Saturday, June 27, 2009


June 16/6/2009

Today is day 2 in this great city and after an evening of heavy rain the day has turned out steamy and very warm. Let it continue I say.

We had spent 3 days at Meaux which is a nearby suburb leading into Paris where we stayed ready to pick up our good friends Daphne and Claude Merriott who had flown in from New Zealand on Thursday. After a couple of days exploring this nice city, we planned to travel to Paris but due to a sudden called 24 hour lock-keepers strike we had to stay another day.

Rhonda's Comments: Harry doesn't look too fussed.

Rhonda's Comment: Daphne's first day at the market.

Rhonda's Comment: They certainly weren't smiling after taking their first sip of their tea. The smell and taste was horrendous.

First thing on Tuesday we cast off and went through a few locks plus a couple of relatively short tunnels, one which cut 14 kms off the trip by eliminating a whole section of winding river so we kept changing from the river Marne to associated canals, however, we eventually crossed on to the river Seine which is huge and carries so much traffic. The commercials are flat out carrying all sorts of cargo plus lots of hotel boats and cruise restaurant boats slicing through the river to take their passengers to see the famous Paris sights. The number of bridges that cross the Seine tally 37 so that river traffic is forced to follow precise passageways which sometimes causes concerns with the various craft dashing across the lanes to get to berths etc and the bigger boats charging through on their way to goodness knows where. We had to tie up to a little jetty out on the river while we awaited the authorities at our port of L’Arsenal to open their lock and to allow us passage in. This was the roughest section of the trip with “Somewhere” being bounced around by the wakes of many of the passing traffic.

When the lock eventually opened we slid into a wonderful scene of upwards of 160 boats of all sorts and sizes moored up in well sheltered conditions as the Arsenal is a huge cutting really which was developed in its original form in the 16th century as a weapons and armoury depot and so ships could be prepared for war. It is an expensive spot to stay with daily berthage costs of up to 85 Euros per night but when you consider what the costs of hotel accommodation would be in this area as we are right in the centre of the city of Paris just at the end of the Bastile with all its famous history. It is within walking distance of so many Paris high lights, hence the make up of the visiting boats in the marina were from almost every main European country plus the odd Aussie and Kiwi flags.

Paris is a huge sprawling city divided into 20 districts with a population of 12 million and is greatly serviced by the Metro underground rail service augmented by buses everywhere which are so necessary due to the narrow streets and the volume of traffic. No wonder the cars are made small as parking is a nightmare, day and night, even on the weekends. People will in desperation park in any spare space even on footpaths and on corners jammed in like nothing we see in New Zealand or Australia. Paris is a majestic city full of culture, romance, gastronomy, design and fashion. There are reported to be over 1800 classified monuments, 157 museums, 145 theatres and 380 cinemas so it is a city where you could spend a lifetime taking in the sights etc.

After a restful afternoon and evening we all were keen to get going to see some of our selected attractions. We bought all-day passes on the rail network which were also usable on the buses for 8 Euros each which is so very cheap and efficient so we went up to the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 for the world fair and as it is 324 meters high we had some ideas of going up to see the sights, however, when we got there the only leg open with lifts operating had queues of hundreds and hundreds of people, worse than the waits at Disneyland for those who have been there. You could walk up to the first level if you wanted to battle the steps so we flagged that and took photos from ground level only. We then walked up to the Trocadero which is across the river and up on a hill and gives great views of the tower and surrounds and houses the National Maritime Museum and the Museum of the Man which focuses on over population really. After the slog to the entrance we found that the Maritime Museum was closed until Wednesday so we then had to decide if we wanted to come back the following day. Next we went down to the Metro and again caught the train to Arc de Triumph which is the final resting place of the Unknown Soldier and is a wonderful memorial and when you recall how Hitler strutted his troops through it and then Charles de Gaulle marched his French Free Troops through it after the war was won by the Allies. It has remained as one of the worlds most remarkable war memorials and is surrounded by about 8 lanes of traffic negotiating its way around before turning out to travel the 12 main roads which come into and leave this centre point. We stood for about an hour just fascinated at the traffic flow and amazed that there were no crashes as the cutting across lanes etc was something to see.

