Who can resist a French market?

I just can’t resist the French markets! Both taking photos and making a few well-considered purchases. Here are a few shots of our last market of the year. The covered market in Dole. 

Hmm cheese…

Hmmm…More cheese

Trumpet courgettes from Italy.

Smoked thigh of guinea fowl

Can anyone tell me what these are? Looks like a Jerusalem artichoke.

Duckling, pigeon, cockerel and quail

My favourite, le Boulangerie.

Globe artichokes

Fish stall

Ham terrine with parsley, a regional favourite.

Rabbit roulade

Smoked guinea fowl.

My favourite. Duck breast and thigh.

Burgundy rabbit

Getting our daily bread 🙂

Pasta

Horse meat stall.

Rotisserie chicken

Advertisements
Posted in Dole, French Canal boating, French markets | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Jura region. Last leg of our cruising journey for 2017…and some off boat sightseeing.

IMG_6662

Brrr! It was only 8° when we cast off from our mooring in Dole on Friday. A lovely sunny day to start but there were a lot of dark grey clouds looming on the horizon. And of course it started to bucket down at the second lock and we got drenched. Oh well, you get that with boats!

The last couple of weeks have been very cruisey, without any cruising! We had a rental car for a week (Europcar €195) and used it to visit a few spots out of the boats reach. Chateau de Savigny-Les-Beaune, near Beaune, is an amazing Chateau, originally built around 1340 for the Duc Eudes, then all but demolished in 1478 in retribution for the Duc taking the side of Marie de Bourgogne against Louis X1.
It was restored and extended in the 17th century by the Bouhier family. Since 1979 the chateau has been again restored and is the property of a large vineyard which produces seven premier crus. Not only is there a magnificent chateau to explore, there is a petit chateau, built 1683, restored as a tasting room and dining area. But it’s the museum of motorbikes, nearly 250 bikes dating from 1902 to 1960, 25 rare Abarth racing cars, almost 100 fighter planes, 20 fire engines, 30 prototype tractors and all kinds of ancient and not so ancient wine making paraphernalia. It’s a stunning collection especially the fighter planes. We spent a good few hours walking the estate and taking it all in.

Other day trips included Beaune itself, the premium Vosne Romanée wine growing area, (up to €10,000 a bottle) and in the Jura mountain area, Besançon with its stunning citadelle, Arbois and its nearby waterfalls, Baume-les-Messieurs for a delicious regional lunch and Chateau- Chalon for some wine tasting. The area is beautiful with towering cliffs and vine- clad valleys. We tried and purchased a few Jura wines and had a lovely time.

Eventually it was time for our guests, Georgie and Chris, to say their farewells and take the train up to Paris and their flight home. We decided to stay on in Dole for another week as the weather turned cool and wet, not good for cruising, and Dole is a favourite spot of ours.

But, as I said, we finally cast off this morning and unfortunately headed straight into a torrential downpour. We descended nine locks, out onto the Saône river and by that time the rain had stopped and the sun was shining again and the temperature up to 15°. Autumn is definitely here.

Next up was the fuel pontoon in St Jean de Losne. The cashiers office was closed so we used our NZ credit card four times as the limit is €140 per transaction. A long process and of course rather expensive. But we are happy with the fuel usage figures for Silverfern. Pretty economical.

Since we arrived back in St Jean de Losne the weather has been cold at times and wet. We are awaiting better weather to start the process of washing all the linen and towels, cleaning the inside and outside of the boat and starting a list of jobs we hope the people at Blanquarts Marina will do once we have gone home. We’re leaving the boat in the water again this winter.

We take the train to Dijon and on to Paris on the 28th and then a bus to Charles de Gaulle where we will stay the night at the Novotel. Then on Friday 29th it’s Singapore Airlines all the way home (with 13 hours in Singapore airport).
We are really looking forward to getting back to NZ!

Here are the stats for our last trip:
Dole to Saint-Jean-de-Losne
Engine hours: 4.3
Kms: 23
Locks: 9

And lastly this year’s totals.
Engine hours: 200.5
Kms: 1161
Locks: 345
Tunnels: 9

IMG_6515

Chateau de Savigny-Les-Beaune

IMG_6579

IMG_6629

Romanée-Conti Vineyard in the Vosne Romanée Commune

IMG_6651

The site of a big night some years back in Beaune…Terry and Roz Paddy!

IMG_6663

Baume-les-Messieurs, Jura.

IMG_6664

A Jura speciality. Le Vin Jaune. It’s very strong. Good for the digestion?

IMG_6666

Beautiful main courses…

IMG_6673

Crème brûlée. Chris’ favourite. Alan’s too. Ok mine too now. It was flavoured with lemon. Absolutely delicious.

IMG_6675

Last course. Un café.

IMG_6687

The Jura region is stunning.

IMG_6690

Baume-les-Messieurs

IMG_6702

Georgie and Chris enjoying the stunning scenery.

IMG_6732

A spot of wine tasting at Domaine Robelin fils in Voiteur, a village near Chateau-Chalon.

IMG_6733

Alan and Chris try the local vintage.

IMG_6739

The vineyards are full of workers picking this year’s harvest.

IMG_6743

Just love these little touches

IMG_3948

Arbois waterfalls

IMG_3962

Arbois

IMG_6759

Dole. Our boat is moored far left.

