A lot of things happen in a week. Sunday morning the three of us (me, Dad and Heather) woke up in our little (and I mean little) rental apartment in Paris and walked over to Rue Daguerre for an amazing pastry breakfast at the boulangerie about one block west of Place Denfert-Rochereau.
From there we went directly to the Louvre since we had promised Dad some quality time with the Dutch Masters. Embracing local knowledge, we entered through the side door (line: approximately 1 minute), not the front (line: approximately 1 hour). Thank you Dana! It took the entire morning just to get to the 15th/16th/17th century Dutch section because there were so many other interesting paintings along the way (if you haven’t visited yet, the Louvre is BIG).
Sunday evening we found a small crêperie for dinner – we were staying in Montparnasse, after all, the center of Bretagne ex-pats in Paris. Afterwards we took Le Métro over to La Tour Eiffel to enjoy the tower in its ideal state, all lit up at dusk. And then all too soon it was Monday morning and time to get Dad on the bus back to the airport for his flight home (but not before visiting the same boulangerie for some more delicious pastries).
The train back to Nevers and then Decize was a piece-o-cake, and we picked up some incredible kebabs at Istanbul Kebab on the north side of old Decize. I think this was our fifth time through Decize, and the proprietor remembered us from previous visits. I’m not sure how a 5 euro dinner of shaved Halal meat with white sauce stuffed into a pita can be so delicious, but it is.
Tuesday I got a recommendation from the Le Boat base for where to buy batteries, as the original “house” batteries that came with our boat were nearing the end of their useful life. The nice folks at the Dumas-Colinot auto-supply store gave me a discount when I said I wanted to buy two, and they even gave me a lift back to the boat so I didn’t have to carry two 70lb batteries two miles to the marina. Total bill for two 12 Volt, 100 Amp-hour batteries was just under 200 euros, quite a deal I think.
That afternoon David and Ondra from Old and Bold invited us over for tea, and we got fully caught up on the comings and goings of this nice couple from New Zealand. We had a brief happy hour with them last week in Cercy-la-Tour, but there is just so much for boaters to talk about (questions about each other’s boats, questions about where everyone’s boated, dreams about where to go boating next, etc.). Late afternoon we locked up into the Loire Canal together and then they turned right towards Briare and the Seine and we turned left towards Digoin and the Saone.
Tuesday eve was an uneventful night in Gannay-sur-Loire, we met a nice couple from Pennsylvania on a hire boat and spent some time with them reviewing highlights of the Nivernais Canal, where they were headed. The next morning, on their suggestion, we rode our bikes to a goat farm a few km south and tasted and bought three different types of chèvre.
Wednesday evening as we pulled into Pierrefitte-sur-Loire a local family showed up with a big step ladder and a bunch of kids. The kids climbed up into a couple of cherry trees and the dad set up his step ladder and the family proceeded to gather a big bucket of ripe cherries from these public trees. We wandered over and were soon using our boat hook to pull cherries off the outer branches. In 10 minutes we had probably picked a couple kilos of fresh cherries. The family was very nice, the kids practiced their English (which was quite good) on us, and mom (Valérie) also spoke pretty good English. They had lived on a boat up until a few years ago, so were well acquainted with the waterways.
Thursday we drove the final couple hours into Digoin, then I set to work on a boat project that had been on my “to-do” list for quite some time, and Heather put in an afternoon of work for our client in the Bahamas. And then late in the afternoon, a knock on the hull, and it was Marianne and Jean-Pierre, our good friends from Dijon! This wasn’t quite the surprise I make it out to be, as we had spoken to them the day before about coming for a visit, but it was still wonderful to see them and we still can’t believe they drove almost two hours (each way) to come visit us on a weeknight. We caught up with all our mutual news since we saw them last fall on our trip to the grape harvest.
Friday we remained in Digoin and visited the weekly market, then did some more work for our client back home, and that evening we settled in to the shaded picnic table for a happy hour visit with Tony and Yvonne of Hors d’Age (roughly, “Ageless”). They were sailors from England who had basically “sold up and sailed out,” as the English say, and were enjoying a relaxed retirement cruising the French and Belgian waterways. And then an actual surprise, Valerie (from the cherry picking two days ago) and her co-worker showed up, they had been right across the street for some work that day and saw our boat and came over. Such a nice surprise. Her co-worker was originally Italian, so a the table we had several conversations going (Heather and Enzo in Italian, and me, Valerie and Tony alternating between English and French). There are few things better than relaxing on the banks of the canal eating French cheese and talking with new friends.
I also have to mention the pizza restaurant in the main square next to the church, Resto-Pizz. We ate there last year accidentally – we were out for a walk and suddenly a downpour hit so we ducked into the nearest door, which happened to be Resto-Pizz – and the pizzas were absolutely delicious. This year we had to confirm that it was as good as we remembered, and it was. So if you crave a good pizza and find yourself in the vicinity of Digoin, make sure you give them a try.
All too soon it was Saturday morning and time to move on, so we pointed Après Ski north-east and plotted a course (not too difficult in a narrow ditch) to Génelard. On the way we stopped in Paray-le-Monial, a pretty tourist town with nice walking streets and many boulangerie and an interesting basilica from about the 11th century. Later in the afternoon we arrived in Génelard and saw not one, but two American flags flying from big Dutch barges. I wandered over to chat with the folks on Pelican and discovered that Bob had been an airline pilot for United and had lived in the DC area for a number of years, including a few years living on a sailboat in Baltimore’s inner harbor! Jacqui was English and loved to travel, so their 14 years of retirement (so far) have not gone to waste. They are both skiers and sailors so we had almost infinite topics to chat about. We ended up having happy hour and then dinner with them on their beautiful 101-year-old boat. And to make matters even more interesting, they know our “barge mentors” Eric and Sudi from Oldtimer very well. The “floating village” is actually quite small.
So in the seven days of Week 4 we visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the rural countryside, a couple small Burgundian towns, and met two new sets of friends and re-connected with two old sets of friends. Not bad for a week’s work.
France 2013 Week 4 Numbers:
- Kilometers: 102
- Locks: 26
- Engine Hours: 18
- Cost of Moorings: 18.50 euros (two nights in Digoin)
France 2013 Total Numbers:
- Kilometers: 264
- Locks: 147
- Engine Hours: 67
- Cost of Moorings: 18.50 euros