Thursday 30th August 2018 London to St-Jean-de-Losne We know this trip so well by now,. It’s tight. There are only so many trains from Paris to Dijon and even less from Dijon to St-Jean-de-Losne. We cannot afford to hang about. So where had we been? We planned to visit an organic farm in the southernmost end of Cornwall. An experience I would highly recommend, but my goodness it is hard work. Especially for two old farts. We dug potatoes on our knees with our hands (in gloves), picked the most amazing tomatoes in sauna hot poly-tunnels and planted row upon row about half a kilometre long of Purple Sprouted Broccoli and Cavanero Kale. You don’t do that standing up. Or lying down. Just saying. We learned so much about the provenance of food. Will never throw food away ever again!
And then we did a two week Vegan Diploma at Demuth’s in Bath, Somerset, England. They pack a year’s cooking diploma into two weeks. We loved every second of it. The teachers gave freely of their knowledge. Both of us learned so much. I could do that course again. And again. It was intense – but such a gift.
We bungled things a bit and ended up with another trip back south to Torquay, Devon. Won’t reveal who is to blame for this but I will say it wasn’t me. But all good actually. The Airbnb host was away for a Bank Holiday Weekend so we had the place to ourselves. We did the odd venture out but for the most part – did very little. Which was so good. We needed time out.
Meanwhile, all sorts of communications regarding our beloved boat had been going on. There was a potential buyer who had apparently initially offered 17% below the asking price. My other half agreed on a 5.5% reduction off the asking price. Signing paperwork had been a bit tricky as we didn’t have access to a printer or Wi-Fi most of the time. But he had sent a signed copy of the sales agreement back to H2O. Now we were back in St-Jean-de-Losne. Reality was sinking in. Our first night all we wanted to do was sleep. A lot.
Saturday 14th July 2018
Sjoe, so many choices in a small town – on a Saturday – and a Public Holiday – in rural France! Firstly many places were actually open for the first time ever. The local supermarket was offering a €10 discount off every €60 spent on Bastille Day. Secondly it was Bastille Day and a procession down the streets and fireworks was planned. And thirdly it was the day before the Soccer World Cup 2018 finals – France vs Croatia. Everyone and their dog was feeling festive. Red, white and blue flags abounded. I even saw a car spray painted red, white and blue! That’s commitment.
My job for the day was to give the boat a big fat clean. Again. After all the drama on our way to St-Jean-de-Losne the boat needed yet another Spring Clean. My better half got stuck into outside jobs like putting new rope in the davits, polishing steel bits and washing down awnings. Seems so pointless cleaning outside as there are always spiders making sticky webs all over. Have never understood why a spider will choose to live on a boat when they can live on terra firma. They love nooks and crannies and hide in the tightest of knots and smallest of spaces. I suspect it’s them that bit us at night as every day we woke up with itchy red spots on our bodies. Everyone on the waterways has those exact same spots. I’ve tried making a raw garlic sauce with a whole head of garlic and placing it liberally over our food. No human could miss our garlic smell but these spiders are undeterred. As much as I try to live a vegan ahimsa (no harm) lifestyle, I don’t allow spider webs on our boat.
After a hot sweaty day of cleaning and tidying, we showered and headed to the centre ville (town centre). Not very big after all. I heard a frantic family of ducks squawking in the river and saw someone’s dog swimming after them having a wonderful time. Luckily they could fly away so the dog’s attempts were thwarted. It was another hot, hot, hot day. Not a breath of wind. Just being still in shade is enough to cause a person to sweat. We had an ice cold beer and then went to watch one of the bands playing in a back street. A mixture of punk and thrash. Next we heard fireworks across the river. We watched the display from afar. I love fireworks but am aware they cause immense distress to animals. Can’t wait for noiseless ones to be invented. We both crashed at the boat and despite the heat – slept well.
