Archive for the French canals and rivers Category


Posted in Cooking, Cornwall, French canals and rivers, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Surfing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Madeira archipelago, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , on August 19, 2016 by maidofmettle

5 years ago yesterday night (yesternight?) I sailed between the Wolf Rock and Gwennap Head / Tol Pedn to the accompaniment of fireworks exploding somewhere over Land’s End (yep, I’m claiming they were for me 😉 ).

And 5 years ago today I dropped anchor in Mullion Cove after leaving the Azores on the 3rd of August.

2011-08-19 #09 Mullion Cove (Custom).JPG

That was the beginning of the end of two years of living on Maid of Mettle, just over a year and over two thousand miles with Chris and Caroline and another 10 months or so and a couple of thousand miles on my own. It seems a while ago now..

So, what don’t I miss?

  • handling wet and very cold ropes on the canals, not to mention stamping my feet to keep the circulation going while motoring in a wet and chilly France. This may have had a permanent effect – warmth is definitely one of the things I do miss!

2009-11-10 #01 Vitry-le-Francois to St Dizier (Custom).JPG

  • rough seas, when you know things may well get worse before they get better and there is no escape till they calm down – while they were only a small part of the trip, and on the whole a price well worth paying, they do leave some lasting impressions. I seem to have blanked nearly the entire trip from Madeira to Tenerife from my memory after a few days when I didn’t feel well, despite the fact that looking over some photos and videos there were clearly some nice parts to the journey as well. Some passages you just want to end.

2010-10-25 #06 Madeira to Tenerife (Custom).JPG

And what were the best things?

  • the freedom – the time to properly enjoy cooking, to go walking and get to know places, to meet people, to take up new hobbies such as surfing and playing harmonica, or simply spend at least an hour in the surf to end up with one half-decent picture of a breaking wave – this is special, more so than exotic places.

2010-10-18 #07 Boaventura (Custom)

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Thanks Jon for that photo

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and thanks Quiksilver for that one

2010-08-02 #04 Praia da Culatra (Custom)

Though that said:

  • discovering beautiful places, and experiencing things I never knew existed. I could name something in any region we went, but the following stand out particularly:
    • the peaceful waters of the Guadiana,

2010-05-20 #6 Vila Real to Alcoutim (Custom).JPG

  • the levada canals winding among the peaks, valleys and terraces of Madeira,

2011-06-15 #40 Boca da Corrida to Barreiras (Custom)

  • the hill country of northern Gran Canaria

2011-02-13 #11 Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara (Custom)

  • and the hot springs of the Azores

2011-07-12 #37 Sao Miguel - Poco da Dona Beija (Custom)

  •  the people – while getting to spend time with my family and friends in this country again is fantastic, for meeting and getting to know new people it’s much easier while sailing (though the same effect can be true coastal sailing in this country, especially in the west country).

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  • Also in the first part of the trip having so much (okay – yes, sometimes too much at times!) time with two of my best friends

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  • the sailing on passage – there is a real satisfaction in taking plenty of time and patience to the boat set up to travel as safely, quickly and comfortably as you can, and a peaceful night sail miles from anything is a delight. There are similar pleasures in coastal cruising but it’s a different mindset as you usually have to change things much quicker!

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  • the accomplishment of offshore passage-making – it’s a rare opportunity,  definitely a special feeling, and one that lasts whereas so often in other fields there is always the next deadline lurking.

