he paints his Water Lilies, Claude Monet meets with local resistance, people fear that the specimens imported from Japan would poison the surrounding streams. Far from being anecdotal, this struggle reflects the fantasy of an invasive alterity that foreign plants convey.”   It was with some relief that we discovered on reading this line, that we would no longer be returning to the mess that is our own garden after months of absence, but we can actually look forward to “the fantasy of an invasive alterity”.

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Are we interrupting something?- Saturday May 13th
Metz


If only Sir Bannister Fletcher could have described the fun that is to be had in travelling through time, or even if had just paused for a moment in the production of his dry old tome to suggest that if one popped into the museum in Metz for just one afternoon all would become clear as crystal, none of those pre-exam nightmares would have been necessary and the study of history could have been a joy.

It’s a small museum really, the kind that one would think would take an hour to whizz through whilst on route to something more important.  However the intertwining of the history of the town set chronologically within the labyrinthine course through the building  captivates us every time we visit.   The chambers themselves become something of a metaphor for the ups and downs of the city in the thousands of years it records as we wend our way over and through their multiple levels and its many cultures.  It’s a simple collection, but far from scattered yet the custodians are well aware of its magnetism, allowing a return visit in the nominal cost of each entry.  

Our new favourite game involves looking statutes in the eye and trying to figure out what the subjects were thinking at the time their pose was captured.  Clearly in the above scene, her tongue lashing had gone on to the point where the silent treatment was about to begin, her icy stare a hint that all was not well within this relationship.  Perhaps we had interrupted his exasperation mid expletive?  It must have  been quite embarrassing for him really to have to hold that pose until we had disappeared into the next gallery.

We returned several times, but never caught them out.
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mind Boggling - Friday May 12th
Metz

Sir Bannister Fletcher didn’t even mention the cathedral Saint-Étienne de Metz in his seminal text “The History of Architecture on the Comparative Method” perhaps the ultimate textbook of its kind for more than a century.  It’s a curious omission one would have thought if for no other reason that the forty something metres height of its nave, and remarkable six and half thousand square metres (yes that’s more than half a hectare) of stained glass, but then the one questioning Sir Bannister’s decision still has nightmares about his final year architectural history exams sat almost half a century ago and may therefore not be in a position to criticise.   

Perhaps it was because of this omission, (or perhaps because of the nightmares!) we studiously ignored the place during our first few dozen visits to the city, but we can ignore it no more.  Now each time we pass we poke around inside, to discover a little more, taking time to read the carved graffiti in the darkest of its corners, (surely in the eighteenth century that would have been a capital offence?), smug as we watch the people discovering it for the first time, wondering what they are going to do with their hundreds of photographs, without for a second wondering what we are going to do with the thousands we already have.  Yet the quest continues to find a souvenir more satisfying than the last. 

It’s not just the enormity of the thing, or the sheer impossibility of its structure, it’s trying to come to terms with it having been here for a thousand years, that all those years ago someone could conceive it and build it and preserve and protect it, to say nothing of the price that must have been paid over that thousand years in terms of currency and the community.    For all of that we can still walk around inside and marvel at it and scribble our names on the columns in black indelible ink…. apparently.
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To Market to Market - Thursday May 11th
Metz


To Market to Market - Thursday  May 11th Metz

While in Metz we tend to visit the covered markets daily for supplies or for a bowl of soup or sometimes just to pop in   We’ve taken photos of it from all angles, recording the fish and the cheese and the meats within and the clever graphics of its modern awning which seem to bring a certain levity and focus on what would otherwise be a somewhat anonymous building.

On cloudless days it’s anonymity disappears and it becomes the focus of the square with its moving feast of cheery graffiti in neat rows  projected on it’s ancient walls as the sun traverses the sky.

We didn’t pop in there today though, we were on another mission.  Amazingly it’s been eight years since we filled up the little hire car with all sorts of household equipment mostly sourced from a large Swedish furniture shop on the outskirts of town.  The pillows we bought at that time were no longer satisfactory apparently.  Even the least critical among us could see that they weren’t quite the same after last season’s washing and now featured enough lumps and bumps to keep a phrenologist gainfully employed for a lifetime. To be blunt they were mere shadows of their former selves, and not of the kind that will disappear when the sun goes down.

We would probably have slept just as well tonight had we not been on new pillows complete with slightly glossy new and unwrinkled cases and in that case we may have had time to take an intersting photo.  Tomorrow, we’ll go to the market and take this one.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Climate Change Day
Pont-a-Mousson to Metz


What a treat it was to wake to a brightly shining sun and clear blue skies, even if the frost had barely melted on the deck of the boat when we did.  Exactly as forecast the temperature steadily rose, breaking double figures not long after breakfast reaching an almost take-the-jumper-off sixteen before we’d arrived in Metz.   Curiously the forecast from this day on is for minimum temperatures above ten, it’s as though they’ve just moved the maximums from the last few weeks into the next column over on the spreadsheet, and now suddenly we’re looking down the barrel of we won’t need jumpers again temperatures for the foreseeable future.

The crunch has come, on a quiet day aboard, without cold and rain there will be nothing to talk about and only boring postcards with clear blue skies taken lazily through the back door of the boat.

