Friday, 23 July 2021

Montureux-lès-Baulay (back to normal)

Serenity, tranquillity & peace after being released from our lock home
On Sunday, VNF arrived for their morning checks and assured us that the river will remain closed until Tuesday morning at the earliest so we were free to do our own thing until then.  As we only have 40 kilometres left on the river before we get onto the Canal des Vosges, we thought we’d take the car and spend the day doing some investigating.  Our thinking being that we should get off the river as soon as it reopens and head for the canal which should only take a couple of days. 

Our main destination for our trip was Corre where the canal starts, so after breakfast we made sure the lines were plenty loose enough for further falls in level and set off in the car.  The halfway point was Montureux-lès-Baulay, and it looked a lovely mooring from pictures we’d seen so that was where we wanted to stop on the first night once we got going again.  The first three moorings we checked were still under water and to make it worse we couldn’t find the one at Montureux-lès-Baulay.  

It seemed every village we went through had at least one if not two or three lavoirs.  I will show you a couple pictures; this first pair were at either end of Cendrecourt and they caught our attention as they had the same design even though they were different sizes.

Similar designs in Cendrecourt

At Ormoy we found three lavoirs, two of which were simple, waterside washing stones on the lock cut through the village.

The picture on the left also shows the flood gates under the bridge.  These were preventing the swollen river from damaging the lock cut; they will open automatically when the levels either side equalise.

When we arrived at Corre we were surprised how many boats were in the marina and visitors' mooring alongside but soon realised that quite a few were holed up there waiting for the river to reopen.  As soon as we got out of the car, we met a British couple who were off to meet friends for lunch but not before they explained how they were travelling down to the south on their boat having finally got over to France in May.  We were particularly looking for Sally & Glen who we knew were moored at Corre and finally found them on the visitors' mooring.

We sat chatting on their back deck for a couple of hours and it soon transpired how many friends we had in common on the waterways in France.  As they are heading north in front of us, we asked them about the mooring that we weren't able to find on the journey up and they explained how to find it from the road.  We would see a La Poste sign outside a house that opens as a post office for a couple of hours on two or three mornings a week.  The mooring would be reached by walking down what appears to be the cottage’s drive – no wonder we couldn’t find it.  On our way home, we stopped at Montureux-lès-Baulay again and this time found the mooring which was in a wonderful location just as the pictures described.

By Tuesday morning the level gauges showed the water in the lock had gone down by nearly 1.50 metres since we were moved into it and the reach below had dropped by 2.70 metres.

Two days ago the water was 20cm from the top of the gauge and the weir couldn't be seen

We were definitely getting back to normal and expected the river would open later in the day.  Of course, it couldn’t be re-opened where we were until VNF disconnected us from their electricity supply and opened the lock for us.  They turned up at 8.00am and told us the river was reopening that morning so we could move out of the lock as soon as we were ready.  Like when we went into the lock we jumped at the chance to move out, albeit for about 100 metres upstream back to the lovely mooring we'd been on when we were moved into lock five days previously.  Our plan was to stay there while Karen worked for a couple of days and then we'd head to Corre and the Canal des Vosges on Thursday. 

Moored back above the lock on Tuesday morning
While we'd been living in the lock it's been so hot that Buddy has spent most of the daylight hours in the shade of the steps of the lock control hut.  Once the sun was fully up, he showed no inclination in having a walk and as it isn’t fair trying to make a dog walk in the heat especially one with a black coat like his, he wasn't walked very far.

Buddy’s favourite place

Once we were settled back on the mooring, I took the car to Corre to meet Sally.  She was kindly driving me back to the boat so we wouldn’t have to worry about moving the car while we travelled up the remainder of the river.  The journey there and back went without mishap, and we now owe Sally & Glen a return favour.  That won’t be difficult as they're car hopping this year too and following the same route as us so we’re bound to bump into each other again.

It was another hot day therefore Buddy still didn’t need walking much and I rigged up our spare parasol to cast some shade for him on the bank.  I also took advantage of the parasol shade as I ‘d removed two of the side hatches to revarnish them and had somewhere to let them dry between coats, out of the direct sunlight.

