July 2002

people in a very small steam powered boat, the size of a rowboat, cruising lazily on a hot summer day




The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer in Saint-Jean-de-Losne reminded us of some of the resort areas near San Francisco that we knew as kids, like the Russian River or Lake Tahoe, where the days were long, full of simple pleasures and time passed slowly.


same boat further away




Relaxing on our back deck one day, we watched a small parade of bateaux vapeurs, steam engine boats, glide by looking very Monet-like among the lily pads.

The lazy pace established during a record breaking heat wave meant that the biggest event of the day was strolling into town to find a café with a table in the shade. Going to the café almost always included bumping into friends who had the same idea. The coolest café in town was L´Amiral, with a breeze from the river on one side, and its outdoor tables shaded by the constant shadow of the church on the other. From there you could see who was coming and going on the river and on the main street in town. The atmosphere in St. Jean was so pleasant, that even though everyone talked about leaving, no one ever did. We were not the only boaters who came for a week and stayed for six.

costumed country line dancersBlessing of the boats poster

One festival after another filled the warm evening air with music and laughter.  Sitting by the river during a performance of Le Club Country, the local line dancing group, we all tried working on the lyrics for a country western tune with the title of Stuck in Saint-Jean-de-Losne, Again or The Boatyard Blues.

With a large group in attendance at L´Amiral for dinner one night, the St. Jean chapter of the Hotel California Club was formed.  Many of us had completed our work, but still remained in town.  We decided that, like the song said, you could check out, but you could never really leave.

When we were kids we never wanted to leave the summer resort either, but back then we had our parents to tell us when it was time to go. We set a "get out of town" deadline for ourselves, and then changed it when we realized that we would miss the blessing of the boats by only one week.  Staying also meant that we could also enjoy La Fête de la Musique with friends.

People, some on their balconies, watching the band play
Man standing in front of the band playing a trombone
band playing in front of the church

One of our favorite nearby towns is Dôle, and we decided to go there for the national music festival which is held in every city, town and village each year on the summer solstice. Just like last year in Paris, music was around every corner. The European champion youth brass band played in front of the church, and people listened from their balconies. There were rock bands and jazz groups everywhere. As in Paris, everyone was out enjoying the evening.

Rock group playing in front of a restaurant
rock band on stage viewed from behind the stage

Barges moored bow to quai during the blessing of the boats festival, every boat is flying many decorative flagsThe next evening, we moved out onto the Saône to enjoy yet another festival on the eve of the blessing of the barges.  There was a local contest for selecting Miss du pays Losnais, baton twirlers, carnival booths and a country fair atmosphere.

Sunday was a bright and sunny morning, thankfully not as hot as it had been. Everyone was in place on their barges with all flags flying and sun umbrellas in place, awaiting the morning mass that preceded the blessing of the boats.

We had never seen a priest saying mass in a captain's cap before, and the alter boys providing shade during communion service added to the festive feeling of the day.


Priest wearing a boat captain's hat while saying mass on the deck of a barge
Alter boys holding large umbrellas over the heads of those coming to receive communion


Priest blessing our barge from a boat on the river



After mass on the local restaurant boat that was serving as the church, the priest, alter boys and choir, along with local dignitaries boarded a launch.  They sailed out onto the Saône behind us and with his hand raised the priest sent a good sprinkling of holy water flying towards us.  He blessed our barge and our flag as well.  We gave a sigh of relief and immediately felt better, confident that we could continue cruising without having any new problems.


Sunset over the river




Back in the harbor that night, the sun set on a beautiful day, we said so long to our friends, and the next morning we cast off and began, yet again, our summer cruising adventure.