Barging in Burgundy Part 18

Barging in Burgundy Part 18

Day Thirty-Five – 1st August 2017
Paray le Monial to Digoin
Fortunately the trip from Paray le Monial to Digoin was short. Three locks and 11 kilometres. My husband phoned the lock-keeper (eclusier) Alain, and arranged for us to commence locking at 10.00am. All the locks were set for us. We arrived in Digoin around 12.00pm.

Paray le Monial at night

Paray le Monial at night

When a person arrives at a marina with a fair amount of dead-beat boats parked there, it is rather off-putting. I wish marinas would put their old boats out to pasture so we don’t have to see these sad, slimy, grimy, forlorn wrecks on arrival. It shapes how you perceive a place. You can see these boats haven’t renewed their licenses in decades. They’re basically abandoned boats.

And while I’m having a moan, another practice I wish would end, is allowing people to park their boats right next to water and electricty points, then covering them up and going off and leaving them. If people aren’t going to occupy their boats. Fine. But they should not be allowed to block visitor space on quays and hog the available bollards. Visitors who come to spend money and explore should have priority in the central mooring areas. Absent owners should pay for space at a proper marina. Rant over!

There was a Canalous Hire Boat station on the one side and a large building with the name Capitainerie on it on the other side. No brainer. We parked in front of the Capitainerie. Except it wasn’t a Capitainerie, it was a Frail Care Centre. The real Capitainterie was much smaller and further down the canal. It was closed from 10.00am to 14.30pm. We subsequently saw people coming and going from the other Capitainerie flat on their backs in an ambulance. We suspect they were no longer alive.

Digoin

Digoin

A little walk into Digoin and we realised it’s a gorgeous place. Definitely worth staying a few days. The Tourism Office was open until 19.00pm. We went for a walk along the canal to where it meets the River Loire. There’s an aqueduct where the canal runs over the river. Just like St-Jean-de-Losne, Digoin is an important junction on the waterways. It’s the meeting place of 3 canals and a river. The Canal du Centre, Canal de Roanne à Digoin, Canal Lateral à La Loire and the River Loire. We would take the Canal de Roanne à Digoin and ultimately leave our boat in Roanne.

We walked into the main town and did a little bit of exploring. On our way back to the boat we met Madame Capitaine. The moorings are reasonable. Cost for two nights with water and electricity is €21.70. There are amenities. They’re fine if you’re OK with French toilets. I’m sure they’re better for you than English style toilets but you need to be accustomed to using them. The amenities cost €1.70 and you have to ask for the key each time. There are always public toilets in France but they are not always clean. Having said that, cyclists on the Velo Routes seem happy to use them.

Canal Digoin

Canal Digoin

Day Thirty-Six – 2nd August 2017
Digoin
Wifi at the Tourism Office was our first mission of the day. They allowed us to set up at desks and we worked flat out for nearly 3 hours. Then we had lunch at a little cafe. A big green salad and a tarte. When I asked the girl behind the counter what was in the tarts she said leeches. Have to admit I was a bit worried but fortunately she meant leeks. Lord alone knows what blunders we make trying to speak French.

The ObservaLoire is a place dedicated to the River Loire. It’s affordable at €5 per adult. Inside they have various rooms. One was all about the history of the Loire, another it’s fauna and flora and another the people and boats who have lived on or near it. They also have a look-out point and binoculars. It was lovely to meander back along the canal and see boats that we had been passed or who passed us going through the lock. One UK yacht had not been able to pump-out their effluent for quite some time and the skipper was most concerned about it. Each time they stopped and asked, they were told no such service. Not a nice problem to have. The French are quite happy for boat toilets to pump into the canal but your boat has to be designed to do that. Luckily our boat is.

ObservaLoire

ObservaLoire

A person sees some funny looking boats. There was a particularly small boat parked alongside the banks of the canal. Quite what purpose it would serve escaped us as it couldn’t fit a person, let alone cargo. We also saw a home-made boat like thing. It was a big square of chip-board mounted onto two canoe-like bases. It had a metal frame with a marquee style cover. An elderly couple were sitting on it in deck chairs. They had big bottles of water piled up which I assume was their supply. It must have been a fun project for the owner and fortunately he had a willing partner in his venture. I imagine it would not be fun in high winds or in cold weather.

