Our Barge, Odysseus

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back to Our Other Life - Sept 9-15

We got back to the boat late Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning found us hard at work on tasks that had to be completed before we returned to Ventura. Some painting needed to be done, engine maintenance performed and a thorough washing and cleaning was called for.
Our journey back would begin Tuesday morning. The rental car had to be dropped off in Dijon, then the TGV "bullet train" would whisk us off to Paris. After spending the night there, we would board the Eurostar for the trip under the English Channel to London's Heathrow Airport where we would place ourselves as the mercy of British Air for the flight to Los Angeles. By 7 pm Wednesday we would be in Southern California.

Much Less Than a Year in Provence - Sept 3-8

We had a medium-long list of boat chores to attend to before we headed back to Ventura but that journey didn't start until the 15th so we decided we had time for a little adventure not involving barges or canals.
Thursday morning in the pouring rain we jumped into our rental car and headed south for Provence taking the long way around through the French alps. We were headed in the general direction of Grenoble and Albertville, site of the winter Olympics years ago. Because of the weather, most of the mountaintops were covered in a cloud blanket but the weather cleared somewhat as we approached our first stop in Annecy. We parked the car in the lot at the train station and started walking toward the tourist office to find a room but stumbled on a decent, affordable hotel on the way and checked into the Hotel du Nord for the night.
What a beautiful town! Situated on the shores of the appropriately named Lac d'Annecy, the Canal du Thiou runs through town and provides several picture-taking opportunities as well as a great setting for waterside dining. Appropriately we had fondue for dinner.

We set out the next morning, heading into the mountains. The weather hadn't completely cleared but by afternoon we were up in the Alps, luckily too early for snow. We did cross the Col Galibier at about 7,500 feet with the temperature about 45 fahrenheit.

A look back down the road.

Friday night we spent in Digne-les-Baines, the chief town of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region; at least we were in a department with "Provence" in the name and the scenery was beginning to look more like Southern California, but with castles.

We didn't note the name of this village but the castle caught our eye.

Our last night in this general area was Aups; a good place to stay if you want to see the Gorges du Verdon.
Most people when they hear "France," think Paris, big cities and closely placed villages of Provence and the west. They don't usually picture something similar to the Grand Canyon.

The two lane road clings to the side of the canyon, following the Verdon River for a pretty good distance. At one point, the road curves away to cross a side canyon over a very tall bridge. We couldn't figure out why they had one lane blocked off with all kinds of activity until we saw the guy jump off attached by a bungie!

The ultimate destination for our trip was the Cote d'Azur, specifically St. Tropez. I've never seen the Mediterranean Sea, where Cathy Jo spent a good portion of her formative years, and that area seemed like a good place for an initiation.
We decided to try to find a room in the village of La Garde Freinet; it's close enough to the coast (about 15 minutes) but far enough away that we could afford to stay for a couple of days. We found a room at one of the local hotel/restaurants and set off for some exploration.

Our room was the one on the top floor with the shutters open.

The village was very beautiful, typical Provence tile roofs and pastel colors, and has apparently become very popular with British expatriates. We heard alot of "English" english being spoken and two of the local property seller offices had names like "Witworth" and "Sterling."
The guide books had warned us of horrific traffic jams and hordes of people at the coast but, maybe because it's September, we found it not as crowded as Malibu on a sunny weekend. We wandered the marina waterfront and got a good look at St. Tropez across the water.

After our picnic lunch we hiked up to the old chateau that overlooks the harbor.

The next day we planned to have lunch in Cannes ... why not? ... but first we stopped to check out the village of Grimaud. It was just too much quaint.

The traffic was pretty bad on the road right along the coast so we didn't make it all the way to Cannes, stopping in the town of Antheor for a huge lunch of paella. After that there was nothing to do but find a nice piece of beach for a swim and a little relaxation before the drive back to La Garde. I had my baptism in the Med!

Tuesday morning it was time to hit the road back to the boat. What had taken us four days to accomplish on the back roads we traveled in about 6 hours on the "A" roads, although it did cost us about 35 euros in tolls!

Closing the Circle - August 27

About 35 k after leaving Verdun sur Doubs we rounded a bend in the Saone River to see St. Jean de Losne (pronounced "loan").

