Going back in time, since our last blog, our final weeks in Australia were spent at our gorgeous house on the Hawkesbury River in a mix of frantic preparation for our departure (packing up the house, again) and enjoying time with friends and family.
There were many small jobs to do, like cutting back the overgrowth from our Macadamia trees, Christmas bush and the various ‘beds’ containing mostly natives but taken over by kikuyu grass (actually a horrible weed).
These jobs I can do myself. But for the big jobs like securing the boathouse which, with all of the floods and high tides was about to float away, we had to find seriously good help. To our delight we discovered Campbell and through him Dave who between them put the gorgeous building back on its posts and tied it down so it should be there on our return. Campbell is Captain of the Bar Point Fire Brigade (just across the river from our house) and Dave one of his fire-fighters.
Another big job for this team, and a challenge for most Australians with a weatherboard house, will be fixing the relatively small white ant (termite) damage and more importantly making sure they don’t come back and eat the rest of the house. That’s the main house, not the little boathouse. Very important work is continuing since our departure .. we hope! We are trusting in Max (Water Concierge) who luckily for us has just started a new business whereby he manages properties like ours for people in the region with waterside houses who are often not there.
At the end of May we packed our bags once again and bundled ourselves off to the airport dreading the flight but greatly looking forward to returning to the boat via Cornwall. Several events made the flight one of the more manageable: first Stewart was contacted by Qantas saying they had (in turn) been contacted by the Singapore Government to ask if Mr MacLennan would like to stay on board in Singapore. (The answer was a resounding YES.)
This has been an ongoing battle over the years. Why does everyone have to get off? See our blog when Stewart simply refused. Secondly, for the first time for us, Qantas actually used their much-promoted Eagle Lifter to take Stewart down the aisle and into his seat. Hardly a pleasant experience but arguably better, for the crew and especially for Stewart, than the usual horrendous man-handling using a baby chair.
We arrived at Heathrow in better shape than usual and once we’d organised our hire van we made the four-hour drive to see our Cornish family.
Once again we were hosted by Jonney and Felicity across the road from their pub, the Cornish Arms.
There was much excitement about two major events, first of course it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations followed by the Royal Cornwall Show… they must have been royaled out by the end of the full-on week. We had a great time with the Cornish clan, as always, a short stay and finally back to our boat.
The final section of our journey back to ’Endellion’ was from Cornwall to Paris via Eurostar from St Pancras station in London.
Other than travelling in our own boat we love to use Eurostar as we find their service, support and travelling style exceptional: Stewart can stay in his wheelchair in a good space at the rear of the first class carriage (at no extra cost) – and it’s a very fast and enjoyable way to travel. By coincidence Stewart’s cousin Joy and husband John were passing through London on their big holiday from Australia. They had just completed a trip we envy: On a beautiful hotel boat from Turkey all the way to Amsterdam. As we drove our van into St Pancras station standing on the pavement were Joy and John ready to help us into the station. There’s something special about catching up with family when so far from home and totally out of context with your normal experiences. We had a great lunch at the station (one of the best railway stations) and soon after we boarded and were away to Paris.
Alex, our mechanic, had taken the boat from Paris to Draveil around 30 kilometres south up the river Seine once he had installed the new Steyr engine. So when the Eurostar arrived at Gare du Nord at around 8.45pm we simply had to take the train, direct from the same station, to Juvisy which is just across the river from our mooring. We bought the tickets at €8 each and were kindly accompanied to the lift by a charming lady in the regulation bright red hat of the station staff. Descending to our platform we casually asked if for sure the lift was working at Juvisy .. we had been assured it worked now after almost two years of being out of order (see our blog). Just to check she radioed her supervisor and as we arrived at our platform for the departing train she said “No. The lift does not work so you won’t be able to get off at Juvisy.” Not again we thought. Two and-a-half hours later the only option they could find was a taxi at €65 (at our cost) and they wouldn’t even reimburse us for the tickets already purchased! That’s SNCF for you .. we’d experience this all before and so we wonder why we continued to be so optimistic.
At around 11.30pm we finally arrived at the Draveil marina, unique in France being specified as wheelchair accessible through their relatively recent redevelopment. The last time we were here we had perfect access. We’d expected to find ’Endellion’ in the location we’d used before, unfortunately this wasn’t the case but thanks to the boat’s configuration we could enter and exit from the rear of the stern (as well as both stern sides) – and in the darkness (as they hadn’t left the electricity connected) we boarded, stumbled around, found our beds and crashed out!
The next few days were spent cleaning and preparing the boat for the 30 kilometres run into Paris, down the River Seine. A new 144hp Steyr engine .. how will Stewart feel at the controls of this one, double the size of our original Yanma which was 70hp?
The answer .. we had a great trip into our by now very familiar port in Paris, the Arsenal… and a quick one! He’s one very happy skipper.
Next: Escaping Paris and the River Oise.