IMG_6758

Vide Grenier (Flea market) Dole.

IMG_6771

The last cruise of the year started out a sunny morning…

IMG_6774

…but turned rather wet and cold.

IMG_6777

Topping up the fuel tank for winter.

Posted in Burgundy, Canal boat, Canal Rhone au Rhin, Chateau-Chalons, Dole, Doubs River, French Canal boating, Jura, Beaune, Baume-les-Messieurs, St Jean de Losne | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Auxonne, St Jean-de-Losne, Dole and Rochefort-sur-Nenon. Heatwaves and thunderstorms. 

August 24 Thursday

Daughter Georgie and her partner Chris arrived to visit us, travelling from Santorini to Auxonne via most modes of transport known to man including planes trains and automobiles. They arrived to a bit of a heatwave here as temperatures started to soar to 33°C. We stayed another night in Auxonne then cruised along the Saône River to St Jean de Losne, only an hour and a half south of Auxonne.

As usual SJdL was a very social stay. We watched the Bledisloe Cup rugby match (between NZ and Australia) on Saturday morning with the usual suspects and what a game it was! We won but the ABs were a mess. Heart stopping stuff! Drinks bought with the sweepstakes winnings were on the bar later that day.

August 27 Sunday. We were up early and back on the Saône by 8.30am, heading to the Canal du Rhône au Rhin entrance off the river. This waterway is the canalised part of the Doubs River, built at the end of the 18th to the mid 19th century (interrupted by the Revolution) to more easily allow the commercial floating of logs, tied up as rafts, to the Saône bypassing all the weirs. This gives access from the Rhine to the Rhône, hence the name.

The highest point is 340m above sea level with 73 locks on the Saône side and 39 on the other. We were only heading up a short distance and arrived in Dole once the locks opened after the lunch break.

Dole is, as always, beautiful. The cobblestone-clad, narrow and winding streets, the stunning Notre Dame Basilica, the pretty flower-boxes on the bridges. So attractive. Dole gets its name from an old French word for a bridge toll, and there is a little canal that runs through the town, Canal des Tanneurs, used as you can guess, by tanners back in the day. In fact the most famous Frenchman born here, Louis Pasteur, had a father who was a tanner. It’s a delight to visit and we enjoyed an lovely evening eating dinner on a restaurant terrace by the Canal des Tanneurs listening to a fabulous jazz quartet.

August 28th Monday. Another scorcher. 33° and no breeze. We did some shopping early then spent the rest of the day trying to cool off by spraying water on ourselves and standing in front of the fan. (At least that’s what I did!). The electricity for the whole quay was blown twice by the 15m Le Boat hire boat next to us, turning on all their aircon units. It happens all the time with those particular boats and I wish Le Boat told their customers to check the quay amperage before turning on all their electrics.

In the evening the kids paddled over to the little pizza place on the other side of the canal in our inflatable kayak and picked up supper. New pizza delivery method!

August 29 Tuesday. We headed up to Rochefort sur Nenon, an hour an a half further east, a lovely peaceful spot with cliffs on one side and a usually roaring weir on the other. The water level is very low at the moment and consequentially there is very little flow. We arrived just after a 18m barge with a Swiss and a Canadian on board but they kindly moved up and we hung off the end of the little quay.

Rochefort sur Nenon is such a pretty spot with a grassy bank and shady trees that the locals make good use of, even the local retirement village residents came down in the afternoon to enjoy the shade. The temperature rose again to 34°. We swam to cool off. The inflatable kayak saw some action too with Chris heading upstream in the evening. We tried to have a BBQ under the trees but the gas bottle started leaking so I cooked the sausages in a very hot galley. With no power for the fans it was a restless night.

August 30 Wednesday. Georgie got up at daybreak to walk along the cliff top path to see the sunrise and she took some beautiful photos. After breakfast they biked along the towpath while Alan and I sailed the boat back to Dole. The weather took a much cooler turn later with a thunder storm and pelting rain.

August 31 Thursday. It was cold and drizzly so we stayed inside most of the day which was a bit of a squeeze on our 11.5m boat. I think we have more unsettled weather for the next couple of days with cold overnight temperatures. Tomorrow we are hiring a car for a week so we can see take Georgie and Chris to see more sights, especially Beaune and Besançon. And we can drive them to the train station in a week’s time when they head home. We will cruise back to St Jean de Losne and catch up on maintenance and getting the boat ready for winter. We still have another month in France so there’s no hurry. Maybe we’ll squeeze in another sidetrip!

So that’s it for another week.

Here are the stats:


Auxonne to St Jean de Losne

Engine hours:1.6

Kms:14

Locks: 1


St Jean de Losne to Dole

Engine hours: 5.9

Kms: 23

Locks: 9

Dole to Rochefort sur Nenon
Engine hours: 1.6

Kms: 7

Locks: 2

Rochefort to Dole
Engine hours: 2

Kms: 7

Locks: 2

Year to date:

Engine hours: 196.2

Kms: 1,138

Locks: 336

Tunnels: 9

Auxonne Port Royal

UFO cloud

Support crew is working out well

Off for a cold one in Dole.

Beersies in Dole

Canal des Tanneurs, Dole

Port in Dole.

Off to pick up pizza.

Pizza place far left.

