Friday, 12 December 2014

August 2014 - Mostly UK, only 6 pix!

Owing to little Bill Raffles (that's our name for him) we spend from end July to 26th August in UK, so have enough pictures to fill several albums, so be thankful you'll only see one here, as follows:
This was taken in the lovely garden of Mumtaz's parents in Leicester, where the cutting of the hair called Aquita, naming ceremony (tho' that was done a bit earlier) like a baptism, took place.  Her mother easily prepared a couple of complete outfits for Nik to wear, this being the one used on the day !
The caterpillar's toadstool from the Wedding Cake was remodelled to carry the constellation Leo (Raffle's birthsign) and a little Leo, which worked pretty well:
These principal stars in the constellation are labelled for those of you who don't know them by heart!  We had a grand time meeting up with lots of friends, too much eating and drinking of course.  Then, the day before our departure back to UK, we sold our VW Xplorer Camper we've had for 24 years, for a knock-down price for a quick sale and to save any further hassle over all the vehicles we had.  Here's what makes it so amazing, the roof space larger than its footprint.  We'll not see its like again:
It's odd now to actually own no 4-wheeled transport, having rid ourselves of 4 in this year !
Then on 26th August we returned to Auxonne for a few days:
Then on 28th we moved on to Seurre, where we literally arrived right in the middle of the France-wide championship of these power boats that look like sporty spaceships (we had an hour or so waiting mid-stream before there was a lull to allow us up to a mooring, where we had prime observing position;  we also welcomed aboard some friends from UK to observe from Archangel.
That's all for August folks !

July 2014 - Touring the Marne to the Saone & UK baby visit

We just loved Chalons-en-Champagne (so good they named it twice, formerly Chalons-sur-Marne) and could fill several blogs with our pictures of it.  Here is just one of the many, wonderful squares there:
The town has several canals that you can visit on a motorised barge, which was amazing:
We just came out of that little entrance, really, don't believe me:
I forgot to mention that the town had enclosed a lot of the canals (rivers really) to provide more building space !
I thought you might like standing on your head?! This was an exit of one of the tunnels. Next stop was a little place called Orconte, nice mooring, little facilities, but great for us, as we saw a boat very like ours, one we knew and had used as a specification for the painting of ours:
See what I mean?  Looks kinda familiar.  Our next night was near Ancerville, near because the heavens opened and delivered such an impressive downpour that at times we couldn't even see the bow! Luckily we'd moored to a few steel rails in a field, as it continued until dark.  Next morning we saw some moped riders opposite who stopped to hail us; they told us that a tree had fallen and blocked the canal, and we thought he's shouted that it could take 10 days to clear!!  We decided to cycle up to the very nice mooring in Ancerville and investigate this for ourselves:
This tree here is just one of the ten (trees, not days it seems), the next one you see is bridging the whole width !  We'd moored at the lovely new quay, which had all facilities, but it was too new to have been connected to water or electric yet !  Also we had to use the new lamp units to help moor as they'd not yet put anything to moor to!  Next year it'll be good.  They cleared the trees only a little after the forecast 10am, and a queue of boats proceeded on their way. Next stop Joinville:
We stayed here a week, and Nik's sister drove all the way down to us in her camper, which was great.  There was this Petit Chateau to visit, a deliberately beautiful building for entertaining.  That day there was a piece of musical theatre going on, where we acted as the mobile audience:
We had some niice trips out, one day we visited Colomby les deux Eglises where Charles de Gaulle lived in this house - the tower he had added on himself to give him a lovely office:
After saying farewell to our valued guest, we made our way throught the dense carpet of weed that hid a canal, past some impressive aquatic tractors that were heaving it out, and on to Vouecourt:
This was their impressive wash house, rather romanesque inside, a good stop.  We were now on the canal rather than the river Marne;  it was hot enough to lower the front windscreen for the breeze !
There were some little bridges en route, and it still feels odd going up over the river:
The next few nights we spent at Chaumont, another very impressive old, walled town:
It was quite a walk, or cycle up to town.  Based on the postcards we sought out this viaduct that seemed to be so much off the tourist route as to be without any signs to it !
It's more impressive than it looks, and there's a public walkway along level 1, heaven knows how impressive it must be to walk on levels 2 or the top !  Next stop was the amazing town of Langres:
We could easily have spent a month or so here, with its lovely ramparts walkable all around the town, and many churches and other historical buildings to visit.  The art galleries and museums drew us in from the heat, and had some excellent art and history.  One picture took my eye:
I hope you can see the look on the male doll ? There are a lot of local artist's work, Jean-Marie Maillard, 20th Century and very original and skilled. I'd never heard of him though.  Now we would have stayed here longer except we received the news that our first grandchild had decided to appear 2 weeks early, so had to make haste to reach Auxonne, where we'd booked a berth for a few weeks.  The first challenge was the 4.8 km tunnel.  Why do they always look so earie on approach?
  This tunnel was unusually well lit:
This was to be our longest day, 26 locks, 26 km, including this tunnel, 10 hours travelling!  This was partly because stopping places were very, very few, or full, or too, too small:
We did find one just tiny bit longer, at our target location of Cusey, then I again suggested a smaller boat (they'd been following us through the locks) moor alongside.  We both made an early start.  Then, at one lock, some guy lounging in a deckchair told us there were two Peniches coming our way (that means the largest, commercial size barges).  We couldn't see them but kept out a weather eye.  I look at Nik and say "Wouldn't it be awful if one were to come around the next bend, just there where it's so narrow !!"  Well, picture this, bearing in mind that we have to pass to the right of them:
We'd been speeding along, to make good time, and he certainly was.  In this pic we'd already emergency stopped and used bow thruster and all to push ourselves over, into the shallows!  I have the sequence here:
He did take avoiding action:
So in the end, we had loads of space, but at a cost (that comes later).  So, I hear you think, what about the next Peniche ?  Well ,we decided to use the duc d'Albe (big steel posts) to moor ourselves securely, or so we thought, to let them pass us.  This was not our best idea, it turned out:
Up until he'd actually passed, I was convinced we'd at least scrape, so couldn't contemplate a picture.  Despite 4 ropes, bow and sternlines secure, we swayed about like a cork under the suction and again I had to use motor, bow thruster and everything to oppose it.  He didn't slow down, and didn't shake my hand (I stuck my hand out for this, but he was preoccupied, yet we were easily close enough). Wow!  Next night in Oisilly, then on to the River Saone, through a very impressive lock, but to reach a lovely river.  So we moored up in the marina at Auxonne for a longish stay, hired a car, and off to UK.  Our cat Bollinger never liked car travel, or I think that's what he said:
You really need the sound to understand his feelings most clearly;  we just use ear defenders.  It means we have to use motorways and drive like we have two great-great aunts in the back.  Then the goal:
Is he ready for his first sailing lesson?  I'll only give you one more of the multitude taken, usually against the light (!), this time with his father:
He's much bigger than that now !  That took us well into August, which is the next instalment.