Rhonda's Comment: The three oldest kids in the class!!! I want one of those red hats.

After a LONG walk down the Champs de Elysees, one of the major thoroughfares where so many of the worlds major retailers like Nike, Swatch, Cartier, Louis Vutton, Mt Blanc, Hermes, Hugo Boss, Armani, and Mercedes, Peugeot, Toyota, and some of the other major world known car brands show off their latest and even future design models. Fascinating but the costs again are huge with a Smoothie milkshake costing 7.50 Euros and a small bottle of water costing 3 Euros at any shop so we eventually returned to the boat after some 6 hours of walking and sight seeing, glad to rest our feet and prepare for tomorrows adventure.

This day turned out even hotter than the day before but we still needed to get out and about to see the sights which we had missed yesterday. The visit to the Maritime Museum was first and fascinating with some wonderful models of old sailing craft and military ships along with examples of French marine technology right through to the Jules Verne trophy which was won by Sir Peter Blake and his crew being the fastest boat to go round the world in under 80 days. The paintings hanging on the walls are magnificent and would grace any art gallery anywhere in the world and depict famous sea battles and adventures which had taken place over the centuries. One great model which is shown in the enclosed photos was built by a crew in 21 days including all the carvings and gilt layouts and huge rowing oars. It has to be seen really to be believed that this task could have been so well carried out in this time frame as set by the ruling junta of the day.

After a few hours at this museum we travelled to see the huge art gallery called the Musee d’Orsay where paintings from so many of the masters are on display. Daphne, Claude and Rhonda thoroughly enjoyed this while Harry and I (yes, he travelled on the Metro with us) wandered along the Seine enjoying the sun and the great sights of the boats etc travelling on this waterway. He and I then retired to a nice Tabac (coffee shop/ bar) where we relaxed along with the owners huge German Shepherd who decided we should become a part of his family for a few hours. He was a real character and dominated all that was going on in the bar etc.

Claude and Daphne trained out to the Cimitiere Du Pere Lachaise in the number 16 district . This cemetery is world famous as being the final resting place for such notables as Maria Callas (opera), Frederic Chopin (music), Jim Morrison (singer), Edith Piaf (singer), James Rothschild (banking) and probably the most famous person, certainly the most visited tomb being that of Oscar Wilde (writer). The cemetery has been operating since 1804 and has over 800,000 people buried here over the years with semi regular resetting of graves with the bones being lifted and reinterred in smaller sites so that new burials can take place. It must be one of the world’s most visited sites with thousands paying tribute to the notables and not so notables every week.

The evening was so beautiful that we sat out on the roof of the boat and just wondered how lucky we were really to be sitting in the centre of Paris just loving the ambience and the views from the marina but looking forward to heading out on the Seine again the next day to see more of the suburbs and to turn south east towards the burgundy district but before we get there we will travel through a lot of towns and countryside.

Up and away after the staff at L’Arsenal eventually arrived for work (9.00 am) then took about 20 mins to open their computers and to attend to the paperwork for about 3 customers before turning their attention to our needs (I am sure no Frenchman ever dies of stress, so perhaps we have a lot to learn), however, we eventually had the lock opened and off we headed through some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Beautiful homes, chateaus and apartments abound before you can break clear to leafy suburbs and less hi density developments.

We travelled for 5 hours up the Seine to Corbeilles-Essonnes which is a nothing sort of town where we moored against the bank overnight only to find we were in the mud, however, after some shunting back and forth we were underway again and travelled through some of the most beautiful areas so far with so many beautiful, graceful houses along the river banks plus small town living dotted along the way.

