Boating in Burgundy 2

Boating in Burgundy 2

Read from the start – here

We made a reasonable start to the day. At Saint-Symphorien we entered the first lock and were given a remote control as the locks there are automated. This one had to be kept charged to work. Was much bigger than previous ones. And gave little messages as it did it’s job. We would be locking up all the way up to Besançon. The first 3 locks we shared with a hire boat couple. They stopped for lunch so we pushed on. En route we passed a massive chemical factory built right next to the canal. Sky scraper towers of pipes and silos with steam pouring out. Seemed such a pity to have this eye sore in the midst of such beautiful countryside.

Chemical factory

Chemical factory

We shared the last lock with another hire boat couple. And came alongside a steep paved bank in Dole. It was the last spot. No facilities. An Englishman helped us with the ropes and invited us to join them on their boat for a drink. We first wanted to find out what was on offer before the various offices closed. So dashed off to the Capitain’s office across the water. At the Tourist Info Office we were given a free walking map of Dole. There was also a chance to climb to the top of the Collegial Church for €3 until 20.00pm. On any other day I may have considered it but all I wanted was to wash and settle down.

Back at the boat we showered and went next door to have a drink with our fellow boaters. Lovely couple. Newbie boat owners. Our problems with our generator were mild compared to their engine problems. But that’s boating for you. We could all recite the boaters mantras – “Owning a boat is like taking a shower and tearing up bank notes.” And the other one – “Owning a boat is like throwing money into a hole in the water.” They showed us their boat and we took them to have a look at ours. Always amazes me how boats can be so completely different. Even similar boats.

Tied up first night in Dole

Tied up first night in Dole

One thing about European villages and towns is they all have at least one church. With bells. That chime. Around 07.50am the bells started. They weren’t counting out the time. Nor a tune. It seemed they wound up a coil and the bell got going furiously and slowly petered out until it all stopped about 5 minutes later. By then I was awake. We said goodbye to our neighbours, who wanted somewhere quieter, and moved our boat across the river so we could connect to shore power and water. Then hot footed it up to the local market. It’s a covered market that sells produce. Outside are street vendors selling clothes and other items.

We’re learning to not be seduced by local markets. A person can end up buying loads of food if not careful. It’s so fresh and lovely. The Burgundy region is renowned for it’s pale Charollais cows and their produce. We were happy with crisp organic carrots, fresh frilly lettuce and fragrant heads of garlic. I made us sticky soy strips, a huge finely sliced salad with fennel, white cabbage, lettuce and cucumber drizzled with a garlicky, soy yogurt and lemon dressing with our market purchases. Of course we had local wine and Cote D’Or Noir chocolate.

The second night on the opposite bank

The second night on the opposite bank

We did the walking tour of Dole on a Sunday morning. It’s not a huge city but we wanted to do the walk when it was quietest. And coolest. By now it was hotting up. Three days of 31’C on a trot. We kept all the curtains closed and covers over the boat windows. Some people place towels and sheets over their windows to break the heat coming in. We also saw foil heat reflective panels as well as mirror film on other boat windows. How about air conditioning on a boat? Yip, it’s around this part of France that the split between the north and the south happens. Europe and the Mediterranean. The cooler and the hotter climates.

Apart from hire boats coming and going – there are a few hire boat bases in the area – other boaters were making their way from north to south. Heading off to cruise the Mediterranean countries and islands. I never saw commercial boats on this bit of waterway. Saw a few yachts but it was mostly motor cruisers.

Alley in Dole

Alley in Dole

Dole is a lovely place. Lots of heritage going back to Roman times. Light stone buildings and a moat all around. One nice thing about a town walk is, even if you don’t care for history, you get to see the best bits of a place. Back at the boat we had lunch and lazed about reading and trying to keep cool. At some point the shore power went down. I decided to take an early shower while there was still daylight. Some amenities are impeccable. Some are not. By Sunday late afternoon these facilities were ready for a clean. The place was done in that 60’s and 70’s decor. Beige basins and toilets with burnished copper coloured wall tiles. That look is most probably trendy again. The promised 7 minutes of hot water was more like 2 minutes but with the heatwave I wasn’t too unhappy with cold water.

