Notre Premier Semaine en France

Sunday 1 June

We enjoyed eating the fresh baguette with a healthy salad before deciding it was time to go explore France.  We said our goodbyes to our new found fellow boaters in the marina and headed north.

The custom is to fly a stern flag of the country where the boat is registered - and a small flag on the mast of the country you are in
The custom is to fly a stern flag of the country where the boat is registered – and a small flag on the mast of the country you are in

We approach the same lock as we had negotiated the day before and both felt fully confident with the procedures.  We approached the perche  (hanging pully type thing) saw the flashing amber light and waited patiently – then a bit more patiently.  We had seen a small speed boat enter the lock and figured it was having some difficulties so we waited a bit more patiently. For those of you who know us well will understand this is not so easy for Sally to do so she asks Charles to approach a landing stage so she can climb the steps to find out what is going on.  The climb is a lot higher than first anticipated but there is no going back. She walks confidently  towards the lock only to find the lock empty of any maritime vessel, the upstream gates open and no eclusier (lock-keeper) in sight. The logical explanation was the boat was too low to activate the sensors. Playing around with anything that she can tug, press or pull she eventually finds a sign with an English translation requesting the boater to call the emergency intercom in case of any difficulties with the lock.  Taking a deep breath Sally presses the button and in her best French asks ‘parlez-vous Anglais’ only to receive a clear, curt response of ‘non’.  Oh that’s a bummer….. Now let’s see how good she has got on with her on line French lessons.  With huge apologies for her poor French she explains the situation and to her surprise he understands – now that is a result.  The only problem is Sally doen’t really understand everything he replied to her but enough to know that someone was on their way to assist.  It must have worked because someone duly arrived fixed the lock and even gave Sally a wry smile – we think was for her rubbish French!!  So what we thought was going to be a 20 minute period in a lock turned out to be about an hour – that will teach us for thinking we know it all!!!

Pontaillier sur Soane - where is everybody! French towns and villages  often seem empty
Pontaillier sur Soane – where is everybody? French towns and villages often seem empty!

Thoroughly enjoying this new experience we mosey along being frequently overtaken by boats clearly with somewhere to go.  We decide to moor up in Pontailler-sur-Saone; a typical small village with a café/bar and a few shops although in our guide booked it is classed as a large market town – guess it’s down to perspective – or translation!! A large barge pulls up so Charles jumps off to help them with the ropes.  He engages the crew in conversation to practice his French only to find their English is as good his French.  We have a wander around which in truth doesn’t take too long before retiring to Bluegum for dinner and intellectual discussions – Ok maybe the last bit was an exaggeration.

Monday 2 June

Monday morning and we set off early – well early for us about 9.30 ish into glorious sunshine.  For most of the day it is quiet and we see few boats except for five boats travelling in convoy, passing us clearly in a hurry as the wash from their boats hits our bow which necessitates a quick dash to the cabin(window open) to check that we haven’t been flooded – panic over no harm done so we continue on our sedentary way.

The second lock of the day approaches and Sally decides to take us in – OK well someone had to do it; she clips the side and quickly changes her mind about all this preferring to be at the bow in the locks working the ropes –  in truth it really is better for Sally to have made the first mark than Charles as the repercussions would have been very different. Charles takes over without any problem until a woman approaches from no-where wanting to start the automatic lock system – we both yell ‘non, non, non’ and then our French escapes us as neither of us know how to say ‘we haven’t secured the stern rope yet’. We think she got the picture from our terrified expressions and took the rope from Charles before activating the lock.  Good job too as the fill was a bit fierce and we would have bounced around if we had not got bow and stern ropes secured.  Hope you appreciate these nautical terms.

Mantoche Halte - a lovely setting
Mantoche Halte – a lovely setting

We moor up in mid afternoon at Mantoche which really is a small village and took us less than fifteen minutes to walk around.  Charles suggested a longer walk but Sally wanted to try out the deck as to its suitability for sunbathing donned her bikini – confident no-one was around, settled down into a comfortable position and closed her eyes only to hear an Australian accented male shout ‘hello’ – thank goodness she didn’t decide to go topless although he would have needed good eyesight!!! Charles came to the rescue and engaged the bloke into the usual boating chat leaving Sally to her solitude.

Another busy day……………….