We arrived at Samois-sur-Seine which has a dock hidden from the main river in a byway and is a delight with restaurants a-plenty and a nice selection of shops. On top of this we were entertained in the evening by two young fellows playing jazz guitars in the restaurant opposite. It was hard to realise that such complicated music could be played so well by such young folk. After a very pleasant and calm night there, we moved off the next morning to get to St Mammes which is at the junction of the Seine and the Canal du Loing. While being a delightful town, this is very busy waterway due to the number of barges which overnight here or are based here due to the easy access south-east or due south. Along some banks the barges were moored up to 5 abreast and I guess there could have been 60 or more tied up along the way. One of particular note was 79meters long with a pusher of 20meters and its gross was 2240kilos so imagine trying to stop that in a narrow stretch of water or worse still trying to get out of its way.

We were fortunate enough to get hooked up to the Hotel Barge wharf where we just walked along the jetty to this lovely town which was in summer festivity mood with an open market followed by a jousting on-the-water competition. Small barges powered by around 8 hp outboards, each punt carrying a crew of four with the jouster standing on a 1 meter high platform at the rear. The jouster who is well protected by a padded suit carries a long pole which is also padded at each end and they aim at each other as the boats charge at one another. The result is humorous to say the least. A great event for the On the Water Boat Show in Auckland I believe.

Following this there was an almost endless recital of bongo drums etc (not so good) then as the evening came on there was an outdoor concert with pop music etc and the seemingly compulsory fireworks which Harry sure does not appreciate.

With the promise of a beautiful day to follow the great morning we awoke to set off to a nearby wharf where we refuelled and then set off down the Canal du Loing, however, within approx 2 kms we were attracted to another marina which offered great moorings so we tied up knowing that within walking distance was the town of Moret-sur-Loing which dates back to the 12th century and has an amazing mix of ancient to mid ages to modern structures and is so very pretty. We seem to keep saying that this country gets prettier the further we travel. Photos in this blog will assist you in seeing why we were so taken by this area so decided to stay overnight before entering the first lock on our journey towards the Burgundy District.


We can’t help but notice how friendly and helpful the French people are even when we have difficulty communicating with them. They seem to go out of their way to assist or offer advice and we are delighted as we are with the whole country we have toured through so far and we are told there is still better to come.

Voyage Details:-

Locks - 119
Klms - 735

Friday, June 19, 2009


Rhonda's Comment: Harry doesn't look too pleased with his summer cut.

I know that we have referred to the beauty of the country we have travelled through so far, particularly the riverside and the forests which cling alongside and to the hills which are left with forests as a cap which serves to give protection of sorts to the fields and towns and villages below. It should be noted, I guess that while so many of the vineyards and market gardens are grown on the hill sides, some of which are really steep, there is no sign of any irrigation systems, so that might be why the wines are so much higher here in their Baume count which is critical for good wines I am told.

Our travel to here, La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre, still on the river Marne which is a fair sized town with all the facilities we required for a few days stopover so can fill with water, food and other supplies and the berthage, power and water is free at our pontoon so this is one town that really knows how to draw water traffic to its shores. The last few days, have been so quiet on the canals or rivers with no “commercials” and only a few tourist boats to face up to so we have been really able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the peace and quiet so we have been a bit spoiled really. To date we have travelled 547kms with 599 engine hours and negotiated 101 locks so we must be getting better (he says, fingers crossed) as there seems to be getting less scrape marks on the rails and hull.

We notice that the locals living along the way who care about their properties must have been very busy with a late winter planting and the results are now showing with wonderful displays of Irises, Poppies, Petunias, Begonias, Wisteria. Peonies and many we do not know the names of. Vegetable gardens look great too and as we have said before, it seems as though it is compulsory to grow heaps of vegetables and to preserve, bottle and freeze them for the next winter.

Most homes have huge stacks of firewood all set up in drying sheds of corrugated iron or similar materials and it is due to the practice of coppicing the local trees which ensures winter fires will be burning regardless of the weather. The trees which are mainly Willow, Poplar or Spruce types, grow very quickly so the cutting off of the branches or cutting down all together does not kill the trees but rather allows new growth to start again so coppicing can be done again in about three years. The cut lengths which seem to be about 1.5 m in length are laid up as described and are then cut to size of fireplace or stove as required throughout the Summer or Autumn. Cheap but very effective and the ashes go straight onto the gardens.

