Read from the start – here.
This trip was divided into parts. We returned to the UK so my husband could go back to work in Azerbaijan which unfortunately cut our holiday into two. My job was to help renovate and fix a flat in South West London.
Two days after my husband got back from his 5 week stint away we made the epic journey from our flat back to our boat. Starting with a 20 minute walk to the train station in South West London. Then an overground train to Vauxhall. No idea why but this train seemed to stand still for what seemed like forever nearly doubling our usual trip. Then the underground train from Vauxhall to Kings Cross St Pancras. Next we caught the Eurostar to Paris. Followed by the Metro from Garre du Nord to Garre de Lyon. A train to Dijon. Another train to St-Jean-de-Losne. And walked the final leg of about 30 minutes to the Casino supermarche in St-Jean-de-Losne just before it closed.
We carried our luggage, backpacks and bags of groceries to the boat. Switched on the water, showered, rustled up a meal and pretty much crashed. The next morning we had a friend joining us. When the boat is not in use – the gear that usually lies on the deck – mop, broom, boat hooks, step ladder, gang plank, 4 x deck chairs and table – all live in the spare cabin. That had to come out. But first the boat had to be cleaned. Then our linen had to be dredged up from under the seats and the beds made up. One other job we had been meaning to do was remove the davits and find a home for them.
We have nice sturdy davits. But they get in the way when we tie up stern-to-quay. They protrude so far back we have to bring the boat forward leaving quite a gap to leap when coming ashore. We thought they might fit under the bed but it turned out they were too big. The only other place for them was under the floor boards next to the engine. My husband was not happy about this. He can barely get to his engine and this wasn’t going to help.
After a few attempts which included some flames when the two ends of one davit almost jump started the engine we finally found a spot for them. The friend arrived while we were hoisting the davits into the hull and was swiftly put to work helping us. She was cycling from the the north to the south of France on the velo routes. We like that she’s also vegan.
Once she was settled and her bike stowed safely at the back of the boat, her and I went food shopping. Two Tauruses buying food? Need I say more. My other half was trying to find out more about the jobs that were still not completed – like the generator. Sadly in the 5 weeks were away – H2O had not managed to get that done.
Finally a sense of order set in and I made supper which was a sort of ratattouile with rice, BBQ marinated tofu cubes fried crispy plus salads. And – of course – local Burgundy wine. We sat and spoke for a while and turned in for an early night.
I thought my other half wanted an early start but it turned out to be more leisurely. Breakfast was granola, almond milk and fruit plus a chocolate, banana, protein powder smoothie. Then we started on our journey toward Chalon sur Saône via Verdun sur le Doubs where we would spend out first night. Lots of little towns lurk nearby or on the river. The river can flow quite fiercely, particularly after Lyon where the Rhone and Saône become one river. It was not our intention to get that far south. But at the very end of summer, early autumn the Saone was moving gently. Which meant coming up against the current back home would be a whole lot easier.
There were only two locks. Big locks. We were locking down. We managed both with no hiccoughs. At Verdun sur le Doubs we tied up. Fortunately the Tourism Office is right next to the marina. The friendly ladies there gave us a leaflet to do a walking tour. It’s not a big place so the walk didn’t take long. There are yellow fish painted on the roads a person can follow them to see the sights. My friend was accosted by a little old man who regaled us with family photos and dragged us into his house. He showed us his wine collection. His photos. He also showed us his weeds that he was cultivating for some reason. His English was no better than our French so much of the conversation was lost.
Verdun sur le Doubs is a typical small French town. Very few people. You see beautiful heritage homes for sale. Many of the shops have closed. One can only hope these ancient places will be protected. The marina was fine. Friendly Capitain. Wifi was rubbish. Had to give up. But to be fair, this is a recurring problem on the waterways. Always wonder how an ordinary café can provide excellent wi-fi to numerous patrons but most marinas can’t provide wifi to boaters?
Back on the boat we had a lovely hot shower. Then we snacked on corn chips and salsa. As well as the obligatory glass of Burgundy wine. I made a split pea and potato soup which we ate with a crusty French baguette.
It was a short trip from Verdun sur le Doubs to Chalon sur Saône the next day. In the driving rain. Chalon sur Saône is a popular marina and people report not being able to berth. They don’t do reservations. Luckily this time of the year it’s quieter. We found a lovely spot side-on. Electricity worked. All good. Thursday 13th October for some reason, the marina was closed. We saw a notice saying as much. Which meant no wifi. No access to the facilities. And we couldn’t go out as we couldn’t get back in. The last two require a code or tag to open the doors or gate.
It’s also colder in October. It was around 6’C. So hard to believe that just five weeks proir we sitting on the back deck, my husband in shorts and myself in a sarong. Now we were wearing long johns, socks and so many layers on our upper bodies I felt like the Michelin man.
After a lunch of left-overs we donned our waterproof jackets, hats and gloves and went walk-about. The Tourism Office gave us the usual walking tour map. And showed us where to find veg friendly places and supermarkets. We did a mini shop-up and went to a cafe with wi-fi to catch up on comms over a Thé Vert (green tea) and, would you believe a Soy Latte?
Supper was a vegan corn and potato fritatta with salads. We discussed visiting the only veggie restaurant – La Pierre Vive – but my friend felt it was too expensive at €13.80 for the buffet. She’s traveling on a really tight budget and been using – Warm Showers – a free Airbnb type accomodation for cyclists. Or, friends like us to avail herself of free accomodation.
While we were eating our boat windows were leaking. This is an ongoing problem on our boat. The windows don’t exactly fit the frames meaning there’s a gap where water sneaks in. And the heating worked intermittently. It’s defintely time for Shangri La’s heating to get a service. Yet more things to add to the repairs list. Sigh! The best thing to do in cold weather is pile on the layers and keep warm in bed. And so it was yet another early night.
It rained most of the night. I absolutley love the sound of the rain against the deck. But also the sound of rain splashing on the water. After a brief respite it was raining again the next morning. We knew we were coming back to Chalon sur Saône, so decided to leave the walking tour for a drier day. My other half located the Capitain and paid for our stay. the Capitain gave individual wi-fi codes for each of us. Seemed so promising but of course the wi-fi didn’t work inside or outside the boat. We tried sitting at the office but it made no difference.
It’s possible to get International Roaming but for South Africans right now the rates are extortionate. SA has some of the highest data rates in the world. I tried appraoching EE in the UK to upgrade my pay-as-you-go card since I don’t have a contract. They want £18 per month plus £3 per day for a limited amount of data. Really, actually, it’s easier to just go for a coffee every few days to get wi-fi. Not ideal but hopefully one day . . . . . . .
My other half particularly wanted to locate a bricolage (hardware) as his rechargeable torch had seen better days. And he wanted some tape to hopefully tape the gaps on the windows before our boat was wintered. Not ideal, but infinitely better that sodden, damaged wood paneling and water logged, mouldy curtains. We parted ways with my friend so she could explore and we went shopping.