May

The weather by now was really warming up and the scenery more beautiful by the day. We stayed again at Isle Adam, a very civilised pretty town with excellent food temptations and wine shops. We made a short stop at Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent van Gogh’s last home. The whole village is about Vincent but all rather well done. We climbed the hill to see his grave and the big wheatfields where he made his last paintings. All very poignant and over 120 years since his death he still stirs our emotions. However, a nice lunch and perfect weather lifted our spirits and made it a day to remember.

Auvers- sur- Oise
Auvers- sur- Oise

Homage to Vincent
Homage to Vincent

On to Pontoise, Camille Pisarro’s town. So many Impressionist painters lived along the Oise and immortalised the lovely views. It was good to pause here and appreciate this ancient town including a tour of the underground quarries. Here we met Rufus and discovered that he and Chris went to the same school!  He is sailing his beautiful old sailing tjalk Vertrouwen from the south west of France to England and had paused there to await fresh crew.

The Park at Pontoise
The Park at Pontoise

View from the chateau
View from the chateau

Pontoise by night
Pontoise by night

Rufus’ ship Vertrouwen
Rufus’ ship Vertrouwen

In the meantime we tested the aircon system for our sleeping cabins and Chris made himself busy constructing a security frame for mooring in Paris. This was triggered by unfortunate barge friends who had their bicycles stolen there. It’s not uncommon for young revellers to cavort on the roof in the night. We know all cities are risky these days so now we just can take good precautions, relax and sleep better. The new floating structure enables the ship to be spaced away from the quay at night, preventing intruders from boarding us. It will also be useful to protect our hull when moored on rocky or sloping banks.

In order to reach Paris we had two very long days in front of us, there being few places to stop on the big rivers Oise and Seine. Our first day took us to Bougival and the second a mere ten hour trip through the heart of Paris - a magical and unforgettable day, in convoy with our friends Nils and Torild on Passe Lagom, we ascended the picturesque Canal St Martin and nested in for a week’s stay at the Bassin de la Villette, 19th arondissement.

Cruising up the Seine
Cruising up the Seine

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame and Passe Lagom
Notre Dame and Passe Lagom

Another visit to the Musée d’Orsay again was top of Diana’s list. Meanshile Chris made quick trip to London where he was appointed editor of the Barge Association's magazine "Blue Flag". That will keep him busy and he can work while cruising. Our stay in Paris was made special with a visit from old friends Nicola and Gerard and we had a brilliant time catching up after far too many years. The highlight was a concert by (the progressive rock band) Yes, who played to a packed house - a brilliant night - Gerard and Chris were back in their teenage days again, just delightful to witness!

Canal St Martin
Canal St Martin

Anti intruder devices in place
Anti intruder devices in place

Esme in La Villette by night
Esme in La Villette by night

Flower market, Paris
Flower market, Paris

Yes, a great gig
Yes, a great gig

Chewing the fat with Gerard and Nicola
Chewing the fat with Gerard and Nicola

Heading south up the Seine we admired the beautiful scenery and lovely country houses facing the river and took a few days in the lovely historic town of Melun for some relaxation, foodie shopping and water fill. The big ships pass quite fast here and we tied up securely to avoid too much rock and roll.

The big boys stir things up, 3 in 1 flying by
The big boys stir things up, 3 in 1 flying by

Melun by night
Melun by night

Enviable country houses overlook the Seine
Enviable country houses overlook the Seine

Art Deco Flour Mills at Corbeil Essonnes
Art Deco Flour Mills at Corbeil Essonnes

St Mammès is a bargemen’s town and junction of the Canal du Loing. Here we were lucky to find a spot to tie up for the weekend. We took a cycle ride to Moret sur Loing where the impressionist Alfred Sisley painted many scenes in this very pretty town. A spring market weekend was in full swing and we enjoyed our picnic lunch overlooking the watermill. Sisley also lived at St Mammès and there are reminders everywhere of the scenes he painted, many hardly changed since then. A Sunday street food market on the quay again brought fresh local seasonal produce to our door and the prospect of delicious meals and we enjoyed beers in the sunshine at the welcoming café.

Notre Dame,Moret sur Loing
Notre Dame,Moret sur Loing

The mill at Moret sur Loing
The mill at Moret sur Loing

Sparkling waters in the spring light
Sparkling waters in the spring light

Sundial at St Mammes
Sundial at St Mammès

Retired bateliers at St Mammès
Retired bateliers at St Mammès

Sisley’s 'Cour du Ferme'
Sisley’s 'Cour du Ferme'

View from the street today
View from the street today

Exploring new territory we continued up the Seine to Montereau Fault Yonne where we celebrated our wedding anniversary in a great little Lebanese restaurant. Next day we said goodbye to Nils and Torild on Passe Lagom as they plan to take the Nivernais Canal to Briare. We shall go as far as Auxerre and retrace our steps by the northern route as the bridges are too low for us.