I came across a photograph, dating from the 1900s, of the weir next to the lock we’d been in.  In those days it was a needle dam which was controlled by men having the arduous task of removing or inserting needles as appropriate, according to the levels and the flow.  When we were on the River Marne in 2019, we were amazed to come across two needle dams that were still in operation.  The photo was taken in the summer judging by the fly netting on the lock cottage door and the fact that there are only a few needles removed.  Mind you, if it'd been like the week we'd just had then there wouldn’t have been any needles in at all, so you can’t always tell 😉


Buddy caused us some embarrassment on Tuesday evening.  Every morning and evening a small herd of Charolais walk along the road opposite us and over the bridge.  It generally goes without mishap, but Buddy decided to bark at them from the back deck (the only time he barks is if he sees something unusual) and this unnerved them, and they went crashing into the wood beside the road.  The farmer appeared and after some while finally managed to get them to come out, but we kept ourselves hidden inside in case he realised the cause of the skirmish came from the boat.   

August is usually the hottest month over here, so we’ve often thought that it would be a good time to take a holiday and catch up with the family back in the UK.  The heatwave of 2019 set us on that track but last year it wasn’t possible because of the health situation.  This year suddenly looked promising when the UK announced that fully jabbed visitors from the EU could avoid isolating for ten days.  This soon backfired on us when they then said it only applied to people vaccinated in the UK followed quickly by saying it wouldn’t apply to France anyway.  As it now seems both France and England are getting closer to at least one of them putting the other on their red list we’ve decided to bite the bullet and go over before it’s too late.

Of course, we’ve a few things to arrange like covid testing, vet visit for Buddy and not least, finding somewhere to leave the boat for a month.  After a successful couple of hours of research and planning we think we can make it back next Thursday so have booked return tunnel tickets.  We will stay with our friends, Maureen & Garry, for a couple of nights on the way back to Calais.  They are in Metz, taking part in the biennial hot air balloon festival and this will be a good opportunity to attend.  Records won’t be broken this year as many participants from outside of Europe won’t be travelling, especially the Brits.   

Wednesday dawned hot and bright, pretty much as the long-range forecast says it will be for the next few weeks with the odd chance of a thunderstorm thrown in.

A bit of mist over the fields at 6.00am on Wednesday

In the hot weather Buddy wants to get outside about two hours earlier than his usual getting up time of 9.00am.  We don’t blame him as it is the coolest part of the day.

Enjoying the early morning scents and sights

The river was practically back to normal levels and looked like there was only about 20 cm further to drop.  We never took a picture when it was at its highest and just about to go over the lock, but you can sort of see the then and now differences, especially looking at the lock landing.  Fingers crossed that this is the last time we have to talk about floods this summer.    

As expected, a lot of boats had come through on Tuesday once the river was open and we must have seen at least 15, all but two of which were heading downstream in the opposite direction to us.  Wednesday started busy too but in the end, there weren’t quite as many boats but nearly all were going downstream again, so it bodes well for us finding a decent mooring when we set off on Thursday.

I spent a lot of Wednesday morning booking appointments which isn’t as easy as it sounds, not just because of having to have conversations in French, but because of the timings.  Buddy needs his appointment between one and five days before travel and we need our covid test within three days of travelling.  After sorting that out it was a matter of booking day two & eight mandatory covid tests in the UK and also the day five release test.  Fortunately, the price of tests has come down dramatically in England and more than halved since we last had to have one back in February.  The French ones are still free for nationals and residents, but this is coming to an end soon as one of the government ploys to encourage people to get vaccinated rather than keep testing themselves.  They started charging tourists at the beginning of July but I must admit we couldn't understand why they were ever free.

During the afternoon Mary-Jane & Michael on Olivia Rose came past, and we chatted briefly as they slowed to wait for the lock.  It was Mary-Jane’s book that Ian McCaulay had reviewed for the Dutch Barge Association and was the source of the lavoir joke in a recent blog entry.

In the evening we heard the first signs of local youth, since we’d been here, in the form of excited screams followed by splashes.  They were balancing on the bridge railings, in pairs, before diving into the water below.  I know swimming in the rivers is popular all over the world especially when it’s hot like now, but we were impressed at their balancing skills – each pair stood for ages before jumping in at the same time.

Balancing act

Following nine days without moving, other than going into the Conflandey lock for safety and then coming out again five days later, we set off for Montureux-lès-Baulay on Thursday morning.  After five miles or so we were passing the mooring at Baulay where I’d stupidly left the car when the river was rising.

