Barging in Burgundy Part 22

Barging in Burgundy Part 22

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

Day Forty-Three – 9th August 2017
Roanne
The South African bloke came across to look at our boat and talk about what could and couldn’t be done. Since I’m prone to interfering, I decided to leave the men to their business, and set off to find a laundromat. I went the opposite direction, the left bank, across the River Loire. It’s just as lovely. There’s so much to see in Roanne. I found a food market but not the laundromat. When we return to Roanne the following year, my feeling is we would need at least a week to explore.

When I came back, Peter and my better half had been delving into the engine and made a few conclusions. No major dramas, but a few spares and small jobs to be done. The wi-fi in Roanne actually works!! Really well. If you pause for a minute or two, it logs you out. And you have to log in again. But what a pleasure to be able to do business on our laptops on the boat.

Roanne

Roanne

My husband had contacted the father of the French family we met on the tow path and arranged for him to come for a drink that evening. Sometimes in life you meet amazing people. He is for sure one of them. He brought a bottle of local wine and two local delicacies, one of which we had to decline as it was a meat product. We had the most amazing evening. So good to get a local perspective on a region. I hoped we would see more of him. One thing he did mention is, when we tied up at our last idyllic wild stop we were right opposite a notorious jail and a touch further along was location for travellers who had been known to cause problems. A few metres down on the same side was a rescue centre for animals. Not that we realised any of this. Nor was it a problem.

As he left, we saw a bunch of kids playing petanqe next to our boat. One thing I love about France is that youngsters uphold local customs. Could be why France is such a special place. The French resist change but their values and traditions survive.

Chateaux le Roche

Chateaux le Roche

Day Forty-Four – 10th August 2017
Roanne
I woke up and found “something” moving on my pillow. Managed to capture it in a towel and turned out to be a huge spider. The sort that like to squeeze themselves into the tighest knots in our ropes. Spiders like boats. We find intricate webs between the railings, under the chairs, on the radar arch. Apparently they like a warm bed and the odd bite of a human too. I had been sporting a few bright red marks on my face and body, and wondered what was biting me.

We met the South African girl who was going to keep an eye on the boat and charge the batteries, replace the dehumidifying salts, etc. Then our new French friend collected us in his car for a day out. What an absolute pleasure it was to have someone who loves his town, take us to the best spots. Were it not for him, we would never have got to see so much. He showed us where the local markets were and took us to Grand Frais, an incredible fresh produce shop. There was nothing edible a person couldn’t find there. After that, he took us along pretty little country roads to the barrage and a view point for La Loire. Next he took us to a castle – Chateaux de la Roche. We then went to a gorgeous historic village – St Jean St Maurice sur Loire and wandered around in awe. Our new friend and us had a late lunch at the local quirky eaterie. Good food and wine. Lastly we went wine tasting in the Roannaise region. We had absolutely no plans to spend any money as we were winding down on provisions, but all good plans go awry. We ended up buying 18 bottles in total from two of the wine farms. Seven hours later our new friend dropped us back at the boat.

Pretty French Village

Pretty French Village

Turns out Thursdays are pub nights for the boaters in Roanne. Except all the nearby pubs were closed as their owners were away enjoying summer holidays. A lot of the shops had notices in the windows announcing closure for les vacances. An Australian couple, who had only just arrived, kindly agreed to host a bunch of us on board their boat. We had a good old chin wag about all sorts of things. Then had a very early night at our boat.

Bargin in Burgundy Part 21

Bargin in Burgundy Part 21

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

Middle of nowhere
This particular canal seemed to have very young lock-keepers. One tiny young lady was a bit of a Goth in Dr Marten boots and black clothing. She was charging around winding locks and paddles in the heat. Did a great job. Almost all younger French people speak good English. They’re proud of it too. Which is helpful for us. We’ve noticed that people from different countries use English as a default lanuguage in France. We heard Dutch, Eastern block and German people speaking in English at the Tourism offices.

Last night at a wild stop

Last night at a wild stop

This was our last chance to experience total peace and quiet for some time. And it was pure heaven. We took our time to get up and walked back along the tow path into Roanne. My husband and I had a few things to get in place such as locating the Capitainerie and ascertaining our berth spot. We also had to find someone to talk to about wintering our boat and a few minor repairs. Also needed to get a feel for the layout of the place so we could check train times and find a laundromat.

We encountered a friendly French family cycling along the path and they pointed us in the right direction. They exchanged details with us. Who knows, they could be new friends? This time of the year everyone seems to be on holiday (les vacances). Including the port captain. A helpful young lady at the marina was, for the most part, able to understand us. And us her. For such a big and popular marina, there are surprisingly few services available. No lanudry, no mechanic or wintering services. And no boat or nautical shops.

