One of the most enjoyable aspects of our barging adventure has been the absence of daily news. We listen to French radio stations, but they talk so fast that we can only catch a sentence here or there. Life is much more relaxing, and you sleep better at night without the constant input of new things to worry about. How blissfully our summer passed. There was nothing to worry about except difficult locks, strong river currents or where to buy bread when all of the village bakers were on vacation in August.
We always knew that if there were a major world event, we would hear about it right away. After all bad news travels fast. On September 11th we had just arrived in Briare, and we were still in the middle of mooring along the quay, when someone ran out of the boat next to ours and said that a plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Like so many other people in the world, our blissful summer ended for us on that day, and we began heading back to Roanne.
Friends from the port were waiting to catch our lines, as we moored in our old spot across from the Café Santa Monica. We plugged back into our city electric box, reconnected our land line telephone, renewed our membership at the gym, and began to snuggle down for our second winter here.
The sudden loss of so many lives on September 11th, and the continuing threat of terrorist attacks reminded us that life is short, and that each day should be lived to its fullest. We decided that we could do that best in a new car. We biked out to the local Peugeot dealer, and found just the car we wanted right there on the lot. We haggled in our best French, enlisted the help of a French friend for the tricky bits, and drove home in a brand new car.
We bought a station wagon so that everyone in the family could have a comfortable seat with a good view.
Now the beautiful countryside surrounding Roanne is ours. Within a ten minute drive from our boat, we can be out on country roads exploring hillside villages and admiring the scenery as the colors of summer change into the colors of fall.
Visits to Lyon and long lunches with friends at small country restaurants top our list of things to do this winter. Also on the list, visiting all of the farmers' markets that are held on different days of the week in the surrounding towns, and enjoying local events like the Christmas fair in Saint-Haon-le-Vieux.
Last weekend we invited friends along for a Sunday drive. We were McGooing around the back roads, admiring the scenery, when we stumbled upon a Beaujolais wine fair. We peeked in to see what it was all about, and ended up staying for hours chatting with people, tasting and buying great local wines, cheeses and sausages.
Our quality of life has already improved, and we haven't even left the area yet. If we want, this winter, we can take a trip to Southern France, Italy or Spain. Or we can just drive around the local back roads, as we did the other day, looking at horses and cows.
Like the other day, some of them will look back at us and some of them won't. Either way it will be great fun.