We are in Metz, one of our favourite cities, moored in our usual happy spot wedged betwixt park and cathedral wondering what it was that was different about the crowds in the park and in the city as we wandered round. It took a few minutes to realise that there were bare arms and legs on display, queues at the ice-cream stalls, cafe customers sipping beverages with actual ice in them.  All perfectly normal things to do when the temperature soars close to twenty.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Dancing with elephants -
Champignuelles to Pont-a-Mousson


We lowered ourselves gently onto the Moselle quite early this morning for they among us who consider nine to be early, and shifted the throttle to “ramming speed”, flying downstream at times reaching almost nine kilometres per hour with not a care in the world but a steady eye out in case one appeared around the corner headed in our direction.   It’s easy to overstate the danger of travelling on a small river in company with large ships but they do give cause for the occasional flutter of the heart, appearing as they do, silently as if from nowhere and travelling at almost twice our speed. Likewise when they come across us waddling out of their way like an old duck would, we expect that they feel as we do when we come across a flotilla of kayaking schoolchildren.

Like jet fighters they are in their stealth if not their bulk. With engine rooms located as much as a hundred and forty metres behind their pointy ends, they can easily be gone before they are heard. Of course they are piloted by highly skilled individuals who no doubt live in fear of the sort of mountain of paperwork that would result from a collision with a small boat, and there is great heart to be taken in that and accidents at least while moving are extremely rare.    

Charles Dickens it was who summed up the situation nicely, although until I enquired I always thought it was a songwriter from The Who or The Animals sometime in the sixties:

'" 'Every man for himself', cried the elephant as he danced among the chickens."

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A long walk - Monday May 8th
Nancy to Champignuelles


After nearly eight kilometres of exertion today, all on the part of Mr Perkins, we arrived sometime after lunch at Champignuelles, a small abandoned harbour next to a nice bakery (open every day, closed tomorrow, thanks for coming though) a nice bank, and less than a kilometre’s walk from a large hardware emporium.  We would normally have moored the boat right next to the hardware store, but having been a little short on exercise for a day or two decided that a couple of round trips on foot were what the doctor may order if we were to continue with our new found sedentary life.

An ever so slight amount of guilt derived from eating our strawberry tart (the baker is closed tomorrow, not today) while watching hundreds or actually thousands of walkers pass by in various states of disarray may have contributed to this.   Today was the thirty-third annual Metz to Nancy walk. If that sounds like more fun than eating strawberry tart in a warm boat, let’s just say the temperature outside briefly made ten degrees and that was when the wind and rain stopped for an even more brief time, and the total distance is around sixty kilometres or about three days by boat.

We may not have even made it thus far had we not been kicked out into the cold while lingering over a coffee with a few friends including the duty Port Captain in his comfortably heated office, when he suddenly stood and said, “I’m sorry we have to go quickly now!  It’s lunchtime and if I don’t lock the office very soon the alarms will go off!”

Rather than risk a visit from the Police for forcing our friend to work during lunch, we quietly slipped out of town.
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Monday, May 08, 2017

Even less is more -Sunday May 7th
Nancy


If yesterday was a catch up day, today turned out to be one where we had the opportunity to get ahead of things, but why would we?  If the rain stopped at all today it wasn’t when we were watching and we couldn’t have cared less, we had books and a heater and chocolate.

OK we had books and a heater and peanut M&M’s but there was no way we were going to leave the boat even for chocolate.  So for the first time that either of us can remember, which admittedly isn’t a terribly long time we didn’t set a foot on land all day.

We did get a start on all sorts of projects, none of them practical or meaningful which makes them even more valuable and important somehow and we did find a photo of a cactus smiling to itself in a little sunshine  just three days ago, which reminded us of just how dry things have been till now.   

Besides a little rain can be quite uplifting when one is living in a boat with no leaking windows
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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Opening exceptionally -Saturday May 6th
Nancy


I recall yesterday thinking that we might move on tomorrow, visit the hardware store on our way out, that sort of thing.

This morning we thought the same thing, even told the Harbour Master that we’d be off and thanks for having us once again.  Then we went to the supermarket to provision ourselves for the next arduous leg of our journey which might take us away from shops for perhaps a night,  and we noticed a sign on the door.  “We will be opening exceptionally on Monday from nine till four”.    This is the opposite of “closing exceptionally”, a sign which we are quite used to seeing on days when we arrive and really need something from whatever store it is displaying said sign.

What it also infers is that other stores, for instance large hardware ones, will not be opening exceptionally on Monday, which as it turns out is a public holiday in a month in which there are four.   With that knowledge safely tucked away, we won’t be leaving tomorrow, perhaps the next day will be better, and in the meantime we’ll just sit around here today and catch up with a bit of writing.
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Ready for the growing season - Friday May 5th
Nancy


We’ve been lying around doing not much for a while, a bit like the beds in the little botanic garden up the road.  But like those gardens which are all planted in readiness for the coming summer, we too are ready to get a move on.   

We’ve got ourselves sorted at last. It’s amazing what a week of lazing around can do to in that regard, a few minutes of work here and there and we’re ready to go for summer. Admittedly there are a couple of “home improvements” to be done, but we’ll sort those out when we pass the hardware store on Monday.  Yes, we’ve made a decision, we will move on. We will be on our way once more.

Life isn’t about lying around inactive all day though, we did take a longish walk around the larger park as well.  We lingered for a while as we passed through the little zoological gardens, watching the monkeys for a bit which for reasons completely inexplicable reminded us that we really might like to make a video call with the grandkids tomorrow.


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Perambulations Thursday May 4th
Nancy


I cannot say for sure why today’s photograph should be of an antique baby carriage, standing lonely in the middle of a street.   Even to say “we discovered it” would not be correct as it had obviously been discovered long ago and was being used as a wordless billboard for an antique shop.   It is a sad reflection on our powers of observation though, that so attracted were we by the glittering bits of marquetry, and the curly ironwork, we had failed to notice that one of the wheels was somewhat less than intact, going a fair way towards answering our own question about how it remains in place without a lock in the face of such obvious temptation.

