I may moan about boating at times. Hands up. That’s me. But gearing up to leave our boat is always sad. And a bit traumatic. What weather will she endure? Are there vandals in the area? Did we do a good enough job with the covers? What if she has a mini leak and sinks? Will she be OK when we get back?
We’re so far away. It’s not like we can pop over and check on her. We leave her with a heavy heart. Sigh!
Luckily my other half had budgeted extra time in Roanne for us to get on top of things. We had used up most perishable food. Washed and cleaned. There were a last few things to do and see before we left. Which we did on this day.
Shangri La covered up
Our last evening was spent minus the usual coverings on the back deck, listening to families, and various groups, not necesarily speaking French, playing petanq. This game crosses cultural and generational divides. People were queuing up to play. Shouting out for good luck and bashing their balls together before throwing. I can watch this forever.
Meanwhile on the boat, we were so sad. Having a boat is about entering a relationship. With an entity. You derive great pleasure from it. But you also bear a huge responsibilty for it.
Each of us chatted to various other boaties during the course of the day. Roanne is an affordable place to stop. Many people were moored for some time. Some were doing work on their boats. Others not leaving for long periods. It’s a crazy life. We’re all water nomads. Trying to escape the mundane, but bearing up to the responsibilities of owning a boat.
People playing petanq
Our last supper was a Black Forest Tofu with my favourite French grated carrot salad (love that stuff) and a green leaf salad with a French dressing. Lots of wine. Divine.
Day Forty-Nine – 15th August 2017
Roanne to Lyon
As luck would have it, or not have it, depending on which way you look at it, this was yet another public holiday. Luckily the marina was open, so finalising our winter stay in Roanne could be done. The boat was clean and wintered. Something my husband has preferred to let an engineer do, but did himself for the first time this year.
The final chore was draining the hot water cylinder and water supply. Which we left until last. It turned out to be an almighty mission. All the engineers who did this job drained the water with another hose and used a pump to extract the water. The hose my husband was trying to loosen would not come free. With his dodgy back he was wriggling this hose by every means, trying desperately to get it to shift. Eventually he had to cut it to get it loose.
Then the water would not drain. We had to use a small bucket with a rope, and lower it along with the hose into the bowels of the boat, draining the water bit by bit. Which took forever. By the time the water had drained, it was time to go. The pair of us were drenched in sweat. We nearly forgot to turn off the stop cocks to the toilet. A South African girl living on her boat in Roanne kindly agreed to give us a lift to the station. I ended up leaving my jacket and hat on the boat.
As we arrived there was a train pulling in. We hopped on board with our luggage. No spare seats, so we stood for the the 70 minute journey. I wasn’t upset about standing but I would have liked to see the secenery. Sigh! Lyon Part Dieu Sation was a heaving mass of humans. We grabbed a bite to eat and dragged our luggage to the river banks to check into our Airbnb accomodation. Fabulous spot. High speed wifi, views, airconditioning and a super helpful host. We freshened up and took a mini siesta. Then went walkabout in the drizzle. We found a Lebanese restaurant and had an amazzing meal. Back at our accomodation our host, us, and a Polish couch-surfer shared a bottle of rose wine.
Day Forty-Three – 9th August 2017
The South African bloke came across to look at our boat and talk about what could and couldn’t be done. Since I’m prone to interfering, I decided to leave the men to their business, and set off to find a laundromat. I went the opposite direction, the left bank, across the River Loire. It’s just as lovely. There’s so much to see in Roanne. I found a food market but not the laundromat. When we return to Roanne the following year, my feeling is we would need at least a week to explore.
When I came back, Peter and my better half had been delving into the engine and made a few conclusions. No major dramas, but a few spares and small jobs to be done. The wi-fi in Roanne actually works!! Really well. If you pause for a minute or two, it logs you out. And you have to log in again. But what a pleasure to be able to do business on our laptops on the boat.
My husband had contacted the father of the French family we met on the tow path and arranged for him to come for a drink that evening. Sometimes in life you meet amazing people. He is for sure one of them. He brought a bottle of local wine and two local delicacies, one of which we had to decline as it was a meat product. We had the most amazing evening. So good to get a local perspective on a region. I hoped we would see more of him. One thing he did mention is, when we tied up at our last idyllic wild stop we were right opposite a notorious jail and a touch further along was location for travellers who had been known to cause problems. A few metres down on the same side was a rescue centre for animals. Not that we realised any of this. Nor was it a problem.
As he left, we saw a bunch of kids playing petanqe next to our boat. One thing I love about France is that youngsters uphold local customs. Could be why France is such a special place. The French resist change but their values and traditions survive.