Our car had been marooned behind the two poplars on the right

A little further on we were approaching the only lock of the day:


Like all the river locks the water wasn’t particularly deep, at a little over two metres, but as the sides had added height to cope with raised water levels it meant Karen was up on the roof performing her own balancing act:  

Coming into Montureux-lès-Baulay the first building we passed was the church whose Burgundian tiled roof was of a different design to others we’ve seen.  Although it likely had the same number of tiles, and the colours are probably in the same proportion as the usual bell tower roofs, we were struck with how different the pattern made it look.

Pictures can’t do the roof justice

Soon after the lock we found the mooring we were looking for and saw that it was empty.  About ten boats had passed us during the morning’s cruise so we were rather hoping that if anyone had been on the mooring overnight then they would have been one of the ones that had passed us.

Moored at Montureux-lès-Baulay

There were a lot of butterflies on the bank, but the heat of the day wasn’t making them very obliging.  A painted lady did settle for a while and let me take a picture.  For some reason, although they are very common butterflies, I always find it hard to find them at rest for any period of time.

Painted lady (its fat abdomen indicates that it’s probably a female full of eggs)

There was a water tap at the mooring, but boaters have to visit the post office to get it turned on.  As the post office is only open for a couple of hours, three days a week, it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair.  It was going to be open on Friday morning so we would be in luck, and when it opens I'll pop in and ask.

La Poste lean-to behind the jeep

As expected, the village was deserted when we went for a short walk after lunch.  A small stream ran parallel with the main street through the village, and we let Buddy play and cool down in the water for a while.

Playing hide & seek in the shade
Eastern exit to the village

We tried to get better shots of the church roof but were still unlucky:

With a stream running through the village, we were duty bound to look for lavoirs.  We found two, one of which had had its basin removed but had an attractive mural on the outside.

The mural depicting lavandières doing their laundry

Later in the afternoon a hire boat with two Swiss couples on board pulled up to share our mooring for the night.  They were really rather sweet, asking if it was OK for them to moor with us.  I do hope that it was out of plain good manners, and not because they’d had a hard time from another boater elsewhere.  A bit later on a widebeam called Imagine turned up and the couple on board turned out to be English, Caroline & Tony.  I went to help them moor up and said it would be fine to moor alongside us if they couldn't get into the bank.  They managed to get in just in front of the Swiss boat and we popped around once they'd settled in and had a pleasant evening over a few drinks on their back deck.

On Thursday we cruised eight miles up one lock. 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Conflandey (Karen’s gendarme encounter)

After saying we’ve been pretty lucky avoiding the worst of the rain it did rain all through Wednesday night having started in the middle of the afternoon.  A lot more rain must have fallen further upstream and on days previous to that as the river had risen quite a bit during the night.  I was glad we’d loosened our lines yet again just before retiring.  We had a further notice from VNF that the whole river and not just the reach below us was now closed until at least midday on Saturday. We obviously wouldn’t be moving in the boat for a few days, so we thought we’d better go and retrieve the car from Baulay having only moved it there yesterday. 

Just as well we went to get the car!

It was only an 8.5-kilometre walk which we managed in the dry - almost.  It’s not that it rained but the road was flooded under a railway bridge and as there was no way around it there’d been nothing for it but to wade through.

At about halfway we went through Port d’Atelier which had been the scene of an horrific train accident in 1949.  This was when passenger trains still ran through here on their way from Paris to Basle.  It was also a busy junction as another line ran from Nancy to Dijon as well as a third local line.  The accident involved one of the passenger trains in a collision with a freight train and 43 people were killed.

Recent memorial to the 43

When we arrived at Baulay we walked along beside a railway cutting which was the scene of several successful sabotages by the French resistance in 1944 during WWII; German munitions and troop trains being the target.  As we’ve seen in other places, there were several information boards showing pictures of the aftermath of some of the attacks and also descriptions of the work carried out by the resistance.

Information boards marking the 70th anniversary

The cutting today

You may have noticed the telegraph pole in the picture above, still with many intact ceramic insulator pots.  We’d passed dozens of these poles in the same state as we'd walked alongside the railway line on the way into Baulay, although some of the ceramic pots had been replaced by glass versions. Railway telegraph poles with these insulator pots intact are a rare sight these days and it's not just because young lads use them for target practice, the pots fetch a tidy sum on auction sites like Ebay. 

