Crossing the equator, summer instead of winter, exploring another continent, being near an ocean again, and visiting barging friends at their home in Cape Town were some compelling reasons that brought us to South Africa this winter.
We packed light because summer clothes don't take up much room, and we wanted to leave room for shopping in South Africa because of the excellent dollar/rand exchange rate.
After 24 hours of travel on trains and planes, our friends picked us up at the Cape Town airport, and our South African adventure began.
In Cape Town, we were much closer to the South Pole than our hometown of San Francisco.
South African beaches were beautiful and this one on False Bay was colorful too.
We stopped at a beach outside Cape Town to watch some kite surfers with Table Mountain in the background. The tablecloth of fog was lying on top of the table.
At Simon's Town, we walked along the beach with the penguins.
After two weeks in Cape Town, we set out along the Garden Route on the Indian Ocean. Here at Cape Agulhas, we were standing on the southernmost tip of Africa's continent, between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
The Cape Agulhas lighthouse watches over the tip of Africa, known as the "Graveyard of Ships."
We fell in love with the elephants at a reserve along the Garden Route.
After we toured the Indian Ocean Coast, we traveled up the Atlantic Coast, where we stayed in the peaceful fishing village of Paternoster.
Paternoster reminded us of Greece in its simple beauty and peaceful atmosphere.
We stayed a few days at the Oystercatcher's Haven, and we could have stayed forever
We stayed a few days at the Oystercatcher's Haven, and we could have stayed forever
After a month in South Africa, we returned to winter in France for a week while we repacked our suitcases for a trip to San Francisco and Hawaii.
We stayed in San Francisco for a week before and a week after our Hawaiian vacation. The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed being in "The City" again.
We flew to Kauai to attend a family wedding
Our niece Judy and her fiance Ron said their vows in a beautiful Hawaiian ceremony
We were so happy to be able to be with Judy and Ron on their wedding day
Their reception dinner was on the terrace of an old plantation with hula dancers performing on the grass below.
It was fun to celebrate a happy family occasion.
After a week on Kauai visiting family, we flew to Kona to visit friends and enjoy another week of beautiful Hawaiian sunsets
and Mai Tai's
As always, our vacation went by too quickly. It was time for us to say "Aloha" to our friends and head off into the sunset, back to our real life in France.
After months of enjoying the summer weather in faraway places, we returned to France to find that spring had not arrived. We put away our shorts and put on our raincoats.
On the occasional day without rain, we were able to finish our spring painting, and in the middle of May, we entered the lock to hit the canals for our 5th cruising season.
Just like magic, every spring, a transformation takes place in that first lock that takes us from our home port out onto the canals. Our house that has been so comfortable all winter changes into a barge, our car morphs into two bikes, and we become kids again, excited to see what we will find around each bend in the canal.
Misty mornings often announce a new day of cruising, as we like to arrive at the next lock as soon as it opens. If we start early, we can stop early. Mooring in the afternoon leaves time to explore a new village or ride our bikes along a country lane.
Our plans were simple this year. We just wanted to enjoy the lovely towns and villages along one of our favorite canals while keeping the bow toward Paris.
Boats that we know were also heading toward Paris this year, and we have found old friends in almost every port along the way.
Country moorings are peaceful interludes, but we prefer the spontaneous barbecues or dinners in town that happen when friends pull into port.
In Montargis, one of our most extended stops this year, we even had the chance to watch while real Australians put shrimp on the barbie.
Montargis was also where we enjoyed La Fête de la Musique this year. We strolled through town and watched the locals singing and dancing enthusiastically. It looked to us like the whole town participated by dancing in the streets or by joining together to sing. One group sang songs in Chinese. The groups performing were an exciting mix of young and old, and just like every year on the 21st of June, the streets were alive with music long past midnight.
A little closer to Paris, we stopped in Moret-sur-Loing. They use their charming medieval village as the stage for a summer sound and light show. Because during the summer it doesn't get dark until late here, the show doesn't start until 11 pm. The evening was warm, and the show was so beautiful that we thought we were dreaming.
Saint-Mammès is just a few kilometers from Moret. We rode over there often as they were hosting La Fête de l'Eau, an annual water sports festival and water-related activities.
We strolled past the booths, tasting and buying some delicious cider at one booth, some cheese at another. Finally, we talked with a man whose hobby was making model boats. He spent 800 hours building this boat. He even added recorded sounds of the seagulls flying along behind the boat.
We were sitting in a sidewalk cafe when we saw this little boat go by, powered by the captain's feet. Like us, we think that they were headed toward Paris.
