Blog
May 2000

port with sailboats at sunset

 

Barcelona was a fun and relaxing vacation, and we were able to help our friends at the same time. We used our big station wagon to help them move from their 42 foot sailboat in Barcelona to their newly purchased 22 meter barge here in Saint-Jean-de-Losne.  They are Americans who we met over here when we both bought barges from the same broker at the same time.

 

We stayed on their sailboat in the beautiful Barcelona harbor that was built for the 1992 summer Olympics. It was such a nice mooring, that they arrived for a short visit and had stayed for over three years.

 a man with two dogs

 

During the day, while they were busy packing boxes, we strolled through the city, relaxing, sightseeing, and café sitting with Toby trooping along. It was great to be in the sun and warm temperatures again.


In the evenings, we all went out together, and they introduced us to some of their favorite places, like the Champagne bar on a back street that we would have never found on our own. It was a lively bar crowded with locals. They served Champagne and tapas, and we sampled eagerly, before moving on to a restaurant for dinner.


When it was time to leave, we made many trips up and down their pier carrying boxes from their boat to the cars, until we couldn't fit in another thing. Then we followed along behind them on the drive back to France.
blue sky and yellow fields

 

 

Arriving in Saint-Symphorien, we were greeted by blue skies and yellow fields.
pastries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Saint-Jean-de-Losne, the window displays, especially in the pastry shops, were so enticing that we decided to invite friends over for Easter dinner.

 

 Easter dinner party with Toby, our dog, sitting beside the dinner table waiting for something to fall on the floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had had a wonderful time roaming around town buying all kinds of good things to eat, and our dinner looked, smelled and tasted so delicious, that everyone cleaned their plates, and Toby couldn't take his eyes off of the table.

 
June 2000

farmhouse in the country

We have been in France for five months now, and we love the experience of living in a smalll village.  Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône has a population of about 300 people and many more farm animals. We live here in a beautiful farmhouse near the school and the church.


We love our walks by the river, being able to hear the sheep from their pasture just across the road, and waking in the morning to church bells instead of alarm clocks.

 

 

sun setting over the river

 

a really cute little red tractor with little wheels in the front and big wheels in the back

 
 

 

We have seen more sheep and cows since living here than we saw in all of the years that we lived in San Francisco.

From our kitchen window we enjoy the parade of tractors chugging along the road from early morning until late evening.  

 

grazing sheep, one is looking into the camera

Nathalie in her Birthday HatOur next door neighbors and landlords, Nathalie and Georges have been so kind to us.  They are helping us learn about and adjust to life in France.  This month we were invited to Nathalie's birthday party.  It was our first social event where we were the only foreigners. The party was held in their back yard until the thunderstorm started, then it moved under a roofed area along the side of our house. Thunder and lightning did nothing to slow down the party, and the conversation got too fast for us early in the evening.  At midnight the dancing started, and the party was still going on when we were upstairs with our heads on our pillows.

 

On quieter evenings, we often sit on our balcony watching the sunset and the trails of all the planes heading toward Paris.  We have learned that the best prediction of the date when work on our barge will be completed is - someday.

Paris will be our first cruising destination. We hope to be there in July when friends are coming to visit, and we have already put in our request at the port to return there in October. We hope to spend our first winter in Paris.

Sunset



It has taken far longer than we ever expected to complete the remodeling work on our barge, and we know that we have been here in this village way too long, because everyone seems to know who we are and where we live.  First, we have received mail addressed with just our name and the name of the village. There are no street addresses here in such a small village, but we were surprised that they knew where to find us.

Second, our computer needed repair. Dell France was wonderful and responded immediately. DHL delivered the shipping box that Dell sent us for shipping our computer back to them directly to our gîte. This was surprising because we had arranged the pick up and delivery from our boat broker's office in St. Jean, and we had never mentioned to Dell or DHL where we were living.

When our newly repaired computer came back less than a week later, it also was delivered directly back to our gîte. Again, the delivery was arranged for our boat broker's office. We found our newly repaired computer on the kitchen table when we got up that morning. No one knew how the DHL man knew how to find us. It's a small town mystery.

Then, the other day, a wet and muddy golden retriever wandered into the school yard here in the village. The teacher, knowing Toby lived nearby, called to see if he was at home!

 
July 2000
Since January, we have been learning about France while shopping.  You can tell a lot about a culture by shopping in the home furnishing and remodeling stores. We are amazed to find that sales clerks always say, "À votre service", and prove it by providing good service with a smile.


We searched through all of the lighting fixture stores for just the right light fixtures for our wheelhouse.  When we finally found what we were looking for, we asked the young sales clerk for four of them. He searched the shelves and didn't find any.  The computer listed them as being in stock; apparently they were just misplaced.  Instead of just taking the lazy way out by telling us that it must be a computer mistake, he spent at least 30 minutes looking for our lights, and he finally found them.  We were impressed.