We spent the last couple of days in Chateau-Thierry which is still on the river Marne and offered berthage right in the town so shops are very close. The riverbanks are used by hundreds of families and strollers plus the myriad of fishermen who regard the river as being theirs and can be rude at times to boaters but that is a part of life on the canals and rivers here I am told.

We took the scooter off and travelled to a magnificent memorial about 5 kms out of the town.
This has been erected by the Americans in honour of their troops lost in both wars but mainly WW11. This memorial as you will see from the photos is a great structure and dominates this part of the skyline.

We have had a change of plans and as we are so close to Paris, (an hour or so by car) approx 3 days canal travel, have decided we will go there for a few days and can meet our great friends Daphne and Claude from New Zealand who are coming to spend time with us cruising and maybe we will spend some time in the capital and see Paris and not die as the saying goes but enjoy some of this beautiful famous and historical city before cruising off.

Rhonda's Comment: I know France has it's Chateaux but a chateau for pidgeons!!!!! Only in France.

It will be a bit of a challenge going in on the River Seine as those of you who have seen it will have been impressed by the volume and speed of the water travelling down to the sea let alone the huge volume of tourist boats and commercial traffic. The marina called l’Arsenal is near the Notra Dame and not far from the Eiffel Tower, so who knows we may be brave and venture up on the rickety lifts for a look over the city. A number of our boating associates have used this route to stop in the suburbs as there is a marina which gives a short direct bus access to Disneyland. .

We are also hopeful to catch up with Allan and Kate, Rebecca and Ben from Hamilton who plan to visit the area about then too. As it is almost summer the list of visitors planning to visit grows by the day which is great and we look forward to seeing as many of them as is possible.

Rhonda's Comment: Doing more shopping at the markets.

The weather has been amazing with lots of days of clear blues skies with little or no breeze and delightful long evenings. It is possible to sit up on deck until 10.0 pm without the need for jackets or jumpers so you can imagine how this appeals to me, particularly however, last night after a very warm day we got a huge thunderstorm around midnight and thanks to Harry jumping on my chest and making sure I was woken, we had time to shut everything down and awoke today to much cooler temperatures which pleased Rhonda so the climate has something to offer to all tastes.

Right near us is a wonderful sight of approx 10 huge white swans and some have clutches of signets along with many ducks with their youngsters so it is wonderful to watch the parade of nature at its very best. Although while I was up on deck this morning I watched as a crow swooped down and took one of the ducklings so all hell broke loose with the mum going mad and calling for backup so four male mallards swooped in to assist but to no avail. Just sad but that’s the way mother nature allows things to happen.

After 10 days here in La Ferte-sous-Jouarre still on the river Marne, we have really enjoyed this town with its markets, three days a week, yet good shops and restaurants are also right nearby. We have explored the area and seen monuments to World War heroes and where the German invasion was turned back in WW1 but is also famous as being the region named for its Brie cheeses and where from as far back as recorded has been noted as the best producer of sandstone sharpening wheels and one which only faded in the past 15 years as other methods of sharpening were introduced.

Yesterday we rode our scooter to a new countryside area where we stopped for lunch at a pub or Tabac/ Restaurant as they call them here and asked for a sandwich with ham and cheese. Well we got a salad with the most beautiful pate, tomatoes gherkins and finely chopped onions and a basket of cut up bread roll. No cheese but she did manage to mix us a shandy so all was not lost. You have to laugh and enjoy the efforts they make to interpret our clumsy efforts to speak a few words of French.

