France Part 2

First, I must apologize for the length of this e-mail, but it was hard to condense our adventure much further.

We arose quite early on May 19th and enjoyed a lovely continental breakfast at the hotel in Dijon. They even had a contraption for boiling eggs, along with fresh croissants, fruit, cereal etc.

From Dijon, we took a local train to St Jean de Losne, arriving just after noon although our boat wouldn’t be available until 4 pm, according to the brochure. An English couple, who had stored their boat here for the winter, also got off at this station and shared their taxi with us. On the brief journey, we plied them with questions about the best route, closest grocery store, etc. The office of the Crown Blue Line charter company was a very large barge, with a gangplank attaching it to shore. Inside, we met a long line of other people trying to check in. This procedure took quite some time, as there was only one staff member doing the check-in, for most of our wait. Another line was finally opened and we were signed in and shown to our vessel.

The Royal Classique was 40 ft long, 13 ft wide with 3 staterooms, each with their own bathroom and shower. The main salon was a raised area, surrounded by huge windows, a large table and banquette seating. A inside steering station was also in the salon. Down a couple of steps, to the stern of the vessel, was a small galley, with stove and oven, refrigerator and wine rack. Off of the galley were two of the smaller staterooms. As it was our anniversary trip, we were given the forward cabin. It was accessed through the main salon and down a couple of steps. Inside, there was a queen sized bed and room to unpack our suitcases. Our head had a shower as well as a very tiny tub.

Once we made the beds, with supplied linens, and put things away, one contingent headed to the grand marche ( supermarket ) while the other two, Murray & John, stayed to meet with the man who would tell how to run all the boat systems. The store was much like the ones we have here, with the exception of many shelves of wines. Thank goodness Murray had suggested that we take one of our wheeled suitcases along to carry all of the stuff back to the boat.

Every other rental boat had departed by the time we had the food and wine stowed. So, we elected to just stay tied to the dock, as we had power and water and no worries of starting out late into unknown country.

In the morning, we headed south down the Soane River, passing green fields bordered with poppies. Transitting one lock brought us to Seurre, before lunch. We tied up here, ate cheese and baguettes with wine, and then explored the area on foot and by bike. Murray and I found remnants of a wall built in the 16th century! Bright and early the next morning, we headed on south, through a lock and arrived at Verdun-sur-Doub, where Murray had to back in to the dock, with a side current making it more difficult. That was a tricky maneuver and we enjoyed watching other charter boats try to do it after we were secure. Lunch was enjoyed at a local restaurant ( roast pork, salad, white beans, cheese tray, wine, dessert and coffee for 12 E or $16 Cdn )and then off we headed again. Just a few miles further south, we found a free dock at Gegny.

The morning motor took us past pastures, small villages and the large city of Chalon sur Soane. It looked very pretty but it was a city and we were enjoying visiting the smaller towns. Further south, we tied up at Tournus at a free dock with power and water. It was very hot ( 39 C ) and we ran the AC while we all had siesta time. After 3 pm, we toured the town and visited an ancient church, built in 1008. A crew meeting voted to stay another night and tour by bike.

As we rode along the river, southward, on a bike path, John and Kristin pointed out the local birds. At the village of Prety, Linda and I turned back in order to get to the market before it closed ( from noon until 3 pm most stores were closed ). The others continued on to La Truchere. When they retuned, it was time to turn the AC on again and settle down for rest time until 3 pm. Man, we could get used to this way of life. Once re-energized, we walked many more kilometers around this lovely town.

Reluctantly, we turned the bow to the north. Now the current is against us and the locks are trickier as we get pushed against the wall. While underway, we used the tiny tub in our cabin to do a laundry for everyone, as the hot weather was hard on clothes.

Mid-afternoon found us tied up in Gergy again. Off came the bikes and we proceeded to explore more of this area. John & Kristin saw birds called bee-eaters, nesting in a nearby river bank. What amazing, brightly coloured birds they were. In the morning cool, we walked back to the village and Murray and I met a man who sold goat cheese or fromage chevre. He offered us a tour of his farm. He spoke a little English and I spoke a little French, so we got by. He had 17 milking nanny goats and two billy goats. His milking machines and pipeline system were very much like the ones used at Randlawn Farms in years gone by, just smaller than the ones for cows.

Northward later that day, now we were looking for someplace to tie to shore. The spots were mostly occupied by fisherman or campers, so on we trekked. Eventually we tied up at Seurre again, the only spot where we had to pay for a dock. But we had power and thus, the AC ran at full blast until 8 pm, to try to cool us off.

Kristin and I ventured into town very early, in search of the farmers market. Successful, we bought fish, fresh veggies and fruit. They also sell “poulet ferme” which is chicken with the feet and head still attached! Not for me, thanks.