Hire boats moored nearby

Hire boats moored nearby

After a lazy start to the following day we untied and got going toward Besançon. It was hot, hot, hot. The radar arch was folded down so we could squeeze under bridges and was occupying space on the deck. The only cool place was on the side of the boat in a slight breeze and the shade of our awning. At 6kms an hour there wasn’t much wind. I was watching dragonflies flitting across the top of the water. Blue cranes swooping past and locals walking, cycling and rollerblading on the town path. Unbeknown to us it was a public holiday in France and all the world was out enjoying the sunshine.

We were making good progress when a lock failed to open. Double red lights came up. The remote control told us it was an “incident”. There’s always that dilemma, do you re-push the buttons or hope the problem rectifies itself? Two policemen were at the bridge and we wondered if there was a security issue. After waiting long enough to become impatient we tied up and went to see what was going on. Nothing we could see, so we pushed the Help button and called VNF. They arrived shortly and turned out a tree branch had obstructed the lock gate from opening properly. The Eclusier (lock keeper) removed the branch and re-set the lock so we could pass through.

Our peaceful mooring in Saint Vit

Our peaceful mooring in Saint Vit

The heat was becoming unbearable so we stopped at Ranchot around 15.30pm. It was one of the places we had in mind for a potential stop. We took a late mini siesta and then went walkabout. There was nothing that piqued our interest and it was a tad cooler so we decided to carry on. Our next stopping place was Saint Vit. The Guide Fluvial map showed shops and a reasonable sized town so we walked 2 kilometres uphill from port de plaisance. I grabbed a pair of flip flops from the deck as we wanted to get to the shops before they closed, only to find everything was closed. Then we discovered it was a bank holiday. We trekked back downhill to the boat showered in warm water. The slow speed limit prevented the boat from heating our water. I made a big fat salad green salad. It was all we could bring ourselves to eat. We were the only people at this mooring. It was so quiet and tranquil.

We hoped to reach Besançon in a day and made an early start. The locks only open 8.30am so a person can’t start any earlier. What a difference it was travelling in the morning. At one lock we encountered a family trying to recover their house keys with a magnet. The keys had fallen in the lock. They kindly helped us with our ropes. Some of the locks were deep that I couldn’t reach or even see the bollards. We passed a lock of 3.8 metres and a double lock of 5 metres. There are slimy steps that you can climb to get out a lock but I’m terrified of heights so that job fell to my better half. One thing I do love about locks is the smell of the spray as water rushes in. It’s a fresh earthy smell.

To continue click – here.

 

Boating in Burgundy

Boating in Burgundy

My husband had a dream to travel the inland waterways of Europe. He found a lovely Dutch steel boat in the Netherlands. In between our ordinary real life in Cape Town, we managed to spend three wonderful summers in the Netherlands, exploring as much as we could. See my musings about those holidays if you go to the top of the page and look for – Boating Holidays.

Last year we took our beloved boat – Shangri La – on an epic journey from the Netherlands, through Belgium to France. It was an almighty journey. The distance and number of locks for one. But also getting used to the waterways in France was another thing. You can read more about that trip – also on Boating Holidays. This year we wanted way less travel time. Since the boat was already in Burgundy it made sense to explore locally.

The Captain

The Captain

Shangri La had undergone extensive (and costly) repairs at H2O marina in St-Jean-de-Losne. Sigh! The turbo charger had an overhaul, the underside of the boat had to be buffed and she got a new coat of anti-fouling. Also the generator and related electrics were replaced. As well as the cooling water heat exchanger.

We started our journey Monday 8th August 2016 from a flat in Surbiton London finishing up at St Jean-de-Losne in Burgundy France. Humping our heavy suitcases, we went up and down stairs and escalators, on and off trains, and walked and walked. Luckily all our trains were on time.

