Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Isle sur le Doubs

Osselle, River Doubs

We've been here before - several times- and beautiful as the River Doubs undoubtedly is I'd have been more than happy to give it a miss this year. Apparently the rest of the boating community is of a similar opinion - we've seen only 2 other boats in the past 4 days. Quite why no-one is on the river is a mystery. I asked a lock keeper today and he had no idea either. It's been quiet since the beginning of the year apparently.We are still heading for Strasbourg. The Rhine beckons, my objections having been waved aside by a hand clasping a new, state of the art, life jacket.
We've been travelling up to 6 hours every day now for 16 days which I realise will elicit absolutely no sympathy whatsoever from those of you daily commuting to work. The only thing we're battling is the current but it is making progress slow and occasionally exciting. We had a pretty embarrassing attempt at mooring in a fast flowing current at Besancon narrowly avoiding sideswiping a barge whose proud owner stood on deck in open mouthed horror and we were close enough to count his fillings.
Our visit to Besancon coincided with the annual music festival which was a great night out. Every street corner and square had a band or DJ and all types of music were represented. The whole event was free and I think every inhabitant of the city was out strolling the streets. I don't have any photos as I'd  left my new camera on deck during the evening thunderstorm...
There's always something you missed on a previous visit of course and a fairly big thing was the caves at Osselle. They are huge, have amazing rock formations and that is where the 3 bears live - truly.
The weather has been quite tropical; hot and humid durng the day and then late afternoon rain or thunderstorms. Moorings have generally been deserted, our only company swans and very vocal frogs.
Internet is proving difficult.
Deluz - break out the barbie



Sunday, 17 June 2012

What Now?

Here we are in Auxonne once again  and since we have the luxury of an internet connection not provided by Monsieur Orange (with whom we have a rather testy relationship)  you're getting an update. This time we are here on a sunny summer weekend and as the mooring is alongside a water ski/jetski zone we were rocking and rolling and feeling a little seasick this afternoon. However, this is France and so, in civilised fashion, everything suddenly calmed down and all was packed up and quiet  at 7pm for the serious business of dinner. Non French take away pizza for us though after a long day and, because it's Sunday evening, no other restaurants are open.
We are headed back to where we started a week or two ago. It's only been a couple of days since we turned around but already we've had lots of dancing around the decision of what to do next. We still want to go to Strasbourg but the route is in dispute. We spent last night in Gray where boats are already lining up and taking advantage of the free electricity to wait out the stoppage before continuing north. The word there was that it'll all be fixed in 3 weeks but just a day ago that was 2 weeks so I wouldn't be at all confiident. We have a couple of options. One is to take the canal entre champagne et bourgogne ( its name mitigates against it) which we went up and down last year. The other is to take the Doubs (which we also went up and down again last year) leading onto the Rhine - which is a little troubling for me. As we zoomed past the entrance to the canal entre champagne etc etc today I felt a decision had somehow been made and no coin tossed.

We tried to stop at different villages on our return south. One was Baulay, a tiny, sleepy place with a proud history of resistance in the 2nd World War.

They did an incredible job of blocking the main line between Paris and Basle by blowing up and crashing quite a few trains in the cutting there.
The info board at Baulay

August 1944 - Baulay

Baulay cutting today

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Best Laid Schemes....

Royal Mile Edinburgh
No, we're not back in Scotland. Just a nod to the bard. 'Best Laid Schemes' indeed. We've never been enthusiastic planners and today we've been reminded why it's often best not to bother because, as Rabbie tells us, they 'gang aft agley' (often go wrong).
We set off this morning on our last morning on the Saone, during pouring rain, remarking that it would be so nice to travel along this river in the sunshine and so fully enjoy its scenery. Be careful what you wish for. We also commented on the lack of boats. Strange that it's so quiet. The locks on this part of the Saone are all automatic. About 100 metres from the lock you twist a bar hanging over the middle of the waterway and this sets everything in motion. There are lock keepers living in some of the adjacent cottages but we haven't seen many apart from the ones supervising the tunnels. The ones we have seen have ventured out to sell us bottles of wine, tarts and terrines which we always buy despite the probable hefty price mark up. People have to make a living after all and who are we to turn down a bottle of chilled rosé? We didn't see any lock keepers today until we reached the end of the Saone and entered the first lock of the Canal de L'Est.

