Wednesday, 16 July 2014

and then to the German border

Jul 14

We idled after the Mauvages tunnel - downhill all the way.  Two nights at the VNF stop at Void, a nice little town with a reasonably 'original' town gate (still has its gate chain slots).  Angie squandered the housekeeping on local produce (honey, jam and wine).

Through the Foug tunnel and another lift bridge (better than sunsets Terry).

A couple of nights later we were in Toul at Lorraine Marine.   The sewage pump had been playing up and Duncan, the proprietor, being half Peter's size managed to squeeze in and replace the pump valves, after we managed to get replacements from UK. Peter did some gardening (he needs a greenhouse!

The crew of  'Romany' a kiwi boat (Ruth and Roger) arrived from down under, which was an excuse for drinks and they kindly gave us a lift to Lidl (3 months beer supply replenished) but then after five days it was off to Nancy by way of Liverdun.  Liverdun is a small inlet that looks dodgy so we had avoided it previously,  but we forced through the weed and mud  and an extremely large dead fish and had a good night in peace - reversing out round a 90 deg bend was accomplished with Angie's normal panache the next day.

Liverdun Inlet
Not sure what breed
We were now off the canal and onto the River Moselle for a period.

River Moselle nr Liverdun
Always get good reflections on the rivers
The high point of the run through Nancy was the Intermarche (in a previous life it had been Auchan, but we noticed they were developing a new Auchan closer in to town). No one we knew so we tucked in on a quai by the lift bridge.

Nancy port de plaisance
 The Cathedral St Nicholas de Mariniers always looks totally stranded but is actually on the riverbank

At Parroy we met Nautilus (Sue and Mike) liveaboards who are also wintering at Brugge.  Lots of hire boats on the move - not helped by the closure of the Arzweiler Plane which is pushing them west. The last act before turning north was the Rechicourt ecluse (15m) as usual the eclusier tried to pack us in with lots of shouting.

We turned onto the Canal des Houliiers/Canal de la Sarre and we were on  new territory at last. Moored at Diane Capelle before tackling the 15 lock flight down to Mittersheim.  Angie is like a pig in muck as everyone speaks German (or a version of it). Tarte Flambe at the village bar - Angie preferred the beer.

Mistakenly worried we would get trapped by Bastille Day we pushed on to Sarralbe - nice town and the Bastille festivities were much more 'family oriented' than those previously attended - more like a village fete (beer tent by the tennis club, tarte flambĂ© by the rowing club, cake stall by the french WI ....)  We noticed that most of the towns had old RC and Protestant churches - unlike further west (as Alsace was unaffected by the Wars of Religion).

Sarrallbe Gate tower
More churches
The Canal de la Sarre moved us back into the 'debateable' lands with old defensive works we hadn't noticed since Belgium.

A Dutch flagged peniche put us into the side near Wittring and the bowthruster expired after picking up a load of rubbish - once we stopped Peter dissassembled it and put in a new shearpin (amazingly it all worked on reassembly). Finally into Sarreguemines last town before the German border. Not sure they will let us through given length and licences but fingers crossed as Angie desperately desperately needs a German supermarket (and bratwurst mit frites - or is that Peter). Peter squandered €6 on a Deutschland cruising flag which he will burn if we are turned back.

Port de Sarreguemines (and 'Casino')

Friday, 27 June 2014

Paris to Mauvages Tunnel

Jun 14

We both maintain paper diaries, Peter's is a boat one of moorings, hours run, fuel used etc while Angela does the social one (nice churches, shops and boats/people met) so the blog could be a bit superfluous - but with the rapidly changing scenery it is a help to know roughly where we were a week, month, year ago with the pictures to match (Pagny where??).  Angie will also be able to use it to bore her grandchildren to death if she ever has any! Our best man died yesterday unexpectedly so we are both feeling rather mortal especially as he was 5 years younger than Peter!

Back to our travels :) - A greyish run up the Seine to the River Marne and onto new territory again. Commercial traffic was quite thick as one of the northern canals had been blocked.  All the boat ports were full of sports boats given our proximity to Paris but haven't seen a hire boat since the River Loing

River Marne ecluse
A small tunnel to practise for the big ones
At Neuilly ecluse there was a super Moules/frites restaurant adjacent to the pontoon, while waiting for a commercial to come through Peter dashed off to organise a takeaway with his few words of French and the usual sign language - Angie nearly had a heart attack fending off the eclusier when we were called forward sans Peter but the trail of moules shells was worth the effort.

The few river derivations (canalised bits) were narrow and overgrown so a bit slow.

The weather had deteriorated so once we moored (green bank) Peter did his Mrs Mop imitation in the rain  (in a pair of shorts) to clean down the boat  - not a pretty sight. At Lagny we ended up moored to dolphins (Duc d' Albe in french?) - met our first Kiwis this season (John and Jane) on a a baby barge 'Elise Rivet' - the antipodeans seem the only cheerful boaters at the moment not sure why.  Peter and John enjoyed watching the ABs beat England (again).We shared ecluses with them to Meaux where the port was empty when we arrived.

Meaux port

Meaux Cathedral

Meaux Bishops Palace and Gardens

Night view
Good moorings were a bit thin and a few had had their elec/water fittings vandalised which doesn't give one a 'secure' feeling for overnighting so we often used the quais above the ecluses.  Mixed weather, sun followed by rainstorms. We found a supermarket and Angie went beserk filling the trolley to overflowing which was reflected in the bill! Given the cellar was down to its last two cans of beer and dinner had been forecast as canned tuna and salad Peter didn't complain.