Sunday 15th July 2018 St-Jean-de-Losne The day France won 2018 Soccer World Cup Our last day in St-Jean-de-Losne for a bit. We had plans to explore the south of France, learn more about organic farming in Cornwall and attend a hands-on vegan cooking school in Bath before returning to our boat for a last month on the waterways. Fingers crossed we might have had some interest from a potential buyer. I always clean the drains with a mix of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and hot water before we leave so any possible residue doesn’t harden and set hard constricting the outlets. It’s highly effective and eco friendly.
I made us a last supper of leftovers. Bean burgers with herbs and spices. Yet more garlic sauce but with 1 + 1/2 heads of garlic and a cucumber salad. My other half desperately needed a repsite from whatever was munching him. He was covered in big raised red bumps. How much more garlic would do the trick? The we went off to town to watch the game. I suspected France would win as all the predictions were for a French victory. We arrived at Brasserie de Port 20 minutes into the game and the score was one 1 – 1.
I freely admit to being a novice expert at soccer. And rubbish at supporting teams. I vascilate between wanting a team to win and feeling pity for the losers. When my team of choice is way down I bargain with the universe. I should not watch sport.
A few minues after we arrived and settled into our drinks France scored a goal bringing the score to 2 – 1. The game was remarkably free of dramatics and penalties. Croatia had excellent ball control for most of the game but France took more chances and scored yet another goal. as we neared the end of the game I wished Croatia one last goal, not to win, but they were so brave and played so hard. They were the underdog. But I also wanted France to win. As the game ended the crowd erupted into whoops and cheers. It was bedlam. People were running around the bar cheering and hugging each other. Then the festivities split out onto the street. People were hanging out of hooting cars, waving flags and generally beside themselves with happiness. It went on for hours afterwards.
Back at the boat we packed away valuables or what is precious to us and geared up for an early start to get to Dijon and then Avignon.
Friday 13th July 2018 St-Jean-de-Losne How to sell a boat in France? Yip, first pick an agent, which we had now done. The next step is completing the mandate to sell. It’s a heck of a lot of work. Not because it’s long winded. But because it requires critical information that isn’t stashed in our heads. They also want as much as possible about the history of the boat. We only know what the previous sellers had told us. But they also want to know what improvements had been made to the boat.
And this is where it sinks in what all this fun we’ve had on our boat has actually cost. The list of improvements over the years was long, yet the value of the boat hadn’t gone up one iota. Big ticket items like a new exhaust system, re-upholstering plus new matresses, curtains and carpets, new overhead and side awnings, new wiring and piping, replaced mosquito filters for the windows, new Whisper generator, fixed most of the leaking windows, let along smaller things like replacing starter motors, fenders and VHF radios. That is by no means all of the repairs or replacements. A look through the invoices revealed that over 7 years around around €42K had been spent on Shangri La. You can’t not fix a boat or ignore maintenance. Failing to do upgrades and repairs will cause a boat to deteriorate and ultimately have no value. But none of those improvements contributes to re-sale value. What’s the famous definition of a boat? “A hole in the water into which you throw money.”
Once the document was signed and all invoices, VAT certificates, registration papers, blah, blah had been handed over, we grabbed 4 huge loads of laundry, humped it to the laverie (laundromat) and got our laundry going. What’s a person to do on the banks of the River Saone with a few hours to kill on a hell hot day in France? Have a glass of rose and a plate of frites at the cafe next door of course. Bit cheeky to charge €16 for a glass of wine. (Note to self not to ask for wine, but order off the wine list next time.) My other half commented that the best part of boating is probably 60% finding new and fabulous places and 40% being on the waterways.
We saw notices all over about the summer festival of St-Jean-de-Losne as we walked back to the boat. So after supper and a shower, we decided to go back to our favourite place Brasserie de Port where a pichet of wine – and a beer – was €8. We did remember to ask for vin ordinaire (house wine) and it was good. I’m partial to unfiltered heavy red wines and this was exactly that. Our other favourite place was closed due to a fire! Gasp. We peered through the window and the ceiling was on the floor. It was sooty black.