Pizza delivery!

Good pizza. Recommended.

Chris and Georgie along the canal, heading for Rochefort-sur-Nenon

Biking along beside the canal to Dole.

18m barge ahead of us, negotiating the Pont de l’écluse de garde. There’s a bend in the middle. Tricky!

Basilica Notre Dame, seen from the canal.

Crazy weather at the moment. Quite biblical!

Basilica Notre Dame, Dole. View from our deck.

Silverfern

 

 

Posted in Auxonne, Canal Rhone au Rhin, Dole, Doubs River, France, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017, Rochefort-sur-Nenon, Saone river, St Jean de Losne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vraincourt to Auxonne. Happy to back on the Saône River. 

August 12 Saturday.  The first half of August has been more like October, weather-wise. It was only 14° as we headed away from Vraincourt at 9am and the temperature didn’t warm up. It felt as if we were the only boat for miles as the locks were all set for us and we made very good time. The only issue is the 3.9m locks where I struggle a little, being short (5’2″), to reach the bollards with my rope and boat hook. I used to throw the rope, hallelujah style, but my elbow complained bitterly. We got there though and after eight locks, one short (308m) tunnel, a couple of lifting bridges and 17kms we cruised into Chaumont at 1pm.

Having seen how quiet the canal is we were surprised to find an almost full port, mainly yachts with their masts stepped. Are they all heading to the Med, ready for winter? There were two spaces so we moored up and waited for the Capitainerie to open at 4pm to turn on the electricity, about €12 per night. A VNF guy drove up and asked us when we were leaving as after the next two locks there are a number of manual locks which need an eclusier booked.
Later on we walked 1.6km to the commercial park where the large Leclerc supermarché is. It was packed. They close on Sundays and Tuesday was a public holiday (Assumption Day) so I guess everyone was stocking up. We didn’t walk up the hill to Chaumont ville as we had had a good look around in May.

August 13 Sunday. A very quiet day to catch up on washing and cleaning. We went for a walk along the towpath. Some of the yachts left and other boats arrived. We saw ‘Winedown’ arrive, another kiwi boat with a great name!

August 14 Monday. As we promised VNF we went through the first lock at 9am and presented ourselves at the third lock (first manual one) for our eclusier de jour but there was no one there so I called VNF and sure enough a few minutes later our lovely student eclusier showed up. And she was excellent. She had the lock doors opened when we arrived at each lock and with Alan helping by opening one of the doors once we ascended, we had a lovely hassle free day. Such a contrast to our experience on the way down. We finally had a sunny day, and it was very enjoyable, albeit we were pestered by swarming tiny biting bugs all day. We had to wait for a boat coming from the other direction at one point so took it as lunch time and made some toasted sandwiches.

We pulled into Rolampont at 3.15 after thanking our éclusiers with kiwi key rings and paniché. There is only a short quay and two boats already moored. I asked if one of the boats could move forward a little as there was a gap between them and was told off by the well-fed Dutch owner of the boat for being rude. Oh the irony. He said no he wouldn’t move (so friendly) but we managed to squeeze in behind him. Kind of killed the mood somewhat. Free power though! There’s always a silver lining.

August 15th Tuesday and Assumption Day (public holiday). A warm morning but black clouds formed behind us. The first lock was manual but from then on they had recently been converted to automatic. It’s a shame in some ways that the human touch will be missing soon. No poor sod to comprehend my french conversation attempts. It is faster though, assuming no breakdowns.
We arrived in Langres just as torrential rain hit and I managed to slip getting off the boat and twisted my shoulder. Not my most stylish arrival. (Great bruises though). Especially since I was covered in little black midges who, for some reason, followed me around, both inside and outside the boat. No one else, just me. Lucky, lucky me. I spent most of the next couple of days hiding in our cabin, trying to fight the little buggers off.

August 16 Wednesday. Langres has free power but only from 7-8am, 12-1pm and 7-8pm so we thought we’d run the generator to boil the jug but, uh oh, the battery died. And then the engine battery wouldn’t start either. We needed a jump start! Luckily the lovely kiwis on Winedown, Keith and Ian, let us borrow their battery and then VNF lent us some leads and low and behold the generator was jump started. We ran it for hours to charge things up.

August 17 Thursday. We were up at 7am when the power came on and tried the generator at 7.50. Voila. Ça marche. On y va! It works. Let’s go! We travelled with Winedown all day, two locks then the Balesmes Tunnel, all 4.8km of it. Including the embranchements it’s 10kms. Things went much better this time! (Last time was an experience, a dark one, both literally and figuratively). This time the lights stayed on and after an hour underground we reappeared into blue skies and hot sunshine. Now we are descending all the way to the Saône. 8 deep locks, each over 5 metres, followed by another couple and we came to lock 12 Piépape which wasn’t working, so we decided to tie up for the day. It’s a great setting, lots of shade although no other facilities. We put our tables and chairs under the trees and had aperos with Cynthia, Ian and Keith from ‘Winedown’ and ‘Ali M’, Peter and Sally from Adelaide. It was a beautiful evening. And no bugs. Hurrah!

August 18 Friday. A beautiful morning, blue skies and sunshine. There was beaucoup de rain in the forecast though. We headed off at 9am with ‘Winedown’. The second lock, unlucky number 13, was broken again. Same lock that wasn’t working on the way up. An eclusier arrived very quickly to reset it once Ian called them from the intercom.

