|Afternoon tea for mum's birthday, that's her in the middle with her sister in the pink and black and daughter (me!) in the stripes|
Leaving Toul on 27 May you could see the old ramparts of the city and went under them at one point.
|Going under the old ramparts - or, the first smiley??|
A few locks down and we were on a section of the Moselle, a big wide river with big river locks – nice!
|We felt as if we were crossing a Scottish loch!!|
|Big lock all to ourselves!|
As the day went on, the skies cleared and by the time we were approaching our stop for the night, Liverdun, it was lovely. As we looked for the entrance that would take us off the river and onto a sheltered pontoon mooring, we spotted a boat ahead. Initially we thought it was fishermen, but on closer inspection with the binoculars, saw it was the river police with fishermen, presumably checking their licences. Having done with the fishermen, they then headed towards the shore where they appeared to have words with some elderly French gents and their dogs. At this point, we turned into the cutting where the pontoon was only to see a cruiser moored up already, but no problem, there was plenty of room for the two of us. The occupants were just returning from having a look at the town of Liverdun before heading off again for Metz, and kindly assisted us mooring up, despite which we still managed to pop a fender on a sharp piece of metal underneath the pontoon! We were no sooner tied up when there was a buzzing in the air, a ripple on the water and the Gendarme Nautique appeared around the corner, and as they approached requested permission to board us to do some checks. As we began to deal with one of them, the second approached the Americans on the cruiser, who explained that they were just leaving. The Gendarme said, Okay, that’s fine, we just wanted to check this boat (ours!), at which point the guy dealing with us decided that no, he wanted both boats checked.
We have all our documentation in a folder ready for such an event, although the only people we know who have actually ever been boarded are Roger and Yvonne on Out of the Blue, who were boarded twice last year! Everyone else rather treats these boardings as semi-mythical, have heard of someone who heard of someone who knew someone who knew someone who had been boarded once upon a time – you get the gist. So here we were, being boarded and although we knew all our paperwork etc was in order, these guys have guns, so you hope you don’t piss them off…….. They checked our lifejackets, but only that we had enough for those on board, they didn’t check the expiry dates on them, which is good cos ours had expired and we had replacement gas waiting for us to bring back from the UK the following week! They checked our ICC, which is our licence to drive our boat on the French waterways and they checked our passports – that the names on them matched those on the licences. Their last interest was fire extinguishers which are meant to be checked and stamped annually in France. Luckily (well, not really luckily) we had used one on the boat that went up in flamed in Roanne (remember Mimine the cat?) so had bought a new one to replace it, so we showed them that one which was in date, as the other two aren’t, even though Mike checks them religiously every month and they are in order, they probably don’t comply with the French legislation. So all was in order for us but unfortunately not so for the Americans next door. They had life jackets, their passports but proceedings ground to a halt when asked for their ICCs. They didn’t know what the Gendarmes were talking about. Mitch, who owns Marjani (the cruiser) with his brother and has done for several years, eventually recalled his brother perhaps mentioning that you’re meant to have some sort of licence but no one bothers checking, so they didn’t have one. Their frustration was compounded by the fact Mitch had spent the last three days deep in the bilges trying to fix other things that had gone wrong with the boat, and finally having broke free of Toul, after two hours cruising they were being told they couldn’t move again until someone had a licence. Things were getting a tad fractious as the gendarmes repeated that the boat must not be driven and Mitch trying to explain he knew the problem but needed to be told how to remedy it. The language issue wasn’t helping so the gendarme asked me to translate, but I was only repeating what they already knew.
|Suspecting they wouldn't want their photo taken Mike took this surreptitiously with his phone.|
|And I waited until they weren't looking ;)|
We asked the gendarmes if we could drive their boat as we both have licences and they said that was fine. It doesn’t matter who it is, they just have to have a licence, so we of course offered to take them to Nancy the next day. There were a few options available; get someone from Toul to come and drive her back to Toul, speak to the Marie at Liverdun and ask to leave the boat there until licences were sought, come with us to Nancy, or continue on as they were and hope that they didn’t get caught. So we went off to explore Liverdun and leave them to decide what to do.
|Lovely little mooring at Liverdun, next to Marjani and the illegal Americans :)|
|The pretty hilltop town of Liverdun had its bunting out for us ;)|
|Lovely views of the way we had just come.|
As Mike and I returned to the boat, something orange caught our eye over on the other side of the cutting from the pontoon. It was a life-ring, just like ours. It was ours!! As the pontoon was quite high against us, we’d dropped our life-ring down to act as a fender to keep the paintwork off the pontoon, and somehow, it had come undone, plopped into the water and made its way to shore. I set off with the boat hook to retrieve it while Mike got started on making our tea. As I got closer, the ring was already being pulled out by Jim and Meredith, husband and wife team on board with Mitch, so the boat hook got taken for a walk for nothing. Mitch was with them too and they were heading out for some pizza having decided to stay the night and then head for Nancy in the morning with us, with Mike driving Marjani and me on Quaintrelle with either Jim or Meredith with me to help in the locks. Having made their decision, they were up for making the most of it and invited us over for drinks later as a thank you for helping out. We had a nice night with them, enjoying the company.
