With the city of love in their wake, Heidi and Kev continue south through France
Words Heidi Hasler
Well today was a bit of a lazy day on the water. We decided to go to Draveil, which is about two and a half hours up river from Paris.
The Port de Palaiscance is in-between two towns – Draveil and Vigneux. This stop over has a water park, pony trekking, lovely wooded area and a massive park with tennis courts and football pitches. This is open to the public as well but with secure moorings.
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As with every place we have stayed before, there are lots of house boats – some in great condition and others you wonder how they stay afloat! When you realise that someone is living on it, it becomes quite a shock! Draveil has plenty of shops and restaurants close by so we make use of both. There is a supermarket and a really nice Artisan baker.
In the evening, we went with our new friends to Gibraltar Restaurant. Plenty of places to sit out under a canopy or right by the river. As it has just started to rain again, we go for the canopy area rather than inside as it is still very warm.
The heavens open and the thunder storm roles in and it’s almost too loud to hear the person opposite. Some diners start to move tables as water is starting to come in as the storm is really coming down now.
We continue with our lovely meal and, when we are all happy and content, the bill is brought to us (€70 a couple). We then head back the 5-minute walk to our boats.
Today I have been fighting against really bad Wi-Fi/3G to try and get all my notes, photos and videos uploaded – not a chance! France seems to have the worst possible Wi-Fi on the planet! For friends in Devon and Cornwall, believe me ours is so much better.
Due to EU regulations, even though I have unlimited data, I can only use 10GB a month over here. I can use that in a few days so we are constantly swapping devices and hoping that everything goes up into the cloud etc.
This evening we have been invited on to a houseboat. We met a lovely lady who welcomed us onto her barge for drinks and nibbles. She was so pleased to show us around her new boat that she had upgraded to this year.
So beautiful – lovely kitchen, large lounge diner, two very roomy bedrooms and two bathrooms with the added space up top to sit out and have proper garden furniture to relax in. Ann has been living on a boat for many years and moves around when she feels like it.
She is a real inspiration and great fun! I was amazed at how large the boat was – bigger than my two up two down back home!
After drinks and nibbles, we invite Ann, Pete and Carol back to our boat for dinner – captain’s pasta is on the menu with lots of garlic bread and more wine! We carry on chatting and laughing for a few more hours, whilst the next storm rolls in.
Tomorrow we will be moving on. Pete and Carol have said they would like to come on with us, before heading back, so we will have an early start to get to Avon Bleiu.
Another heavy storm last night, but at least it is cool and fresh this morning! For a while anyway… We set off at 9am, as we have 85km to clear and four locks.
At the first lock, there is a bit of a queue with commercial barges – a couple of monsters! We know that we will not fit in the first one and, looking around, may not make the second round either.
We speak to the lock keeper, who speaks pretty good English, and he explains that the other lock is not working properly but will test it and see if our two boats can go through.
Having waited an hour and a half, we finally move again and another barge comes in with us. This soon becomes a convoy to the next lock and we are through that one quite quickly. We continue to follow the barges at 7 knots and fit snuggly in behind them for the remainder of the locks.
At the last lock we start looking at three options for our overnight stay. The first two are full of houseboats, and not enough room for the two Sealines, so we head to Port Fountainbleau – our last resort! It is also a yacht club so we are not sure what we will find.
As we get close, we look at various gaps and work out who will fit best. Whilst discussing what we will do, a very nice chap shouts across that there is a visitor mooring at the far end – perfect!
We head down and then get told that we have to moor next to the pylons, as the recent winter storms have made everything a little loose and unstable… very comforting! When both boats are tied up, Carol and I head to the Capitainaire office to pay. Two nights for €25 and there is a castle nearby that is a must see!
We are not in a rush. Why not? Did I mention there is a free washing machine and tumble dryer available? Carol and I rush back to the boats to sort the washing quickly! The facilities are very good – plenty of hot water and showers that have constant water running (not a push tap). Lovely!
The three gentlemen, that helped on arrival (and we gave them all a beer for their help), tell us what is around nearby – restaurants, Aldi, two towns, the buses etc.
First night we end up in a Buffalo Grill, which doesn’t sound great on Trip Advisor but not sure why as it was a great meal at €45 per couple for a massive meal and beer. Bed time. Everyone is shattered.
Brixham seems such a long time ago and some days are merging into others!
Carol, Pete and I all head out to find the Aldi store to do a bit of a shop. Tonight, we will eat on their boat. We find the store just five minutes from the mooring! They are nothing like the stores in England and have totally different products. Fifteen minutes later, I’m done. Beer, cheese, bread and kitchen roll – sorted!
Once back, we put everything away and decide to walk to the castle. Only a mile or so, Kev reckons. Three miles later and two small towns later, we find the castle surrounded in the streets – restaurants, food markets and clothes stores.
We go to the Imperial Cafe, opposite the entrance – great service and a nice large coffee trying to put off the long walk back! Although, actually, it never feels as bad on the way back. Time for a quick chill then dinner with the neighbours.
Beautiful prawns and pineapple for starters, then pork steaks with new potatoes and salad, washed down with lots of beer, wine and chocolate! All while being taught how to play a new card game (I didn’t come last – bonus!) Time for bed. Another town tomorrow.
We leave a very lovely Port de Plasaince at 10.30am. It’s a very short run and a lock to get to Saint Mammes.
Being Saturday, there are a lot of rowers out on the river. They just go where they like and cause utter chaos!
We get to the first lock, hook onto the ladder, all is going okay, except the cleats on the Sealine are very square. You have to put your foot over the top to stop the line slipping as the boat moves with the rush of water being let in. Next thing, the line is round my foot and I’m holding the boat with my leg! Quick adjustment and all back to normal.
We head out of the lock where just around the bend there should be fuel. We see the pontoon and white building (although it’s not totally obvious), moor up then find that there is no one here. It is closed until midday. We think that the workers may be on their lunch so will just wait. Five minutes later two guys appear in their little Clio and fuel is soon flowing into the tanks.
This time we are paying €1.64 a litre. Ouch! A punchy €375 later and we go across the river for our nights mooring. Due to the major storms earlier this year, half of the moorings no longer have cleats, so it’s going to be tight.
Saint Mammes is much more of a smaller town than I expected it to be – very quaint though and the end of our journey on the Seine. From here we will start our voyage on the canals.
We walk a couple of miles to see where the first lock is and to make sure that we will fit – it is going to be very narrow! But at least we know what we will need to do and how we will work the locks.
We head back to the boat and meet the other two boats that we are moored up with (all British – a Sealine and a Linssen). Beer time (rude not to!) in a small bar, run by James (a lovely funny French guy).
After Kev and Pete get a quick haircut with Stephane, we then go on to the cake shop for afternoon tea, before a snooze and then back “out on the tiles” as it is Saturday night!
Forgot to say – the town quay has electricity and water and a really nice posh office! However, nobody is here to take money or link up the facilities.
We will see what tomorrow brings as we may move off the river, closer to the entrance of the lock, as it is away from the large barges and also very pretty.