We had to walk through the village to get down to the river where I'd parked the car.  As the river came into view, we could see it had burst its banks and the track running down to the car was also flooded.  I dropped Karen and Buddy off where the track left the road and went down to the car.  Once again, I had to wade through the water and fortunately was able to get the car out.   The river had risen so much that the mooring pontoon was completely covered so I was glad we hadn’t moved the boat there yesterday.

A salutary lesson in where not to park the car

When I got back to the road, Karen was being interviewed by a gendarme.  Someone had reported our car down by the river and there was concern it was going to drift away as the levels rose.  The gendarme couldn’t really understand why we’d left the car there to go for a walk until Karen managed to explain that it had been left there the previous day when the river was lower and there were also camper vans there.  After checking Karen’s id and taking a picture of it, he seemed happy with the explanation and let us carry on our way.

We decided to spend the rest of the day on board checking the water levels and lines every couple of hours.  A depth gauge at the exit to the lock was showing that the reach below us was rising by 10cm every couple of hours but the reach we were on was rising more slowly and even looked to have stopped during the afternoon.  VNF were clearly monitoring levels and adjusting the weir heights accordingly.

Gauge shows the level has gone up by 1.5 metres in 48 hours 

Less sophisticated: measuring how high the boat was rising against the bank

The water was flowing very fast past the boat, but pictures make it look quite tranquil.  It seemed that every time we looked out a branch or a tree was going by.

Branches on their way to the weir

We counted ourselves fortunate compared to countries further north, especially Germany and Belgium where the disastrous flooding continues.  Although I have to admit that we had bags packed in case we had to make a sudden exit and we set the alarm so we could make regular checks on the situation during the night.

The river where we were moored was 60cm higher by Friday morning, so it looked like another day of monitoring every couple of hours.  The reach below had also risen, and the water was almost at the same height either side of the weir.

First thing on Friday - lock gates will soon be under water

24 hours previously the lock landing and weir was still just visible

A really friendly VNF guy, Davide, came to check we were OK during the morning.  He wanted to know if we felt safe and if we needed electricity or water.  We told him that we didn’t need electricity and couldn’t believe they would have run a cable from the control hut in the lock if we’d wanted it.  We had a long discussion about how all the flood locks and weirs are automatic on this river and that since the morning all the weirs were laying flat. We said we wouldn’t be worried until the bottom of the boat was level with the top of the bank as we had no way of stopping the boat moving over the side.  He said they didn’t expect the level to rise by more than another 20cm so we were relieved but will keep an eye on the data from the river monitoring stations via vigicrues.gouv.fr.  He also said they are hoping to start reopening the river on Monday.  All this made us feel quite relieved and more in the mood for planning what to do over the weekend as we wouldn’t be moving. 

The next monitoring station upstream

As you can see, the levels here are three metres higher than they were during the previous 30 days.  There is a wealth of information and even one tab that shows the water level every six minutes for the last 30 days (Mike Fielding, please note).

During the afternoon on Friday, VNF Davide turned up again and told us that he and the team were worried about where we were moored as they expected the levels to rise higher than they originally thought.  He asked if we would spend the weekend in the lock as it would be safer than where we were.  We jumped at the chance and got the boat ready while he got the lock set.  Our hearts were in our mouths as we let the boat drift back on its own with all three of us pulling it into the side.  Fortunately, we were on the inside of the bend, so the current wasn’t too bad.  When we neared the lock entrance the boat sped up because the river became narrower hence the flow increased.  I jumped on the boat and put the engine in forwards to bring the boat to a halt and we were able to control the entry into the lock.  We were soon tied up and, as Davide was practically insisting we use their electricity, we hooked up into the lock control room.  

Moored in the lock with some spectators from the lock cottage

Davide made sure we would call the emergency number any time during the night if the level rose near the top of the lock.  We promised we would and had another night with the alarm going off every few hours.

Our view of the weir – it’s going to be a noisy night

The weir wasn’t that noisy overnight as the water was flowing straight through rather than thundering down a two-metre drop.  We now have rain-free days forecast and with some days back into the 30s it seems summer may be returning and fingers crossed that's the end of the rain.

The sun was up early on Saturday morning and as soon as I opened the doors Buddy was straight outside to sit on the lock side. 

