Barging in Burgundy Part 1

Barging in Burgundy Part 1

Barging in Burgundy

This would be our 5th summer barging in Burgundy on our beloved Shangri La. When my better half bought the boat, I had grand ideas of traversing the Inland Waterways of all Europe. My other half was much more realistic. And thank heavens for that. We spent 2 and 1/2 summers in the Netherlands, a hectic season trekking through Belgium into France. This would be our second summer in France. We had barely moved from Burgundy the year before. And it didn’t look like we were making great progress anytime soon. And the best bit – it was entirely OK. We had been taking our time stopping off at myriad little villages. Languishing at markets and dropping back on our intended schedule to enjoy just a bit more of a lovely place we discovered. Barging in Burgundy is indeed. a special experience. You can see a video of the inside of our boat – on this link.

Shangri La lifted out for a scrub

Shangri La lifted out for a scrub

My husband went a few days ahead of me to get the boat ready and do a few small repairs. I was coming over with my mother on the Eurostar. This would be her first time on our boat. And her first time barging in Burgundy

Filling up with fuel

Filling up with fuel

Day One – 28th June 2017
London to St-Jean-de-Losne
The trip from London to St-Jean-de-Losne is always hectic. There are only a handful of trains to this itty-bitty village. Our entire trip hinges around making sure we don’t miss one of those trains. It’s tight. I didn’t want my mother to have to dash with all her luggage. Luckily my better half came up to meet us at Gare du Nord and helped carry her stuff. Would not have coped without him. There is a taxi we could take for the last leg from the station to the boat but it’s so expensive when we convert it back to our local currency. It’s just over a kilometre. So, we walked. My mother walked too. She was tired when we got to the boat.

Apparently, it had been hot and dry for 9 weeks prior to our arrival. It was a warm evening so we sat outside on the back deck listening to the frogs, fish and birds. Eating and chatting. The shops were closed when we arrived so it was a meal of leftovers and what was on board.

St Jean de Losne

St Jean de Losne

Day Two – 29th June 2017
Our second day was spent in St-Jean-de-Losne. I wanted Mum to see a bit of this important junction on the waterways. My other half had last dealings with H2O Marina. We needed to do major shop up for 7 weeks of boating and there is a lovely Casino supermarket easy walking distance from the boat.

One thing about H2O St-Jean-de-Losne is they have great wi-fi. And thank heavens as there was a major plumbing drama back home in South Africa. We did a little walkabout in the village. Visited the free Barge Museum. Popped into an eatery along the River Saône for a drink. And then back to the boat before the rain came down. I made a pasta packed full of French veggies, aubergine, courgette, onions, garlic and hearty tomatoes. Plus, some Violife vegan parmesan cheese I had brought over from the UK. Add a few glasses of Burgundy red wine. What more could a person want?

Sleeping in a boat is the best. The cabins are cosy with low ceilings. Add to that the motion and sounds of being on the water. I guess it’s a bit like being in a womb. Hypnotic. Definitely conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Read more – on this link.

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

Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France

My other half and I often have to pinch ourselves as we just cannot believe we have our very own Dutch steel motor cruiser – Shangri La. How did this happen? I have to confess I had no part in it. None whatsoever. In fact I had no desire to even set foot on a boat. Why would I? Then I met my now husband. He’d been sailing dinghys as a child and went on to become a ship captain. Boats are his whole life.

Shangri La in Alkmaar

Sailing holidays in Greece and Turkey were his thing for decades. He took me on a sailing holiday to the Greek Islands. The Sporades. Fabulous part of the world. I liked being on a boat but was less keen on the actual sailing. More like hard work than a holiday. I also didn’t like being lurched all over the place and ducking every time we changed tack to avoid getting smacked on my head by the boom.

Shangri La in Utrecht

Our next trip he took us to explore the Croatian islands, this time we had a cabin cruiser. (Read about that holiday – here) Again I loved being on a boat but that particular boat had compact living space and was all about speed and power.

