Tuesday 2 February 2016

April 10th 2015, Le Train de Bateaux

Just a few pix of Archangel in the parade of 26 boats who made a spectacular "Train of boats" crossing of Mr. Gustaff Eiffel's impressive canal bridge over the Loire to launch the year's cruising season.  It made the local papers, and between this and another article on Briare's boat residents in the same journal, meant we were 'recognised' when we were miles away in Chablis, buying wine.  Fame, at last !!
 Here is one of the pages from the regional paper:
The next blog will show our travels, trials and tribulations at the faltering start of this year's touring season!

April 2015, cruising

First of all, a little self-indulgence.  Here is a pic of grandson "Bill" Raffles (we call him). He has proper hair now, and is enormously more mobile ! I didn't take the pic, and to be honest I don't recognise him, so I'm just hoping it really is himself, he's changed so much !
So anyway, here's a property with scope for redevelopment, situated beside the picturesque Briare canal!
The first night we stopped at Ouzouer-sur-Trezee, where I like to 'find' some lengths of dead bamboo, so useful as lightweight barge poles.  Sadly the two I found were later blown off the roof in the storms at Moret-sur-Loing.  I saw it take flight, and would've tried to recover it but the river was tearing past our mooring at a huge rate ! I feel pretty stupid about that, as I lost last year's from the roof during storms in Paris last year!  Next time I'll pin it down properly !   Ouzouer has an extraordinarily tall church spire, itselve set atop a hill inside the old town wall, and it makes a dramatic outline.
We had an unscheduled lunch stop at a nice spote the next day
Well I didn't know there were red squirrels here, but I have proof.  So pleased to catch this one.
There was some precarious repair work going on in Chatillon-Coligny, this appendage was a safety net for bits and/or people falling from the webbing!
Our preferred Hotel restaurant seems to have closed down, permanently (feel unreasonably guilty about that!) so we chose what turned out to be rather literally a high street cafe !
For some reason we'd never been inside the big church in the centre of Montargis despite our many weeks spent there over the past two years, and it is actually very lovely:
We enjoyed a good spell in Montargis, as we do like it there, but eventually we needed to move on.  Not far tho', as we needed (yet more) plants and pots for the travelling season from the big Brico at the second, less pretty and commercial mooring area within barrow-wheeling distance from the Brico.  It was there that we had a Polar Express moment, when a goods train moved in and later out of the adjacent railway line which we'd tended to dismiss as no longer in use, nor a danger.  Gave us a nice porthole shot.
Further along we stopped at a favourite but small mooring spot, near to Neronville, which looked intriguing in the Guide Fluviale. So we made the cycle ride up to the town, uphill of course.  Well, it is well worth the visit, very interesting and recommended.  This view was from a square looking along the escarpment:
So eventually we reached another favourite place, Moret-sur-Loing.  There was no mooring available, but luckily our friend Michael allowed us to moor alongside, so here is a picture of his faithful companion, Daisy, on board his barge, the same make as ours.  In fact it was the first we saw the inside of.
What a lovely dog she is, hard to follow. So just one more pic, of us on our mooring after Michael had moved on;  in fact there were 4 of our make of boat there at one time, this pic just shows two of us.  I'll show you the floods next entry, now that was fun, sort of!

Start of 2015 up to when we really leave Briare

I have one reason why I'm putting in this picture of us celebrating our Wedding Anniversary with a meal at Petit St. Trop in Briare, I liked it!  We did celebrate with our good friends in Briare too, thanks to them.
I'm not going to bore you with all the wonderful social life in Briare, our trips to UK, and so on.  However we did make one extraordinary visit, which took two days driving, to take our clock for repair.  Strange, or what.  Well some lovely Dutch friends from Briare suggested we ought, and what a good idea it turned out to be.  This was our Friessland or Joure Dutch pendulum clock, bought specifically for Archangel, and featured earlier.  Our friends even negotiated a maximum price for us with Joure Klockmakerij !  We stopped the night in Ghent en route, and dined in the restaurant Amadeus:

We recommend it, inexpensive and glorious dining space ! We wound up staying two nights in Joure itself, to give the clockmaker time to fix it.  In fact, he stripped it down and re-built it with all new bearings, and upgraded its appearance as we asked, a super job.  Here he is:
None of these is actually our clock.  But if you wanted a custom-made, handmade clock, then I recommend him.  We're very tempted, but we really like ours and it fits on Archangel perfectly, and the next size up just won't !  Here is the Square outside of the shop, I just like the pic. The next one is a short distance from that, near our hotel:

You'd hardly think it, but it was cold, with quite a lot of snow around, but it was also sunny and the snow yielded quite quickly.  We did some exploring while the clock was being dismantled, chiefly in Sneek:
I told you it was cold, and see, real snow.  Our return to Calais, for a UK visit, was via the magnificent town of Brugges, of which a few views:

