Dear Family and Friends
Well the month of June was a case of the good, the bad and the ugly – seriously ugly! The Canal lateral à la Loire and the Canal du Centre were good. We had heard so much about the beauty of the Nivernais and the Bourgogne canals that were totally unprepared for how lovely the other two canals were. Really attractive – more small villages canal side that were not only pretty but much more prosperous. The locks were attended by very helpful lockkeepers and each lock was a delight of gardens and flowers. It must be a prerequisite to be a gardener first and lockkeeper second.
Châtillon-en-Bazois was a beautiful town with a lovely chateau – now owned by a family from Paris. Their daughter happened to be married the afternoon we arrived so we were treated to the sight of the wedding party arriving in a little automobile train at the church. Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me so I missed it. We were on our way to get groceries. Later that night we were woken by a display of fireworks and the sound of very lively dance music until 2:00AM. But who cares – we also had supper at the Hotel de la France restaurant – a 1 star Michelin chef. The meal was absolutely delightful, the old hotel and dining room were suitably ancient – beams and a huge fireplace – and we had a very nice time. This was also the first day of downstream locks – piece of cake! We were able to stop at a lock near Mont and had omelets at the canal side pub – not great but then I didn’t have to cook!
Chateau in Châtillon-en-Bazois
Another great meal
Paray le Monial was absolutely gorgeous. Lots of religious significance –worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus began here. It’s an important site for modern day pilgrimages. The town itself was the first we’ve seen in a long time with seriously awesome shops with very French clothing and accessories. Quite delightful. At the end of the Canal du Centre and the beginning of the Saône River is Chalon-sur-Saône another very pretty town with pedestrian streets lined with various shops and services. The Saône River was wide but quite benign and easy cruising. Maybe we are getting the hang of this cruising thing!!
So now for the bad. People, it’s the silly season out there – or as we know it – hire boat season is upon us. And I mean ‘upon’ us. We’ve now been hit twice by idiot boaters who assume that driving a boat is the same as driving a car – big NO there. They go way too fast and are a real danger at times. The first hit was by a boat rented by four women (no jokes about women drivers allowed as the men are even worse) – two Brits and two Aussies who met travelling on a tour of the Silk Route and get together every second year for a new adventure together. The captain was coming in way too fast and cranged into both us and the quay. Phil, bless his little heart, talked her in and then spent some time giving her advice on handling the boat. She was very appreciative – I just drank their wine! The second was a big boat with 3 Yorkshire couples on board. He hit us hard enough to damage one of our fenders – 20 euros to replace. To give him his due there was a very wicked current but he should have taken this into account as he approached. He wasn’t new to cruising so you’d think he would have adjusted accordingly. Quelle domage! But I guess that should be ‘Quelle damage!’
The ‘ugly’ was the day I thought I was going to die on the Rhone River. I was very very scared and have a brown stain at the back of my shorts to prove it!!! We left Lyon – a very nice port still on the Saône and after about a kilometre we hit the Rhone River. OMG. There was a wicked wind coming from the south which meant that it whipped the river up and we were headed directly into it. There were whitecaps and 4 foot short chop swells. Spray came over the bow and soaked the kitchen dinette cushions. Whose the idiot that forgot to close the windows? The bow is about 5 feet above the water line so you can picture how high the spray was. I hung on for dear life and tried not to scream too loudly. We lost anything that wasn’t tied down – including my plant box and plants – the bikes were bounced around and all our bits and pieces in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen were tossed to the floor. We couldn’t even pull over as all the moorings were alongside the river and would have been just as bad as the river itself so we kept going to Les Roches de Condrieu where at least there was a protected harbour. Phil was amazing and not only kept us from harm (I kept thinking of George Clooney and the ‘Perfect Storm’ movie) but handled the boat really well. His sailing experience on the coast sure helped. Our next day on the Rhone was great – rain but no swells and the locks were a piece of cake. Being in the lock behind a huge river hotel boat was an amazing experience. Honestly – the difference between the two days was surreal!
Three more cruising days and we are in Avignon – and almost off the Rhone!! Lavender fields, Van Gogh country and the Riviera await. It will be très jolie!!!!
Much love to all
Captain Incredible and Crew (now with clean shorts!)