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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It’s a Wrap


This year it feels like we stayed too long.  After we came out of the Canal du Centre at the end of September we went to Saint Jean de Losne to consider our options for selling. When, after considering, we decided to wait until next year, we felt like our season was over but we still had three weeks. And the weather was looking bad.  At that point we were ready to be home in our comfortable house with good showers and machines for washing things.

So we puttered around, caught up with some friends who soon left and went home, did more laundry did a short cruise up to Auxonne, did some more laundry, fashioned a cover for the boat for the winter, and finally packed up an left.  After a false start when one of us forgot the extra bag we had packed and had to return to the boat and then another false start when another of us left a purse in a restaurant we finally escaped the clutches of Saint Jean de Losne and said goodbye to Armida for the winter – stay warm, or at least don’t freeze too much.

The Statistics for this year are:

Engine hours:                   303

Kilometres Travelled:     1401

Number of Locks:             416

We are now reclining in a lovely B&B above Giverny where Monet’s gardens are and looking forward to flying home on Thursday.

Our plans next year are to do short cruises for about 3-4 months and then sell Armida.  So for those of you who have been thinking of coming to visit – this will be your last chance for a long, long time.

Oh, and if you know anyone who wants to buy a boat…….

Monday, October 8, 2012

Winding Down

We are now at the mooring where we will leave the boat for the winter.  It’s a large marina and we are surrounded by many of the boats we met or passed over the last three years.  Tonight we will meet up with  two couples, 1 NZ and 1 UK, who we know and are also getting things done for winter. 

We still have a couple of weeks before we fly out on October 25th.  We’ve have decided we are returning for another three months before we put the boat up for sale.  Rob has some work to do on the teak deck so he will come over in April.  I will come the first of May.  May, June and July we’ll stay in the area doing lots of little trips rather than doing the distances we’ve done before.  Just take it easy.  Then we’ll leave it neat and tidy, turn it over to a broker and hope it sells for a good price.  It is in perfect shape, but is 27 years old.  The interior is also very desirable as we have a walk around bed (unusual for a boat), good storage and teak custom interior which they don’t do much anymore.

Today the weather is warm and gorgeous.  We had lunch on the back deck and it felt just like summer.  Two days ago it was raining and cool.  We never know what we will wake to.  The leaves have started to change which is always so pleasing to the eye.  We are looking forward to going home before it turns cold.

We met a man the other day who walked up to the boat to chat with Rob.  He saw the Australian flag.  He’d been on a friend’s boat for the last two weeks.  We asked him how he liked it.  He said, “Not much.  I’m not used to doing nothing”.  My first thought was, he just doesn’t get it.  It does take a certain kind of person to enjoy this.  Then when I sit down to write you, his words come back to me, for I have nothing to write about.  The scenery is pretty, the food is good we visit with people, we read and walk with the dogs.  We like it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brief Update


Once we finished the Lateral de la Loire we were retracing our steps (or paddles) and not a lot new to report.   The Loire lateral is a lot of long straight stretches with occasional glimpses of the river and the surrounding hills, pretty  but not the best canal by a long shot.  Other than the lovely wine town of Sancerre that sits on top of a hill and the large town of Nevers there is not a lot to see.

The little port of Fleury has a little fast food place right at the port and on a Saturday night it was jumping, not least because a Steak Frites is only 5 Euros. We sat at a table with two English boating couples  (including Maurice and Mary) and a young couple from Perth off a rental boat who didn’t know what they had stumbled into.  The prices  of the wine were commensurate and a good time was had by all.

Once the committee that runs it had confirmed that the Canal du Centre would definitely close on Sept 30th due to lack of water the weather changed and we have had a lot of rain.  Doesn’t matter as we are through it now and on the Saone river.

Shortly we will head back up to St. Jean de Losne and decide whether to put Armida up for sale now or store her for the winter and wait until the new season.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bye Briare and back to Burgundy

Somewhere on the Canal Lateral a la Loire.

Summer is over! You may not think so as today was hot with a warm breeze where little white dogs sought shade and we stopped early under some shady trees on a quiet bend in the canal, but come 9pm (21:00 French Time) and the chill is definitely in the air.  This makes for good sleeping and cool, clear mornings and the sad thought of the impending end of the season.  If only we could squeeze a  few more months out of this time.


Having made good time along these canals we sat in the lovely port of Briare on the Loire for an extravagant six days and enjoyed every minute. The town of Briare has nothing in particular of note except for the lovely 600m bridge that carries the canal over the Loire (designed with help from Monsieur Eiffel) and a disproportionally good market but the port is well set up and surrounded by flowers and just a nice place to be.  We connected with Greg and Cecilia from Sydney and Tony and Lorraine from the Gold Coast and had a movable feast around the boats.  Then our friends and neighbours Randy and Judy arrived on their way to Paris and the weather was perfect the whole time.

