Well, here we are at our winter mooring. The canal has now closed until next April and we turn our attentions to maintainance jobs as well as enjoying what Brittany has to offer off-season. On Saturday we visited a huge ‘Vide-grenier’ which literally means ’empty attic’. In other words a car boot sale. One mans junk etc etc! On this occasion we picked up a lovely vintage copper and enamel coal scuttle. However this one was narrow and tall which works perfectly for holding the umbrellas that we hardly ever needed this year. In fact we had so little rain that we were lucky to manage our last charters, as the authorities were going to close the navigation if the level had fallen another 5cm. Even when Paris was suffering from floods we saw not a drop. This had an effect on the usual October passion of hunting for mushrooms as they simply do not grow when the ground is dry. Now that we have had a few showers, the frosts are not far away so I don’t think many larders are going to have their usual reserve of dried or preserved ceps (porcini). Luckily for us however these are almost the only fungi that the locals look for so the bounty of a lovely crop of field mushrooms at the side of the lock is ours all ours! Wild mushroom soup on the menu tonight, a delight that you need to tast to appreciate just how good it is.
The winter is when canal maintainance is done and we are delighted that the awkward lock gate at Bocneuf is finally going to be replaced. It never shut properly; perhaps as a result of a displaced stone behind it or possibly a warped gate. Who knows. Anyway, it has had it’s last chance to scrape paint from our railings! At Saint Martin they are repairing the old stone quay that we use which was damaged by a mobile crane that had a leg too close to the edge.
In mid October we held our first ever party (no ravers, us) to celebrate my birthday that I missed as we had guests on board, the end of our season and our virtual retirement. Old friends of ours “The Boat Band” from England flew over to provide the music and we hired a great little pub near here for the venue. All our lock keeper mates came as well as friends old and new. It was a great night and over all too soon.
We might do just a few cruises for 2 guests next year but essentially retirement beckons. We will probably be living on Libje for the forseeable future and making a few changes to the layout to make her more ‘ours’ rather than purpose converted as a hotel barge. We look forward to cruising through Brittany doing what we have never had the chance to do. In other words stopping when and where like for as long as we fancy it. We will also be altering the wheelhouse so that we can get under some particularly low bridges and visit those parts of the network that have previously been inaccessible.
All this does however mean that we no longer fill the criteria of being an active member of the slow travel community so this will be our last blog.
Even if you no longer have a chance to cruise Brittany with us I do sincerely recommend Brittany as a holiday destination. The guests we have had over many years have all gone away enchanted with its beauty, its history, its laid back lifestyle, food and friendly locals.
We wish all of you a successful and satisfying continuation of your activities and above all, keep on slow travelling.
Ian & Jane Slade run Libje Cruises and offer week long informal cruises through the heart of Brittany, France on their Dutch barge Libje. They live in Brittany on the barge all year round and enjoy showing visitors this ‘celtic corner’ of France that is well known to the French but less so elsewhere.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.