Yes, I know it’s well past the 5th. But is has been hectic since we got back. Before we boarded our flight we had our last macaron – Iicourice for me and lemon for Dave. The couple sitting behind us were sick – she was coughing like a dog, and he had a fever. And they treated the cabin staff like they were idiots. Our meals were good, the flight uneventful and we made it to the boarding gate for the flight back to Cape Town just before it closed. And then we sat! The door would not close properly and it took half an hour for the engineers to sort it out. Not that I’m complaining about that delay. We got back to the office and cancelled all the credit cards and left work after 4pm. We went to get something to cook for dinner from Woolworths and came home for an early night.
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Woke up bright and early and packed up. Checked out of the apartment and headed for Gare du Nord. On the way we stopped for breakfast of croissants and espresso. We picked up our rental car and headed for Provins. This is the best remaining example of a walled city and is an UNESCO world heritage site. We walked through the old city, shopped for lunch and went into a Benedictine church. We had lunch overlooking the old tower and then headed to Château-Thierry. Here we stopped for coffee and bought a flan to share at the local bakery for dessert. Big fields are scattered with memorials, cemeteries and bunkers relating to World War 2. We drove past a Villeroy and Boch sign at a factory near La Ferté Gauches. This is the company where my dinner service is from so I will look into this further when we get home. We then headed for Reims where there are thousands of vines – this being the champagne route. After that we drove through Soissons and decided not to stop. This turned out to be a good choice as it started raining before we had got out of the city. On our way to Charles de Gaulle we saw what looked like a prostitute drive through! After putting petrol in the car (and getting caught in after work traffic) we returned the car at the airport. Dave had his wallet stolen in the men’s room and we had to report it to the police. We had a seriously long wait for someone who spoke English! We went to do self service check in and self service bag drop off. The check in was easy but it would not print our boarding passes. The lady at the entrance to the bag drop off was anything but helpful. Then the man in charge of the drop off checked our passports and the boarding passes on Dave’s phone. Dave went back to the police and I stood in the queue to drop off our bags. And guess what – we needed the boarding pass. After I had told the man Dave was leaving me to go to the police. Thankfully a helpful lady was available to get the bags into the system and printed us our boarding passes. I went to the police and a nice young gentleman was helping Dave make the report. This took an age and thankfully we were early! Or had we been on time maybe Dave would not have been in the wrong place at the right time. What a bugger. The plus side is that the policeman could stamp our passports and escort us through to security, bypassing passport control. We went through security, bought a bottle of whisky and Cointreau and we are getting ready to board our flight. Overall, its been a great holiday!
Woke up to a wet Paris. We had bagels with cheese for breakfast and then got another all day metro pass. Well worth it for €7. Went to the Marché des Enfants Rouge at 39 Rue de Bretagne (M3 Temple) but it was nothing special. We got mushrooms and asparagus and that was it. Then went to Marché du Boulevard Raspail which is at the exit Rennes M12. There we bought pate du foie for lunch and chipolatas aux herbes for supper. We also got a tiny punnet of organic strawberries for €5.85 *gulp*. Then we headed back to the apartment to drop the groceries off. As it was still raining we ate in the apartment and then caught the metro to Lamarck-Caulaincourt. We walked behind Montmarte and arrived at Sacre Couer from the back. We went inside the Church and it is really something spectacular. We then walked around Montmarte, saw the artists at work and caught the funicular down to the bottom. Our walk to Gare du Nord took us through the Muslim quarter, past a squatter camp and through the Hindu quarter. We saw how to get to Europcar tomorrow and then caught a metro to Strausborg Saint-Denis. Here we saw Asian street walkers with a Black pimp! We walked through The Marais to the Archives and then along Rue des Archives to Rue des Roisiers. Dave had a crepe before we got to the Jewish quarter and in the Jewish quarter we had a macaron each. Framboise for Dave and rose for me. The easiest way to get here is Metro Saint-Paul (M1) and up Rue Pavée to Rue des Rosiers. This is a must visit area, especially on a Sunday where most things are closed on a Sunday. Dave found me a charm of the Eiffel Tower at a local shop. Felafels are the most popular thing to eat and we saw a Mi-Va-Mi. However, had it been lunch time we would have had something at the Yiddish bakery. We bought a baguette and headed back for ice cream. Dave had pistache, caramel and framboise and I chose noisette and speculoos. A new flavour for me I’m going to try at home. We then went to ‘our’ pub for a 1664 each – and the barman bought us our beers. We have a bottle of wine for dinner and finally the sun is shining.