In January, at the same time that we bought a mattress for ourselves, we bought a comforter that we were told would be good for all seasons.  By March we found that it was already too warm. When we returned to the same store to purchase our guest room mattresses, we mentioned the comforter problem just in passing.  With no receipt and the comforter still back on our bed at the gîte, they told us to take another type of comforter home to try, at no charge, and then to bring back the one that we did not want.  We were really impressed.

On our first trip to the dentist, no one asked anything more than our name, and we were not expected to pay until our work was complete. No forms to fill out?  No questions about our insurance? They didn't even ask for our address, so that they could send us a bill.

Ignoring the problems caused by being strangers in a strange land, like not knowing which stores sell what items, or where to find those same items on the shelf once we find the right store, or having to pantomime what we are looking for because we don't know the right word to ask for it, we have enjoyed shopping in France.

We love the farmers' markets, but we also go to the huge hypermarchés.  These markets are so big that their price checkers are on rollerblades.  Our favorite, The Carrefour in Dijon, has a circular cocktail bar near the checkout stands. You can push your cart over and park it next to your bar stool, if the stress of shopping has made you feel the need for a drink.

Good wine is so inexpensive here in France, that when we stock up on food and wine and then see the total bill at the checkout stand, we always think that at that price, all of the food must have been free. Station wagon parked in front of our beautiful farmhouse gîte

 

We moved out of the gîte last week, and we gave up our car yesterday.  We are sad to leave our farmhouse and our wonderful neighbors, and we will miss our Peugeot, but we are happy to finally be moving onto our barge.  There are only a few finishing touches to complete, and we will soon be cruising away from this peaceful village that has become home to us in France.

 

 
August 2000

Our barge about to enter a lock

 
We have been dreaming of cruising away for quite awhile now.  We thought we were ready to go last month, but then we found a few more jobs that needed to be done before we could leave.
We have had the same dream so many times now, we can picture it clearly.  Everyone that we know in Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône and Saint-Jean-de-Losne will come out to wave goodbye to us. 

people standing on an old stone bridge, watching our barge pass underneath them

 

 

 

In fact, in our dream, we are surprised to see that the whole town of St. Jean turns out to say, "Bon Voyage", as we cruise under the bridge.

 

 

 

The shopkeepers, who have been so kind to us, come out to see us as we cruise down the main street of Saint-Jean-de-Losne.

Our friends Marc and Nelly standing in front of their store with our dog Toby

 

We float past our favorite hardware store, France Décor.  The owners Marc and Nelly Lesaulnier are out in front, and Toby hops off the boat to go see them. They put in our kitchen floor, did all of the wallpaper, and laid the carpet in our barge.  Not an easy job with all of the curves on a boat.

They always smile when we come into their shop; they seem to enjoy listening to our struggles with French. Toby likes going there, because they give him lots of duck flavored dog cookies.  If he ever runs away, we'll know where to find him.

We wave goodbye. We will miss their friendly smiles and their funny jokes.

  Joel standing in front of his newspaper store ready to hand us our newspaper

 

 

Just across the street Joel is outside of his shop, La Maison de la Presse, where we buy our newspapers, maps, and where we bought our huge French-English dictionary.  He has our newspaper, and hands it to us.  We wave to him and tell him to give his dog a little pat for us.


Madame Breuil in front of her bakery

 

 

 

We turn hard to port to sail past our favorite bakery lady, Madame Breuil. She is always so nice to us, and she has the very best croissants. She taught us all about how you should use small coins to make exact change in the bakery, and she patiently helped us learn how to ask for each item. She was always surprised to see that we were still in town. Most boaters don't stay here for seven months.  Now we really are saying goodbye.

 

 our butcher and his wife in front of their shop

 

 Now a turn to starboard, so that we can say goodbye to Les Morais.  They have the very best meats, cheeses and patés.  They also make wonderful prepared dishes of Coq au Vin, Porc Provençal and other tasty recipes. It was great not to have to worry about what to make for dinner when we were painting the boat all day.

 

 Madame Linda in her laundrymat

 

We see Madame Linda from the Laundromat in Dole, a town 30 kilometers from St. Jean de Losne.  In our dream she has apparently moved her shop to St. Jean. She has helped us do our laundry once a week for the past six months, until we moved onto the barge, where we have our own washer & dryer. She was so sweet that when we brought her a present on our last visit, she already had a present ready to give us.
 our dentist and her assistant


Suddenly we are back in our Dentist's office. But we don't mind because Dr. Nowak and her assistant were always very nice, and they never caused us any pain.
 

Then instead of cruising on the river, we float right along our favorite road on our way to St. Symphorien.  We drove this road everyday going from our gîte to our barge and back, and we watched the scenery change with the seasons.

a very pretty two lane windy country road

 

 

The little pony that lived in a field along the road was all by himself during the lonely winter months, but in the spring we were happy to see two ponies in the field.

The fields themselves, barren in the winter, looked beautiful in the spring and summer.

