Tuesday 5th September dawned bright and sunny again and after an initial start of jeans and shirt, these were soon swapped for shorts and vest as the day warmed up nicely. Today’s target was St Dizier where we would stay for a few nights as I was spending the following day on the train to go and pick mum up from Charles de Gaulle airport, as she was joining us for a week’s holiday. I’d called the previous day to say not to bring a heavy coat or anything as it was lovely and warm – that was the kiss of death for the weather………
|Enjoying the sun, but not so much the deep, feisty locks.|
|Thankfully they did eventually stop at 22.34!!|
On the hour-long approach to St Dizier we were accompanied by the roar of Mirage jets from the nearby airbase, as they appeared to be doing manoeuvres for the duration. “Will they stop for the night?” I asked Mike as we moored up and were drowned out by further take-offs. “I hope so.” As usual, not long after mooring up one of the locals stopped to stare and my good manners forced me out to chat. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, she kindly told me this was a nice town, good shopping, in fact the supermarket was just a 5 minute walk from our mooring. “C’est genial!” I responded, “Je dois aller au supermarche pour courses.” “Venez avec moi!” she replied, smiling broadly. She wanted to take me to the supermarket there and then. I made my excuses, and as an elderly gentleman joined us, I managed to make my excuses and went down below to hide. As I battened down the hatch I heard her proudly exclaim, “Je parle avec une eccossais!!!!”………. Well, whatever floats your boat I suppose…….
We picked up some tokens from the swimming pool across the canal which would allow us electricity and water and use of the brand new pump out machine – and all for free!!! Nice one.
The next morning I was off sharp for the 9.30 train to Chateau Thierry, where I would change for the train to Meaux, from where I would get the bus to the airport. I couldn’t buy my ticket from Chateau Thierry to Meaux as this train was run by Transilien (still SNCF), which is the Paris section of trains, and I had to buy a special Transilien ticket, which you can only buy from Transilien stations, so I missed the first connection at Chateau Thierry as I queued for a ticket, and waited the hour for the next one. At Meaux the station and bus station was heaving – it appeared school was out and I realised that Wednesday must be a half day in that region. In France, they don’t have specially chartered buses for schools, but any bus that runs is used as a school bus and the kids can all use their passes on any bus. Great in theory, but not if you’re a punter trying to get on the number 20 to Charles de Gaulle. As me and a few other people with suitcases waited, the bus stand got busier and busier full of school kids waiting for the bus to go home, as this bus stopped at Clay Souilly en route to the airport. When the bus arrived it was a free for all, not pushing and shoving, but a slight air of panic from the punters that we might not get on, as the kids appeared to have priority, or were making it look like that. At one point I was stood behind a young lad who suddenly didn’t seem bothered about getting on and stopped, as the people from around me started passing me towards the door, so I did a very un-British thing and just pushed past him, some young girls and got my hand on the bus door to stop anyone else pushing past me. I stepped up, “Bonjour!!”-ed the bus driver, stamped my ticket and sat in the first seat I came to, right at the front. The bus driver was great. He was organising the teenagers, yelling at them to move up, get their bags off the seats, MOVE UP!! And eventually he actually got everyone on the bus, albeit in various states of squashedness – I didn’t care, I had a seat. The French left standing, were very jovial about it and I felt a bit bad that I’d had a very british panic attack when they clearly weren’t bothered about the situation at all, must have trusted the driver would get everyone on. There was one lady left on the stand, and the bus driver asked her to come on but she said she’d wait. “The next bus is an hour wait. Are you sure you won’t come on?” he asked again, but she said she didn’t mind waiting, so off we went. Three stops later, the bus was empty bar a dozen or so of us going to the airport….
At the airport I had some time to kill so had a coffee, something to eat and then caught up on a bit of blogging. It was no time at all before mum’s flight arrived (early) and she was being wheeled through the arrivals doors. When I say she was being wheeled, she was, as she was in a wheelchair. No, she’s not had an accident, she’s fine, but when we were booking her flights earlier in the year, she asked if I would book special assistance for her as she was just a little nervous about getting to the right gate and on the right flight etc. I ticked the box for “May have difficulty walking long distances.”as it was the closest fit to her requirements – there was no, “Passenger is just a little bit elderly and a little nervous about navigating a busy airport, so wouldn’t mind someone helping them out.” Mum’s friend Pat had advised mum that if they offered a wheelchair to take it, don’t be proud, as sometimes it’s quite a distance to the gates, but being in the chair also means you get to jump any queues!! Well, it’s quite weird seeing your mum in a wheelchair unexpectedly, and for a moment she did look quite frail, but as soon as she was on her feet and we had a cuddle, all was well. The assistance had worked out brilliantly, just given mum that comfort that she was in the right place and, as it turned out, her gate at Edinburgh had been one of the furthest away ones that she reckons she wouldn’t have found on her own. It took away an element of stress and allowed her to enjoy her flight.