Woke up very early and made coffee in the apartment. Then headed off to Madeleine where we popped in to Laduree on Rue Royale. Best known for their choux pastry, we got croissants for breakfast. We walked a bit around the area before going back to the Metro. Dave dropped his all day ticket at the bakery and thankfully it was still on the floor when we got back there! We went to Marché La Chapelle / Olive (Marx Dormoy M12). There we bought brie, maquereaux and mousse de volaille aux chataignes. The cheese and mackerel are for dinner together with tomatoes and mushrooms bought at the market. We saw grapes from South Africa and bought French strawberries from Brittany. The mousse is a pate for lunch. We then went to Maille for mustard and back to the apartment to drop everything off. We stopped at the local Carrefour for olive oil and cream and the cashier was extremely rude! I would rather walk the extra 3 blocks than buy there again. We caught the metro and went to the army museum where Napoleon is buried but didn’t go further than the exterior. Then we walked through the market in Rue Cler where we bought paella at a fishmonger, and macarons at Pralus. I had noisette and Dave had citron. We had a picnic lunch in the gardens at Joffre and then walked to the Eiffel Tower. It was teeming with people but we had a slow walk around it which was good. After that we walked past the aquarium and got onto the Metro and popped in to Le Creuset in Rue de Rennes before going to Pierre Herme for caramel macarons. You can find them at 72 Rue Bonaparte (M4 Saint-Sulpice). These had better filling but the other macarons were better. We walked past the Church and headed to Bastille. On our way we went past the ancient Roman baths and stumbled upon Laurent Dubois in Boulevard Saint Germain. This is a super area to walk around and Laurent Dubois is a well known fromagerie. We bought Morbier Vieux from fromagerie Sancey Richard. This was another place on our list but I had chosen the one in Rue Saint-Antoine so it was a good find. After seeing the monument at Bastille we headed ‘home’ for ice cream – pistache and amarena for me. My serving came with a generous serving of cherries. Dave had a crepe and after that we went to a different pub. We both had Carlsberg Elephant and the bar keep was a very friendly person. Now we are back in the apartment. I’ve washed dishes and Dave is about to cook us dinner.
Dinner last night was amazing! This morning we’ve woken to rain, and worse than my jacket no longer being waterproof, my shoes are no longer keeping the water out! I discovered this when we went to buy croissants for breakfast. Very few shops are open today but we managed to find a bar open (how strange!) for an espresso. We’ve come back to the room to dry off, and so that I can change shoes. We have walked all around Auxerre and seen what there is to see. We checked out of the hotel, bought a baguette and some terrine and walked back to the station a different route than what we had taken yesterday. Our ticket would not validate so Dave got into the queue and had it stamped. Our train to Paris arrived on time and we have an hour and 36 minutes to dry off again. Even my bag is soaked through! Things started drying off in the train and we left Bercy station and it wasn’t raining but it was cold. We stopped and had coffee, got the metro to where we are staying and ate a quick lunch on a park bench in the rain! We sad down for coffee! Expect to pay over the top for this privilege. Costs at least double, but we were out of the rain. We then checked into our apartment. It has a double bed, a tiny bathroom and an even smaller kitchen. The floor is wonky, but it’s great to be able to cook in Paris, rather than eat out. Dave checked emails and then we walked around for a bit. We went to Amorino Gelato and I had L’inimitable and Dave had Framboise héritage and pistache. We then did a small shop, had a leffe beer at a local pub and came back to the apartment. Dave started cooking – his job when we travel – and as he turned the stove on the electricity tripped. After he sorted that out he made pasta for supper which was enjoyed with another bottle of Bordeaux, this one organic.
We woke up, packed, had breakfast and tidied up. After handing the barge back we walked to the hotel for an espresso, but they were closed! We then walked to where the bus will pick us up, and waited. Seriously glad we did this yesterday as if we had arrived in Tannay this morning we would have stood at the train station like lemons. We caught the bus to the station and then got on the train to Auxerre with no problem. Auxerre is amazing with quite a large old city. We dropped the suitcases off at the hotel and then went for a walk, bought a baguette and Terrine du Chef at Marc Colin butchery. We ate this on a bench on the banks of the river before walking through the old city. You can tell we are in a bigger place as some of the shops are open through the afternoon and there are people begging! Dave had a crepe and then we checked into the hotel. The decor and exterior are not great but the room is more than adequate. There is also free WiFi, a bonus for when we are travelling. After checking emails and Dave had done some work we went for a walk to Saint-Etienne Cathedral. It’s huge and has the most impressive stained glass windows. We carried on walking around the newer part of the city. As we got back into the old city we saw a car rolling down the street. Dave yanked on the handle to stop it and the door opened and caught on a wall. The owner jumped in and put on the handbrake. She drove it forward a bit and Dave did a bit of hand panel beating so she could close the door. She was most grateful and Dave prevented quite an accident. We bought an apricot flan to share, stopped for coffee and after a short walk went to a pub for a Leffe beer. We then came back to the hotel to relax before dinner. Tonight we are going to the 1 star Michelin restaurant L’asperule.
