Read about this trip from the start - here.
In the last post I spoke of how easy it was to find suitable food for vegans in The Netherlands and Belgium. This was not the case in France. Certainly not where we were in the north east of France. I Googled health shops in the region and didn't find much. We could found soy milk in Carrefour. However Huit a Huit, Intermarche and Cocinelle supermarkets didn't have soy milk or even oats which I would have thought was a food staple. Vegans rely on items like flax seeds in lieu of eggs. Soy sauce gives a savoury flavour. There was none of that available in these small towns.
|Food on board, carrot salad, lentil salad, aubergines|
|Food on board, sesame tofu, zuchini salad, red cabbage salad|
What we did find was a scrumptious red pepper tapenade, sun dried tomatoes, olives and a variety of lentils and beans both dry and tinned. We found nuts, dates and dried fruit. The salad oils and vinegars were fabulous and the fresh produce was a dream come true. Full flavoured French garlic, amazing shaped tomatoes like I've never seen before, bright orange sweet potatoes and crisp green salad leaves.They also had a good selection of mushrooms, squashes and pumpkins. Most Boulangeries had pain complet (wholewheat bread). So actually there was quite a bit to eat if we could get past our usual go-to foods.
I resolved to make a few French things, just vegan versions of them. First was Faux Gras made from Puy lentils, Cognac and Champignon de Paris (white button mushrooms).We love raw nut cheeses so that was a possibility with whatever nuts were available. We ate that with with Confit d'Oignons (sweet onion relish). Veganaise is super easy to make with soy milk, Dijon mustard, oil, seasonings and a stick blender. French onion soups sans the fromage or with a noix fromage (nut cheese) would be good.
|Ratatouille, masala tea and wild rocket fpr a salad|
I wanted to try making a Cassoulet which is a tomato and bean stew - minus meat. Ratatouille is fully vegan. I could use large mushrooms to make a vegan steak. To go with that I could add mashed white beans to mashed potatoes, drizzle it with chopped garlic or Herbes de Provence sauteed in olive oil. It's easy to toast nuts in a pan so they could go onto our salads for a flavour punch. Or I could amp up a salad by adding rinsed beans or lentils.
|Food shop up|
There is nothing nicer than a proper French salad dressing and we had all the right ingredients. Mix oil, mustard, vinegar and salt in any clean old food jar, shake, and enjoy. Bean burgers would become a more frequent fixture on our plates. Pears poached in red wine or apples in Cognac are divine typical French foods we could eat. This could be fun rather than an adverse situation.
|Organic food shop|
We're often asked why we want to be vegan. We usually get asked this when we're eating with other people. So meals out and dinner parties are when the topic comes up. Really awkward when a host has gone to a lot of trouble preparing a meal. I need to say this upfront. We're not ethical vegans. Those are the people who are big into animal welfare and animal rights. We're just so grateful we got to realise that an animal-free diet is not only possible but we believe it's an eco-friendly and compassionate way to live. It's also immensely beneficial from a health perspective. We have huge respect for people who try to encourage others to quit eating animal foods but it's not for us. We would rather just share our food with friends. And answer the odd question. People see our life as one of deprivation. They don't realise how much tasty food we can eat. If you're curious as to why people become vegan consider watching the Gary Yarofsy video on You Tube. He's a controversial guy but we think he has a point to make.
We left Charleville-Mezieres nice and early, but with the absolute latest lock opening times in mind. At the first lock the button wouldn't work. What a saga. We tried going back and forth to the lock hoping to pass a sensor or a remote camera. To no avail. We looked for a number to phone in our book or a number advertised somewhere on the side of the canal but alas nothing. Then we tried to find somewhere where I could jump off the boat and go to the lock to make a call on the intercom but there was nowhere nearby to stop. Eventually so much time had passed we felt brave enough to press the button on the remote again and just like that the lights flashed and the lock sequence started. I need to mention you are strictly warned never, ever, to press the button twice or you will cause the lock system to shut down. Either the first press of the day doesn't work. Or perhaps I held the button down too long? Maybe not long enough? Who knows what went wrong. We were grateful to get going and not lose any more time.
|In a lock|
At the next lock all was going well, until the time came for the lock gates to open so we could exit. We waited. And waited more. Still more. Nothing. I hate those ladders in the locks but one of us had to call for help at the intercom. I did it. I jumped off the boat onto that horrible slimy ladder and located the intercom. It's in these situations that it's paramount to be able to parler un peu Francais (speak a little French). I used one word at a time to explain that the lock gates had jammed. I was so relieved the guy at the other end understood me. He said a man was coming. It was a touch after 12.00pm. Lunch time in France. The land of lengthy booze fueled lunches. We expected to be stuck in the lock for some time and settled down to lunch ourselves. Surprise, surprise, ten minutes later a bloke in a VNF white van (Voies Navigables de France) rocked up and freed us.
Our next planned stop was meant to be Sedan but it looked like a biggish place and after Charville-Mezieres we really wanted a nice quiet spot for the night. So we bypassed Sedan and stopped at Mouzon. Cute little town where they used to make felt hats. The facilities were OK but it had wi-fi which pleased us as we could catch up on our life in the real world again. I had to sit on the floor inside the public toilet to get signal but hey, I wasn't complaining. It was the first time I had seen a French toilet.
Our plans were to keep going but that night the heavens opened. The weather report showed a full day of rain and the next morning it was still bucketing down. It's not fun boating in the rain. Wet ropes in the locks, watery decks, drenched shoes, water dripping off your clothes, and trying to see through rain drops does take some of the fun out of boating. So we stayed put for the day. Ate too much food. Read up on France and our route. And chilled. None of the other boats left either which was a slight problem as we needed to take in water and they had the prime spots. Fortunately they left one by one the next morning and we got to fill up.
|Motor homes next to the quay|
The story continues - next week.
Labels: Charleville-Meziers, Mouzon, Sedan