Boating in France: Volcanoes, Train Strikes, and Cold, Oh My!

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Published/Revised on October 14, 2010·

For over nine years, Neil and Joan Malling have been spending their summers cruising the canals and rivers of Western Europe aboard their now thirty-one-year-old Dutch motor-cruiser, the “Estate.”  This year they are again sharing their experiences. This is the first of their 2010 articles.

We arrived in France ahead of the volcano, but just in time for the French train strike. This year has certainly gotten off to a newsworthy start! We Hotel Palymlanded in Paris on Tuesday morning, April 13, and took an Air France bus to the Gare de Lyon. We had decided to stay in a new-to-us hotel, Hotel Palym, that is a very convenient, short walk from the gare. We were quite satisfied: friendly staff; small but clean and comfortable room and bathroom – 99 euros/night double. We spent the next 24 hours trying to get over the worst of our jet lag. Along the way we discovered a pleasant little café, Café de Lyon,on nearby rue de Lyon. We had a lunch and dinner there: simple food, well prepared, and good value. Frequented by local residents and bargain travelers, it was just what we needed in our physically discombobulated state

The next morning we discovered the train strike when we arrived at the Gare de Lyon. I had made reservations on line for the TGV before leaving Joan and Neil Mallingthe US. Unfortunately, that train to Dijon, the 10:24 was canceled. The next train left at about 11:30. The SNCF (French train system) provided English-speaking personnel to help passengers sort out what was a very confusing situation. We were told that we should just get on the next train and take whatever seat we could find. If someone arrived who had a reservation for the seat, we would have to move. Luckily, we chose well and that leg of the trip was uneventful. Our next train connection was from Dijon to St Jean de Losne. Instead of the expected 30 minute wait, this time we spent 3½ hours killing time in the station café with other delayed travelers. But we did get there, just a half-day later than expected.

We took a taxi to Les Charmilles, the B and B we usually stay in while setting up the boat in St Jean de Losne. Its owners, Sylvie and Gerard, were as pleasant and welcoming as always. It was good to be “home.”

Thursday the volcano in Iceland erupted, causing havoc in Western European air space and all the people and commerce associated with it. We have not been affected by it– yet. The ash cloud seems to be just to the north of us. No one knows what the pattern of the volcano will be: eruptions could be for a few days or sporadically over a few months. Today I heard a couple of airplanes overhead, so some planes are flying again..

The EstateWe are now fully engaged in getting our boat, Estate, ready for its planned cruise of the entire length of the Canal de Bourgogne. We went into the details of what it takes to clean-up/fix-up in a couple of our blogs last year. If you’re interested take a look  at First Days Aboard.

It’s springtime in France, after a very hard winter. Everyone we have talked with, local residents to Scots boaters, has commented on how cold and how long the European winter was, and how welcome spring is. Since starting this article, we’ve had blues skies, sunshine, and a cloudburst! The mornings are a chilly 40F  – but by mid-afternoon, it’s a sunny, warm 65F and everyone who can is sitting on their boat or in the nearby park, soaking up the sun.  The trees are starting to show green and the birds are celebrating with song. And a sure sign of spring is posted on the door of the supermarket: “Geraniums and vegetable starts arrive on Thursday!”

Café de Lyon
27, rue de Lyon
75012 Paris
Tel: 01 43 43 27 97

Les Charmilles
15 rue Monge
21170 St Jean de Losne
Tel: 03 80 50 13 37

Written by Joan Malling exclusively for

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