So, with the flight leaving late, we landed late. But SAA as usual were on the ball. We went through passport control and collected our luggage and then went to the SAA check in desk where we were given boarding passes for the next flight. We made it on time and landed safe and sound in Cape Town. Kenny collected all of us from the airport and we came back to the office to see what was going on, and then went home to shower, unpack and unwind. We were in bed shortly after 8! An interesting holiday with highs and lows.
September 29: Paris to Munich
Woke up and started packing before heading out. We had a croissant and an espresso before getting on to the Metro. We walked to the Eiffel Tower which is amazing to say the least. After that we got back on the metro. Dave got off at Franklin D Roosevelt but I got stuck amongst people getting on! I went to the next stop, changed over trains and went back to Dave. We then went to the Maille boutique shop and tasted mustards before choosing 3 we cannot get at home. They were packed for us for travel! We went back to the hotel and got ready for our flight. We caught a taxi to CDG and waited for our delayed Lufthansa flight to Munich. When we got here I showered in the business class lounge and changed. We went through passport control and left Del and Annie sitting at the departure gate while we went for something to eat. We bought some whisky at duty free and then sat down to let Del and Annie have a walk around. This carried on until we boarded the flight. The staff came on duty and I was first in the queue to get our new boarding passes as Dave had managed to change our seats. We were offered €600 each to stay the night in Munich, as well as accommodation in a 4 star hotel, with dinner and breakfast included. Del and I would have jumped at the opportunity, but Annie was ready to get home. As far as I could tell, the 7 volunteers caught the flight, so it would not have happened in any case. But, it would have been nice. The flight left late and we had a really good meal, before pretending to sleep – there was a screaming baby on the flight. The father admitted to the child not being a good flier which made me want to ask why they did not give the child something to calm down and sleep?
September 28: Paris
Woke up and went for breakfast with Nico, Wanette, Annie and Del. As we got back to the room Dino called from Air France to say our flight had been cancelled. He rerouted us via Munich so that was all sorted. It means leaving Paris earlier but at least we will get home. We then walked to Sacre Cœur which is amazing and then through Montemarte. We had coffee near the Moulin Rouge and then walked to Trinité. We went back to Opera and then for coffee at Le Mesturet to see the menu. We walked to the Louvre and along the Seine to Notre Dame. Dave had a crepe with citron sucre and I had a chocolat et ses morceaux ice cream. We walked to Place de Grève and Hôtel de Ville and then through the Marais district to Les Halles. We had lunch at La Perla on Rue Montorgueil. We each had a salad and a glass of wine. We walked back to the Louvre and then through Jardin des Tusleries to Place de la Concorde. We walked down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. We then caught the metro back to where we are staying. After relaxing a bit (we walked for 6 hours) we went to Le Royal Bergère for drinks. Annie had a Heineken, Dave had a Stella Artois and Del and I had Bretagne Cider. We walked to Le Mesturet for supper and then walked back via the ice cream place to enjoy an ice cream for dessert. Dave had the pistachio, Annie and Del had caramel and chocolat and I had noisette and tiramisù.
September 27: Nevers to Paris
Woke up and packed and then walked to the Avis office to see if the car was still there as I had left something in it. Sadly the car was in Rennes and who ever cleaned the car found nothing. We then went to the boulangerie and had piping hot croissants for breakfast. We had an espresso each and walked to the train station. The train to Paris was non stop and we arrived at Gare de Lyon at 12. Dave got a map of the metro and Paris and we went to buy a day pass for the public transport. With that done we went to find the A line. Dave had left the map at the SNCF office so we got out at Aubert where the Opera is, and walked around a bit. Finally an hotel provided us with a map and pointed us in the direction of the Air France office. This was closed! We then walked to our hotel and checked in. We had baguette, ham and cheese for lunch in the room before heading to Maillot to the Air France office there. I got to see the Arc de Triomphe and we found Air France. The queue was at least an hour long. After a quick walk through an upmarket supermarket we came back to the hotel. I spent half an hour on the phone before discovering our flight is not yet cancelled. Despite the pilots strike continuing until the 30th. Until it is we cannot change our flight, which is confirmed. We then relaxed for a bit – me in the bath before getting dressed for the Crazy Horse. Saw the Eiffel Tower from the road. We arrived early so had a glass of Montepulciano wine each before going to see the show. It was OK but nothing to rave about. We then went for supper at a local seafood restaurant. Dave had whiting and I had mussels. We left everyone there and came back to the hotel. Dave’s metro card did not work properly so he entered on my card, and I entered on another persons card. She was not happy but they gave her another ticket. We got back and just as I was about to turn off the light and go to sleep Nico banged on the door and invited us for a drink. We went across the road and had a cider for some and white wine for others. It was after midnight when we got back to the hotel and the noise does not stop where we are!