On May 16, 2006, after spending three days in Paris, we traveled by train to Dijon where we met our old friends, John and Patti Hardman.
The Hardmans (their blog is linked in the sidebar) had been sailing buddies in the 1980's when we owned Arrow, a 1913 Edson Schock yawl, and they owned Freya, a 1940's Atkins Ingrid ketch. In the mid 90's they returned to Texas but we had kept in touch over the years and when they bought Capri, and early 1900's converted dutch barge, in 2003, we figured we'd have to plan a visit.
After picking us up at the Dijon train station, John and Patti drove us to St. Jean de Losne where we were introduced to Capri.

That's Capt. John posing at the stern.

After spending 10 days with them on the Burgundy canal, we decided that this was a life we could lead. We returned home, sold the house and the following spring found us in Amsterdam beginning the search that would lead us to Odysseus.
On August 27, 2009, our barge was tied up just a little west of where we had first seen Capri.

We would spend four days on the quay in St. Jean and then, on Sept. 1, make the 4 k final leg of our summer's trip to St. Symphorean sur Soane and Bourgogne Marine where Odysseus would spend the winter tied up right behind Capri.
990 kilometers on the canals and 53 days of traveling had taken us from Champagne to Burgundy.

Odysseus is the smallest barge tied up at Bourgogne Marine's lower basin. Capri is right in front of us.

Last Days Underway, August 24-27

About 2 pm on Monday afternoon we pulled into the village of Fragnes. It was the last good place to moor on the canal before we entered the Saone River for the last leg of the trip to St. Symphorean where Odysseus will spend the winter. Right at the tie up spot was a boulangerie, restaurant, hair salon and bicycle rental shop. We wandered into town to find other shops but there really weren't any, everything was clustered around the halte. By evening it had become very warm and humid again; the skies were looking threatening. By dinnertime it was raining hard again and was still coming down occasionally Tuesday morning. We weren't in any hurry so decided to say put for the day.
Wednesday morning we were off for the last 5 k of the Canal du Centre, but first we had to navigate the lock that empties into the Saone River, called Ecluse Crissey..
Back in Digoin we had met Jenny Fennell, an English woman who has spent the summer on the canals in her river cruiser, making the trip with friends as crew. As happens with limited places to stop, we had bumped into her at several places along the way and we met up again in Fragnes. She would be storing her boat in a marina near where Odysseus was going to be so we left together and shared the lock, with it's nearly 11 meter drop.

Jenny (on the left) with Joe and Ailish. Smile, or as they say in France, " wee-stee-tee!"

Our next stop was Verdun-sur-Doubs, where the Doubs River meets the Saone. Another picture-worthy town with a small marina on the river.

Verdun has it's market on Wednesday morning so we stuck around long enough to check it out. About 9:30 we were underway up the Saone to St. Jean de Losne where this whole barge thing originally started.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Santenay - August 21-24

The village of Santenay is at the southern tip of the Cote d'Or, one of the most prestigious wine making regions of France. It's also a very picturesque village with lots of wine tasting and buying opportunities.
By Friday afternoon the weather had cleared; the rain had cooled things down and we were ready for some exploration. The town was just a 10 minute walk from the boat so off we went.

One of the village streets. Santenay is divided into upper and lower sections. This is in Bas, or lower, Santenay.

The village is surrounded by hills and it was just a short walk up to get a panoramic view of the area. Below us was Haute, or upper, Santenay.

The Cote d'Or is known for several grape varieties but it's probably most famous for it's pinot noir grapes. There are a couple of wine shops in town that specialize in tasting and sales of the local wines so we just had to visit. Since we'll be leaving in just about a month we didn't want to really stock up; the winters are pretty cold here and that's hard on wine storage but we'll be back in the spring for some serious shopping. The prices are very reasonable.
Sunday morning we bicycled the 4 kilometers up the cycle path along the canal to the town of Chagny. They have a large market and we plundered the stalls for fresh fruit and vegetables. After lunch it was back on to the bicycles for a trip along an abandoned railroad bed converted to bike path to Nolay, about 8 k away. Next to the church in the village square is the covered market. Built in the 14th century, the roof is made of limestone and the framework is chestnut wood.

The ride to Nolay was a little arduous as it was all slightly uphill. The trip back was a blast. We barely had to touch the pedals.

After a serious discussion, Cathy Jo and I decided the halte in Santenay was tied with Cumieres in the Champagne for the most beautiful stop. The canal runs along the side of the hill so you actually look down on the village and the picnic tables provided for the boaters and cyclists make it very pleasant. It didn't hurt that the weather was gorgeous the three days we were there.

The view from the boat.

Monday morning it was off to our last stop on the Canal du Centre, Fragnes.