Barging in Burgundy Part 24

Barging in Burgundy Part 24

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

Day Fifty – 16th August 2017
Lyon
Turns out the canny French took advantage of the public holiday and took an extra, extra long weekend. Most restaurants and small shops were closed. They place a notice in the window informing people they’re away on holiday. Not all of them do it though. We specifically hunted down a vegan supermarket and a few eateries, only to find them all closed. Our Airbnb host gave us suggestions for sight-seeing. But not before he plied us with a French breakfast. Croissants, coffee, French bread and confit. How they keep slim on a diet like that baffles me. There’s the old city. Which is actually the very, very old city. Ruins going back to Roman occupation. And numerous beautiful places of worship including the basillica, which I have to say is more beautiful than any I have ever seen.

I love Lyon. It’s much brighter, cleaner and friendlier than Paris. It’s also the gastronomic capital of France. Last time we visited Lyon, I clocked just over 30 000 steps. This day I got to 27 403. It’s not hard to do. So much to see. Back at our Airbnb accommodation we rested our legs, then settled at a spot next to the Rhone for a drink. I’ve said this before, going to say it again. The French know how to behave. They are free to drink in public places. Along the banks of the river, hundreds of folk settled on the steps or on the grass with wine, beer or whatever their drink of choice. Not one incident. No loudness. No bad behaviour. Nothing untoward. How do they get it right?

Lyon

Lyon

We went to an eatery called YAAFA – You Are A Falafel Addict. They make the most amazing salads or wraps. After that amount of walking – fair to say – we had a good nights sleep.

Day Fifty-One – 17th August 2017
Lyon
Our Airbnb host served us breakfast on his balcony overlooking the Rhone. We had a local delicacy called a Praluline – a brioche with pink praline. Very nice. But probably not the healthiest. I was glad to try it as I could not bring myself to buy one. We also had freshly squeezed orange juice – a bit of goodness to offset this decadence. One of the things I liked about our host is he gave us so much local info and stories. Which foods are from the region. I loved the story of how the Festival of Light which originated on 8th December has developed over the years. It’s now a global festival encompassing light. Laser, candles, fireworks, you name it.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

We managed to miss the food market previous days, so this was our chance. It was smaller than usual as many of the vendors were away on holiday. Note to self – avoid France during the holiday season. Shoulder seasons are best. And cooler. I wanted a hat as mine was left behind on the boat. Won’t lie, I love to window shop. Real shop sometimes too. *bashful face* It was a great excuse to drag my other half though the shops. Am so lucky he is patient with me.

We tried to go to Cafe Vert again but alas it was definitely closed for a while. So we had lunch at a veggie place our host reccommended called Solene. Wish we had gone there sooner. Glad we got to experience their food. After 8 hours on the our feet the day before and 4 hours this day, we thought a post lunch snooze or relax was not exactly an indulgence. It’s hot in the middle of France. Like 30’C plus, plus hot. An airconditioned room was most inviting.

Inside the Basilica

Inside the Basilica

Our last night we had a picnic (pique-nique) on the banks of the Rhone, like veryone else seems to do in Lyon. They have loads of ex-barges which have been turned into bars and restaurants on the side of the Rhone. And seating on the quay. It’s lovely. Have I said how much I like Lyon? It’s a special place. It lacks the busyiness of Paris and the industrial feel of Marseille. The Rhone is the route from the north to the south. North France to south France. But also northern Europe to the Mediterranean countries. I could sit and watch boats passing by forever. We had a last pot of wine at one of the barges next to the river. Lyon is the only place that calls a carafe or pichet of wine – a pot. Not that we can pronounce it. Have to point it out on the menu. Apparently there are 3568 restaurants in Lyon. And a population of 2.5 million. More Michelin star restaurants per head than anywhere else in France. I can well believe it.

See more – here.

Barging in Burgundy Part 23

Barging in Burgundy Part 23

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

Roanne
I may moan about boating at times. Hands up. That’s me. But gearing up to leave our boat is always sad. And a bit traumatic. What weather will she endure? Are there vandals in the area? Did we do a good enough job with the covers? What if she has a mini leak and sinks? Will she be OK when we get back?

We’re so far away. It’s not like we can pop over and check on her. We leave her with a heavy heart. Sigh!

Luckily my other half had budgeted extra time in Roanne for us to get on top of things. We had used up most perishable food. Washed and cleaned. There were a last few things to do and see before we left. Which we did on this day.

Shangri La covered up

Shangri La covered up

Our last evening was spent minus the usual coverings on the back deck, listening to families, and various groups, not necesarily speaking French, playing petanq. This game crosses cultural and generational divides. People were queuing up to play. Shouting out for good luck and bashing their balls together before throwing. I can watch this forever.

Meanwhile on the boat, we were so sad. Having a boat is about entering a relationship. With an entity. You derive great pleasure from it. But you also bear a huge responsibilty for it.

Each of us chatted to various other boaties during the course of the day. Roanne is an affordable place to stop. Many people were moored for some time. Some were doing work on their boats. Others not leaving for long periods. It’s a crazy life. We’re all water nomads. Trying to escape the mundane, but bearing up to the responsibilities of owning a boat.

People playing petanq

People playing petanq

Our last supper was a Black Forest Tofu with my favourite French grated carrot salad (love that stuff) and a green leaf salad with a French dressing. Lots of wine. Divine.

Day Forty-Nine – 15th August 2017
Roanne to Lyon
As luck would have it, or not have it, depending on which way you look at it, this was yet another public holiday. Luckily the marina was open, so finalising our winter stay in Roanne could be done. The boat was clean and wintered. Something my husband has preferred to let an engineer do, but did himself for the first time this year.

The final chore was draining the hot water cylinder and water supply. Which we left until last. It turned out to be an almighty mission. All the engineers who did this job drained the water with another hose and used a pump to extract the water. The hose my husband was trying to loosen would not come free. With his dodgy back he was wriggling this hose by every means, trying desperately to get it to shift. Eventually he had to cut it to get it loose.

Leaving Roanne

Leaving Roanne

Then the water would not drain. We had to use a small bucket with a rope, and lower it along with the hose into the bowels of the boat, draining the water bit by bit. Which took forever. By the time the water had drained, it was time to go. The pair of us were drenched in sweat. We nearly forgot to turn off the stop cocks to the toilet. A South African girl living on her boat in Roanne kindly agreed to give us a lift to the station. I ended up leaving my jacket and hat on the boat.

As we arrived there was a train pulling in. We hopped on board with our luggage. No spare seats, so we stood for the the 70 minute journey. I wasn’t upset about standing but I would have liked to see the secenery. Sigh! Lyon Part Dieu Sation was a heaving mass of humans. We grabbed a bite to eat and dragged our luggage to the river banks to check into our Airbnb accomodation. Fabulous spot. High speed wifi, views, airconditioning and a super helpful host. We freshened up and took a mini siesta. Then went walkabout in the drizzle. We found a Lebanese restaurant and had an amazzing meal. Back at our accomodation our host, us, and a Polish couch-surfer shared a bottle of rose wine.

See more – here.

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.

See more – here.

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.

See more – here.

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.

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