We then took the train back via Reims this time, with two changes, so didn’t arrive back at St Dizier until 9pm – nearly 12 hours after I’d left!
We had a bit of a lazy start the next day as we were all quite tired and decided that we would stay another night in St Dizier so we could take it easy. The sun was out but there was a coolish breeze as we walked for 30 minutes to the restaurant L’Epicurien for lunch, but it was worth the walk. We walked in and whilst it was a nice-looking family-type restaurant, it was full of workies in their dusty boots and paint-streaked breeks, however we took a table and put in our orders. The food was really good, and I think about 22euros for three courses. We walked back to the boat through the town and as we were looking at a building that Napoleon had stayed in, noticed that one of the streets was called Marie Stuart (Mary Stuart). This prompted a google search back at Quaintrelle where we discovered that Mary Queen of Scots had been married to Francis II briefly and on his death, as part of her widow’s dowry, was given part of the Haute Marne region, and stayed at the Chateau at St Dizier at some point. Maybe that’s why my little friend the previous day had been so excited to speak to an ‘eccossais’ – and speaking of which, there she was outside the window again, waving in, so I dutifully went out and spoke with her again, unable to get away as she seemed quite happy just to stand in silence when we ran out of things to say. We parted however, with her arranging to come back in the evening – oh whoop de doooo!!
Leaving mum relaxing on the boat, Mike and I headed to the supermarket to stock up on food stuffs and on our return had a shot on the Ninebot. Mum said if we’d had it 10 years ago she’d have had a shot, but not now. As the evening drew on I started to think I must’ve misunderstood my new friend’s intentions of revisiting us but as we sat down to a light supper just after 8pm, there she was, waving in at the window again. She could see we were eating and as I went out her face fell and she said as we were eating now I must have misunderstood our arrangement – I have no idea at this point what the arrangement was…. However, I was humbled as she handed over a present to me of a really pretty little pair of earrings she had bought for me, having clocked the ones I was wearing earlier she’d bought a similar style and colour. She wanted bisous (kisses!) for the gift, so I did the french thing…… We chatted a bit and then she waved over another couple of ladies sitting on a bench, her friends, and introduced us all and we stood and discussed the meal we’d had at L’Epicurian in some detail….they are obsessed with food, I tell you………. Anyway, they eventually all agreed I should get back to my food, said goodnight and left but not before I’d been grilled by my pal about when we were leaving the next morning.
And there she was the next morning, on her little scooter (not as in motorbike, as in a kid’s scooter – she’s in her late 50s early 60s), minus her cute Chihuahua, to bid us farewell, but not before we tried out the FREE brand, spanking new, never used pump-out machine. There is a reason it’s never been used. It has a connection that we have never seen on a boat and there was absolutely no way we could attach it to our boat to empty the black tank. I have no idea who advised the town council on what connection to put on it but they should be hung, drawn and quartered. Part of our research coming to France was on what adaptors we might need for water points and pump outs and everything we found on the latter suggested that there is just the one universal-type connector, which we, and every other boat we know, have. Clearly someone forgot to tell the port at St Dizier…….
We headed off just a short hop and a couple of locks to the village of Chamouilly where there was a lovely quay to moor right next to the village. Mum and I went for a wander with our waterproofs on as the sky was heavy, had a nosey in the church and on coming out were greeted by a very jovial man asking if we were visiting. He was the local mayor (Marie) and not only welcomed us to the village, but invited us to a parade and ‘repas convivial’ (village picnic) on Sunday, but as we were leaving on Saturday morning, we had to decline – but so lovely to have met the mayor and been invited!
|Leaving the pretty village of Chamouilly in the rain|
|Accompainied by a freight line for much of the way.|
|One of the bigger lift bridges that is manned.|
|Quite a few of the locks on this canal have lift bridges right before or after them.|
|By the time we reached Chevillon the sun was coming out.|
Mixed weather was to be the theme of mum’s “Don’t bring a big coat” holiday, with sunny spells spoiled by heavy, cold showers, but the next day brightened enough for a long walk from our mooring up to the village of Chevillon. The countryside in this area is very different from what we expected and has an almost ‘alpine’ feel to it, but when we looked at the map we realised we’re quite far east and not that far from Germany and Luxembourg.