We can drive to Paris in just five hours from our home port of Roanne. Traveling leisurely along the canals, stopping as we pleased, and meeting friends along the way, it took us a month and a half to reach our goal.
We have enjoyed living in the small villages along the canals, but for the next month or so, we will be just as happy to live in our own home, with many friends as neighbors, in the heart of Paris.
Travel by barge may be slow, but when you finally arrive at your destination, you have your home with you. There are no suitcases to unpack and nothing forgotten "back home." Because home is wherever you go on a barge, our home was in the 4th arrondissement of Paris this summer.
We arrived at the end of June to find gray skies and rainstorms, but we were still happy to be back at the Port de Plaisance Paris Arsenal near the Bastille.
Our friends who have lived there for the past year greeted us with sunny smiles and helped us acclimate by introducing us to their favorite shopkeepers.
We fell in love with their wine guy, and we were very disappointed when their tomato vendor at the covered market at Place d'Aligre went on vacation in August. He had almost as many varieties of tomatoes as the wine shop had bottles of wine.
The market days on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir helped us keep well supplied for picnics at jazz concerts in the Bois de Vincennes or dinners with friends on our back deck.
We fell into a comfortable daily routine, and the days flew by full of pleasant surprises. The weather improved. We took long walks to balance out the lunches and dinners we were sharing with friends. Our Australian friends introduced us to Le Chartier, a restaurant that has rubbed elbows with three centuries, served more than 50 million meals and was named a national monument. We had so much fun there that we went back often to share a meal with visiting friends or boating neighbors.
Like our hometown of San Francisco, Paris has great parks where you can take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Le Jardin du Luxembourg offers everything from pony rides to art exhibits and is great for people-watching. We love that they have a coat rack on their boule court and that the people playing chess make it enjoyable to watch. They think so hard that you can see the wheels turning in their heads as they plan their next move.
After a stroll through the park, it is a short walk to our favorite café, Les Deux Magots. We like watching the Parisians and the tourists, and there is no better place than a comfortable front-row seat at a café. With a noisette and a newspaper, you can lose a morning there. And if you don't have any plans for the day, you can order crottin chaud sur pain Poilâne avec sa salade et un petit blanc and stay for lunch.
One of the items on our list this summer was to find just the right painting for our salon, and walking along the main street on the Île Saint-Louis, a painting in a gallery window drew us in. So, after meeting the gallery owner and then the artist, after sharing Champagne with them on our back deck, and after making the rounds of the other galleries all over town to comparison shop, we returned to the Île Saint-Louis to Galerie Amyot. We bought a painting from Richard de Prémare. He is a contemporary French impressionist.
We debated over his beautiful paintings of the French countryside, like the one that had initially attracted our attention, but finally decided on an image of the café Les Deux Magots.
That way, with the painting hanging on our wall, we can visit our favorite café whenever we want.
The next item on our list for our summer in Paris was to see all of the Bastille Day events. In the past we have always been in small towns or villages on the 14th of July, so being in Paris was a real step up in the event department. The next item on our list for our summer in Paris was to see all of the Bastille Day events. We have always been in small towns or villages on July 14th, so being in Paris was a big step up in the event department. On the eve of this national holiday, there are dances at firehouses around the city, and the mood anywhere around those casernes de pompiers is very festive. We went out to dinner with friends that night. By the time we arrived at our neighborhood firehouse, the party had spilled out onto the nearby Place du Marché Saint-Catherine, where all of the cafés were overflowing with happy people celebrating the storming of the Bastille.
On July 14th, we woke up early, took the métro to the Place de la Concorde, and followed the constantly increasing crowd. Everyone was searching for the best place to watch the parade. People in the know brought stools or step ladders, but even without something to stand on, we had a good view and only slightly envied the people sitting comfortably upstairs at Pino's Pizza just across the street. They had a great view of the parade, comfortable chairs, and pizza. Outside on the street leaning on the barriers, we were, however, right up front where Jacques Chirac could see us wave at him as he rolled by, standing up in his Jeep waving to the crowd.
We were lucky enough to have friends at Port de Grenelle on the other side of town who had a great view of the Eiffel Tower, so we went over there to watch the fireworks on the night of the 14th. Their port captain had organized a potluck barbecue, and everyone put their barbecues, tables, and chairs on land, and we had dinner with fireworks bursting over our heads and La Tour Eiffel as background lighting. The party was fun, and it was a special night. We stayed so long that the métro was closed at our last transfer point, and we had to walk the rest of the way home.
It was late, but the weather was warm, and we savored the day as we walked home along the Seine.
