Sunday, October 02, 2011

fantastic four go boating in france

Moira+ I don’t normally do boats. Neither of us are natural boat people but, when our lovely, generous friends Chris+Lal invited us to spend a week with them on the rivers/canals of Burgundy, we just jumped at the opportunity (I think what clinched it was when Chris asked me if I could tie a bowline knot and I explained that, when I was in the scouts - 50 years ago! - I had learnt how to tie one one-handed.... possibly suspended from a cliff, lock or some such scenario(?). Fortunately, my “skills” were never properly challenged!).
It proved to be a really special week. The weather and the scenery were simply beautiful (and, of course, the company was first class!). There’s something rather lovely and relaxing about motoring down rivers and canals at a stately 6-7km/hour, passing through locks every one or two kilometres, reading in the sunshine, stopping in some stunning locations…. oh, and eating and drinking very well!
Chris+Lal are part-owners of an impressive 50ft long dutch barge – with lounge, eating area and two cabins (each with their own en-suite wc and shower facilities!). The boat was moored in the beautiful town of Auxerre (an area of France neither Moira nor I knew at all), with the cathedral and abbey dramatically dominating the River Yonne frontage. We spent the first evening exploring the town (and finding an excellent restaurant) and the following morning visiting local vineyards (we had our arms twisted, honest!). We then set off up-river as far as Migennes before joining the Burgundy Canal. The following five days saw us reach our destination of Montbard – largely in beautiful sunshine - stopping at St Florentin, Tonnerre, Tanlay and Ravieres along the way (amongst other places). I did scribble out a “log” of our adventures but, to avoid making you feel too envious, won’t bore you with all the details here….
Among the highlights for me were the following:
1. The beauty of Auxerre.
2. The entertaining vineyard proprietor (and successful salesman!).
3. Being sang to by lovely, friendly fellow-boaters at St Florentin (they proved to be 16 French choral singers “on tour”).
4. The STUNNING chateau at Tanlay.
5. The starry, starry sky at Argentenay.
6. The beautiful misty morning at Argentenay.
7. The amazing sunset/red cloudy sky near Ravieres.
8. Gathering loads of walnuts from the boat (from an overhanging tree).
9. Hate to admit this, but I actually enjoyed listening to Chris’s i-pod music (with one or two key exceptions)!
10. Chris+Lal’s generosity (and the comfort that at least THEY knew what they were doing as far as the boating was concerned!).
Photo: Chris, Moira and Lal on board Dorney (you can see other photographs by clicking here).
PS: I think it’s only right that I also point out the following:
a) I did NOT fall into the water once.
b) I did NOT drop my camera over the side.
c) There were a NUMBER of occasions (no doubt, much to the admiration of the lock-keepers?) where I nonchalantly lassoed lockside capstans as we entered locks.
d) There were a NUMBER of occasions (no doubt, much to the amusement of the lock-keepers) where I pathetically FAILED to lasso lockside capstans as we entered locks.
e) I was NOT made to walk the plank (although this was threatened by the skipper on one occasion).
f) I am REALLY good at thanking lock-keepers in the following manner: “merci beaucoup madam/monsieur…. au revoir” (I’m pretty sure they were REALLY impressed by this).
g) I am REALLY good at cycling to boulangeries first thing in the morning and smiling/shrugging (in a rustic gallic way, you understand) and asking for/pointing at the loaves and pastries.

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