September 26: Vauclaix to Nevers
I woke up with an upset stomach. I broke my golden rule of travelling and had some tap water. Thankfully by the time we were showered, packed, eaten breakfast and ready to go I was feeling better. We were offered a very good continental breakfast and I had honey with the most interesting flavour. We went to Corbigny and walked through the street market. Saw amazing mushrooms and bought some strawberries. Then headed to Leboat to see about doing the canal Nivernais next year. We stopped at a series of locks (16 in a row!) and looked at where the canal goes through the tunnels. We drove into Châtillon-en-Bazois and had lunch at the side of the canal. We shared a bench with 2 French workers. The one offered us his wine to have with lunch. To them drinking at lunch time, while on a work break is normal. We then drove to Decize and walked around before heading back to Nevers. We handed the car back and checked into the Best Western Hotel. We went to the train station and changed our tickets to an earlier time and then went and had 2 Paulaner beers where we had supper the first night. We relaxed for a bit at the hotel before going to Tomate et Chocalat for dinner.
September 25: Nevers to Vauclaix
Woke up, showered and went for an express breakfast – one croissant, one coffee and one glass of juice. Checked out – the bill came to €119.7. Which meant not having a kettle was 24 centime cheaper. We collected a hire car – Renault Clio from Avis at 10am. We did a quick shop at Carrefour for lunch and then headed on the D978 to start our drive. We stopped at Chatilon de Bazois alongside the canal Nivernais which will probably be our April destination. An espresso and croissant was our mid morning snack. We had a picnic lunch on the side of the road just after Château-Chinon. We then drove to Volnay and stopped at Domaine François Mure and Fils for a wine tasting and bought a bottle to bring home. They have the tiniest bottling plant in their cellar. We stopped in Beaune where Greg is from and walked around the old city and had an espresso. We then drove through Dijon on the Rue de Transvaal and through the Parc Regional du Morten. We stopped at a Logis hotel in Corbigny but they and all the other hotels are fully booked. They called the Hôtel de la Poste and organized a room for us. We had dinner at the hotel. We started with a large tot of Obanand a plate of snacks. We were served an amuse of gezpacho and guacamole. . I had the terrine de lapin to start which was very tasty. But it had an average salad. My main course was coq au pinot noir which was served with an amazing smooth pumpkin puree and good haricot vert. I chose 3 cheeses off the vast plateau de fromages bourguignons et nivernais. Dave had the croustillant d’Espoisses to start whcih had a thick creamy cheese inside pastry. He had the bavette à l’échalote done bleau. Dave had the nougat glacé to end with a lot of caramel beurre salé. We had a serious glass of Cointreau to end the night before heading for bed.
September 24: Nevers
Woke up feeling totally deflated and utterly exhausted. This holiday has been ruined for so many people because one person ignored their boss! Did not realise how much stress this has been but I have certainly felt apprehensive and anxious since we found out at the rugby about the second barge. I have had an outbreak of eczema. Dave spent the morning trying to hire a car and book us a self catering place to stay. There were no cars available so we decided to see if we could find a place to stay in Paris but that too was not a possibility. We showered and dressed, had an express breakfast and walked to the station. Avis have a car from tomorrow so we will explore the region for 2 days. We have booked a train back to Paris on Saturday. We would prefer self catering so that we can cook. Not only is it cheaper, it is much nicer. We walked around Nevers, had an espresso break and had a baguette with chicken in it for lunch, and an ice cream for dessert. I had chocoláte noisette and Dave had caramel. We walked back to the hotel and I read a bit and dozed. We are in a smaller room with no kettle! We bought water and coffee at a small shop but that was not going to help much. We were given a jug of barely boiled water and cups but no teaspoon. Not the best coffee I have had! Dave was online and saw that Air France strike is due to continue till the 30th. I have sent an email requesting specific flights so let’s see what happens this time. We left the hotel and finally I felt like I was on holiday. I realized I was doing so much on the barge to be in control of what I could control. But that did not help! Cooking is my bliss. On our walk through the old city we stopped at La Pause for beers. Fischer for me and Pelforth Ambree for Dave. We had a long chat about everything and then walked to St-Sébastien for supper. We had a lovely meal and an excellent bottle of wine before walking back to the hotel.
