Monday, September 01, 2014

The morning after
30 August - Ligny-en-Barrois

We think of weather as unpredictable, but the forecast we check is by the hour and it rarely seems to be far wrong.  Perhaps it’s a matter of probability that when changeable weather threatens by making a different forecast every hour reality cannot be far away.   Today the forecast for most hours was illustrated by a symbol of a sun with a little white cloud beneath it.

Only the size of the cloud varied throughout the day, and since we were connected to electricity and had a water supply, that could mean only one thing.   

Washing.

Everything that has ever been even close to dirty had a turn of being pummelled to death in the machine, before being sent outside to play in the sunshine.  As fast as things could dry or every twenty-nine minutes whichever happened sooner, they were replaced by things emerging fresh from the washing machine.

The boat was turned upside down looking for stuff that may have escaped.  Production barely stopped for long enough to eat, let alone to replenish our supplies.

By the time the white clouds turned to grey and the sun had disappeared, so had the pile of laundry, and pretty much any other sign that anyone else had ever been aboard.

Suddenly we felt quite alone.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Goodbye Cliff and Gina, hello Superheros!
Ligny-en-Barrois

I suppose I should describe the joy of walking around the village of Ligny-en-Barrois, the ancient towers and mills, the parks and river and the amazing little arcades that run under the buildings connecting the squares, or perhaps the gardens atop the remains of the towns ramparts.    

I should probably mention the inevitable twinge of sadness as we made sure Cliff and Gina were on the bus to the next leg of their own adventure, the pleasure we had from their company and how their visit was all too short.

But I won’t, because those sentiments are best left for cards and letters and besides we arrived back at the boat with the dust from the departing bus still in the air to find we had new neighbours.  One of our cruising inspirations had arrived in port, the German couple in the raft whose registered name translates to “With Pleasure III” greeted us on our return with a bowl of plums they’d scavenged from the edge of the canal a few kilometres back.

We have seen them from time to time, and often use them as an example of the expression “where there is a will, there is a way”.  The majority of people dream their dreams then spend their waking hours finding excuses to carry them out.   This pair do not, although it helps said the skipper, to have a husband who is a little crazy.

The set up reminds me so much of the camping holidays our family had half a century ago, except the trench around the tent is a lot bigger of course.  The sides do roll down at night, the stretchers come out from somewhere and the music system is a battered guitar.   There are no mooring fees involved as at the end of every summer the raft is dismantled stacked on a trailer and stored in their garden under a tarpaulin.

No detail has been left to chance.  Even the captain’s parrot has a home affixed to the mast.

On longer sea voyages, admittedly the space is less comfortable, as indeed is the welcome, but when they left this afternoon, they left us with the feeling that all things are possible.

For further insight into just how far this vessel has been, click this link!   

For those waiting for a better time to follow their cruising dream, be inspired, don't wait!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ignomeny
Bar-le-Duc to Ligny-en-Barrois

One of the realities of having friends aboard, is that at the end of their stay they have buses to catch and connections to make and the sorts of places we travel through don’t always have ready access to those connections.

Therefore, while we wax lyrical about our lack of plan, our freedom to go and do as we please, we are never able to share this aspect of our cruising life.   Had we been able to do so, we may never have recovered from our lunch time stop.   We may well still be in Tronville-en-Barrois for instance, waiting for our mood to change to “move” again.

Moving of course is not a terrible impost, and we are heading uphill at a rapid rate once again with locks every few hundred metres. One of the things we can rely on is that with each lock will come a  a different experience, sometimes a complete surprise awaits as we emerge from their depths.

The decoration on each lock-keeper’s cottage for instance varies from “abandoned” to “shabby chic” to “ wildly eclectic”, although occasionally we find one that we’d describe as “imaginative”.

Occasionally we find ideas we could possibly incorporate into our own garden.

Even this very afternoon we were given a couple of pointers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Walking up the hill
Bar-le-Duc

The waterway on which we travel is conveniently located at the lower end of town in Bar-le-Duc.  The little port is wedged between the rail lines, the freeway and the bus station and is only a few hundred metres from the village centre itself just beyond one of those Scottish fast food stores that people go into to use the free wifi.

