June 1999
We are in the process of selecting a converted Dutch barge, which we plan to live on while we meander through the waterways of Europe. We have rented self-drive canal boats in France twice before, and we loved the pace and the pleasures of the French countryside. There are extensive canals and rivers in France, Belgium, and Holland where we anticipate cruising.golden gate bridge

We came up with this idea one day when we were walking our dog, and it clicked immediately for both of us. We practically ran back to the house, where we went straight to the computer to begin our research. We fired up the search engines, and found helpful web sites: barge brokers in Europe, books about buying and living on a barge, and an organization of barge owners.

We even found a great French teacher who comes to our house once a week.

We are currently downsizing and hope to leave this fall. Since this doesn't leave us much time, we have been busy every minute of the day.  Our brains feel like they have hundreds of those little yellow post-it notes all over them.  If we had known retirement was this exciting, we would have done it when we were in our 20´s.

We look forward to the time when we are finally settled in on our barge, and we can sit on our deck and enjoy the sunset.
January 2000
We arrived in Paris on January 12th. It was a good flight, even our dog Toby made it without incident. After we took off, the flight officer sent us a note saying, "We check on Toby's compartment every 20-30 minutes. He is currently warm and comfortable at 70F/21C".

Checking in at the airport in San Francisco, there was a lot of concern over Toby's health certificates, but when we arrived in Paris, they just gave him a pat on his head and said, "Welcome to France". No one ever asked us to see his required paperwork.

We located a huge luggage cart, loaded our bags on and set off to find our leased Peugeot 605 station wagon. Our friends and family who had seen us off at SFO had wondered if all of our luggage would ever fit into our European car. It had taken two large cars just to get us to the San Francisco airport.  It was tight.  All of our bags did completely fill up the back of the wagon with the seats down, but we got everything in. The only hitch was that Toby had to squeeze up front with us.

We drove out of the Paris airport and headed to a nearby hotel, knowing that we would be too tired to drive that first day. The next morning we were ready to begin our adventure.

We are now barge shopping in France, Belgium, and Holland. We will post a photo as soon as we have purchased our barge.
February 2000

converted Dutch bargeThis is the Marco, the barge that we hope to turn into our new home.  After looking at many barges in France, Belgium and Holland, we have decided to purchase a boat that we looked at in France on the very first day of our search. It's the unique layout of this barge, with its wonderful back deck and the kitchen and dining area in the wheelhouse, that helped us decide that this was the barge for us.

We are feeling pretty good about the way that things are moving right along. We have been in Europe for less than one month, and we already have a barge in dry-dock that is pabarge in drydockssing inspections and will soon be ours. We have a home in a small village with friendly neighbors, a bank account in the local bank, a French teacher and a daily routine.

We are happy to be staying here for a few months while the barge undergoes remodeling/painting and a name change, as soon as we think of the right one.  We are getting acclimated to life in France.  Fortunately, we are starting out in a village with a slow pace.  With everything being foreign, it could be overwhelming living in a big city.  It has been part good fortune and part research and planning that has helped everything fall into place so easily.

It certainly was good fortune that brought us to our guest house.  We are in the very small village of Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône, located in the burgundy region of France, 30 minutes south of Dijon. It is just a 10 minute drive to Saint-Jean-de-Losne, where we bought our barge from the boat broker, H2O.

The owners of our guest house, or Gîte as it is called here in France, Georges and Nathalie live next door, and they have been extremely kind and helpful to us.  Since it is winter and we are the only guests staying in this beautiful old farm house, they have allowed us to have the run of the house and to take over the gîte telephone to use as our own.
young girl with school books
Their 10 year old daughter has agreed to give us French lessons. Nina is a great teacher, very well prepared with books and lesson plans, and she tries very hard not to giggle at our pronunciation, but sometimes she just can't help it.

She has also been teaching Toby to sit and stay in French, and she's looking forward to dog-sitting for us when we go to Paris next week to meet friends.


March 2000

Spring has sprung, and while our barge is undergoing a make over, we have time to enjoy the warm weather by exploring our neighborhood. We are close to the Canal du Rhone au Rhin, and it is one of our favorite walks.

barges moored on a canal


We usually stop to talk with one of the American or English couples that are wintering there at Bourgogne Marine harbor. It is nice to be able to speak English again, and we have learned so much from these conversations. They have given us many remodeling tips and good advice about living on a barge.


 a golden retriever sitting by a canal in france




Toby really enjoys this walk, because he can be off his leash most of the time. When we stop to talk with other boaters, he has plenty of time to stop and smell the French countryside.

Café in Paris

We don't always hang out in the country though, sometimes we go to Paris just to sit in a café and watch the world go by. We love the hot dogs at the Madrigal on the Champs-Élysées, and a rainy day is a good excuse to linger longer while enjoying the passing parade.

Golden Retriever wearing a beret


Toby loves Paris too. He is turning into quite the sophisticate, and he is even beginning to look French.


April 2000

The good news is that we are not going to sink. The bad news is that we caught on fire.

We have just spent a couple of busy weeks in dry dock, out of dry dock, and then back in again, as we tried to determine the thickness of our hull. The first ultrasound survey showed high numbers indicating a very thick hull, that was good. Because of some doubts about the first survey, we had a second survey done. The second ultrasound survey showed a few low numbers indicating some problems with the hull, that was bad. We didn't know which survey to believe.

To solve the problem we used the old fashion method of drilling holes in the hull. Drilling found that our hull was good, not quite as good as the first expert reported, but that it was much better than the second expert had reported. We only needed one small 6 mm plate welded onto the hull.
two donkeys standing at the fence of their field
On Saturday, April 1st, in the area where the welding was in progress, the wiring inside our hull caught on fire.  It was small fire, more smoke than flame, but the recently installed electrical system will have to be replaced, and there was some interior smoke damage.

Between the hull problems and the fire, we haven't been sleeping too well and we're feeling a little stressed. It now looks like our projected sailing date will be delayed. When everything settled down again, we looked at each other and said, "We need a vacation." We decided to go to Barcelona to visit friends.

When the fire started, we did discover that our French improves under stress, and we met many new people who came to see what all the smoke was about. 

 firemen standing in front of their firehouse



When we stopped by the next day to say thank you to the firemen for putting out our fire, we were given a tour of the Saint-Jean-de-Losne firehouse. It is a volunteer department, so now we know the pharmacist, the butcher and the baker in town.

Before we left for Barcelona, friends from San Francisco came to visit, and we were happy to go sightseeing with them. We drove along the Burgundy canal and visited some of the small villages that we remembered from our first rental barge trip. We went to Dijon, Dole and Beaune to see the sights and enjoy long lunches, rather than just to shop for light fixtures, carpets or tile.        



stone house


interior of a charming country restaurant


Friends standing on and around a barge talking and laughing



In Saint-Jean-de-Losne, our old friends met our new friends, and it was a wonderful change from all of our recent worries. We were relaxed again and ready to drive to Spain for a few days of sun and relaxation in Barcelona.

Even the donkey looked happy again.

cute donkey looking right into the camera


<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 23