2010-09-07 #06 (Custom)

  • the stars at sea – an incredible spectacle. You could reach out and touch them, but you could never count them (they’re not easy to photograph from a small boat either)
  • dolphins – very hard to predict when they’ll turn up, and there is something utterly magical about their presence, bringing an instant and lasting smile (that got crossed off after seeing dolphins several days in a row sailing west down the Cornish coast, culminating in them playing round the boat for ages sailing into Portscatho in the evening sun)

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  • the food – the Madeira market is the greatest for spectacle, but my favourites are those in Alcoutim (tiny but welcoming, frequently including a massive bunch of coriander as a gift) and Las Palmas (enormous and well worth browsing all round), the challenge of provisioning and cooking on a boat in general and especially on passage, and the many regional delicacies. Except the barbecued dried squid, which I’m not convinced was actually edible

2011-06-17 #03 (Custom)

You’ll notice many of those overlap – a symptom, I think, of a fundamentally different lifestyle. Though that said, there are many things I have taken (or try to) from the time away:

  • the willingness and confidence to try new things – without some of the experiences while away I’m not sure I’d ever have ended up playing for my football team, or sung at my local folk club (to be fair that’s pretty rare even now)

2014-07-29 (Custom)

  • friendships with people I/we met while away. While I hear from others further afield, it was a special pleasure to be present when Si and Cat launched Kensa, the fishing boat they’d built since returning from their extensive travels in the Mediterranean

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  • and more than that, I think I’ve managed to stay in better contact with at least some friends since being away and having that bit more time and impetus to keep in touch via email etc when not meeting face to face (if you’ve read this with some surprise, disappointment and/or offence, please drop me a line and we can start putting things right! 🙂 )
  • enjoying a continuing connection to offshore sailing through various friends; the members of the Ocean Cruising Club – I am still amazed and humbled that they awarded me their Rose Medal for 2011, just being part of a club containing so many people who have achieved extraordinary things is an honour; and the general collective of sailors coming and going from and enjoying the south-west

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2011-08-30 #11 St Mawes - Wylo II (Custom).JPG

  • speaking of which, discovering south Cornwall as a cruising ground – it is a very special area

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It seems a good time to repeat this sentiment from 2010, for adventures near or far 🙂


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

(that last picture and inspiration for the style of post come from Caroline’s last entry 400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back)

Panoramarama part 1

Posted in French canals and rivers, Photographs, the Mediterranean Sea, Walking with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by maidofmettle

Maid of Mettle is at sea, or possibly stopped somewhere without internet. Yes, this does occasionally happen.

While I will try and post occasional updates via satellite phone, they will not contain the number of photos you have become used to.

So should you miss them, please enjoy this brief pictorial interlude. Otherwise described as: I finally got around to finding a program to stitch series of panoramic photos together. Just left-click on the thumbnails to open a larger image in a new tab.

This is Valence, on the River Saone in southern France. We didn’t actually stop here, but the view passing through was quite impressive, especially the castle-topped hills overlooking the town on the left bank.

Next up is Lyon, on the River Rhone. We did spend quite a few days here – it’s not only a beautiful city, but also home to my friend (and former housemate / colleague) Caroline. The view is from the La Croix-Rousse quarter, once Europe’s silk factory. You can just see the basilica at Fourvieres on the skyline on the right- it was built in thanks after a medieval plague passed the city by.

The next couple are both from the top of the city walls in Avignon. The first looking north…

and the second looks east  across the edge of the town to the beginnings of the Alps in the distance. The most famous ~1/4 of a bridge in the world is unfortunately hidden behind a tree somewhere.

To continue the mountain theme we’re going to dash to the bottom of France, and then across the Golfe de Lion to L’Escala, just over the Spanish border. This time it’s the snow-capped Pyrenees you can glimpse on the skyline in the far-right.

Part of this walk was a bit creepy – I was going through some woodland when I saw a cat sunning itself in a spot of shade. So far, so good. But then there was another. And another. And another. The overall effect was rather disturbing..

Still, it was well worth it for the views of this tiny hilltop suburb and a beautifully blue Mediterranean.

And the mysterious phantom island on the horizon on the left. It really doesn’t look like a cloud, but I’m sure there shouldn’t be land in that direction within several hundred miles. Strange.

The next leap is to Barcelona, and the view over the city from Park Guell.