Today we set off over the long bridge on the lateral canal that parallels the Loire where we left the Loiret region and returned to our old hangout – Burgundy. This is open river valley with long straight stretches and only a few places of interest so we hope to make some more good time in the next week.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Over the top

Canal de Briare

We are now at the top of the Canal de Briare, the first “summit level” canal in Europe when it was finished in 1642. It joins the valley of the Loing with that of the Loire. The top doesn’t really feel like a “summit” with lovely lakes to provide water for the canal .  This is part of four canals from the Seine to the Saone that are really one canal. As they were built at different times, when the rivers they linked were navigable, they still have separate names and personalities for that matter.
We started on the Canal du Loing which parallels the river of the same name. It didn’t make us feel like we had been missing the canals; the best that can be said of it is that it gets you to the Canal de Briare quickly.  This canal has the charms that make us love this life – some lovely rural moorings, the delightful town of Montargis and locks with lots of flowers and friendly lock keepers.

Today is Sunday when the French go out for their excursions. The weather was nice so many of them headed for Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses where they could watch Terry expertly handle the ropes in the first lock of the six lock staircase. 
Tomorrow we will drop down to the Loire and the town of Briare which is our only downhill for a long time. After that we have the long flat runs with few locks as we parallel the Loire for 200km.
You may remember that at the beginning of the season we didn’t know if we could come this way as the Canal du Centre was going to close at the beginning of May due to lack of water – well now we need it to stay open now so we can get back to St. Jean de Losne for the winter. They are threatening to close it on September 30th if there is no more rain.  At the current rate of travel we should have no problem but we hate being rushed.
Normally we would consider finding a place to winter Armida closer but as some of you know, our daughter Skye is expecting our first grandchild in January.  Our plans were to cruise until this eventuality so we are considering putting Armida up for sale and St. Jean de Losne is the place to do that. But we are still debating whether to come back for one more season – so stay tuned.

A great big Happy Birthday wish to Tess on her 30th!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Adieu Paris

Getting Terry to write a blog post is like pulling teeth – but for those of you who didn’t get her latest email here is an extract:

“It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write.  Bout time.  We left my lovely Paris yesterday and already I am reflecting on how nice it would be to live there, on the boat, for a few months.  Before we left I went to the Bastille open market that is just one block away from the Arsenal.  It’s held every Thursday and Sunday from 8AM-1PM and quite popular with locals and tourists alike.  There are all kinds of stalls, but most importantly a place where you can buy great meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread and an array of different prepared foods.  I stocked up as we will be traveling the River Seine for two days before we get back into the canal system and shops.  I bought enough meats for five meals that fit nicely in our shoebox size freezer, fruit and veg for three days and some baked goods.  Cheesy bread, brownies (rare) and cookies.  Such fun to do it all in the stammering little French I know.  I don’t get much of a chance to try as Rob speaks well and does all of the “French” talking. 

The last few days in Paris gave us beautiful mild weather after the debilitating heat wave of 100F.  We’d hoped to find a good movie playing as we haven’t seen one in months.  All that was showing in English was summer time garbage.  Rob and I took turns staying on the boat with the dogs.  He did the things he wanted, The Pantheon, Paris City Museum and walking.  I did Gallery Lafayette, little shops, bought Rob a couple new shirts for the boat, a cold drink (a Diabolo which is a slightly sweet soda and Grenadine) in a café to people watch and read some of my book, “The Angel Games”, an odd good well written Gothic novel.  The prequel to one of my favorite books, “Shadow in the Wind” by Carlos Ruis Zafon.  The dogs had plenty  of walks too and got to go out to a fine old café where we met Nigel and Anna that we met last year while in Paris and who took the train from Meaux to meet up with us.  The evening was long with good conversation and three very nice French bottles of wine.

Rob is up top driving, I’m down below writing and the dogs are napping on the sofa.  I look out the window every minute or so to see miles of absolutely amazing country houses with big yards full of mature trees (many with boats moored in front) owned by the rich who can afford such a place on the Seine 30 minutes or less by train to Paris.  This is after passing through the industrial outskirts just outside the city and a couple boring towns with the not so pretty old area on the water and blocks of apartment buildings behind them.”

