Monday
Mar012010

LYON - JEWEL OF A CITY! 

Lyon is a jewel!  Turn off the autoroute, pierce the industrial chimney and tower block-studded necklace that encircles it and Lyon reveals itself as a grand, elegant City.  Lyon is France’s second largest city, dramatically sited on the banks of the Rhone and the Soane Rivers although some say a third river – the Beaujolais – courses through it!  The heart of Lyon is Presqui’ile, the narrow peninsula of land between the two rivers, which boasts a close weave of Gothic and Renaissance buildings.  We were struck by how much Lyon is like a smaller version of Paris in its imposing architecture and grand scale layout.  Known as France’s centre of gastronomy, there are so many opportunities to step back in time and dine in wonderful old world bistros. The city has much more to offer, however, than a full stomach! Lyon’s Musee des Beaux Arts rivals that of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and its city centre is very people friendly, with pedestrian bridges across the two rivers. The shops present a visual feast, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere’s byzantine interior is overwhelming exquisite and the City’s traboules – a warren of covered passageways and stairs through the old weaving district -  are unique and fun to explore.  It takes only an hour and fifteen minutes by train to reach Lyon from Roanne, so it will be one of our regular destinations for a “Big City Day Trip”! 


Monday
Mar012010

DUTCH BARGE RALLY ‘ROUND THE FLAGS'! 

Every year the Dutch Barge Association hosts a rally for its member barge owners to get together, support the canals, share information and good times!  We have found curiously that mostly the following nationalities are called to the barge life: British, Irish, French, Dutch, Australian, New Zealanders, Americans and Canadians.  We have met so many wonderful barge owners from all walks of life and find that we really like them!  Apart from meeting people from all these countries, we all enjoy being able to see other barges inside and out and and share insights as to the best shipyards, good portholes and most durable paint.  Every barge is unique and every barge owner has a story about how they succumbed to the barging life.  At the Rally in Vincelles, we discovered a barge with an identical hull and it was fun to see how its interior and wheelhouse were configured so differently.  We hope to attend these events every year to meet our friends, make new friends and show support for the wonderful canal network which allows us to travel so serenely in a time-honoured way. 


Monday
Mar012010

THE CANAL IS A LONG VILLAGE … 

 

We have found this saying to be so very true.  Once you own a barge, you are embraced within a wonderful, helpful and fascinating international community. For example, when we were just about to moor in Genelard, one of our leeboards dropped.  We were fortunate that this didn’t happen in a lock as we would have been stuck and have caused a real nuisance!  Raising a leeboard is no laughing matter as each one weighs about one ton.  Help was at hand as the barge ‘Butskop’  - with a charming French couple from our homeport  - were moored across the way and a former French policeman and his wife were moored right beside us.  They spent the whole afternoon working with us to raise the leeboard and re-attach it.  What a feat! But we’ve learned that’s what the barge community does – just like all sailing communities – we go to great lengths to help one another.  

Later, another French couple who owned a cognac distillery moored beside us and just happened to have some cognac on board for anyone who wanted to participate in an inpromptu degustation!  Of course we all did and Marc is now the proud owner of an amazing sixty year old cognac and memories of a wonderful evening. 


Monday
Mar012010

OUR BONNIE LIES OVER THE OCEAN… 

Here is Bonnie, the beautiful French bulldog!  She is looking through our porthole one fine April morning.  Bonnie is the beloved pet of William, one of two brothers who own the shipyard at Marseilles les Aubigny, a tiny village in the heart of France.  We lived in the shipyard for two months refitting Nooit Volmaakt after she was taken out of the dry dock to be surveyed prior to our purchase.  We woke up every morning to the funny little patter of Bonnie’s paws on our decks as she sought her way into our barge for her morning treat.  Truth be told she joined me in bed while I had a cup of tea most mornings but we didn’t let on to William after he told us this was interdit at home!  Marseilles les Aubigny is a tiny rural village and after two months we felt very well integrated into the community, making wonderful friends with whom we are still in contact today. 


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