Sunday, 16 July 2017

Where Else Would You Want to Spend Bastille Day?

Mike didn’t sleep as well on the night of Wednesday 12th July at Villette as he had half an ear open for kids running on the roof again, but all was quiet and I slept like a log.  We had an easy start on Thursday with the usual confusion trying to radio the lock keepers to seek passage.  I radioed Ecluse Temple, which controls the flight through Saint Martin during July and August.  I got a reply from Ecluse Flandres saying I had to call Ecluse Temple.  I said I thought I had called them (on VHF 20), and slightly confused we pushed off anyway soon reaching the lift bridge into the Villette basin.  We hung about for the red light to change, and as the bridge lifted Mike started to head through.  As our nose came towards the bridge a voice boomed over the loudspeaker, “Attendez! Attendez!!”  Although we had clearance under the bridge, it wasn’t fully lifted and the light hadn’t changed to green for go.  Naughty Mike!!  At the other end of the basin we reached the first pair of locks and tried calling Ecluse Temple on VHF 20 again, as the sign on the lock said.  Again, Flanders replied saying we had to call Temple.  We’d realised, ‘appelez’ meant they wanted us to call by phone but we’d looked in our books and the only phone number given (and on the sign at the lock!) was for Flandres, so I said to the guy I didn’t have a phone number, I’d looked in my book but didn’t find one – all in French too!  Flandres then replied in English, ‘Okay, I’ll open the lock for you……’ ????????  I thanked him and we waited for the green light, entered the lock and started our descent.  He took our name, and then must have gone off to phone Temple to tell them we were on our way. 
Heading for the lift bridge on red!
Villette Basin
The Paris Plage set up at Villette for the summer with sand and beach huts included :)
Back down the Saint Martin

There was another message from Flandres all in French as we came out of the second pair of locks, the only part of which I understood was ‘go in on the green light’.  We only ever go in on a green light anyway, but as we went in could see some action in the chamber below.  There was a boat in it coming up.  So the message must have been, there is a boat coming up the next lock, but you can go down and swap chambers half way.  We didn’t get shouted at over the tannoy or anything, so we must have done the right thing, but it’s the first time we’ve ever seen the lock keepers do anything as risky as have two boats pass each other in a staircase lock…….

All too soon we were at the bottom of the flight and I returned the key for the Ourcq locks at the little control hut.  There were three guys in there, waiting on phone calls to navigate the flight when there is no advertised phone number to call them……..hmmmmmmm.
Looking up the Bastille's bottom again!
And back to Bassin D'Arsenal
Plaques showing the flood levels over the years in the Arsenal basin
Returning to Arsenal felt quite nice and we radioed the office, and were told to take space 134, which we had just reached, so we moored up and Mike went off to dispose of our used oil, having done a change a few days before, check us in at the office and collect a parcel they’d taken in for us.  He took ages to come back because he bumped into Paul and Carol from Birmingham who had arrived the day before.  Once he came back, we had some lunch and headed out with our target being to go up the Eiffel Tower.  We took the Velib city bikes and managed to get so far but then started to come across road closures and police and armed guards.  We had been following a couple of young German girls who looked like they knew where they were going, so once diverted we continued and catching them up at some traffic lights asked if they were going to the tower, which they were, and they were following a French couple they thought were going the same way.  We got closer to the tower and dumped the bikes at a Velib station and walked through the park to the tower.  At the foot of the tower it was all fenced off and an orchestra was practising which could only mean one thing – the Donald was in town, and not our feathered friend the Duck.  We tried to get around the tower to the other side but had to go a long way round, so Mike stopped and asked a young policeman if the tower was open.  ‘No, it’s closed today. ‘  Mike then asked if Donald Trump was there and the policeman smiled and said, “Maybe.  I don’t know.  It could be him.”  He wasn’t sure if the monument would be open the following day, Friday but it was most definitely closed all day today.  It was a bit disappointing to go all that way and then not get up the tower, especially when it was someone like the Donald that had spoiled it for me.  But it gave Mike opportunity to voice his little ditty, “Donald Trump, did a dump behind the kitchen door.  Ivana Trump cleaned it up and then he did some more.”  It’s supposed to be Donald Duck laid some muck, but I think the Trump version works rather well.

We strolled back along the river and around 5.30pm decided to treat ourselves to a wee glass of wine in one of the boat bars that line the Seine.  As we drank, there was a flurry of police and armed guard activity on the water and a grey reinforced boat went past, pulled up on the other side, where the occupants exited and were whisked away in a fleet of ominous looking black cars – the Donald again…….
Closed, but the orchestra were very good
You can never have too many pictures of this bridge.....
The Donald's less salubrious river transport
Back at the Arsenal, as we started thinking about dinner, Paul and Carol and Ollie the dog came by to say hello, and after chatting for some time, we arranged to meet up at theirs’ after dinner for a drink.  We got there at 9pm and staggered home just after 12, after a really lovely evening with them, exchanging stories and plans. 