On Sunday we made our way to Joinville where we’d stay for a few nights again as mum and I would get the train back to Charles De Gaulle from here on Tuesday for mum’s flight home on Tuesday afternoon. Mike had been in touch with Paul and Carol on Triona and having decided to winter there were on their way back so we arranged to see them there and have dinner together that evening. With it being Sunday, not much was open, but the Italian restaurant in town was, so we headed there. A cocktail, wine and some food later, we walked back to the boat and were very well behaved and went straight to bed, with Mike and I taking advantage of sleeping in the spare bed to watch some tv in bed.
|An even slower mode of transport than us!!|
|Feeling very alpine!|
On Monday, we shuffled down to a little mooring much nearer the town as mum and I had an early start on Tuesday and having a 25 minute walk to the station wouldn’t have set us off in such good stead. As we moored up the heavens opened and stayed open for much of the day, so our plans to explore the town and visit the chateau and garden were scuppered somewhat. Instead we lit the fire and settled down with a jigsaw.
By late afternoon, the rain was moving off, and having sat for over two hours, mum and I went for a walk around the town, and it’s a pretty little town, but were too late to get into the chateau unfortunately.
|Our mooring for the night nearer the town.|
|The river running through Joinville|
|The pretty chateau at Joinville|
|The river Marne getting smaller and shallower, with the canal just above it behind the trees|
We were up and at the station in good time the next morning to find our train was 10 minutes late. “That’s unusual,” I said,”normally the French trains are always on time.” Our connection at Chaumont was also running late, again unusual, and it wasn’t until we had arrived at Paris Est, walked to Gare du Nord and were trying to buy tickets for the RER to the airport that we realised why. It was a national strike day! It was probably as well we didn’t know as there was nothing we could’ve done about it, and we had allowed plenty of time to get to the airport. None of the ticket offices were manned and some of the machines were now breaking down under the strain, however we got tickets eventually and headed off for the RER B, following the signs. At the platform I noticed that the train there didn’t appear to be going to the airport and waited in line to ask a member of staff giving information. All of us were asking about the airport and we were redirected to another platform at the other end of the station……. Affected by the strike the RER B was only running between Gare du Nord and the airport. Normally it runs beyond Gare du Nord right through Paris, and normally it runs every 7 or 8 minutes, which today was cut to 13 to 15 minutes and there were no express ones, they were all stopping at all stops meaning the journey was taking 30-40 minutes. This was fine on the way out, but it was going to be really tight for me getting back for my 3.30pm train back to the boat, as we finally arrived at Charles de Gaulle at 2pm, when ideally I’d have been leaving to come back.
I deposited mum safely in departures, but we were 10 minutes early for Special Assistance being open for her flight, so I left her in a seat for 10 minutes after which she would report to the chap at the baggage check in. And I ran.
I got on an RER straight away, but it didn’t leave for another 13 minutes. I was absolutely champing at the bit as we pulled into Gare du Nord at 3.06pm and ran, I could see the exit I needed straight ahead, but I couldn’t get out to it. On one side, there was only one exit gate working and there were half a dozen armed soldiers fannying about with their passes trying to get out, so panicking I went back to another gate where the machine wouldn’t take my ticket…….. A chap went through the gate next to me with his pass, and I put my ticket in – it took it partway, then stuck, but I just managed to squeeze through the gates before they closed from the previous guy. My bag caught, and I wrenched it through and then ran, and ran, out the station, left, all the way to Paris Est where I scanned the boards for my departure gate – it was 3.18pm. I had 10 minutes to spare.
Finally our platform came up and I got on the TGV to Reims and settled into my seat and tried to still my beating heart. When you’ve spent so long in rural areas, it’s such a culture shock to come into a city, packed with people – it’s really stressful and I will never live in a city again.
Everything ran smoothly on the way back, it was even warm and sunny at Reims as I waited outside for my connection, I’d like to say enjoying a much longed for coffee, but I’d ordered a cappuccino from the vending machine, with sugar, but the machine was French so despite this, gave me a black coffee with no sugar…… I bought a kit kat chunky from the machine next door to sweeten things up a bit.
Back at Joinville, a quick call to mum who was just getting into the car at Edinburgh airport having been met by her lovely friend Connie, who would take her home, and I got changed and headed over to Paul and Carol’s boat for drinks. Mike had reversed the boat back to the port where they were moored, done a load of laundry at the supermarket (they often have big duty machines in the car parks) and we were having a last evening with them, eating at the restaurant on the port, La Vinaigrerie. We had a great evening, drinks on board Triona, the most amazing meal, then after dinner drinks on Quaintrelle. A fitting end to Paul and Carol’s season before they head back to the UK at the end of the month, and a fitting end to my stressful day travelling!
|Here's how far mum and i got!|