Thursday, 5 July 2012

France; Canal Boat Trip, Day 4 - Cours-les-Barres to Herry

8 May

From the journal:

“We awoke this morning to a world that was wet, wet, wet – and very windy. After eating breakfast in the warm and snuggy salon on our boat, we noticed that another Crown Blue vessel which had spent the night tied up at Cours-les-Barres was about to depart. Oh my, oh my! Like our boat, I think it was only a couple onboard that vessel, and I’m pretty sure they were German. The “skipper” managed to reverse into the starboard side of our vessel twice, and then crashed very heavily into both banks, around again, crunch into the jetty. They were then heading for our vessel again, and I noticed the lady on board had the mooring spike ready to push against our boat. I shouted at her not to do that. Unbelievable! We watched, stunned, as they did a couple more 360 degree turns, him getting more and more angry and her getting more and more voluble.  Phew, were we glad when they eventually headed off in the opposite direction to where we would be going. We really couldn’t even say if that is where they wanted to go; we sort of feel that in the end he just powered ahead, irrespective of what way the bow was pointing. Imagine meeting people like that in a lock; very scary prospect.

Lovely Cours-les-Barres

After securing the boat, we rugged up, grabbed our brolly and went for a nice long walk through this lovely little village. We were just blown away – it is so charming, so beautiful, and so much what we had wanted to see in rural France. Perfect! 

Found a great little patisserie/boulangerie and bought some wonderful cakes – Paris Brest (oh, to die for, honestly). We have to give a big thanks to the travel guides we read before coming to France because they all pointed out the importance of manners, and the need to greet people when you enter a shop.

We were always careful to offer a “Bonjour Madam” or “Bonjour Monsieur, Dames” to all present as we entered a shop, always careful to say hello to people before actually saying what we needed or asking for directions. It pays off: you are then always greeted with a smile, great helpfulness, and, on leaving, a “Bon journée”, which of course sounds so much more genuine that the horrible “Have a nice day”.

Yay, a non-Gothic church.

We took a few photographs so we will have some pictures to remind us of this town, which also has a wonderful, warm feeling to it, unlike Nevers. Wish we had more time here.

Heading off, we noticed our friend, the heron, was with us again. Every day as we set off, he joins us, doing his job of flying ahead, stopping for a while for us to catch up, and then heading off up the canal again. I don’t know if this happens with all cruisers, but it’s just fabulous each morning to look around and see him there, as if he has spent the night waiting for us.

We will be back one day, Cours-les-Barres

Passed some great scenery along the canal, including a couple of really blow-you-away chateaux, particularly the Chateau de St Léger, just outside St Léger-le-Petit. Stunning.

We didn’t manage to take photos on today’s run as the weather was positively diabolical – cold, windy and oh so wet. We still wanted to sit up on top, though, in the outside driving position, and – confession time – I spent half the day with a black garbage bag tied onto my head as a rain bonnet.  I was really wishing I had one of those old bonnets, honestly – or perhaps a shower cap. Actually, that’s probably a good idea for future trips.

A quite funny little incident happened at the lock at ecluse 28, Argenvières. The lock-keeper had been really helpful and extremely nice at this and the previous lock which he looked after, and so we offered him one of our little Aussie souvenirs, a boomerang fridge magnet. It was the soft, magnetised rubber sort, not a metal thing with a magnet on the rear. Well, he turned it over and over in his hands, not knowing quite what it was. He then thought he had figured it out, and, thinking he had discovered its purpose, held it against his shirt sleeve, assuming it was some sort of badge/patch to be sown there. I had to hand him the bow line, go inside the vessel and demonstrate its use by sticking the magnet onto the boat’s fridge. I had been saying “Pour le frigo”, but either I had the wording wrong or my accent made it totally incomprehensible. He then seemed really pleased with the gift, but I couldn’t help feeling that he didn’t know what a boomerang was. Note to self: stick with kangaroos and koalas.

Our travel guide, Monsieur Heron

We had planned to stop for the night at La Chapelle Montlinard, but that place was awful beyond belief. A few boats were tied up there, but right next to the mooring area was a huge, neglected old factory, complete with broken windows and all covered with graffiti. Yuk!  Needless to say, we ploughed on. It was a real shame as we had hoped to visit La-Charité-sur-Loire ( how could you not want to visit a place with such a lyrical name?).

 And so we came to Herry, a delightful looking village, where we gratefully tied up and were able to get below, into the warmth, out of the awful weather. A welcoming hot shower, fresh, dry clothes, a couple of hot coffees, and we felt wonderful again.

Soft jazz on the iPod, a bowl of yummy potato and cheese soup accompanied by toasted baguette spread with lovely oozy camembert, fine chocolate, and a bottle of wine, and we were in heaven.”

See you tomorrow.

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