Next is a view of the west coast of Ibiza and offlying islands. San Antonio is visible on the right, but you can’t see the nightclubs from up here.

Still on the same island, here’s a long-distance view of Ibiza town itself, from the dunes by the Playa Las Salinas, named after the numerous salt-pans nearby. Apparently Jade Jagger and Kate Moss frequent this beach, but unsurprisingly not in February.

Finally (for now) a return to the Spanish mainland in Cartagena – the harbour and some of the city from a fort high above the eastern side of the entrance.


Posted in French canals and rivers, Photographs, Unfortunate events on December 5, 2009 by maidofmettle

Cruas has a lot to see…A nice castle and medieval village, lovely views over the hills and a hidden island underwater.  We spent a bit too much time at the underwater island the other day…

We drove into a nice marina in a little place called Cruas the other evening in the dark, being very careful to avoid the relevant bollards and bouys.  It was all very nice and we even spotted one of these…maybe…We didn’t take this photo though.  It was dark and we didn’t have a camera on us at the time.

Was it a beaver or was it a coypu?

The next morning we did an early start to get to Avignon by dusk…or so we thought.  The engine was started and casting off went well.  We left only 5 minutes before we had intended which was a bit of a result.  Having talked through the leaving bit the night before we head off with the advice from our previous conversation still fresh…”Just make sure you keep the bouy to your right and stay to the left of the big red pole”.  Ok, sorted so out we went.

So, we followed the plan avoiding the yellow bouy (keeping it firmly to the right) and stayed to the right of the big pole and headed at an angle towards the channel.  The depth seemed quite low but remembering that it had been quite shallow on the way in it was not a worry.
Suddenly….BANG (The kind of metalic bang that makes you feel a bit sick), big lurch forward and then whoosh as we turn swiftly, heeling over to the right.  ‘This is not good’ I am thinking.  I actually thought the boat was going to roll over and we would lose the mast and ourselves into the river which was running pretty fast, taking two of our petrol cans away with it.  The boat was now heeling such that the white toe-rail was nearly touching the water! I climbed over to rescue our last remaining petrol can except for the one attached to the motor (which thankfully I’d refilled before leaving).  Not that the motor was going to get much use that day after all.

boat on side

So now we’re stuck and looking like there’s no immediate chance of being able to drive off whatever we just hit and the current is pinning us there.  The others checked for water and thankfully there was none visible inside the boat or out of the bilge pump so we were hopeful that the situation couldn’t get much worse by the boat threatening to sink or anything so what now?!  Our world had been shifted and it was a bit confusing.

The leaning tower

By some miracle, a man was sat at the entrance of the harbour fishing and probably saw it all.  By now we had resorted to the foghorn SOS blasts because we mistakenly thought there was a barge or small boat coming up the channel.  Turned out it was a pontoon where they shoot ducks from but you can really easily convince yourself otherwise when you’re stuck in a river.  Fortunately he had phoned for help for us and fairly shortly afterwards we saw a car with flashing lights and a man shouting something incomprehensible in French at us.  I tried waving the radio at him but we were probably too far away for him to see it and we didn’t really know the correct radio frequency to use on inland water.

Nice place for grounding

Though I didn’t see it, apparently half of the left-hand side of the boat’s contents flew onto the floor on impact so we spent a while picking all that up and putting it out of the way.

So eventually we see a boat being launched from Cruas marina and it turns out to be the Pompiers (French firemen) who tried their hardest to help us move the boat but are not allowed to tow people because of insurance…I couldn’t believe it when they said that.  They did however offer to dive in the icy water to check what damage we had and how we were stuck so that was useful and revealed that there wasn’t a whopping big hole in the boat.  One of them (who apparently was half man, half bear on account of his strength we were later to find out) even rescued a rope and some other random stuff (including a chunk of paint –ouch!) we had lost overboard so that was good.

