(I can drive* a boat! (*Might not be the technical term))
Surprise! We found a new method of travel! A house boat! A bit of a story… Sunday was a wet day in France, we left the beautiful green fields, trees and cows and went in search of our next aire. The first one we tried was full and the second was not for overnighting, we moved on. The wind was rising when we arrived in the village and drove towards the tourist office beside the canal. There was a space and we could stay overnight. We both got out to find the perfect spot and that was when I spotted the Irish flag.
(There’s Valerie and Stuart and their boat, talking to Denis. Can you see the scary plank? and the Irish flag?)
It was attached to our new house boat! Well, when I say our house boat, I mean Valerie and Stuart’s house boat but we’re all friends now. Our new friends spend their time between their boat in France, winter warmth in Spain and home in Ireland. And they are very generous people, not only did they invite us onboard (very first time on a canal boat!) for a coffee but they already had their friends Laura and Ronan from… you’ll never guess! From Greystones (yes!) visiting for the week. No, we didn’t know Laura and Ronan or even recognise them from the supermarket, we will in the future.
I should really have written down all the terminology before waving goodbye to our new friends, I didn’t, you’ll have to forgive my mistakes… Getting onto the boat for the coffee turned out not to be as simple as you might think. Or at least I didn’t make it look simple. Imagine if you will a very narrow (slight exaggeration..) metal plank one end on the land and the other at a slight incline up to the level of the vessel. Then imagine me, arms outstretched like a tightrope walker taking teeny tiny steps. My method was very successful though because each of the sailors (what I will be calling the boat people) seeing me approach in this manner shot out a steadying hand. Perfect really, because my main concern was falling into the water and drowning, much more difficult to do while holding tight to someone who knows how to swim. (I learned later swimming wasn’t entirely necessary and I am prepared to share a tip with you, in case you have occasion to fall into this canal – stand up it’s not that deep.)
(Look, they have flowers!)
I made it onto the boat and we had a lovely coffee and a little look around and compare and contrast houseboat -ing and motorhome -ing. They have two en-suite bedrooms, a kitchen dining room, two fridges, two steering wheels (probably not called that) one inside and one outside, a deck with table and chairs under awning (that’s called something else too) and a little path all around for the rope work (more on that later.) So, we have half the bedrooms, bathrooms, fridges and steering wheels. We have no ropes except for the clothes line. Speaking of the clothes line… they have luxury of luxuries, a washing machine! They also have air-conditioning which is pretty amazing but cannot top the washing machine… I’ll say no more about the washing machine. They probably have a clothes line too but I didn’t see it.
(Here’s one of the pages in the map. The numbers, PK 34 etc. refer to a distance of one kilometre)
I was having a little day-dream about washing machines (yes I’m sorry for mentioning it again) when Valerie showed us the book of maps they use to navigate the canals of Europe, each page covers probably 20km. I love maps, always have so when I saw this map I was intrigued. It covered such a small area, with so much detail. I don’t know if I mentioned it previously but generally I’m not very focussed, I quite like to flit from one thing to another. Lately I realise if I’m to get my wish about completing things I will need to focus. I wondered if travelling with a canal map might tend to focus my mind. So when Valerie offered an experience of this way of travelling, I nearly took her hand off. Denis of course would have to work but I was definitely coming along!
(Do I need to duck?)
So at 9am this morning I was all set with my rucksack and my bike asking permission to come aboard! The bike? I tell you in a minute. I did the whole tightrope walking again and took one last picture of Denis onshore and we were off. At this point I didn’t realise there were two steering wheels so I was a bit surprised to notice everyone was outside and I was the only one at the wheel. Laura guided me out to a very sturdy looking handle that ran all along the side of the boat and I held on tight all the way up to the deck where I arrived at the other steering wheel. Already, Ronan and Valerie were coiling ropes and Stuart was steering. So I sat down and I was floating (not technically, as they have a diesel engine but it goes at a floating pace) down the river… Laura pointed out vineyards and caves in the hills and recommended a very good museum, Stewart pointed out the walnut trees and the lady picking windfalls from yesterday’s storm, Valerie knew the names of the birds paddling in the distance. It was so peaceful.
Then we came to the first lock. Locks are really interesting. I think I could write a whole post about locks…
I’ll have to tell you about the bike tomorrow, Mairead.