The temperature was back up to 33’C. And humid. When I got to the boat I had a cold shower. A few hours later I had another cold shower. In that weather it’s all you can do to keep cool. My other half was draping the boat with everything we had to try and cool it down. It’s pointless wearing sunscreen as you sweat it straight off. Your clothes get soaked in perspiration and you are perpetually wet. No amount of water can quench you. We sat on the fore-deck in nothing more than our sarongs until 11.30pm before going back inside the boat. I could not sleep. I would have had another cold shower at 04.00am but I didn’t want to disturb my husband.

Barging in Burgundy Part 17

Barging in Burgundy Part 17

Barging in Burgundy

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Thirty-Three – 30th July 2017
Paray le Monial
My friend was up early – packed and ready to go. Her time with us went so fast. We had brekka together and then walked with her to the train station (gare). She was taking a bus to Le Creusot. My husband and I get used to an extra person around us on the boat, when they go it’s a bit sad for us. She had brought over some wonderful gifts and also bought a few lovely things for us while she was with us. As the bus was about to depart, the heavens opened rain came pouring down. We waited for it to pass then went back to the boat.

Our mooring in Paray le Monial

Our mooring in Paray le Monial

Sundays, not much happens in rural France. It was going to be a day of rain and thunder. We were a bit ahead of schedule, hence no great rush to go anywhere. We caught up on reading, tidying, labeling photos and writing our blogs. With a bit of a siesta in-between.

A particularly large Dutch barge arrived early evening and parked in front of us. They looked like a family who live on board and home-school their children. Fabulous life. Behind us was a charming elderly French couple. They helped us with ropes when we tied up. Every evening they went walking hand-in-hand with their little dog. Always greeted me – “Bonjour Madame”. A person can become fond of temporary neighbours on the waterways. Something we have noticed is couples who travel on the waterways together tend to be happy loving couples.

Basilica in Paray le Monial

Basilica in Paray le Monial

Much as trees provided welcome shade, with the rain and storms, they had dumped a pile of leaves on our boat. My other half hadn’t polished the boat in quite a while so the paint was becoming porous. The leaves left speckled stains that no amount of washing and scrubbing would shift. C’est la vie.

Day Thirty-Four – 31st July 2017
Paray le Monial
There was a lovely laundry (laverie) in Paray le Monial. Big machines and industrial size dryers. Everything worked. We had been hand-washing in the shower but a chance to wash and dry properly was most welcome. I also got stuck in and did a bit of a clean-up inside the boat. One drawback with staying in marinas is everyone is pumping from their toilets into the water. If it’s a shallow marina with not much current, unfortunately that water gets rather smelly. Most boat toilets have a simultaneous in and out pump action. They pump in water to flush. It’s not ideal. I would never swim in a marina. Or eat fish caught there but since I don’t eat fish i’s not a problem. Although plenty French people come to fish at the marinas.

Paray le Monial

Paray le Monial

With so much to see and do in Paray le Monial, we could easily have stayed another day. Apart from the basilica and religious sights, there are museums relating to ceramics, pottery and mosaics that I would have been interested in. They have an interesting city walking tour and their leaflet is free. We kind of lost the urge to do anything after getting on top of our laundry. We decided to push on to Digoin for three reasons. My other half broke his back some years back and has to be very careful twisting and turning. Unfortunately he pulled his back out again mopping down the boat in Montceau-les-Mines. It wasn’t getting better and we needed to be near a physiotherapist. Also my work was slipping so far behind due to not having wifi. I desperately needed to take a day in a place with wifi and get on top of things. Maybe Digoin would have such a place? And lastly we had no water or electricity at the mooring in Paray le Monial. Our boat has two large tanks but we had gone three days without filling up.

Barging in Burgundy Part 16

Barging in Burgundy Part 16

Barging in Burgundy

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Thirty-One – 28th July 2017
Montceau-les-Mines to Génelard

Earlier in our trip one of the people at a Capitainerie had told us that water levels were only 5 centimetres lower than normal. From we could see there was more than enough water on the canal. At some locks there was a bit of water flowing over. Not enough to partially fill the locks – which can happen – and then they don’t open. But enough that there was no danger of the canal being closed. Lots of hot days cause evaporation and then a canal has to be closed. But . . . . . . what 5 centimetres does affect . . . . . . . is the gap under bridges. Low water levels allow a bit extra space to fit under the bridges. We didn’t have that luxury.