Checking the engine

Checking the engine

It was lovely to see our boat again. I guess we’re biased but we think she’s beautiful. Shangri La is a Van Der Valk make custom built boat. She has oak veneers and brass nautical fittings with cream and blue fabric and trimmings. We were told her first owner was a Belgian ship captain. The second owners were a German couple who spent many happy years on board. And now she’s ours.

She wasn’t too dusty or covered in mildew as my other half had been over a few weeks prior to oversee some of the repairs. We dropped off our suitcases and dashed to the local Casino supermarket with only 10 minutes before closing to grab something to eat. We bought yummy looking local seasonal produce such as juicy apricots and plump tomatoes as well as Cote D’Or Noir chocolate and lovely Burgundy wines. For a small town they had a fair amount of plant foods like soy yogurt, coconut yogurt and tofu. I also found some Casino brand tins of things to try such as bean sprouts in brine, artichoke hearts and veggie ratatouille.

H2O marina St-Jean-de-Losne

H2O marina St-Jean-de-Losne

Back at the boat we had a shower. The water smelled absolutely dreadful. A sort of rusty, sulphuric, almost mild sewage smell. This had not happened to us before. It may have been water lying in the tanks for a year. Or something related to local water? No doubt about it, all the water would have to be flushed out and refilled with fresh water and a bit of chlorine added to clear anything untoward.

We got chatting to a bloke who had a UK flag on his boat so we could get passwords for amenities and wi-fi as the H2O marina offices were closed. He had been stuck for days as his boat engine had broken down and he was waiting for an engineer to have a look at it. Wi-fi is always a problem on the water, we didn’t have much luck getting connected.

The first night was an early night. The following day my other half washed down the covers so they could dry before he packed them away. I cleaned the inside of the boat. Topped up with more food. And started settling down. We went up to the one of the local cafes where my husband had stayed previously to get wifi and have a glass of local wine.

The waterway

The waterway

This year we had only 2 x three week boating breaks. Significantly shorter than previous boating holidays. Travel guides and word of mouth suggested that places like Mâcon, Louhans, Chalon-sur-Saône and Besançon were good to visit. The other major consideration was two friends joining us for 3 days. Our boat had to be near a village big enough so they could catch a train to and from our boat.

We decided to spend one more day in St-Jean-de-Losne as my husband wanted to clean the bilges. And he needed the electrician to explain the new system to us as we were still on shore power. This allowed me to go for a slow jog to see a bit more of St-Jean-de-Losne. Back at the boat and freshened up I started making food for the trip ahead: – vegan mayo, raw cookies, hummus, etc

Finally after much coaxing and with 2 hours to close of day the electrician came to look at the new electrics and decided there was a problem. It would have to wait for the morning when hopefully the problem would be solved. If not, they would loan us a portable generator for our trip.

Our first lock of the season

Our first lock of the season

The climate in Burgundy is said to be hot in summer with wet winters. Not unlike our home city Cape Town. Apparently their recent winter had been particularly wet. August month is still European school holidays. The days are warm to hot with an occasional bit of cloud. The last two evenings on deck were warm but it can get cool on the water. There is no greater place on earth at the end of a day than on our back deck sipping something nice, watching the sun set and listening to people on holiday talking, eating or moving about. Depending on where you’re moored you can also hear birdlife and fish popping up or a breeze rustling through trees. These sounds are mesmerising and oh so soothing. Coupled with the rhythmic movement of the boat – it’s bliss.

The following day there was no sign of the electrician so my husband rustled up the staff at H2O. They eventually dropped off a generator and we decided to rather leave a day later as the trip from St-Jean-de-Losne to Dole was a good day of boating – 28 kilometres and 9 locks. I managed to drop my reading glasses in the water and they disappeared to the bottom in no time. Luckily the pharmacy in St-Jean-de-Losne was still open and I bought a pair of readers. Not what I would have wanted. A giraffe pattern on the top part and the bottom was a burnt orange colour. A tad old fashioned as well. But I couldn’t afford to be fussy.