After our drink we went back to sit on back deck of the boat when we heard sirens and drums. Our first thought was there might be some drama but no, it was a practise round for the Bastille Day festivities coming up. There was a marching band with the usual brass and drums section as well as metal xylophones which gave a sweet tinkle sound. A friendly Australian chap was telling us the pompiers have a morning routine in the street where they do their exercises showing off their fitness levels. Nice one. We both didn’t even remember it was Friday 13th until late evening.
Wednesday 11th July 2018 Verdun-sur-le-Doubs to St-Jean-de-Losne It’s a lovely marina at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs. Not very big which means you need to get there early to get a spot. They had excellent WiFi, a shower and toilet. The cafe/bar/Capitainerie is right next to the Tourism Office. It opens 10.00am and closes late, you can have a coffee, a meal or just a drink. The whole set up is very convenient. If you’re happy to take a walk, Verdun-sur-le-Doubs has a great supermarket as well. One of the things I love about French villages is church bells. Not sure why. Verdun-sur-le-Doubs has two lots of church bells ringing out on the hour – and half hour.
My better half was doing his usual checks and upon opening the floorboards saw the hull had a lot of water in it. My heart sank and he was even more disappointed. He changed into his overalls and first we got the davits stored in there out, so he could climb into the hull and see what the problem was. The plan was always to put the davits back up since the boat was going on sale. Under the floor boards he found the hose clamps of the exhaust hose had wiggled loose. Similar story to the hot water leak we had 29th June. The vibration of the boat when idling or waiting outside locks can get so intense that things fall off the tables. These connections are subject to vibration so they do wiggle loose. An annual check of all these connections is critical. We skipped the full check up last year as the engineer in Roanne had contracted cancer and there was no-one else to do it. Also a number of minor repairs never got done.
We got going but switched the engine off in a lock. As we left the lock we noticed the water pressure was right down. Eventually my husband decided to pour water into the cooling sytem manually so we could keep going. We alternated between one of us doing water and one of us driving. I counted a litre of water every 20 seconds and feared we would run out of water. So we switched to collecting river water in a bucket. All I wanted to do was find a place to stop and re-boot the system, as schlepping water in and out the boat every few seconds wasn’t a sustainable solution. Another boat passed us and asked why we were limping along. Turns out they had problems with their Morse cable and were using a rope to keep going. The joys of boating!
We stopped at Seurre and got the sytem going again. It worked perfectly for the next 80 minutes. Who knows what causes these things to happen but that issue would go onto the list for repairs/inspections at St-Jean-de-Losne. Won’t lie I was relived to finally tie up at the marina when we got there. We’ve spent so much time in St-Jean-de-Losne we know our way around it and what to expect which is super useful. I’ve grown to love it there. There’s a fantastic Casino supermarket right behind the marina which stays open until 20.00pm week nights. Also always visit the barge museum.
Thursday 12th July 2018
This was a day of meetings with the boat agent and the chap who runs operations. Shangri La had a shopping list of things to be sorted. My better half first met with the chap who oversees repairs. Some of the jobs were routine things like oil and impeller changes. Most were small issues but if a person wants to keep a boat in good nick they must be done. The brand new generator was playing up and should still be under guarantee. The water cooling issue had to be looked at. My husband had bought a new impeller, blade and masticator for the toilet which he hadn’t been able to fit.
Next person he met was the sales agent. All along the waterways we had told other boaters we were selling and a person gets so much advice – and warnings – it’s hard to know what to do. The agent at H2O was open to working with other agents, contrary to what we’d been told. He didn’t push a price on us but said the market would determine what offers would come our way. He did give us a wide ball park figure in which to pitch the asking price. My husband went walkabout at the marina and looked on-line to see what boats they had on the market and get an idea for an asking price. It was clear if we wanted to sell, we would have to be a less ambitious than we had hoped.