On our way again

On our way again

We had a nice early start with a great eclusier (lock keeper). She had all the locks set up for us so no waiting about. Weather was great. My friend was helping with the ropes. Perfect boating day. We decided to stop in Génelard. It’s a small town. The amenities aren’t great but still usable. An English toilet and two French toilets.  There was free water and electricity. Boats tie up on the side of the canal and mobile homes park right next to them. It was quite a festive atmosphere. People were sitting on the grass eating al fresco or reading books. One woman was knitting.

A person never knows what to expect of a village or town. It’s all new at each town. Génelard is lovely. Up the road is a quirky hotel with wifi. The interior is a riot of colour and fun and unusual decor. I couldn’t pull off something like that but it’s wonderful. The woman who either owns or runs it was fabulous too. She told us about an art exhibition. Also suggested we visit Chateaux Digoin, the local castle 4 kilometres out of Génelard next to the canal

Genelard

Genelard

That evening we decided to fire up our little BBQ, or braai as we call it in South Africa. I wrapped potatoes in foil. Mixed some greens with olive oil, lemon and garlic and wrapped that in foil. I also stuffed some courgettes with a tomato, breadcrumbs, garlic and herbs and wrapped those too. Lastly, I marinated tofu which I cut into cubes and put them on a skewer to cook on top of the fire. A perfect evening.

Day Thirty-Two – 29th July 2017
Génelard to Paray le Monial

This was another nice early start. Our lady lock keeper had us locking down in tandem with New Zealand boat. Their boat went quite a bit faster than ours. They kindly helped us with our ropes and activated the locking process. The skipper had a great sense of humour. I liked him even though he stripped down to a teenie, weenie, extra tight bikini bottom leaving not a lot to the imagination. We saw Chateaux Digoin after the second lock but there was a field full of bulls and a few fences between us and the castle. Neither of us was willing to take that on. But the other thing that deterred us was we were going nicely through the locks. If we dropped out, things might not work as well.

 French toilet

French toilet

Paray le Monial is apparently a mecca for Christian pilgrims. As we came in we saw big marquees and what appeared to be a festival on the go. We didn’t fancy being so close to all the action, so tied up a bit further along the canal. The New Zealanders also stopped at Paray le Monial for lunch but were in a hurry to get to Paris. Once they left we moved the boat to where they were, under the trees to get some shade as it was 31’C.

After lunch we went walk-about, found tourism office and availed ourselves of wifi. The main attraction is a beautiful big cathedral which has some significance to Christians. The main town looked like a vibey place and we resolved to go back later for a drink. It was my friend’s last night with us so we bought a bottle of real Champagne to share.

Checking up on the world

Checking up on the world

Early evening we showered and dressed up. Cracked our bottle of sparkly and then went into the town. We’d missed a social occasion the night before called ‘Le Blanc Nuit’. Clearly there were still lots of people about. As it got darker the buildings were lit up with different coloured lights and projectors shone stars down on the streets. A bit Hollywood. In one shop they had black and white photos of French and Hollywood celebrities. We had a wonderful
evening.

Barging in Burgundy Part 15

Barging in Burgundy Part 15

Barging in Burgundy

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Twenty-Eight – 25th July 2017
Montceau-les-Mines
Tuesdays are Market Days in Montceau-les-Mines. Bonus that we were there on Market Day. And that the market is right next to the marina. After a slow start we went exploring. There was a big variety of vendors and quite a few non-food stalls. We bought a bag of giroles mushrooms, mixed tomatoes, an assortment of leeks, onions and shallots as well as some lovely greens. Then we snuck over to the hotel and loitered right outside to catch wi-fi. Bit cheeky but they wouldn’t know. And went all the way along the canal to ALDI and E.LeClerc to buy long life foods.

Montceau-les-Mines

Montceau-les-Mines

Back at the boat I made a few pâtes for our breads. Faux gras or a mushroom pâte is always a winner. As well as a sundried tomato and toasted sunflower seed pâte. I like to keep a batch of cashew cream cheese on the go. Also made a few other foods in anticipation of my friend coming to stay with us. We’ve managed to stock our galley with all sorts of gadgets and spices over the years. We’re able to make some fine meals.