 

 

 

tiny two room building, the only bar in the village

We come to the little bar that is the only business in the village. We went there one night with friends, even though Nathalie had told us that they talk about strangers. We tried not to make any faux pas. We didn't want to be like the two English guys that we heard about. They each ordered a beer and a pastis at the same time. That was the talk of the town for quite awhile. We didn't stay long. The locals may not have even known that we were there, because we could barely see across the little room for all the cigarette smoke.

 

photo of a couple and their 10 year old daughter

 

We are on our way to see the owners of our gîte, Nathalie, Georges and their daughter Nina. They live just across the street from the bar. We use the bow thruster to make the tight turn into their courtyard. We cruise around to the backyard and moor in their swimming pool.

pool party behind the gîte

 

 

 

 

 

We come down the gangplank from the barge to find that they have arranged a going away party for us. Nathalie has prepared the food, and Georges has selected the wine, so everything will be delicious.

It is a great party, and as evening approaches everyone climbs on board, and we all sit around the table  on our back deck.

Our dream ends well, because this is what we have been looking forward to for the past seven months.

Soon we hope to make our first real cruise, and at the end of that long awaited day, we look forward to enjoying the sunset from our back deck with good friends, good food and a nice bottle of wine.

 

                           beautiful sunset which is also reflected in a glass of wine sitting on a ledge in the bottom left of the photo

 
September 2000
Our last few days in Saint-Jean-de-Losne were hectic.  We finally left without all of our work being completed, because we began to doubt that some jobs would ever be finished, no matter how long we stayed.

The barge instructor that we had hired months before was on vacation when we finally were ready for our lessons, and we had to scramble around trying to find another teacher. Many people helped us, and we were overwhelmed by the kindness of the people in the boating community.  We found a barge instructor and set off on our adventure.

Before we left, we biked over to our gîte to say goodbye to Nathalie and Georges.  We promised to come back to visit them next spring, and to send Nina postcards. Then we stopped in at the hardware store in town to say goodbye to Marc and Nelly. They had invited us to dinner at their home a few nights before, and had proved to us once again what we had already learned from Nathalie and Georges.  French people are warm, friendly, very funny and most of all, they know all about food, wine and hospitality.
 

Friends who we met in St. Jean this spring put us together with a barge instructor. On the momentous day that we finally cruised away from Saint-Jean, they rode along to make sure that we made it safely to Chalon-sur-Saône, where we would meet our instructor for five days of intense driving, locking and mooring lessons. Friends from the states were staying with us, and some other boathe view from the bow of our barge cruising along a canal on a sunny dayting friends drove down from St. Jean to be there in Chalon to welcome us into port after our first cruise. A spontaneous dinner for eight on the back deck that night, complete with good food, good wine, good friends, and a beautiful sunset will always be one of our favorite memories. Our long awaited dream had finally come true.

We cruised with our instructor along the Canal du Centre from Chalon to Paray-le-Monial. The weather was good and the scenery beautiful.

We left early each day, never stopping for lunch, and cruising until the locks closed at night. We wanted as much experience as we our barge cruising by a house along side the canalcould get going through the locks and making it safely through the narrow passages under the bridges. We were traveling slowly, because that's what barges do, so we were able to enjoy all of the sights and sounds of the countryside.

Our teacher left us as planned in Paray-le-Monial, and then we were on our own.  We took it easy that first day out on our own. We went very, very, very slowly, and we only cruised to the next town, Digoin.  There we ran into friends that we had met during the winter, and they invited us over to their barge for dinner.  Once again, our old friends whoour barge crossing a very narrow water bridge were traveling with us met our new friends, and we had another great dinner on the deck.

The next morning we cruised on a pont canal, a water bridge, over the Loire River.   As beginners we crossed very cautiously. We certainly did not want to go over the side here.

Our winter reservation did not materialize at the Paris Arsenal this year. Luckily we had already placed ourselves on the waiting list for the port in Roanne, just in case.

We could have lingered along the Canal de Centre for the whole month of September, as everyone arrives at their winter port about the first of October. Instead we opted to head straight to Roanne on the most direct route, deciding not to press our luck with our newly acquired driving skills.

Here in Roanne, we are now busy settling in for the winter, finding our favorite bakery, cafés, restaurants and learning our way around town. The port is a very active section of the city with many joggers, dog walkers and daily strollers of all ages.

Some friends who we met last winter in Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône and Saint-Jean-de-Losne are here in port, and others will arrive soon. Our small group has already set up French lessons, and we are looking into the local gym, swimming pool and ballroom dancing classes.

We are very happy with our new home. Roanne is a nice little city with about 40,000 people. We have already been to the train station to find that we can get to Lyon in less than an hour and to Paris in three.  We have plans to visit Paris, and maybe Rome and Geneva will also be on the winter vacation list.

With all of the port activities, we'll see if we can find the time to make those trips.
 
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