September 23: La Charite to Nevers
I did not sleep well at all and woke up quite early. After getting showered etc. Dave and Nico went for a cycle ride and I read. Breakfast this morning was croissants and we got on our way at a reasonable time. At the one lock where the lock keeper Nico wrote a fine for Tim for disobeying orders (i.e. being where we were). The fine was €10 but it meant nothing! We stopped at a lovely place for lunch. Just past Cuffy and tied up along the Dutch couple we met yesterday. Here the water and electricity are free of charge. I washed dishes then we had lunch and I washed up so we could top up with water. Annie doesn not grasp the concept that the water is limited and Nico was surprised at how much we had used in a day. We hooked up to the electricity mainly for Nico’s phone but his one charger was damaged and Wanette could not find the other one. After lunch we headed on our way – Wanette then found the charger! Nico went for a lie down and I read the waterway book. I discovered that the Ligier museum is 10km away and discussed with Dave getting to Nevers for the night.We had a proper (deep) double lock to navigate and then a passage over a river. The plan was then to tie up and charge up and go out for dinner. The two locks into Nevers are automatic and quite something! Between the 2 locks I heard Joyce (Tim’s wife) and she was on the barge. Tim had left Sancerre at 10 according to what he told Nico and caught up with us! Nico told Joyce that they were to turn around and leave us alone. But heyho, they tied up in the port. I packed my suitcase before I knew this but when Dave went to see the port master he saw them. He came to pack as well and had a long chat with Nico. I feel terrible for them that we left the barge but my happiness has to come first. Dave went online and found us an hotel and we took a long walk through the old city to get there. We went to a brasserie to eat the beef of the region and came back to the hotel.
September 22: Cosne to La Charite Sur Loire
I did not get a good night’s sleep but Dave did. We woke up early and had coffee in bed before showering and making breakfast. First for ourselves and then for everyone else. Del complained that no-one told her what the weather would be and she has the wrong clothes. I had printed out a long term weather report for everyone which must have been ignored. We got going and avoided the first tie up point for Sancerre to ensure we avoided Tim & co. We tied up at Ménétréol-Sous-Sancerre and filled the boat with water. We hooked in to the electricity and got things on charge. This cost €12. As we were about to leave Wanette decided she wanted a shower! This however was left for the day and Dave called the taxi. He went with Annie and Del to Sancerre and I went with Nico and Wanette. We all walked for a bit but Nico’s knee was bothering him so he and Wanette stopped for coffee. We walked on and found Maison Sancerre. Dave went to fetch Nico and we went into the exhibition rooms. It was so interesting. We watched a fascinating presentation on the region. They display it on a relief map set on the floor. The area produces 25 million bottles of wine per year, all under strict control. 75% is Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Pinot Noir and 5% Rosé. We left the 4 of them in Sancerre to have lunch and we walked down a steep hill to the Carrefour to do shopping. This has been the best part of the trip so far! We stocked up on water and food for 2 days and called Maguy (the taxi driver) to fetch us. She was so helpful and assisted with loading and off loading the groceries. Despite Nico promising we would not see Tim till the last night where it is unavoidable, they were sitting waiting for him! This was no coincidence as Joyce pretended and I was more than upset!! We unpacked the groceries, had lunch on the barge and waited for Nico et al to get back. As soon as they did we unhooked the power and set off. I decided to read for a bit but there were locks that needed me. We had a cider between the last 2 locks and then found a place to tie up for the night. There is free water and electricity at Charite but all the berths were taken. So, we moved a bit along and stopped. Nico took the bike for a ride and I washed dishes and started on dinner. I made a vegetarian pasta sauce to go with taglietelle. We had cravettes to start and I was amazed and how they were devoured! Cheese and biscuits to finish the meal. I washed the dinner dishes and asked for the glasses to be left on the table with the cheese plates. This was ignored and all the dirty stuff was put with the clean stuff. (Kim, if you are reading this, my name is now Sophie). The ice tray was left empty in the kitchen! Only 3 people take ice in their wine and not one of them has filled a tray once, despite emptying two a night. I have been moaned at for there not being ice. I got ready for bed and Wanette had her 30th plus cigarette for the day. Someone then had a shower and I lay awake for ages!
September 21: Briare to just past Cosne-Cours-Sur-Loire
Dave and I woke up at 6am and at 6:30 he took the car back to Gien and cycled back to the barge. We all showered and had croissants for breakfast. At 9am the lovely young gentleman from Le Boat showed us where someone had switched off the water! We left just after 9am and the first lot of locks were automatic. The rest have had very helpful lock keepers and some have actually looped the ropes for us. The locks are all manual which means a lot of work for them! We crossed over the Loire on a narrow canal – the pont du Loire. It was amazing. We stopped and had a picnic lunch at the side of the canal. At the next lock I bought a bottle of Sancerre regional Sauvignon wine for the white wine drinkers and at the next lock I got tomatoes. They look fantastic and I am sure the lock keeper was pleased to sell some of his produce. We tied up at Cosne and Dave and I used the wobbly bikes to cycle to the shops – which were closed! The round trip was 5.6km and I enjoyed the exercise and relative peace! Only had to worry about falling off the bike. We went through the next lock and found a spot to tie up at. I made mushroom and courgette pasta sauce to go with the filled pasta we bought. After washing dishes I sat down and had some cheese and biscuits before heading to bed.