Our holiday continues – here.

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France – Part 25

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France – Part 25

Read about this trip from the start – here.

Shangri La headed across the canal and through one last lock on the Burgundy Canal toward H2O to undergo her winterizing. As we approached the lock a car came hurtling around the corner and crashed into the railings on the bridge just before the lock bashing a section of the railing into the very space of water we were about to pass. A minute or two earlier and we might have been bumped on the head. He was lucky most of the railing held in place or he would have ended up in the water. The lock-keeper looked like an 80’s rock star – long hair, lean and a few piercings.

The very last lock.

The bollards had been painted to look like toadstools. He indicated to take the ropes and wanted to place us right at the back of the lock. But with davits poking backwards we preferred to sit in the middle of the lock. He did as we asked and gave the Gallic shrug. Then opened the manual locks. The water came through with such unexpected ferocity we had to hang on for dear life and fend to prevent our poor boat getting flung against the side of the lock. The lock-keeper said he knew better but did as we asked. Lesson learned.

 St Jean-de-Losne

We had a lady mechanic at H2O who spoke great English. Slight trouble with words for engine and motor parts but a few gesticulations and noises helped clarify what was meant. She had a look at our engine and agreed there was a bit of smoke. An early oil change would be wise and the auxiliary engine functions like fuel injectors could possibly do with an overhaul. We had no idea when that was last done. If ever. Winterizing is done to prevent pipes freezing and bursting. All water is drained from the main tank. She used a food grade anti-freeze for the shower, basins and loo.  An engine anti-freeze went into the engine parts that use water. Only thing was, we still had two nights left of the boat and no water.

We always deliberate whether to check into a B and B or stay on the boat. There’s last minute cleaning, taking down of awnings, putting up of winter covers, packing away fenders and deck furniture, getting the dehumidifier tubs going and a good few other jobs that need to be done. It’s easier to be on the boat. But not having water to wash hand or clean dishes and not being able to use the toilet is a huge inconvenience.

H2O marina St Jean-des-Losne

That evening we watched rugby Rugby World Cup Brasserie de Port that night. France was playing and South Africa was out so we supported our host country. Early the next morning we heard the H2O blokes knocking on our boat. They had already started dragging her toward the slipway. I was still fast asleep but woke up and got dressed super-fast. I grabbed a hoodie and a bowl of breakfast and watched from the quay as Shangri La was towed out the water by a tractor. They guys hosed her down and took her to a spot in amongst all the other boats either being wintered or repaired. It’s such a weird feeling not really on the boat – but not yet off her. It’s always so hard to say farewell to our holiday home.

Shangri La coming out the water.

My other half had gotten us a train time-table from the Tourism Office so we could travel from St-Jean-de-Losne to Dijon. And from there to Paris. We planned our morning doing last minute things with our train time in mind. Then we set forth with our wheelie suitcases along the little road toward the local Garre (station). You know how sometimes you think you have your day planned – and it turns out NOTHING like you expected? This was one of those days if ever.

My other half doing the oil change.

At the station it emerged that the train time-table – is actually subject to a whole lot of conditions. Not sure who the guy was who helped me as he wasn’t in uniform, but he pointed out that the train times indicated had a digit at the top of each column, which unbeknown to us indicated the limited dates the service actually occurred. As it turns out there were NO trains until significantly later.

The next thing to do was race back the 1 kilometre plus along the tiny road toward the Tourism Office and explore our options. The woman there apparently spoke English. But actually didn’t. She mentioned one bus in three hours time but seemed to think we had to go all the way back to the train station to catch the bus. All she could tell us about the train service was what we now knew. The one and only taxi service wasn’t open. Luckily for us our lady mechanic drove past us and stopped to chat. We explained our predicament and she kindly offered to help.