The keeper emptied the lock for us so we could enter, took our ropes and secured us to the bollards and then knelt down to tell us the bad news. The canal is closed for several weeks due to a lock wall collapse 2 days ago. The same thing happened last year and the canal was closed for the best part of the season. Apparently this is a different lock. The keeper was most apologetic but there's nothing to be done. We backed out of the lock and moored up in a nearby marina. Who knows when it will be repaired?
So, we will have to retrace our steps, pick up our forgotten key and make a decision as to where we go next.

On a brighter note, the capitain of the port has been entertaining us this evening by playing such classics as Amazing Grace and Oh Mein Papa on his Alpenhorn. I think the Alpenhorn must rank along with the bagpipes, the didgeridoo and trumpet as one of those instruments where people say, 'Could you please go and practise that somewhere else?'

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Petite Sâone

Angle Iron Tower (replica Eiffel) at Soing. Who knows why?

Written whilst waiting for the port restaurant to open at Fouchécourt on the Petite Sâone.

We’ve now been ‘en passage’ as real boaters say, for just over a week. Things have gone well – mostly. The weather (and forecast) could be better, we could have sorted out some cost effective internet and I should have remembered to retrieve the spare boat key from the marina at St Jean de Losne before we left but -the river is lovely, the villages postcard pretty and hopefully our first meal out tonight will be good.
I am writing this offline. Monsieur Orange, who kindly (and inadvertently) provided us with such a good ‘bon plan’ last year of unlimited internet at 9 euros a month has decided it’s just not on this year. So, after multiple visits to the Orange shop (and, subsequent to our first enquiry, the assistants ducking for cover when they see us coming - why? Perhaps my mangled French hurt their ears as much as it hurt my brain.) we have purchased a pre paid dongle. I can’t offer a verdict as yet – there’s no signal here for instance – but I suspect uploading a blog may prove expensive. Our Kindles continue to be fantastic value – we can access our email and, with patience, can do much of what the Orange mobile internet can do, and all for free.
Getting a new key cut proved almost as difficult as the internet connection. Much weighing and measuring and shaking of heads ensued. Dutch keys are much bigger than French ones apparently (yes size does matter). Just do the best you can, we said. And they did. So we now have a key that doesn't quite fit but will open the door eventually as long as you're prepared to crouch there fumbling  like an incompetent safe breaker.
Today we shared a lock and a few pleasantries with an American couple in a hire boat. In the space of 10 minutes in the lock we established that we had lived a few houses from each other 30 years ago in Australia  and our children had gone to the same school. Then they sped on their way faster than us probably never to meet again. Small worlds and coincidences.
The meal was great. Restaurant is run by one guy, all by himself, who does everything completely efficiently and entertainingly.
St Albin Tunnel

We've passed through two tunnels this week. The Saint Albin and the Savoyeux. Bothe had plenty of room, were well lit and contolled by traffic lights and so no chance of meeting anyone. There is no towpath - the chains you can see in the photo were there so that bargees could pull themselves through in pre-motor days.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


L'Avenir ready to leave St Jean de Losne

Some days are deemed more auspicious than others. Yesterday, according to the Chinese calendar, was a lucky day. Today, according to our scenic views of Scotland calendar, is rather more important to us being the birthday of no fewer than 3 family members. Happy birthday to each of you in your different countries and time zones. Here in France, families are getting together for Mothers Day whilst in Britain Her Majesty is about to cruise along the Thames in some style to celebrate her diamond jubilee. One of the boats in our marina is obviously owned by a patriotic Brit as it is festooned with bright flags. And, our own contribution to the importance of the day? Our one hundredth blog post.

Some decisions have been made. We are to depart tomorrow - probably - depending on the weather. After a week of bazing hot sunshine the heavens opened in the middle of last night and we were woken by loud claps of thunder. Did you close everything up before you came to bed? Yeah, yeah. Turn over. Snore. Rain continues to batter down all night.

Some hours later, we get up and discover that the hatch on the cabin roof is wide open and our galley has spent the night doubling as a shower compartment with the taps at full blast. So much for congratulating ourselves a few days ago on having a bone-dry boat interior.

We've visited the chandlery and bought new charts and yet another fender (because you just can't have enough of those) and taken the bike trailer to the supermarket to load up with enough food supplies to last through any possible apocalypse (not sure I'll eat the tinned peas and carrots even then - you definitely can have enough of those). We haven't managed to organise mobile internet, as yet, but are hoping that we can, once again, come to an amicable arrangement with Monsieur Orange in the next week or so. So we'll be incommunicado for a little while after we leave here.

Destination? North to Strasbourg. Probably.