The pompiers diving to assess damage

After they’d checked for damage they helped us lay an anchor to try and winch us off and back into some free water.  This was tried several times with varying amounts of bombing up and down to create waves in their boat before finally realising that this was not going to work and that we would probably have to wait for a tow.  Clearly wanting to help, they even had a go at pushing us in a last ditch attempt but that didn’t work either.  I must admit it was quite fun driving around with them in their boat acting as French speaking translator to the boat but the novelty wore off when I realised this was probably not going to work.

Trying to haul off the island via anchor and waves

Earlier, I had been taken round to the captain of the port on his boat had told me that they could give me a couple of numbers of people who “might” be able to help us that evening or the next day…”Might” is not what you want to hear when something like this happens but we had no choice.  Not being all that sure whether they were actually going to help us the next day (having originally thought they’d said someone would help at midday the same day) we were a tad worried…it all became a bit clearer later.

I rang about a million people trying to find someone to tow us away sooner than tomorrow but noone could help…The prospect of staying on the boat tilted far over for the rest of the day and the night in the hope that someone “might” help us at midday the next day was a bit stressful.  We rang one of the numbers, a Mr Reynaud who said “there is no pilot for the boat today” and that “someone will be with you tomorrow between 12 and 2”.  This was established after rather too many phone-calls to him and doubting my french another phonecall from Pete’s French friend just to make sure it was actually happening…

We saw the day and evening pass by with views of the power station.

Cruas power station

The night was not nice…we had to keep watches just in case by some miracle we got free and floated away.  The person on watch had to sit on a seat sloping the wrong way so you had to wedge yourself against the table for an hour and a half at a time.  We were also concerned that the wind might increase or it might start raining and make the water level in the river rise.

At about 12.10 the next day halfway through eating someone arrived, including Mr Pompier from the day before 🙂 yay.  To cut a long story short they tugged us off the thing after several attempts and more sickening bangs and scrapings and then through some more clear water followed by another bang and scrape and oooh dear, this is worse than the first time (well not quite) They towed us to the marina through the way we’d come when we’d arrived..  Incidentally it turned out that was not the correct way so we were very lucky not to hit anything on the way in.

When we got back and found out that our rescuers did it all voluntarily, that we were one of about 10 boats a year that have done that and that they didn’t expect any money for helping us.

Spent a really nice half day going “phew…” exploring Cruas and eating in the campsite restaurant where we were the only people there and our dinner was ready and waiting for us on the table having booked in a few hours before.

Chris in Cruas medieval town

Where's Pete?

View over Cruas

We then made the day trip we intended to Avignon, including getting through the largest lock in the Rhone (22m)

Big lock

Motoring down the Rhone -Just worked out how to put videos on

Off to Port St Louis soon…pretty much at the Med…

Only 331km to the sea

Posted in French canals and rivers, Fun, Photographs with tags on November 26, 2009 by maidofmettle

I am writing this from the comfort of an actual house, or flat to be more precise.  Pete has friends in Lyon who very kindly welcomed us into their home for the day to relax and take advantage of some mod cons.  As I am writing this via a french keyboard the chances of bizarre spelling increase and my previous Patricia Mayhew school of touch-typing skills are being challenged somewhat with zs and other random letters keep cropping up in unwanted places.  Even as i tried to write this a z appeared and a was mysteriously replaced by q.

Our first night mooring spot in Lyon

As you will have gathered we are spending a few days in Lyon, having travelled quite quickly to get here.  The rivers seem much easier in that respect but more difficult to just stop anywhere so we have had to plan ahead a lot.  The mooring situation was less than ideal to be honest; either too shallow or deep enough but with locals to contend with in the evening.  Thankfully we came across a kind French barge who we are now moored against.  This is much better and despite the cronky ladder they lent us and the big barge wash that batters us a bit ocassionally we are less worried about it now.