St Jean-des-Losne

She phoned a guy who travels from Dijon to St-Jean-de-Losne daily to find out how he does it. He confirmed there are very few trains. Then offered to ask someone to drive us to Dijon. Or – if we could hold out – she would take us when she went on lunch. I cannot begin to explain our immense gratitude to this woman. We were more than happy to wait at the local café for her. The minutes felt like hours and when she arrived in her van I could have kissed her feet. But first, this is France, she invited us for lunch. Lunch was a surprise. We had to tell her that we don’t eat meat and an uncomfortable look flashed through her eyes. As we arrived at her vintage Dutch barge she explained it to her partner. Who had made a meat stew. Awkward moment if ever! But these two so rose to the challenge. They rustled up an amazing meal. Home-made humous. French bread. Pickled peppers. Shredded beetroot salad. We picked out the meat and ate the veggies from the stew. I wouldn’t normally do that but in situations like this I do. And we had a lovely glass of Burgundy wine. Of course.

Then we dashed off for Dijon. Oh my Word! It’s a HUGE place. We got a bit lost but my husband produced MapsMe on his Smartphone and yet again we were saved. Some modern inventions I can do without. Fast food is one of them. But life without MapsMe is unthinkable. I don’t get paid to say that.

The Captain.

The next train to Paris was a few hours away so we had a little wander about Dijon before we finally got to Paris and checked into our hotel. Not sure how we are going to get to St Jean-des-Losne next year? But that was the end of almost three months of the waterways. I’ve said this before, I would never have imagined traveling on a boat, let alone on the waterways of Europe. This holiday had some stressful times but we have had the most amazing experiences on our beloved Shangri La. I have to thank my other half for this.

Shangri La is getting some much needed upgrades and Summer 2016 we will be boating in and around the Burgundy region. We want an easy year and have less time. You can read all about those trips on my blog.

Au revoir.

 

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France – Part 24

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France – Part 24

Read about this trip from the start – here.  

Once on the Saône River we had one last lock to Pontailler-sur-Saône where we planned to spend two nights. We had mountains of washing and were desperate to catch on communcations. We found a lovely hire boat marina with everything – except – laundry facilities. And a guy who spoke perfect English. The relief at getting this far, being able to buy food, have wi-fi and take a day or two out was immense. We dashed up to the marina office with our lap-tops but alas, mine did not want to know this marina. I had to transfer all my important stuff onto my husband’s portable hard-drive and of course I had forgotten my password. By the time we got sorted the shops had closed and the heavens opened. Rain came down in sheets. The last thing we wanted was to move. We had plenty wine, a few cracker biscuits and half a jar of red sauerkraut. That was supper. Both of us were in bed and asleep by 21.00pm.

Laundry on the back of the boat

With a free day we did a mini walk around Pontialler-sur-Saône. Gorgeous place. It’s also a hub for hire boats so there was a lot more going on in terms of boats and boating stuff. We found all sorts of things to buy at the marina. An extra long boat hook and some water-proof gloves for me. More maps for my husband. We also contacted the previous owners to find out a bit more about the engine. One thing we did not want was to be scrutinised by lock-keepers on our next holiday. If it meant an engine overhaul – or even a new green engine – then we would have to be open to that. Luckily for us the previous owners have always been generous with information regarding our boat. It was their home for a good few years too. I cannot bear to think of the day we have to part with Shangri La. We also found a nice big supermarket with lots of yummy things so did a stock up. There was a laundry at the camp-site across the river so we took a walk there to find out what the procedure was. It’s a 2 kilometre walk, hardly a hardship. But carrying a big bag of clothing made it a touch difficult.

Pontialler-sur-Saône

Our next morning we got up really late. The marina is so quiet it’s easy to oversleep. It was so nice to have time to just be. We did a quick catch up on commms again and got chatting to one bloke working at the marina. We asked about the problem we had with locks not working. He was saying that it’s as much of a problem for hire-boat companies. They get calls from customers stuck in locks. They also have to get boats around to fit the needs of clients and cannot afford to wait for a lock to open. He said he often waves his jacket in front of the sensors to re-set the lock. Or if a lock won’t open, as a result of filling due to leaks, he gives the lock gates a gentle nudge with the boat. Not sure we would want to use our boat to open a lock but the jacket idea might come in useful.