We are now in Samois sur Seine, a favorite mooring from last year, behind an island on the Seine backing onto the forest of Fontainebleau.  There are not many mooring on the Seine so if we can get one of the two spots here we are lucky. This is the town where Django Reinhardt lived out his last years.    The mooring is right by the narrow road with houses and a couple of restaurants.  In front of the house opposite us a couple are sitting playing a double base and guitar and singing soulful tunes.  They are American but they still sound good and we are loving it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fine times with friends


Our friend Sharon joined us for ten days and they were delightful.  This morning she left the Gare de Lyon on the Air France bus for Charles de Gaul airport.  She is winging her way home as I write. Sharon took to life on a boat and had a great attitude for whatever we threw her way.  Unfortunately Paris in August delivered on it’s sizzle in the summer with three days of  38C/100F.  It was our worst nightmare come true and was no fun but Sharon said she felt like she had summer at last.  It slowed things down and kept us from the pleasure off just walking around the streets of Paris.  But we trust she is taking some good memories back with her.  Rosie and Lilou weren’t the only ones sad to see her leave. Followers of Sharon will find more pictures here.

Fortunately the temperature dropped a few degrees, 85F, yesterday for the visit of our long time friends, Richard and Audrey Hope from the UK who came over by train for one night.  Audrey was my father’s “script assistant” in the nascent days of television in Australia and we got to know the whole family when we lived in London those many years ago.  In fact we have Richard and Audrey to thank for what we are doing now.  30+ years ago they shared stories from their family canal holidays that sounded so lovely that we wanted to try it. We too caught the bug and are here today.  Blog followers will remember that their daughter Caroline and family visited us last year.  In fact it was their children along with young cousins (and maybe a little help from their parents) who gave Audrey and Richard the 50th Wedding anniversary gift of a trip to Paris and lunch at the famed “Le Train Bleu”, the very grand and classy restaurant at the Gare de Lyon.  Audrey and Richard were extraordinarily generous and invited us along which  was a real treat for Terry and me.  An inspirational couple to us with their interests, experiences, continuing extensive world travels and humorous outlook on life. The Hope family can find more pictures or our day here.

We had a great time catching up over a lovely meal and, after a nap (for me) we all, Sharon too, went out on the boat for an evening cruise where the weather was perfect, the scenery fantastic and the making of a another memory for all of us. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Paris in August

Yes it’s hot, a lot of the stores and bakeries are closed, the Bastille market was a shadow of last years’ – but it is still Paris.  We read  somewhere that about 50% of Parisians leave in August but that means that there is less traffic, things are more relaxed and even the air is cleaner.  It would be nice if it were a bit cooler though.

We rented a car for a few days so we could pick Sharon up at the airport and see a few sights before motoring into Paris. Our base was the lovely mooring at Moret-sur-Loing where Sisley, the impressionist painter used to live. Sharon arrived with no troubles and raring to go – no Jet-Lag for her. We incorporated a Vide-Grenier which is like a huge garage sale which the ladies loved while the dogs and I relaxed in the beer garden, a visit to the Medieval town of Provins and the magical palace of Fontainebleau which still knocks my socks off.

A long day of cruising with the big boys in the big locks got us within striking distance of Paris and allowed a gentle morning cruise into the city and a float past the sights before returning to the port of the Arsenal which feels a little like home as we spent a month here last year.

Terry took Sharon out today to the Orangerie and the Louvre where she left her with a map and a phone.  So far she hasn’t returned but we hope she can find her way out and get home.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wandering the Yonne out of Burgundy

Montereau fault Yonne
We are moored in this town where the Yonne falls (fault) into the Seine.  For some reason the Yonne, the bigger river, ends here where it joins the Petite Seine which is much smaller.  We asked a Frenchman why the Yonne is not called the Seine and he shrugged and answered “tradition” – well that was helpful!
For the last few weeks our occasional travelling companions have been Bruce and Yerda from Washington state on their converted Dutch mail boat “Rival” (pron, Reeval) and they have been great fun and a wealth of knowledge. Last year we did this same stretch upstream and surmounted the dreaded slope sided locks so we weren’t as fearful this time around but it can actually be worse going down if you get “hung up” on the rough side of the lock and the water recedes.   We rafted the two boats together and had three of us manning ropes and boathooks to keep away from the sides while Terry used the engine to keep us straight and all went smoothly,  despite the Belgians.

The Yonne is a pretty river but there are not many moorings so we did the same stops as last year in reverse and it was interesting to revisit places, some of which were a let down and others were even better, particularly the town of Sens.  It was the seat of the Popes in the 11th century and has the first of the great Gothic Cathedrals, a fascinating museum with a huge collection of Roman artifacts, many medieval houses and lots of civic pride, not to mention a lovely free mooring with the all important electricity and water, and a great restaurant “La Madelaine” where we had the best meal so far this year.  Our musical journey continued on a Saturday night in front of the Cathedral where the “Wild Socks” entertained us with Rock and Roll classics from the 50s to the 70s, all in French!

