Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Once again, Scotland has turned on the sunshine and as we tour the length and breadth of of this beautiful country and we find our eyes dangerously drawn towards 'for sale' signs on highland cottages. A few days of normality, i.e. pouring rain, would no doubt wash away our idle daydreams but so far the early morning mists shrouding the mountains have cleared by midday and we've even been heard to complain about the heat as we clamber up heather clad hillsides towards some ruin or waterfall. Everywhere we look there is a stupendous view - mountains, lochs, deserted beaches - and for once we can actually see it. If there's one drawback it is that we seem to be sharing the view with half of Europe. Scots voices are very much in the minority in the pubs in the evening which makes conversation (and eavesdropping) so much more difficult.
We are very lucky to have generous relatives who have looked after us well and now, as we tour around, we are in the hands of the Bed and Breakfast Brigade.
If you are a planner and research everything on the internet and through TripAdvisor, well done and I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time once you've looked up from your mobile phone or computer.
For non planners, such as ourselves, B&B is a bit of a lottery- most of the time it will be fine, sometimes it will be good and very occasionally it will be dire.
Here one or two things we have learned.
Stop driving early in the day. You'll need to leave your B&B about 10, so plan on finding the next early to mid afternoon. Book in and then go and explore. If you leave things too late all those no vacancy signs will lead to an argument and spoil your trip.
The 4 stars on the sign don't necessarily mean anything. They may have been awarded years ago and by a now defunct agency.
Don't necessarily discount the modern house in favour of the cute traditional cottage. Once you're inside you'll be more concerned about whether the shower and toilet  are ensuite and work ok.
The owner of the B&B will always show you the room. Ask the price.Ask if it's a cooked or continental breakfast. If it's a continental ask what they mean by that. We had one which turned out to be a bowl of cereal and toast ('you can have as much toast as you like'!).
Are there tea and coffee making facilities?
Is there wifi?
You will almost certainly have to pay cash.
Mostly our B&B hosts have been great. Usually the proprietor is a woman but sometimes there is a kind of comedy double act with husband and wife.
Expect to pay (this year 2013) 35 pounds per person.

A word about breakfasts.
A 'Tradional Scottish Breakfast' is in no way a healthy start to the day. A plate of bacon, eggs, black pudding, haggis, square slice (Lorne sausage), sausages, tomato and mushrooms, baked beans and potato scones (and I mean all of it)  kick starts you into heart attack mode. That afternoon walk up the glen may very well finish you off.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

canal du Loing et Briare

Moret sur Loing

A few pictures from our recent whirlwind trip from Migennes to Briar. These waterways definitely merit a more sedate journey - perhaps sometime in the future.
Moret sur Loing

The beautiful Moret was home to the impressionist painter, Alfred Sisely. The town is very proud of this artistic connection and has information boards at various locations showing the paintings executed by Sisely at those spots.
Canal du Loing

Lavoir on River Loing at Mountbouy

Rogny les Sept Ecluses

Staircase of 7 ecluses taken out of service in 1887 after 245 years of use and replaced by a chain of 6 locks - the barge is exiting the first of these 'new' locks.

Briare church mosaic clock. The church is decorated with mosaics inside and out.

Doing our maritime duty. Towing a fellow boater in distress onto the next port.
 This next is for you Emma and Andrew!
Dutch dachshund on his holidays at Ouzouer sur Trezee

Monday, 5 August 2013

Racing Around

L'avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt = "the future belongs to those who get up early"

Sage advice from a port captain somewhere or other. L'Avenir is the name of our boat and it always raises a smile and often a comment when noted down by lock keepers and port captains. The comments are usually sayings and proverbs regarding l'avenir (the future) most of which, being whimsical or philosophical, are beyond my still basic French.  This one I did understand. We've had to get up early a lot recently.
The past couple of weeks have been a bit like that programme 'Race Around the World' - just replace 'World' with French waterways. It seems that at every stop we've been given new and conflicting information and we've had to adjust our plans. Making plans is very overrated. This year is the first time we have had even the vaguest notion of one and we're in no hurry to repeat the process. Going with the flow seems much less stressful.
The Plan. Cruise the Canal de Bourgogne. Leave L'Avenir safely moored in a friendly port for the hot month of August and fly to Scotland. Return to France in September and continue cruising. Fly home to Australia early October. Simple.
The first part was fine. Last time I wrote we were at Migennes at the end of the Canal de Bourgogne. This seemed a good place to leave the boat until we were told of lock closures for the month of September which would have meant that on our return from Scotland we would have to retrace our steps over the canal de Bourgogne. Now, beautiful as that canal is, the prospect of all of those locks again within the space of a couple of months was just too much. So, we decided to head to Pari,s at speed, via the dreaded sloping locks of the River Yonne.

En route we are told the Seine is also to be closed so we turn for the Canal de Loing and enquire about leaving L'Avenir at Saint Mammes at the junction of the Seine, the Yonne and the Loing. No problem says the port Captain at the beautiful medieaval town of Moret sur Loing.

We breathe a sigh of relief and begin to dream of a lie in the next day until she adds, but you do know the Canal de Loing will be closed all of September....Time to get up early again. We need to move on to the next canal. The canal de Briare.
Missing August's heat is now immaterial. This July has been the hotter than all the previous Augusts. Every day the temperature reaches the high 30s and we are cooking inside a steel boat. Tempers are rising in line with the temperature.
Time is now of the essence and we still have nowhere to leave our boat. We enquire at Montargis and they say no - there's apparently a maximum of 15 days. So what about all those rather sad looking vessels further along the quay? They look as though they've been here quite a while. They shrug. We cast off and move on.
It's now only a few days before our flights. I email the port at Briare and Patrick, the captain, responds with a maybe. They're busy but he'll try and fit us in. We arrive and he meets us with the words' I have a place for you.'
Thank you Patrick and the lovely port of Briare.