We arrived in Cusey and managed to squeeze onto the quay, behind Kiwis Shirleyanne and Roger on ‘Hilda’. Free power, no water. There is room for 5 boats but by the evening, after a rainy afternoon, there were 8 of us, including a barge. Lots of rafting up!

August 19 Saturday. We woke to sunshine and a day off the locks. ‘Winedown’ and ‘Hilda’ headed down the canal and we decided to stay for another night and instead go for a bike ride. We biked to the village of Cusey, just up the road, and then through the countryside to Vaux-sous-Aubigny. We saw fields of sunflowers, heads bowed, black and white cows, lots of agriculture and puffy white clouds. Vaux has a Michelin starred auberge, a post-office and a new-looking Casino supérette which is a depot de pain so we picked up a baguette, a beautiful avocado and a bottle of Pinot Gris from Alsace. Happy days. We biked back partially along the canal and passed two commercial barges slowly making their way towards the Saône. The round trip was 13kms so a good bit of exercise!

August 20th Sunday. Another beautiful sunny morning but only 12°. Is Autumn here already? Casting off from Cusey we headed downstream, past fields of sunflowers, corn and a pheasant farm. Didn’t see the pheasant plucker though before someone asks. After 17 locks and 7.5 hours we finally tied up at the small quay near Renève at PK215. Room for maybe 4 boats our size (11.5m) but no power, water or shade. Very rural and quiet other than a church bell that rang every hour during the night.

August 21 Monday. Off we went just after 9am heading for the Saône river, 4 locks away . The 2nd proved a challenge as there was an obstacle in front of the open lock gates, a big thick metre-wide tangle of grass and weeds. We managed to sneak past it going into the lock luckily, the gates closed and it was all fine. By 11.30 we were through the last locks, handed back our télécommande and turned starboard onto the Saône. It is so nice to be back on this wide and very pretty river. Downside? Beaucoup de rental boats to contend with. I was slightly horrified (can you be slightly horrified?) to see on the 20′ hire boat in front of us in the lock, the couples 6-7 year old walking around the outside of the boat, no rails, no life jacket and in socks while we descended. Quite scary to watch. What are they thinking??

Anyway, we cruised into Auxonne at 1.45pm, happy to be somewhere with water as our tanks are almost dry and we need to do some cleaning and washing. We’ll be in Auxonne until daughter Georgie and boyfriend Chris arrive for visit later this week. The temperatures are set to soar. Maybe summer isn’t over after all!

The stats:

Vraincourt to Chaumont

Engine hours: 2.8

Km: 17

Locks: 8

Lifting bridges: 2

Tunnel: 1 x 308m

 

Chaumont to Rolampont

Engine hours: 4.5

Km: 29

Locks: 14

 

Rolampont to Langres

Hours: 1.7

Km: 11

Locks: 8

 

Langres to Piépape

Hours: 5.6

Kms: 20

Locks: 13

Tunnels: 1 x 5km

 

Piépape to Cusey

Hours: 3.8

Km: 13

Locks: 11

 

Cusey to Reneve (PK215)

Hours: 7.5

Km: 33

Locks: 17

 

Reneve to Auxonne

Hours: 4.5

Km: 28

Locks: 6

Year to date

Engine hours: 185.1

Kms: 1,087

Locks: 322

Tunnels: 9

Just love the sunflowers fields.

Favourites.

Mooring in Langres

Our lovely eclusier de jour. Alan’s happy.

Alan helping with the manual lock gates

Balesmes Tunnel entrance. No. 81 is our télécommande number. The digital screen gives us instructions when we can enter the tunnel as it’s only one way. 800m must be maintained between boats going in the same direction. Very well organised.

Entering the almost 5km Balesmes tunnel

Out into the light!

Lock 16 Choilley. I had a lovely chat with Madam and her sweet dog.

Said cute dog. Three years old. What breed is he?

On our bike ride. Vaux-sous-Aubigny

Beautiful Vaux-sous-Aubigny

Ruined mill

On our bike ride from Cusey to Vaux-sous-Aubigny

Too pretty not to post!

Commercial barge passing us as we were moored in Reneve

This is a pheasant farm. Also ducks and swans.

Beautiful vistas on the canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

Fields of sunflowers everywhere

Posted in Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Oisilly, Cussey, Piépape, eclusiers, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017, Reneve, Speaking French | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chalons-en-Champagne to Vraincourt. Farewell to vineyards. We’ll miss you…

July 27-August 5, Chalons-en-Champagne. As I mentioned in my last post the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne had a bridge closure, stopping all traffic for about 10 days and so we tied up on one of the pontoons in Chalons to wait it out. There didn’t seem any point racing off up there and possibly not having a decent mooring and having to queue so we stayed put and enjoyed the port.
I’ve written earlier this year about Chalons so I won’t go on other than to say it’s a lovely spot with an excellent capitainerie. Damien and Matthew do a stellar job and are very nice guys with excellent English.