Today we travelled to Meaux some 16 kms away on the route we will take when we leave here. It is a city with lots to offer and we visited a couple of large stores and had a McDonald’s for the first time since arriving here so we look forward to visiting this area in the next few days. It will take us about 6 hours to get there as the river winds back and forth and there are two locks to impede our progress whereas the scooter did it in about 20 mins but we did have sore bottoms by the time we got back as two fatties do over-stretch the size of the seat I have to confess.

After another couple of days of slobbing around at this great location where we met up with some very nice fellow travellers, namely Steve and Vanda Mcleod who are on their barge, Jim and Wendy on “Carrieann”, Alex and Louise on “Riccall” a 1938 converted barge, plus late arrivals, John and Priscella with their 2 Aussie helpers, Ned and Kate on their barge “Final Fling”. Apart from the few drinks we had, we shared with them lots of travel information where we had all been to, so it was a learning curve for all of us. We look forward to keeping in contact with them all and seeing them again along the way.

We have just had final word from Daphne and Claude to say that they will be arriving at Charles de Gaulle on Wednesday, so we are going to move the boat on Monday to Meaux where there is a frequent bus service running to and from CDG Airport. It is anticipated that Rhonda will travel to met them there and bring them back to the boat.

The weather has unfortunately turned a bit showery and cool, more like Auckland summers than what we would have expected here, however, we are told that this will pass and we can look forward to the heat and humidity which is normal for summer here.

As you know, we have a very good satellite service for our TV on board so have been able to enjoy the rugby from all corners of the globe and now to the World 20/20 cricket series which is happening in England and woe is me to have to report that Australia has been knocked out after 2 losses. I feel so sorry for my little Aussie mates – eh Smithy!!

Rhonda has just left to pick up Daphne and Claude from the airport and we will report our travels to Paris in our next blog.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


This blog commenced 14th May 2009

So sorry for the delay in getting this blog edition out as we have been trying to deal with the french way of handling the internet connections.

Rhonda's Comment: For the crew at Boating NZ

Yesterday, (hic) we regretfully left Sillery after a great week in this beautiful village and its (hic) surroundings among the champagne growers and producers (hic) and set forth on the Canal de l’Aisne a’ la Marne and were soon faced with three locks then a one-way tunnel of 2.3kms in length. If you don’t get the green light for the tunnel, you could face a wait of an hour before you can go through, however, we were lucky and got a straight run in. Rhonda drove us through most of it which was great and after ‘doing’ another 8 locks we turned right and onto the Canal Lateral a la Marne which runs parallel as the name suggests to the river Marne.

This canal was constructed in 1860 to allow river traffic to avoid the worst of turbulent waters of the Marne so it has very long tree lined straights with only 4 locks with most of them being less than a kilometre apart as the drop down off the hills is quite steep so by the time we got to the bottom we were pretty tired I can assure you.

We arrived at another small township with mooring facilities, called Mareuil-sur-Ay. We tied up to the bank right outside the most gorgeous Chateau with magnificent gardens, however, Harry was not all that impressed by the status and proceeded to leak on the wall without a second thought. Our walk through the village showed listings for another 20 odd champagne producers so we will examine a few of those over the next day I am sure.

It would appear as though this is a popular stop-over for motor homes as they filled the local car park overnight and take the opportunity to top up with food at the small supermarket across the road. I hope some of our photos show how beautiful this place is.
During the next morning a frenchman came by to say hi, and as he could speak English, we chatted about our boat and where and why we had come to this area. He turned out to be a local who was having his old boat refurbished just along from us. His occupation is a grape grower who produces juice for others to make champagne from and he also has a beer brewed for him in Belgium for sale to various outlets in France. He said he would call by the next day to say hi which he duly did, bringing with him a large bottle of fine champagne which he insisted on opening and we being kiwis could not let him down so we drank it all with him and his mate so when the rain started to bucket down about 2.0pm we felt no pain at all so after he toddled off it was sleep time aboard Somewhere.

The rain continued for the next two days so we decided we would head off for Epernay on Sunday. It is only about 12 kms away so a nice easy run through two locks to find that the only berths available for boats of our size are against the bank on the river which is quite volumous and fast flowing. There is no way to get the scooter off so it will be walking for the next two days as we want to visit one of the really big champagne producers who are based here.