Speaking of temptation, we were actually wandering with some intent in the general direction of the covered market in search of cheese.  Some Comté or Morbier would do the trick, or with just a little luck, a little of both.  Naturally, this being France, luck of the cheesy kind was not hard to find.  Therefore laden with sufficient supplies to keep the wolves at bay for a considerably greater time than perhaps we had initially contemplated, we returned happily to our rapidly diminishing list of things to do in the warmth of indoors.

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Beaux Arts - Wednesday May 3rd
Nancy


We’d always had the Museum of “Beautiful Arts” in Nancy on our list of things to do on a rainy day.  Even today a visit wasn’t being seriously contemplated until we found ourselves at the top of town when the precipitation began and foolishly we were without umbrellas.  Suddenly a visit became a sensible way of whiling a way a few hours.

We had barely begun whiling when Jean Prouvé solved a problem I’ve been grappling with for some time regarding keeping the top of a dining table apart from the floor, and we recouped the minuscule cost of entrance with interest.   With nothing to lose from then on, things just kept getting better.  Yayoi Kusama’s infinity room, a version of which we had visited in her astonishing exhibition in Japan gave us a lovely sense of deja vu, as did a painting called “The poor fisherman” which had creepily re-materialised in front of our eyes as if not wanting an end to our discussion regarding its wretchedness, begun in front of it  two weeks ago in Tokyo.  Curious as to how it could possibly be following us, we discovered this one to be an exact copy of Puvis’ original by an equally renowned chap by the name of Maillol.

One could go on, and its suffice to say we did, through all three levels and back again too which given our usual lack of attention span in these places is no small recommendation. Eventually though, even the rain couldn’t keep us inside.    This is Nancy after all where the beautiful arts can be found everywhere, even on the wall of the chemist shop just up the road from the museum. 
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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Time for a different perspective - May 2nd
Nancy


We’ve been on the run for a few months now, and it’s become something of a habit, this running madly barely stopping for a breath.  It’s time to take stock of ourselves, understand that we are supposed to be “retired”, and that we will not suffer any penalty if we don’t actually do anything for a day or two.

Of course it may be a little difficult to write about it at day’s end.  How does one describe with a sufficiency of eloquence taking one’s breakfast while still clad in night attire at a time when others less relaxed may well have been contemplating their elevenses?

It was raining, the boat was tidy and we went for a long walk in the afternoon.
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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Labour Day - May 1st
Nancy


Today is Labour Day which over several centuries has become intertwined with “La Fete du Maguet”, a day on which one gives those one loves a little bouquet of Lily-of-the-Valley (Muguet), to wish them happiness and good luck in celebration of the arrival of spring.  King Charles IX started it all in the sixteenth century and declared that on this day anyone in France can legally sell flowers without a license.

In honour of this great public holiday we invoked our “rule of ten” this morning, not rising, as is our custom until either the time or the temperature reached that convenient number.  As it happened in the absence of artificial heat, the clock ticked over to match the thermometer at exactly the same time this morning and we rose refreshed and ready to face our still lengthy list of after-winter things to tidy up.  We thought given the weather, that before we did that perhaps a stroll between the showers to see what was happening in this holiday stricken city would be nice.  

As we walked through the wonderful square, almost deserted but for a handful of people selling small posies of flowers, one of them enquired as to whether we’d like one.   

“No thanks” was our automatic response.  “They’re free!” he replied “and they are from the forest”.   Naturally we enquired why he was not selling them.

“Normally I sell them” he said, “but I am happy and I like to make everyone happy.  It’s a happy day, we don’t have to work!”  

So we didn’t.
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Monday, May 01, 2017

Changing the plan. - April 30
Einville-au-Jard to Nancy


The house next to the bakery in Einville sent a signal this morning, perhaps it’s time to revisit the art nouveau museum in Nancy, perhaps it’s time to stay for a bit and poke around, but that part of our plan never varies, we just never seem to carry through.   

We have no need for rush we say at the beginning of every voyage.  “We are going to stay for two nights every time we stop this year” we say.  “We will visit the places we’ve been before, but explore every nook and cranny, we’ll leave no stone unturned” we say, and then circumstances conspire and we inevitably end up leaving lots leaving nooks and crannies “for next time”.

This year we thought we would travel in a gentle circle down the Saar, up the Moselle and back, but no sooner had we begun annunciating that thought than our plans began to unravel.  The coming Monday holiday didn’t help, neither did the prospect of spending a couple of cold rainy nights away from power, but the delay in re-opening the lock at Saarbrücken foiled us entirely and we set out in exactly the opposite direction to the one we expected.   Today, while loitering on our way to the bakery in Einville-au-Jard early, before shooting off to Nancy, we made a mental note of things we’ll definitely do on the way back.

We will walk the new history trail in Einville, we will visit the Brewing and Cinema museums at St-Nicholas-du-Port and we will definitely take four or five days to travel the distance that usually takes us one or two, and we will linger everywhere for more than a night.   

Starting tomorrow.
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Aweigh! - April 29
Lagarde to Einville-au-Jard


If ever one were in need of proof of the benefits of procrastination, today would have given that proof in buckets.

It was buckets of soap and warm water that were needed mostly, along with a scrubbing brush and a pressure cleaner.  While the temperature may not have quite made double figures, the glorious blue sky and brilliant sunshine made it seem like three times that once work got underway.   There were lots of things that could have been done, perhaps should have been done, but as the morning slowly turned into afternoon, our little “Joyeux” was starting to look a bit like his old self, and with that the urge to get underway started to take a fairly strong grasp on us all.

Some quick sums were done.   It seems we have two days of sunshine ahead of us, which is about half a day more than it will take us to get to Nancy, but exactly the same time remaining until the May Day holiday when everything closes.   After that there will be a few days of much needed rain, together with a not so much needed cooler change, during which time a small electric heater could be a comfort, which in turn would make an electrical supply quite useful.

