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The end of the road (canal)


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Quite a lot has changed over the last week : the trees have turned to gold,the wind has got an edge to it that wasn't there before and we have the heating on at night. Time to come home.

We fly out in a little over a week and the last couple of weeks have been busy as we had to find a new winter home for the boat. Our pre arranged berth at a place called Corre is unavailable to us as in order to get there we would need to sail down the Vosges canal but that is closed due to a lack of water. Fortunately we have secured an 11 metre winter berth in the municipal marina right in the centre of Nancy so a bit of a change of course. A very nice place for NZD150 per month. Here it is..20180911_115545.jpg

So I thought to give a few impressions of the canal life which you will have to take with a grain of salt as 6 months is not long enough to give an accurate picture of life in France.

Firstly,when we told people that we were going to France for a while the reactions were pretty much the same - arrogant lot.. unhelpful..refuse to speak English.. where do people get this stuff from? We cannot recall one bad interaction with the French and found them to be universally friendly and helpful. The old towpaths along the canals are used by walkers and cyclists and as you sail by you will always get a 'Bonjour and an enthusiastic wave, and usually an ear to ear smile that implies that seeing you go by is just about the best thing that's happened to them all day.

But, when in France... well in some things you do need to adapt. A good example is the 12.00 to 2.00pm lunch break when everything stops. It is as sacred as the Sabbath. I went to a bike shop just before midday for a puncture repair kit. Our bikes are quite unusual and the shop man was very interested in them so he spent a bit of time looking them over and seeing how they folded etc. When I asked him for my kit he looked at his watch and said 'it is 12 o clock. We are closed. Come back at two.' I can see how that may irritate a few people, me included, but accept or go under.

Concerning the countryside, it is clean to the extent that we are embarrassed about our NZ clean green label. We tested this as we cycled one day from the boat to Sarrebourg. Admittedly it was only on a provincial highway and not very busy but we covered 8km before we spotted a piece of litter on the roadside. Probable that we may have missed something but you get the idea. This place is tidy.

Ok,this is a sailing forum but since I'm allowed to post about motorboats on canals perhaps you'll forgive me for talking bicycles, our other great love. The cycle paths are really good, not as good as Holland but close. They have the same green painted strip at the side of the road that we do, but there is a low barrier separating it from the roadway so you feel very safe. The cycle ways are also the runoff for stormwater so there are many large stormwater gratings, about a metre square, testimony to the flash flooding that France sometimes endures and makes the news now and then even in NZ. But it's ok because the gratings run athwartships..usually but not always. Very occasionally, perhaps one in a hundred, for some unknown reason the gratings run fore and aft. I do not wish to dwell on the result of the front wheel dropping down into the slot and the sudden, violent release of all that stored up kinetic energy. Suffice to say that the catapulting action of the Roman siege ballista comes to mind, and in particular the very unsavory habit of some legions of using the ballista to return captured enemy combatants to their own side, via airmail as it were. And its not good for the wheel, either!

But, the canals. Very beautiful and oh so quiet. On average we would see four or five other boats a day, and from our logbook, the preceding 22 locks we transited we were on our own. Here is a typical bit of canal in the early evening.

20180917_190137.jpg

We would use a marina about one day a fortnight, average €14 per night, and for the rest used the free berths provided by the villages. Also, every few kilometres along the canals you will find a designated mooring area set up with rubbish tins, picnic tables and bollards, also free, and look like this.

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Concerning the commercials, they are gone now from the smaller canals but you will still meet up with them on the larger waterways. You have to be impressed with the consideration they show to us amateurs, invariably buttoning off when they pass to reduce their wakes. Fizzboaters could learn a thing or two there...

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So we have a week to winterise the boat, do a bit of maintenance and then make our way to Paris for the flight home. We are looking forward to it. And to coming back to France again next April.

Oh, and one thing that is so hard for us kiwis to get used to..wander up just about any old hill in rural France and like as not you will find the abandoned ruins of a castle. This one from the 11th century.IMG_20180817_123507497.jpg

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Awesome updates CC!  Sounds like a brilliant 6 months, you could easily get a job in a travel agent.

 

 

So we have a week to winterise the boat, do a bit of maintenance and then make our way to Paris for the flight home. We are looking forward to it. And to coming back to France again next April.
 

 

No thoughts of going back a month earlier to Belgium for Paris/Roubaix and de Ronde in March?

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