Unfortunately for he among us with jetlag and the onset of decrepitude in his legs, the old village, the one where the Renaissance was said to have had its roots, is located a little further away and on top of a hill.  Three of us were undeterred, so fitted the fourth with a spare set of hiking poles, implied that it wasn’t as far away as it looked,  and set off.

The road to the upper village is a rather steep climb until it reaches the top, and then if falls away sharply, this does increase the degree of apparent difficulty for one walking without being able to bend one’s leg appreciably, but it also slows the pace of exploration for those who can allowing time to see details along the way that perhaps had not been seen in previous visits.  On the other hand, it certainly is as far away as it looks, and we were all uncomfortable with Cliff's discomfort.

For the second time in a week we failed to complete the tourist walking trail.  This was not because of Cliff’s injury or tiredness on our part, although none of us were arguing the case for continuing, but simply as it had been last time, that we were interrupted by the onset of lunch.  Today with inclement weather closing in we retreated to the boat, where Cliff could rest his legs, and we could rest ours, and we could all continue our breakfast conversations without risk of being tossed out at midnight by an over-tired waiter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cliff and Gina catch a train (or four, or five)
- Bar-le-Duc

The description they had on their itinerary was at best vague: “ Arrive in Zurich 6:10 am - the train takes about six hours.”   Perhaps it would in retrospect have been easier if we’d known exactly which train Cliff and Gina were arriving on.  All my investigations had shown at least half a dozen changes would be necessary en route and there were at least that many possible routes as well.

As it was we knew we had half a morning to get the necessary washing dry in our makeshift drying cabinet, and to find some sort of semblance of order in the boat even if it wasn’t quite up to its shiny best.    There was a sort of unattractive drizzle in the air, so while one of us fiddled with calculators and rail timetables to calculate a probable of arrival time and direction, the other of us busied herself with housekeeping, tidying, organising, menu planning and vegetable buying.  

By late morning, we undertook the first of what would be many sloshes to the station to await an incoming train bereft of our visitors.  At first we combined these trips with visits to the supermarket, or butcher or baker, but although we were looking forward to the visit, as each train came and went without depositing a load of North Queenslanders looking for somewhere to stay, another small task or two could be completed aboard.

By mid afternoon, with only trains from improbable destinations arriving till evening, hopes of seeing our friends today, or for that matter perhaps ever again, were beginning to diminish.

At exactly the point when all hope seemed lost, Cliff appeared waving an iPad, Gina not far behind unwrapping a SIM card for her phone.   

WAVING an iPad.   

I was until then unaware that waving an iPad was even a method of transmitting messages, but it seemed quite effective in the end.  When it comes to communicating with computers, Cliff is clearly in a different league to the common man.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Homeward Bound
- Paris to Bar-le-Duc

When travelling in a country where trains are obliged to slow to a mere one hundred kilometres per hour when negotiating busy stations, but need only drop to two hundred for the lesser ones, distance is covered at a remarkable pace.    

But perhaps its the very speed with which we move that creates a certain fatigue at journey’s end.  Surely it couldn’t be the constant round of social engagements, the food, the drink, or the sunshine?   I don’t think for a minute that the walk through Paris this morning and the post-luncheon dash to the train could have contributed.

Whatever the reason, it was late afternoon when we arrived home, and we looked at the list of things that absolutely had to be done before Cliff and Gina arrived tomorrow and decided that they would best be tackled after a long lie down.

After a long lie down, we looked again at the list, and thought:

“Tomorrow”.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On any Sunday
Paris

There is no point having friends with boats in Paris if you can’t convince one of them to take you for a cruise.

With prospects of rain for the rest of the week it didn’t take too much to convince Dave and Ria that it would be in their best interests to bring their departure day forward to take advantage of the bright sunny day.   Once they were in that frame of mind it didn’t take much more to convince them that Max would be so much more stable on the river if another say, half a dozen people joined them for the first part of their journey.

That would be the part of their journey that takes them beneath Paris’ famous bridges, by all the landmark buildings that each week millions of people travel across the world to see.  

We are all hardened veterans at this sort of thing, not easily impressed, but even the twelve or so kilometre walk back to the Metro station didn't dent the smiles on our faces this day.