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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.