Read from the start – here.
We had friends driving up from the south to join us on the boat. They texted us to say they were running late as traffic in Marseille and Lyon had been hectic. That gave us a chance to shower and prepare a BBQ supper which we planned to cook on the grass next to our boat. It was fiercely hot. I made tofu and veggie kebabs, a couple of cold salads and rolled some potatoes in foil to cook on the fire.
It’s always nice to have people with us on the boat. For them going through a lock is a new experience and I get a break from it. But also, they see the waterways and a country from a completely different perspective. A city break in Paris is what most people who go to France do. It’s around the 5th most visited city in the world. Very few people see historical and beautiful places on the waterways. How nice to share those experiences and see them from another person’s perspective? One would think that being in a confined space such as a boat would be awkward but when you’re on the move and doing so much a person doesn’t get to that point.
H2O were a no show the next morning and since we absolutely had to sort out Shangri La’s engine before we could move, my other half phoned them. They promised to come straight after lunch. We took some time out from boating and went walking along the canal to a camping area where people could swim in the river. People and dogs were frolicking in the cool water. Then we all went to have an ice cold drink up at a local cafe. My other half dashed back to our boat to meet the mechanic who re-fitted the – now fixed – engine part in no time at all and re-joined us. We had a lazy afternoon reading or snoozing.
As the day got a bit cooler I stayed back and made supper while the others went up the road exploring. They stopped for a drink and met a local woman who rather regaled them with stories. No-one was quite sure if they were real or she had a vivid imagination. She said things like her job was to find people traveling the waterways and interact with them. Back at the boat we had a potato and veggie galette with salads for supper. Then sat on the back deck chilling, chatting and listening to the world.
The next morning with extra hands on deck we untied and got ready to go back to St-Jean-de-Losne. Around lunch time we were about to enter a lock when the gates refused to open. We could see another boat coming the opposite way and wondered if they had right of way. But no. My better half tried phoning but there was no reply. A hire boat arrived behind us and tried phoning as well. No joy. Their boat was lying shallower than us in the water and two boys managed to get ashore. They spoke to the people on the opposite boat and tried to locate VNF to help. We suspect everyone was on lunch so settled down to a light meal while we waited. No idea what went wrong but next thing the lock opened. That incident caused us to lose over an hour of travel time.
But what we did discover was we had made front page of the local newspaper. A burly man came running past us on the tow path and recognised us.
Back in St-Jean-de-Losne we parked in our usual spot. It’s been our home marina for a season. Did some shopping and then freshened up to eat at a local brasserie. We all had a great meal and after supper went for a walk along the river. My husband and I like to go “boat perving” as we call it when we look at other boats. We were especially interested in how other people manage the heat in their boats and resolved to make a canopy so we could cover the windows and create shade.
Our last stop was Auxonne. It didn’t take long to get there. Once tied up the guys caught a train back to Dole so our friends could collect their hired car. Trains in Auxonne were not as regular as we thought but better than St-Jean-de-Losne. A couple of hours later they were back. Our friends packed up and we walked with them to their car. They left for a lovely cool lake near Lausanne. We stripped to nothing to try and keep cool as temperatures topped 38’C and even 42’C depending on where you were.
Later the afternoon we took a walk into the town to look for provisions. There we bumped into two Danish blokes who had helped us with our ropes when we arrived in Auxonne. They kindly offered to buy us a drink which we accepted. Rosé with ice. We particularly wanted to know more about the waterways in Scandinavian countries. The skipper had done a lot of boating there. He’d even been to Greenland. The big thing for us to remember is that boating costs in France are reasonable. It would be 3 – 4 times more in Denmark and Sweden. But apparently it’s incredibly beautiful. Particularly the waterways on the west coast of Sweden.
Just before dark, a huge big hire boat full of Americans arrived right next to us. They bashed and crashed and shouted and made an almighty noise until finally – they tied up. Nice enough people but I wondered why they had to shout when they were on a boat right next to the person they were talking to. All sorts of dramas ensued as their power kept failing. They asked for help and my husband checked all the obvious things. Turned out they were trying to heat shower water, cook, use the oven as well as run an air conditioner – with all the windows open. I guess there were about 9 people on the boat. It was obvious they had overestimated the available power supply and their needs. My other half tried to politely explain this to them.
Luckily for us they went off to find a meal and peace returned. We could hear fish splashing and leaping about in the water. I often wonder how much fish the ubiquitous fishermen catch?
Our last day of boating was a short trip back to St-Jean-de-Losne. By the time we go there it was so hot that all my sunscreen had dripped off and was burning my eyes. I was stuck to my clothes and just feeling yuck. We had 3 weeks of washing to do. My better half went to chat to the boat yard to discuss work to be done on our boat. The generator and electrics stil had to be fixed. We had also grown tired of the davits that poked out forcing us to moor away from the edge of the quay. One of us is less keen on great leaps than the other one. Initially we had plans to fit a bendy bit that would allow the davits to fold in. But soon realised they could easily be removed and stored in the hull. We love free, easy solutions like that.
Meanwhile I walked to the laverie (laundry). Luckily it wasn’t too busy and I could make a start. When my husband came past we decided the only thing to do in such sticky heat – was have a glass of rosé. With plenty ice. Nothing like a tipple to take away the drudgery of chores and help forget the heat. On our way back we heard there was going to be a concert at the marina – French Floyd. France’s version of Pink Floyd.
I treated my husband to a veggie Plat du Jour (meal of the day) at Auberge de la Marine. Then we went past the concert. Wow! French France were so good. It was a fabulous evening. Until I got back to the boat and discovered I had been charged for our meal – twice.
The very next morning I marched across the bridge to Auberge de la Marine and showed the owner the transaction confirmations on my phone. She insisted it hadn’t gone off twice so I asked to use their phone. And phoned my bank in South Africa. Who were emphatic it had gone through twice. The owner wasn’t having it but I instructed the bank to remove one of the debits. Meanwhile my husband bumped into the Danes who confirmed they were joining us for a drink on the boat. I had wanted to invite them but could not remember doing so. We thought there was a misunderstanding and settled to a quiet last night on our lovely boat.
Much later who arrived? The Danes. With a bottle of wine. I dashed down below to put on proper clothes as I was wearing a sarong. We had a marvelous evening. Spoke and spoke and spoke. And drank. We did rather regret it the next morning though when we had to drag ourselves out of bed to catch the only train to Dijon. Fortunately the train was on time. No strikes. No delays. Back to city life. Pushing and shoving and an impersonal way of life. Lucky for us, we would be back on our beloved Shangri La in a few weeks.
I often wonder why France is such a special country? French people love food and eating. Can’t fault that. Long lunches with a fabulous meal and a glass or two of good wine are totally in order. Regional dishes and produce are revered. The French are fiercely resistant to change and maybe that’s a good thing. Cultures and customs continue so we can hopefully enjoy them into the next century. Quality of life is important. I love that’s it’s illegal to contact an employee after hours in France. We can’t speak much French but we’re forced to try and it’s a huge help being able to read menus and road signs.
One regret we have as vegans is that it’s almost impossible to eat out. Gastronomy is such a big part of the French experience. We made the choice to forgo animal foods for ethical reasons and are resolute that we’re doing the right thing. Luckily the on-line vegan community is huge. And global. There’s a site called Happy Cow which shares veg friendly places around the world. We know the world has to change as animal agriculture is not sustainable and look forward to easier eating experiences in time to come. And to be fair our lot as vegans in South Africa isn’t a whole lot easier.
The journet continues – here.