August 5th. Saturday. I have to say we were ready to move on, however nice a time we were having, so on Saturday we were up early and quietly slipped out of port at 7am. Apart from some black clouds threatening rain it was a really nice morning to cruise. We did catch up to a commercial barge at the 2nd lock but they stopped to pick up a baguette and chat to another commercial bargee allowing us to overtake them and we had a lovely quiet run into Vitry-le-François, some 29kms and 8 locks later.

At Vitry we picked up a remote control for the automated locks to come. The Vitry port didn’t look great, just like 2 months ago when we came through in the other direction. Its small and looked full so we decided to just keep going, through to Orconte, another 14kms away. That’s 8 1/2 hours total for the day and 45kms. Too long really but sometimes it just works out that way.
Arriving through the Orconte lock we saw 2 boats already on the small quay so put in stakes and a long power cord and settled down to relax for the evening.
However. One commercial barge came past us and into the lock and our boat was fine but later on, when we least expected it, another commercial approached the lock quite fast, sucking our rear stake out of the ground, swinging our back out, hitting the barge. We got quite the shock. They didn’t even blink an eye, going into the lock without a backward glance. To be fair their attention would have been on squeezing their large beast into the narrow lock. Meanwhile we ran to grab our metal stake before it fell into the water, check for damage on our boat (only paint lost, yay for steel boats) and then move onto the end of the concrete quay, without the need for stakes! Dramas! A lovely Belgium man helped us re-moor and told us he had sailed around New Zealand years ago and knew it very well. He also confirmed that barge was going too fast but there’s not much you can do. Lesson learned, if possible tie up into concrete bollards. I guess with the bridge finally fixed today after 10 days closure, there will be a backlog of traffic coming through.

August 6th. Sunday and a day of rest for us. The canal was quite busy and by the evening there were 4 more boats moored. It was a gin clear day, not too hot, perfect for me. Alan did a few jobs on the boat and in the afternoon we walked down the canal and up the other side. The internet coverage was rubbish so it was a very restful day reading books.

August 7th. Monday. On this canal the locks open at 9am for pleasure craft (7am for commercials) so we headed off at 9am and started our day’s journey. Another gorgeous day and we were entertained by the air exploits of jet fighters from the nearby Robinson Airforce base. The locks along here are activated with our télécommande (remote), except for every now and then when the lights are out and you wonder if the lock is broken but then it miraculously opens as you near it, presumably it’s a part of a chain or perhaps there is a sensor. Or did our Open Sesame work? We were given some excellent paperwork with our remote control but it didn’t mention that scenario. Just keeping us on our toes.
We arrived in St Dizier at lunchtime and decided to eat out for a change. We chose Le Commerce in the town square and it was very good. Entrecôte for Alan, hot goats cheese salad for me. Later we caught up on emails etc with the good 4G network in St Dizier.

August 8th Tuesday. The forecasted rain hit during the night and early morning so it was a late start as we headed off up the canal at 9.30am. The lockeeper at the first lock warned us the water levels were down 25cm at the moment, the depths about 2m which is fine. We travelled in convoy with a US barge, us in front of the locks which were like washing machines. The second lock was closed as they were clearing weed from the lock and river. It only took 30mins of waiting so that wasn’t too bad. We stopped at Chamouilly to have coffee and buy a baguette then continued on towards Joinville.

The locks along here are full to overflowing making for fun times when your fenders all pop out. We had a sudden gust of wind departing a very full lock and grazed the side of poor old Silver Fern and then lost one of our non-floating fenders which sank. Sigh.

Then we encountered a lock with no lights but it did have an eclusier who we saw later on as he came to rescue us from another broken lock, this time we were stuck inside. I had to climb out and call VNF with my best French to send help.

However things turned a corner in the next lock when a dad and his 2 children were watching us lock through so we gave them a couple of little toy kiwis that we hand out to any littlies we see. They were so happy that grandmere came out of the lock cottage and presented us with a teddy that she made. How sweet is that. Another Goodwill Mission completed. Viva La France et La Nouvelle Zealande! Pierre le Bear is our new mascot.

The next few locks and lifting bridges were a mixed bunch, lights on/off/red/green/blacked out. A bit of a shambles really. But the rain held off with just a few spots during the day and by 5pm we had blue sky and the sun came out.

By 5.45pm we pulled into the excellent hotel mooring space in Joinville. We had barely tied up when a sudden storm hit us with crazily strong winds, rain and thunder. I was worried our Bimini would buckle in the gale. 30 minutes later the storm had passed through and then the sun came out again. The weather has been incredibly unsettled this year.

August 9th Wednesday. We decided to stay two nights in Joinville. The setting is lovely, treed and reasonably quiet and €7 for mooring, power and water. Also there is an excellent Brico (like Bunnings) and Super-U supermarket, both large, nearby. I picked up some new boat gloves as I’ve worn through this years pair already. And some waterproof Blackfox wool-lined boots for when my feet are sore (50% of the time). Very excited about those. We had a look at portable aircon units for when the weather is very hot which lately hasn’t been very often. I’m very happy with these mild temperatures. The bug bites don’t itch as much, you can sleep better at night and cruising is more comfortable especially since we are travelling with the Bimini down due to one or two low bridges.

In the evening I cooked a classic, duck a l’orange. Very 70’s dinner party. And delicious if I say so myself.

