Saturday, 16 August 2014

Verdun

We have stayed in Verdun now for 3 whole days, well just outside at Verdun Belleville.  We didn’t intend to but sometimes its good to stop for a while.

On a dog walk Deb found a nail place and according to her is human again.

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About half hour later Herbie damaged one

We all MR and us di a big shop at Intermarche and Lidl and Graham & I did a re-fuel as the Intermarche was on €1.29L. I got a haircut, although strangely it seems there are no barbers only salons which also cut mens hair, but at €20 is a bit on the steep side and they don’t do it in a barbering style.

While in Verdun I did a bit of a tour.

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Yesterday I finally got round to a couple of outstanding jobs on the boat, the sort that take longer to start then to do really.  I also drained the fuel filters and cleared out the mudbox which sounds worse than it is.  Its simply a primary strainer for the river water that needs clearing once in a while.

Today Graham and I moved Vehicles, Napoleon to about 25 miles ahead and Grahams to about 18 miles ahead then from there we rode out bikes back which seemed to be mostly uphill and against the wind.  We were both grateful for the electric assist.  Mine ran out completely about a mile from the boat.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Stenay To Belleville–Sur-Meuse

12 Locks, 33 miles, 9 hours with overnight

Stenay moorings required a delicate revers to get out of the marina.  I was watched every inch of the way by the owner of the boat behind us.  All went without incident, I was quite impressed with my efforts.

Once through the first lock just a few hundred meters away was our last automated lock.  From here on in they all seemed to be manned by youngsters on university holiday.  So we are back to roping again as they won’t let you lock unless you are tied.  Not much of a problem as they lower a hook for the rope and put it on the bollards.

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Stenay Lock

The river is now running below and we are on the canalised section, and very canal it is.

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River Meuse below

We decide to wild moor at Consenvoye just before the lock. 

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We though it would be a good quiet spot. That lasted about an hour until a hotel boat arrived and moored in from of us.

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I chatted to the owner.  This was a working boat in the Netherlands and was worked by his uncle until he retired. Yan then bought it and converted it to a hotel boat.  He is currently relocating it to his next cruising area ending in Paris.  The current guests were family members, but his client base is American and he is booked up already for the whole of 2015. He quite seriously told me that he would be off a 7am because he was commercial and not to try and follow through the lock as it would be shut again until 9am.  I just laughed and told him that it was unlikely we would want the lock before 11am.

Herbie done a runner on his night time wee.  He couldn’t be found for about 10 minutes,  making it worse was the rain coming down in sheets, then Deb saw him running across from the bridge back from the local pub.  Then I realised the family I was talking to earlier over drinks had left food on the table when we left.  My guess is he went back to look for it.  He’s not daft that dog. We all got back on board soaked to the skin.

In the morning after 11am we set off and our first French lock with sloping sides.  This one was nice and easy as it has a floating pontoon.

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We were now on our way to a rendezvous now with MR moored at Belleville-Sur-Muse.  The locks once again were all manned by various youngsters and the way was again very canalised.

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This sort of canal for us is new.  We have never done any of the canals in England, only rivers so this is what I expect they might be like.

After few hours of cruising we reached our destination and MR came into sight.


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Once tied up and dogs watered we all went aboard MR for a good ol’ catch-up, dogs and all,followed later by a gorgeous chorizo and vegetable stew dinner, then Graham rustled up and instant desert of apples custard.

The following day was a business day in Verdun.  Verdun does have very good town centre moorings but they are very popular with free water and electric so getting a 60’ boat on them is always going to be difficult at busy times.  Where we are a Belleville is great wit easy access for the dogs and just a mile or so from the town centre.

So to business.  First was SFR to get a better internet deal, but it turned out they simply wouldn't give it to us without a French bank account despite or protestation about not being very EU.  So we then set off to get a French bank account.  Several banks said this simply isn’t possible then we went to the PO bank who made us an appointment for 9am the next day and armed with the necessary identification we got a bank account each.  There was a slight hitch as Graham couldn't produce one of the many bits so he now lives with me!

Back to SFR.  This is a communications company here in France that does pretty much what Virgin does here.  But this shop had no landline phones working, no internet access, and because of this they had no access to streaming TV.  All the tings they sell.  The shop assistant said their phones have been down for 3 weeks.  France really is in a state I think.  Can you imagine any business in the UK putting up without phone lines for 3 weeks?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Mouzon to Stenay

4 Locks, 15½ miles 4¾ hours

Looking out of the window on waking and having had a night of heavy rain the decision was made to stay at Mouzon for the day.  I took Herbie out for a walk to the patisserie and came back with cream cakes for 11’s. This town is small but beautifully kept and an Abbey as well. 

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Back of the Abbey

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Town hall with leaning tower

During cake eating the clouds cleared and the sun came out so a hasty decision was made to set off for Stenay.

You have to love hire boats.  This one came steaming past us

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only to be caught up by us at the next lock.  In his defence he was first there and OK benefit of the doubt, but the lock was broken.  We were 3rd in the queue then another 2 boats turned up a 20m+ barge and a small cruiser.  Once the lock was manned by the VNF the 3 small boats went through in 1 lock turn then we were next.  All this took about ¾ of an hour.