Monday 12 January 2015

October 2014 - last few weeks of cruising, 'home' to Briare, and UK visit

You've seen one view of our stopover at Cours les Barres, here is another showing the fairly gruesome fountain head, part of the stream (which must be pumped as it went off at night!) down from the village above:
We stayed here a week with our friends until they left (the other way), relaxing in the sunny days, which were many, before setting off on the 6th.  We had already cycled up to Chantier Evezard at Maseilles-les-Aubigny to find if they could replace our bow thruster gearbox, so today we moored up against one of their boats to meet the boss again, as arranged, to show him the job.  Then we moved on to La Chapelle-Montlinard- a horrid mooring, all sloping sides, nothing proper to moor to, dreadful silo outlook. En route there we saw a sign that looked interesting:
 We moved on as soon as possible the next day to a spot we knew by car, Menetreol-sous-Sancerre.  Mooring here was not free but not expensive, and the local restaurant was the main draw.  Talking of drawing, I had a go at drawing this interesing and clearly old building.  Sorry it's a bit dark!
Naturally we took the opportunity to do the tour advertised above, and here is Nik & our guide going into the vines, and it's at least as steep as it looks.  This is Pouilly Fume terroir, so mixtures of 3 key minerals that make the various versions of this lovely wine:
After two nights here, having filled up with wine and 4 course meal at the local restaurant, we had to move on, this time to Bellville-sur-Loire.  It's a small village, one power socket, but had the best view:
Being the local nuclear power station, called Belleville (beautiful town).  I was hoping to visit the station as we were told it was fascinating, but you need to book well in advance.  So we went past it on our cycle into Neuvy-sur-Loire, which was quite a long way to go for a coffee!:
The Belleville mooring had free services, using a special adaptor from the Tourist Office, and quite a few hotels.  It also had some huge and unusual colour Lantana bushes that I coveted:
They were also showing something like fruit berries.  I've had no luck with my little Lantanas, three gone now, and am beginning to think it needs a huge tub to keep it moist.  They are expensive and don't look that healthy on the rare occasions we find them.  Come next year there might just be a little gap in this display!
Home at last!  Feels really odd to be back after all the travelling.  We really have three lives, winter mooring among locals and other boating friends, travelling the waterways, and back in UK, each one so different.  Live a lot I say!  Here we are:
Now I won't continue with this blog for the rest of 2014, but as I've started October I'll put a few more pix from our visit back to UK from 17th onwards.  First Chastleton House with Marius (using our Life Membership of the National Trust (rarer these days!):
Then from our trip "Oop North" where we spent a night at Ian (cousin) and Mary's, shown here beside their lovely roses (who don't seem to know it's winter!):
Then of course to grandson, who is clearly having a joke with his father (field left) about my silly hairstyle:
Then Nik takes a turn, but looks much more like a mum than a granny to me:
The last pic is to seek your sympathy (not that we deserve it generally) as I show a picture of the 'Local' where we booked for our Christmas Day feast - are you imagining it yet? - it was worse than this, not only the ambiance but some (not all) of the food was about literally the dog's dinner !  Never again.
Actually it looks pretty good in this pic, you can't see the gambling machines, and this corner is nicer than the place we were put (not where we'd booked to be).  But it had space.  Next time I book it a year ahead.  For another £10/head we could have been in a much nicer place, but it would have meant a drive rather than a 3 minute walk, so you takes your choice.  So, I say farewell for 2014, and a NYear resolution has to be that I'll make the blog more current, less historic !  But it won't be in garbled English like Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, but then I'm not trying to be literary !  Barely literate will do. Happy New Year !

Saturday 10 January 2015

September 2014 Cruising again (i.e. not in UK !)

