We could almost forget, during the winter months while our boat is moored in Roanne and acting like a house, how enjoyable it is to cruise along the canals in our home when it has become a boat again. But every year, the minute we pass through that first lock, we remember exactly why we choose this life.
Sunny, spring days and friends on board made our first week especially fun. There is only one canal in and out of Roanne, so we have traveled it several times before, but this time with enthusiastic friends on board, we saw the canal with new eyes.
Their trip over from the states was a quick one. They just needed a short break from their busy lives back home, and they enjoyed the fact that along the canals keeping track of time means occasionally asking, "What day is it?".
At Digoin, we waved goodbye as their train pulled out of the station. Then we walked back to the boat, cast off, and continued along on the canal du Centre.
Our destination this season is Strasbourg, near the German border. We are in no hurry to get there, which is fortunate, because our speed of travel is unbelievably slow.
One day as we were cruising along, we noticed two young women pushing baby carriages. They were walking along on the tow path that runs parallel to the canal. They had been keeping up with us for awhile, but then we found a straight stretch and we were able to speed up a bit. This made us happy, because we didn't want to think that we were traveling at baby carriage speed. We have often said that we travel at butterfly speed, which is actually just as slow, but somehow it sounds so much more romantic.
Canals twist and turn their way through the countryside, with the tight turns and narrow bridges acting like speed bumps, while the locks are forced rest stops. Because of the turns, the bridges and the locks, the women with the baby carriages eventually caught up with us. We waved to them while we were still in the lock, and they waved back and laughed as they passed us up again.
Paray-le-Monial is a pilgrimage site in modern-day France, a town whose spirituality began during the Middle-Ages, so we thought it was appropriate to stay here for a few days over the Easter weekend to enjoy the beauty of the village.
On market day, we rode our bikes into town and filled up our baskets and saddle bags with wonderfully fresh produce, local cheeses, homemade sausages and regional wines. Our friends, who also winter in Roanne, were coming to moor behind us, and after our trip to the market, we had all of the ingredients to make them dinner on our back deck.
When we went out to catch their lines, we saw that their dog, Malcolm, was on deck hand duty, running along behind Jadel everywhere she went. He looked like he really wanted to help.
Like us, Festina Tardé, took 4 days to cruise from Roanne to Paray. Later when our friends from Eleanor drove up from Roanne in their car, we all commented on the fact that by car it only took them one hour to make the same trip.
Everyone was staying for the weekend and we had already reserved a table for six at Hostellerie des 3 Pigeons for Easter Sunday lunch.
After a great weekend with our friends, we moved on to Montchanin, at the top of the canal du Centre, where we moored in our mechanic's boat yard.
Jeff had a surprise for us. He gave us the mooring spot next to his newly acquired a 1954 Andre Citroen, type 55, series U, No. 912320, fire engine.
He uses the fire engine around his yard, mainly to lift boats out of the water.
When the local fire department learned that Jeff had a working fire engine, they asked him if they could use it in their volunteer fire department as a reserve unit.
After thirty years as a San Francisco fireman, and many years of mustering as members of the California Firemen's Muster Association, we felt right at home with the fire engine parked next to us.
It has been several years since we have been to a muster, and musters were always so much fun that we're wondering if they have them in France. If they do, maybe we could enter Jeff's engine in the motorized events. And since all boaters have at least one bucket on board, we could probably put together a pretty good bucket brigade team by just calling a few friends.
Who knows, maybe we could even win a trophy.