Woke up to a very cold barge. The central heating makes such a noise that you can’t leave it on at night! After breakfast we walked the the tiny train station for Flez-Cuzy-Tannay. There are no trains from here other than early morning and late afternoon and we were not sure where to get the bus. The bus service is run by SNCF to the station at Clamecy. Thankfully we saw some people waiting on the side of the road and they told us we were to wait with them. A mini taxi arrived with not enough space for us. Hopefully this is not the case tomorrow when we need to leave with all our luggage. The lady waiting spoke to the driver to organise a taxi for us. The driver spoke on his phone nearly the entire trip! Speed restrictions mean nothing in Europe. The taxi would have cost us €19. The bus trip return is €16.40. The only place open at 11am was the bar. With old men drinking. This was in the ‘new’ part of the city. The medieval city had far more places open. We stopped at Portal Emmanuel in Rue de la Monnaie for ice cream. Dave had pistache and I had praliné. We then bought terrine forestière from the butcher and corn baguette from the baker. After walking around a bit we sat in a park at a table under the trees for lunch. We’ve bought disposable knives for this as we can toss them after each meal. We then went for an espresso before buying a bottle of wine for tonight. We walked back to the station and booked our tickets to Auxerre for tomorrow and told her we would have suitcases. If the bus is late again they will hold the train! We’ve also bought our tickets to Paris and confirmed the time for the train as there is a limited service on the 1st of May. The bus back to Flez Cuzy Tannay was a normal bus probably due to the train that just arrived. This is the first bus I’ve been on with seatbelts! We got back to the barge and Dave turned on his computer to discover his hard drive is about to crash! He has saved what he can, including the photos from our holiday to my PlayBook and hopefully everything will be OK. After Dave did a whole lot of things to his computer we walked along the canal to the first bridge and then back to Flez-Cuzy where we had a Leffe beer on tap. Now it’s time for supper and a bottle of Bordeaux. We’ve started packing as tomorrow we leave the barge.
Woke up and the sun is shining. Holidays are blessings for all sorts of reasons, and this is one of them. The other is sleeping in without having a dog telling you its breakfast time. The drawbridge had to be turned on by the lock keeper as it would not open until 9am. When you are walking it’s important to avoid the clay (messy) and the stinging nettles (itchy). The drawbridge opens and closes extremely slowly! An hour after the drawbridge at Ecluse Gravier is a restaurant. You can order bread the day before and probably get some coffee while you are in the lock. While we were in the lock before the second drawbridge a van wanted to get across and closed it. The rule is if you find it open leave it open, and if it’s closed, close it after you. The van managed to cross, and open the bridge before we got out of the lock. But then a cyclist came along and started lowering the bridge! The lock keeper sped off, hotting, so that they bridge would be open for us! The next wooden drawbridge is shown in the book as being open but it was closed and slow! As I walked to the next drawbridge a dog came up behind me and nudged my calf. He walked with me to the next bridge, accepted a pat and went home. We tied up close to Monceaux-le-Comte and walked 6 minutes into the village for bread. We had a lazy lunch and got under way at 13:15. We left the last lock of our trip at 14:25. There has been so much rain that the lock mechanism was under water! At the penultimate drawbridge Dave had to go far right to drop me off, and then go back for the narrow path through where the drawbridge crosses the canal. The last bridge was open, and led straight to the barge basin. We finished the barge trip 4 days after we begun, and it was truly peaceful and relaxing. We tied up and walked to the train station. There is no ticket machine so we will have to go online to check the schedule. We walked uphill for 2km to Tannay and found a butcher where we bought Provencal sausages and pate. We found an open caves and did a wine tasting of some not very good wines. The supermarket is a further 5 minute walk out of the centre of the village and we got wine there as well as a few odds and ends. We walked back to the barge, stopping at the hotel opposite for an espresso – at €3 it was more expensive than Paris! Wine tonight is another bottle of Bordeaux Supérieur and dessert is tart Normandy.