August 10 Thursday. There was a big black cloud following us as we cast off from Joinville. And I mean that meteorologically not metaphorically. But ahead of us the sun was shining so we tried to stay ahead of the weather. Not easy at 8kms an hour and locks to pass through. The air was cool and we were adding layers then taking them off again all morning. Good exercise! Makes me think of home (Christchurch, NZ). Four seasons in one day.
The countryside here is fairly rural with lots of agriculture, lots of cornfields, with hills on both sides in the near distance, a few herds of cows here and there. The vineyards of Champagne are long gone. It’s very peaceful, we only saw one boat ahead of us and one that we passed.

After a couple of hours we arrived at Donjeux, a small four boat mooring. The French barge that left Joinville just before us were moored and we pulled in behind them. It is a rural setting with lots of biting bugs but the power works so that’s a bonus. After lunch the French carried on up the canal but we stayed the night first having a walk around Donjeux on one side of the canal and Rouvroy-sur-Marne on the other, any commerce at either village has shut down.

Later on a VNF guy came by and asked where we were going and what time we were leaving.

August 11th Friday. 9am we were off up the canal, through the locks and under the lifting bridges. It was quite chilly, especially in the morning when we woke to mist on the water and 12°. My new wool lined boots are coming in very handy as by 11am it was still only 13° with heavy cloud. We had no problems with the locks today and tied up in Vraincourt by 1.30pm, between two rusty old commercial barges that don’t look like they have moved for a while. Power and water are available and I think we will have to pay when someone from the Maire comes down around 6pm.

The sun is trying to come out but the temperature has stayed cool at 17°. This summer has been so patchy and the waterways seem generally to be very quiet. Quite different to previous years.

So that’s it for another week.
Here’s the stats:

Chalons-en-Champagne to Orconte:

Engine hours: 7.1

Kms: 45

Locks: 14

 

Orconte to St Dizier:

Engine hours: 2.9

Kms: 17

Locks:8

 

St Dizier to Chamouilly to Joinville:

Engine hours: 5.6

Kms: 33

Locks: 13 plus 7 lifting bridges

 

Joinville to Donjeux:

Engine hours: 2

Kms: 10

Locks: 4

 

Donjeux to Vraincourt:

Engine hours: 3.6

Kms: 21

Locks: 8 plus 2 lifting bridges

Year to date:

Engine hours: 154.7

Kms: 936

Locks: 245

Tunnels: 7

This was very cool! Coming into land at Robinson Base.

More jet geek pics

Last one.

Another beautiful sunset

Poor babies separated from mum in the Lock. She flew in to save them…

…then waited til they could jump out. Awww.

Running from the weather!

Déjeuner in St Dizier. Très bon.

Just wanted to say how happy we are not having to queue up at Orange telecom shop anymore. FREE is awesome!

Monsieur le Weedeater. Doing a fine but endless job.

Handout that came with the remote. Very handy info. We could have done with it on the way here.

Pretty house.

Overflowing locks make for fun times!

The broken bridge, now fixed. Shame the lock was playing up!

Broken bridge. What a mess.

Kiwi trinkets

Pierre le Bear. Thanks to the lovely family at lock 50, Chevillon.

My art shot for the week!

Hôtel mooring at Joinville.

Mooring at Donjeux

More stormy weather.

Donjeux the night before…

…same view the next morning.

Canal crossing the Marne at Rouvroy.

Lock and lifting bridge combo.

Posted in Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Chalons-en-Champagne, Chamouilly, France, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017, Joinville, Marne, Marne River, Orconte, Speaking French, weed eater, Wifi in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mareuil sur Ay to Chalons en Champagne via Reims. 

Saturday July 22nd.

It was a long day.

We departed Mareuil-sur-Ay early, 8am, in convoy with the Australian boat Le Piglet. We were both heading up the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne to Sillary.

Along this shortish canal the locks are controlled in ‘chains’, once you start at the beginning you should continue until you reach the end of the chain. The locks hold two boats at a time. The first chain was eight locks close together.

Unfortunately for us, although we started early, there was a commercial barge (that took up the full length of the lock) and another boat (smaller but the three of us couldn’t fit in together) in front slowing down the chain and so we had to wait at every lock. Very frustrating on a windy day!

The 2.3km Billy tunnel was fine, we just had to wait half an hour for a green light. After the tunnel things were just as slow and the day seemed to go on forever. After eight hours we still hadn’t reached Sillery and it started to rain.

Finally after nine hours we cruised into Sillery to find the port full. But there were plenty of helpers on land and we managed to squeeze onto the wall, tying our ropes around some hedge trunks. No power but we were happy to be there!

Sunday July 23. A boat left at 7.30am so we got up and quickly moved Silver Fern onto a pontoon with power. The weather continued to be patchy but we went for a walk around Sillery finding an Intermarché and what is proported to be The Best Boulangerie in France. I don’t know who decided that but the baguettes were outstanding so maybe it’s true!

There was a Vide Grenier (flea market/garage sale) on with loads of other people’s rubbish for sale. With a limited amount of storage space on a boat we don’t buy anything we don’t need so left empty handed, apart from the baguette. Priorities.

Monday July 24- Tuesday July 25th we mooched around Sillery and stayed out of the on/off rain. We stocked up at the Intermarché and enjoyed those delicious baguettes every lunch time.

