Day Thirty-One – 28th July 2017
Montceau-les-Mines to Génelard
Earlier in our trip one of the people at a Capitainerie had told us that water levels were only 5 centimetres lower than normal. From we could see there was more than enough water on the canal. At some locks there was a bit of water flowing over. Not enough to partially fill the locks – which can happen – and then they don’t open. But enough that there was no danger of the canal being closed. Lots of hot days cause evaporation and then a canal has to be closed. But . . . . . . what 5 centimetres does affect . . . . . . . is the gap under bridges. Low water levels allow a bit extra space to fit under the bridges. We didn’t have that luxury.
On our way again
We had a nice early start with a great eclusier (lock keeper). She had all the locks set up for us so no waiting about. Weather was great. My friend was helping with the ropes. Perfect boating day. We decided to stop in Génelard. It’s a small town. The amenities aren’t great but still usable. An English toilet and two French toilets. There was free water and electricity. Boats tie up on the side of the canal and mobile homes park right next to them. It was quite a festive atmosphere. People were sitting on the grass eating al fresco or reading books. One woman was knitting.
A person never knows what to expect of a village or town. It’s all new at each town. Génelard is lovely. Up the road is a quirky hotel with wifi. The interior is a riot of colour and fun and unusual decor. I couldn’t pull off something like that but it’s wonderful. The woman who either owns or runs it was fabulous too. She told us about an art exhibition. Also suggested we visit Chateaux Digoin, the local castle 4 kilometres out of Génelard next to the canal
That evening we decided to fire up our little BBQ, or braai as we call it in South Africa. I wrapped potatoes in foil. Mixed some greens with olive oil, lemon and garlic and wrapped that in foil. I also stuffed some courgettes with a tomato, breadcrumbs, garlic and herbs and wrapped those too. Lastly, I marinated tofu which I cut into cubes and put them on a skewer to cook on top of the fire. A perfect evening.
Day Thirty-Two – 29th July 2017
Génelard to Paray le Monial
This was another nice early start. Our lady lock keeper had us locking down in tandem with New Zealand boat. Their boat went quite a bit faster than ours. They kindly helped us with our ropes and activated the locking process. The skipper had a great sense of humour. I liked him even though he stripped down to a teenie, weenie, extra tight bikini bottom leaving not a lot to the imagination. We saw Chateaux Digoin after the second lock but there was a field full of bulls and a few fences between us and the castle. Neither of us was willing to take that on. But the other thing that deterred us was we were going nicely through the locks. If we dropped out, things might not work as well.
Paray le Monial is apparently a mecca for Christian pilgrims. As we came in we saw big marquees and what appeared to be a festival on the go. We didn’t fancy being so close to all the action, so tied up a bit further along the canal. The New Zealanders also stopped at Paray le Monial for lunch but were in a hurry to get to Paris. Once they left we moved the boat to where they were, under the trees to get some shade as it was 31’C.
After lunch we went walk-about, found tourism office and availed ourselves of wifi. The main attraction is a beautiful big cathedral which has some significance to Christians. The main town looked like a vibey place and we resolved to go back later for a drink. It was my friend’s last night with us so we bought a bottle of real Champagne to share.
Checking up on the world
Early evening we showered and dressed up. Cracked our bottle of sparkly and then went into the town. We’d missed a social occasion the night before called ‘Le Blanc Nuit’. Clearly there were still lots of people about. As it got darker the buildings were lit up with different coloured lights and projectors shone stars down on the streets. A bit Hollywood. In one shop they had black and white photos of French and Hollywood celebrities. We had a wonderful evening.
Day Twenty-Eight – 25th July 2017
Tuesdays are Market Days in Montceau-les-Mines. Bonus that we were there on Market Day. And that the market is right next to the marina. After a slow start we went exploring. There was a big variety of vendors and quite a few non-food stalls. We bought a bag of giroles mushrooms, mixed tomatoes, an assortment of leeks, onions and shallots as well as some lovely greens. Then we snuck over to the hotel and loitered right outside to catch wi-fi. Bit cheeky but they wouldn’t know. And went all the way along the canal to ALDI and E.LeClerc to buy long life foods.