There was now only one more event on our list. We wanted to be on the Champs-Élysées to see Lance win his sixth Tour de France.
Our friends Karen and Barry are avid cyclists and our personal Tour de France experts. We called and invited them to come and stay with us during the Tour's last few days.
They left their barge at a safe mooring on the Canal du Centre and hopped a train to Paris. Along with Jim and Beth, our old friends and now Paris port neighbors, we watched the last two days of the race on TV. We visited while we watched the riders approached Paris.
We shared meals, toasted our reunion, and decided to decorate the boat.
On the final day of the race, we went to the Champs-Élysées. Karen and Barry came with us, but Jim and Beth wanted to stay home, at our home actually, because they don't have a TV. So they offered to cook dinner for all of us that night, and since they are great cooks, we struck a deal. We would go off to fight the crowds, and they would watch everything on our TV and feed us when we came home.
We did some reconnaissance of the Champs-Élysées, got excellent advice from a cousin who had gone to the race the year before, and made a plan. We would arrive early, choose a spot on the barrier in front of Le Madrigal (another favorite café and handy bathroom stop) and wait for the race to begin. We arrived at 10 am with our backpacks full of supplies to keep us going all day.
The first thing that happened after we claimed our spot was that we met a very charming Frenchman, Fabien, who lived in Paris and had been to race several times before.
We talked with him about the race and his life in Paris. We enjoyed his company, and we followed his lead as he sat on the sidewalk with his back to the barrier. It was pretty comfortable sitting like that, and we had a great view of all the people walking along the boulevard. Around noon we got hungry and dug into our backpacks. We have had lunch on the Champs-Élysées many times before but never sitting directly on the sidewalk. It wasn't bad. The day flew by as we watched race fans walk by and talked with our new barrier friends. The crowds kept increasing all day, and by the time Lance and his team came into view, people were ten deep at the barriers. The excitement was pulsing through the crowd. It had been worth the wait to be there with a perfect view of the race.
We talked with him about the race and his life in Paris. We enjoyed his company and followed his lead as he sat on the sidewalk with his back to the barrier. It was pretty comfortable sitting like that, and we had a great view of all the people walking along the boulevard. Around noon we got hungry and dug into our backpacks. We have had lunch on the Champs-Élysées many times before but never sitting directly on the sidewalk. It wasn't bad. The day flew by as we watched race fans walk by and talked with our new barrier friends. The crowds kept increasing all day, and by the time Lance and his team came into view, people were ten deep at the barriers. The excitement was pulsing through the crowd. It had been worth the wait to be there with a perfect view of the race.
That night's dinner on the back deck, with Paris as the back drop, was delicious because of the food and the friendship.
By the time August rolled around, many neighborhood shops and market stalls were closed for vacation, our friends from San Francisco had come and gone, leaving good memories behind, and we knew that it was time to begin our journey back home to Roanne.
We spent our last few days in Paris enjoying quiet mornings at a favorite café and pleasant dinners at neighborhood restaurants. We went to the beach and strolled along the river. We savored the pleasures of living in Paris. Then one morning, we got up early, entered the lock, and took our home back onto the Seine.
Summer Photo Album
Paris Plage - a fantastic summer event created by the mayor of Paris in 2002.
The city closes a busy two-lane roadway along the Seine during July and August and converts it into a beach.
Two hundred tons of sand make up the beach, which is then decorated with palm trees, lounge chairs, and hammocks—all this work just for fun.
A card game - Luxembourg Garden
On our way home, at Briare, we cross over the Loire River on the 662-meter point canal built by Gustave Eiffel in 1890.
The village church at Montbouy.
On the back streets of Ouzouer-sur-Trézee we found this house, and we liked its personality.
Mist on the canal as we get an early start on the day.
A peaceful country scene at a lock - it reminded us of the Tour de France
A country moon at Cours Les Barres.
Roanne, our adopted hometown in France, keeps getting better and better. The town constantly improves itself, restoring old buildings, adding new pedestrian streets, and renovating neighborhoods. Every year we return home in the fall, we notice more trees and flowers.
Over the next year, the city plans to restrict cars from the Place du Marché to restore the town square to its original beauty, and they are building a new entertainment complex near the train station.
It will be our first indoor mall with movie theaters, restaurants, and shops. They are remodeling all city offices and building an exhibition center behind the Hotel de Ville. They have been adding new bicycle lanes as they repave and widen the streets, and just for fun this Christmas, they built an ice rink in front of the town hall. It is always interesting to return home after six months of cruising and see what changes have been made since we left in the spring.