Wednesday July 25th. We caught the 10.09am bus to Reims. What a beautiful city, in particular the Notre Dame Cathedral is stunning. It was on this site, although a previous church, St Nicaise, where Clovis the Franc was baptised by St Rémi, on Christmas Eve c.498, the beginning of the Christian tradition of the Francs. From 816 to 1825, 34 Sovereigns came to Reims to be coronated as Christian Kings. From 1211-1280 the new cathedral was built in the Gothic tradition of soaring to the light and to be closer to God (if I remember Art History 101).
Since the 14th century war, plague and famine as well as a roof fire and then the devastation of bombing during WW1 reaped havoc on the building but thanks to donations, particularly from the Rockefeller family, the cathedral has been beautifully restored, (although now it is under attack from pollution and weather). There are some incredible stained glass windows by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), a French very famous painter.

Next door is the Palais du Tau, built as the bishops palace and now a museum of treasures found and restored from the cathedral and displayed here. There are massive tapestries from the choir, ornate vestments of the priests and huge sculptures. The treasury alone is stunning. Well worth the 8€ entrance fee.

After lunch we decided to walk to the musée de la Reddition, or Surrender Museum, where on May 7, 1945 at 2.41am in the War Room of General Eisenhower’s SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters of Allied Expeditionary Forces) secretly set up in a Reims technical college, the Allied Forces obtained the unconditional surrender of the armies of the Third Reich. The room where the meeting took place has been preserved exactly as it was and is fascinating. What I also find interesting is that the site has continued to be a school, now called the Lycée Roosevelt!
Later we caught the bus back to Sillery having enjoyed an excellent day in Reims.

Thursday, July 26th.
That morning we tuned in, at 6am, to our dear friend Mike William’s funeral on the Gold Coast, Australia, via a live feed. It was a very sad morning but we appreciated being able to have attended in this way.

Directly afterwards we departed the Sillery port, again in tandem with Amanda and Peter on Le Piglet, and, this time much more quickly, headed back along the canal and down to Chalons-en-Champagne. We heard there is a bridge under repair further along the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne closing the waterway until August 4th so were very pleased to take the last two spaces on the pontoon in Chalons. We will stay there for a week as it’s a beautiful city with lots to see and do and it’s a reasonable price. We also heard there are problems on other canals, generally due to lack of water with some boats running aground, so plans are, as usual, very fluid. Shame the water isn’t!

This week’s stats:

Mareuil-sur-Ay to Sillery:

7.8 engine hours, 33kms, 13 locks and 1 tunnel

Sillery to Chalons-en-Champagne

7.5 engine hours, 40kms, 13 locks and 1 tunnel

Year to date:

Engine hours: 133.5

Kilometres: 810

Locks: 198

Tunnels: 7

Pretty landscape along the canal.

In the tunnel. And the lights stayed on!

Sillery

Sillery. 12,000 bodies brought together, French soldiers who died in the fighting in defence of Reims 1914-1918

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Tau palace next to the Reims cathedral

Tau palace

Big scale fireplaces. I’m just in there for scale 😳

Beautiful tapestries saved from the choir in the cathedral

Palace chapel. The light is beautiful.

Treasury treasures.

Big scale sculptures rescued from the cathedral.

Reims

Great looking shop for foodies in Reims

Musée de la Reddition (Surrender Museum).

The room where it all happened.

The peace proclamation.

Surrender museum.

Here we go into the tunnel again.

Interesting mushrooms.

I love the choises of mushrooms commonly available in the markets here.

Now that’s a mushroom.

Heirloom tomatoes

 

Couldn’t resist the colours

Interesting drinks from the marché

Drinks on La Belle Vie with Pamela and Pat and Peter and Amanda from Le Piglet. Lovely dinner and evening.

Yes, that’s a floating elephant. I love France.

 

Posted in Canal de l'Aisne à la Marne, Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Canal Lateral à la Marne, Chalons-en-Champagne, France, French Canal boating, French markets, Holiday 2017, Marne, Marne River | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Mareuil-sur-Ay via Epernay. Favourite places revisited. 

Saturday July 15. We departed La Ferté-sous-Jouarre at 8am. It was a pleasant day for cruising, warm but not too hot. We had a couple of locks that weren’t working, the first one of the day and the last. Both had VNF staff in to operate them manually so we didn’t have to wait long, arriving at Chateau Thierry at 1pm.

Chateau Thierry was much nicer now that the carnival had packed up and gone to their next venue. We found, quite by chance on a walk up to the fortress site, a medieval fair with sword fighting, displays of rope making, carving and lots of stalls, everyone dressed in medieval costume. I love it when you stumble across something fun like that. Unexpectedly.

I found the history of the area very interesting. The site of the chateau of Chateau Thierry, 2.6 hectares, had slow beginnings. In the 4th century it was first a fortified habitat on the natural spur of this part of the Marne. In the 9th-10th century the Counts of Vermandois had a castle erected out of wood and stone. Thibault II, count of Champagne, extending the fortifications again in the 12th century by adding a new outer bailey of stone. Thibault IV continued the work in the 13th century. By then there were 17 towers and two doors, one to the south and the other to the east.

