This year we promised ourselves that we would travel slowly, with no schedules, no deadlines, no hurry.
We planned to cruise north to Nancy, then west through the Champagne region to Paris, before we would head back home to Roanne. So far, we have been following that plan. We have not been able to keep a schedule because of a series of small problems, no deadlines because we can't even get started, and we certainly have not hurried. We are only a little more than 2 hours away from Roanne by car. Still, we are having a wonderful time.
We left the Canal du Centre and sailed smoothly up the Saône, heading for Saint-Jean-de-Losne to wait for a spot in one of their dry docks. We had a minor barge problem, but we could only repair it out of the water.
It has been two years since we have been in St. Jean with our barge. It felt like we were coming home when we cruised into port. We lived in nearby Saint-Symphorien-sur-Saône from January to August 2000, and during that time, we grew to love this town. We bought our barge here, had her remodeled here, renamed her here, and learned to drive here; this town is full of memories for us. We called Nathalie, the owner of the gîte where we lived, to tell her that we were on our way and that we looked forward to seeing her again.
After we arrived and moored, we walked into town to do some errands. What a treat; everywhere we looked, we saw familiar smiling faces. Mme. Breuil at the bakery smiled when we walked into her shop. She wanted to know what we had been doing since we cruised away two years ago.
Nelly and Marc at France Decor gave us hugs and kisses and remembered that Toby loved the duck-flavored dog cookies that they keep behind the counter. They said, "You can talk now." about our French. They are as funny as always, and only their shop looked different. They remodeled it last year.
We went across the street to buy a newspaper, and Joel greeted us and gave us the news that he had sold his shop and was retiring the next week. He commented on our French also, and we told him that Toby was learning French too. We had Toby do some tricks in French to the delight of everyone in the shop. "Il est bilingue.", they all exclaimed.
Later, walking up the main street toward the river, we heard someone calling our names and turned around to see Nathalie running up the road, waving hello to us. That made us happy to be back, even if we had hoped to be well on our way north to Nancy by now.
Since Saint-Jean-de-Losne is a crossroad on the inland waterways and the largest harbor on the Saône river, you can almost always count on finding boating friends here or nearby at Bourgogne Marine on the canal du Rhône-au-Rhin. A bike ride around town takes longer than expected as you stop saying hello to friends you have met before on the canals. The boating community is like a small floating village. Everyone is so friendly, and in a foreign country, if you meet another boater who speaks your language, you are almost always immediate friends. If we have to be stranded somewhere for a while, this lively little town is the best choice.
For over a year, good friends from San Francisco were planning to visit us while they were vacationing in Paris. As luck would have it, the timing of their trip found us still under repair. Knowing that we would not be able to cruise while they were here, we hopped on a train and went back to Roanne to pick up our car. We kept our fingers crossed that we would not still be in the dry dock when they arrived, and luckily we came out just after we met them at the train station. Getting out of dry-dock and seeing old friends' familiar faces was reason enough to celebrate with our favorite champagne.
In between our work projects, we were able to be on vacation with our friends. We did things that we never had time to do two years ago while remodeling the barge. Dole, Beaune, and Dijon all have lively markets on different days of the week, and we had been to them all before, but this time we went as tourists and stayed to enjoy café lunches.
Since we were just minutes away from the Côte-d'Or, we toured several wine villages. One of our best days was spent in Meursault, wine tasting before and after a leisurely lunch. When we moved from our mooring near the dry-dock to the gare d'eau, we went through the lock, and then we took a cruise on the river just because the sun was shining and it seemed like a good idea at the time. That's what vacations are all about, doing what you want when you want.
Who needs a schedule anyway? We know so many people who are also in town right now that we might decide to stay for a while longer. After all, this is what we were looking forward to during those months of hard work two years ago, having the time to enjoy the sunset from our back deck with good friends and a glass of wine.