Next we located the Tourism Office and they gave us heaps of info about bicycle hire, bus timetables, train times, health shops and supermarkets. We just made it back to the boat before the rain came down. It’s so soothing to hear the rain falling on the deck and be snug inside our boat. How lucky are we to experience these moments.

En route to Roanne

En route to Roanne

My husband had been wanting to make Crêpes Suzettes. It had been fun making vegan versions of traditional French foods. He did a great job. Served them complete with flames. It was a lovely and cool spot. The occasional runner or cyclist came past. Leaves fell. Not much more.

Day Forty-Two – 8th August 2017
Middle of nowhere to Roanne

It was still raining in the morning so we decided to delay coming through the last lock into the port until after lunch. Not fun tying up while it’s wet. Luckily the sun came out after lunch. A hire boat nearly pinched our parking spot. They don’t realise that the marina allocates space to log term boats.

Turns out there’s a South African family living in Roanne who appeared to be offering services. We wanted to meet them as soon as possible as we hadn’t expected to do everything ourselves. It would also be nice to meet fellow Saffas. They live on a lovely old Dutch barge that they’re busy restoring. Their daughter and her partner live a few boats further along the quay. We met and made plans to chat more. They offer a huge range of services including repairs, wintering and organising spares. They also offer boat cleaning, collection by car from the station and stocking your boat with provisions before you arrive. Much as that would be helpful, one of the things we like doing is immersing ourselves in a place and living like locals. We particularly enjoy walking about.

Passing a Chateux

Passing a Chateux

They mentioned that young kids prank boats by untying their ropes, causing the boats to drift into the marina. A trip to the nearest hardware shop (bricolage) was defo on the cards. We needed chain and locks, anti-freeze and dehumidifying salts. The water sources on the quay were few and far between so an extra length of hose would be required.

The brico is a fair walk but we got to see quite a bit more of Roanne. Plus a quick detour into MacDonalds so we could catch up on wi-fi. I already liked Roanne. That evening I made us green pea falafels with a mustard potato puree. We ate on the back deck.

Barging in Burgundy Part 20

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

Day Thirty-Nine – 5th August 2017
Middle of nowhere to Briennon
We could have happily stayed another night in our wild spot. But we were keen to get to Briennon as it had a great write up in the French Waterways Guidebook. Much as we wanted protection from the sun, the bridges are so low, that all the gear on our boat had to be taken down to scrape through. It’s a daily ritual. First the rear awning, then the radar arch and then the front awning. Leaving us with no protection from the elements. I had gotten sunburnt the previous day even though it was cloudy. This day I had the usual works going. Three layers of sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and light clothing to cover as much of my body as I could.

We passed lots of lovely looking potential wild stops and eyed them longingly. But we resisted as the plan was Briennon. We arrived there to find – a festival about to start. It wasn’t noisy earlier on, but by 18.00pm all the world had arrived. A mix of fun fair rides, an announcer, music and drummers were all competing to be heard. People were getting ready for a running race around the canal. What a contast from the night before! If we were going to be inundated with noise, we may as well join in. Off we went to have a drink at the bar, catch up on wifi and see what locals get up to.

En route to Brienonne

En route to Brienonne

They started with a children’s race. So cute. Followed by a race for adults. We couldn’t work out if there were various distances all happening at once or quite what was going on. What I did notice at the end of the race, the French give out fresh fruit, chocolate and mineral water. Classy. Back in South Africa we get Cola!

My better half went to pay for our stay, the first night at Briennon is free. Sort of. You pay for water and electricity. Once the action started to subside, we went back to our boat for a shower and supper. More of that heavenly grated French carrot salad and a home-made Lyonnaise Lentil Salad with smoked Tofu Cutlets.

Brienonne

Brienonne

Day Forty – 6th August 2017
Briennon to middle of nowhere
I awoke to the sounds of donkeys braying, cows mooing and roosters getting chickens up and about. Along the banks of the canal were about 50 fishermen. It looked like a competition on the go. With the end of our journey almost upon us we decided to head off after lunch for a change. My husband phoned the VNF (Voie Navagale France) offices to arrange a lockkeeper. We also had superb wi-fi signal on the boat. Something that rarely happens on the waterways. My phone apps were all out of date so was able to get them going again.

Meanwhile bumper cars and accompanying music were going full throttle. We went exploring and discovered a flea market that went on forever. Who knew there were so many people in Briennon? We bought a second-hand garden umbrella for €5. Maybe it would provide some shade on the back deck? At the Capitainerie they sell 750ml local craft beers for €5 each. That was a no brainer.

Brienonne

Brienonne

After a noisy previous day we were craving more peace and quiet. It was decided to get close to Roanne, but find somewhere nice and tranquil just before the town. Once we found a space to tie up, we had a bit of a job getting alongside the canal bank. It was simply too shallow. We managed to get the nose of the boat in and tied up a bit skew. All our tarpaulin sheets came out to cover the boat. One reason is to provide shade. The other is to protect her from the zillions of leaves that settle on the deck and leave brown marks.