Apparently boat prices peaked around 2008, but with financial instability around that time there was a glut of boats on the market, and a subsequent decrease in prices. We only bought Shangri La in 2012 so why prices continued to drop is a mystery. I have noticed that it’s mainly oldies of European or Antipodean origin on the waterways. They’re getting older and youngesters or even middle-aged people aren’t flocking to own boats. I still think it’s a fabulous way of life/holiday and not enough is being done to entice or encourage people to explore the inland waterways of Europe. Frankly it’s a perfect way to get to know a country as you’re immersed in life with locals. Most visitors to France go to Paris and straight back home. Paris is not France. It’s beautiful, but it’s not typical of France or French people.
Tuesday 10th July 2018
Chalon-sur-Saone to Verdun-sur-le-Doubs
My better half does all sorts of things I don’t even know about. He’s a ship captain and gets (for the most part) how boats work. Before we left for Paris he closed all the sea cocks and places where water moves within the boat. As we geared up to leave Chalon-sur-Saone he started the engine and checked cooling water was coming out the exhaust. This particular morning – it wasn’t. He topped up with water. But that wasn’t working either. Turns out the water cooling inlet was so clogged with weeds that it couldn’t function. He eventually attached our hose pipe to water from the quay, pushed the hose deep into the system, turned the tap on full force, and blasted the weeds out. That worked and we got the system going. Only thing is when we took the hose pipe out we never got to the quay to turn it off fast enough and the saloon was given an almighty hose down of water. But hey, we saved €60 an hour plus transport getting an engineer in.
It’s not often we pull our fenders up as there’s always a lock around the corner but with not a single lock for the entire day, we brought them on board. Being on a river versus a canal is such a contrast. No lunch time delays. We could go a bit faster and give the engine a bit of a workout. Not too much of a workout as there were canoeists doing their thing and a wake could capsize them. It was a perfect day. A bit cloudy, not too hot, and no rain. We’d commented on how few boats were around this year compared to last year on the canals. On the Saone, we saw boat, after boat, after boat.
I defintely think boating is a two person thing. No doubt my better half can manage without me 90% of the time. But you need four pairs of hands sometimes. It’s when you’re tie-ing up and juggling ropes or fenders that having an extra person is crucial. Even if all the extra person does is hold a rope.
At Verdun-sur-le-Doubs we slowed down and pronto a young chap came down and asked us firstly, if we spoke English or French, and then how many nights we planned to stay. He motioned where he wanted us to tie up. It’s a stern to (backwards) tie up so I had to move fenders to the back of the boat. As we were manoevreing the boat to move the rear in and were about 5 metres from the quay, a Swiss boat tried to go straight into our spot. At first we though he was aiming for the quay next to us. Then we realised he was going to cross our boat while we were moving. We motioned for him to stop but he ingnored us. The youngster from the Capitainerie had to shout at him to wait his turn. To be fair to him, I don’t think he could see or hear us. There are a lot of seriously old people driving boats.
His partner was a glamourous woman in high heeled espadrilles. Not the sort of attire conducive to boating. But gorgeous none the less. She clearly had no idea what to do. He motored full throttle toward the quay, then hit his bow thruster hard. His boat was going all over the place smashing the quay and bashing into our boat. The youngester from the Capitainerie, the glamourous woman and my husband and I were fending off his boat from all angles.
Verdun-sur-le-Doubs filled up shortly after we tied up. It was a mix of hire boats and owner boats. The bar come cafe at the marina was full as it was Soccer Cup 2018 semi finals. Boaters were sitting on their decks laughing and talking. I love the smell of food cooking, the sounds of cutlery and crockery, bottles of wine popping open, glasses clinking and people enjoying themselves. It’s very seldom people get loud or rowdy on the waterways. French people know how to behave. And then France won. They made it into the finals. Oh my word, the mood shifted to jubulation. A riot of festivities instantly broke out – church bells, hooters, whistles, vuvuzelas, singing, shouting and utter joy. It was so much fun.