Mooring up to barge for our second night

What Lyon lacks in decent mooring space it makes up for with views.   Yesterday we took a walk up to the Basilica via a big hill and off the path route (by accident) The view across the city was pretty spectacular and I got my first mountain view of the Alps.  Clare will vouch for me in just how much I love seeing mountains…needless to say it was great to see the sunshine and a big fat open space with an exciting mountain range just visible in the distance.  We also got our first glimpse of the mighty Rhone which looks quite wide and a little faster than the Soane.  We will see properly when we move off again.

The view from the Basilica

yay! mountains!

On the way back down the hill we discovered the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre.  Well not exactly discovered it ourselves but followed some signs to it.  Anyway, apparently they do concerts there in the summer but we found some people free-running there which was good entertainment especially when they started doing flips and somersaults off of bits of rock.  Chris had fun trying out the sport mode setting on the camera here!

Free running


The history bit

I have found a new money making idea only I will need to get my saxophone.  Yesterday we saw a busking sax player at the traffic lights on a bridge…on second thoughts he didn’t seem to do too well but I’m sure he was enjoying playing through people’s windows all the same.

The busker

Somewhere near the Rhone

We had an amazing meal out last night at a salad restaurant.  Those of you now laughing at the idea of a salad restaurant should be warned that this was not salad for the faint hearted.  I didn’t think it was possible to get full with a salad but it really is.  I think we all wondered whether we should have gone for the 3 course option.  Thanks to Lionel and Caroline for a lovely evening and the biggest, most tasty salad in the world!

Lionel and Caroline

Ahhgh. The salad is taking over the world

Incidentally, getting here was fairly straight-forward; leaving the strange Anglicised St Jean de Losne, with its amazing book swapping service, and calling in at Chalons-en Champagne (lovely old timber frame houses) and Macon which had showers and a horse-drawn bin.

A lot of argee bargee

Posted in French canals and rivers, Fun, Photographs on November 20, 2009 by maidofmettle

Apologies if not all the pictures appear yet…there seems to be a gremlin in the posting by email section.  Will try to sort it tomorrow.

We managed to find a service in St Dizier for Armistace Day. Many people turned up for a ceremony including a local dog who then proceeded to run around during the middle of everything.

French Air Force preparing and random dog (bottom right)

Procession to the middle of St Dizier for a further ceremony

On our way out of St Dizier we were met with a group of local school children waiting on the bridge for us with their teacher. It was fun to answer their questions in a mixture of French and theatrics. Amongst the questions were “Where do you sleep?” (answer “here and here and here”) “Do you eat?” (“Yes, lots…”) and “What’s that?” pointing to my life jacket. The answer to this one was somewhat harder and involved a bit of “if I fall in the water it helps me” and some rapid arm waving to indicate that it would inflate. I only hope they didn’t mistake that for ‘it would explode’.

“Now always wear your life-jacket children” Maybe there’s a career there one day.

Anyone who claims that the French canals are an easy option compared to Biscay is either wrong, or lying! That or by the time they told you that had put on their rose-tints and had forgotten how tiring it all was. Thankfully we have 3 people as a crew otherwise we would be even more tired and stressed after this week. Our time has been particularly barge-full too.

Argee Bargee 1. (pictured below)

We turned a corner to find 2 barges staring at us. There was not much water either side so we had to get as close in as possible and wait for them to pass without getting too pummeled by their wash.

Two barges to contend with…must they take over the whole canal!!

Argee Bargee 2.

One evening we were mooring up rather later than hoped in the pitch black having been disappointed that the promised “halte picnique” mooring never materialised. It was dark and the boys were attempting to find somewhere else to moor and found it was too shallow to get ashore at the bank. There was a barge parking place but we knew there was a barge not far behind so we needed to wait and see if they wanted it. The barge came through the lock and headed towards us on the outside of the bend we were moored upon. They shone big, bright search-lights at us so we knew we’d been seen. Sadly they didn’t slow down which resulted in
quite a lot of disturbance and our boat’s back flinging out towards them. This wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t a mast sticking out 12ft behind that! Thanks to lots of engine usage and probably some good luck we remained about a foot away from them…a little bit too close for comfort though.

