January 2003
February 2003

 Some photos from our winter vacation in San Francisco and Los Angeles


The Golden Gate Bridge
Ferry boat crossing San Francisco Bay with the city in the background


Bay and Bridge from Lincoln Park Golf Course
Toby with our little neighbor and his friend
 Golden Gate Bridge  Tiburon



Pacific Ocean from San Francisco
 Pacific Ocean waves hitting the beach near San Francisco
 People wading, surfing and enjoying a day at the beach in Los Angeles in the month of JanuaryAnd then, we went back to Roanne



                             Toby standing in the snow in front of our barge in Roanne, everything is white with snow






March 2003

  The bright orange Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day

Our vacation in California was fun and easy on our brains, because we could speak the language and we understood the culture. If we wanted information, we could simply ask without having to look up words in the dictionary first.

The day after we arrived in San Francisco, we went shopping for a prepaid SIM card for our French cell phone. We asked many questions, and explaining that we were visiting from France, we said that we just wanted to buy a card that would allow us to make calls on our tri-band phone during our visit.

As we were paying for the card, the salesman said, "Where did you learn your English? You speak it very well".

The sun setting on a french village
One language down; one to go. In the hope that someday someone might tell us that we speak French well, a few weeks after we arrived back in France, we repacked our suitcases and drove toward Lyon to a small village in the Beaujolais region. We settled into our room in the farmhouse at Fondvielle Language School and went for a walk around the nearby town of St.Vèrand. That evening we met our fellow classmates, our teachers and some of their neighbors and friends at a cocktail party before dinner. Since only French was spoken that evening, it was like diving into the deep end of the pool on your first day of swimming lessons.

fellow students sitting around the breakfast tableBreakfast was served in the farmhouse kitchen before our morning classes. Because English was spoken at breakfast, that was the meal were we could all get to know one another with questions asked and answered with ease. All of our classmates live in France for at least part of the year, and we found that we were all experiencing different versions of the same adventure.

We exchanged stories about why we chose to live in a country where we had to learn to speak a new language, and we tried to find the words to express exactly what it is that makes France such a lovely place to live. This is a conversation that we have had many times friends in the boating community.

After the breakfast dishes were cleared away, our classroom appeared and our school day began. We were seven, eight if you count Toby, divided into two classes by the level of our ability, with one class in the farmhouse and one in the main house.

We had morning and afternoon classes, and we did our homework in the hours in between. Our plans toour classroom walk in the countryside each afternoon usually gave way to the greater need to finish our homework. Writing an essay is a slow process when you have to look up the meaning of some words, and check the spelling on most. Each night as dinner time approached, we brushed off the eraser dust, and headed to the main house to enjoy a really good dinner of traditional Lyonnaise dishes served with a generous supply of the local Beaujolais wine. French was the language of choice at dinner, and with a teacher at each end of the table and a full day of speaking French already behind us, it was easy to relax and enjoy the evening.

Just like when we were kids, school was hard work and we complained about the amount of homework, but we also laughed often, enjoyed the company of our teachers and classmates, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

When our week was over, we said our thank you's and goodbye's, and drove to Lyon to do some errands. Full of new confidence, we marched up to salespeople and described exactly what we were looking for with more ease than ever before. We were in and out of each store in a flash, proving that paying attention in class and doing your homework really does help you succeed in life. We rewarded ourselves with a nice lunch.


April 2003

Port neighbors in the Roanne lock



Our little village is on the move again. Friends whose company we have enjoyed all winter are once again heading north, south, east and west.

Almost everyday we go to the lock to wave goodbye and say, "See you in October." to another boat. The port is beginning to look a bit empty.



We're not lonely though, because good friends from home just arrived to cruise with us and help us get our canal legs again.





May 2003


 cruising by houses along a canal



We could almost forget, during the winter months while our boat is moored in Roanne and acting like a house, how enjoyable it is to cruise along the canals in our home when it has become a boat again. But every year, the minute we pass through that first lock, we remember exactly why we choose this life.





Sunny, spring days and friends on board made our first week especially fun. There is only one canal in and out of Roanne, so we have traveled it several times before, but this time with enthusiastic friends on board, we saw the canal with new eyes.

Their trip over from the states was a quick one. They just needed a short break from their busy lives back home, and they enjoyed the fact that along the canals keeping track of time means occasionally asking, "What day is it?".

At Digoin, we waved goodbye as their train pulled out of the station. Then we walked back to the boat, cast off, and continued along on the canal du Centre.

Our destination this season is Strasbourg, near the German border. We are in no hurry to get there, which is fortunate, because our speed of travel is unbelievably slow.

One day as we were cruising along, we noticed two young women pushing baby carriages. They were walking along on the tow path that runs parallel to the canal. They had been keeping up with us for awhile, but then we found a straight stretch and we were able to speed up a bit. This made us happy, because we didn't want to think that we were traveling at baby carriage speed. We have often said that we travel at butterfly speed, which is actually just as slow, but somehow it sounds so much more romantic.

Eclaircie moored in a beautiful village


Canals twist and turn their way through the countryside, with the tight turns and narrow bridges acting like speed bumps, while the locks are forced rest stops. Because of the turns, the bridges and the locks, the women with the baby carriages eventually caught up with us. We waved to them while we were still in the lock, and they waved back and laughed as they passed us up again.




 church tower against a blue sky




Paray-le-Monial is a pilgrimage site in modern-day France, a town whose spirituality began during the Middle-Ages, so we thought it was appropriate to stay here for a few days over the Easter weekend to enjoy the beauty of the village.

 beautiful village










vegetable stand at the village square





On market day, we rode our bikes into town and filled up our baskets and saddle bags with wonderfully fresh produce, local cheeses, homemade sausages and regional wines. Our friends, who also winter in Roanne, were coming to moor behind us, and after our trip to the market, we had all of the ingredients to make them dinner on our back deck.





 A springer spaniel and a woman on their barge deck, greeting us as we arrive

When we went out to catch their lines, we saw that their dog, Malcolm, was on deck hand duty, running along behind Jadel everywhere she went. He looked like he really wanted to help.

Like us, Festina Tardé, took 4 days to cruise from Roanne to Paray. Later when our friends from Eleanor drove up from Roanne in their car, we all commented on the fact that by car it only took them one hour to make the same trip.

Everyone was staying for the weekend and we had already reserved a table for six at Hostellerie des 3 Pigeons for Easter Sunday lunch.

After a great weekend with our friends, we moved on to Montchanin, at the top of the canal du Centre, where we moored in our mechanic's boat yard.

old fire truck

Jeff had a surprise for us. He gave us the mooring spot next to his newly acquired a 1954 Andre Citroen, type 55, series U, No. 912320, fire engine.

He uses the fire engine around his yard, mainly to lift boats out of the water.

When the local fire department learned that Jeff had a working fire engine, they asked him if they could use it in their volunteer fire department as a reserve unit.

After thirty years as a San Francisco fireman, and many years of mustering as members of the California Firemen's Muster Association, we felt right at home with the fire engine parked next to us.

It has been several years since we have been to a muster, and musters were always so much fun that we're wondering if they have them in France. If they do, maybe we could enter Jeff's engine in the motorized events. And since all boaters have at least one bucket on board, we could probably put together a pretty good bucket brigade team by just calling a few friends.

Who knows, maybe we could even win a trophy.

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