Pontialler-sur-Saône

We piled our washing in a big blue IKEA bag, strapped it to our wheelie shopper and took it to the camper site. The washing machine was able to take big loads but the dryer was a disaster. I ended up with a heap of wet washing. But one thing did work. My lap-top happily connected to their wi-fi. I was grateful it worked and that I didn’t have a serious problem. I also had the Gerald Morgan-Grenville – Barging into Burgundy – book with me to pass the time whilst doing the laundry. As I said earlier, he wrote this book forty, maybe even more years ago. It’s amazing how not much has changed. He certainly gets himself and his crew into all sorts of messes. It’s a light, fun read. My other half in the meantime gave Shangri La a much needed clean. He scrubbed the awnings and muck on the sides of the boat from the fenders and moss in the locks. She was gleaming when I got back.

Pontialler-sur-Saône

The following day we got going for Auxonne. There we bumped into another boat we passed a few times on the waterways and got chatting. Lovely couple from Australia. Auxonne is just like many of these old villages. The French are known for being resistant to change and I guess in some ways it’s a good thing. A person can walk the streets of a town and imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago. We did a wander about and found a place to have something to eat. Then stocked up on food as well as a detour into a Boulangerie. They are SO hard to resist.

Leaving Pontailler

The other boaties invited us for a drink on board their boat and we were happy to accept. They also have a Valkkruiser but theirs is a touch bigger. We were keen to see how that translated into layout. They have a lovely boat and like us are very happy. From Auxonnne it was off to our last stop and the place where we planned to winter Shangri La – St-Jean-de-Losne. My husband had pre-booked for our boat to come out the water. One nice thing about meeting fellow boaties is they share information and it would seem our apprehension at leaving our boat in the water during winter was possibly unfounded. We live in South Africa which is far away and we would rather she was up on dry land but we may re-consider this approach in time.

Back in the locks

St-Jean-de-Losne was nothing like I imagined it would be. It’s one of THE boating places in France but the town is so small. The marina wasn’t all that. The floating ablution block could have done with a clean. But the wifi was excellent. We arrived on a Monday when nothing happens anyway and the day was taken up locating all the various people my husband had been in contact with and finalising arrangements for the boat.

We also made contact with the world again letting people know we were still alive. The next day the cafés opened and the town looked a whole lot busier. We piled yet more washing into our IKEA bag and set out for the Laverie. How does a person generate so much laundry? Once the washing was going my husband tempted me into sharing a pichet (carafe) of vin de table (house wine). We sat under vines at a café next-door looking over the River Saône watching myriad boats floating up and down. St-Jean-de-Losne is a major juncture for a whole lot of canals and waterway routes. It’s goes back eons. What’s nice about this area – and handy for the next few years of boating – is there are relatively few locks, lots of lovely old towns and the area is geared for boats and boating.

The story continues – nest week.

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France – Part 22

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France – Part 22

Read about this trip from the start – here.  

We were aiming for Langres as our next stop. The route has manual locks – no remote controls. Our lock-keeper drove past our boat as we were loosening our ropes which was most encouraging. We met him at the first lock. He was a rather serious looking bloke who had a habit of muttering to himself. I kept thinking people were walking past on the towpath and only later realised it was our lockie talking to himself.

En route to Langres

He of course spoke no English and was – we think – trying to ascertain what our travel plans were. If the language gap is hard for us it must be as difficult for the French people we talk to. Trouble is, we think we’re speaking French. We understand each other but we’re learning from the same source. We resorted to writing what we needed to convey in the hope that would make it easier for people to understand us since our pronunciations must be atrocious.