The following holiday we did the Macclesfield Canal on a traditional English narrow boat. I really enjoyed that break. Boating at a slow gentle pace means you can leave a cup of coffee on a table without fearing it will smash  or spill. The holiday after that was wonderful. We went barging in France. (Read more – here) And we did more similar holidays. A narrow boat in the Brecon Beacons in Wales and more France as well as the Netherlands.

Shangri La in Liege

Since we enjoyed our slow boating holidays, it started to make sense to buy a boat. Well that’s how my other half explained it to me. He favoured a Dutch steel motor cruiser. If there is one thing the Dutch have got right over the eons, it’s making boats. We did our last holiday with a boat-hire company that specifically uses Pedros, a particular design of Dutch steel boat. (Find that holiday – here) My other half knew that was the sort of boat he might like and wanted to try one out.

Over the next couple of years we looked at a LOT of boats. We had a checklist and would rate the boats according to things we thought would be important like water and fuel capacity, location of toilet for guests on the boat, engine size, air and water draft, equipment, double steering positions – something we didn’t want as we felt it took up unnecessary space. We had some idea of what boating in Europe would be like. We needed to fit under bridges or travelling would be limited. We needed to have enough fuel and water. The bigger the boat the higher the mooring costs but with two of us hoping to take lengthy holidays we needed space to move.

Shangri La in Dinant

We fell in love with a Mollenkruiser in Nottingham. Beautiful boat. And fully renovated. Sadly the sale fell through as there was insufficient paperwork in place. Paperwork is VERY important crossing international borders. Proof of tax payments and ownership papers were not available for that boat. Despite the owner of that boat insisting he had never had a problem, and we were very much in love with that boat, we took advice from multiple people and never went through with the purchase.

Since my other half was set on a Dutch design boat we knew we would in all likelihood find one in the Netherlands. And so focused on boats there. Eventually we found Shangri La, the much loved boat of a German couple who had to sell. They had enjoyed plenty holidays on her and done a whole lot of improvements. Things we never considered important like an electric hob, which we initially thought was odd, but with gas regulations and safety issues it’s actually a sensible idea. The boat also didn’t have a holding tank but rather a sea toilet. Many of the boats we looked at had holding tanks close to the living area. They smell. My other half is prepared to fit one externally if the need arises. And we keep disposable toilet liners should we be in an area that prohibits the use of a sea toilet. Shangri La has a distinct nautical interior with a ships brass clock that chimes the bells and assorted other brass and nautical hooks and gadget holders. Luckily the owners left all that on the boat for us. And a  few other handy things such as German pots, microwave, spares and tools.

Shangri La in Bar le Duc

The sale went well and we became the proud owners of Shangri La. We think we’re her fourth owners. Her bouwjaar (building year) is 1992. She is a Van der Valk cruiser. My husband is happy to keep on top of maintenance and repairs either by himself or outsourcing work. Shangri La has been re-upholstered, she has new curtains, her piping has been replaced, starter motor and gearbox overhauled, woodwork refurbished, new awnings and canvas covers, the broken windows and ports have been repaired. But, like any house or car, a boat has to be maintained ongoing.

The story continues – here.

Boating in Holland

Boating in Holland

Boating in Holland – Zwartsluis, Hardewijk and Naarden

For my advice and tips on planning a boating holiday – click on this link.

Our first year on our boat was all about getting to know her. Make her our home. Our second year, we

First day was rain and more rain

planned to start proper travelling. Not that we hadn’t done any boating, it’s just we hadn’t strayed too far from our marina. We left Shangri La behind at the end of 2013 with a list of improvements and repairs for our boat yard to do.

My husband had been planning our 2014 trip for a while. Our boat would be ship shape. We were doing 3 trips. We had already explored northern Netherlands, now we wanted to see Amsterdam,

Dressed warm two days away from Midsummer

the delta where the rivers Maas, Rhine and Waal return to the sea and the southern areas of  The Netherlands.

