2001
June 2001

the view from our side decks as we cruise along a canal

 

Enfin, we are cruising. There is a lock at the entrance of our port in Roanne that we came through last year when we arrived, and we have been eyeing that lock all winter, eager to start our first full cruising season.

On a sunny morning in May, we made our way through the lock and waved goodbye to our winter home.  Heading north along the canal Lateral à la Loire, we found that cruising is everything that we expected it to be and more.

 

 

 

 

view of the canal from our bow on a bright sunny day

Setting out early each morning, while a fine mist still lingers on the canal, the air is alive with bird songs and butterflies.

Spring is everywhere. There are ducklings in the water and  calves and foals tottering on new legs in the fields along the canals.

As beginners, we take everything slow and easy, and the other day we noticed that a butterfly was fluttering around our bow for quite awhile.  We were driving through the French countryside at butterfly speed.



a beautiful water bridge built by Gustave Eiffel

 

 

The view is always changing.  Sometimes we are passing houses along the canal where people come to the window to wave, sometimes we are approaching a magnificent canal bridge over the Loire River designed by Gustave Eiffel. Other times we are entering the port of a new town to explore like Decize or Nevers. 
            

 

 

 Passing housing along the canal.  Someone is waving from their window.the town of Decize
 Nevers, France

 

 A hotel barge with 4 women standing at the rail smiling at us

 

We have been leap frogging along the canal with our friends on Limey and  some hotel barges with American passengers. The Americans from the hotel barges seem to be having a great time, and we have enjoyed their friendly interest in our life here in France.

Toby has been a big hit with everyone. We were moored in Montargis when we heard people calling, "Toby, Toby!". We looked up to see the Bonne Amie and the four couples from Pennsylvania, who we had met in Rogny, arriving to moor next to us.

 2 people on a small rental boat maning the ropes in a lock

 

A Canadian family on a rental boat traveled through the locks with us one day.  In conversations while descending in the locks, we learned that he was a barge captain on the Puget Sound.  He was enjoying a busman's holiday.  We were happy when he told us that he thought that we were handling our boat well.


Mother swans with 5 babies

 

 

 

 

We are slowly making our way to Paris, listening to birds sing, following butterflies, and feeding swan families from our back deck along the way.




 
July 2001

We had planned to cruise into Paris last July, but with one thing and another it took us a full year to make our way there on our barge.  The thrill of looking up at la tour Eiffel and Notre Dame from the deck of our own boat made it worth the wait. What a fantastic way to enter such a beautiful city. We have arrived many times by plane, train or car, but this was our first approach on the Seine in our own barge.

Knowing how heavy the river traffic can be with all of the sightseeing boats and the commercial barges, weCruising on the Seine towards Notre Dame planned our arrival on a Sunday morning. We were hoping that the traffic would be lighter.  Outside of Paris we fell in behind a small commercial barge, and luckily for us we were able to follow them into the heart of the city. Tagging along after them, we mimicked their every move.  They stayed to the right and drove slowly just as we had planned to do.  When it was time to move to the left side of the channel, as indicated on our charts, we did not have to wonder if we were doing it correctly, we just followed their lead. Thanks to our escort we actually had time to enjoy the sights and savor the moment.

The Arsenal, the pleasure boat port in Paris near the Bastille, was full when called to say that we were arriving.  We called around and found that we could moor at a port near the Pont de la Concorde while we waited for a place in the Arsenal.  The view and location would have made it a fantastic Bateaux Mouches crossing in front of the Eiffel Towermooring, we could see the Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde off our bow, and Pont Alexandre III and la tour Eiffel from our back deck, but because of all sightseeing boats flying back and forth, it was an incredibly choppy mooring.  This forced us off the boat early each day, and we stayed out as late as we could because the river traffic did not stop until 11pm. Toby came with us because he was afraid of all the bouncing and noise on the barge, and we found dog friendly places to spend our time. Le Champ de Mars and Jardin des Tuileries have great benches and lots of people to watch.  Cafés became our home away from home. 

 A sign marking Place Sartre - Beauvoir

 

We spent so much time café sitting that, like many café sitters before us, we could have written a book.  It was fun, but we were still very happy when we called the Arsenal and found that they finally had a mooring for us.

 

 

 

 

 Our barge moored in the Paris Arsenal

 

The Port de Plaisance de Paris Arsenal is located off the River Seine on the Canal St. Martin.  After four days of rocking and rolling on the river, it was a treat to enter calm waters. Now the view from our back deck was the Bastille, and because Toby was not afraid to stay on the boat, we were free to take the Metro again. (Dogs are not allowed on the Metro.) We bought a book of tickets and went about Paris enjoying our new freedom to go out and come back home as we pleased.

 Bastille monument light up against a clear night sky

 

 

Summer in Paris was a nice surprise. We have always come to Paris in the off season to avoid the crowds, but there were not as many tourists as we would have thought, and the weather was great, if you ignore the 4 days of rain.

 street full of roller bladers

 

 

 

There were parades, festivals and a Sunday Skate for rollerbladers.

 

 

 5 guys playing saxophones

La Fête de la Musique on June 21st was Fantastic! Music filled the evening air throughout Paris.  From what we saw as we wandered from neighborhood to neighborhood, the music seemed to be appropriate to each arrondissement.  On the Île Saint-Louis there was a saxophone group and two choirs, and at the Place des Vosge there was a great jazz ensemble and at the Bastille a young Bob Dylan clone. Music was everywhere.  It was a warm evening, and throughout the city the streets were full of people out enjoying the music. On our way home we walked through the streets near the Bastille where young people were dancing to bands that played on into the early hours of the morning. It was a magical night.

We always love being in Paris, and this time, with our barge moored in the middle of the city, we felt as though we lived there. But after three weeks of enjoying Paris, it was time to fire up the engine and castoff for our next major destination, Namur, Belgium.

Au revoir Paris.
                       Le pont neuf from the Seine

 
August 2001

Do you remember your first car trip after learning how to drive? Instead of just driving across town, imagine that you drove from San Francisco to New York. And instead of driving a car, imagine that you were driving an 18 wheeler. You would be sure to have an exciting trip.  That's how it was for us.

Our first night in Namur, Belgium, when we saw the fireworks, we felt as though that was a fitting welcome for beginning drivers who had come a long way, and learned so much during their first voyage.
A view overlooking Namur, Belgium

 

 

 

It took us about two months to reach our destination in Belgium, and there is not room enough on the Internet to tell all our incredible adventures.  Over dinner some night ask us to tell the story of the optical illusion that caused us to think we were sinking.  Can two people qualify for mass hysteria?

 

 

 

 Colorful tall, narrow buildings along the river in Namur

This was a storybook adventure, and when we arrived in Belgium we found it to be a storybook beautiful country.  Namur is located at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers.  There is a citadel overlooking the city, and from there the views are magnificent. We happened to arrive on July 21st, their Independence Day, hence the fireworks. There was also a huge flea market along the river, music in the air and a festival atmosphere.

Dinant, Belgium from the citadel

 

 

The next weekend we traveled to Dinant.  Another ancient city along the Meuse river, and they also had a citadel to protect the city.  While touring the citadel, we learned that in this case the citadel didn't provide too much protection.  Over the centuries, this town was brought down more times than the New Year's Eve ball in Times Square.

 

 Our barge moored near the cathedral in Dinant

On this particular weekend though, the sun was shining in this resort town and summer was in full swing.  There was a live band playing under the bridge for full acoustic effect and smiling people strolling along the river soaking up the sun and the atmosphere.

We found a great place to moor along a row of outdoor cafés.  Dinner was just two steps away and the people watching was fantastic. Resort towns attract people from all over, so it was fun to sit on our back deck and try to identify the country of origin of all of the passing tourists.


Mission accomplished. We had our barge completely measured in Dinant, and we now have wonderful detailed drawings depicting our widest, narrowest, longest, highest, deepest points.

The Meuse river from the bow of our barge as we head back towards France.

 

We traveled south on the Meuse, a river with one pretty little village after another. We passed many extremely large and beautiful river front homes. The weather was hot and the river was cool.  It was a great vaA chateau along the Meusecation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next destination is the Champagne region of France.  We hope they will chill a couple of bottles of Champagne for us, after this long trip, we'll feel like celebrating.

 
September 2001

Photos of our summer vacation

 

 

Cruising through an arched bridge
Cruising in a heavy summer rain
two barges moored together on the Marne
Camel performing in a circus Shop sign View of the valley from Hautvillers
Cluster of grapes Friendly waiter taking our order in Reims Champagne bucket and 4 full glasses
Champage tour Metro sign pony ride in the Luxembourg Gardens

 

 

American Flag on our back deck

September 11, 2001

Our thoughts and our prayers are with the victims and their families, and especially to the members and families of the Fire Department New York "the bravest of the brave". We mourn your loss.

Nancy and

Bill Koenig, retired

San Francisco Fire Department

 
October 2001


Canal cruising in a barge is like playing a game of miniature golf.  Just as you finish with one tricky section and congratulate yourself for getting past the hazard, you find that there is another hazard just ahead. On the canals each obstacle is waiting to scrape your paint or dent your hull, and if you are not careful going under a very low arched bridge, you would not be the first person to peel off the wheelhouse roof. Canal scene on a blue sky morning

Most of the time cruising on the canals is peaceful. The pace is slow, and on days when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, it is heavenly. But the canals are narrow, and even though you follow a chart you never really know what you may find just around the next bend. It seems that every time you are lulled into daydreaming and have your head spinning with the beauty that surrounds you, opps! Hazard ahead!!!Pont Canal Eiffel


Even if you know that a canal bridge over a river is ahead, it is always surprising to see how narrow it can be.  Just as in miniature golf you need to drive straight to avoid bouncing all over the course.

Tunnel entrance coming up on the canal, and it looks pretty small
 

 

 

 

And while canal bridges are narrow on the bottom and low arched bridges are narrow on the top, tunnels are a bigger hazard.

 Our barge in the narrow arched tunnel

 

 

In a tunnel the fit is so tight that you worry that you might damage your boat from top to bottom.  Seeing a tunnel ahead on the chart makes people with freshly painted barges very nervous. And emerging out the other side without any new scrapes or dents is cause for celebration.

Drawbridge on the canal lifting

 

 

 

Drawbridges are yet another hazard waiting for you. They pop up occasionally along the canals, and it seems that no two are alike. Their operators don't seem to think it is necessary to lift them up all the way, and this makes passing through very exciting.

 Commercial barge exciting a lock

 

 

Locks are exciting too.  Big ones, small ones, short ones, tall ones, usually with boats of all sizes maneuvering in a small space waiting to enter and exit.  Passing port to port is not always the case. Again, like miniature golf you must weave your way through the moving hazards of the course.   

 Barges exiting lock

 

 

 

Moving hazards are complicated by their unpredictability.  While seeing a large commercial barge come around the bend can make your heart beat faster, they almost always follow the rules. It is the summer rental boats who will, more often than not, do something wildly unexpected. They are on a weeks vacation and haven't had the time to learn how to drive.


A commercial passing us on the canal

 

Boat traffic, though, is generally more predictable than cows.

 

 A cow standing in the middle of the canal

 

 

 

Cows don't read the canal navigation rule books.  When you come around a corner and see a cow in the middle of the canal it is hard to know which way to go. On a miniature golf course you would probably aim the ball straight through the cow's legs, but with a barge it is best to go around.

The sun setting over a river

 

 

Whether you have had an exciting day cruising along the French canals or playing a game of miniature golf, it is always nice at the end of the day to sit on your back deck, put your feet up and toast your success.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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