Read about this trip from the start – here.
We were aiming for Langres as our next stop. The route has manual locks – no remote controls. Our lock-keeper drove past our boat as we were loosening our ropes which was most encouraging. We met him at the first lock. He was a rather serious looking bloke who had a habit of muttering to himself. I kept thinking people were walking past on the towpath and only later realised it was our lockie talking to himself.
|En route to Langres|
He of course spoke no English and was – we think – trying to ascertain what our travel plans were. If the language gap is hard for us it must be as difficult for the French people we talk to. Trouble is, we think we’re speaking French. We understand each other but we’re learning from the same source. We resorted to writing what we needed to convey in the hope that would make it easier for people to understand us since our pronunciations must be atrocious.
The lockies in this section of the canal wear full VNF overalls and a life jacket. It’s hard work winding these ancient locks and coaxing them into action. Fortunately these blokes work right through lunch time and Sundays so we could keep going. Next thing a youngster arrived on a scooter in regular clothes to take over from our lockie. This bloke had some incentive for sure. He had prepared the upcoming locks before meeting us and worked the locks with Olympic speed. He had no time for small talk. I wondered if they were being tested as future candidates or perhaps were paid per lock?
|View from the boat|
We found Langres easily and tied up to rings. Nice not to have to use our stakes as we never got around to buying a hammer. The service was free but electricity was limited to 3 hours per day – an hour in the morning, one at noon and a last hour at night. There was water – but no hoses. They provide hoses at most places in Holland but not in France. And there was a toilet minus a seat. No toilet paper. Not the best facilities.
|Facilities in Langres|
Langres is built up on a hill 3 kilometres from the little port. It’s a hellava steep climb. Both of us needed to stop and rest every now and again. We saw a bus go past but never thought to look for a stop. It is exactly the sort of place we hoped to see on this trip. An old walled village with towers and gates, many still in tact. Langres is apparently one of the 50 most beautiful places in France. We had to sneak another day out of our hectic schedule to see more of this lovely place.
One thing that really irks me is some people have unlimited travel time on the waterways. Yet I have a 90 day limit. We met some Brits who had been in France for 18 months. It comes down to where you’re born and has nothing to do with your character or integrity. EU, British, Australian and a few other nationals are free to spend as much time as they wish in France. The rest of the world need a visa. So Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama would have restrictions despite their humanitarian efforts and the Yorkshire ripper or any other criminal born in the right place can roam France indefinitely.
We made a slow start to the next day and ambled back up the steep hill toward the old city. En-route was a local supermarket. We popped past to check what they had and what time they closed so we could shop on our way back to our boat. Supermarkets in France often have restaurants where you can get bargain meals. There was a brasserie there but I suspect it was privately owned. Locals were standing around the bar having a café or a glass of wine and buying Lotto tickets. An elderly couple were having an early lunch. We decided to have a café and something to eat. I was surprised that the staff were drinking wine along with the customers. Before noon as well. Things work differently in France.
|Map of panoramic view from Langres|
The cheery waitress came over and rattled off a whole bunch of stuff so fast. My other half and I looked at each other and tried to decipher what she had just said. Then it dawned on her – we were Anglais. We quickly mentioned that we don’t eat meat and she picked up the menu and tried to find something for us. Every suggestion she made had cheese. In the end we let her go off and get creative knowing our meal might have have cheese. I got a big plate of salad and tomato with diced potato and baked goats cheese on French bread. It was tasty and she tried to accommodate us which we appreciated. Our waitress was thrilled to get a tip. They don’t seem to expect a gratuity in France.
|Lac de la Liez in the distance|
Back up the hill we found the outer wall that circles Langres and set about walking it. The circumference is 3 kilometres long and the views are incredible. On a clear day you can apparently see the Alps. We hoped to see the Des Vosges mountains which are a little closer but I think it was too cloudy. There is a map showing you what you can see and where. Then we popped into the Tourism Office to catch up on Internet related stuff like e-mails. And bought some sinful foods at the Boulagerie/Patisserie. Which we devoured with a cup of tea back at our boat.
|Old wall and towers around Langres|
We had some catching up to do after a day out so made an early start. We followed a French boat toward the first lock. The locks are supposed to open at 09.00am but nothing happened. We saw the French lady the boat in front on her mobile phone. At 09.20am a lady lock-keeper arrived to get the locks going. She helped us through the first and the second lock. Then she mentioned that there were no lights in the 5 kilometre long Balesmes Tunnel. Did we have a searchlight so we could make our way though? This we did not have. She gave what we have come to know as the Gallic shrug and left it at that. My other half managed to connect all our extension leads together and plugged in our re-chargeable torch to make sure it had power. Then he turned on all our navigation lights.
The story continues – on this link.