Friday 6th July 2018 Chalon-sur-Saone This turned out to be a bit of a frenzied day. I’d been wanting to do a deep clean of the boat, and since the potential Swiss buyers were coming for a viewing while we were away, I knew they might open cupboards and have a thorough look around. Shangri La needed to be spotless. My other half decided to go up and visit the market. Chalon-sur-Saone have an excellent market but I had seen it before. With him out the way I could move things and wipe down everywhere. Even polished the ceramic hob and stainless steel taps.
We should have gone up the road to watch France play Uruguay in the Soccer World Cup 2018 quarter finals but by late afternoon all I wanted was to shower and relax. I went up to the facilities at the marina washed my hair and gave myself a good scrub down. Was feeling glowing after that. Then we heard cars hooting and people whooping with delight. Quite obviously France had won the game. For a nation that is remarkably subdued, the French were relishing having made it through to the semi finals.
We sat in our favourite place – the back deck – and had a glass of wine. The motley crew of Frenchies on the minuscule boat next to us were already at the rose and jabbering away. Maybe disecting and ruminating the recent game? How could we want to give up this life and sell our boat? We’d been at Chalon-sur-Saone a good few days and seen countless boats had come and gone.
Saturday 7th July 2018 – Monday 9th July 2018 Paris My brother, his partner and children were taking a summer holiday in Europe. First a week in Amsterdam, then two weeks in Paris. Since he lives in Seattle and I live in Cape Town, it was convenient that we were both on the same continent, and even better, in the same country. I really wanted to see them. My husband and I packed up a backpack each and walked to the gare (station) where our Flixbus was leaving. Paris is a 4 hour trip away. So much for the trains being on strike. There were trains running at the station. Perhaps less services than normal, who knows?
The Flixbus left bang on time. Lovely bus. Not 15 minutes later, it stopped at a highway stop where there were a few Flixbuses. We thought maybe a changeover of some sort but no, the driver took his 50 minute lunch break. To be fair he had driven up from Lyon. So we sat around doing nothing. It’s France. That’s how it is.
There’s always that one person when you take public transport that has to behave like a git. A young girl who spoke a foreign language shoved right in front of the queue and jumped on first. An old chap who had been patiently waiting for quarter of an hour at the right spot tried to fend her off but she wasn’t having it. On the bus, she promptly got on the phone to her mother whom she had just said goodbye to at the station. Her mobile was on speaker phone – full volume of course. And she spoke – loudly of course – the full 4 hours of the bus trip. She went to the loo with her phone in her hand next to her head speaking the whole time. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. She could be heard speaking inside the loo. And didn’t flush once.
We arrived in Paris Bercy and it was utter madness. Humans everywhere. A person forgets how busy cities are after so long in the country. My brother had a gorgeous place in Le Marais and it was Gay Pride weekend. The onslaught of people intensified as we got closer to his accommodation. We were shuffling along streets edging through crowds. The other big shock was how much English is spoken in Paris. Every second person speaks English on the streets and all the shops greet you in English first. I don’t think that Paris is a true reflection of France. It’s very cosmopolitan. It’s most very definintely a fashion capital. People were dressed in the latest fashions. It’s fabulous to see all these beautiful people and beautifully dressed people. Makes a person want to try harder and have a bit more fun.
We had a wonderful time with my family. Food options for vegans like us in Paris abound. It was as hot as it had been in Bourgogne (Burgundy). We had a last late breakfast at a cafe together and then my husband and I ambled back to Paris Bercy station. A train ticket cost us €35 each back to Chalon-sur-Saone. Back at our marina the exact same Frenchies, were in the exact same spot, quaffing yet more rose and blabbering to each other animatedly. It felt like we were back in our neighbourhood