Chateaux le Roche
Day Forty-Four – 10th August 2017
I woke up and found “something” moving on my pillow. Managed to capture it in a towel and turned out to be a huge spider. The sort that like to squeeze themselves into the tighest knots in our ropes. Spiders like boats. We find intricate webs between the railings, under the chairs, on the radar arch. Apparently they like a warm bed and the odd bite of a human too. I had been sporting a few bright red marks on my face and body, and wondered what was biting me.
We met the South African girl who was going to keep an eye on the boat and charge the batteries, replace the dehumidifying salts, etc. Then our new French friend collected us in his car for a day out. What an absolute pleasure it was to have someone who loves his town, take us to the best spots. Were it not for him, we would never have got to see so much. He showed us where the local markets were and took us to Grand Frais, an incredible fresh produce shop. There was nothing edible a person couldn’t find there. After that, he took us along pretty little country roads to the barrage and a view point for La Loire. Next he took us to a castle – Chateaux de la Roche. We then went to a gorgeous historic village – St Jean St Maurice sur Loire and wandered around in awe. Our new friend and us had a late lunch at the local quirky eaterie. Good food and wine. Lastly we went wine tasting in the Roannaise region. We had absolutely no plans to spend any money as we were winding down on provisions, but all good plans go awry. We ended up buying 18 bottles in total from two of the wine farms. Seven hours later our new friend dropped us back at the boat.
Pretty French Village
Turns out Thursdays are pub nights for the boaters in Roanne. Except all the nearby pubs were closed as their owners were away enjoying summer holidays. A lot of the shops had notices in the windows announcing closure for les vacances. An Australian couple, who had only just arrived, kindly agreed to host a bunch of us on board their boat. We had a good old chin wag about all sorts of things. Then had a very early night at our boat.
Middle of nowhere
This particular canal seemed to have very young lock-keepers. One tiny young lady was a bit of a Goth in Dr Marten boots and black clothing. She was charging around winding locks and paddles in the heat. Did a great job. Almost all younger French people speak good English. They’re proud of it too. Which is helpful for us. We’ve noticed that people from different countries use English as a default lanuguage in France. We heard Dutch, Eastern block and German people speaking in English at the Tourism offices.
Last night at a wild stop
This was our last chance to experience total peace and quiet for some time. And it was pure heaven. We took our time to get up and walked back along the tow path into Roanne. My husband and I had a few things to get in place such as locating the Capitainerie and ascertaining our berth spot. We also had to find someone to talk to about wintering our boat and a few minor repairs. Also needed to get a feel for the layout of the place so we could check train times and find a laundromat.
We encountered a friendly French family cycling along the path and they pointed us in the right direction. They exchanged details with us. Who knows, they could be new friends? This time of the year everyone seems to be on holiday (les vacances). Including the port captain. A helpful young lady at the marina was, for the most part, able to understand us. And us her. For such a big and popular marina, there are surprisingly few services available. No lanudry, no mechanic or wintering services. And no boat or nautical shops.
Next we located the Tourism Office and they gave us heaps of info about bicycle hire, bus timetables, train times, health shops and supermarkets. We just made it back to the boat before the rain came down. It’s so soothing to hear the rain falling on the deck and be snug inside our boat. How lucky are we to experience these moments.
En route to Roanne
My husband had been wanting to make Crêpes Suzettes. It had been fun making vegan versions of traditional French foods. He did a great job. Served them complete with flames. It was a lovely and cool spot. The occasional runner or cyclist came past. Leaves fell. Not much more.
Day Forty-Two – 8th August 2017
Middle of nowhere to Roanne
It was still raining in the morning so we decided to delay coming through the last lock into the port until after lunch. Not fun tying up while it’s wet. Luckily the sun came out after lunch. A hire boat nearly pinched our parking spot. They don’t realise that the marina allocates space to log term boats.
Turns out there’s a South African family living in Roanne who appeared to be offering services. We wanted to meet them as soon as possible as we hadn’t expected to do everything ourselves. It would also be nice to meet fellow Saffas. They live on a lovely old Dutch barge that they’re busy restoring. Their daughter and her partner live a few boats further along the quay. We met and made plans to chat more. They offer a huge range of services including repairs, wintering and organising spares. They also offer boat cleaning, collection by car from the station and stocking your boat with provisions before you arrive. Much as that would be helpful, one of the things we like doing is immersing ourselves in a place and living like locals. We particularly enjoy walking about.
Passing a Chateux
They mentioned that young kids prank boats by untying their ropes, causing the boats to drift into the marina. A trip to the nearest hardware shop (bricolage) was defo on the cards. We needed chain and locks, anti-freeze and dehumidifying salts. The water sources on the quay were few and far between so an extra length of hose would be required.
The brico is a fair walk but we got to see quite a bit more of Roanne. Plus a quick detour into MacDonalds so we could catch up on wi-fi. I already liked Roanne. That evening I made us green pea falafels with a mustard potato puree. We ate on the back deck.