Sunday, 14 April 2019

Clamecy (Back on two wheels)

Friday was a stay where we are day as we had to do several trips to different shops.  First it was off to a bricolage store to buy three fire extinguishers.  Just before we reached the shop, we realised it was ten to twelve and that it would probably be closing.  We really must get used to shops closing for a couple of hours at lunchtime.  We made it just in time but they only had one extinguisher and that wasn’t worth buying as the gauge was on red – it should have been on green, so goodness knows how old it was.

As the first job was unsuccessful, we decided that rather than go back to the boat for lunch that we would go and get a couple of new bikes from Auchan.  As luck would have it, they had two of the bikes we wanted in stock, so that was a success.  We cycled home which of course Buddy loves as it means he can run at his pace rather than walk at ours.

When we got back to the basin, we could see a large barge had moored up behind us making us look rather small.

Our first neighbour, albeit rather dwarfing us
It turned out to be a hotel barge called Randle that has been run by an English guy called Tim for the last 14 years.   He specializes in running cruises on this canal and we have to admit it was rather a beautiful boat.  We also met his crew: Stu who lives nearby but also has a narrowboat (The Book Barge) that he keeps on the Nivernais and Gael, the chef.  The guests were a couple of Americans and their daughter from San Fransisco who, like so many of the French, were fascinated by our boat and had lots of questions.

Reminds me that one French couple who stopped to admire the boat started asking about how we felt about Brexit.  The long and short of it was that as far as they were concerned, the Brits are more than welcome over here as they are lovely people and bring in money.  Not sure that that would be a common opinion but we do seem to be made welcome even by youths when walking around the town. It probably helps having a dog as that is always a conversation starter as Buddy is larger than the average lap dog.

After lunch we had another success, well Karen did.  I mentioned that we were sold the wrong type of phone when we were in Auxerre; we needed one that we could use a French data SIM in and use it as a hotspot for our boat internet.  The SIM was fine, but the phone would only work on 3G and we need 4G when it’s available and had told the sales assistant about the requirement.  Karen had dug out an old iPhone of mine and had managed to get it unlocked by talking with O2 so we now have fully functioning internet and a spare crappy French phone.

Buddy guarding the new bikes while lunch was prepared
It was then back to Auchan to get diesel. Karen cycled and I took the two jerry cans on the trolley.  We got rather a lot of strange looks and comments as we rattled through the narrow, cobbled streets of Clamecy, so I thought we ought to take a smoother route on the way back.  The old town is built on a hill and Auchan is directly opposite our mooring across the hill, hence the need to walk through the cobbled streets.

The journey back did mean further to walk with 40 litres of diesel, but it was flat – I don’t think I would have had the energy to push the trolley up the hill in the centre of town and back down again anyway.  We met Stu near the port on the way back and his first comment when he saw us was, ‘That’s one thing I don’t miss’.  He had spent a few years cruising around France and Belgium before settling down in this area.

The recent sun is clearly warming up the stone walls as there were plenty of lizards out sunning themselves:

I mentioned the other day about the potential stanking planks stores beside the river.  A couple of people have commented that they are probably lavoirs and I’m sure they’re right.  They are built in the same style as the ones you come across in towns by the rivers but not so elaborate, presumably because they didn’t have to support so many people.

The one at Crain (by the narrows) was particularly small and did mean the villagers had nearly a kilometre to walk to do their laundry but that’s nothing to country folk ūüėČ

We need to do a bit of journey planning as we want to get back to the car by the end of June to have a long weekend back in the UK for a family event.  We are currently doing the Burgundy loop in an anticlockwise direction, 660 or so kilometres through 400 locks.  In the first fortnight we have travelled 92 km up 42 locks so we will sit down over the weekend and workout if the remainder is doable at the pace we want to go.  It clearly is doable if we cruised every day but that rather takes the fun away of living over here and stopping to explore.

The Burgundy ring in context: we started at 'home' and have reached Clamecy
If we end up not getting back to Migennes in time, then it’s no big deal as long as we can leave the boat somewhere near a train station.

Saturday saw us heading up to Clamecy market in the morning.  Although we managed to get fruit, vegetables, cheese and cold meats for the week we would still have to do a supermarket shop later in the day so that we were stocked up for the coming week.

Buddy being brave in the river before our walk to the market
On our way into town we passed Martin & Hilary on their boat and he told us that he got his French and EU flags in the market last year for €1.50.  We searched around but couldn’t find any so will have to continue the search.

After lunch we cycled a couple of miles or so to a bricolage store on a retail park on the far side of Clamecy.  It was a nice ride as it was along the river bank and it meant Buddy could have a good run.  We both agreed that we were pleased that we had bought the bikes as neither of us felt we had the energy for walking.  Even though the sun was out it definitely felt chilly in exposed places by the river as there was a cold breeze blowing.

There used to be a cut through Clamecy with a lock at either end.  The locks are now disused, and all boats use the river like we did on our way up on Wednesday.

Disused lock at southern end of the cut
Lock chamber at northern end has been filled in…
…but the top gates are still in place
We were semi-successful in the bricolage store and bought the one and only extinguisher they had in stock – oh well, still two to go.  We popped into Leclerc to get the rest of the week's groceries and then cycled home to stay on board for the rest of the day.  

Later on, Martin came around to find out when we were leaving as they were planning on going on Sunday morning.  As I had already agreed 10.00am with the √©clusiers we decided to cruise together and share locks.  This would be the first time we have shared a lock over here so that will be interesting.  Their boat is 4 metres wide (double our width) and as the locks are only just over 5 metres wide it means we will have to go up in single file.


  1. Getting fuel is clearly a hassle! What do the French boaters do if they don't take a trolley up and down cobbled streets?

    1. Hire boaters don't need to worry as bases always have fuel like in UK. Most boats are much larger than us and consequently have much larger tanks. For example the guy on Randle told me he gets two or three deliveries a year and can take 4 tonnes which I assume is about 6,000 litres. Other Dutch barges gang up and get tanker deliveries too (apparently). Other narrowboaters do as we do

  2. 4 tonnes = 4,000 L I think. Bike thieves are also an issue in France, probably no worse than the UK but consider minimising the chance of loss with really heavy duty chains (like the ones you see used on scooters and motor cycles). A bit expensive and heavy to carry but will dissuade the casual theives (the professionals have batter powered angle grinders!).

    1. Thanks Ian, I never really got to grips with tons and tonnes!

      When bikes are on back I take a wheel and saddle off each and store inside. Hopefully this also deters would be thieves