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
Wednesday 4th July 2018 Chalon-sur-Saone For such a big place Chalon-sur-Saone marina is remarkably quiet at night. You can hear frogs croaking, fish leaping and the odd train in the distance. I hoped to get news of my mother so went on-line soonest. Not bad Wi-Fi but it drops every now and again. Might be all the people trying to use it at once. My mother had contracted viral pneumonia and was staying in hospital for a while but was feeling a lot better. Next we checked for train tickets to Paris. The dates we wanted to go to Paris were strike days. The French rail workers had been on strike for months now. A few days on, followed by a few days off. Finding out about that Flixbus was very useful so we booked tickets with them.
There’s always a list of things to do on the boat and Chalon-sur-Saone has a nice Bricolage (hardware shop). I went up to the Capitainerie to get a load of washing going as Chalon-sur-Saone has laundry facilities. Some Americans were before me in the queue for the washing machine and we got chatting. They had planned a 5 week trip on a hire boat and were two weeks in. The mother commented on how hot it had been. A pair of local youngsters were saying someone had measured over 50’C on their boat last year. And that the south is usually the hottest part of France but average temperatures last summer had put central France as the hottest place. So much for global warming being a myth.
I bought an amazing intensely flavoured tomato puree from Carrefour to which I added a bunch of veggies sauteed in vegan butter and some cooked wholewheat pasta. Then topped it with shredded vegan cheese in big pasta bowls. Good on Carrefour for having so many plant-based options. It was a tasty evening meal. With a glass or two of red wine of course. The rain started around 18.00pm and it rained throughout the night until morning. Love the sound of raindrops on the upper deck. I got to sleep under the duvet covers for a change.
Thursday 5th July 2018 Chalon-sur-Saone We had a lovely day wandering around looking at architecture, window shopping, buying the odd thing and having lunch at La Pierre Vie. Clocked 14 281 steps. The Bio shop behind the marina, La Vie Saine is brilliant. They have organic everything from dish washing liquid, to fresh produce, to skin care, make-up and lovely wines. It’s a bit pricier to shop there but we feel worth it. I went a bit mad there topping up our food.
Back at the boat there were a bunch of missed calls for my husband from the Dutch boat agent. Yet another possible buyer. This time a Swiss chap. He wanted to come past on Monday afternoon but we would be in Paris. The marina were happy to keep the keys and let him show himself around so that was helpful. My better half started cleaning up the leaking water in the hull from when the hot water pipe came loose and I wanted to sort out what food we still had on board and do a re-organise.
Every day since we arrived in Chalon-sur-Saone a bunch of elderly French blokes and one woman would come down late afternoon to sit on a titchy tiny little boat next to us, drink wine, smoke cigarettes and natter. Same group every day. They never went out on this boat. They didn’t sleep on the boat. Around 16.00pm until about 20.00pm, rain or shine, this lot would sit in deck chairs on the quay next to the boat or on this boat and talk. Then go home or where ever they came from.
I’ve learned two things from being on the waterways in France. Well actually more than that, but here are two handy ones. Thing One. When you do get decent WiFi – don’t sit inside the boat. Either go up to the marina or sit on an open deck to ensure you have access to the best signal. Thing Two. Learn to say words and place names like French people do. Fragnes in English sounds like Frag-nes. In French it’s Frun-yay. How about Chagny? Pronounced Shan-nye. Digoin is Dee-gwone. We’ve got to the point where we ask ahead how to say a place name. For years we called wine vin – varn, but it’s actually van. Like in the vehicle. It makes life so much easier when you say a word and people know what you’re trying to say.
Monday 2nd July 2018 Fragnes to Chalon-sur-Saone None of us rushed to get going. It was another scorcher day to look forward to. Yes, we should have tried to avoid the midday heat, but waking up hot is already exhausting. All of us had burnt red faces, arms and legs. I had watch strap, shoulder strap, shorts and shoe tan/burn lines. It’s just too hot to cover up and sunscreen slides straight off as a person perspires so much.
We explored Fragnes in under an hour. It’s small. There’s lovely brand new bar come cafe. An excellent boulangerie. A hairdresser. Not bad toilets for cyclists and even a bicycle wash. Between Fragnes and Chalon-sur-Saone there’s only one lock and it’s a very deep 10 metre lock with floating bollards. Somehow those deep locks are always impressive. They give a sense of how much you drop or climb.
Chalon-sur-Saone is an excellent marina and we’ve learnt it’s best to arrive late morning. They don’t take bookings. Any boats that might leave – have gone by midday – creating mooring space. But from late morning to early afternoon it fills up fast. We’ve seen boats arrive only to be turned away. As usual there was someone on the quay to show us where to tie up. Oh, and and they help you tie up. Nice!
