Beyond RYA Day Skipper…and onto a holiday

This is a happy and sad phase of our story. We left us last having completed our courses and about to have a little holiday preparing to receive our new family member (Blu Emu!) from the shippers. A warning to the boaters reading this, there’s little nautical but many holiday photos and some stories….

With a little time to spend, we spent a few days holidaying in Cornwall. Holidaying in this case also included spying out the boating land in Plymouth (the Multihull Centre), Bournemouth and Southampton: marinas, on-the-hard, entry and exits. Oh and having our honeymoon (definitely not incidentally, but we are well suited in that we both think the same (surely a good introduction to life together!).

A hidden farmhouse-cafe about 5km off the main highway, and when we got down to country lanes with hedges on both sides that could only take half a car width I became skeptical. But thanks Google!

Not sure who is fooling who here… but it was a lovely little place in Hamble.

The spire of Portsmouth showed us the Darling Harbour (actually better) of the area. We took a ferry over and had a lovely dinner.

Newquay streets were quite pretty – if one dodged the people watching “the football” at a multitude of pubs.

Now THAT is an island fortress! Even on low tide it would be hard to climb. There’s a rope bridge (I kid you not) over but seemingly only a house on top. I expected a castle, but perhaps few raiders made it into the Bristol Channel and Newquay.

Sunset at Lands End, with the Longships (islands) looking lovely. I can’t imagine this quiet calm is common given there’s the full Atlantic Ocean out there!

A manor cum hotel in Newquay framing the clouds.

A birds eye view of the coast near Lizard Point, which is further south than Lands End but I suppose isn’t quite seen as lands end (lower case).

More Lizard Point with the RNLI rescue service ready to go out.

Lizard Point radio station, fog horn (they’re enormous!), and lookout.

More Lizard Point.

We then continued the Lady Luck run with continuing bad news on our shipping – the ship delayed again. We’ll only have 4-5 days to prepare Blu Emu to stay in Europe while we “elope” back to Australia. It is disappointing to have four weeks leave, plan to have two of those aboard our new boat, and come down to only having 5 days.

We therefore decided to go to the continent and look around the Ijmuiden and Amsterdam areas in the Netherlands. A quick drive from Southampton to Middleburg only took a day via the ferry from Dover to Calais.

Red poppies grow like daisies over in Western Europe. They became a symbol of the futility or at least remembrance for the First World War from the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Almost every highway rest stop, at least in Holland and later in France, had charging for electric vehicles. We found a Novotel hotel, next to the noisy highway adjacent to the Brit Hotel we were in, that had seven Tesla supercharge points!

Aha! Finally they show some boats! I think that is what Robert is saying as well…

Pretty boxes all in a row in the Netherlands.

The lights of The Netherlands, helpfully provided by Sol.

Leaving Dover harbour, looking back on the white cliffs. Will we ever see them again (sob sob)?!? Answer: well yes, since we have to take the hire car back…

Watching the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres, to remember the fallen. The ceremony has occurred daily at 8pm since the First World War. It was changed only during World War Two when a place in the UK took over. On VE Day (Victory in Europe), it commenced again at the Menin Gate. In 2015, the ceremony had occurred 30,000 times. When we watched, about 12 groups put wreaths down in front of the 500+ crowd.

After a lovely time visiting Eraine’s family in Middleburg, the Amsterdam deviation was put on hold after further shipping news (wasn’t the book and film The Shipping News also about bad news? It was afterwards with only 55% Rotten Tomatoes’ score): our news was further delays AND we cannot get out in Ijmuiden as we had arranged, and have to continue on to the UK (Southampton). Five days on our new boat is now down to one day: pickup on the day before we fly out.

Much angst and Robert chucks a wobbly and gets depressed for a few hours. No need to stay in the Netherlands (except family!). Now we can really have a holiday – we don’t have a choice!

Since neither of us have ever been to the south of France, we start driving and stay in Montargis, Cahors, Narbonne and I am writing this sitting in a cafe in the middle of Avignon, pretending to be leading a schism and forming a new Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (what? Another one?!) based on equality for all, animal rights, peace, food for all, education for all, etc. Oh, and religion is optional as practiced by many of the actors in religious orders (yup, valued judgements are free here folks 🙂 ).

Within the walls of Avignon, the waterwheels of the false Popes’ people are now silent. (hmmm, that’s pretty poetic – remember you first read it here folks!)

The Calvet Museum, Avignon, is a lovely way to spend some hours. A free museum with lots to see – but remember the French lunchtime is sacrosanct, and we got chased out near the stroke of 1.

A pretty French Provençal front door.

We didn’t know, but Provençal means of the Provence region of France. Doh. In researching this fact, I couldn’t help but be struck by the following exciting information on the Provençal language:

When written in the Mistralian norm (“normo mistralenco”), definite articles are lou in the masculine singular, la in the feminine singular and li in the masculine and feminine plural (lis before vowels). Nouns and adjectives usually drop the Latin masculine endings, but -e remains; the feminine ending is -o. Nouns do not inflect for number, but all adjectives ending in vowels (-e or -o) become -i, and all plural adjectives take -s before vowels: lou boun ami “the good friend” (masculine), la bouno amigo “the good friend” (feminine), li bouns ami “the good friends” (masculine), li bounis amigo “the good friends” (feminine).