The next morning, slightly woolly-headed, we got up early and away by 8.30am on the Velib bikes to get to the Champs Elysee for the Bastille Day parade.  Again we hit roadblocks fairly early on and abandoned the bikes to complete the detour on foot.  By the time we got there, the crowds were already thick and we weren’t going to be able to see anything more than the peaks of some caps and flag poles going past, so we found a patch of grass to sit on and wait.  Some people were obviously seasoned parade attenders and had brought small sets of step ladders with them or stools to stand on, others were climbing any bench, tree or fence available, but for those of us remaining standing only on our own two feet, you weren’t going to see much at all.

We managed to see Macron pass between heads, a tiny figure in the distance, waving and about half an hour later as we lay on the grass, there was a mighty roar and the French equivalent of the Red Arrows did a fly past.  We didn’t have the camera ready, but quickly got it out and managed to catch some of the other planes going past.
We're probably not going to see much from here.....
Unless we look up!!! :)

Shortly after that we headed off to wander back into town and as the parade ended could see various elements heading off out of the city centre, but we seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had either passed the place they were or they were on the other side of the river.  Until we turned onto a bridge to cross back over the Seine and in the distance on the other side I could see some horses……
Woohoooo - front row view as they head back to their stable.
There were several flurries of helicopters going home

We continued wandering back to Arsenal where I had a wee siesta and we had an early dinner as Paul had popped by to say we were to lock down on to the Seine at 7.15pm.  We had talked about taking Quaintrelle up the Seine for the Bastille Day fireworks on Friday night, but decided it would be too busy and rough and she would roll around even more than she did on the Wash last year.  Our friends Jane and Billy on WB Lazybones had done it last year and said it was the most amazing experience, so as Paul and Carol had been thinking about it, we convinced them (it didn’t take much to be fair) that they should go out and they would take us with them – wooo hoooo!!!  We were getting quite excited about the evening and that only increased as we locked down with Paul and Carol on yacht Triona and headed up to find a good spot to watch the fireworks.
Mike clocks up some sailing hours at the helm
A HUUUUUUGE and very ugly hotel boat
Negotiating with the Greeks to come alongside.  The young girls were very funny and would blow kisses and dance at young men passing on the tour boats :)
Not a bad view for the evening's event
Glass of a little something while we wait anyone??

About to start.....

And then it was time to drive home - past that bridge again ;)

We had to wait for the lock to get back into Arsenal as there were a few boats all going up, and just as we were about to get a green light to go, a passenger boat came across the radio, “Bateux Prioritaire S’il vous plait.”  Yes, even though they were empty and just heading home for the night, the passenger boats still get priority apparently, so we had another half hour to wait while they went up and the lock was emptied again for us.  It was quite a nerve-wracking climb in the lock as control decided to get the four of us waiting in together and we ended up pressed quite tightly against the wall of the lock and our fenders on the other side tangled with the large cruiser next to us, but with four of us all keeping watch at various positions we managed it and finally got moored back up just before 2am.  I was ready for bed, but when Paul suggested a night-cap, it seemed like the perfect end to the most wonderful night – what an experience, we’ll never forget it.

It was 11am when we stirred the next morning and after a quick dash to Monoprix for bacon we had our usual weekend breakfast before slowly getting our act together and heading out to site see, with today’s target being Montmarte and the Sacre Couer.  We started off walking, stopping for a lovely lunch around 2pm then picked up a couple of bikes to continue on.  As is often the way for us on bikes we soon found ourselves in the very dodgy area around Gard du Nord and too worried to stop and check directions until it felt safer when we decided to abandon the trip realising we’d have to go back through the dodgy bit again.  We found a station to leave the bikes and headed off for the nearest Metro and made our way back to Arsenal where we chilled out for a couple of hours before Paul and Carol came round for some dinner.  Having had a couple of heavy nights, we were all quite tired and we had an early start the next day, so it was very civilised and we were tucked up in bed by midnight.

I bounced out of bed at 7.40am on Sunday and Mike was not far behind me as we readied to leave Arsenal and head down the lock at 8.30am.  We had spoken with the staff at Arsenal about taking Quaintrelle up to the Eiffel Tower and they said if we went first thing it would be fine as none of the big trip boats start til around 10am, so the water shouldn’t be choppy.  We were a little late leaving and just made the green light at Saint Michelle which is timed and changed to red at 8.50am.  It was a gorgeous morning and on the way up we only passed one commercial barge, which created little wake.
Calm waters at 8.50am

Passing the stunning Musee d'Orsay

Morning ladies!!
This old girl was also taking advantage of the stillness being moved back to her mooring.
The newer bridges also have some handsome keepers
Quaintrelle and the Eiffel Tower

A quick turnabout and we're on our way back

Thankfully the Bateau Mouches are all still in bed
Don't look now Mike but we're being followed - as the clock drew close to 10am, more traffic began to appear

As we left Paris and the tourist boats behind the waters were getting a bit busier, though the worst wake we rolled around in was caused by a tiny, private little cruiser that sped past us regardless.  Half an hour later we reached the junction and took a left onto the calmer waters of the Marne – and…… breeeeeaaaaath…………….. The Seine has been a real adventure, very special, but we were both looking forward to coming off her and back to tranquillity again.
Passing the Josephine Baker Swimming Pool - yes, that's right, this is a swimming pool!
Approaching the junction of the Seine and Marne where there is a huge Chinese restaurant and hotel
Leaving the industrial Seine behind we turn onto the Marne