Back at the boat I made a few pâtes for our breads. Faux gras or a mushroom pâte is always a winner. As well as a sundried tomato and toasted sunflower seed pâte. I like to keep a batch of cashew cream cheese on the go. Also made a few other foods in anticipation of my friend coming to stay with us. We’ve managed to stock our galley with all sorts of gadgets and spices over the years. We’re able to make some fine meals.
I was keeping an eye out for the South Africans. Late morning, they arrived in the marina. We invited them to join us for drinks and snacks with us that evening. They arrived with a bag of olives and a litre of Rose wine. We had a lovely evening sharing travel and personal stories for a good few hours.
Day Twenty-Nine – 26th July 2017
My friend was due to arrive late afternoon. My better half wanted to make a Mushroom Bourguignon. Off we went to the big E.LeClerc supermarket to stock up on provisions. Back at the boat the aromas coming from the kitchen were amazing. I did a sneaky thing again and lurked outside the hotel to get wifi and sort out a few issues. Then we went wandering about, up and down streets. Next thing I saw my friend walking down the road. Much earlier than I anticipated. Her travel plans had gotten a bit messed up and her train trip was split by a coach trip. She managed to stay on the bus and arrived much sooner than expected. Not sure why they broke up what should have been one trip into multiple trips.
Catching up on wi-fi out side the hotel
She had found the Port de Plaisance and our new South African friends let her in and helped her with her luggage. Then she went walking around hoping to find us. We all went back to the boat and once she was comfortable, we opened a bottle of chilled white wine and sat on the back deck catching up. The Mushroom Bourguignon was absolutely divine. We shared the last of the soy ice cream and spoke for hours before retiring to bed.
Day Thirty – 27th July 2017
There was no great rush to do anything other than explore a bit more, visit the VNF (Voie Navigale France) offices and visit the sock factory. We had a cafe at the hotel to grab wifi before walking along the canal to the VNF offices. There, they made a note that we wanted to leave 09.00am and the bridges had to be opened. All good. My friend popped into the Boulangerie and bought a bread and some croissants. She also bought a brie cheese. Lunch was breads, cracker biscuits, cheese and pâtes.
My friend wandering around in Montceau-les-Mines
Turns out the sock factory was closed for holidays. So that plan got nixed. What we did find was a few charity shops including the Red Cross with some really nice clothing. Fortunately I was able to resist. I bought some smoked tofu at the health shop and she pointed us to a shop called Noz Bleu. We had walked past it a few times and not bothered to go in as it looks unassuming. Turns out it’s a place where over-runs or short-dated stock goes. Things are sold at ridiculously cheap prices. Well-known brands like Maille mustard were going for €1. They had wines from Spain, California and of course France for between €2 – €4 a bottle. I stocked up on toiletries and bought a pair of Birkenstocks for €6.
Back at the boat we had noticed homeless people coming and going, occupying one particular boat. We’ve seen this before in France. Mainly younger people with bohemian clothes and lots of dogs. They beg in the streets during the day then find a neglected boat to sleep in at night. While they are not threatening, I’m sure they would be opportunistic, so we made sure not to leave anything valuable in plain sight.
Train Station in Montceau-les-Mines
Around 19.00pm a massive swarm of birds came in and the lot of them settled in the trees next to canal. It was quite a thing to watch. They arrived en masse and took a while to all settle down in the trees. By night time it was quiet. The next morning around 07.00am we could hear them waking up and gathering together to go to where-ever they went for the day. They followed this same pattern every day that we were in Montceau-les-Mines. The only downside to this unique phenomenon was our boat got covered in bird droppings. Some of which wouldn’t come off, even with solvent.