Looking calm at sunup on Saturday morning

We saw the levels rise slightly during our overnight checks but by the morning they were back to where they were when we went to bed so that was reassuring.  A little while later we received an avis from VNF stating that there will be a delay in reopening the river.  Rather than noon on Saturday it will now be 17.00 on Tuesday and we weren’t surprised as there’s a lot of water to get down to join the Rhône at Lyon and then the Med.  It meant we would be in the lock for at least four more nights, so we set about making it more homely by doing this like putting out our table and chairs.

We also wanted to make sure we had access to water so put our containers in the boot of the car and set out for the port at Fouchécourt which was a little further upstream than where we’d had the car/gendarme debacle at Baulay.  Our journey took us through Port d’Atelier, the village of the train stories, and we couldn’t believe we were caught at the level crossing.  Usually, there is only one train a week and it’s the one that carries the week’s production from the wire works at Conflandey.  At least we knew what the coils of wire were on the wagons and where they'd come from.

As we left the village, we passed a lavoir that had two firsts for us: a cast iron basin and wooden washing ‘stones’.

The unusual basin in the lavoir at Port d’Atelier

The next village was Baulay where the road to Fouchécourt, our destination, crosses the Saône where I’d stupidly left the car.  The road leading to the bridge was now impassable, so we parked up and walked as far as we dared.

Bridge from Baulay to Fouchécourt

When we had the issue with the car it was parked on the other side of the two poplar trees in the distance just to right of bridge, so we understood why the police were concerned.  As we couldn’t get over the bridge, we gave up the idea of going to Fouchécourt and went back to our new ‘lock’ home.

The lady in the lock cottage caught my attention when we returned and asked if we needed any food or drink.  I thanked her and explained we had access to a car which she hadn’t realised.  I took the opportunity to ask if we could use her water tap to fill up our containers which she readily agreed to.  We had quite a long conversation but one of those where I wasn’t sure how much either of us really understood.

It turned out to be a bit of a palaver fetching the water as there was a steep bank up to the house.  There were steps down to the lock, but they were at the farthest end of the lock which was also the furthest away from the tap.  As I’m bound to end up doing myself a mischief if we do it again, I think I’ll leave a bottle of wine on their doorstep with a thank you note.  I will then brush up on my hose vocabulary so before we leave I can ask to connect our hoses (we will need both because of the distance) direct to her tap and top the tank right up.

After lunch we drove back down to Scey-sur-Saône to see the state of the river and also have a walk.  Scey was where we were moored right above the weir and we’d had a hair raising time turning in the strengthening stream to moor up.  It was also the place where the weir kept us awake.  Not surprisingly there were no boats moored there as we suspect VNF ensure everyone gets to places of safety when they know the river is rising.  The small, popular campsite by river had been flooded and we could see a few abandoned tents and patio furniture.

I bet they weren’t expecting this July

As the gorgeous weather was back, we spent the evening sitting outside enjoying the peace and solitude, almost disbelieving that we would have four more nights in the lock.  We had to bear in mind that we're in a river lock and therefore when it's back to its normal level the water will be a couple of metres below the top of the lock wall.  That's why, in the picture of us in the lock above, it looks like everything is normal as it would be in a canal lock.  As long as we keep an eye on our lines and loosen them every so often we'll be fine as the level drops back to normal.

To finish this update, I’ll include a joke sent to me by an Australian friend, Ian McCaulay.   We met Ian & Lisette on their boat on the River Yonne during 2019 and sadly for them they have been unable to get over to Catherina Elisabeth since, hopefully they will be allowed over in 2022.  Ian saw the joke in a book he reviewed on off grid life by Mary-Jane Houlton and immediately thought of us:

An elderly village priest felt awkward when the local women told him they had been unfaithful to their husbands during confession. Instead, when they had committed adultery, he asked them to say ‘Monsieur le curé, I’ve fallen in the lavoir.’ Eventually the old priest retired and a young priest took his place. Each week the day of confession arrived and the new priest noticed a particular phrase kept cropping up – ‘Monsieur le curé, I’ve fallen in the lavoir.’ Concerned that somebody could get seriously injured, the young priest went to see the mayor to request that he carry out work on the lavoir to put an end to these accidents. The mayor, who was fully aware of the real meaning of the phrase, patted him on the shoulder and reassured him, saying there was nothing to worry about. The young priest persisted ‘It is serious. You must know this already for your own wife fell in three times last week.’  