Pete rowing out from the boat to the barge mooring place

As the boat was moored up on the unused barge parking place we then panicked as another barge emerged out of the darkness…but luckily it was only the Dutch boat we’d been in convoy with a bit before.

We hit summit level a few days ago and have now begun the big descent to the Med. We had been looking forward to the last up lock so much and when it came we were relieved that the lassooing/ladder climbing would be over. Or so we thought. Perhaps we had already put on our down lock rose tints as it soon became clear that they are not always that straight forward.

Argee Bargee 3.
Less about the barge but interesting none the less. The day didn’t start entirely as planned. There was a slow moving barge that the VNF strongly encouraged that we should not get behind. “You must leave now”, they said in no uncertain terms, which in reality meant an interrupted breakfast and travelling in convoy with a fairly big Swedish boat. So, with this we carried on at a sensible pace (if feeling a little pressure) into the first of the day’s down locks. The first one was ok, we were just finding our feet (or ropes and hands) and reminding ourselves of how it was supposed to work. Once down and the gates had opened we hauled the ropes back around the bollards with reasonable difficulty and then drove out to be faced with another lock only a few minutes ahead of us. Ok, we had known how many there would be so we weren’t all that surprised but it’s hard to think that you will be travelling through as many locks as kilometres in a day! There were a number of locks in a big chain, meaning that once we had exited the lock it would set off the next one to open. This meant we had to travel in convoy to start with or we would break the chain and not be able to open locks.

Caroline ready with the lines

The Swedes seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get in and pull the handle to set the water moving which was a tad frustrating because it felt like we couldn’t set our own pace. Anyway, during one of the locks there was a bit of a shinnangon when Pete noticed that the Swedish boat had its back line cleated off too tightly. Of course as the water level sank, the back of their boat did not, leading to a potentially quite dangerous situation. Having shouted to them the boat’s helm rushed to the unattended line and tried to uncleat it frantically. Luckily he decided to go and grab a knife and cut the lines. The boat fell to the water, but thankfully not too far and there was no real damage other than to his pride no doubt. In fact he gave up on the back line soon after that and decided to smoke instead.

The Swede’s ‘relaxed’ approach to back-lines

Once the lock doors opened on trying to pull the rear rope back through and onto the boat, I couldn’t move it despite all my efforts. The rope had become caught in a groove in the concrete wall which meant I then had to climb into the dingy behind and then up a tall ladder to the top of the lock. Having descended about 5 metres it was a long way up and just as I arrived at the top and was ready to walk round Chris had managed to free the rope leaving me with a long walk back down the ladder that I then discovered had at least one rung that turned a bit when you held it. I tried not to think about that too much on the way down. All this had taken a while and the lock was beginning to give up on us. We stormed out just as the bleeping was starting for the closing of the doors. Phew.

Things then began to get a bit calmer…we must have been getting used to it all again.

Pete and the ship’s rat enjoying the sunshine and the end of the canals in sight.

All in all quite eventful times…Lucky the French canals have nice scenery.

Yesterday we left the canals and went on to the ‘ever so frightening’ river Soane. First we had to get through another lock. Only this one had a lock dog guarding the way out onto the river. As with other lock-keepers, the dog of the lock asked us where we’d been, where we were going and where he might find a supply of Pedigree Chum locally.

Chris and the dog of the lock.

moving from canal to river actually wasn’t very eventful and the thought of what it might be like was in fact much worse than the event itself. The river Soane is beautiful and especially so when in the fog, which lifted today.

The Saone in full mist

Now we are in St Jean de Losne because we hope to get the outboard serviced again. Yes that’s right getting it serviced for the second time in as many months because it has reached 100 hours already.

Oh look! Another lock!