The next day we had a leisurely start and headed off around 10am, with Mike and Mitch on Marjani and Meredith and Jim with me on Quaintrelle. They were so excited about their trip on a narrowboat, it was really sweet.
|My vantage point lets me have a better view of what's going on at that lock. The lock-keeper took our photos when we left this lock, not sure if it was for the Gendarmes......|
|Much excitement spotting the babies on the back of the big swan :)|
|Going up with Marjani|
|Jim learning what it feels like to keep a 20 tonne narrowboat from bouncing around in the lock :)|
|Coming into the port at Nancy which is just after the bridge.|
Arriving at Nancy, we decided to spend a night on the quay opposite the port, which is free and quite a nice towpath mooring. The only price we did pay was a lad boarding us to have his picture taken by his mates………. He wasn’t there for long! We went for a brief look around, reported into the Capitainerie to see where he wanted us to go the next day, then chilled out for a couple of hours before meeting up with the Americans to go into town as they wanted to take us for dinner as a thank you. Fortunately the hour long violent storm that came overhead had cleared by the time we were going out – it was so loud, we couldn’t hear the tv!! We hadn’t expected much of Nancy so were completely blown away by the stunning Stanislav Square, where we decided to bite the bullet of eating in a touristy restaurant for the pleasure of eating on the square.
|Dressed for dinner - well, as dressed as we get these days......|
|Jim, me, Mitch and Mike gathered for a pre-dinner photo in Stanislav Square|
|And by the time we'd finished the lights had come on!|
The next day it was chucking it down as we set off down to the Auchan supermarket a kilometre or two down the canal to fill up with fuel and heavy groceries; bottled water, milk etc. It was a miserable 20 minute cruise before we winded, moored up and did two runs to the petrol station there. A quick trot around the supermarket and then back to the port where we pulled in alongside one of the residential barges where we would leave Quaintrelle for the next 11 days while we headed back to the UK. As we moored up, the rain cleared away completely and the sun came out to provide a hot, sunny afternoon, so we headed back into town to explore further. It’s a really lovely town, lots of pretty streets and shops and we headed back to the boat via the lovely big park near the port, where you can find plenty of cool shade to relax under.
The morning of 30th May was spent packing, saying farewell to Mitch, Meredith and Jim (who would be remaining in Nancy and leaving Marjani there for Mitch’s brother to collect in June, by which time he’d have his ICC!) and then making our way by tram to the station at Nancy. From there it was a bus ride to Lorraine TGV and then the train straight into Charles de Gaulle.
We arrived at Edinburgh just after 10pm, picked up our hire car and headed to Fife, where mum was already tucked up in bed and we spend an hour opening all our post.
The next day had been designated ‘Garage Day’, which involved going through everything we have stored there, deciding what we did/didn’t want moved to the new house in France and packing it all up again. It was amazing how much of what I’d kept I don’t want anymore……….
Friday 1 June was dentist followed by dropping off our tent to have a pole repaired in Musselburgh, then some shopping in Edinburgh. It was also my mum’s 80th birthday which would be celebrated properly the next day. On Friday afternoon, my brother John arrived and after tea, we walked down the Hillend Tavern for a few pints. The pub was really busy which was great to see.
Slightly woolly-headed we were up the next morning and into Inverkeithing to pick up a buffet for the afternoon, beautifully prepared by Millbrae Café, where we had a full Scottish breakfast while we were there – would be rude not to. An added bonus of this little errand was I got to see my old school chum, Karen Simpson (as she was then!) who now runs the café and I hadn’t seen since we were 15 and her family moved off to Ireland. We had a lovely catch-up and I can confirm she is just as nuts now as she was then!!
|Karen, me (35 years later), Mike, big brother John|
|The new bridge. It will still be getting called that in 80 years.|
|Looking back towards Dalgety Bay from our coastal stroll - look at the blossoms!|
In the afternoon we were joined by family on my mum’s side who we’d not seen for ages and we had a great time catching up with everyone and celebrating mum and my 130 years between us!!
|Sisters in their flowery frocks!|
|An evening stroll going the other way this time.|
|The three bridges over the River Forth|
After a bit of lie-in on Sunday, I was picked up by Susan and Mark and taken to the Dakota for lunch as a birthday treat. I’d never been before so was quite excited and wasn’t disappointed – it was really lovely, and such a treat. Felt very, very spoiled!
|Susan with her Mojito|
On Monday 4th we set off to drive down to York, via Whitby to see Mike’s Uncle Ronnie, 90 and still as sharp as a tack! From there we headed to Fran and Sally who were providing our accommodation for a couple of nights, later all meeting up with Dave and Mel for a curry in Pocklington. It was great to see everyone, but we were absolutely shattered by bedtime, only to be up again the next morning and off in the car towards Lincoln. Mike had wanted to get me some jewellery for my birthday, so we’d been in touch with Trevor Forrester, who made my blue necklace, engagement ring and London Topaz ring I got for Christmas 2016. He had made me a pendant and we were off to collect it and meet Trevor in person for the first time!!
