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Water flowing underground
same as it ever was
Counting blessings - French style 
2nd-Sep-2005 05:13 pm
knitting sketch
Departure is nearly upon us and I've been doing last minute checks to make sure I can post a cruising log from the laptop on a semi-regular basis. I found a new friend yesterday (::waves at jamalov29) and it was she who asked exactly whaty it is that we enjoy so much about our life aboard in France. This is a very complicated topic, but I've boiled it down to a few points:

1. The people - the parts of France we can visit from the waterways is very different from the usual tourist haunts. This is the real France and its people that we get to see, not the world weary waiters of a Paris restaurant or the jaded receptionist at a big city hotel. During our first 6 month cruise there were many times when we were welcomed into people's homes or offered help during very difficult periods: running very low on diesel, a local bartender phoned the domestic supply company who sent a tanker to the mooring pontoon to fill us up; no water point where one should have been, a couple invited us indoors in the pouring rain and gave us cake and wine, despite the fact that we dripped on their carpets, while their garden hose filled our water tank; waiting for repairs to our very badly damaged stern gear in a huge boatyard, we were taken aboard the next barge which was being converted into a hotel/restaurant and fed by its owner, a Frenchman from the Pyrenees (once the Head Chef at White's Hotel, London). These and many many more incidents have enamoured the French to us (though this does not extend to a lot of the lock-keepers who, in the main, are totally lacking in imagination about what happens to a narrowboat if they open all the sluicegates at once).


2. The countryside, its flaura and fauna - as with anywhere else, you get to see a lot more of this when you're limited to a speed of 4mph. Fields full of poppies or sunflowers, or both, vinyards in the Champagne region, chateaux, churches, and medeival towns clinging to the hillsides, Charolay cattle grazing the water meadows.

3. The lifestyle - living aboard a boat always makes you re-evaluate priorities; food, water, shelter, and fuel are the daily concerns. In France (certainly in the rural towns and villages) the balance between working for these basics and enjoying them is well maintained. Work has its place, but so too do family, community and life itself; they work to live, not live to work.

4. The Food and wine Although the modern practice of women working outside the home is beginning to be felt even in the most rural parts, there is still a tradition of learning to cook the region's specialities from mother and grandmother that is evident in the small famnily run restaurants where the local workmen congregate at lunchime for a 4 course meal, with a carafe of wine for 12 Euros or so.

5. Sanctuary from the constant bombardment of the media. With no TV or regular access to national newspapers, the focus is on the local and the immediate.

This last feature is a boon, particularly at times of national disaster such as the one unfolding in America. I am at a loss for words at the slow response to the plight of New Orleans, particularly in the light of the fact that it is number 2 on the government's 'risk list' and that warnings about the aftermath of a force 5 hurricane and the likelihood of a breach in the levees has been known for some years."

I have a lot for which to be grateful.

On other news calove the packet went today - no 'registered post' according to the girl in the post orrifice, just something called 'insurance'. It boils down to the same thing, you have to sign for its receipt, we get the value back if it goes astray.

willowfae Carnivale is on its way to you.
Comments 
2nd-Sep-2005 05:06 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed reading your list of why you like spending time in France. In made me think of some of my own, bodyboarding in the atlantic has to come first, cycling and being treated like a piece of traffic by French cars, French markets, camping, living more simply.
2nd-Sep-2005 06:38 pm (UTC)
I'd forgotten the French and bikes. In the main, the boaters we meet are not French; they fish, they walk, they cycle on the towpaths, but they don't boat. The bargees are mainly Belgians and Germans and the leisure boaters are Americans, Australians, British, and, of course - the Dutch.
2nd-Sep-2005 05:51 pm (UTC)
This was a very nice and very interesting way of explaining why you enjoy being here ! I can completely understand how pleasant it must be ( yet with some difficulties) to live on a boat ( saw the pic !) and to discover lands and its people all along.
And September and the beginning of October are a wonderful season . And the countryside is so lovely.