We got going immediately and went over the bridge to the Tourism Office which closes from 12.30pm – 14.00pm. My friend wanted to find the best way back to Paris the following day. Since the Tourism Office wasn’t open we figured next best was to head to the train station. We had a lovely lunch at one of those cafe type places. My friend had the plat du jour and we had a garden salad each.
Tuesday 3rd July 2018
So nice to wake up and not be on the move. Even better, in one of our favourite places – Chalon-sur-Saone. My friend was going back to work in two days so we let her sleep in. My husband made us an melon, Rooibos tea, ginger and plant protein smoothie for brekka. She packed up slowly and we ambled over the bridge to have a coffee at our favourite place – Cote Saone. Then moseyed up past all the shops toward the train station. Massive sales everywhere – like 60% off! I need blinkers like a horse to avoid seeing bargains. My friend succumbed and bought a few things. I helped her choose.
She had booked a place on Flixbus for €15 to Paris Bercy. Never heard of it. The bus arrived on time, looked pretty comfortable and was air-conditioned. Note to self to look at that for our upcoming few days in Paris with my brother. By the time she left it was 13.30pm and I was ravenous. As usual, most places offer the same old things – Croque Monsieur type sandwiches, pastries, frites, ham, cheese or egg salads. But we perservered and found a spot next to a park that had a quinoa salad and a vegan burger. We sat under some trees and decided to have wine in the middle of the day. It was yet another hot day. What the hell.
The food wasn’t bad, a bit under seasoned and not much protein (the burger was a potato rosti) but at least they tried to put something plant-based on the menu. I popped into Monoprix for a few food items and extra T-shirts for my better half who was going through them fast in the heat. Normally I have to fight to get him to agree to new clothes but he was very happy to have extra tops.
We got back to the boat just as it started to rain. Not much we could do in the rain and after a boozy lunch – a siesta seemed like a good idea. It stormed and rained for a good few hours. The rain cooled the ambient temperature instantly. By early evening it was even a bit nippy. Wonderful not to be hot for a change. Our boat was quiet after someone with us for the last 5 days. A bit of an anti climax. We wrote up our blogs, checked and sized photos and I got onto the Internet to clear out our mailboxes, check the weather and catch up on news, only to find my mother was in hospital. Nothing like bad news to put a damper on things.
Sunday 1st July 2018 Chagny to Fragnes Since we’d heard it was Market Day on Sundays in Chagny, we all trotted into town. The market in Chagny is well worth a visit. It’s big, and a mix of food, clothing, matresses, CD’s – you name it – you’ll find it. Then we had a nice cafe (coffee) and watched the world go by. These small towns can be deader than dead. A person wonders how they survive. Sunday market in Chagny was heaving with humans. Where did all these people come from? Next we stopped at the Tourism Office to ask the lady there if she would help us make sure a lockie would enable the locks so we could get going along the canal. It’s a Sunday in France after all. She phoned and explained to the person on duty at Canal du Centre. I know she understood as she’s lived in South Africa. All good. Or so we thought.
As we got going an Australian family on a hire boat joined us. We approached the first lock and all the lights were off. What more can a person do to get the locks to work that what we did? So I jumped off the boat and pushed the emergency button. No – it wasn’t an emergency – but it’s all there is to contact them. Zero response. I pushed longer. And even longer. Waste of time. After fifteen minutes we gave up and phoned. Again. Half an hour after calling – and hanging about in blistering 39’C heat, the lights finally came back on and we went straight into a chain of locks.
Halfway thorugh the chain of locks – the lights were out. Again. Yet another phone call to ask them to get the locks going. A chain of locks is supposed to be continuous. You’re supposed to keep going. How did no-one notice the locks weren’t working anymore? There is definitely room for improvement with the management of the locks on this stretch of the waterways.
We tied up in Fragnes after hearing it had been renovated. What a lovely spot. Luckily there were a few trees which cast a cooling shadow. People from tied-up boats were sitting on the banks of the canal in swimming costumes or minimal clothing trying not to overheat. My arms and legs were burnt red. Late afternoon a lovely young Madame Capitain came to collect money and explain the workings of Fragnes.
She spoke such perfect English, I thought she might have lived in an English speaking country – but no. Well done to her. I heard a New Zealand bloke next to us say the WiFi was rubbish to her and thought the worst, but I think either he or his phone or laptop was the problem as we found it to be excellent. Some things are improving on the waterways. Yay!
What I loved about Fragnes is that it is nowhere near a highway or a road which is often the case with marinas on the waterways. It’s dead quiet. All you hear is birds, trees rustling and the water lapping against the boat. It’s a quiet spot – but with electricity and water.