Thursday, 11 September 2014

Leaving France

We travelled back from France the day we had our narrowboath lifted onto a low-loader for her journey back to the UK.

I had mixed feelings. 

Cruising somewhere on the Loire/Nivernais waters

First, there were the dozen or so years we had spent exploring the French (and Belgium) Inland Waterways. We had some pretty hairy 'adventures', but also some wonderful times.We'd met oodles of interesting people (from around the world) along the thousands of km we'd cruised. I learned that the rural  towns and villages of France are very different from the tourist spots. Each region has its own identity and the people are fiercely protective of it. 

And then, there was the food - and the wine. Again, each region has its specialities and we both have our favourites.

When we first started cruising, in 2000, we had confidence that we would have a traditional (regional) meal whenever we stepped into a restaurant or bought produce in a local bakery or deli. As the years passed, this became less frequent. 

So, it was pleasurable for us eat each evening  in the centre of St Questin, at the Grand Cafe de L'Universe, knowing that the food and wine would be good.

And it wasFood and wine from Alsace featured strongly on the menu and wine list. 

MWNN no longer enjoys red wine, but has begun to drink white wine. At L'Universe, he ordered a carafe of Dopf et Irion
Gewurztraminer. This is a truly stunning, complex wine. Like many Alsace wines, it is dry, but fragrant and flowery on the palate; the nose,  floral (roses) and fruity, with complex white flower blossom, mineral and honey. 

The search is on for a similar Gewurzt at a reasonable price.

Flammenkuche at L'Universe

On both eveninings, MWNN ordered Flammenkuche.

I opted for steak on the first evening and lamb cutlets on the second. Not very exciting but very acceptable with a coupe de champagne.

The decor at L'Universe is Art Deco. We had hoped to sit in the high-backed chairs at a table for two but they were all occupied on both evenings.

Mixed feelings about leaving France for the last time have more to do with how France has changed over the past 14 years, than anything else. Moorings that were almost brand new in 2000 have been neglected and locks (built for 39 meter long cargo barges) and canal banks are in a state of dis-repair, making navigation dangerous for a narrowboat.

Our home mooring at St Quentin is no longer secure now that VNF has taken over responsibility for the Port. There is no 24 hour security now that the capitain is gone ( friends of ours had their narrowboat vandalised and lost several costly items), and there is rarely anyone there with whom to socialise. The numbers of boats moored is down by 60%.

We have been photographed many times but rarely seen any of the photos taken by other people. 
This one was taken by  Rick of Mary and Mick  Munden, cruising Orca’ their 31-foot Westerly Berwick, from Cambrai to Chauny in 2011. Rick wrote in his blog. One of the joys of cruising the canals is seeing the variety of boats and people along the way.  North of Chauny we ran across an Irishman on an English narrow boat.

Our new adventure begins in Oundle. By October, we hope to be safely moored at Blackthorn Marina and exploring River Nene - and beyond.