After pressing the “equals” key, the answer came firm but clear - stop work, take the shiny clean boat to Nancy, leave straight after lunch.  So we did.
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

We have ignition! - April 28
Lagarde


It’s as though Mr Perkins wants to join us in retirement.  Whenever we cross one metaphoric bridge, he tends to create another metaphoric chasm for us to negotiate, so really none of us were expecting miracles this morning, let alone things going like absolute clockwork.

We were barely game to look at one another as each nut came loose without trouble, and the injector came apart and went back together without the need for a visit to the specialist.   There was a slight hiccup on reassembly, but nothing a bit of undoing and redoing wouldn’t fix, and before one could say “Would you like another cup of tea Bill?” our Mr P burst once again into song.

We are only too aware that one swallow doth not a summer make, neither doth a few minutes of idle running give Mr Perkins a lot of time to unleash his bag of tricks on us, but we remain hopeful.  So hopeful that we spent the rest of the day happily bringing the washing up to date, and cleaning things, yes, cleaning things, or giving them a first lick and a promise at least.

Tomorrow, we may just mosey off through those distant fields into the wild blue (but often grey) yonder.  That will test his mettle (and perhaps given his recent behaviour, his metal as well.)

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Friday, April 28, 2017

The Awakening - April 27
Lagarde


We think we are experiencing something akin to the feeling that hibernating animals feel when spring is on the way.   

Suddenly one morning one wipes the bleariness from one’s eyes, senses a patch of blue, peels back a curtain to get a glimpse of what the day might offer, gets the fixings out for the morning coffee and baguette and realises the Nutella isn’t frozen solid any more.   Something akin to excitement begins to rise in one’s being, then one realises that the reason it hasn’t frozen is that it was accidentally left in the refrigerator overnight so perhaps today isn’t the day to get out of bed after all.

Royal Post parcel tracking got out of bed first thing though.  It told us we might have a parcel to tomorrow, and then just before coffee it told us we already had it.  Later in the day it arrived, a day earlier than expected, catching us all unawares and pumping renewed enthusiasm through our veins.  We may have started work immediately too, but the thought of slipping spanners and skinned frozen knuckles sent another shiver down an already shivering spine!

This looks very much like a job for Bill.
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Send in the clowns. - April 26
Lagarde


The cloud of lethargy that’s been hovering above us lowered itself to just above doona level today, descending almost to the point where it became apathy.  That would never do though, we have places to go and things to do.  Eventually.

When faced once again with the choice of in front of the heater all day watching drops of ice fall intermittently in the water around that poor little naked copse of trees opposite, or getting out there in the wet under a sky that maddeningly refused to go dark enough to be miserable and scrubbing the boat, the decision was easy.  

Besides, for a bit of a giggle we could phone Neil in England to see whether our now long awaited parts had turned up.  Except that Neil wasn’t in today, but John was and he seemed a bit puzzled really because Neil was new you see and didn’t know they didn’t ship stuff to the Continent any more, and now what would they do with these things they’d got in specially?  John then spoke with Allan in the workshop who said if we were in trouble, which we said we were a bit, they would ship them after all, but did we know the best postage price they could get was twice the value of the parts. 

A few phone calls later, and they were on their way, all without us having to leave the warmth of the cabin.  They will take two days by special delivery they said, which if all goes the way these things do, means we can expect them on Tuesday next week we suspect.   We did however get the front cabin curtains in, and filled the water tanks, and installed the new toner cartridge in the printer thereby ensuring we won’t need to print anything in the forseeable future, so the day wasn’t an entirely unproductive one.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The day we took the car back. - April 25
Lagarde



It may not have been quite bleak today, but it almost was.  There certainly wasn’t enough sunshine to lighten the countenance of the characters on the rubbish enclosures in the port.  They are curious figures, she and her mate who rather obscurely point the way to the bins within.  The building was intended to be a bathroom facility, but sometime between getting the outside finished and the signs done was repurposed, leaving some cheery but perhaps not entirely clear graphics to lighten our day.

Even then we had to borrow the sunshine from yesterday to provide that little light.  No word from Mr Perkins’ doctors on the state of play of his much needed vitals left us curiously unconcerned, although  a deliciously late response from Europcar (there I’ve named them!) to a request for assistance with an issue with the rental car may have left us with an expression a of bemusement not unlike that we may have were we destined to be a toilet but ended up as a refuse room.

In reply to our request on the thirteenth of this month, which at last count was exactly twelve days ago, the “customer service” person politely apologised for the delay in response, and suggested we get in touch with the “pick up station” as soon as possible.  Since that note arrived precisely eight hours after our rendezvous with the “drop-off” station, one suspects that a response may be drafted in tones as icy as the night that is still to come!
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Not quite time to plant - April 24
Lagarde


If the forecasts weren’t promising a return to sub-zero temperatures for a day or two, we may even have been inspired to get out and start preparing the outside of the boat for a bit of actual use.   

Gardens all over the village are lying expectantly now, waiting for the end of the week when proper spring weather is forecast, the kind that is far more suited to people (and plants) from more temperate climes, and quite frankly so are we.  Lying that is, in a warm berth, reading, pottering about and generally staying unenthused about getting outside with a scrubbing brush and cold water, while the decks resemble more of a vegetable patch than anything vaguely resembling ship-shape.  

In a day or two we will either be better acclimatised and tired of looking at a dirty boat, or simply anxious to get underway and get on with it anyway, but until our little box of parts arrives from England, we may as well continue to feign enjoyment from all this inactivity.    