We’ve woken up to rain! The lock keeper has asked us to wait for the barge we picked up yesterday. There is a barge here with us which will go through the tunnel first and then the other barge will come through. They rammed us a few times yesterday so this morning our plan was to go behind them. We are now on the down section which is very easy from a tying ‘up’ perspective as you just loop the rope around the bollards. By 10:30 the other barge was nowhere to be seen so we decided to head into the lock. 15 minutes later the lock keeper decided enough was enough and we headed down. As we were alone in the locks and Dave is competent at driving, we didn’t have to tie up. Dave used the motor to keep us steady as the lock went down. I helped close some of the gates which sped up the process. After a few locks there were 2 lock keepers. We must be the only ones in the series. We got through 9 of the Sardy lock staircase before lunch at 12. We started again at 13:10 with 1 lock keeper. There are old fashioned lock gates with no winch to open or close them. And they are heavy! We saw a dead baby boar in the water. Wonder if it fell in and drowned? Despite there being free WiFi and certain points along the canal it doesn’t appear to have been on since Panneçot. We left the 16th lock at 14:25. Shortly after that is a lovely place to tie up if you get here at lunch time. The barge does not have a helm indicator which would be a nice addition. Some of the lock keepers’ cottages are abandoned. I wonder if they are for sale? What a life that could be! On this route there are few places with shops and so far none of the lock keepers have sold anything! The rain finally stopped but the wind picked up. There is a massive cement factory taking up 86ha along the banks of the canal. It’s 15:30 and so far today we’ve passed 2 other barges. The water has tiny waves rippling across the expanse and gently knocking against the barge. The aqueduct marks the start of a one way section which must be governed by the locks as there are no indication lights. At 16:35 we came across a barge going up and we had a short wait at the lock for them. We tied up at Chitry-les-Mines and the dodgy barge basin keeper called an ambulance ‘taxi’ which took us into Corbigny. We needed wine! And the return trip cost us €20 *gasp*. We bought pate, chocolate, tartelettes noix and limoncello as well. Unless you need groceries or WiFi don’t bother stopping. It’s a 3km walk which we could have managed had it not been raining. We left the boat basin and tied up at the first of the Dirol drawbridges. Supper tonight will be pasta and we will enjoy a bottle of Bordeaux Supérieur.
Woke up nice and early and had breakfast and coffee. We. Then made our way down a curvy part of the canal. There are loads of wild herbs and edible plants but the only ones I’m sure of are the nettles and dandelions. If you don’t tie up at the basin at Châtillon-en-Bazois then go under the bridge and hop off the barge – leaving someone behind to hold it against the shore. Go up to the main road and turn left. A minute down the road is a fantastic bakery. I bought a baguette, croissants and a tart citron. We carried on until the next lock, tied up under the bridge and had lunch. I had an amazingly clear call to South Africa when I phoned my Dad for his birthday. There are artists cottages at some of the locks. The first one we came across was for stained glass. At our first double lock I took a video. The lock keepers house has a small farmyard attached and the poor goat was chained up. I managed to steer the boat for a bit, and made the bend with no problem. Our next double lock was followed by a holding basin and then a triple lock. We have been very lucky so far with all the locks being ready for us. We ‘picked’ up another barge at the second double lock. The late afternoon brought rain which was sweetened by the perfect tart citron. Not too sweet, not too sharp! The lock at Baye is deep but has a sliding pole for the ropes which makes life easier, especially when it’s pouring down. We were asked to wait until 6pm to go through the tunnels, so tied up alongside a commercial dining barge and as we did so the light turned green, an hour early! This part of the canal is fairly narrow. The tunnels are not easy to navigate. There is no lighting other than the boat’s floodlights and internal lights must be off. Thankfully we are doing this in dank weather as it would be difficult going into sunshine between the three tunnels. The tunnels are cold. And what a different experience to the locks. It takes 25 minutes to get through the 3 tunnels. There is a stunning waterfall shortly after the last tunnel on the right hand side then a very imposing bridge. There is a second waterfall on the right after the bridge. Our plan was to get to Baye on Monday night but we’ve gone past and tied up at Port Brúlé for the night. Tomorrow we start with 16 down locks in a row! Tonight Toulouse sausages and a bottle of Côtes de Bourg are on the menu.