Posted in French canals and rivers, Fun, Photographs on November 10, 2009 by maidofmettle

Sitting in St Dizier now with cold feet and not having looked in a mirror for at least 3 days. We are not alone…there are a few other sailing boats close by too.

For anyone who is interested our current GPS position is N 48º38.48, E 04º55.70

St Dizier

We left the civilisation of Reims and said farewell to Lynn and Bob who we met there. They were extremely helpful by lending us the keys they had for the shower, loaning us an electricity cable and cooking us some lovely food, not to mention being generally lovely and agreeing to play Chris’ game Jungle Speed with us. Reims gave us the opportunity to entertain via a meal or two as well. Thank you and have a good Christmas in Reims. Good luck with the anti-ice bottles too.


Pete, Bob, Lynn, Caroline and Chris

The last few days have been full of locks, often with only a kilometre or two between them. Armed with a new remote control for opening the gates and starting the cycle, we have now almost perfected the art of the “up” lock with only 2 people. Thanks to some advice we have been trialling a new lassooing technique. We have had mixed results: sometimes being very accurate and sometimes very not accurate. We will have plenty more practice no doubt.


Chris lassooing a bollard

Tommorow is Armistice Day so the French declare a public holiday. This means no locks are open so we get a rest day 🙂 Hopefully we might be able to find a service to go to too.

Really? The Mountain? Looks like England to me

Posted in French canals and rivers, Fun, Photographs, Walking on November 1, 2009 by maidofmettle

Reims is pretty nice, which is a good job seeing as we’re looking like being here for a good few days longer yet.  Seems we may have got it wrong about a barge crashing into lock 10 a little way ahead and instead the VNF just seem to have started the planned work on it a week later than they’d intended.  Personally i prefer the story about the barge but not if it means we’re delayed even longer than the 8th!

We recently went on a little tour around the town.  What follows is the best I can do as a virtual one for you.

You might be mistaken for thinking that we’re in London with this picture (below).  I thought I’d walked into Reims and stumbled across Picadilly Circus when I saw this…maybe I miss London or something.  I doubt it, though there is something nice about familiarity.


Further on we found this lovely dandelion fountain…

I’m sure I’ve seen one of these somewhere before but can’t quite remember where…somebody, anyone, tell me where it was….


Where have I seen one of these before?

Soon after we came across quite a posh on the inside restaurant/cafe where we sophisticatedly drank hot chocolate instead of tea (it wasn’t that English, the French seem to prefer fruit teas)


Pete and his extra gloopy hot chocolate

I was getting a bit suspicious so we took the train out of Reims to a place called Rilly La Montagne (or “Really? The Mountain” as it is otherwise known) about 15 minutes via high-speed train for a bit of a walk.  The French trains have quite a catchy little jingle that puts our English one to shame whenever a train arrives at a platform.

Lo and behold what should we find on arriving at Rilly la Montagne and walking ten minutes…Suddenly I was taking a walk in Bramshill forest!


Yay! Bramshill forest...but where's Marley gone?

Ok I admit the similarities ended there when we saw the miles and miles of Champagne grapes in rows on the hillsides.


Mmmm grapes


more grapes

French maps proved interesting.  We had a map to use but unlike a trusty Ordnance Survey map there was a lot less detail available for us because of the scale.  Despite this we managed to work a short circular route even if it wasn’t quite what we had intended.  The walk was mostly in the forest and quite possibly near to the setting for a famous fairy-tale house.  We really did find a trail of bread on the way…luckily the houses en-route were made of actual stone and not gingerbread…


Anyone seen a gingerbread house?

The forest was so nice that Chris and I decided to go back there for a day or so.  This time we travelled a bit further along on the train and armed with a tent and some food, walked our way from Avernay to Rilly.  The forest is more spooky at night and I think we both jumped quite a bit due to various animals wandering about (we hope) not to mention the barking dogs, owls and disconcerting acorns which fell throughout the night.  At least that’s what we hope they were…


Did you just hear that?!