The first trip of 2014 was frankly a disaster. We ended up having only 3 days on our boat. The repairs we expected to be done, were not done. My husband delayed coming across to Holland to give the marina more time. That turned out to be a huge mistake. We actually needed to be around to make sure our work got done, something all the other people with boat repairs at the same place were doing.
The second trip my husband got to the boat a good few days before me, and to our relief all the work had finally been done. We had new curtains

Our mooring in Hardewijk

and upholstery, new mattress and carpets. My husband wanted mechanical and structural repairs done including the starter motor, window hinges, leaks, windscreen wiper, new fuel and water pipes. All this came with a hefty bill but he always says he’s happy to spend money to keep the boat in good condition.

On the 17th June, I left home in Cape Town at 16.00pm and caught a bus to the airport, plane to London, plane to Amsterdam, train to Zwolle, bus to Zwartsluis and a walk to the marina. Twenty two hours later, with only 2 hours sleep in hand, I

New upholstery and curtains

got to see our boat again. And my husband. We had supper at the local eatery and an early night. The next morning we left around 09.00am and headed toward Hardewijk.

Hard to believe it was a few days shy of midsummer. We were both wrapped up warm and the rain was pelting down. We managed 6 and 1/2 hours of motoring and got to Hardewijk, tying up in the pouring rain.
I was almost reluctant to see Hardewijk as all I really wanted to do was stay in with the heating on. But I’m glad we went up the road. A person never knows quite what to expect in these smaller towns. Hardewijk is an old historical place with a

Cathedral Hardewijk

big cathedral in the middle. We found the town square and had our obligatory Belgian beer at a cafe as we watched the locals doing whatever locals do. My other half had made a divine pea and potato curry which we devoured when we got back to the boat.

The next day we had a really early start as we had to be in Naarden to meet friends who were joining us on the boat. We feared another dreary day, but the rain soon cleared. Our friends brought South African sunshine with them. Naarden has a lovely big marina with excellent facilities. Also nice is that you pay a flat fee which includes shower,

Planes from Schipol airport passing over Naarden

electricity, water, etc. No constantly having to scratch around for coins to top up meters. We hardly tied up and our friends arrived. Our very first visitors! We had a few worries. Was there enough space? Where would we put luggage? Would they be OK with our veggie diet? Was their room warm enough? How would we all manage together in the confines of a boat for four days? We would find out soon enough.

The next morning my husband and friends were up early. We had breakfast and the blokes were playing boats. Not sure exactly what they were doing. Looked like checking maps and taking the

The marina in Naarden

canopy on and off. (No doubt important stuff.) I had a last catch up with e-mails, facebook and other comms. One never knows if and when you get Internet on the water.

We all sat on the back deck with snacks and tea for lunch. It was still helluva cold, but the rain had gone. Then we all went for a walk into Naarden. I wished we had more time there. It’s a well preserved lovely old town. It had the usual moat around it. And an Arsenal. We also discovered big arches which must have been where the city once had a gate. Luckily we found a little supermarket and topped up with food before wandering back to our boat. We all had an early shower and then enjoyed sun downers on the back deck. We had veggie burgers and

The boys playing boats

salad for supper. Our friends had done the same flight over as me so we all had an early night. I always sleep well on the boat.

Find Part 2 of this travel blog – on this link.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open – My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.



Barging through the Netherlands

Barging through the Netherlands

Barging through the Netherlands in 2013

Shangri La connected to shore power in Zwolle

I’ve put some tips and advice for wannabe boaters – on this link.

Gosh, it’s been so long since I last did a travel blog. We down-scaled residence considerably and moved to a smaller house. Shortly after that we went on another long holiday. I managed to keep my other blog going – see that one here – but I let this one lapse.