The author’s source was https://vanessafrance.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/restoration-of-the-lavoir-in-caylus/

 






Thursday, 15 July 2021

Conflandey (Brexit effect on flags)

Ready for French national day
It was pretty cloudy on Sunday morning but as it wasn’t raining, we left for Chemilly straight after breakfast.  Our mooring had been so quiet compared with the noisy weir at Scey-sur-Saône the night before that we’d spent ages lying in bed listening to the birdsong before getting up.

Leaving our peaceful mooring by the château at Chemilly

As we went up the lock at Chemilly Karen popped into the lock cottage to buy some eggs.

Nice old couple waving goodbye to Karen (note the old lock information plate above the door)

It didn’t take long to get to our destination for the day, Port-sur-Saône, where a lock cut runs through the town as well as the river Saône. As we left the lock off the river, we passed the port. 

The port at Port-sur-Saône

The port was full, and we hadn’t expected to moor there anyway as it’s both a hire base and a base for private boaters to keep their boats.  Instead, we carried on to the centre of town and moored on the long quay.

Moored in the middle of Port-sur-Saône

As we’d arrived well before lunch, we went off to explore the town.  The main street crossed the other end of the quay, so we were soon in the centre of things.  We came up into the square in front of the mairie which seemed to have a few things going on.  First, we saw three bronze figures and found out they were entitled “Statues of the third millennium” and represented tolerance and brotherhood between people.  They were designed by Jean Thiancourt and cast by Antonio Serralheiro, a Portuguese artist, who lived and died in Port-sur-Saône.

Karen sat next to an African boy who's offering to play football with anybody

Completing the set, an Asian lad chatting to a seated European girl

Also in the square were a group of elephants, a giraffe and some African tribespeople.  We couldn’t find out much about these other than they were artworks from the Ivory Coast which, for a reason we also couldn’t ascertain, has strong links with the town.

Elephants, a giraffe and a postcard mural

The African tribespeople in front of the mairie

The wall in the background behind the elephants contains a mural of old postcards of the town.  Sadly, like much of the rest of the town, they were in a sorry state of repair.  Opposite the square stood the church and another small square with a war memorial. 

The church.  Oh, and look what is lurking in the foreground!

We were really surprised to find two further lavoirs in the town as many of them were removed in the larger towns to make way for developments.  That was before the state recognised their historical importance, both socially and architecturally, and started protecting them.  

Behind the war memorial in the church square was another fresco which had also seen better days.  This one was painted in 1990 and depicted the fight for human rights by people such as Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Louise Michel and many others.  It was good to read later that a project has been initiated to rejuvenate both this and the postcards fresco.

Fresque des Droits de l’Homme behind the war memorial

Before we leave arty things, I’ll mention that there’s at least two modern life sized fishermen in white dotted around.  This one is sitting on the bridge across the river Saône:

Here he is again, from the main street through town:

Seeing the flags, we were reminded once again that the UK is no longer in the EU.  Many towns fly all the flags of the EU states and, until this year, the Union flag was among them: sadly, no longer.  Thinking about the Union flag or Union Jack made me realise something I’d never noticed before, the flag is a only mixture of the flags of England, Scotland and Ireland.  This uncovered another big hole in my history education – why isn’t Wales included?  I can only assume that England and Wales were one nation when the union with Scotland happened.

While on things European, we were pleased to receive our digital EU covid vaccination certificates over the weekend.  Hopefully, the UK will soon recognise the EU certificate and make popping back to the UK more realistic for people in our situation.  Especially as the EU already accepts the UK digital certificate.

When our friends Mike & Aileen visited Port-sur-Saône, they were less than impressed and Aileen described it as a shithole in her blog.  Mind you, they did visit on a rainy day.  Nevertheless, even though it was hot and sunny, we hadn’t been expecting much, and I suppose the best I can say was that it was very tired.   

As we crossed the bridge with the flags and the statue of the fisherman a Frenchman stopped us and asked if we spoke French to which we gave the usual response along the lines of, “Nous parlons Français juste un peu”.  He asked if we were from the péniche anglaise and it transpired that he’d seen us passing when he was walking along by the river earlier.  We had quite a good conversation and he spoke a little English sometimes too.  I was dying to ask what he thought of the town when he announced that his wife (no longer alive) was born and bred in the town, and he loves coming back as its such a nice place and his daughter and grandchildren live there.  Needless to say we didn’t mention what we thought of it.  Later in the afternoon he stopped by with his granddaughters and two of their friends as he wanted to show them our boat. 

