July in France 2006
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The last place we visited on the Somme was Péronne. The pleasure boat harbour was too small for us so we tied up on the quay. It is a pleasant city surrounded by the river and its lakes and we cycled to the inevitable war cemetary and memorial depicting a French woman deploring war over the body of a fallen soldier - a fitting conclusion to our Somme visit.
Back on Harmonie we were approached by Chris and Anne Yarrow who were engaged in canoing from la Manche á la Med, a perfectly British thing to do. From St Valery to Péronne, all up the Somme they paddled and the lock keepers would not let them through the locks. In many cases they had to fight through thick undergrowth to get round the lock with the canoe and all their kit. At Péronne they were informed that they were prohibited to canoe down the canal du nord so they asked if we would give them and their canoe a lift to Pont l'Eveque.
On our arrival the heavens opened so we offered them bed and breakfast on board which they greatfully accepted and bought us dinner in the local pub as a thank you. Anne confessed that sleeping in a proper bed was pure luxury! We asked them if they were seasoned conoeists and they told us no, but they had practised on their lawn at home! The next day in hot bright sunshine, they set off on their long journey south.
We sailed on down the canal to join the River Oise at Compiegne and moored up in the centre next to a replica barge called Gulliver from Nottingham. We soon made friends with the owners, Keith and Jenny Riley, who invited us to join them at the bastille day celebrations on July 14th. We visited the famous royal Chateau where various Napoleons strutted their stuff but found it all rather boring and repetitive.
A hot cycle ride found us at the Armistice clearing where there is a replica of the railway carriage in which the WW1 armistice was signed. When France surrendered to Germany in WW2, Hitler used the same carriage to inflict humiliation on France, then had it removed to Berlin where it was destroyed during an air raid. The next day the computer went belly up, a local shop offered to fix it by 15th July so we decided to head up the River Aisne to Vic-sur-Aisne where we found a free mooring with water and electricity. Vic was a lovely little village with a moated chateau at its heart. Here we met Donna and Wim on board their boat "Break of Dawn". Wim was a master mariner and they had met up with Harmonies previous owners so we swung the lantern over numerous beers in the shade of a lime tree beside the river.
Computer shop failed to fix said computer but did not charge so on down the river to meet up with Keith and Jenny at Pont St-Maxence and consume even more beer. French breweries must be making a fortune with this hot weather. It is averaging 38 degrees C most days. Our next stop was L'Isle Adam, a stylish town with the largest inland beach in France and a favourite haunt of Parisiennes. When we started the engine the next morning the water flow to the exhaust injection was much reduced. One filter was blocked solid with mud but after cleaning we managed to get suction back without having to blow though the pipes as we had done previously.
Waving goodbye to Gulliver we sailed on to Auvers where dear old Vincent van Gogh ended himself. We cycled round to see the grave of the man and his brother, humming "starry starry night". All around the village they have posters of his paintings next to the the places depicted, just in case you can't recognise it from the painting! On down the river to Pontoise, immortalised by Cézanne and Pissarro. Climbed up to the battlements high above the river, stinking hot, shades of mad dogs, then into town for a beer.
We sailed on to join the River Seine the next day, then, as we came through the lock at Bougival, there was Gulliver on a nice mooring so we tied up with them. Oh dear, more beer, but it was hot and Keith was busy painting. We decided to move Harmonie up river to Rueil-Malmaison the next day but could not get on the mooring and so returned to Bougival and cycled up through the woods on the Île de la Chaussée and the Île des Impressionistes to Rueil-Malmaison. This was where Renoir painted his famous "Luncheon of the Boating Party" and the restaurant is still there.
Keith and Jenny gave us lots of information on places to moor and we benefited from their six years experience of living on board a barge in France. Jenny's log book with her sketches, photographs and copper plate handwriting was a work of art. Having waved goodbye to Gulliver for the umpteenth time, we set off up the Seine through and out of Paris. At Pont Anglais we moored for the night and then continued up as far as Evry Petit Bourg which were the first decent moorings for a boat our size we could find. Back down the river again to Pont Anglais for the night then into our luxury mooring at the Bastille in the heart of Paris.
We continued our saunter out onto the banks of the Seine and over to the Ile St-Lous to sample the best ice cream in Paris, Berthillon, then ambled gently back to Harmonie.
The next day the girls went to a fashion museum and the boys visited the Salvador Dali museum, neither of which impressed. We all met up for lunch in Montmartre and were suitably ripped off in this tourist trap paying 40 euros for two large brandies! After wandering around Montmartre we felt in need of a siesta so made our way over to the Trocerdero gardens and dozed on the grass in the shade. Chris wanted a close up of the Eiffel Tower so we walked across the bridge and caught a train towards the Bastille, however, in typical SNCF fashion they turfed us off at the next station and put us on a bus in the middle of the rush hour in sweltering heat where we festered for over an hour!
For our last day in Paris we did some shopping at Galleries Layfayette then over to the Musée d'Orsay. Seven years ago we all had a memorable lunch at the museums restaurant which we thought we might repeat, however, when we arrived it was being refurbished so after a wander round the impressionists floor we left feeling hungry and disappointed. The next day was wet as the July heat wave came to an abrupt end. We left the Arsenal and set off down the Seine. In the middle of the river amongst all the busy river traffic and Bateaux Mouches steaming past at great speed, we lost our steering. We managed to get an illegal mooring right opposite the Eiffel Tower and I investigated. We have had a slow hydraulic oil leak from somewhere on the steering gear and I have been continually topping up the header tank.