Home Stretch

For the next three days the crews of the Freshwater and the Rialto( with Diana and Ross) worked very hard going through lock after lock. There was nearly no time to take in fluids or use the bathroom. 

But we still saw some weird and wonderful things on the banks of the canal. 

Austin even met what we thought might be a French relative of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friend, Percy, which our beautiful grandson Jaxon will like!

Luckily we had some of the most gorgeous warm and sunny autumn days, not too hot and not to cold, just right! Watching the farmers at the harvest made us aware that our time in Europe is quickly coming to an end.

However, if I don’t have to go through another French tunnel it won’t be too soon! The Mauvages Souterrain was tunnel no 8  and with 4785m the second longest of this years tour. At least this time we were permitted to self-drive. Austin on the wheel and me shouting:”Left! Right!” we emerged at the far end after an hour of cool, damp excitement - no, hold on, that sounds wrong! But you know what I mean. 

Soon after, our motor suddenly started to overheat and emit a lot of smoke. We were forced to take it easy,so we “limped"  from lock to lock at 5km/h. 

Good sports, Diana and Ross, stuck with us. To escape the boredom and get some exercise, us women walked between locks leaving the “captains" to their own devices - on my part it was a “ rats leaving the sinking ship”- scenario, not knowing if the Freshwaters motor would capitulate any minute.

We were also running low on essentials and Austin and I suggested to stop at Pagny-sur-Meuse which looked like having all kind of services. As we walked off to find a bakery we found ourselves in the midst of a funeral procession and slowed our steps accordingly. The village center was deserted and all shops except one small épicerie were closed. Inside a stern Madame shopkeeper reprimanded us “Non toucher!” for touching the fruit. We also failed to walk the right way around the counter which stood in the middle of the shop. Slightly deflated we returned to our boats. The apples I had bought in the shop turned out to be half rotten. No wonder Madame didn’t want me to examine them closely!

But thanks to a delicious roast chicken dinner Diana and Ross cooked on their Webber we didn’t have to starve.

The next day the Freshwater, still smoking out of her rear end, made it to Toul. Entering the Port de France felt like coming home - but a little like coming home to an empty house. Non of our boating friends seemed to be there.

However, the knowledge of my brother and sister-in-law visiting us the day after next and Jan and Bill being on their way was something to look forward to.

© Austin Robinson 2019