Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Monday, 26 July 2010


Chagall windows in Reims Cathedral. Absolutely stunning as were all the windows. My little camera only hints at their beauty I'm afraid.

Don't blink (Dr Who fans will understand). One of the many angels at the cathedral. Unfortunately the famous Angel of Reims was hidden behind scaffolding in an area undergoing restoration.

Rose Window Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Monday, 19 July 2010

Pictures from the Tornado

Next day's front page

Sedan Chateau entrance

Jousting Tournament in central courtyard

Along the Ramparts

 Storm Approaching

A bad picture I know but it was as it was happening and through a window

Central courtyard after the storm. Fortunately all the tournament horses had left but the falconner was injured attempting to rescue his birds

-and from the outside. We were at the second window to the left of the turret.

This Chateau a little out of Sedan is already a ruin - but it's worse now

-and the evening of the following day. The calm after the storm.

French Keyboards

I was going to go back and correct all the typos in my last post but have decided instead to leave them to remind me of the difficulties of typing on a French keyboard. As with many things, the French seem to be determined to have their own version. I can see that you need to have keys for accents but what's wrong with the qwerty layout? Why swap Q and A - there's a question. Why have the added complication of having to press shift every time you want to put a full stops? Don't they like full stops? And as for finding the key for @..... after trying every combination of keys I could think of I had to give up and ask the owner of the internet shop.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Raising the Roof on Bastille Day - in Sedan, The Ardennes

Typing this in an internet cafe so no pictures at the moment which is a pity as I have a few dramatic ones to post. We were looking forward to Bastille Day in France as there are great celebrations. We aimed to be in Sedan but unfortunately all the fireworks and generql yahooing goes on on the previous evening and we were in a tiny village called Pont a Bar then. They didn't have fireworks but they did have a private party in a big house near the canal which went on until 4 am... Now much as I like Shakira I prefer my sleep at that hour.
So we arrived in Sedan about midday the next day which was just too lqte to see the big march of the pompiers etc ( firefighters). Quite why they march I have yet to find out. However we were to have plenty to do with said pompiers later in the day.
Being the national holiday the town was closed up and pretty well deserted so we decided to visit the chateau/ castle/fort which is the largest in Europe. It is absolutely enormous. Usually these forts are situated high above the towns but in Sedan the've achieved the height by actually building it. The fort rises up one street from the old town  completely dominating it with its enormous stone walls.
There weren't too many visitors which was good but the place is so big that I doubt it ever feels crowded. We spent an interesting few hours looking around and a short time in the blazing sunshine feeling sorry for the horses and knights in armour providing the jousting display.
About 4pm we were just qbout qt teh end of our tour around. We were out on the high ramparts looking over the Ardennes mountains when the sky darkened and the wind begqn to get up. It became so strong that we were holding on to each other and we decided to go inside and look qt teh museum display; This is housed on a couple of floors high up in the castle. We had only been in a few minutes when there was a screaming wind noise coming from the smallish window overlooking the town. I went over to look qnd noticed birds being blown against the walls.Then the sky turned really dark and at the same time full of what seemed to be dust and black shapes which I realised were much bigger thqn birds were hurtling through the air towards us. At that point I got a bit frightened and thought I'd better get behind a wall rather than a window. Rob was looking out of another window onto the inner courtyard where a little while earlier dozens of people had been sitting on stand seating watching the jousting. I called to him to come and see what I was seeing and as he turned the whole roof blew off into the central courtyard. Hundreds of slates, planks of wood and piles of insulation competely destroyed the seating area; At the same moment the alarms went off and as did the lighting - medieval castles are gloomy places let me tell you. The rooms were filled with clouds of dust and plaster doors and wooden walls were banging and the wall tapestries were flapping. Emergency lights came on and we made our way down winding stairs and corridors to the bar where everyone was collected and where we had to remain until the Pompiers arrived and declared things safe enough to leave. Then we ran all the way back to the boat through what was now a deluge of rain hoping that it hadn't been blown off its mooring. Fortunately it hadn't and we suffered no damage, unlike the the majority of campers in the  park next to the moorings,  most of them leaving their broken poles and going home.
So, a tornado on Bastille Day leaving a trail of destruction looking much like the original day of  'la revolution'.
Time's up - must go............