I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I was thrilled to bits with the pendant, when I was presented with a surprise – matching earrings!!! It was so lovely to meet Trevor at last and see around his workshop and the things he’s currently working on. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, not least because I at last had my hands on my jewels!!
From there we headed back up towards York, had a quick shufty round the designer outlet and popped into see Mike’s brother Chris and partner Jan. Our quick catch-up with them ended up being a couple of hours as we’ve not seen them for ages and of course, Mike was desperate to see Chris’s new car!
Back at Fran and Sally’s we had a nice quiet evening in with them, enjoying some more birthday bubbles courtesy of Dave and Mel – I’ve never known a birthday to go on for so long!!
We had a more leisurely start on Wednesday kicked off in style with poached eggs on toast made by Sally, before heading off into York to look at copper baths (for the house, not the boat!) and sound systems. Mike then went off to visit a client for work and I had my legs waxed. I then headed to Stuart and Debbies for a cuppa where Mike joined me later – another friend’s news all caught up with!
We spent Wednesday evening at Robertson Towers with Vicki, James and the Pongos. We were trying to keep a low profile from them as the kids were in the midst of the GCSEs – something obscene like 22 exams between the two!!!! But couldn’t go to York and not see them at all. After a few more glasses of bubbly we headed out for a curry, then a few drinks back at the house before bed. The next morning was spent catching up on admin and as I munched my way through my toast felt an odd crunching sensation signalling that my back tooth had broken off at the corner…….. I phoned the dentist immediately and by some miracle managed to get an appointment for the following morning, which was fine as I was going back up to Scotland that afternoon. It did mean that my leisurely morning with my mum was now off the cards tho’. So Mike and I parted ways as I headed back north and he stayed to see his accountant and catch up with Streety and Nigel and Jane and Ian for curry that night. Mike would have happily had curry every night we were in the UK as it’s the one thing he really missed in France.
Meanwhile, I had a 6.30am start on Friday to catch the bus to Edinburgh for my dentist appointment at 9.30am. I was concerned as it’s a tooth that is heavily filled and broke off just under a year ago, and will reach a point where it can’t be repaired and will need a crown. Thankfully that was not this time and dentist Drew worked his magic and repaired the tooth in a record 20 minutes – phew!!
From there I headed into Edinburgh to pick up sandals for Mike, grabbed a coffee and then jumped on the tram out to the Gyle where I met my mate Hazel, for the first time in about 10 years, for a quick lunch. With so much to catch up on the time flew by and I was back on the tram into Edinburgh to meet up with my mum and Aunty Nancy and cousins Diane and Jane for afternoon tea at Browns to celebrate our 130 years! It really had been the birthday that just keeps on giving…
|Aunty Nancy says, "Ahhhhh!"|
|Two beautiful and remarkable ladies, 87 years and 80 years - you are amazing and we love you xxx|
|Me and my mummy (note my new pendant and earrings!)|
After tea I met with my friend Les (Dible) for a couple of drinks, as she’d hoped to meet up the previous week for lunch with Susan, but life had got in the way at the last minute and she couldn’t make it. So it was brilliant that we managed a last-minute arrangement to meet up for a couple of hours before I headed back to Fife to be reunited with my dear husband.
Saturday morning was a combination of catch up and necessity as we headed over to Stockbridge for me to get my haircut. Having had my hair done by Keith for 25 years now, he is not only my hairdresser but a friend as well, and having had a terrible time losing his wife last year, it was lovely to see him coming to terms with it and starting to enjoy life again.
From there we went up Crieff to visit Mike’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Douglas. They were both well and Douglas on good form plying me with wine, white port and portugese brandy, as his usual drinking buddy, Mike, was driving.
Back in Fife, mum was having a wee panic to herself as she’d expected us back earlier and couldn’t get us on our mobiles as we had no signal at Crieff. She’d phoned everyone except the police, much to our embarrassment, and I felt like a teenager again………….. But all’s well and we were back safely and getting packed up for our flight the following morning (via Specsavers to pick up Mike’s new glasses!).
We were absolutely knackered and couldn’t wait to get back to the boat for a rest, which is ironic as before we left the boat, we couldn’t wait to get moored up and back to the UK for a rest. Will we ever get a rest????!!!! This retirement thing is very tiring. It must be, it has the word ‘tire’ in the middle – just missing the ‘d’.
All our travel went without a hitch and by 8pm (7pm UK) we were back on the boat, with all the doors and windows opened up to let her breath the balmy evening air. It had clearly been quite wet while we were away as my plants were thriving and some sitting in a pot of water! We unpacked, had a glass of wine and headed out over the bridge to get a kebab for tea, but only managed to eat half before crashing into bed – oh how our own bed felt so good. It was good to be back!