'Sanctuary' : how could one not feel the peace being outside of all the pressure for a while..
'Food and wine' : hee , that makes me giddy! We drink and eat very well here ! Perhaps one of the best place in Europe - said the woman who suffered a little from the american cooking ;) -

I'm so glad to know that you love all the good things that hold a special place in my heart , too.
What will your trip be ? Where are you headed to?
2nd-Sep-2005 06:26 pm (UTC)
The canal system starts closing down at the end of September so we will not be able to venture far from our home port of Pont de Vaux. We'll probably head up river, visit Toul (on of my very favourite towns), Chalons sur Saone, St Jean de Losne and then turn around and cruise slowly back to winterise the boat and make sure she's safe and secure against th winter flooding that always happens at the Port de Plaisance.

We missed our May - August trip that allows us to venture further afield because of an on-going crisis with my mother-in-law (she's 94 and, until recently lived alone in Dublin.) She's now safely in a nursing home so my MWNN (Man With No Name - don't ask!) feels it's safe to venture abroad again.

We take a couple of mini-trips to France (leaving the dogs in kennels) and visit Paris in March (for our anniversary). We are slowly working our way through the arrondissments and would dearly love to spend a winter there if only we could afford it - but with two dogs, it's not possible.

Even before we took our boat to France, we would hire a Gite for a few weeks in the summer holidays, mainly in the area near Mont St Michelle and Fleurville, but inland. We love France, its people and lifestyle, but we couldn't think of living there full time, your beaurocracy is even more complicated than ours, and our French isn't up to it; whereas your English is wonderful.
2nd-Sep-2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for saying so about my english , you're sweet to me.. but I am aware that I should be able to do better.
It's a wonderful cruise that you're planning. As for Mont StMichel and Fleurville , they're both very lovely places, I used to go there when I was younger.

And you even were in the newspaper ! (I liked the title of the article)


Have a beautiful time!
2nd-Sep-2005 07:59 pm (UTC)
There was a piece done on us and the boat in the local paper at Vitry le Francois in 2000. I tried to answer the interview questions in French but the girl doing it insisted on switching into English so that she could show off to her boss.
2nd-Sep-2005 09:04 pm (UTC)
It sounds so idyllic...Do enjoy this little trip; you deserve it after all the worry, false starts and recent illness, and forget about us and LJ for a while. Looking forward to seeing you again in Oct.

And hee! nice pic of you and MWNN!
2nd-Sep-2005 09:33 pm (UTC)
nice pic of you and MWNN!
You mean the one in the French paper? But you can hardly see it's me . . . what with the hat and the sunspecs - very incognito. Don't breathe a word to MWNN, he has this mortal fear of his real identity beeing found out.

I'm not going to forget all about you, I intend to post fairly regularly if the mobile office technology works as well as it does in the UK. I'd better give it a final check tomorrow to see if there are any new French numbers on the dialup database. And if you don't hear about you know what before I go, would you mail me? I'll send you the addy I'll be using.
2nd-Sep-2005 10:11 pm (UTC)
And if you don't hear about you know what before I go, would you mail me? I'll send you the addy I'll be using.

Of course I will! Even if the news is bad -- I see no point in being miserable on my own.

But you can hardly see it's me . . . what with the hat and the sunspecs - very incognito.

I think you look very glamorous in your hat and sunspecs -- quite the 50s/60s movie star, like Audrey Hepburn or Sophia Loren. MWNN looks very much the Englishman abroad, which is odd given that he's Irish...but fear not, I'll not breathe a word!
2nd-Sep-2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
Hee - the English are coming the English are coming.

MWNN was quite cross with the reporter who introduced him as Irish and yet constantly called us 'the English couple' throughtout the article.
2nd-Sep-2005 10:32 pm (UTC)
I've mailed your gmail account.
3rd-Sep-2005 04:38 pm (UTC)
I am so jealous! I love spending that sort of relaxing time in France - and the people can be so lovely, despite their reputation. I shall think of you with pleasure as I head back to school next week. :sigh: and a new head of department.
3rd-Sep-2005 05:13 pm (UTC)
Welcome fellow comrade of the chalk face. I don't envy you your return to school. I'm so lucky to have 'escaped' so young, despite the painful nature of my reasons for leaving.

I hope to bring you a little of the beauty that is the French waterways through the cruising log I keep. I've added you to my Flist.
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