Joan and Peter on the other hand, having had a few days longer than us to contemplate their own cruising agenda, headed off into the wild blue yonder this morning in a cloud of steam and high spirits searching for a new bolt hole in which to hide from the coming few days of grey.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blue Skies - April 23
Lagarde


Blue skies returned to Lagarde today, bringing a cheerier if not terribly warmer sort of disposition to things on this election day in France.

It seems if some commentaries are to be believed that the only choice open to the voters is whether should get worse slowly or catastrophically, which seems to be a nice summation of the world’s woes at the moment, but of course this is France, and there is nothing that can’t be fixed with a good lunch, followed by a restorative nap, and then a stroll around the village in which the lunch was partaken.

Since lunch was at Jacques and Maggie’s place, it was very good indeed and since the stroll was around Lagarde it was not terribly arduous, in fact, Sunday was so relaxing we decided there and then to do it again tomorrow.
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Monday, April 24, 2017

A great day to be indoors - April 22
Lagarde


A certain reality hit home today, in the greyness of it all, that once again we don’t have an engine, and that the broken part will take some time to arrive, perhaps a week. Therefore, with no particular reason to sort things out aboard, our “rule of ten” was applied and we didn’t get out of bed till temperature cracked double figures.  This turned out to be sometime around morning tea time as it happened, even with both of our heaters struggling valiantly. 

Even then one of us concentrated on the business of remaining completely relaxed, snug under anything he could find worth snugging under, while the other busied herself sorting out things, folding this, packing away that,  and generally moving to keep warm.    The covers did come off the bed and the boat as well eventually, but really, it’s probably not going to get its spring clean out there until there’s just a tad more warmth in the air, just the tiniest weeniest little bit of warmth will do, the sort that allows water to flow through a hose in its liquid form.

In the mean time, it was a nice day to remain indoors, sneaking out only to assist the nice man in the cheese van reduce his vast levels of stock.
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The good, the bad and the ugly. - April 21
Luneville


Had the morning not ended with us being serenaded by a Mexican dishing out silent ‘Vee” signs, while we sat at lunch in the restaurant opposite the bank, we may very well have thought we were having a dream.

On entering that very same bank an hour or so earlier we couldn’t be sure if the mushrooms in last night’s stew weren’t having some sort of effect, or whether we’d accidentally stumbled onto a Jacques Tati movie set.   Spanning the two counters that would be where the tellers would normally reside was a rather large cage with an equally large rabbit in residence.  Oh there were eggs on the counters too, chocolate ones, slow moving stock from last week no doubt.

Perhaps it was said rabbit that had erred with our account.  There is little point in speculation, but after almost an hour someone discovered that someone else in a bank far far away had made a teensy mistake when writing “Luneville” in the address on the envelope containing our card, on a whim writing “DIcky Beach” apparently, thereby sending it scurrying off into another less convenient hemisphere.  

At almost the same time news arrived to the effect that Perkins in the UK had made themselves uncontactable for the day, rendering Mr P silent for at least the next week and therefore ensuring that we will remain unmoving for a similar period, hopefully snug until the temperature reaches more than the negative number it was this morning.  

With no better plan for the afternoon therefore, we remained in the warmth and safety of the restaurant with Joan and Peter, as far as we could get from Bankers, Rabbits, Mexicans and Mad Hatters.
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Lagarde! - April 20
Wuppertal to Lagarde



There’s probably a clinical term for the sort of anxiety one feels when one must really get going.

Whatever it is, we felt a very strong compulsion to do just that this morning, albeit not so obsessively compulsed that we couldn’t linger over breakfast with Elle and Jörgen for the sort of time that even a Hobbit would be proud of.  After all we had more to catch up on that was possible in just one evening.

The draw of home proved too strong too keep us beyond second breakfast time though and this time we had to forego the sights of Wuppertal in favour of getting home by sunset.  One of us hadn’t quite come to terms with the fact that we’d missed snow here by two days, but the residual chill was enough to give us a picture of how it may have felt we thought.

Four or five hours later, with the clear blue sky and yellow of the colza seeming to amplify the siren call of the village, lulling us into a false sense of warmth, we arrived, welcomed by friends as ever to the news that it had been snowing yesterday, and if we thought it was cold now tomorrow was going to be minus two and Mr Perkins has broken again and the toilets leak and you must come up for supper....  

Sigh.   We are home at last.
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There be the tulips! - April 19
Lisse to Wuppertal

Anyone with a memory better than that of a goldfish will recall that our original purpose when we set out on this particular part of our adventure was to see tulips.  Most will know that tulips are synonymous with the Netherlands and having got that far, inarguably the best place in the world to see them is at Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens and as it happens in a surprising turn of events given our propensity to be there "the day after", with its seven million bulbs at the peak of their full bloom about now.

Keukenhof is located in exactly the opposite direction we needed to travel to get home of course, but it was a great opportunity to introduce Louie to the wonders of nature or perhaps man’s attempts to tame it, and to give him a taste of what it feels like to be outdoors all day in single digit temperature.  After taking several thousand arty photos of stunning tulips grown in even more stunning ways, in forests, in houses in patterns of ever increasing ingenuity and spectacle, and unable to choose just one, we suddenly became grateful for his presence.  The baby photo wins every time!  So there’s one more item ticked off our our list of flowery things to see before we die, and what a glorious bunch of flowery things they were.   

At severe risk of suffering some sort of colour shock, we had barely finished our “hellos” to Marty and Vanessa when we snuck off quite early in the afternoon to continue on our circuitous route home, this time heading to Germany and Wuppertal.  

Say that out loud and try not to smile. 