When written in the classical norm (“norma classica”), definite articles are masculine lo, feminine la, and plural lis. Nouns and adjectives usually drop the Latin masculine endings, but -e remains; the feminine ending is -a. Nouns inflect for number, all adjectives ending in vowels (-e or -a) become -i, and all plural adjectives take -s: lo bon amic “the good friend” (masc.), la bona amiga “the good friend” (fem.), lis bons amics “the good friends” (masc.), lis bonis amigas “the good friends” (fem.).

Thankfully, I learnt a new word from Stefan this trip that helps me understand the above: mierenneuker. Look it up only if you enjoy the fun of languages (not safe for work, NSFW!).

Eraine pretending to down a beer. Folks, it was just a huge jug of sweet (VERY sweet) water.

The remains of the Pont d’Avignon, or a bridge to nowhere. The original separated Avignon and the Papacy (false) from France on the other side of the mighty Rhone river. France now extends far further west to Italy, making for a simpler, though perhaps less politically interesting, world in Southern Europe.

Looking back to the Palais des Papes in Avignon. Nine Popes resided here from the 14th century before the rift with Rome was healed. We have never seen a palace or even castle like the one in Avignon. It withstood two sieges and has history, intrigue, power and pain written in every crevice.

As any good fortification that’s actually built to work has in days before tanks and guns, there were arrow slits throughout the fortress (the word Palace doesn’t do justice to the defensive nature of the place!). The statue of bright gold sits nicely in the opening. Note that this was taken from the uppermost place the public can get to, which is about 7-8 stories above the plebs (I mean happy folk) below.

Simplicity is a fine thing. But when the Popes want to grant an audience and wow everyone, they had a room to do it in. Phew. Amazingly, while all the other ceilings had huge (and I mean it – they looked 1mx1m) oak beams, this roof was arched without any supports making the room feel even more immense.

The top of the Palais du Papes in Avignon would be a great place on a hot day as I’m sure there’s always some wind it is so high. Incidentally, it would be the perfect spot to find enemies, fire arrows, ballistas and generally say pffft to the English knnniggets. I’m not sure the English ever came, but it would be a perfect place to do it from.

The 1000 year old Abaye du Fontfroide is another wonder of the region. Lovely gardens with terraces hewen from the pretty barren hillside.

The monks of the abbey left in the early 1900’s, but restoration continues and it’s a tourist hotspot – rightly so. Robert missed getting Nutella crepes though as the lines were too long.

We didn’t miss the incredible chapel the monks prayed in…

…and the gardens in the middle and beyond.

The river near Cahors is fast flowing, collecting large trees sometimes. There is a lock though for barges and other river traffic to avoid the tree’s fate of falling over the weir.

These waters, next to Cahors, were sacred to Divona. Indeed, the city was the head of the cult of, you could say, fresh water and famous in Roman times. This is the remaining spring-fed bath area. The spring itself still provides the town with its drinking water.

Another (perhaps THE other) visible amazing thing in Cahors is the Valentre bridge. Listed on the World Heritage, it’s architect was said to have sold his soul the the devil and there is still a symbol of one on the bridge.

It is an incredible piece of architecture, now merely 700 or so years old (!).

The evening light was beautiful, and we got some lovely photos…

Such stunning light also reflected the city buildings from another of the city’s bridges.

Monmargis on the other hand was a fairly normal French town. What stands it apart for us is that the canal that goes through the town is part of the French canal network that allows inland movement from Northern France on the North Sea or German border through to the Mediterranean.

What we wanted to do was measure the height of the canal under the bridges of Monmargis – something we’re sure is common for Australian honeymooners and would explain the lack of comment from the French going past Robert as he lay on the bridge, head over the side, and measured it using a laser range finder. This height is needed to make sure Blue Emu would fit, as it would be slightly annoying to come inland 500km on the Seine through Paris, only to get stuck and have retrace ones rapidly fading (wet) steps…

I’m sure that the boaters out there are saying – finally there’s some nautical element… well the French canals were for years of differing standards. Some were wide and some narrow, some deep and some not. Finally, a politician had (coped?!) a bright idea and standardised the canal network. The inland canals would be 38.5m long, 5.05m wide, and 1.8m deep giving 3.7m clearance. Let me say that Blu Emu was reported to us as having been made to fit the canals, with dimensions 15m long (that’s good), 4.9m wide (yay) and 1.2m deep (perfect). But…she is more than 3.7m high. AND, since the 1800’s, the canals have silted and changed a little, so the canal guides now state a lesser depth (no problem for us) but worrying a lesser height of 3.5m under the many bridges.

Which brings us around to why Robert was hanging over the side of a bridge in Montargis measuring the height above water. Unfortunately it was 3.5m almost exactly. But I’ll leave a discussion of this to another blog so we can get back to the photos…

of Montargis…

…and the pretty sights.

Eraine’s flavour:

While Robert steps away for an Italian Icecream I will write a few supplementary words.

It’s been tough as we watch the potential time upon Blu Emu wear down from weeks to days to hours. It’s been difficult re-assessing our plans as the time dwindles. While my view tends to be more optimistic than Robert’s, we have both grasped the opportunity to explore the Provence region of Southern France and finally we are starting to do touristy/romantic things. I remain hopeful Robert will at least see the Blu Emu before we return to Oz. Now we scramble to keep Blu Emu safe until we can return to Europe and move her into warmer climes.

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