This fall, as we passed through our last lock of the season and entered our port, the sun was warmer, and the sky was bluer than it had been for months. It was the first day of the annual Fête du Port, and we returned early to see our friends who had just arrived the week before.
Our San Francisco Fire Department friends, Jim and Mary, were standing at our mooring, smiling and waving, and waiting to catch our lines. They bought the barge, "Festina Tardé" earlier this year, and they had just brought the boat back to Roanne to spend their first winter as our barge neighbors.
We hurried through our mooring chores to open a bottle of champagne. We celebrated our reunion and their new life in France, and we are all so happy to be here together that we have been celebrating ever since.
On our first night back in Roanne, we joined hundreds of people from town at the festival dinner and dance at the Maison du Port, where we ate moules-frites and danced to what sounded like a French polka band. The evening was warm; twinkling lights strung up over all the picnic tables and the dance floor added to the evening's festive ambiance. Families and friends enjoyed a simple meal together and then stayed at the tables, talking and laughing as the children ran back and forth playing. The music was so lively that you couldn't help tapping your feet, and eventually, your feet lead you to the crowded dance floor. There were more women and children than men dancing for the fast songs, and there were couples who came to the floor just for the slow dances. Everyone was enjoying themselves, and no one looked like they wanted to be anywhere else. We felt like we had landed in the middle of a foreign film as the music, the dancers, and the language swirled around us. We danced and laughed and sang French songs even though we didn't know the words. We smiled so much that our faces hurt, and like all good parties, we thought that the evening ended too quickly.
Over the next month, our neighborhood grew just a bit bigger every day as friends returned to port, and as everyone slipped back into their moorings, we expected to get back into our regular winter routine.
In the winter, we usually spend equal amounts of time working on the boat or going out and having fun, but this year we have done very little work, and we have had lots of fun, and it is all Jim and Mary's fault.
It is a good thing that we have already fixed everything on the boat that needed fixing because we have been swept away by their enthusiasm about being in France, and we haven't been home very much. Between the four of us, somebody always comes up with an idea of somewhere we must go or something we have to do. If there is an event anywhere in the area, we are there!
After the port festival, Roanne put on a grand celebration for the 60th anniversary of their WWII liberation. We walked into town that morning and tumbled backward in time as we fell in behind a parade of American WWII jeeps and trucks lead by a French army band. People in army uniforms from WWII drove the trucks, and the crowd standing along the road waved French and American flags. After the official ceremony and the speeches, they offered everyone Champagne, and a dance band began playing Glen Miller's music. Men dressed in 1940's American and French army uniforms were dancing with women dressed in blouses and skirts with bobby sox and high heels. The crowd watched the dancers for a while and then got into the mood of the moment. Older people crowded the dance floor, dancing and remembering a great day long ago.
That afternoon we drove out to the airfield where the celebration moved into the sky with a fleet of vintage planes. 1940's music blasted from loudspeakers, booths were selling memorabilia, model airplanes, and vintage clothing, and there were more soldiers and jeeps. We stared into the clouds watching the planes take off and land, and we held our breath during the air stunts when the old planes looked like they were about to spin right into the ground. Before we left, we bought bread baked in a WWII mobile field unit wood-burning oven to have with our dinner.
Not only have we been going to every event for miles around, but attending wine tastings, food fairs, and exploring small villages has become our new collective hobby. Some days we drive, and some days Jim and Mary do, and our cars are beginning to stop automatically at cute restaurants with menu boards out front. We have already taken car trips to Holland and Belgium, and Spain and Italy are on the list for 2005. In researching our trips and buying tickets to events, the people at the train station and the tourist office are beginning to know us by name. We learn about events from our town friends, conversations at the gym, or hikes with our walking club. Then, we go off in search of the details.
Last week we went to the tourist office to buy tickets to a concert, and we asked about several other events that we had heard about from our French friends. The woman was looking through all of her files, trying to find the times and dates of the events we were asking about, and when we brought up yet another event that she was unaware of, she laughed and said that we were better informed than she was. So our list of planned adventures keeps getting longer as we hear about trips and must-see events, and we have had to increase our walks and our time at the gym to keep up with all lunches and wine tastings. It's fun, lots of fun.
After all the hard work we have done to make our barge a very comfortable home, it is time to play, and Jim and Mary still feel like they are on vacation, so they want to go everywhere and do everything all at once. We all feel like we have found the pot at the end of the rainbow, and we can't believe how lucky we are.
We took this picture of the rainbow last Sunday on our way to lunch at the Hotel Central in Renaison.