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

And now … a Tulip! - April 18
Utrecht

Our rolling sideshow continues, today battling ice and sleet as well as the traffic on the Antwerp ring road.  It’s a bit counter intuitive, heading north through sleet into a climate where the temperature is not expected to reach double digits tomorrow to see the blooms of spring, but we have been assured that they are there.

Today though ti was another kind of bud that we had really come to see.  Louie has been waiting we are sure, for all of his eight weeks on earth, to see us.  Despite a less than stellar day involving a nurse, a bit of nudity in a cold clinic building and a couple of jabs in the legs with sharp objects he put on a great show of enjoying our company. As ever we had a delightful catch up with his mum, dad and nana when he wasn’t watching, all the while looking for a reason not to venture outdoors.

We have had plenty of time to reflect while alone in the car on our great fortune to have “family” scattered throughout the world, but strangely mid reflection, we realised that we had not first met any of the people we had visited on our travels.  In every case so far on this trip, through one circumstance or another our introduction has been at our own house as circumstance has flung them across our doorway!   Perhaps we need to get out more….

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Shrimp, Barbie, Belgium. - April 18
Koksijde


Dave had promised he’d make no fuss, that dinner would be home made pasta and Bolognese sauce he’d frozen earlier,  It appears that either “pasta and Bolognese sauce” is Flemish for “shrimp croquettes followed by prawns with white asparagus” or he’d made a terrible mistake with the recipe. 

We’re not sure when the mistake happened, perhaps we’d distracted him in conversation during the morning, perhaps it was while we were wandering round Diksmuide in the chill of the afternoon contemplating whether we might move our respective boats there next winter.  Whatever the case we suffered it in silence (apart from the odd low moan each time we took another mouthful) not wanting to embarrass him by drawing attention to it. 

Last night after hearing we were going to land on her doorstep, Ria sent me a message via social media asking the question “Good food, good internet, what more do you want?”  I did of course make mention in my reply of a washing machine as after a month on the road now, it’s quite possibly that certain items of apparel were in dire need of some attention, but really neither of us had made mention of the obvious, that our friendship is such that we need none of those things. The company of each other is the source of our joy.

But perhaps it's best if we don’t tell Dave that.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Just a bit tired - April 16
Saint Omer


We lost a bit of the spring from our step this morning, not in an unhappy way, but some might say the continuous travel of the past month is starting to catch up.

Having driven for fifteen hundred kilometres in the past three days with bodies quite possibly thinking they are in a time zone fourteen hours away may be having a slight impact on our state of being as well.   Whatever the case, we didn’t visit Honfleur as we thought we would, neither did we stop at La Havre, or Calais, or Dunkirk.   Instead, after a long and leisurely breakfast, at which the line for coffee was such that if one went to the back of it with a fresh cup in hand, by the time one got to the front again one was well and truly ready for another, we ambled slowly away.   Slowly being a euphemism of course for travelling at slightly less than the motorway speed limit, taking something less than four hours to travel something less than four hundred kilometres.

When we arrived at Saint Omer, a destination chosen completely at random on the basis that car parking was available at the hotel, and that it was less than an hour’s drive to Dave and Ria’s place, we decided a short nap might be in order.   Our short nap ended up almost as long as our drive, and every bit as pleasant.  Dunkirk can wait.
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wrong direction again - April 15
Mont St Michel


Possibly nothing says “we are in France” more than a church in a castle on a rock, and nothing says “church in a castle on a rock” more than Mont St Michel, which is as it turns out just an hour or so to the south of where we woke up this morning, well three or four actually if one takes the scenic route through “Swiss Normandy”.

Since south is exactly opposite to the direction we need to be heading if indeed we are to see tulips in Holland, and since we really can’t go any further west because of this tiny ocean shaped obstacle, we didn't think just one day heading south would be a problem.  It was a longish day admittedly, and when we arrived pretty much everyone else had decided to make it a day trip too.  Since Mont St Michel attracts a similar number of tourists annually to the Sunshine Coast, but since its area is substantially less, a certain busyness is apparent at major holiday times, like for instance, Easter.

None the less we walked the two and a half kilometre bridge and causeway in blustery weather that was two jumper cool verging on “I do wish I had my beanie” and then climbed to the top of its not insubstantial height.  With skies becoming quite threatening, and queues rather long we chalked “tour the abbey one day” on our list of things to do, and wended our weary way ever so slightly northward snug in the warmth of our leather lined Jeep.
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Westward Ho! - April 14
La Ferte Saint Aubin to


The boat is five hundred or so kilometres to our east, the Tulip fields a bit more than that to our north, so does it not seem logical that we should begin our quest to find them by travelling similar distances to the south and then to the west?

Actually we did have an appointment with our bank in La Ferte-Saint-Aubin, and therefore a very pleasant stay with Celine and Manu and a catch up with her mum and Pascal and Dume as well, and while that all took place last night, it was so far into the morning that it was afternoon by the time we stopped at the bakery opposite the chateau to stock up with supplies for our long drive west.

West?  Well yes, in that cack-handed logic that accompanies they who travel at random, it seemed a lot easier to go with the Easter exodus from Paris than fight it all day and night, so Normandy looks like a great place to us to begin looking for Tulips even if they are likely to be shaped like apple trees.

Perhaps I was a little hasty in criticising our not entirely little black car yesterday.  Despite the immediate failure of the on board GPS this morning and with it all things electrical connected to the dashboard, it handled our white knuckled exodus admirably.   It’s not as though we haven’t been stuck in Easter traffic before, three lanes bumper to bumper, but it is the first time we’ve experienced it at 130 kilometres per hour, yet here we are at the end of the day, unscathed.
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Baa Baa Black Jeep - April 13
La Ferte Saint Aubin to

When we went to beakfast in the airport hotel this morning it came as something of a shock to find a simple “continental” setup.   No weird fruit made of glutenous substances, no seaweed, no pickles, no chopsticks, no chap in the corner making fresh omelettes, just an array of super fresh pastries, fresh fruit and a delightfully fresh brewed coffee, accompanied by the murmur of people speaking in a language with which we were vaguely familiar.