Condes Tunnel

The lockies in this section of the canal wear full VNF overalls and a life jacket. It’s hard work winding these ancient locks and coaxing them into action. Fortunately these blokes work right through lunch time and Sundays so we could keep going. Next thing a youngster arrived on a scooter in regular clothes to take over from our lockie. This bloke had some incentive for sure. He had prepared the upcoming locks before meeting us and worked the locks with Olympic speed. He had no time for small talk. I wondered if they were being tested as future candidates or perhaps were paid per lock?

View from the boat

We found Langres easily and tied up to rings. Nice not to have to use our stakes as we never got around to buying a hammer. The service was free but electricity was limited to 3 hours per day – an hour in the morning, one at noon and a last hour at night. There was water – but no hoses. They provide hoses at most places in Holland but not in France. And there was a toilet minus a seat. No toilet paper. Not the best facilities.

Facilities in Langres

Langres is built up on a hill 3 kilometres from the little port. It’s a hellava steep climb. Both of us needed to stop and rest every now and again. We saw a bus go past but never thought to look for a stop. It is exactly the sort of place we hoped to see on this trip. An old walled village with towers and gates, many still in tact. Langres is apparently one of the 50 most beautiful places in France. We had to sneak another day out of our hectic schedule to see more of this lovely place.

One thing that really irks me is some people have unlimited travel time on the waterways. Yet I have a 90 day limit. We met some Brits who had been in France for 18 months. It comes down to where you’re born and has nothing to do with your character or integrity.  EU, British, Australian and a few other nationals are free to spend as much time as they wish in France. The rest of the world need a visa. So Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama would have restrictions despite their humanitarian efforts and the Yorkshire ripper or any other criminal born in the right place can roam France indefinitely.

Langres

We made a slow start to the next day and ambled back up the steep hill toward the old city. En-route was a local supermarket. We popped past to check what they had and what time they closed so we could shop on our way back to our boat. Supermarkets in France often have restaurants where you can get bargain meals. There was a brasserie there but I suspect it was privately owned. Locals were standing around the bar having a café or a glass of wine and buying Lotto tickets. An elderly couple were having an early lunch. We decided to have a café and something to eat. I was surprised that the staff were drinking wine along with the customers. Before noon as well.  Things work differently in France.

Map of panoramic view from Langres

The cheery waitress came over and rattled off a whole bunch of stuff so fast. My other half and I looked at each other and tried to decipher what she had just said. Then it dawned on her – we were Anglais. We quickly mentioned that we don’t eat meat and she picked up the menu and tried to find something for us. Every suggestion she made had cheese. In the end we let her go off and get creative knowing our meal might have have cheese. I got a big plate of salad and tomato with diced potato and baked goats cheese on French bread. It was tasty and she tried to accommodate us which we appreciated. Our waitress was thrilled to get a tip. They don’t seem to expect a gratuity in France.

Lac de la Liez in the distance

Back up the hill we found the outer wall that circles Langres and set about walking it. The circumference is 3 kilometres long and the views are incredible. On a clear day you can apparently see the Alps. We hoped to see the Des Vosges mountains which are a little closer but I think it was too cloudy. There is a map showing you what you can see and where. Then we popped into the Tourism Office to catch up on Internet related stuff like e-mails. And bought some sinful foods at the Boulagerie/Patisserie. Which we devoured with a cup of tea back at our boat.

Old wall and towers around Langres

We had some catching up to do after a day out so made an early start. We followed a French boat toward the first lock. The locks are supposed to open at 09.00am but nothing happened. We saw the French lady the boat in front on her mobile phone. At 09.20am a lady lock-keeper arrived to get the locks going. She helped us through the first and the second lock. Then she mentioned that there were no lights in the 5 kilometre long Balesmes Tunnel. Did we have a searchlight so we could make our way though? This we did not have. She gave what we have come to know as the Gallic shrug and left it at that. My other half managed to connect all our extension leads together and plugged in our re-chargeable torch to make sure it had power. Then he turned on all our navigation lights.

The story continues – on this link.

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