Updated: Mar 18
After months of enjoying 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 early 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 all of the lovely towns and villages along one of our favorite canals while keeping the bow aimed 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 longest 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 as the locals sang and danced with great enthusiasm. 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 felt like we were dreaming.
Saint-Mammès is just a few kilometers from Moret, and we rode over there often as they were hosting La Fête de l'Eau, an annual festival of water sports and water-related activities.
We strolled past all of the booths, tasting and buying some delicious cider at one booth, some cheese at another. 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.
From our home port of Roanne, we can drive to Paris in just five hours. 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.