Let's be quite clear, we have enjoyed our breakfast over these past few weeks, except perhaps the ones "shared" with the larger tour groups, but now, we were home.

Not wanting the magic of our last few weeks on the road to disappear too quickly, we decided to proceed with a plan we’d been hatching for a couple of days.   We’ve seen enough cherry blossoms to last a lifetime but have never been to Holland in Tulip time.  Perhaps it's time for a road trip.

When we went to pick up our Fiat 500 rental car and it didn’t have cruise control we asked for an upgrade to something that did.  So it came to pass that we are now driving quite possibly the single most inappropriate vehicle for manoeuvring anonymously through tiny ancient streets that could ever be devised.  It's a tiny Jeep by Jeep standards and it's got electronic things to help us not hit things or alternatively to tell us that we just have, so it will have to do.

We have people to see, places to go and things to do, and we have a car to do them in.


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Farewell Fuji-san! - April 12
and so to Paris


The lobby of our hotel was at the check-in level in Haneda airport, therefore there was no need to stress about making connections this morning, nothing to fear by way delay by traffic jam, no need to set an alarm.  All we had to do was to wake up at our leisure and wander down through immigration and onto the plane.

At first we were a little disappointed to have a room on the opposite side of the building to the runway, thinking it might be nice to watch the planes coming and going through the night, but we watched the taxis instead and this morning as were rising, the haze beyond our large picture window cleared briefly, framing Mt Fuji perfectly as she winked at us and gave us a farewell wave, no doubt wishing us a safe journey and hoping we’d come back soon.

She was gone as quickly as she had appeared though, cosseted once again beneath a thick doona cloud, doing whatever it is that god-volcanoes do when no one can see them, leaving us checking our photos to convince ourselves the visit had been real.

In high spirits we checked in our bags, apologising as we did for their weight and blaming all of our souvenirs. “Ahh” replied the charming young lady behind the counter, “Because you have many souvenirs from my country I’ll mark your bags for priority handling.”

Tonight, Paris you have a hard act to follow. 
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The fat lady sings. - April 11
Kanazawa to Haneda


Our numbers dwindled till finally there were just five of us on the train to Tokyo, travelling in a cloud of that particularly numb silence that marks the end of a grand adventure in the continuous company of others.

It was a peculiar feeling to have Robert sitting almost anonymously among us, no longer standing, camera around his neck at the ready, himself ever vigilant out front, like a giant sheepdog keeping constant watch, always one step ahead, always checking that no one is behind nor too far ahead, while the rest of us blather on oblivious, like excited children.  His countenance is serious, but why wouldn’t it be, after all he is thinking for all of us.  Under that cold hard exterior however, there lurks a giant grin and a tiny giggle, trying not to escape until some more appropriate moment.  The rest of us could simply carry on day after day without even the need for thought which was just as well for one or two for whom the very concept of “thought” did not appear to be one with which they had ever been familiar!

We have covered a lot of territory in the past few weeks, seen things that we’d never think to visit by ourselves, things that if we did think to visit we’d never find, and perhaps things that if we did find we’d never have left without his gentle nudge.  What a time we’ve had!  

But it’s over, we’ve gone our separate ways, some of us destined to reunite, others we know we will never see again.  With just one more night to spend, and that at our hotel in Haneda Airport waiting for our flight out, we’ll just sit I’m sure, and try to take it all in.   
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And not a cherry blossom in sight! - April 10
Shirakawago


There are mountains in the distance, quite clearly visible from our hotel window and it was obvious from that vantage point through the clear crisp morning air that it had snowed quite a bit in them  overnight.   

What wasn’t obvious at least for those among us who had failed to take any notice of our itinerary was that today we were heading into some of those very same mountains to the World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go, with it’s traditional Gassho-zukuri, or Praying Hands houses named for the steeply pitched thatched roofs designed to easily shed snow.  There we would gain an inkling of insight into just what living conditions have been like over the centuries in a valley which in former times was completely in accessible except in summer.

We should not have been surprised when we arrived in the valley to find frozen rice fields and a liberal cover of snow on anything that thus far had not been warmed by the onset of spring, but the contrast between what we saw and the dare I say it, cherry blossom covered landscape in the town below was a little stark, and we were all suitably thrilled at the prospect of getting our toes cold.  The buildings were fascinating, the village splendid as of course was the company, most of whom, (the ones not with their ever increasingly nasty colds hopefully reaching some sort of crescendo) rounded out their day with a relaxing bath in a traditional onsen or public bath, while the others kept our sneezes to ourselves somewhere safely out of doors, until the bus returned us to Kanazawa, yet again tired, but happy to a man.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

After all, we did come to see cherry blossoms - April 9
Kanazawa



Part of the point of coming at this time of year was to find sakura, the cherry in full blossom.  For that to happen, we needed to arrive in a very small window of time, and hope that the blossom co-operated. For a time it seemed as though we may not achieve that, as in city after city the trees seemed to be holding their breath until after we had left, but here things were ridiculous.   The trees, obviously tired of holding their breaths had let them out with a collective WOOOSH!

They more than beautiful now, they are actually quite arrogantly standing in front of everything we want to see, bringing thousands of people to the same places we want to be.  Even the stunning Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three best in Japan has thrown open its gates, amazingly allowing visitors in at no cost for the duration of the blossom, which is tantamount to our western eyes to Woolies giving away free eggs at Easter.   

