Saturday, June 23, 2007


As it turned out, to our dismay, we were not able to get on the Paris flight from Atlanta due to an error from one of the Delta employees while rewriting our ticket. Fortunately a couple of hours later there was a flight to Barcelona which we made without a problem. The flight was wonderful and we had a chance to truly unwind in Business Class with good service, food and wine.

We arrived in Barcelona early in the morning, took a taxi to the train station, put our luggage into lockers and set off to make the most of a beautiful sunny day in the capital of Catalonia. The Estacion de Francia is by the port, which to us was an opportunity to go look at the array of yachts, sailboats and catamarans of all sizes and conditions which are moored there. Barceloneta is a very interesting area off from Las Ramblas with great restaurants and cafes. After a long walk, we settled for a restaurant recommended by our taxi driver. It is by the water and its specialty is seafood. The Salamanca was exactly what we were looking for, a great paella-like dish with lobster, a truly delicious experience.

After lunch we walked up Las Ramblas, enjoyed the flowers, merchants and mimes, and most of all the unique feeling of Barcelona. We then walked to the Gothic Quarter with its narrow cobblestone streets, walked into Santa Maria de la Mar, an impressive church which was always a point of interest to Sylvia's students while on their annual trip to Spain. We had booked a couchette on the overnight train to Orleans, which included breakfast. We left Barcelona at 9:15 PM, got settled in two cabins. The one next to ours was empty, and the conductor told us we could use it to store our luggage. Around 10:30 we went to the restaurant car, had a drink, and upon our return, found our beds already made inviting us to go in.

It was a beautiful night, and though we were jet lagged and exhausted, despite the comfort of the beds, sleeping was difficult. The train jolted and jerked about all night. We did rest, but got little sleep. Around 6:15 AM our lady porter came to wake us up. We got dressed and promptly got to the restaurant car for a very nice breakfast, well served with good coffee and croissants. Around 7:45 AM we arrived at the outer station in Orleans and promptly got on the adjacent train going to the main station in town. The station chief told us we could leave our luggage with him until about noon, just before our departure by bus to Gien, a10 minute ride from Briare. Just as we did in Barcelona, we walked the old section of the city with a beautiful cathedral, lovely markets and shopping centers, as well as very nice banks along the River Loire. Orleans is in the history of Joan of Arc.

The ride was about 1 1/2 hr. We were dropped off in Gien center, called a taxi and in 15 minutes we were on our Biesbosch. We arrived on a cool dreary day, so the boat and the port looked dreary as well. Bill got immediately busy connecting the power, filling up with water, installing the gas and other essential things. I started the process of making the bed and unpacking. By 10:00 PM we could not stay awake, so we went to bed and slept like logs. We got up at 11:00 AM the next morning. We really needed the rest after a couple of sleepless nights. Saturday was spent finishing unpacking and going to the market. Sunday, it was a gorgeous sunny day, so we decided to go to the nearby castles that we had not had the time to visit in the fall. We visited 6 very different and lovely castles. This eastern side of the Loire Valley is less known for its chateaux than the famous western side of it that dons chateaux such as Chambord and Chenonceau. Of the ones we saw on Sunday, the most impressive to me was St. Fargeau, an enormous XII century castle, beautifully preserved and well kept. There was La Bussiere. built on a small island on the river. This one is from the XVI century and has some of the most beautiful gardens I have seen. It is called "The Castle of Fishermen" as it holds a collection of fishing gear dating back to medieval times. A true charmer was a small hidden castle called Ratilly accessible through a narrow dirt road, set on a hill, with a beautiful view of the valley below. Pont Chevron, a modern chateau by American standards, is a n XVIII century gem. St. Brisson, on the outskirts of Briare is another beauty set up high on a promontory over the Loire with beautiful round towers, where they have a demonstration of the use of the old catapults used for the siege of castles. Gedelon is unique in the sense that it is a castle being built since 1998 by a group of 35 people using medieval techniques as well as tools. There are blacksmiths, rope makers, basket weavers, etc. It was quite interesting to see.

On Monday, a warm sunny day, we washed the boat down and left it sparkling clean. On Tuesday, our friends Doug and Susan Cruzan arrived on Quo Vadis and came to look for us at the port. We had not seen them since we took the PP exam in 2004. They bought their boat 2 years ago in St. Gilles, next to The Me, and have been cruising north to go to the DBA Rally in Paris. We had a very nice meal and evening on Biesbosch and made plans to meet along the way. The following days we organized, got rid of things we did not need and started preparing the boat for cruising. On June 7, we left Briare, Said good bye to Pascal, our very nice and warm captain, and set off for Ouzouer sur Trezee. Somehow, locking up in these locks was a lot easier than locking down. We had an easy cruise to Ouzouer, where we arrived early and saw Quo Vadis on the quay. They helped us tie up the boat, I did some laundry, we had drinks on the deck and a nice dinner prepared outside. The next day we left around 11:00 AM and had a beautiful day of cruising. We stopped at Dammarie, tied up the boat to the side of the canal and walked across the bridge to see the old town's washing basin fed by a spring by the edge of the river. They have planted lovely gardens by it, the path that leads to it is quite charming, and the washing basin is in excellent shape. We made two more locks including the beautiful flowery one of La Picardie and tied up the boat to have our picnic lunch by the Gazonne Reservoir with its white swans and numerous ducks.

