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.
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!
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.
Breakfast was a choice of French toast or omelettes. I chose the toast and Dave the eggs. It was served with a bowl of fruit which was good and a bowl of not so nice yoghurt. We landed early, made our way to passport control and through security to wait for our flight to France which was delayed. Dave and I walked around a bit, had coffee and then went to wait for the flight. After landing at Charles de Gaulle, a day and 5 hours late, we collected the car and headed for Briare. We stopped on the road and bought lunch to eat in the car. We dropped the luggage and Annie and Dell off at the barge and then Dave and I went shopping. With that all sorted and the suitcase unpacked, I could finally sit down and relax for a bit. We had cravettes and olives to snack on and then we made a tomato relish and Toulouse sausages for dinner. Cheese and biscuits to end and I was ready for bed. We are tied up in the barge basin so I had a shower using their facilities. It was bliss. The water on the barge stopped running for some reason. This is our blessing in disguise because had we been on time we would have been some way down the canal when it suddenly stopped. I headed to bed around about 11pm – quite a late night for me!
So, it was a bit like deja vu. Woke up, showered and repacked the overnight case before going to work. Got hold of Air France at 8am and we were told they could not confirm the seats until 15:30! With no other flight to Europe available we had to hope for the best. I left work at 2 and went shopping for clothes to wear on the flight. With nothing clean and the laundry still wet I had no other choice. I relaxed at home before Dave got back. He told me we had seats confirmed. We showered, got dressed into travelling clothes again and went to drop our cars off at work. Kenny (Del’s) son took the 4 of us to the airport. We got here at 19:00 and checked in. We headed straight for the Diners Club Lounge. We are there now, sitting and waiting to fly at 23:30!
Yes, you are reading that correctly! On the 15th of September the Air France pilots went on strike. At 12h38 on the 16th we were notified that our flight from Johannesburg to Paris had been cancelled. The first thing Dave did was secure us a booking on Swiss from Johannesburg to Zurich. While he was doing that I got hold of the insurance company and sorted out how we were to claim for the curtailment and changes. With that all dealt with, we called Air France. It took me 2 hours to get through to them! Dino answered the call and told us that the only flight they could get us on to was the BA flight to Paris via London. I told him that as we are South African passport holders this was not a feasible option as we needed Visas for the UK to transit. Our UK Visas expired on the 13th! He assured us this was not the case and Dave told him that if he was 100% sure, to go ahead and book the flight. So, 3 hours later we cancelled our Swiss booking and thought everything was under control. Yesterday (the 18th) we arrived at Cape Town International Airport and BA refused us permission to board the plane! Thankfully this was before we had even checked in. We had paid an extra R2000 for the seat allocation which at least we can apply for a refund for. The Bid Air counter attempted to first deal with the permission to land issue, rather than try and get hold of the Bid Air desk at OR Tambo in Johannesburg and get us onto the KLM flight departing from Johannesburg on the 18th. Dino was not answering his phone and his supervisor suggested that they call immigration at Terminal 5 at Heathrow to get us permission to land. Heathrow immigration would not take the call from Air France and insisted that BA call them. BA called and they refused us permission. So, by this time, it was well after 5pm and there seemed no immediate solution to our problem. The Air France office was now closed, and Bid Air in Johannesburg were not answering their phone. Our options were to fly Emirates today (the 19th) via Dubai and land in Paris at 13h30 or to fly KLM leaving Cape Town at 23h30 and land in Paris at 13h35. Given that the flight duration is shorter on KLM we chose that option. However, the flight is overbooked and we have been informed of this. We have new tickets – the third lot and a lot of issues to sort out. Once the tickets were issued we caught a taxi to Stephan’s house. He had dropped us off at the airport and taken my car home. Air France covered the cost of the taxi – I stopped looking at the meter once it had got to R350! We then called the house sitter to let him know we were sleeping at home and needed house keys to get in to the house. Kyle is the manager at our local Italian restaurant so we went and had supper there and collected the keys. He had been up to feed the dogs and collect his bag – thankfully for us he lives just down the road. After supper we came home and started with all the cancellations. First we had to tell Nico we would not be meeting him at the airport and he would need to get a lift to Briare. Then we cancelled our hotel booking. We cancelled the car booking and made a new one and then after all that, attempted to check in on the KLM flight. And guess what? We cannot check in. Which makes me think we are not actually on the flight. Also, we are meant to leave the barge basin on Saturday at 2pm and we will not get to Briare until 16h30. This does not bode well at all! Dave will drop me at Carrefour to do the shopping, then drop Annie and Dell off at the barge and get our suitcases on board. Then he will collect me and the shopping and drop me off. And then get the car back to Gien which is the next town. He will have to book a late drop off and get a taxi back! Air France is going to get a huge claim for all of this! I also need to shop for clothes as my wardrobe is limited and I need something to travel in tonight. Not the start to a holiday anyone wants.
The day before we leave for overseas always seems chaotic. I have to get keys sorted for the house sitter and make sure I am home before the maid leaves so that I can get in. As I prefer to leave things to ‘the last minute’ I will only pack my suitcase late in the afternoon. My packing includes my clothes, all our toiletries and all the extra things we take with us as we stay in self catering accommodation. This includes salt and pepper, and what ever is left over from our previous trip. After the packing is done, supper gets sorted out and the recording set for the news is cancelled.
The following day we get the suitcases into the car and head to work. Chaos continues while I set up the auto response on my emails (I have 3 addresses), change my voice mail and set up one email address on my phone.
But, all this chaos is worth it as I know my holiday starts as soon as we sit down in the lounge and relax before our flights.