I was keeping an eye out for the South Africans. Late morning, they arrived in the marina. We invited them to join us for drinks and snacks with us that evening. They arrived with a bag of olives and a litre of Rose wine. We had a lovely evening sharing travel and personal stories for a good few hours.

Day Twenty-Nine – 26th July 2017
Montceau-les-Mines
My friend was due to arrive late afternoon. My better half wanted to make a Mushroom Bourguignon. Off we went to the big E.LeClerc supermarket to stock up on provisions. Back at the boat the aromas coming from the kitchen were amazing. I did a sneaky thing again and lurked outside the hotel to get wifi and sort out a few issues. Then we went wandering about, up and down streets. Next thing I saw my friend walking down the road. Much earlier than I anticipated. Her travel plans had gotten a bit messed up and her train trip was split by a coach trip. She managed to stay on the bus and arrived much sooner than expected. Not sure why they broke up what should have been one trip into multiple trips.

Catching up on wi-fi out side the hotel

Catching up on wi-fi out side the hotel

She had found the Port de Plaisance and our new South African friends let her in and helped her with her luggage. Then she went walking around hoping to find us. We all went back to the boat and once she was comfortable, we opened a bottle of chilled white wine and sat on the back deck catching up. The Mushroom Bourguignon was absolutely divine. We shared the last of the soy ice cream and spoke for hours before retiring to bed.

Day Thirty – 27th July 2017
Montceau-les-Mines
There was no great rush to do anything other than explore a bit more, visit the VNF (Voie Navigale France) offices and visit the sock factory. We had a cafe at the hotel to grab wifi before walking along the canal to the VNF offices. There, they made a note that we wanted to leave 09.00am and the bridges had to be opened. All good. My friend popped into the Boulangerie and bought a bread and some croissants. She also bought a brie cheese. Lunch was breads, cracker biscuits, cheese and pâtes.

My friend wandering around in Montceau-les-Mines

My friend wandering around in Montceau-les-Mines

Turns out the sock factory was closed for holidays. So that plan got nixed. What we did find was a few charity shops including the Red Cross with some really nice clothing. Fortunately I was able to resist. I bought some smoked tofu at the health shop and she pointed us to a shop called Noz Bleu. We had walked past it a few times and not bothered to go in as it looks unassuming. Turns out it’s a place where over-runs or short-dated stock goes. Things are sold at ridiculously cheap prices. Well-known brands like Maille mustard were going for €1. They had wines from Spain, California and of course France for between €2 – €4 a bottle. I stocked up on toiletries and bought a pair of Birkenstocks for €6.

Back at the boat we had noticed homeless people coming and going, occupying one particular boat. We’ve seen this before in France. Mainly younger people with bohemian clothes and lots of dogs. They beg in the streets during the day then find a neglected boat to sleep in at night. While they are not threatening, I’m sure they would be opportunistic, so we made sure not to leave anything valuable in plain sight.

Train Station in Montceau-les-Mines

Train Station in Montceau-les-Mines

Around 19.00pm a massive swarm of birds came in and the lot of them settled in the trees next to canal. It was quite a thing to watch. They arrived en masse and took a while to all settle down in the trees. By night time it was quiet. The next morning around 07.00am we could hear them waking up and gathering together to go to where-ever they went for the day. They followed this same pattern every day that we were in Montceau-les-Mines. The only downside to this unique phenomenon was our boat got covered in bird droppings. Some of which wouldn’t come off, even with solvent.

Barging in Burgundy Part 14

Barging in Burgundy Part 14

Barging in Burgundy

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Twenty-Six – 23rd July 2017
St-Leger-sur-Dheune to Montchanin
We knew this was going to be long boating day. A friend was joining us on the boat and it’s not possible from a tiny village. She simply wouldn’t be able to get to us. It had to be somewhere she could arrive by train. The nearest likely place was Montceau-les-Mines. It would take one long day to make it in time to meet her. The waterways Gods were on our side. We passed two boats the entire day, no queues and no waiting about. It was cloudy, but not raining, ambient temperature was just right. The locks were all set and waiting for us. The first half of the 19 locks we travelled in tandem with a French family and their grandchildren. Grandpa was doing his best to school the older child in ways of the canals. The hapless child managed to get tangled in stinging nettles and wasn’t altogether enthusiastic. They stopped for lunch and we did the last locks on our own.

