I set off on Saturday morning by train to Paris and then by their metro to get to the airport and collect Laura and then repeat the journey in reverse. It is so worth it though to see Laura and her engagement ring which is absolutely gorgeous. We get back early evening and celebrate her arrival with champagne before going out for a meal only to find all the restaurants are fully booked up – we think this is because the cathedral is lit up at 10 pm and is a spectacular sight. So back to Bluegum we go for a meal on board and more bubbles.
We introduce Laura to galettes (a savoury crepe) on Sunday afternoon and afterwards she and I enjoy a sweet crepe – they are wonderful. The next few days fly by and the majority of conversation resolves around wedding planning with Laura and I getting quite carried away – Charles’ face is a picture as he can see the pounds mounting up. He comforts himself by fitting the new pump that Laura has carted over from the UK in her hand luggage – attracting unwelcome attention from the security staff (it has wires sticking out of it and is an unusual shape) luckily she had the manual with her so was able to convince them she wasn’t a terrorist. The pump works fine so we can now report that the toilet system is now back to full working order. Legs can be uncrossed!
Initially we intended to stay around Sens because it has a good train service but decide to continue down to Auxerre. We arrive in Gurgy without incident and are rewarded with a degustation and enjoy sampling some lovely wines produced by Denis Gabrielle and predictably stock up with a few of their bottles. In hindsight we should have carried on to Auxerre because the weather is horrendous and we are hampered by strong winds.
We arrive at the first lock to find the gates closed and no one around and Charles struggles to keep the boat in situ because of the strong current caused by the barrage. I try out my French on the radio to try and find a lock keeper – no answer so we decide to turn around and stay further away from the lock and the barrage. On our return we can see some VNF staff but now notice the river is not just coming over the far gates but also the whole of the side wall – this is not looking good so we manage to suspend Bluegum between two dolphins and wait. I try the radio again and this time I get a response but neither Charles nor I understand the reply. I ask him to repeat his message but we are no wiser so decide the best course of action is to ignore him. We hear the name of our boat a couple of times as if he’s saying ‘is anyone there’ but gives up after a couple attempts.
12 o’clock comes and all VNF staff go only to return at 1pm after their lunch – clearly raging waters won’t stop the French from their lunch break. The river is swollen and the problem seems to be that the water is backing up behind the barrage and flowing over the side of the lock – so they are removing huge metal slats to allow the water to flow through the barrage into the river. We are in two minds whether to return to our mooring at Gurgy but around 2 pm I notice the gates are open so we’re off. The journey into Auxerre is probably the worse journey we have ever made – the river is fast flowing with quite a lot of debris and is now a yellow brown colour – in England the locks would have been closed and no passage would be allowed. I ask one lock keeper how safe we are and he says ‘comme ci, comme ca’ and shrugs his shoulders. We are told the current is bad at the entrance to the locks so should keep away from the bank and keep the power on – this is all well and good but completely contra to how one should enter a lock – needs must and it works for us. For the last three locks we are joined by a brand new cruiser with two very inexperienced crew and another barge similar to us. As we are in the lead we take our boat as far forward as possible and then watch in trepidation as the other boats struggle to get into the lock – think they will both be spending the next few days touching up scratches. We try and play it down because Laura isn’t looking too happy but neither Charles nor I like the situation although Charles is doing a great job keeping Bluegum on track and he never hits the side of the locks.
We arrive in Auxerre and Charles completes the journey by mooring Bluegum up in a space between two other boats with only a metre to spare – For some reason he relied on me to confirm the space was big enough – a bit silly I thought. Without encouraging him to become a big head it was pretty impressive and we are all very happy to be safe and sound and are rewarded by sunshine.
This time we do eat out in a restaurant opposite the mooring – so not far to stagger home. Laura has us all in hysterics when she asks me to order her boeuf bourguignon because she cannot speak French – even the waiter giggled.
We had a lovely last night which would not have been complete without the final game of scrabble. I think I’m loosing my touch because out of four games I only won one but Laura was made up when she won one without any help from us. So Thursday arrives too soon and Laura and I make our way back to Paris where we say a tearful goodbye after some lovely fun days.