Tuesday 3 June

Another sunny day – we’re going to get a shock when we wake up to clouds and rain! We decide to take a longer walk and venture out along the river bank back towards the last lock. The sun is warm and we stride out along a straight man made stretch which cuts off a wide meander of the main river – keen to work off some of our indulgence in wine and cheese. The sun is strong by the time we reach the lock so we cross to the shady side for the route back – starts OK but the undergrowth soon becomes waist high and despite Charles assurance that nettles are indigenous to the UK we both get stung but remarkable similar looking plants…… After seeing a light green coloured snake swim from under our boat across the river yesterday Sally is also now worried about disturbing one in all this long grass so makes lots of noise to avoid startling any.  As you can probably guess no snake or other unsavoury animal/insect or reptile was spotted…

We return to our boat for a healthy salad (don’t think it will be long before Charles starts grumbling about all this fruit and salad and the lack of meat) before setting off to Gray which we believe is a larger town.  We arrive mid afternoon and moor on the quay just on the edge of Gray.  What we have found is the friendliness of boaters over in France, they are quick to help with ropes, mooring, advice and general chit chat.   There is a large Intermarche just up the road and Charles decides to steal the trolley to save us carrying the heavy bags.  Just hope he knows how to talk his way out of this if we get stopped by the Police.  Disappointment – no Police just some weird looks from the locals but again an elderly man jumps (well hobbled) out of his boat to help us with the shopping – hope this friendliness continues.

On the quay in Gray
On the quay in Gray

Wednesday 4 June

We must have spoken too soon because we wake up on Wednesday morning to rain – Sally announces she will get out of bed when the rain stops but by 10 am hunger gets the better of her and the rain continues. We venture out into the town and have a healthy climb up to the ‘Centre Ville’  – the place is deserted! We are still getting used to the French lunchtime – we went to the Bricolage (B&Q) just after miday and were confused when we couldn’t open the doors, pushing buttons and assuming there was something wrong with the sensors, until a young man came out to tell us they are closed until 2pm.

The rain has set in and it turns into a bit of a thunderstorm late afternoon – but it looks as if it clearing up and there are rumours of a heatwave this weekend. We watch the England v Ecuador world cup warm up and very unimpressed we are too.

Thursday 5 June

The sun returns and we prepare to move off. They provide free electricity hook up and water on this quay which is quite a pleasant surprise. I guess they want to encourage visitors to stay on for a while. Hook ups for electricity are common over here – in England you rarely see them and you always need to pay for using them. Everyone else seems to have the same idea and we leave  a deserted quay late morning, intending to stay at Pontallier sur Soane again.  We are beginning to realise that boaters tend to moor up about 12 ish for lunch and then move off to find a mooring for the night about 3ish, as in England mooring spaces are scarce on rivers so we will no doubt follow the crowds.

Lunch at Mantoche
Lunch at Mantoche

We moor at Mantoche for lunch and head off mid afternoon – and guess what? no spaces left at Pontallier but it is about 6 ish so we kept on moving and fortunately found a lovely isolated spot on the river bank with just the right amount of space for Bluegum.  Sally took her in and Charles jumped off the boat to fix the mooring pins – yes you need to use your imagination but he did jump but hurt his foot on landing.  We feared initially he had broken his ankle but fortunately he just bruised the heel – it did mean getting the gang plank off which from the looks of it hasn’t been used much before.

Moored in an isolated but beautiful spot for the night
Moored in an isolated but beautiful spot for the night



Friday 6 June

Chat Lune – Photo courtesy of Guy’s blog

We watch lots of boats pass us travelling south so around 10 ish we follow suit and return to Auxonne.  Apparently Auxonne was originally called Aussonne hence the different pronunciations we keep hearing. We moor on the quay only to find the same boats we had previously moored with in Gray.  We have to do some shuffling about when another boat arrives, Chat Lune, and we get into conversation with Guy and Marleen with excellent English.  People seemed suprised and pleased when we tell them we have had the boat for only a week and Marleen returns with a bottle of wine for us to celebrate.  The join us later in the evening and its great to hear about their experiences and ply them for information about moorings, engineers etc.

Saturday 7 June

After enjoying a coffee with Guy and Marleen and taking a look around their boat they take their leave and we are soon joined by another Piper barge Tessera.  They recognise Bluegum and apparently know Mark from a VHF course they had done back in England.  We have been invited onto their deck for an aperitif this evening so look forward to hearing all about their experiences.


One comment

  1. Such a big table! Such wonderful sunshine! How marvellous! Shame about the nettles. I prefer them as a coating to my goats cheese…

    Happy travelling
    Emily and Tom.

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