Mercier Champagne founded in 1858 by Eugene Mercier and as this champagne house offered guided tours through the plant we decided we would take a look. They take you down some 30 meters in special lifts to the caves where some of 6 million bottles of top class champagne are stored, some of it dating back to 1923 we decided that this was the place. There are 47 tunnels which total 18kms in length so is a sight to see so off we went with Grahame and Iris, the Australian couple who have the barge Manatee. They are also doing the tour along with friends of theirs from Redcliff out from Brisbane so we have had a lot of laughs already and surely doing the tour will bring plenty more too.

If you are not interested in more details of the champagne story you may want to skim the next few paragraphs but for those who are interested the story is quite fascinating.

In 1858 a young entrepreneur by the name of Eugene Mercier founded his own champagne house in Epernay which has gone on to become one of France’s leading producers of fine champagnes.

He was a true marketer and saw that there was money to be made if the product was well produced and promoted so he was the first person to have a movie advert made of his produce for the 1900 World Exhibition and had Hot Air Balloons suitably sign written and gave rides over Paris from the same exhibition to promote his product.

He also had built a giant vat holding the equivalent of 200,000 bottles which was placed on display in Paris for a number of years. It was returned to Epernay where it now sits in the showroom and is a delight to view with all the ornate carvings on the end. He had personally travelled to Hungary to select the 150 oak trees it took in construction of this vat.

In order to keep his fine products at the correct temperature which is to be a constant 8 to 10 degrees he had his workers dig these tunnels and so to give some additional idea of the size, the amount of chalk earth removed was 125,000 cubic meters which is 40 times greater than the weight of the Eiffel Tower. All the tunnels are on one level and to assist moving people around to view the operations is a small electric rail way. This was set up and on this train we viewed these fantastic cellars and operations after travelling down the 30 odd meters in a special glass sided lift which allows views of some of the art works and carvings which the family have collected over the many years.

Rhonda's Comment: These chalk carvings were absolutely amazing.

The whole set up is really mind boggling with facts like the bottle rinsing machine washes 120,000 bottles every day, and while the real vintage bottles are turned each day by hand (good riddlers can turn 40,000 bottles per day), just imagine how fast the hands are going, but the general champagnes are now turned by a huge machine which just fronts the huge stacks and the jaws take hold of hundreds of bottles at a time by the neck and turn them gently, every day for 6 weeks. The bottle necks are then immersed in an ice cold bath which freezes and impurities which are trapped in the neck due to the angle the bottles are stored at. The corks are then pulled and the frozen neck quantities are removed and new blended juice and sugar is added to replace that which has been removed, the bottle is re-corked and wired and there it lays until sold. Obviously, the older the bottling, the higher the price, so it was not uncommon to see bottles fetching several hundreds of Euros and we were told some of the really old bottles would fetch hundreds of thousands of Euros.

Rhonda's Comment: These were our empties!!!!

Down in the tunnels there are special banquet rooms which look magical lit by seemingly endless candelabra and is where special events are celebrated like weddings and so on. Goodness only knows how much a function would cost.

In 1950, Eugene’s grandson organised a Champagne Rally in the cellars with Renault to mark the launch of the all new 4 CV model. Imagine these cars racing around the 18kms of cellars and we are told not a single bottle was broken but lots were drunk at the closing ceremony I am sure.

You may be interested to learn that champagne is only made from a blending of the following grapes, Chardonnay which makes up 26% of the grapes grown with another 37% coming from the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. No wonder good champagne is so expensive and it is only doing that tour we had the chance to begin to understand just why this is such a wonderful and revered drop. Hence, it makes me wince when I see the motor racing winners etc squirting large bottles of top quality champagne at each other. Rhonda and I could do so much better at appreciating this wonderful drop. After a fairly serious tasting, we walked back to Somewhere, very satisfied that we had learned and witnessed this great production system and methods.
Just to finish off on this subject, it is important to realise that champagne is limited to 35,000 hectares and it is this particular chalky soil that gives the grapes the particular richness so to be used in this process. The next time you are enjoying this drop of angels water, just give a thought to what has gone into bringing it to you. When you see the word Cru in the label, this means a particular village or tiny plot from where the grapes were harvested.