The sun was fully out by mid-afternoon and as it was so hot we just lazed around waiting for the England-Italy game which, being as we’re in France, started an hour later for us.

On Sunday we cruised four miles up two locks.

Karen was back at work on Monday morning and my main job for the day was to retrieve the car from Gray.  I’d worked out that I could get the later of the two buses a day that run between Vesoul and Combeaufontaine, stopping at Port-sur-Saône halfway.  I would then wait 15 minutes at Combeaufontaine for a much longer journey to Gray.  I’d been very careful checking the small print on the timetables to check which days the buses run, and it turned out they were weekdays only.  I’d also bought a fresh block of tickets for my Mobigo bus app.

The timetable indicated that the bus stopped at the mairie in Port-sur-Saône, so I waited outside even though there was no sign of a bus stop.  A minibus arrived dead on time, and I hopped on only to find I couldn’t get my ticket app to work.  It was all rather embarrassing as I couldn’t explain to the busdriver lady what was going wrong.  In the end I gave her €1.50 in cash and sat down.  Fortunately, there was no one else on the bus so the bus driver was the only witness to my embarrassment.

We arrived at Combeaufontaine after a hair-raising ride, and I did wonder if she was making a point that I’d delayed things when I got on.  As I got off, I checked that this would be the same stop that would be used by the bus to Gray.  She said it was and asked if I’d made a réservation demandée.  I told her I hadn’t, and she explained that I need to make the réservation demandée by phone on the day before the journey.  Once again, I was saved too much embarrassment as there was nobody to hear my poor French or laugh at my mistake.  Fortunately, she was making the return journey to Vesoul about 20 minutes later so all I could do was wait for her to come back.

At least the bus stop in Combeaufontaine was by a lavoir!

The lavoir by the bus stop at Combeaufontaine

I got back on the minibus rather sheepishly and proffered my €1.50 but she refused to accept it and was really friendly and offered me loads of apologies.  When I got home, I checked online and couldn’t find anything to indicate that I had to ring to make the reservation for that service, but I rang anyway.  After another conversation that seemed to go on for ages, as both the girl on the end of the line and I were repeating practically everything, I felt confident I’d made my réservation demandée.  Let’s see what happens tomorrow when I get back to Combeaufontaine.  If my plan fails then I’ll have to wait until Thursday because everything will be closed down on Wednesday, July 14th.

It was due to rain on Tuesday, but it didn’t matter as Karen was working and I was having round two of car retrieval.  The same busdriver lady picked me up by the mairie and we chatted for a while, but I had to draw it to a close after a while as I find it hard work concentrating on the language for any length of time.  When we arrived at Combeaufontaine, the connecting minibus was waiting for me, so I got to Gray OK.  The state subsidies must be high for these rural bus companies as my fare was only €1.50 for a 45-minute journey.

It was really warm when I got out at Gray and the town was packed; a fair had gone up along the quay which was also crammed with boats into the distance, far more than when we’d stayed there.  I picked the car up and headed for home via Conflandey to check the mooring, our plan was to move there in the evening if all was OK.

I mentioned recently about how in the 19th century many Burgundian mairies were built over washhouses thus reinforcing the attitude to women in those days who were expected to do the laundry while men did only things men could do, in the mairie.  At Dampierre-sur-Salon I was lucky enough to pass one of these buildings.

At least the women were under cover and protected from the sun or inclement weather, unlike the open air one in the park opposite that had been converted to a flower display as with the one Karen found at St-Albin last week.

In Place de Bosquet, Dampierre-sur-Salon

The next village was back to highlighting the gender differences as the lavoir was positioned outside the mairie but at least it wasn’t underneath.

In Vaite

I won’t show all the lavoirs from my journey to Conflandey but will leave you with this pretty but open air one in the centre of Lavoncourt.  It conjured up interesting images of women washing clothes in the centre with animals drinking around the outside. 

In Lavoncourt

Conflandey was a lovely little village with a great open mooring above the lock and I found myself thinking how stunning it would all be in the summer and then realising we were in the middle of July already.  The mooring was extra attractive as there was no path alongside which meant Buddy would be safe off his lead.

