Sunday, 29 May 2011
Happy fête des mères to all the mums of France. Any excuse for a breakfast in bed, I say, though croissants au chocolat are perhaps not the ideal choice. However, as we are staying in a hotel and I'm not responsible for washing the sheets I don't much care!
We arrived in France last Wednesday breezing through immigration with barely a glance at our passports and no check at customs at all other than walking past a group of gendarmes lounging nonchalently around the doorway. Welcome to France - I love your style.
Then it was across Paris by RER and metro to catch our train to Migennes where we left L'Avenir last October. So far, so good. Sun's shining everyone's happy. I had booked a hotel for a few days as the boat had been lifted out of the water over winter (we hoped) and would still be on hard stand. The closest hotel I could find was a coupleof km away (but crucially, not quite) in the next village of Laroche. Easy cycling distance of the boat so we could live in relative comfort and go down each day to work on her. First we needed to get to the hotel and after 30 hours travelling there was no way I was dragging a pile of luggage almost 2 km so we followed the taxi signs out of the station which led us to a closed, rundown bar with a taxi phone number painted on the outside and no sign of any taxis. Across the road was the tourist office so in we went to ask. Madame indicated the phone number and then kindly offered to call for us but first asked where we wanted to go. She looked a bit sad then and said something along the lines of 'It's not far enough.' A man in overalls appeared from the back office and was introduced to us as ' the man who does some work for the tourist office'. There then ensued lots of quick French which I didn't understand accompanied by those tell tale pre shrug signs which I've mentioned before and which I understand all too well. Anyway she made 2 phone calls which were very brief, put down the phone and then there it was. The shrug. "Non?" I said. She replied, "Non." Linda Evangelista may not get out of bed for less than $10000 but a French taxi driver won't for less than 2km - even if you're willing to pay more, it seems! Then 'the man who does some work for the tourist office' gallantly stepped in and offered us a lift in his little white van. So, he moved his tools making space in the back for our suitcases and Rob, I got a seat in the front and he drove us the not quite 2km to the hotel in not quite 5mins. We shook hands and I told him he was very kind and Rob pressed a bank note into his overall pocket which he inisted was not necessary but I hope he bought a nice bottle of wine with it.
We checked into the hotel, dumped the bags and walked down to the boatyard. L'Avenir was safely on land and apart from a little dirty non the worse for wear. We've spent the past few days re-painting the anti- fouling on the hull which was done for us a year ago but not well enough it now seems, and generally cleaning and de-winterising. Turning on the water led to the discovery of a burst pipe in a virtually inaccessible spot but Rob will find a way! In the meantime we extended our hotel stay by a day. We couldn't keep the same room but we're upgraded for much the same price into a lovely 'gite' (self catered apt) right on the river banks. Pity we hadn't had this all week.
And then yesterday a real highlight. 2 friends and fellow boat owners we met in Holland just after we bought our boat, drove all the way here from Gouda to visit us for the weekend, run us around in their car and take us for a beautiful dinner in Villeneuve sur Yonne. So thank you Nicky and Mike, two of the most entertaining, kindest people you're ever likely to meet!