We finally began what we hope to be a decade or three of travelling along the waterways of Europe on my husband’s boat. He’s been blogging about his boat in this blog – read here – but I’m sure you can appreciate our ideas about boating are very different.

It was always my intention to keep this blog going and hopefully I will have lots to write about. Over the next few weeks I will share our trip which took us from Zwartsluis near Zwolle in central Holland, up north east to Groningen near the German border, then west through Friesland and back to Zwartsluis where we left our boat 10 days ago.


My husband has been wanting his very own boat for a long, long time. I was less keen. I like boats, but to have one? Not so sure. And since we married, if he has a boat, he’s going to want to use it. Which means either I go with, or he goes alone. Or he goes with someone else. See my dilemma?

Frozen canals in Zwartsluis

We had a good few boating holidays on hired boats together before finally deciding to get our own boat. We finally bought her a year ago.We found our boat in The Netherlands. Her name is Shangri La. Our plan is to spend the next decade, hopefully, a whole lot more, exploring the European waterways. Obviously Holland was our starting point.

Our first attempt to get going was a flop. Unseasonably cold weather meant the canals were frozen. We had to abandoned that idea. The next attempt was aborted before we even got going. We bought and sold a few properties back home and had to be around until everything was sorted.

This time, our holiday was delayed as my husband wanted to get to know the boat and do a few vital

Canal/moat surrounding Zwolle

repairs or renovations. Boats need constant work. Fact of life. We had to accept that some upgrades and fixing would have to wait or we might never get going.

Obligatory Wateralmanak

I also spent the first days going through items the previous owners left behind. Some were discarded – a single boating glove, lip liner and empty cleaning agent bottles. But I kept really nice stainless steel cookware, buckets, pegs, washing line, AEG vacuum cleaner and all their tools. Our boat is 20 years old. It’s not new. But I wanted it to feel new, so I was allocating a few hours a day to ensure a thorough spring clean.

After a week we both wanted a break from fixing and cleaning and looked forward to some travelling. We set off from our home marina in Zwartsluis, topping up with fuel, adding diesel bug deterrent, and made our way south to Zwolle. The last 7 days had been perfect weather, even a stonking hot 34’C on the one day. But half an hour before we left Zwartsluis, the heavens opened and the temperature dropped.

Scenery along the canal is mixed. Pretty old towns like Hasselt (pronounced hastle) sit on the banks of the canal. Also visible are large factories, ship yards and big piles of ground stones. There is also much diversity on the waterways; massive barges, speed boats, skiers, yachts, rowers, stand up board sailors and an assortment of pleasure boats all share space.

We arrived in Zwolle around 16.00. There were two bridges where we had to wait to pass. In high season, moorings get full quickly. In a place like Zwolle, we really needed to arrive much earlier. Or phone ahead and reserve a space. That info can be found in the obligatory Wateralmanak. After much

Zwartsluis marina at dusk

deliberation and angst, we moored alongside another boat, or ‘double-banked’ as it’s called, and headed straight indoors to escape the relentless rain and cold. A nice hot shower, a glass of wine and a curry were next on the agenda.

There is a saying – the best two days in a boat owners life are; the day s/he buys the boat and – the day s/he sells it.
The definition of a boat is – a hole in the water in which to throw money.
And lastly, sailing is defined as – standing under a cold shower tearing up bank notes.

Although the major defects had been picked up by a surveyor and dealt with by the seller and agent, minor things like dud switches and leaks were now popping up. Rain was streaming in our

Boats tied together or ‘double banked” in Zwolle

bedroom port and my husband managed to twist the invertor/shore power button clean off. He wondered what the ‘Interdit’ setting might be. Our first proper night on our new boat wasn’t a heap of fun.

Was I right about having a boat, or was I right? Thing is, I had also fallen in love with Shangri La and slowing meandering the countryside, old towns and bustling cities of Europe for the next 20 odd years was most appealing. I was hooked.