We walked along the tow path to Roanne to see what this end point had to offer. The marina is absolutely enourmous. We walked right around it trying to find the Capitainerie. It’s closed on weekends. That took care of that. Next thing we wanted to do, was find a supermarket. No-one we asked could think of a place that was open. We walked into the main town and eventually found a mini supermarket. It was use up-time for us and we were buying only what we needed.

Read more – here.

Barging in Burgundy Part 19

Barging in Burgundy Part 19

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

Day Thirty-Seven – 3rd August 2017
Digoin
One thing we’ve noticed, almost every town in France has a few street names in common – Rue Charles de Gaulle, Rue Gambetta and Rue Victor Hugo. Lucky for her, Digoin deigned itself to name a street after Edith Piaf. We wandered up to the ceramic museum, the ceramic shop and popped into E.LeClerc supermarket across the way. We also went to a bricolage (hardware shop) in the other direction. Our shock cord was disintegrating. As we were walking there, we found blackberries growing on the path. Been a while since we were able to forage and they would be perfect in a smoothie.

Fishing in France

Fishing in France

Just when I think I’ve seen it all on the waterways – and the cycle path next to the canals – I see something new. Two sun burnt young blokes were settling down under the shade of trees with two donkeys tied to the trees. The guys were wearing unsophisticated clothes and home-made pointy toe boots. The donkeys had rustic saddles on their backs. These guys were unloading bags and bags and bags from these donkeys. They removed these unusual looking wooden saddles from the donkey’s backs. I was concerned for the welfare of the donkeys and didn’t want to leave. Did they carry these boys as well? How far had they come? Were the donkeys OK in this heat?

Then one chap started off down the road and I swear his donkey turned around, looked at him, and cried. It was heartbreaking. The other guy had to console the donkey. Clearly his donkey wasn’t that unhappy with him. I would have loved to know more about this adventure. If only I spoke decent French. Sigh!

My other half had been wanting to make a French Onion Soup. Today was the day. While he was getting all creative in the galley, I took a container and set off to forage blackberries. They look so luscious on the bushes, but picking them wasn’t easy. They were next to a deep, but narrow, water-filled furrow which I was trying to step across, but not fall in. Their thorny branches were piercing my hands and fingers. Stinging nettles were attacking my ankles. I had bees, ants and lizards all trying to get me. I got half a bowl of berries and gave up.

Deep canal en route to Roanne

Deep canal en route to Roanne

Back at the marina a few new boats had arrived and two groups of people came back to their closed up boats. They parked their cars on the side of the road and were loading up provisions. We sat on the deck again sipping chilled wine and enjoying my better half’s great French Onion Soup.

Day Thirty-Eight – 4th August 2017
Digoin to middle of nowhere
Another perfect boating day. Not too hot. Not raining. And a bit cloudy. We left Digoin via the aqueduct and headed in the direction of Digoin. It’s all farms and haystacks and cows. Not as lush and green as the River Seille, but just as beautiful. We spotted a deer lurking on the side of the canal. Pretty butterflies were flying among the flowering weeds. The ambiance is tranquil and wholesome.

The obligatory fisher men and fisher women with their fisher families were settled on the banks of the canal. I’m amazed at how passionate the French are about fishing. It’s not only old folks at it. Youngsters too.

The first lock out of Digoin is assisted. Then the first lock in the direction of Roanne we had to manage ourselves. The bollards were set so far back, no way could we lasso them. My other half climbed up the railings and clambered on to the top of the lock. Fortunately the next two canals we had a lock-keeper. The third lock was particularly deep. With no floating bollards. Good thing we had assistance. Our lock-keeper hurried us to the last lock so he could take his lunch break. I suspect he may have been hoping for a tip.

Tied up in the middle of nowhere

Tied up in the middle of nowhere

The River Loire flows alongside the canal. You can sometimes see it. It’s weird that the canal is higher than the river. In fact it’s higher than most of the surrounding area. Good for sight-seeing. But the canal is very shallow. Even at slow speed we were making a wash.

We tied up in an amazing spot. No roads, no people, no nothing. The pair of us sat naked on our back deck having supper by candlelight. Around 22.00pm we got all loony and went for a stroll along the canal. There was a bright full moon. We tried to make out the constellations of stars, but are not overly familiar with those in the Northern Hemisphere. It was wonderful to be all alone with no noise other than those from the canal and nature. We heard owls, bull frogs, fish leaping and insects chirping. One of our best nights ever!

Read more – here.

Barging in Burgundy Part 18

Barging in Burgundy Part 18

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

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.

Read more – here.

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.

Read more – here.

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