Taking on the French canals in a trawler yacht: Part two

In the second part of his French canals odyssey, Howard Walker cruises up the lazy River Seine and explores the suburbs of Paris

The relaxing River Seine

The tidal Seine becomes a gentler, non-tidal Seine 25 miles upstream from Rouen at the Amfreville Locks.

From here on, the scenery gets more jaw-dropping around every bend. And none more so than at Les Andelys where we decide to stop for the night.

21.Les-Andelys-mooringBack in 1197, Richard the Lionheart built his Château Gaillard fortress on the hill overlooking Les Andelys. We really wanted to see it, as well as take a peak at this picture-perfect riverside town.

Yet if there’s one downside of cruising the Seine it’s finding a decent, safe parking spot. At Les Andelys, the old port de plaisance has sadly silted in long ago and has now been largely abandoned.

We tried nudging the Nomade’s nose into the basin – hey, we were desperate – but instantly hit mud at the entrance.

As the town is a popular stopover for the huge, 400-plus-foot hotel boats that glide up and down the Seine, there was a floating dock close to the centre of town. And it was empty.

23.Les-Andelys-mooring-2We tied up and dispatched the crew to wander over to the lovely Villa Aliénor riverside restaurant to see if they knew when the next hotel boat was due. We were in luck; no boat till the following afternoon.

So we climbed up to Chateau Gaillard, stocked up on stinky cheese at the local fromagerie, and watched the sky turn gold and amber from the garden of Villa Aliénor while toasting the good life with a smooth local pinot noir.

At Vernon the next day, I’d read about a pontoon mooring at the local sailing club that could just about accommodate Nomade’s steely bulk.

But the entrance was shallow and tricky and required twists and turns around strategically-positioned sticks in the mud to get in.

Turning off from the river channel, I could see the challenge. Weeds everywhere and more sticks than a Boy Scout campsite.

Just as I was about to give up, a fisherman on the dock starts wheeling his arms showing us the way in. Forward a bit. Right a bit. Hard left. Success.

27.Mooring-at-VernonVernon is the stopping-off place for visiting Giverny, home to the great Impressionist painter Claude Monet.

The artist lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926 and his celebrated, lily-rich gardens are an easy mile and a half walk from the mooring. The stroll hopefully worked off some of that cheese from the night before.

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