Think you understand Dutch? Read this

Read Part 2 – here.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Barging in France

Barging in France

Barging in France in 2008

Read my advice and hints for boating on Europe – by using this link.

Tuesday 1st September 2009

Ibis Hotel Toulouse

We flew in to a warm, slightly overcast day in Toulouse, the pink city of France, and the epicentre of aeronautics and aviation.  We planned to arrive and leave via Toulouse for our canal boat holiday along the historical Canal du Midi.

The French style of doing things was immediately apparent as we spent our first hour making our way to the hotel. We had done a basic French Speaking course to be on the safe side. We like the Michel Thomas method of learning a language. We did try a language school but forgot all they taught us. With Michel Thomas we were able to at least make ourselves understood and string words together.

Maybe we were lucky, but we found the French helpful and friendly, contrary to expectation. It started at immigration. Border control let you through with a stamp in your passport and skipped the harrowing interrogation some countries find necessary. It’s a much nicer way to start a holiday.

View from hotel room

The airport was clean and their information or ‘accueil’ went beyond what was required to help us. They phoned the Ibis Hotels to find out which one we’d booked into. Who knew there were three? And they gave us plenty information and maps so we could find the shuttle bus, all in perfect English.

At least two people saw us with our map and offered us directions as we walked to our hotel so we eventually hid our map. We were not expecting the French to be so helpful.

Anglicization going on here

After checking in and showering we popped out for a bite and promptly changed our minds. Toulouse is bigger and so much prettier than we imagined. We bought snacks and went back to our room to furiously read up on Toulouse and what to do. We like Wiki travel for travel information. wikitravel Toulouse

Our rudimentary French was slowly coming back. The complimentary Wi-Fi was great but you sign-on in French. And one has to be able to ask things like, “Can I drink the tap water here?” or “Where is breakfast please?”

We were glad we have made the effort to learn basic French many times.

Wednesday 2nd September 2009

Jardin du Plante

We like Ibis Hotels. Ibis Hotels Booking on-line is easy, and the rooms, although cosy, are always clean and comfortable. We opted to have the hotel French style breakfast at €7.50 each, which was a spread of the usual fruits, cereals, pastries as well as some regional foods such as cheeses, tortilla and good coffee.

Pont Neuf on the River Garonne

We had two days to explore the city on foot before we collected our boat. Toulouse is the 4th largest city in France. It’s home to Airbus, the aeroplane manufacturers, and has the 2nd highest number of universities in France. The modern energy contrasts sharply with the old architecture of the city. We strolled through cobbled walkways passing by cafes and buildings with typical Mediterranean architecture, terracotta roofs and shutters on the windows.

Then we went to the city gardens, which had fountains, sculptures and plants grown to resemble faces and objects. We ambled along the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi, which was built in the 1600’s, and was a vital link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

At lunchtime we remembered the superstores in France often have cafeterias, which offer local cuisine at excellent prices. We found Monoprix, a block away, and we each had a plate of assorted fresh salads from the buffet, boiled eggs, a small carafe of red wine to share and two carafes of water.
Not bad for €10.00?

Streets of Toulouse

The French style of eating is right up our street. They utilise lots of fresh vegetables. Fruits and salads are common components of a meal. Plain tap water and a small glass of wine usually accompany food. They take their time to enjoy lunch, which is from 12.00 to 14.00. Everything comes to a complete halt lunchtime in France, as people head home, baguettes in hand, to enjoy their midday meal.

That said that, we avoided the pricey French Bistros and Brassieres. The challenge of deciphering what we could receive on our plate, as well as the prices, kept us on the streets where we found great food. We regularly ate at Lebanese cafés where a huge combination mezze and salad platter would cost around €8.00 each, and a large carafe of wine to share (500 ml) was about €4.00.

We ended the evening with a stroll along the Garonne River, which came alive at night with students engaged in various activities along the banks.

Click here for Barging in France Day 3 and 4.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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