Lunch under blossom scavenged from the food stands in the park seemed like a compulsory activity, although for a little respite from blossom clad gardens and castles, in the afternoon we did venture indoors to a gold leaf museum for a dose of sparkle of a different kind.

Perhaps as a complete contrast to the day, a few hardy souls ventured a visit to the Myoriuji temple known as the Ninja Temple for it’s amazing array of secret passageways, trick doors and pitfalls.  It truly was difficult to believe during our visit that this was a genuine fortified construction and not some sort of sideshow with it’s forty-five rooms and forty-nine staircases.   The special room for Hari Kiri did add a fairly sombre note, bringing us down to earth a bit with its door that couldn’t be opened from within, used historically by those failed warriors whose particular cheery blossoms would never see another summer.
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Too many cherry blossoms are barely enough - April 8
Kyoto to Kanazawa



Robbie-san didn’t take any personal credit for the absolute explosion of cherry blossoms that have greeted us on our arrival in Kanazawa, but let’s just say if he had guaranteed we’d see a certain minimum amount of blossom, there’d be no refunds!  

Despite the dazzle, he managed to lead us at at a  cracking pace straight to the Omichi Markets, which specialise in fresh seafood, and once again it was no coincidence that we arrived there spot on lunch o’clock.

With bodies happily sated with fesh sea urchin, octopus and snail we set out to the museum dedicated to the great zen philosopher D T Suzuki which did its level best to help us sort out our minds. It’s a wonderful modern building which oozes tranquliy and is photographable too (but only outside the building please) however as has been the case of late the cherry blossoms continued to steal the show.

We moved much more calmly off to the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum a circular glass building with some really terrific exhibitions but which perfectly reflected the blossoms, and even allowed them to be visible from inside.

Even our last stop, a visit to the Nomura family Samurai House  with it’s superb courtyard gardens featuring no flowering blossoms (the spectacular bonsai in the entry doesn’t count) served as a reminder of the link between Samurai and blossom.

The samurai was likened to cherry blossom as his life, while glorious, was prone to a sudden end during military service, similar to petals shed by cherry blossoms”

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Meanwhile back at the Ranch - April 7
Kyoto


Robert had suggested that we should visit Fushimi Inari shrine and its ten thousand red gates early, so that we would only have to share them with a few hundred thousand people rather than the several brazillion that would appear as soon as the bus tour groups got their act together.  

If only he’d given the same advice regarding the breakfast buffet in the hotel we may not have left it till fifteen minutes past opening time to arrive.  It was perhaps a good thing that our colds had by now rendered us listless and without enthusiasm for food as the place was swarming with Australian and American voices, several busloads of them, the sources of which had descended on anything edible with an enthusiasm bordering on avarice which left the normally abundant offerings looking like the aftermath of a bushfire following a plague of locusts.   

Outside meanwhile, when we weren’t paying attention the cherry trees had gone ballistic, quietly shrouding everything in their wondrous magic.   We walked all day through them and beneath them, oblivious to the cold and the occasional shower of rain, through Gion, the Geisha District where Chinese tourists in rented Kimonos made “V” signs to their selfies, visiting temples and markets as we went until we were pretty much templed out, blossomed out, and only the less blokey among us not marketed out as well.

In the way of Japan, it is the quiet things that speak loudest, and thus it was the house and studio of the renowned potter Kawai Kanjiro with all its personally crafted furniture and finishes and the legacy of his work scattered throughout, that seemed to resonate with all of us, a highlight of the day amid a trove of them. 

On another note, having learned something from our respective countrymen at breakfast time apparently, we were instrumental in giving the happy chap in the tiny and aptly named “Smile Burger” cafe (open 11:00 am till sold out) an early afternoon.  Though we were but a few, we were but a few more than his cafe could seat, perhaps more than he’d seen inside at once in fact. There seemed little point in letting his monster Australian beef burgers with teryaki sauce go stale, and the smiles they gave us lasted all afternoon and well into the night as well.


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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An even longer ride in the Country - April 6
to Inuyama near Nagoya

Today our schedule saw us travelling during the course of the day on eight trains and a few buses.  To make every connection while travelling alone would be no mean feat and the fact that Robert had even considered it with fourteen children in adult bodies in his charge says something for his fortitude and skill as a tour leader.

Naturally in a group of this size when timing is all, one person will choose to arrive just sufficiently late that all planning must be thrown aside, and so we missed our first train by less than a minute, he accepted that with considerable patience and the sort of diplomacy that I suspect were one in his shoes, one would fail to muster.   Those precious seconds meant that each connection took an extra ten minutes or so, hardly earth shattering in the context of a lifetime, but none the less reducing the time we had at our destination by almost an hour.

Our destination in this case was the Meiji-mura museum near Nagoya, where a huge collection of buildings from the Meiji Era (no, look it up yourself!) have been rescued and reconstructed on a vast lakefront site in the forest.  We were never going to see all of it, that would take days. The constant drizzle which turned our planned picnic into a bit of gobble’n go would have hampered a lot of our wandering.  We did wander through a few buildings and had a tour beneath the stage of a Kabuki theatre and saw the emperor’s train, but really we were only there to do one thing: to have tea and cake in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel.

One cannot fathom the sort of insanity that was behind the preservation of this building but thank goodness it exists.  Imagine demolishing a complicated brick and stone building, packing it in containers, shipping it several hundred kilometres and rebuiliding it close enough to twenty years later.  Here it sits as far from its original urban environment as one can imagine.   Beautifully preserved, still with remnants of Tokyo smog etched into the facade, the tea room above the foyer in perfect working order.  The detailing was everything those books that I was sure had misled me so badly a week or two ago had promised.

Come back Frank, all is forgiven!    

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