Just to list the places we moored this month (not all pictured here):  Seurre, Verdun-sous-Doubs, Chalons-sur-Saone, Le Bas Santenay, St. Julien-sur-Dheune, Monceau les Mines, Genelard, Paray le Monial, Digoin, Diou, Saulx Lock, Decize, St. Leger les Vignes/Cercy la Tour, Decize (again) Port de la Jonction, Fleury-sur-Loire, Nevers, Cours les Barres.  Wow! No good pix of Seurre (nice place to cycle from !), but one of Verdun-sous-Doubs (a river just off the Saone) which is actually very pretty, but has very few moorings for any large boats:
The Isle du Chateau is well worth exploring, and there was a small but excellent market;  only the second place we've found in France to buy proper, thick, fresh cream!  Then Chalons-sur-Saone, the church:
We stayed here the one night, nice place but expensive mooring, way out on a pontoon, and barely possible to moor elsewhere;  also some 'wag' startled us by throwing a half full cup of Coke onto our wheelhouse roof, staining the deck and leaving quite a mess.  We were that close to a footbridge, way above us. So this is a view looking back to one of the road bridges that linked the marina to the town:
Paint Your Wagon has the line "I never saw a town didn't look better, looking back". Chalons is nice either way.  The first (deep!) lock takes you onto the Canal du Centre, and we needed to use it pronto as it was due to close very soon because of water shortage (it often does).  They point out the change:
We were now moving a bit fast to avoid being stranded on the Canal du Centre (some were!).  Neither Santenay (3 picnic tables, one windy-up tap!) nor St. Julien-sur-Dheune (nice, tiny) yielded any pix, so the next one is of Monceau les Mines.  Here we had a rare officious VNF official saying mooring 'Interdit'.  This was not true, but we couldn't see a good space or anyone to hail to moor up against.  We could've moved back from the bankside mooring we chose further along, but it meant going back through 2 lifting bridges operated by VNF, and turning in a narrow canal without a bow thruster.  The town was nice, and we'd intended staying for several days had they been more hospitable.  There was a huge (temporary) funfair and fireworks just by the port (hence the 'danger, but loads of boats were there).
We had now 'made it' to the top of the Canal du Centre, all the hardest locks behind us (actually that was yesterday) but tonight, at Genelard, which was full (if you wanted power) we were safely past the closures region.  We had to borrow cable from others as our 75 metres was not enough to reach the one power post. The map we follow was as wrong as it could be over location.  We stayed two days, though I'm not sure why! I think it was for a rest, and because there were some other very helpful boaters there . Next stop was the lovely Paray le Monial:
We only stayed the one night, but left late on the next day after visiting one of the many churches there: 
We'll enjoy another visit sometime.  Next stop Digoin, which has some good features: 
We now leave the Canal du Centre (nice and curvy, the designer thought it more interesting (it is!) and move onto the Canal Lateral a la Loire (i.e. beside the Loire). The trip onwards to Diou involves one of many canal viaducts (pont canal) over some big river, oh yes, the Loire again.  It's a bit hairy as you go over the bridge to a lock and hope you can get into that!: 
No pix taken of the next two stops, Diou or of Saulx (well, it was just after the last lock before the complicated bit to go off the canal and into Decize & the Loire proper!). We liked Decize, tho' it's quite a walk/ride to town from the well-equipped marina.  Here's our mooring there: 
There was a fete going on that weekend - we missed out on the big meal, but the acts the next day were impressive, in fact pretty amazing, and all free: 
Then we were so pleased to welcome some very good friends who came down specially to stay with us.  We took a little trip onto the Loire river (I was pretty nervous about this) to avoid being swept onto the great barrage (like a weir) and thence up the Canal du Nivernais a little way.  The Loire: 
A very nice lunch at St. Leger les Vignes (no facilities operating), we found a very haughty kitten (lived near the old chat-eau) at our night stop of Cercy La Tour: 
We stayed the night at Cercy La Tour (by good luck, met more great friends there, oh the imbibing!).
Then next day back to Decize to moor right on the bank of the Loire, by the town iself.  The next morning there was a huge car boot sale - never knew there was that much 'stuff' that I never wanted !
Archangel was moored just to the right of this lot, as below:
After our friends left, to drive home to Coleshill, we moved back to the Port de la Jonction just up there on the right, and stayed there several days, tasting wines, going on bike rides all around the place:
We now found a lovely mooring in 'Old France', a restaurant of sorts having its last weekend open and celebrating the fact in grand style.  There it is, the tents:
We enjoyed eating their menu, and sharing drinks with the patron (he doesn't like Islay whisky, prefers some obscene blended muck!). There was an excellent baker just up the short hill, but I was caught in possession:
Hands Up!  A bit fuzzy because Nik forgot to clean the lens on her iPad !  Next stop Nevers.  Very difficult to moor because the town has so little mooring, especially for larger boats, so we took a chance and moored by a grass/mud bank.  I think we ran aground a bit, but it was fine.  Lots of lorries there, met a nice Bulgarian driver who lived a rather gypsy life of cooking just by the wheel of his rig ! Longish cycle ride into town, but worth it:
Lots more pix, and a town well worth another, and longer visit, but preferably from a better mooring.  After two nights at Nevers we set off and came to a very strange bridge over the, you guessed it, Loire, leading to a proper staircase lock with a composite drop of 9.23 metres, and with very, very odd inclined sides to the lock which pose problems.  Here we are at the top (the pont over the Loire is behind us) :
We were now very lucky to moor at a simply super spot, free services too, Cours les Barres.  We met some very good friends here too, whom we'd met at the start of this year's sailing season (in Moret).  Here are the two boats (theirs is made by the same UK builder as ours):
We were very sorry to leave here, in fact we stayed until 6th October, so some more pix in next month's exciting adventures of Archangel.  Bet you can't wait...