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Ardennes from Fumay to Charleville Mezieres

Pill Box from WW2

Antique carousel in main sqaure of Charleville Mezieres

We’ve been in France for a week now and if you’re following our progress you’ll see we haven’t come very far. There’s no hurry though which is just as well as we’ve spent rather a lot of time hanging around at locks waiting for them to be fixed. Most of them are automatic. You get to within range and point a remote ‘thingy’ and the lock gets ready for you – you hope. Once inside you secure your lines (sounds easy doesn’t it?)  and then push upwards on a blue pole and the lock begins to fill (or empty). Alongside the blue pole there’s a red one which you pull if there’s an emergency. That stops the whole procedure and then you have to wait for the cavalry to come in the form of a man in a little white van. As yet we haven’t had to touch the red but we’ve seen lots of men in little white vans. Things seem to go wrong with regularity. Not to worry, there are less scenic places to wait around in than the Ardennes. ‘C’est magnifique’ as one local put it and it most certainly is. The River Meuse runs through gorges of high limestone cliffs (great climbing area) and thickly forested, deep valleys. There are many fine mansions and picturesque villages.
This area has been fought over for centuries hence many of the towns have ancient and impressive fortifications. We’ve climbed hundreds of steps to one fort and taken a cable car up the mountainside to another. There is lots of evidence of more recent battles in the form of WW2 pill boxes and shell marks in the walls of buildings.
Usually we’re happy to look around ourselves but a couple of times recently we’ve had to pay extra for a guided tour as a requirement of entry – once around a fort and the other down some caves. The tour is of course in French with some brief explanation in English if you’re lucky – except for at the end when the guide says in perfect English, ‘I hope you enjoyed the tour. The guide accepts tips.’ So what’s with the third person?
A word on the food and drink so far as everyone keeps asking. Bread fantastic – eaten too much. Cheese ditto. Wine ditto and also very very cheap. Champagne delicious and not so cheap but about a third of the price at home. Only French wine on shelves. Haven’t sampled any cakes but there are plenty to choose from. Eating out quite reasonable if you go for the Plat du Jour which is advertised outside. The chip van – ubiquitous (and good) in Holland – not much in evidence here. However, when it is it is hugely popular, very cheap, has fancy sounding things on the menu and is quite revolting.

Monday, 5 July 2010

From Belgium to France

The fortified town of Huy in Belgium

Profondeville - Belgium

Thought for the day - pavement in Profondeville

Namur - Belgium


River Meuse

Welcome to France - with a downpour

'-and stood the clock at ten to three' Givet, France

The Ham Tunnel. Looks short but it's actually over 500 metres long. We weren't altogether sure we would fit but we did - just.

Relaxing in Fumay, France


an argument over a game of boules - Fumay

Our Mooring at Fumay

Sunday, 4 July 2010

La Belle France

Well we're here at long last! We've been following the River Meuse through Belgium and now into France and it's been absolutely beautiful scenery wise. High limestone cliffs and thick forests. Quite a change from Holland. Not the only change though. There's the language - here no-one speaks english and for boaties there's the all important question of locks.
Now we are not novices as far as locks go. We've been all over England, Holland and a bit of Belgium but if we've learnt one thing, it's you know nothing, and there is some lock designer out there who's come up with something to confuse you.
On entering France we were given a little yellow box and a leaflet on how to work the 'automatic locks.' The lock keeper presented it to me with a sad expression and said, in French,' it sometimes does not work'. Understatement. Sometimes being the redundant word. But, there's always the little white van with the helpful lock keeper who arrives - eventuallly - to sort everything out.
Now, what I want to know - again - why are the bollards so far away that you can't get on to them?
Why are they spaced so randomly that if you have to share the lock you cannot moor up away from the person next to you. Basically, why isn't it easy.....?

In Dinant - inventor of saxophone looking for a friend