Heading on north of St Jean de Losne, we reached an unmanned automatic lock. To open the gates, you twist a cable hanging mid-stream. Then, once inside, you must lift a rod to activate the mechanism to close the gates and fill the lock. Once through, we motored to Auxonne and another free dock. The heat had broken and the rain started. It rained all night but we still managed to tour this town and the ancient chateau nearby that housed a Napoleon Bonaparte museum.

The rain continued and it became quite cool. The inside steering station was greatly appreciated as we headed towards St Jean de Losne and home base. As our train to Paris will depart Dijon near noon the next day, we want to be at home base early. The check-out procedures goes smoothly and all head to town for a lovely dinner at a local restaurant.

A taxi took us to the train early the next morning and we arrived back in Dijon by 9 am. Leaving our luggage at a stowage spot, we walked around the city until closer to time for our train. We found a huge farmers market with indoor and outdoor displays of foods, crafts, clothing, linens etc. Mur and I bought some food items to eat on the train. The trains are electric, very quiet and extremely fast and travel is reasonably priced. The tickets were purchased on-line in Canada before we left and cost us 20E each or $30 Cdn, from Dijon to Paris.

The cool, rainy weather continued for our visit to Paris. Our hotel was out of the way but close to a subway stop, so we didn’t have any expensive taxi rides. One day was spent in Paris, tramping around to the sights. We fit in as much as possible – the Eiffel Tower, the Arche de Triomphe, Notre Dame, a boat ride on the Seine, window shopping on the Champs-Elysee. The biggest problems that we found was finding a public bathroom! Eventually, we paid 15E for a beer and diet coke, in order to use the toilet. My knee started to complain and we grabbed the Metro back to our hotel by late afternoon. That night’s dinner was enjoyed in a nearby Japanese restaurant.

Early next morning found us dragging our bags onto the subway, to catch the early train to Charles de Gaulle airport. Our flight departed at 11:30, an hour later than scheduled, but due to the time change, we still arrived in Montreal in the mid-afternoon.

Would we do it again? I would, in a heartbeat, but Murray found it difficult due to his inability to communicate. Maybe we will try Scotland sometime in the future?? Anyone want to come???

Hugs, Heather & Murray

PS I will post some photos from the trip on the website soon.

France Part 1

As you know, we departed from Montreal on May 17th at 7:30 pm. Linda and Kuyler, who were driving us to the airport, proved to be even more cautious than I am, as they arrived at Jeremy and Cynthia’s at 11 am for a 2 hour drive! We took back roads, enjoyed the sights and even stopped to pick up some last minute items.

Even so, we arrived at the airport with hours to spare. Or rather, to drink wine at the bar.

The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Paris early, due to a tailwind. That made me feel better as we had a three hour gap between our arrival and the departure of our train, with non-refundable tickets.

Our luggage was the last off of the plane, probably as it was the first on. Just after we had collected everything, we were ushered to a waiting area and crammed in with many of the people from our flight. No explanation was given for quite a while. Then we heard that there was an unidentified package. ? A bomb?? They did finally explode the package, so we hope it wasn’t someone’s undies. After two hours, they let us depart.

Now we are under the gun as it will take us an hour, via train to Paris, then subway, to get to Gare de Lyon and catch our train to Dijon. Yikes! Grab the luggage and follow me. My broken French verifies the direction to “la gare” or station but cannot identify the shuttle stops. So, we run/hurry the length of two terminals and arrive, huffing and puffing, at “la gare”. There is a line at the ticket counter but there are also nearby handy ticket dispensers. Yeah! We insert my Visa card and it spits it right back. Try once more and same result. Okay, into the line. Buy the tickets and inquire re the possibility of making our train connection. The shoulder shrug told us all. But, we would try.

Bump, bump down the stairs with our wheeled luggage ( gifts from Jeremy and Cynthia ). Finally to the right level and into a train. Now, we must get off at Chalet des Halles and change to a subway to go to Gare de Lyon. Try to stay awake and figure out where we are on the map above our heads. Next is our stop! Get off quick as the doors don’t wait long. Bump, bump up a level or two, through the turnstiles, which directon???, this way, follow me! Whew, into the subway. Only one stop and we are off again. Oh man, this station is huge! Ask a friendly gendarme how to find the correct gate. We make the train, with 2 minutes to spare.

The trip takes 1 3/4 hours with speeds around 160 km/hour. It is so smooth and comfortable that we can doze off. John and Kristin meet us in Dijon and guide us to the hotel. By now, we have been up for 30 hours and are fading fast. But, we are also hungry. Time to walk the town and try to convince a cafe that eating at 4 pm isn’t gauche.

In the morning, we take another train to St Jean de Losne where we will board our floating home for the next 10 days.

to be continued….

Heather & Murray