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  • Bill and Nancy

April 2001

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Spring in Roanne is acting just like the stock market. It just can't seem to get started. Every bright, sunny morning, all of the cafés put out their outdoor tables and chairs. The boaters start their painting projects, and everyone smiles and waves to each other. Optimism is in the air, but so far, spring has not yet taken hold. One day of sun is followed by several days of rain. We have had more rain in the last month than we had during our sunny and mild winter.

While waiting for the sun to come out for more than 10 minutes at a time, we have been working on small projects. We are fabricating screen doors for the wheelhouse and window screens for the rooms downstairs. We find that there is a lot of looking in creating something like this. Sometimes that means just looking at the door or window until a friend walks by and looks with you. Ideas are formed, discussed, and reformed. More neighbors, more looking. Then you go wandering around the bricolage stores, looking at what materials might be available to complete your ideas. With all of that looking, no wonder we can't figure out where our days go.

Since there has been more rain than sun lately and we can't paint, we decided to take a vacation. We rented a car and headed back to Lyon. The countryside between here and Lyon is beautiful. We never fail to comment on how far you can see or the richness of the colors. The winding road offers, with each turn, a new picturesque view of small villages snug in green valleys. The last time we drove this road, there was snow at the higher elevations. Now it is green, and the trees are beginning to blossom.

When we checked in to our hotel, Toby got a big hug from the owners. We have stayed in this hotel several times before, and they were happy to see Toby looking so well after his operation.

Entering Lyon, we saw how high the Saône River had risen. It was approaching the bottom of the bridges. When we walked over to the river to get a better look, the ship's chandlery located on the bank of the Saône, where we were going to shop, was underwater. People living on barges moored nearby could only come to shore by dinghy.

The sun came out in the afternoon, and we roamed around enjoying the city's relaxed pace. We happened upon one of the 150 Murs Peints, painted walls scattered around the city. This one was of the celebrities of Lyon.

Some friends had sent us a newspaper article from the San Francisco Sunday paper's travel section on Lyon's beloved bouchons. These are family-owned bistros with simple menus and food like grandma used to make (if your grandma was French and lived in Lyon). Armed with the article and our trusty Gault Millau, we forced ourselves to try new restaurants this time, rather than returning to old favorites. Saturday night after dinner, watching the world go by from a sidewalk café on the Rue de la Republique, we decided that we must come and stay in Lyon more often.

Sunday morning, we went to the open-air market near our hotel where you can buy food, clothes, household items, and even puppies. Since we had been here before, we brought our kitchen knives, hoping to have them sharpened by the man on his bicycle. While he sharpened our knives, we shopped and then found a table at a sidewalk café with a good view of the market. While sipping our coffee, it made us happy to see a puppy leaving the puppy market in the arms of his new owners.

After Lyon, we stopped in Pérouges, a fortified hilltop village of medieval stone houses and cobblestone streets. Pérouges is among the most beautiful villages of France.

Leaving Pérouges, we drove on the back roads, enjoying the scenery and watching a bicycle race roll by, until the speed of the toll road lured us.

It was getting late, and we had plans to meet friends who were returning to their boat in France after wintering in the states. We had all booked rooms at Nathalie's gîte in Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône, where we lived last year from January to June, during our barge remodel.

It was like going home again as we drove along the now-familiar country road and pulled into the courtyard. We got out of the car and shouted, "Nous revoilà!" but no one was there to greet us.

Our friends had not yet arrived, and Nathalie was not home. We entered the gîte and found a Canadian couple in the TV room. Since Nathalie never locked the doors, they had let themselves in, and they were waiting for the owner to ask for a room for the night. Knowing the house so well and feeling right at home, we helped them settle into the downstairs room. We found towels for the downstairs bathroom and shower and made sure they had everything they needed.

Soon our friends arrived, and as we all gathered in the kitchen, everyone happily talking and laughing, it felt like we had just stepped back in time. We poured the wine, our friends put appetizers on the counter, and we all invited the Canadian couple to join us. They told us that they were here to buy a barge, and when they learned that we all were boaters, the questions began. We all had to laugh at the fact that now, instead of being the people looking for barges and asking the questions, we were the people with experience answering questions. What a difference a year makes.

We all had to laugh at the fact that now, instead of being the people looking for barges and asking the questions, we were the people with experience answering questions. What a difference a year makes.

We gave them our best advice. The couple had not yet found a boat at the two brokers that they knew of in town, so we sent them to see Jean-Luc Broudic, a broker that we were happy to recommend. Through Jean-Luc, they found a barge that they were excited to see in the south of France.

We look forward to hearing the rest of their story. We exchanged email addresses, and hopefully, we will hear from them and maybe cross paths with them on our travels. Our gîte has a magical way of bringing people together.

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