Where we hoped to moor at Conflandey

My only concern was getting through the lock as the flow from the weir alongside was quite strong and not only that, but there was also a tributary coming in from the other side of the lock entrance making the water extra turbulent.  The different colours of the two rivers can clearly be seen here at their confluence.

River Saône at the top and the Lasterne on the bottom

Looking upstream, the Saône coming over the weir and the Lasterne joining from the right

When Karen finished work, we set off for Conflandey.  Karen took the car, and I took the boat with the intention of meeting her as she walked back downstream with Buddy.  It was still quite grey but at least the rain was still holding off for the journey.  As I left Port-sur-Saône I went under the viaduct carrying a bypass that was under construction.  It’s due to open later this year and will hopefully allow the town to become a far more attractive place without the through traffic.

The viaduct carrying the new bypass

Once Karen had parked up, she set off to meet me but stopped by a wire producing works just below the weir.  Wire has been produced there for over 100 years and the company seemed very proud of their heritage.  The wall along the towpath contained many information boards some of which depicted stories of families who worked at the factory before the first world war.

Montage along the mill wall
One of the many posters showing details of workers’ families

After a while Karen had to turn around as the towpath ran out, so walked back up to the lock so she could help me through when I arrived.  The river was wide for much of my journey, so I didn’t have to struggle against the flow, but it was a different story approaching the lock because of the turbulence. 

Approaching the écluse de Conflandey

I got through with a fair bit of rocking, steering one way and then the other and picked Karen up at the lock entrance.  Once we were moored up, we got the bunting out to decorate the boat ready for the French national day on Wednesday.

Putting the flags up for la fête nationale

On Tuesday we cruised four miles up one lock.

Before I start on Wednesday I want to respond to Helen & Chris who left a comment asking a question about UK/EU gas bottle adpaters.  I’m not convinced that Blogger handles my responses to comments correctly so here are the salient points: “This is a link to the adapter we purchased in the UK. Another solution would be to buy an EU regulator from a brico or large supermarket over here to replace the existing UK regulator.

Although the predicted rain didn’t fall on Tuesday, the whole country was expecting bad weather on July 14th, so we prepared to stay put for the day.  It hadn’t started when I finished breakfast, so I took the car to Baulay to check the mooring there.  As it seemed a pleasant place with no boats, I left the car in the village and then cycled back.  There wasn’t a towpath, so I cycled back along the lanes which were even quieter than usual because of the national holiday. 

When I got back to the boat it still hadn’t started raining so I took Buddy out for a walk.  We kept dry and I was lucky enough to see my first hoopoe of the year.  These birds are unmistakable in flight because of their pink bodies and back and white striped tails.  We also popped down to the wire works and went around to the front entrance where the railings were bedecked with even more information boards.

This one shows one of the factory rooms


Taking a peek at cables of wire inside

Between the wire works and the village of Conflandey stands a large island with a rather run-down chateau in the centre.  When the works was first built, a path across the island was installed to provide access for the workers.  It ran across a suspension bridge on each side of the island and was raised on pillars as it crossed the chateau’s gardens on the island.

The path across the now greatly overgrown gardens

The chateau has seen better days

Some of you will be pleased to know that I couldn’t find a lavoir in the village, but it did have a war memorial standing outside the church:

Walking back across the road bridge I was able to make a comparison between nowadays and the river as it was over 100 years ago as seen on one of the factory information boards.  The weir in those days was a needle dam and has now been replaced and the lock has been rebuilt too.  The factory could be clearly seen in the distance on the left whereas now it’s almost obscured by trees.

 

Looking the other way to our boat, you can understand how I had a ‘forgetting it’s July’ moment thinking how glorious it would have looked if it were a summer’s day.

Moored at Conflandey

The rain started in the middle of the afternoon, and it was still at it when we went to bed so it goes without saying that we stayed put.  During the evening we had an Avis telling us that because of the rising levels, the pound below the one we're moored on is closed until Saturday at least.  The lock below us was the problem as it's alongside a weir as opposed to being in a lock cut like nearly all the others on the upper Saône.  We weren't surprised as it had been tricky when we'd come up 24 hours previously, so it was just as well we decided to move on from Port-sur-Saône when we did.