Onwards to Vandieres where Angie enjoyed the weather and yes - another BBQ - lovely mooring.

Kes cowering in the shade at the back
A happy boater
Our first 'River Yonne' type locks with sloping sides and internal pontoon
On the pontoon at Reuil we were well in champagne country with all the villages having small Caves (good champagne at €15 a bottle). The second night we moved to fit in an Australian boat 'Charmame' - lent them a power cable and use of the washing machine - a mistake as champagne and a few beers turned into an impromptu party - Chris needs another German posting as the whisky stocks are falling fast (in barrow boy mode Peter swapped what was left in the bottle post party for a Dutch gas bottle)!

Between Reuil and Ay we moved onto the Canal Lateral au Marne (still heading east). We green banked at Ay near a supermarket - given the low diesel price (€127.7/litre) Peter jerricanned 200 litres to the boat - - next top up hopefully in Luxembourg. The east end of the Canal Lateral was boring miles and miles of straight canal and not a lot of scenery or life - very few boats around (one a day).

Chalons en Champagne
Then onto the Canal Marne au Rhin (Ouest) which was much more rural.

A dog's life
TheMarne au Rhin was deserted by both boaters and eclusiers - poorly maintained too with grass growing over ecluse bollards,and the occasional snake moving swiftly away from our noise.

Into Bar Le Duc where we sneaked onto the last mooring (and met the new owner of Avontuur - Ian Lones old barge). Peter got dragged to the top of the old town up thousands of steps (he counted every one and his counting is creative).

Bar le Duc clock tower
.We had been meeting lots of moveable bridges both swing and lift - two at Bar le Duc and on the way out they were combined with the ecluse.

Swing low

Ligny was a lovely little port so we spent three nights there - joined by 'Elise Rivet' the second night - Peter retired half way through the BBQ with a severe case of 'Delhi belly' - Peter blamed the unwashed grapes, Angie the chausson au pomme - unusual as his stomach is normally built of cast iron.


More impressive close up
The weed was getting bad (clearing filters two or three times a day) but the water was stunningly clear - easy to see the bottom of the canal and the fish - strange to be able to see the bottom of the ecluse gates and the paddles operating.

We stopped at Demanges just before the tunnel - another 'desolate' village with the alimentation, boucherie and bar shut down.  Peter is having to bake - pity he sticks to bread (and gingerbread).

Up until recently everyone was towed through Mauvages tunnel but the next morning we went through occasionally accompanied by a cyclist.

Mauvages tunnel tug now disused
It was our longest tunnel to date - nearly 5 km and took us an hour - you wouldn't want to be claustrophobic - Angie didn't touch the side once seriously impressive.

Mauvages tunnel entrance (west end)
Tunnel exit (east end)
The Marne au Rhin (Ouest) is hard work west to east - uphill with 70 ecluses (plus another 12 after the tunnel) in 80km.but now it is downhill to Toul next week.

Friday, 13 June 2014

to Paris

Jun 14

We left the Briare and moved on to the Canal de Loing which parallels the river of the same name, we did a few nice greenbanks (saving money again and the new solar panels are really earning their keep).  Kes enjoys being able to lie out and survey the world.

typical greenbank mooring near Montambert
At Montargis we went on to a commercial quai adjacent to a giant bricolage ((BandQ) almost impossible not to spend money. The town itself was criss crossed with canals and judging by the houses seriously prosperous.


I guess straight ahead?

At Souppes (sur Loing) Peter settled in to watch assorted rugby finals and Angie went into long walks mode to Kes' delight (Angie is enjoying walking without any pain and no handfuls of painkillers).  The Loing is a nice river and relatively small here,

The Loing at Souppes
The towns were improving as we got closer to Paris (from the South anyway). We arrived in Nemours in time for a large book festival and a giant flea market.

Nemours old bassin
The nicest town though was Moret sur Loing where we squeezed onto a pontoon  (well overhung on the pontoon) for 3 nights to the objections of a French boater  - the Capitaine just took the money! All the towns seemed to have bits of canals and river tributary traversing them.


Francois 1st vintage (NZ history missed that bit)
Then we traversed the last half km of the Loing and turned north onto the River Seine.

End of the River Loing at St Mammes
River Seine
Lots of commercials and back to the big ecluses with Angie practising her VHF procedure.

Please can I help
Not a steeple or bell tower so what is it?
Moorings on the Seine were sparse. We moored at Melun and got seriously shaken up by passing commercials despite springs both ways (and were charged for the privilege) so the next night we tucked in behind rafted commercials at Evry ecluse.  The Canada geese found us irresistible!

A good gaggle
On the way in to the Arsenal we passed the River Marne turnoff (which we will be taking in a week or so) and then had to do lots of 360 deg turns for 20 mins near the Notre Dame (and avoiding day boats) while waiting for the Arsenal ecluse to sort itself out.

River Marne - turn at the Chinese

Well they would see Angie coming
from the River
Our first time in the Arsenal (which butts on to the Place Bastille) - beautiful gardens but lots of people in the sun!
Squeezed in

The exit to the Seine

The Arsenal
Exit to St Martin canal
Place Bastille
We had seen all the Paris sights several times sans bateau, except the inside of Notre Dame so we walked over and the queue stretched four city blocks so we still haven't! A few street markets, a few pavement cafe beers and it was time to leave (Angie couldn't stand the chuntering about mooring costs)! So farewell Paris with the box ticked, hullo River Marne.

Canal St Martin (under the market and through the centre)
Palais de Justice freshly cleaned.