More innovations continued when Chateau Thierry entered the royal domain in 1285 with King Philippe IV ‘Le Bel’, nicknamed as such for his apparent good looks, adding in great kitchens to the seigniorial home. The 15th-16th centuries saw dry ditches dug and a double bridge added. By then it was a residential palace. Blanche d’Artois, Antoine the Great Bastard of Bourgogne (quite a title), François d’Orleans and cardinal Richelieu all added civilian and religious buildings.

However it was destroyed for the most part in the 18th century, presumably during the French Revolution, turning back into its former military function and became a citadel for Napoleon’s troops. By the middle of the 19th century the fortification was turned into woodland park, although in 1918 a mounting for the infamous Paris Gun was found near the castle grounds, the gun apparently having been moved elsewhere.

So there it is. The rise and fall of a Chateau. Left standing are parts of the old wall and the Saint-Pierre and Saint-Jean Gates. It’s an interesting place to visit.

Sunday July 16th. Leaving Chateau Thierry at 8am we were hoping to find a space on the small quays at either Damery or Cumières but after a long day’s cruising we found they were both full. It was disappointing but we decided to risk carrying on up to Epernay in the hopes of finding a spot. The river to Epernay is a five kilometre one way branch of the Marne and luckily there was a perfect Silver Fern sized gap. Hurrah! After seven hours and 55kms we were very happy to settle down for a three day stay.

In the early evening we walked into the town (it’s a long walk) to the Champagne Tasting Bar CComm to sample six champagnes from small producers. My favourite was a 100% Pinot noir. Delicious.

Monday July 16th. We took a taxi up to Hautvilliers to show Georgie around one of our favourite villages. It is the birthplace of Dom Perignon (1639-1715) who ‘discovered’ the following, as a cellier at the Abbey. He founded the major elements of making Champagne wine:

1. The gathering of grapes of different origins to make a vintage

2. The quick and fragmented pressing of the grape

3. The use of bottles made of thick glass to preserve the wine and maintain the bubbles

4. The use of a cork wrapped in a seal bearing the arms of the Abbey

5. A cellar dug in the chalk so as to assure the ageing of the wine at a constant temperature.

Clever old him. I bet there were a few injuries before item 3 came into play.

The Abbey at Hautvilliers was founded in the late VIIth century by St Nivard, Rheims’s bishop, apparently inspired in a dream by the ‘dove of the devine spirit’. Voilà.
We stopped for lunch at the Cafe in the square which was very good,especially the frites, and later on took a taxi back to Epernay.

Tuesday July 17th Georgie did the cave tours at Moët et Chandon and Mercier and enjoyed them as much as we did last month. It was a stiflingly hot day, mid 30s and we all had swims at some point to cool off. Later on we had drinks on the Aussie boat, Le Piglet, with Melbournians Peter and Amanda.

Wednesday July 19th Georgie headed off on the train to Paris and on to Barcelona while we cruised back onto the canal Lateral à la Marne to Mareuil-sur-Ay. It was a cool day, in total contrast to the last few days and I was very happy about that. Love the cooler temperatures. We really like Mareuil, it has finger pontoons, power and water (€22 for three days) and an excellent boulangerie.

Thursday July 20th We woke this morning to hear our very good friend, and Best Man at our wedding, Mike Williams passed away this morning after a long illness. Although it was expected it still hits hard. He was a good guy and will be sadly missed. We drank a toast to him with a good red wine. I’m sure he would approve. I could almost hear him say, “Just get on with it”.

RIP Mike.

Friday July 21st. Today we did all our washing (have I mentioned how great it is to have our on-board washing machine?). The sheets dried in about half an hour. It’s another warm one but not outrageously so which is nice. We discovered a taste delight at the boulangerie/pâtisserie. La ficelle is a smaller thinner type of baguette and ours was filled with bacon and cheese. Yum. Maybe we’ve been in a baguette ‘traditional’ rut! 😳

Tomorrow we plan to turn off the Canal Lateral à la Marne at Condé-sur-Marne and head north again along the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne to Sillery where hopefully we will find a mooring from which we can visit Reims by bus. It will be a very long day, 39 kms, 13 locks and the 2.3km tunnel de Billy.

This week in numbers:

La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Chateau Thierry

Engine hours: 4.8

Kms: 39

Locks: 4

Chateau Thierry to Epernay

Engine hours: 6.7

Kms: 55

Locks: 5
Epernay to Mareuil-sur-Ay

Engine hours: 1.8

Kms: 12

Locks: 2

This seasons totals, after 2 months:

Engine hours: 118.7

Kms: 737

Locks: 172

Tunnels: 5

Chateau Thierry

View of the town

The remnants of the Chateau/fortifications

Remaining gate, St Jean door (1285-1306), Actually a true standalone small fortress

You can see why this site was used as a fortress

Medieval madness

This massive owl stunned us. Enormous and beautiful.

Fascinating stuff

The beautiful Marne

Three beers.

Backgammon battles in the twilight.

Isn’t this an inviting entrance.

Million dollar grapes

Louis Nicaise rows

Pinot noir grapes down to the Marne

Hautvilliers view to the Abbey church.

Hautvilliers

A beautiful evening in Epernay

I’m pretty happy with my duck dish.

This ones for you, Mike.

Mooring in Mareuil-sur-Ay

I should have taken a photo much earlier! La ficelle est yum!

Posted in Canal Lateral à la Marne, France, French Canal boating, French fauna, Holiday 2017, Marne, Marne River | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments