March 2001

If you read Toby's last page, you know that he went to Lyon for knee surgery in January, and that he has been confined to the house since then.  This has kept us from wandering too far from the boat.  We didn't get to Rome in February as we had planned, but we found other things to keep us occupied.

pretty woman in a fur coat hugging our dog, Toby





Friends and neighbors have been dropping by to check on Toby's recovery. Gisele, a friend from our gym, came over and gave Toby a big get well kiss. He likes her so much that he didn't wash the lipstick off of his forehead for days.

Neighbors tap on the door to give him a little pat on the head and a cookie.



Dr. Isabelle examing Toby's ears.  He is grimacing




He had to go to see his Roanne vet, Dr. Isabelle, because of an ear infection, and she was happy to see him walking so well after his surgery. He didn't like what she was doing to his ear but, as always, he was a good little trooper.


firemen standing beside a young boy in fire gear






The people at our gym are so nice. One of the men, who's son-in-law is a fireman, invited us to the firehouse that is located near our port for a VIP tour. An American, who is the local basketball coach and a regular at our gym, came along with his family.  His son tried on some of the gear, and loved seeing all of the fire equipment close up.




bright red firetruck


It was interesting to see a European firehouse.  In Roanne, there is one large complex that houses all of the areas equipment. They respond not only to emergencies in Roanne, but to calls from 21 surrounding villages.  There are 37 specialized pieces of apparatus: pumping engines, ladder trucks, a heavy rescue unit, ambulances, haz mat, boats, water tenders, foam equipment and trailers with miscellaneous appliances.  The department's brand new four wheel drive pumping engine was on the apron awaiting a call.

A large field behind the firehouse is an additional training area. Training is continuous and extensive.  They were doing some haz mat training the other morning when we were there, and every Saturday morning a fire boat passes our barge on a training run.

Since the firehouse is next to the port, we often see them going by with their lights and sirens. It makes us feel right at home, and we always wish them a safe return.

Lunch at the Santa Monica, the bar just across the street from our boat, is becoming a regular item on our social schedule. Now that spring is almost here, people are returning to their boats andTwo women standing behind a bar between spring cleaning and painting, we have all gotten in the habit of meeting occasionally in this charming little bar to enjoy the Plat du Jour.

Martine, the owner and her friend, Otilia always give us a cordial welcome, and frequently sit down to join us over coffee after lunch.

Everything stops between 12-2 in France.  It is a great time to ride your bike around town because all of the cars are off the road. It is also a good time to grocery shop in the big supermarkets because most of the other customers are at lunch. If you want to drive somewhere on small country roads, leave just after noon and miss all of the truck traffic. But really the best thing to do is to join everyone else for lunch in a warm and friendly restaurant.

boating friends having lunch together


At lunch the other day, the idea of a weekly Happy Hour at Le Santa Monica was born.We decided on Wednesday evenings from 6-7, and  about 30 people from the port showed up for the first night. There were one or two regular customers who must have been wondering what had happened to their quiet little bar, because suddenly at 6pm the bar was full of conversations in Dutch and English, with just a smattering of French.

little scruffy white dog




Martine's dog, Chopinette, was beside herself.  She usually acts as the doorbell, running to the door and barking whenever anyone arrives. She got a workout last night, and she must have been exhausted this morning.

April 2001

Spring in Roanne is acting just like the stock market. It just can't seem to get started. Every bright, sunny morning all of the cafés put out their outdoor tables and chairs. The boaters start their painting projects, and everyone smiles and waves to each other. Optimism is in the air, but so far spring has not yet taken hold. One day of sun is followed by several days of rain. We have had more rain in the last month than we had during our sunny and mild winter.

While waiting for the sun to come out for more than 10 minutes at a time, we have been working on small projects. We are fabricating screen doors for the wheelhouse and window screens for the rooms downstairs.  We find that there is a lot of looking in creating something like this. Sometimes that means just looking at the door or window until a friend walks by and looks with you. Ideas are formed, discussed and reformed. More neighbors, more looking. Then you go wandering around the bricolage stores looking at what materials might be available to complete your ideas. With all of that looking, no wonder we can't figure out where our days go.
a green valley

Since there has been more rain than sun lately and we can't paint, we decided to take a vacation.  We rented a car and headed back to Lyon. The countryside between here and Lyon is beautiful. We never fail to comment on how far you can see or the richness of the colors.  The winding road offers, with each turn, a new picturesque view of a small village snug in a green valley.  The last time we drove this road there was snow at the higher elevations. Now it is green and the trees are beginning to blossom.

When we checked in to our hotel, Toby got a big hug from the owners. We have stayed in this hotel several times before, and they were happy to see Toby looking so well after his operation.

Entering Lyon we saw how high the Saône River had risen, it was approaching the bottom of the bridges. When we walked over to the river to get a better look, the ships chandlery located on the bank of the Saône, where we were going to shop, was under water.  People living on barges moored nearby could only come to shore by dinghy.

The sun came out in the afternoon, and we roamed around enjoying the relaxed pace of the city.  Wea trompe l'oéil depicting famous people standing on the balconies of a yellow building happened upon one of the 150 murs peints, painted walls, that are scattered around the city. This one was of the celebrities of Lyon.

Some friends had sent us a newspaper article from the travel section of the San Francisco Sunday paper on Lyon's beloved bouchons. These are family owned bistros that have simple menus and food like grandma used to make (if your grandma was French and lived in Lyon). Armed with the article and our trusty Gault Millau we forced ourselves to try new restaurants this time, rather than returning to old favorites. Saturday night after dinner, watching the world go by from a sidewalk café on the Rue de la Republique, we decided that there are no bad restaurants in Lyon. Now our list of favorite restaurants is even longer than before.

man peddling a bike in order to sharpen knivesSunday morning we went to the market where you can buy food, clothes, household items, and even puppies. Planning ahead, we had brought our kitchen knives to have them sharpened by the man on his bicycle.  While he sharpened our knives, we shopped and then found a nice sidewalk café table with a good view of the market. While sipping our coffee, it made us happy to see several puppies leaving the puppy market in the arms of new owners.6 puppies in a pen










The stone streets and buildings of Perouge




Outside of Lyon we stopped in Perouge, a fortified hilltop village of medieval stone houses and cobblestone streets. Perouge's heyday was in the 13th century, and in 1909, it was saved from demolition. Since then it has been restored by the government.  Now it is a village of craftspeople.




 bikers racing by


Leaving Perouge, we drove for awhile on the back roads, enjoying the scenery and watching a bicycle race roll by, until the speed of the toll road lured us.



the county road leading to our gite


It was getting late and we had plans to meet friends who were returning to France after wintering in the states. We had all booked rooms at Nathalie's gîte in St.Symphorien sur Saône. This was where we lived last year from January to June, while our barge was being remodeled. It was like going home again as we drove up our little country road and pulled into the courtyard.

We got out of the car, and shouted, "Nous revoila", but no one was there.

Our friends had not yet arrived, and Nathalie was not home.  We let ourselves in and found a Canadian couple in the TV room. Since the doors were open, they had let themselves in and they were waiting for the owner to see if they could have a room for the night.

Knowing the house so well and feeling right at home, we helped them get settled into the downstairs room. We found towels for the downstairs bathroom and shower, and made sure they had everything that they would need.

Soon everyone arrived and as we all gathered in the kitchen laughing and talking, it felt like we had just stepped back in time. The wine was poured, and appetizers appeared on the counter.  We invited the Canadian couple to join us, and they told us that they were here to buy a barge. When they learned that we all were boaters, the questions began. We all had to laugh at the fact that now, instead of being the people looking for barges and asking the questions, we were the people with experience answering questions. What a difference a year makes.

We gave them our best advice.  They had not yet found what they were looking for at the two brokers that they knew of in town, so we sent them to see Jean-Luc Broudic, a broker that we were happy to recommend.  Through Jean-Luc they found a barge that they were really excited to see in the south of France.  We look forward to hearing the rest of the story. E-mail addresses were exchanged, and hopefully another friendship is forming. Our gîte has a magical way of bringing people together.

May 2001

The dawning of each new day in Roanne now brings the departure of another boat.  Since mid-April, we have been to the lock many times to wave goodbye to friends made over the winter.

The first of our friends to leave were Bill and Francis, the only other Americans who spent all winter on their barge. They were great gPhoto of a bargeym, country drives, circus, lunch, dinner, happy hour, and just plain hanging around talking friends. They taught us how to make wonderful rope bumpers for our barge, and we took French lessons together.  Being friendly Texans with personalities as big as their state, and a million funny stories, everyone missed them as soon as they left, especially us.

Winter has brought us many new friendships.  The port is large and the barges are spread out nicely, so that we have met the other boaters slowly over time.  First with just a greeting, then with a conversation, and soon an invitation to come over for an afternoon or an evening. We have had wonderful snacks, lunches, and dinners on neighboring barges, getting to know each other. It has been fun to experience foreign food cooked by someone who considers it home cooking.

another bargeGeorge and Maggie are English, but have lived all over the world, most recently in Cypress (where their dog Korri Mou was born). They have been great neighba really cute white sheep dogors and friends. We went to our first Boxing Day party on their barge Limey.

Korri, sat outside wagging her tail to welcome everyone, as people came and went all day.  The food never stopped coming out of the kitchen.

Whoever started the rumor that English food is boring has never been invited to eat on George and Maggie's barge.

Limey got a makeover this winter and looks terrific with her new enlarged wheelhousanother bargee.

Peter and Jane owned a French restaurant in Cape Town for many years, where Peter was the chef.  They just bought a new barge and they are in the process of remodeling from bow to stern. They will stay in Roanne all summer having the work done, and we look forward to seeing the finished project in the fall.

They cooked a great meal for us in their old kitchen, and we can hardly wait to taste what they will be able to do in their new kitchen with their restaurant quality stove.a cruiser



Roy and Anneke are our closest neighbors, and we have enjoyed their company all winter.  We tap on each others doors to borrow a cup of sugar or whatever we might need at the moment, but forgot at the store. They are Dutch and Roy's family was originally from Indonesia. Anneke cooked us a delicious Indonesian meal one evening, recipes she learned from her mother-in-law. Everything was delicious.

a barge



John and Lizanne are English but have lived in Africa and Asia for many years.  It was their idea to start a weekly happy hour, which has turned out to be a big success. They invited us for lunch on their barge one Sunday afternoon along with Bill and Francis. It was dark when we came home about 8 hours later. Both John and Lizanne and Bill and Francis have been living on Barges for almost 10 years. There were some great stories and more good English food with a hint of a foreign accent.

a barge


Willy and Ilse and their dog Bruno are a Swiss family that have a barge and a camping car. They travel on the canals in the summer and then take car trips in the winter.  Ilse works out at our gym and Willy works out on their boat, he is always busy improving something.

an ex rental boat




One of the nicest events of the winter was a trip to the local theater for a performance of La Belle Helene.  John and Monique, a French couple who winter here at the port had joined a local amateur production and they were singing in the chorus.


a cruiser



Dymphna, the unofficial port sergeant, organized the evening and we went as a group, about 20 of us. We were all surprised when at the beginning of the performance an actor came out to speak to the audience and thanked our group from the port for attending.

The audience applauded and everyone smiled at us. It was a lovely moment, and we felt the warmth of the people in this town. We realized that we are very happy here and that something like this would have never happened in a theater in Paris.

As the rookies of the port, everyone wintering here has been so helpful to us, that it has been like taking Boating 101.  We are now ready to cast off into our first full season of cruising.  Look out Paris, here we come!

Sailing Notices: 10 May from the Port de Plaisance, Roanne

Eclaircie  Designation: Namur, Belgium


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

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