Yes.. we’re now back in Paris and loving it.
The route we took to make the journey from Lille to Paris:
- Lille to Douai via La Deule across the Scarpe (where we took the detour to Arras) and briefly on the canal de la Sensee. Covered in our last blog.
- Just south of Douai turning onto the canal du Nord to Noyon (near Pont l’Eveque) where we used the canal lateral a l’Oise to Compiegne.
- Compiegne to Conflans on the Oise and into the Seine.
This final leg of our journey for 2011 seems to have gone on, and on, and on! Mostly because of yet more technical and mechanical problems. In Douai we were determined to get our Hurricane (oil-fired heating system) working which had been on strike since our trip away for 12 days to Cornwall. Always a bit temperamental it had completely given up and would not restart.
After many conversations with the team at Calcutt Boats (the distributor of the system) in the UK we were no more comfortable with what the problem might be .. so we ordered the two most important parts via urgent courier: a circuit board and a compressor. These were delivered to a boatyard at Douai who advertised they were specialists in ‘chauffage’ or in English ‘heating systems’. After lengthy discussion and one visit from them on our way to Arras we had agreed that on our return from Arras they would be available to work on our Hurricane.
On our return from Armistice Day in Arras, as arranged, the boatyard had both ‘pieces of kit’ and all we needed then was the ‘heating specialist’ to test them out. We had always emphasised how urgent this was.. we’d been without our radiators since Wambrechies, ten days before, and only had electric heating (not good when on generator power only). It took them three full days of our time sitting around waiting for someone to finally come to test these two simple parts to find out what the problem was. It turned out to be the compressor and quite a simple replacement.
With our heating back up and running and in our nice warm boat we were still on schedule for our next major appointment with our friend Janie Lalor who was due to arrive from Australia on the 23rd November.
We were relatively late in the year to be wandering around the waterways in our ‘pleasure boat’. In fact we were the only such boat we’d seen on the move since Gent: every other vessel out and about was a commercial barge of one size or another. Almost all of these commercial barges have radar, automatic identification systems (AIS) and other sophisticated equipment to help them plough on in the dark and in fog. Of course that’s what we were now experiencing: thick fog.
We do have a Simrad AIS which alerts us to other boats in our area (as long as they also have AIS) but it’s no help to us when we can’t see the banks on either side of the canal.. that’s when we must stop and wait for the fog to lift. So our journey began to slow .. and slow .. for several days we were only able to travel for a few hours.
After explaining to our dear friend Janie we would now not be in Rueil Malmaison after all, she took on the challenge of meeting us further up the river Oise at a town called Creil. To do this Janie took the train from Paris and found her way to this interesting town which had a reasonably good mooring on a concrete platform or jetty which was accessible – although it did have a sign stating ‘No Mooring’ (we just ignored it).
It seemed an excellent start to Janie’s holiday .. she’d found her way from Paris via train to Creil, this rather obscure town, and we met an over-excited Janie at the station and set off together for lunch in the centre of town. This seemed a good idea as it was the old section of town and usually the area to find the best restaurants. There were in fact very few of them and none were accessible. Finally we found a charming-looking place but it had one step up and we hadn’t brought our little ramp .. so the welcoming young waitress, who spotted us standing outside discussing what to do, came out to suggest she sets up a table outside. “Why not”, we agreed .. it was mild and even sunny although a high-rise building cast it’s shadow across the restaurant.
It turned out to be a very entertaining lunch as we watched life around us from our table. We saw one potential criminal arrested: a police van arrived and parked across the pavement blocking a small car in which there was one person who was later bundled into the van and taken away. Then his car was driven away by (perhaps) one of his friends who appeared from a shop on the opposite side of the road which was selling goodness knows what, nothing we were familiar with. Meanwhile a group of hooded youths huddled around the adjacent square and occasionally walked together to jeer at the police (with care, finger gesticulations were used when the police were looking the other way). With the police long gone this group met with a tall blond-haired man and exchanged what looked to be money for small, white packets of something! And we couldn’t miss the few men lined up outside a door beside us. They didn’t speak to one another but waited, and waited and the queue was joined by a few more people before at last someone came along and unlocked the door and they disappeared inside.. no-one exchanged a word or glance. Well .. Janie and I agreed that was a very interesting and entertaining lunch (Stewart unusually was sitting with his back to most of the goings-on). The food was unexpectedly good and excellent value so we left town with a feeling of positiveness about the trip ahead.. there’s always a lot to see and do on the waterways.