At Pont sur Yonne there are two long pontoons and we moored with 5 other boats spread across them until a giant hotel boat  showed up, with no reservation and 50 elderly guests they had to get off to a bus the next day.  We all offered to regroup to one pontoon for which they rewarded each boat with a bottle of Champagne and some of us a tour of the boat. Their maneuvering seemed as good as their planning so it was all entertaining.
We have now left Burgundy and it seems strange we have spent all this time in the same province but is certainly one of the richest and most fascinating in France.  If it hadn’t been for short sighted inheritance practices the whole country, and perhaps beyond could have been all Burgundy.  Now we are in the tellingly named region of Ille de France waiting for our friend Sharon to arrive and we will slide on down the Seine next week into Paris.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Navigator’s Note

We are making our way slowly down the Yonne to the Seine when we will pick up our friend Sharon and head into Paris where we will stay for about 2 weeks from August 13th.  Then back up the Seine and into the Canal de Loing and up the Loire valley.

Chillow Weather

Our first year had too many cold days.  The second year was perfect.  This year started off with a mixed bag of weather and some spectacular storms.  Now, it’s hot.  That sticky humid sweat dripping down your face hot.  Much too hot to sit on the boat even with the shade cover.  So where have we spent the last two days?  In heaven.  My idea of it anyway.  Rob will take a photo of our spot with our new little Canon.  Our other new and better Canon started acting weird, not wanting to work half the time, then completely bit the dust when I dropped it on the floor of the wine caves. Meanwhile back in heaven we sit, we read, some of us nap, we picnic, and people watch.  The boat is moored just on the other side of the sidewalk on the Yonne River.  In this heat there are plenty of people swimming, mostly teenagers who hang out in groups and throw each other in.  Very cute.  The best part is the plush soft fine grass between our toes and the numerous flower beds.  One of the prettiest parks, wait, THE prettiest park I’ve ever seen.  Not in the league of Kew Gardens of course yet more colorful and inviting. 

We’ve been doing so many things I’m not sure I can even remember it all.  I mentioned the wine cave above.  It’s in the area that grows my favorite stuff.  The bubbly, Cremant (de Bourgogne).  The Champagne that is not.  The caves were discovered long before the Romans, but they first started using the stone for building.  The cave grew larger and longer through the years.  Important buildings all over France have used this warm sand colored limestone, including Notre Dame.  In 1972 they were bought by a wine conglomerate of 80 Companies for wine storage.  Temperature is a constant 52F and 69% humidity and there are 8 million bottles of Cremant stored while they go through a two year process before selling.  The tour was very interesting.  The tasting tasty.  We bought  1/2 a case which was all Rob could really carry back in the hot weather.  We also went through the Chablis growing area.  We are not big fans.  We did tasting and found a nice one and bought a couple of bottles for when we have others on board for drinks.  The Brits like their whites.

We visited another Chateau, “Bazoches”, as lovely as the rest, but has a wonderful and important history.  I won’t bore you with the whole story.  It is now privately owned by someone who must have an awful lot of money.  They have their family tree in one of the rooms.  They both come from the best of families over the centuries.  They’re not only a descendant of an important former owner, Engineer Vauban, but one side traces back to Saint Louis,  the first of the main line of the Kings of France.  Not too shabby. 

Last year we were in Paris for Bastille Day.  This year the village of Clamecy.   The parade was headed by four men each holding a flag,  They were followed by a few policeman, fireman, a couple of oldies in old service uniforms, a group of kids from the Judo club and then people from the town who chose to join in.  That was the good part.  Old couples all dressed up, families, dogs and a few teens acting silly.  I didn’t attend the jousting down by the river.  Rob went.  Two small boats with rowers, the jouster standing, coming at each other and trying to knock the other standing person over.  (photo: preparing a kid) They started with kids, then the ladies and then the men.  But the best part, as always, was the fireworks which was set off just 75 feet from us on the other side of the canal.  We sat on the back drinking Cremant.  Very cool having it just over our heads.  Rosie and Lilou hated the noise.

In Noyers, fab intact medieval village, we attended a Brocante, an outdoor antique fair.  We ran into folks from Washington that we have spent time with at other mooring locations.  They had guest from home staying with them.  The husband was 91, wife 88 and a friend to give them a hand who was 80.  Amazing people who were enthusiastic and having a great time.  The wife spotted the old linen baby bonnets a second before I did and bought both.  Inside I was screaming…but what about my grandchild!  I just smiled.