The Captain aka my Other Half

The Captain aka my Other Half

No matter how you set up your fenders, you always end up having to move them. On each side of our boat we have 4 main fenders as well as two smaller ones on the upper front and two big heavy ones at each end of the lower back. The placement of bollards, and the unit to set the locking up or down in motion, varies so much in the locks as you move from area to area. Just when you get your fenders right, next thing they’re in the wrong place and our boat gets a scuff mark. These locks were a mix of deep ones with floating bollards and shallower ones. The floating bollards can take a while to come loose and float. Then they suddenly free up and jerk a bit.

Montchanin seemed a good place to stop. Nice big town and the waterways guide indicated a port with water and electricity. We finally got there and found a junk yard full of old boats. No electricity or water. Bit of a let-down. Our next plan was to tie up to a tree on the side of the canal. Turned out to be a lovely spot. Even though it was a Sunday we decided to walk the 2.5 kilometres to see what Montchanin had to offer. I think it’s safe to say that if a town doesn’t have a Tourist Info Office, they are not geared for visitors. And maybe a good way to determine which towns to stop and enjoy, and which ones to skip.

Pulling a rope to set the lock in motion

Pulling a rope to set the lock in motion

We were walking 2.5 kilometres back to our boat, when we saw a boat with a Dutch flag, which looked like it was going the same direction as us. We greeted them in Dutch. Mistake. They were French. Not sure how that worked as we checked the angle of the flag and it most definitely was a Dutch flag. Then we asked if they would be happy to share a lock with us. They seemed to think two boats would be a tight fit. Our boat is 12.6 metres long and their boat was slightly shorter. These particular locks are designed to take barges up to 38.5 metres. Our reasoning was we would both easily fit in a lock together.

Day Twenty-Seven – 24th July 2017
Montchanin to Montceau-les-Mines
Bright and early we readied ourselves and headed over to meet the French couple. They got going a bit earlier than us. Dutch flag was missing, I particularly wanted to double check it.

The lock-keepers were nice and early on the job too – preparing the locks. We went into the first lock with the French couple. This bloke parked his boat right in the middle of the lock making it very difficult for us to fit in. I can understand when you’re locking up, wanting a bit of space in front to avoid the avalanche of water that surges in, but locking down, that size gap was unnecessary. But to be fair, one never knows which is the best bollard to tie up to, and maybe they got it wrong first lock of the day.

Tied up next to a bank

Tied up next to a bank

Once the lock opened, they bolted out the lock like a bat from hell and went speeding off ahead of us. Not wanting to be left behind, we did our level best to keep up. As fast as we caught up, they would go even faster. The wash he was creating didn’t help us one bit. Both his engine exhausts were spewing out plumes of thick smoke. It got to a point where our boat simply couldn’t go any faster. We were being sucked to the bottom of the canal. This pattern of leaving us almost no space to tie up in the locks and trying to lose us between locks continued for the next 7 locks. Bit of a hint maybe? Fortunately they tied up in Blanzy and we got to Montceau-les-Mines in record time so a win situation for us. This region is so beautiful, rolling hills, farms and areas thick with trees. The French are lucky to live is such a beautiful country.

We did the last two locks in light drizzle and found a place to tie up in Montceau-les-Mines. Not as busy a port as we were expecting. The Tourist Info Office/Capitainerie closes between 12.00pm and 14.00pm so we had lunch and read up on what to do in Montceau and our journey going forward. Later we popped into the office and a helpful woman gave us all the basic info. Of course the wi-fi wouldn’t work. We ask ourselves this question over and over. How come we can stay at a hotel or go to a wi-fi cafe and get on wi-fi just like that. Yet this Beespot or whatever service the marinas choose to use is almost always hopeless. Across the road was a cafe. No wi-fi there. And as we went from one cafe to the next – same story. We finally found a hotel with wi-fi, had a drink and got lost in communication.

Montchanin

Montchanin

Back at the boat we showered and caught up on photos. We had a snack supper. It drizzled some more. I love being on the boat when it rains. The sound of rain dropping on the deck is so soothing.

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