In high spirits and with great optimism (as usual) we left Creil the following morning after a very quiet night (thankfully) although with a slight concern about fog (it still lurked about). Visibility was fine and it was safe to potter on down the Oise arriving at l’Isle Adam (see our blog of 2010 for our previous visit) but with a new nagging potential mechanical problem. Stewart had noticed a small vibration at low revs and we had a problem with the grease gland burning hot.
After more thorough checks, a reassuring call to our mechanic and a few tweaks to the grease gland and with no vibration the following morning we left l’Isle Adam ambling on down the Oise and turning into the Seine. All seemed well on departure .. but once on the Seine we had to stop.
After a baffling few days stranded at one inaccessible emergency mooring or another, we finally discovered that all four engine mounts had snapped and therefore the prop was not able to turn freely (amongst other challenges). This discovery, after various mechanics had, over the past few years and days, discussed and looked at our engine and prop many times, came as a big shock to all of us. A long story but we will cut now to finally getting under way on the Seine for our journey into Paris, after our eight days at Conflans-St-Honorine.
It’s hard to imagine Janie’s position, arriving for a holiday in Paris and most her time was spent in Conflans .. a great town we all agreed but not quite Paris!
Our new engine mounts arrived (couriered from Weesp in the Netherlands) and our dear mechanic Clive came all the way from Paris (a two-hour drive) and had us up and running by nightfall. The following morning we were on our way to Chatou .. in the western suburbs of Paris around 15 kilometres (9 miles) away but much further by boat on the meandering Seine. We visited Chatou last year (our blog here) – it is part of the well-off suburbs of Paris, famous for featuring in many Impressionists paintings and where Renoir painted numerous works including the ‘Déjeuner des Canotiers’ (‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’)in 1881. We had a very restful afternoon at this historic town .. a delightful lunch and that was just about enough after our eight days exploring Conflans and region. We couldn’t wait to get to Paris.
Wet, windy and cold the following morning .. but it didn’t matter as we were on our final leg into Paris. Despite some minor concerns about the engine it was a very smooth journey up the Seine through the heart of this wonderful city, with only a few tourist boats to consider. Our entry into port via the lock was beautifully managed by Stewart helped along by being greeted by John waving us through (“yes it’s open”) and Lesley (our friends from ‘Emanual’ already in port for the winter) both helping with mooring at our old spot.
Lesley1 took a series of photos of us crossing the Seine and entering port and before we’d finished plugging in our electricity and settling in for the evening she’d put them on the internet (click here) for us to view.
Janie had enough remaining time in Paris to get totally excited again, but left with a little pang of desire to explore more as she headed off for London. We are now anything but alone in that we have our friends around us here at port (on their respective boats) and we have been warmly welcomed by our local butcher, baker and repair man whose job it is to put patches on the elbows of Stewart’s jumpers and skivvies (an Australian tradition) worn out by his ultra-active interest in all that we do (his elbows taking the brunt of it).
We feel we are back in our village .. and now is a time for a little bit of stay-at-home whilst we plan our journey for 2012. There are some refinements and potentially an engine upgrade to be made during this spell before we can journey further .. and in between we are planning our return to Australia.
We will be meeting Janie again for one night on her return from London and on her way back to Australia. Christmas is more than in the air .. it is visibly pulsing away the minute we step off the boat.. and perhaps some Christmas decoration has to come on board!
Meanwhile we wish all our friends and family a wonderful pre-Christmas prelude. We will be back in touch again soon .. one way or another.