For two days we rented a car so we could do things like go to the hilltop town of Vezelay with it’s 11th century Abbey.  We fell upon a chorus giving a concert which sounded unearthly in the huge chapel.  It was great traveling the many miles of pretty countryside ,rural rolling hills, really tiny really old villages and the full rage of landscapes.  Miles of grape vines planted in dry rock soil, then miles of wheat and corn in rich black soil,  the odd Sunflower field, the Morvan National Forest, so thick it felt like rain forest in some parts and then you come upon another knock your socks off piece of architecture when you least expect it.  The one thing I couldn’t help thinking about was life in these tiny little villages that all at least 500 years old and many miles from each other.  Few would have owned a horse.  I said to Rob, “Who did they marry?”  Each other of course.

Today is the fourth night in Auxerre.  We were here four years ago while on a rental boat.  Rob had sprained his ankle on the second day so was unable to sight see.  The view you get when coming into Auxerre  is one of the most impressive sights with three huge hilltop cathedrals surrounded by crowed steep tile roof tops from the 14th Century.  Although we are on the park now, the first two night we spent in town with the town rising right above our boat.  The first night we went out to live music.  The group and crowd made it so much fun.  They played music that we didn’t know mostly, except some U2 and REM.  Everyone was dancing.  Even a couple two year olds got the beat.  Last night we went to another café/street closure for “French Jazz”.  A base, guitar and accordion.  A much older crowd, enjoyable, but nobody danced. 

The Nivernais  Canal ended in Auxerre.  We could do it this year because of the huge amount of rain last winter.  It is the most shallow of all canals.  This was the first in many years that we could have gone.  It has been different then any of our previous travels in that there are so many other boats AND for the first time, so many French.  It’s great to see them using their own wonderful canals.  In the past seeing a Frenchman was rare.  Here we’ve met many owners, young people and three generations of French. 

TWO DAYS LATER:  Traveling the Yonne River at the moment, the third boat in a group of four moving from lock to lock.  First boat a Belgium couple,  second Brits, us, and behind us a big charter with 12 40ish French woman.  We have a clip of them we will show when home of some doing exercises on the bow.  When we come out of the lock there are boats waiting to come in.  It’s one of those times that we worry about getting a spot in the mooring.  Tonight we want electricity to watch some of the Olympics.

Just two more things to mention.  I love to pick wild flowers for the boat when they are available.  I have seen many different kinds and am always on the look out for new.  I came across one small bush of purple Queen Anne Lace growing in the middle of a purple flower.  Haven’t seen one before or since and wonder if it was a mutant of some kind.  The other is interesting.  While admiring a person’s flower garden I noticed a little something like a very hovering like a very tiny hummingbird.  But they don’t have them here.  I moved around for a closer look.  You know how something hits your brain and in a fraction of a second you process a million thoughts.  I swear that for one millisecond this is what went through my mind:  Oh my god, it’s got a face with eyes, it’s a fairy, they are real and Rob’s not here!!!  Then I saw it closer and it stuck out a “proboscis”, like a honey sucking insect and there you go, just an unusual bug.  They are rare this far north in France though.  They are called, a Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Weather has cooled down, smooth sailing and great desserts.  Who could ask for more.

Love, Terry

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tupperware and Fireworks


This charming town is as far as we came on the Nivernais canal in 2009 when we did our last rental before buying Armida, so we are  about to retrace some steps.  This is not a problem because the canal continues to delight and we look forward to taking more time.

However the Nivernais is the second most popular in France after the Canal du Midi and the stretch from here is busier than what we have done so far.  Saturday is Bastille day and the unofficial start of the holidays so we are in “Tupperware” territory as seasoned cruisers dismissively refer to the fibreglass rental boats.  Having done many rentals ourselves we are sympathetic but confess to some amusement as we watch them sidle into locks, bump into moorings and run around like crazy throwing the ropes.  As long as they keep their distance from Armida’s paint we will stay amused.

We arrived Thursday morning to get a prime spot in this little port as we plan to stay for the festivities and the locks are closed on Bastille day anyway.  Our timing was good as it filled quickly in the afternoon.  The Nivernais was the centre of timber supply for Paris in the late nineteenth century when huge masses of logs were floated down the Yonne river, and Clamecy was the base of the woodmen. So as well as the parade in the morning and the fireworks in the evening there will be “jousting” on the river in the afternoon which is apparently how the woodmen used to amuse themselves.

The weather has been grey and cool for the last few days with clouds scudding low over the hills.  Today it has settled in to a steady rain.  If it continues like this tomorrow we may only have the tupperware.