Friday, 5 December 2014

2014 June - a busy month!

We left Paris on 5th June;  first stop, Lagny-sur-Seine.  Good market, pleasant town, nice mooring:
By the way, I forgot to mention that we'd had a major engine problem en route to Moret-sur-Loing, i.e. it wouldn't start, or took ages to do so.  More of that later. Next stop was Meaux, from whence commeth Brie de Meaux, and Moutarde (mustard) de Meaux, in fact you can there buy one inside the other (nice!). I could use up a whole blog entry on Meaux, but I won't you know.  Nice Palace.  The lovely facia on the left is theatrical, for some play or other.  The other bit is 100% genuine.
We stayed 4 days, loads to see, eat, visit.  Good mooring, met lots of other boaters.  So anyway, the engine would barely start in the locks as I was going along the Loing in May, very embarrassing.  In the end, it packed up when trying to leave a mooring to enter a lock, and for hours I was stuck.  I called, emailed and texted, to no avail, and a nearby barge kindly came to educate me on engines.  Urged on by them, I changed things, fuel filter, and so on.  No go.  Back to this trip.  We were very lucky to find a certain mooring at Mary-sur-Marne was free, as it's shorter than us, but gives access to a super & cheap restaurant.  So good in fact that we stayed 3 nights just to eat there:
As you can see, the boat is riot of colour.  Bolly fell in, hence I'm comforting him.  He soon regained his nerve though, it must've been that nineth life (or so):
I won't bore you with a picture of us eating yet again, but it was about 14 Euro for a 4 course meal including wine & coffee, and very good too.  Sadly this is unusually exceptional value in France.  Regarding the engine, even though it was late Friday afternoon, I managed to get hold of a boatyard owner who was working but very happy to help me, Simon Evans.  Thank you Simon.  He agreed with my idea that it could be the Stop device sticking, and told me where to find it.  After a lot of leaning over a warm engine with a torch, I found it and fiddled with it.  This was to become an art form I practised often for a few days.  Next stop La Fuerte-sur-Jouarre, where we celebrated Friday 13th in style, in the nicest restaurant there, including Champagne:
Ooh it were nice'n'warm in them days.  It was quite a cycle from our mooring, and dark when we finished, so we really had to use the cycle lights for the first time, and it was still warm in shorts.  To conclude my engine story, the manufacturer Beta Marine agreed to send me the part to Moret-sur-Loing, all free of charge, so long as I returned the faulty one.  It came, and rather than wait for the local handyman, I was impatient to see if I was correct and in an hour I'd replaced it;  so far, so good.  Job done.  Smug look !
Anyway, next on this 'ere June trip was Manteuil-sur-Marne, where some likely lads asked if they could borrow our kyak, and we neither of us could think of any good reason why not?  We can now !
These are the 'experienced' ones, supposedly, all of whom fell in, repeatedly.  The only self-confessed novice (not above) only went in when the others dive-bombed and then tipped him in, as an act of friendship I gather.  By now the more observant readers will have noticed we're going up the river Marne, which was not on our plan at all.  It was an experiment, as friends said it was lovely, and was, so we just kept going.  It meant a trip about 3-4 times longer than planned, but it looked possible, if a lot of locks, tunnels, etc.
So we soldiered on, the boat looking a real picture with flowers in full bloom:
See what I mean, really lovely, and the stereo birdsong was unreal, just like headphones! This was a late start, all the moorings were full, and then the lock closed early, before 6pm;  luckily a nice pontoon nearby:
Bollinger had this large island all to himself and revelled in it. From Vandiere, our next stop was Port-au-Binson, an odd name, but the oddest thing was this view.  It was taller than the nearby Church spire:
We'd been seeing this statue for miles, and couldn't believe how prominent it was.  It's of Pope Urbain II, whose claim to fame/notoriety is that he started the whole Crusade thing, that's him pointing the way.  Well, that's what the monument said when we cycled up there (phew!). We hired a car to visit more champagne places and lovely places like Hautvilliers, which has over 30 such Houses;  we found this one:
So we had to meet someone who'd parents with such good taste as to choose our youngest's name, and I told him that was why I had to buy some of his champagne, but he forced me to drink some first:
This indeed was Marius, though his son now runs the business and he just does tastings and "Direct Sales".
Next stop was Epernay, Champagne city:
It's true I have a much nicer picture of this tower, of Castellane Champagne (the bottle always has a red diagonal stripe on), but this illustrates nicely the fact that the second dearest river mooring is pretty inconveniently separated from civilisation by a long strip of railway ! We stayed there one night before decamping to moor just by Carrefour in Epernay, for free !  We really liked Epernay too, and were going to take the train to Rheims, but there was a longish rail strike, so we hired a car to go there:
That's pretty wierd, even more so than the famous so-called Smiling Angel, just out of sight on my right ! Inside was lovely, here's an example:
I think we sampled about 12 makes of champagne, visited some more just to buy, and am a bit of a convert to some of them.  Here is one in Epernay less visited, Jacquinot et fils, with bottles for sale back to 1948 !
At the right price, and given the time for the second fermentation of course. Do I look happy?
Next we went on to Marieul-sur-Ay, and this picure of fields tumbling down to the main road shows just how valuable every square inch of Champagne land is, used to the limit:

Next stop was Chalons-en-Champagne (formerly called Chalons-sur-Seine, renamed in pursuit of tourists!  Not that they've any need as it's a simply super place, where we stayed well into July, so next in the next blog post !

Monday, 1 December 2014

Paris, May, what more? The Pick of the pix what we took!

I know, you've seen enough Paris.  Well, you're wrong, it's inexhaustible;  first, better view of Paris Port:
That gold thing up there is the Bastille monument!  Behind me is the Seine and:
It's the view that makes the creatures so amazed! Of course they dance a lot in Paris:
Come rain or shine:
They walk a lot, well we did, in this case the walkway was in the air (an old railway line) just close by:
A thorn between, er, rose between, er, moving on. If not waling they go by Metro, where they get hungry:
In Paris the Samaritans are moslem;  impressive. Our walking took us to the Festival du Pain for breakfast:
This were the prize winning items, but we could at last see how top quality patisserie should look.  Our walking took us to the Curie Museum.  They worked in awful conditions;  recognition by USA led to this:
Or something like it. Sometimes we cycled to reach the more distant places, e.g. this extraordinary park:
If we were lucky, then we'd find a quiet restaurant we could afford:
 With a little accompaniment:
It's really, really small, made specially for him, but sounds just great! Or we'd find some place of peace:
They welcome all-comers in the mosque gardens, it's very calm.  Of course there are other faiths:
Looks as tho' they had to squeeze in this Greek Orthodox Cathedral - wonder what's going on in there?
Oh, it's a christening!  How lucky. So in the evening you might take in the Japanese Movie Theatre:
Some shops you see in Paris are a bit odd - the Rat Catcher one is one:
Don't worry, they're stuffed, and lots more hanging up above! There's a shop where you can buy an elephant, or a bear, or butterfly arrangements, but we didn't take pix in there.  There's this lizard:
He didn't even shed his tail.Of course there's always shopping, and in Paris you can spend fast:
Don't ask the price;  I'd've loved any of them, wierd and wonderful. This last pic I must've passed so many times without noticing they are just like Triffids:
Apparently it's Art Deco, but I just think Nemo or John Wyndham.  Next entry will be June !