This will end our visit to this areas wineries even though we have another 20 kms to travel on the river before we clear the growing district. Never mind we still have the Burgundy districts to come next month so something else to look forward to.
Rhonda's Comment: Grahame and Michele Smith, this one is for you.

Now back to more normal things, after shopping at the huge supermarket across the road from where we had Somewhere moored, we set off and travelled through a couple of different type of locks, in so much as the walls are sloping and despite panic attacks from the forward hand prior to getting there, as we found inside the lock there is a floating platform which rises or drops according to the way you are travelling so all you do is step off and hold the boat alongside - great.

We only travelled about 12 kms as we found a great looking village called Port au Binson and with the berths all but empty, we tied up and again Harry had another park to use as his own run area etc. By 5.00 pm the whole village seemed to have gone to sleep or were inside which is crazy as the weather is now delightful again with no breeze and 25 degrees which would have lots of Kiwis outside doing BBQs etc. We were able to sit up on deck until after 8.00 pm as the sun doesn’t set until about then. It was good to take a walk through some of the nearby streets but the shutters were down in most homes so I guess they are early sleepers.

Rhonda's Comment: We found this amazing Tabac (coffee shop) in this little village.

Today dawned with almost perfect conditions so it was off with the scooter and after giving Harry a ride around the local area, Rhonda and I visited some other small villages in a 10 km radius and really took in the country and small town lifestyles. We couldn’t help but notice the many, many small white vans parked in and around the vineyards from which people emerged to trim the young tendrils off the vines. This is done by hand and as the vines are grown so close to the ground many of the “pruners” sit on a 3 or 4 wheel trolley and move along between the rows doing this boring, boring job. It seems as though all pruners have these little white vans so Peugeot and Renault must have made huge sales over the years. It seems as though a white van is the symbol status of these workers.

As I said, the weather today was perfect so it was a case of having dinner and a glass of wine up on the top deck of Somewhere, while watching the local water skiers do their thing on the river. Very relaxing and the very sort of thing we dreamed about, so for all readers, all we can say is eat your heart out. We will keep on pushing on tomorrow and face the many challenges which lie ahead.

Rhonda's Comment: As you can see, Ken cannot do without his garden.

Before closing I am adding the following extract from our barge association magazine which is just so true, so for all of those of you who want to experience real peace and tranquillity, just read on, sit quietly and dream and take on the words of our solicitor Andrew Stokes who said to Rhonda and me. “If you want to do it, get on with it. Remember this life is not just a dress rehearsal” and how true were those words.

“Cruising the canals and waterways of France must be one of the last remaining lifestyles where one can be completely alone deep in the countryside with nothing to break the silence. There is nothing – absolutely nothing (didn’t Ratty say that?) as satisfying as being on a boat in this gentle, welcoming land where, after a day’s cruising through leaning forests of giant trees and verdant river meadows, one can tie up on a bank, sit beneath the shade of a spreading oak on canvas chairs, glass of wine in hand and survey the silent scene across the canal: cattle grazing; fields of yellow rapeseed stretch from edge to edge of one’s eye-span; dark trees embrace a huddle of farm buildings, pale in the lowering sun; a church spire in the distance and sonorous sound of bells as evening descends.”

Some more English to Cockney sayings.

Arm- Chalk Farm
Bank- Iron tank
Barrow- Cock sparrow
Belly- Auntie Nellie
Braces- Air and graces
Butter- Stammer and stutter
Coat- Weasel and stote
Goggle Box- Nervo and knock
Knees- Biscuits and cheese

OK All the very best to each and every one of you.