Our destination was Rogny els Sept Ecluses, a place where we could not stay on our way to Briare last year. The name comes from the staircase of seven interconnected locks built in the early XVII C when the Canal de Briare was built to connect the Seine to the Loire. The locks are a beautiful sight, now a monument visited by many. The lock keeper told us we could tie up the boat by the bottom of the seven locks, which we could not believe. What a spot! We got off, walked up the to lock, to admire this beautiful work of engineering. We then walked to the town of Rogny, visited its lovely XII C church, walked down to the port and along the canal to find a small deli where the owner sold products from The Gatinais, the department where we are. We bought some delicious cider and apple juice. After our cider was chilled, we sat on deck admiring our lovely surroundings and enjoying this delicate drink as well as our tranquility.

After a good night sleep and a good breakfast with fresh bread from the local boulangerie, we set off to Chatillon Coligny where we would be meeting our friends Ronnie and Nigel who were one day away from us. When we got to the port, Chantal, the lady captain, recognized us from last year and welcomed us with open arms. She said she'd come later to see the boat. After I did some laundry, she showed up with a chilled bottle of cider--perfect for a hot day -- and came aboard Biesbosch. She could not believe what she saw, from the expression in her face. She wanted to see every feature of the boat, and was very impressed by Bill's craftsmanship. According to her, Biesbosch is more comfortable than her house. She did not stay to join us for a glass of cider because she was working, but she hoped we stayed until Wednesday, when she'd be back to work.

Sunday, another warm and sunny day, was spent on paint touch ups, rust sanding and deck painting. The new paint on the deck is a light gray nonskid, very attractive and easy to apply. By the end of the day, the boat looked great and we were exhausted. We showered and went into town to get something to eat. We found a restaurant bar where people were sitting outside enjoying their "apperos"so we decided to do the same. Inside, on the large TV screen the Canadian F1 Grand Prix was about to start. We decided to stay to watch the start, and when we asked about eating, they said they would let us watch the race there and they would bring the food to us. Bill had a pizza, and I a very good and hearty salad, a couple and beers, and before we knew it, the race was over. The new MCLaren driver, Hamilton won the race. We were very happy to see this young talented driver take the podium.

Monday we woke up to a gray and rainy day. What a contrast! Our plan for painting outside had to be changed. Ronnie and Nigel arrived in a downpour while we were guarding a spot for Blokzjil along the quay. We helped them tie up, came in for coffee and had a lovely time with them. We made plans to have a raclette together. They would supply the wine and dessert, and we the rest. Around 5:00 PM it cleared up, so we went into town to buy the meat at the little butcher store, the cheese at the market, etc. We walked with Ronnie and Nigel so they could see the lovely things Chatillon has to offer. Around 6:30 they came over for some of our champagne and then we took our dinner to be shared on their gorgeous boat, the best feature being an open deck behind the wheelhouse, where they usually eat. The wines we had, especially the Santenay were superb. The food was good and plentiful, but best of all, our time spent with our wonderful friends. We hope to meet up with them again before we get to the Seine and we all part in different directions.

Bill has been doing some electrical work on the inside of Biesbosch since yesterday. We now have reading lights and fans on both sides of our beds, as well as a spot light by or music area and one by the stairs. Today he is connecting the indirect lighting over our kitchen counter. It is difficult work, but he has done a superb job of concealing wires and making the job look totally professional. Just before lunch, a friend of Chantal's whom we had also invited to see the boat, showed up with a beautiful glass bottle in a bluish green color that we can use for serving water. He, as well was truly impressed at what he saw. He is looking for a boat about the size of ours, so he got a lot of ideas from it.

In the afternoon I recieved an email from Rosemary Millis, owner of Anfra with some information on a boat rally that will be taking place the last weekend of July on the Canal du Nivernais. I downloaded the info, and Bill and I decided to take part in it. The organizer called us tonight, got us all excited, so it is a go! They will be having all kinds of activities all weekend, and so far there are more than 20 boats registered for the event.

Tomorrow morning we shall be leaving Chatillon to go to Montargis. There is supposed to be a large Jazz concert there, so we hope we can get a mooring. We shall see. It is always sad to leave a place where you have been so welcome and you felt so at home, but we take with us the lovely memories and the experiences we so intensely lived

Chateaau de St. Fargeau

Chateau de Guedelon being built

Chateau de Ratilly

Catapults at St. Brisson

La Bussiere

Susan and Doug Cruzan on Quo Vadis

Biesbosch in Ouzouer sur Trezee

Break at La Gazonne

Rogny les Sept Ecluses

Rogny XII C. church

Washing basin at Dammarie

Ronnie and Nigel arriving at Chatillon Coligny

Chantal and Sylvia at Chatillon Coligny

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