We tied up in Givet, which is a very small place. The Capitain was a glamorous French lady who spoke not a single word of English. But to be fair, we were in France, where they have spoken French for a couple of thousand years. Why should she? By now we were able to speak in words. Not sentences - just words.
Une nuit = one night. Deux personnes = two people. Prevision meteo = weather report.
The mooring cost was €8.55 which included water, power, and facilities. The facilities were excellent. We strolled past the boats on our way into Givet and chatted to the American. He said his crew had let him down at the last minute. I so badly wanted to ask more and find out what happened but resisted the urge to be nosey. MapsMe showed us the town centre and we found a mini Carrefour supermarket. Bought a few provisions and went back to the boat.
Shangri La in Givet
Almost all the cities and towns we've been through right back to the Netherlands have a church or three. Maybe even a cathedral. They have bells that chime. Sometimes long complicated tunes. Sometimes only the time. I can always tell the time at night in bed listening to the bells.
That night it rained. And it rained into the next day. The first lock outside of Givet we had to wait while the canal filled up with water or our boat would have touched the bottom of the canal. There is a tunnel and the water slows down squeezing through the tunnel. It took over an hour to finally have enough water to get out of that lock. Which put paid to our plans of reaching Revin. Our journey on the waterways that day was in ceaseless rain. My other half works with Norwegians and apparently they say there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. I certainly picked the wrong clothes. I could have changed but kept thinking the rain would lift and my clothes would dry. I didn't want two lots of wet clothes hanging inside the boat. The rain never let up and I spent the day soaked to my skin. We thought of the lone American and wondered how he managed.
Tunnel outside Givet
We went through a 560 metre long tunnel. Have I mentioned I'm claustrophobic? I was very tempted to walk over the top but it wasn't that bad after all. I could see light at the end of the tunnel which helped. The next few locks were easier. The German couple went through them with us. Only two biggish or three small boats can fit into these locks. They are automated. When you pass a senor on a pole, you push a button on the remote control the French waterways give you. A light flashes atop the sensor and voila! The locks set and open. They fill or empty and open the gates to let you out. Easy peasy.
Facilities in Fumay
We tied up in Fumay which is also an itty bitty town. Again excellent clean facilities including a washing machine and dryer. You first pay the Capitain, in this case another Lady Capitain, then she connects your electricity. And they had free wi-fi (wiffy). Only 30 minutes - but that's a whole lot better than nothing. No ways were going walkabout in the rain but a weather report showed an improvement in the weather. A drastic improvement in fact. The weather would go from a whole day of driving rain and a maximum temperature of 14'C to blazing sun and an anticipated temperature of 31'C in just two days. I find it hard to grasp that the weather can shift 17'C in 48 hours! But that's Europe for you.
We hot-footed it up to the Boulangerie the next morning. It had moved but we found it. Actually we followed a stream of people coming out with their daily French loaf. Only thing is we had no idea what they were selling. We're not keen on refined food. I was hoping to find a seed loaf or at least a wholewheat bread. In a small village in a remote corner of France it was unlikely they spoke English. I resolved to try and remember to take our French-English dictionary with us in future. Along with a sun hat, maps, mobile phone, sun cream, wallet, shopping bags, reading glasses, sun glasses, DSLR camera, ID, toiletry bag, etc. Now you know why I hadn't been schlepping our rather large dictionary with me.
The captain checking maps on his phone
These little towns are the sort of place a stressed out person should escape to. Town folk stand on street corners chatting, smoking, doing nothing, cats and dogs sleep in the road and occasionally a car passes by. Lunch and supper are pretty important and everything comes to even more of a standstill. We wanted to get to Revin as it was slightly bigger and we needed a few hardware items. Our one window was leaking profusely and water was seeping through the wooden panelling into the hull. We knew there was a problem with the windows when we bought the boat. My husband had helped the guys at the marina repair a few of them already. We've never been sure if the windows fitted the frames when the boat was built or if the rubber seals had perished over time. The boat is 21 years old.
The big difference between the waterways in Holland and France is the sheer number of locks. There are a LOT of locks on the French waterways. They even have lock chains where locks are bunched together and you need to let them know if you don't intend to complete the chain. Our boating holiday in 2014 in the Netherlands was 1034 kilometres and we did 41 locks. This trip in 2015 through the Netherlands, Belgium and France was 1274 kilometres and included 298 locks. France has fewer opening bridges than the Netherlands. Locking up or down takes time as the lock chambers have to empty or fill. The locks are also old and can be slow to open and close. The motion of water coming in causes a current which drags and bounces the boats around. More than once I was hanging onto our boat ropes until I lost feeling in my hands as water surged into the lock chamber.
Schools in Europe re-open around 1st September. Most of the boats we passed were Dutch and Belgians coming back from France toward home. The waterways were a lot quieter than we were expecting. Revin was another one night stop but I could easily have stayed there at least one more day. The mooring was tranquil. No traffic, sirens, bikers or noise. Just fish popping up in the river, an occasional child laughing and the water rolling past our boat. Revin marina also had sports facilities (tennis courts, playground and boules) and BBQ spots. Sadly no wi-fi but c'est la vie (that is life).