The scenery is returning, but its still like the Nene but with hills now.

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Leaving a typical lock

Once at Stenay it was a 90 degree left turn into the moorings and only this space left.

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Tight one hey?

Deb said we could make it, I wasn’t so sure.  The moorings here are really nice.  Once the evening sun came out so did the camera.

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Stenay is the same as the other town, loads of empty shops, loads for sale signs everywhere, and the only places seeming to be staying in business are the banks.  No less than 7 around the centre square.

The skies finally cleared about midnight and I was able to snap with my 40x Zoom the August super moon.

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Not bad for a compact

Friday, 8 August 2014

Sedan To Mouzon

2 locks, 10½ miles, 2½ hours

The day started with me returning to the bike shop to have a new tyre fitted which after riding it flat it was knackered.  Now you would think a bike shop would have spotted this, but no because its an electric bike its way more difficult to remove the wheel.  To replace the tube he had put in a continuous tube which I didn’t even know existed which can be done with the wheel on.  I did wonder why he had only partially inflated the tyre, obviously he knew fully inflated it would show the tyre damage.

So this morning it took him an hour to do the job properly while I waited during which he was gabbling away in french to his mate.  At one point they said something about me / English, looked at each other and laughed.  I faced his mate out (he was the smaller guy) and with finger in his face told him very loudly to STOP TAKING THE PISS.  He looked away and the job continued.

I was presented with a bill for €62 €22 for the tyre and €40 for labour.  I refused to pay it. I crossed the €40 out wrote €20 and put €42 on the counter and left. 

After a late and aborted first start due to a sudden rain storm we set of at lunch time saying our goodbyes to Albertine and Rival.

The cruise to Mouzon was uneventful and scenery much like the Nene again so no photos.

We arrived at Mouzon and another boat we were moored near to at Sedan made room for us to get on a low wall so we could get the dogs out.  My rear rope was taken by another boater which caused more problems than it solved as I wanted a loop passed back but got a single.  In the end I redid it so I could pull the front in against the back rope.  I suppose having a 30’ 8 ton boat you have no appreciation what it takes to move 60’ and 27 tons.

At Mouzon the captinairs office had good WiFi and was eventually able to download the Bluetooth drivers all 300mb of them to make my laptop BT work.  I can now use BT GPS dongle with my mapping programs.

So a funny sort of day.  Oh! and to cap it off SFR our mobile internet provider won’t let me have a better deal because I don’t have a French bank account.  I have written to them stating this a restriction of trade and they are discriminating against a fellow EU citizen.  I know of an Irish man that has it.  I don’t suppose it will get me anywhere, but gotta try.

That’s my day.  Finally its been mostly torrential rain since 6pm with a good set of thunder and lightening shows.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Lumes To Sedan. Sedan And A Cycle Ride of Attrition

4 Locks, 12 miles, 4 hours

We spent a couple of days at Lumes.  On the second day we went in to Charleville in the MH.  The station at Lumes is only part time as it is a commuter town.

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Lumes mooring

The common theme in all towns here is the amount of long empty shops. Its sad really because looking at some of the houses and public buildings this was once a prosperous area.

The sun was out and all  the locks worked without issue so it was a nice cruise.  We have defiantly given up roping in the locks for the time being at least.

We arrived at Sedan marina and were greeted by 2 Dutch boaters ready to take our lines.  Once moored we paid our dues and settled in to doing general life things.  It wasn't long before other boats started to arrive until by tea time the marina was full with 6 boats on our pontoon.  There were Dutch, Czech, German, occupants, all of which were in conversation distance and all conversing with each other in English.  No wonder we are so lazy about learning other languages.

The following morning I took off on bike to retrieve Napoleon from Lumes.  I have a SatNav on my phone and ear buds to hear it.  Now we have lost the continuous paved towpaths the only way is by highway.  Normally this is fine but today it tried to send me on a Motorway.  Not on a bike thank you!  So the only other option was a walking route.  This was a mistake.  It took me on a single track very unmade road.  The surface being so bad I got a blow out.  Now with only crocks on and on the road of sharp stones I had to walk about 3km until I came upon metaled surface again.  I tried to blow the tyre up with a borrowed pump but it was pointless.  So I rode the last 4km on a flat tyre.

While I was doing this the last night boats moved off and a new crop was in place.  2 of them UK owned barges “Rival” & “Albertine”. We were invited for pre dinner drinks with the crews that are travelling together.

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Deb, Sandy, Claire

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Andy, Brett

We chatted about boaty things and for probably the first time toilets didn’t get mentioned.

Prior to the we took a walk into town.  Yet again loads of empty shops and not much of a shopping centre so we went for the tourist attraction, The Chateau Fort Sedan.

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This is said to be the biggest in Europe.  To be honest I am done with castles and fortresses.  They are all the bloody same, just in different places.

The one treat of the visit was a rally of Rolls Royce’s that had parked in the courtyard.

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