This is the Marco, the barge that we hope to turn into our new home. After looking at many barges in France, Belgium and Holland, we have decided to purchase a boat that we looked at in France on the very first day of our search. It's the unique layout of this barge, with its wonderful back deck and the kitchen and dining area in the wheelhouse, that helped us decide that this was the barge for us.
We are feeling pretty good about the way that things are moving right along. We have been in Europe for less than one month, and we already have a barge in dry-dock that is passing inspections and will soon be ours. We have a home in a small village with friendly neighbors, a bank account in the local bank, a French teacher and a daily routine.
We are happy to be staying here for a few months while the barge undergoes remodeling/painting and a name change, as soon as we think of the right one. We are getting acclimated to life in France. Fortunately, we are starting out in a village with a slow pace. With everything being foreign, it could be overwhelming living in a big city. It has been part good fortune and part research and planning that has helped everything fall into place so easily.
It certainly was good fortune that brought us to our guest house. We are in the very small village of Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône, located in the burgundy region of France, 30 minutes south of Dijon. It is just a 10 minute drive to Saint-Jean-de-Losne, where we bought our barge from the boat broker, H2O.
The owners of our guest house, or Gîte as it is called here in France, Georges and Nathalie live next door, and they have been extremely kind and helpful to us. Since it is winter and we are the only guests staying in this beautiful old farm house, they have allowed us to have the run of the house and to take over the gîte telephone to use as our own.
Their 10 year old daughter has agreed to give us French lessons. Nina is a great teacher, very well prepared with books and lesson plans, and she tries very hard not to giggle at our pronunciation, but sometimes she just can't help it.
She has also been teaching Toby to sit and stay in French, and she's looking forward to dog-sitting for us when we go to Paris next week to meet friends.
Spring has sprung, and while our barge is undergoing a make over, we have time to enjoy the warm weather by exploring our neighborhood. We are close to the Canal du Rhone au Rhin, and it is one of our favorite walks.
We usually stop to talk with one of the American or English couples that are wintering there at Bourgogne Marine harbor. It is nice to be able to speak English again, and we have learned so much from these conversations. They have given us many remodeling tips and good advice about living on a barge.
Toby really enjoys this walk, because he can be off his leash most of the time. When we stop to talk with other boaters, he has plenty of time to stop and smell the French countryside.
We don't always hang out in the country though, sometimes we go to Paris just to sit in a café and watch the world go by. We love the hot dogs at the Madrigal on the Champs-Élysées, and a rainy day is a good excuse to linger longer while enjoying the passing parade.
Toby loves Paris too. He is turning into quite the sophisticate, and he is even beginning to look French.
The good news is that we are not going to sink. The bad news is that we caught on fire.
We have just spent a couple of busy weeks in dry dock, out of dry dock, and then back in again, as we tried to determine the thickness of our hull. The first ultrasound survey showed high numbers indicating a very thick hull, that was good. Because of some doubts about the first survey, we had a second survey done. The second ultrasound survey showed a few low numbers indicating some problems with the hull, that was bad. We didn't know which survey to believe.
To solve the problem we used the old fashion method of drilling holes in the hull. Drilling found that our hull was good, not quite as good as the first expert reported, but that it was much better than the second expert had reported. We only needed one small 6 mm plate welded onto the hull.
On Saturday, April 1st, in the area where the welding was in progress, the wiring inside our hull caught on fire. It was small fire, more smoke than flame, but the recently installed electrical system will have to be replaced, and there was some interior smoke damage.
Between the hull problems and the fire, we haven't been sleeping too well and we're feeling a little stressed. It now looks like our projected sailing date will be delayed. When everything settled down again, we looked at each other and said, "We need a vacation." We decided to go to Barcelona to visit friends.
When the fire started, we did discover that our French improves under stress, and we met many new people who came to see what all the smoke was about.
When we stopped by the next day to say thank you to the firemen for putting out our fire, we were given a tour of the Saint-Jean-de-Losne firehouse. It is a volunteer department, so now we know the pharmacist, the butcher and the baker in town.
Before we left for Barcelona, friends from San Francisco came to visit, and we were happy to go sightseeing with them. We drove along the Burgundy canal and visited some of the small villages that we remembered from our first rental barge trip. We went to Dijon, Dole and Beaune to see the sights and enjoy long lunches, rather than just to shop for light fixtures, carpets or tile.
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In Saint-Jean-de-Losne, our old friends met our new friends, and it was a wonderful change from all of our recent worries. We were relaxed again and ready to drive to Spain for a few days of sun and relaxation in Barcelona.
|Even the donkey looked happy again. || |
Barcelona was a fun and relaxing vacation, and we were able to help our friends at the same time. We used our big station wagon to help them move from their 42 foot sailboat in Barcelona to their newly purchased 22 meter barge here in Saint-Jean-de-Losne. They are Americans who we met over here when we both bought barges from the same broker at the same time.
We stayed on their sailboat in the beautiful Barcelona harbor that was built for the 1992 summer Olympics. It was such a nice mooring, that they arrived for a short visit and had stayed for over three years.
During the day, while they were busy packing boxes, we strolled through the city, relaxing, sightseeing, and café sitting with Toby trooping along. It was great to be in the sun and warm temperatures again.
In the evenings, we all went out together, and they introduced us to some of their favorite places, like the Champagne bar on a back street that we would have never found on our own. It was a lively bar crowded with locals. They served Champagne and tapas, and we sampled eagerly, before moving on to a restaurant for dinner.
When it was time to leave, we made many trips up and down their pier carrying boxes from their boat to the cars, until we couldn't fit in another thing. Then we followed along behind them on the drive back to France.
Arriving in Saint-Symphorien, we were greeted by blue skies and yellow fields.
In Saint-Jean-de-Losne, the window displays, especially in the pastry shops, were so enticing that we decided to invite friends over for Easter dinner.
We had had a wonderful time roaming around town buying all kinds of good things to eat, and our dinner looked, smelled and tasted so delicious, that everyone cleaned their plates, and Toby couldn't take his eyes off of the table.