These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over eight years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, returning to Roanne for a second winter.


Saturday, 18 June 2016

16th - 17th June. Back into Paris then a major change of route. Down the River Seine and up the River Oise.

We cruised back on to the canal St. Martin, passing through the Bassin de Villette. This is an alternative mooring to the Arsenal in Paris. We are told that there is night life to be had here but no security.
On down the four double locks. We had to wait for two trip boats at one of these locks, but they are very efficient, and it also gave me a chance to go and buy our essential daily baguette, from a local boulangerie.


St Martin is quite a fashionable part of Paris.


Below the fourth double lock lurks the tunnel which leads us under the park, back to the port of the Arsenal.


There are frequent ventilation shafts along the tunnel, with trees to be seen above each one.
These plaques show the heights of previous floods, here in the Arsenal. The height for 2016, last week, is marked by the arrow. We met a boater who had recently come down the river Marne, which is apparently still in full flow. We should have been going up the Marne, but it sounded like a very bad idea, so we turned right, not left, out on to the Seine, and continued downstream through the centre of Paris.

There was one large barge ahead of us, and another right behind us, as if we didn't have enough to worry about with the force of the river!

As soon as there was room, we let the second one through. His wash made it a bit rougher for The Puzzler, but she is coping well.

We did not manage to visit The Louvre Museum, when we were in Paris two weeks ago, so it is nice to have another view of it.



The Eiffel Tower, which we did visit, is even more impressive from the river. At least this time the rain has stopped!


The huge football under the Eiffel Tower is there to remind us that Euro 2016 is going on in France at the moment.

Each bridge reminds us how much water is flowing along with us on the River Seine. Keep to the centre of all bridge arches!
It was very difficult to find a mooring on the Seine, once out of Paris, as any available jetty was under water. These attractive houses smiled down on us, as we sped by. Eventually we found a spot below Bougival lock, on a wall mooring, and I persuaded the three lockkeepers that, as the lock was under repair, and therefore definitely closed, we could stay there overnight. It must have taken them twenty minutes to come to this decision, but it was a really good one for us. After over eight hours, and 60 kilometres, we had had enough!


At Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where there seemed to be hundreds of boats, we turned right on to the River Oise. At once, the force of the water was noticeably less, and we found this lovely safe mooring at
Vauréal.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

8th - 15th June 2016. On from Varreddes to the head of the canal de L'Ourc, then back to Bondy, in the suburbs of Paris.

We stayed above Varreddes lock for three days, as there were some fallen trees to be cleared from the canal further on. The village was about a mile away for shopping. The general store had no baskets so it was a question of piling all of our purchases on his counter, which was not really big enough! We managed though, to his delight. Were we his best customers this year?


We found an interesting walk up through the woods, and feasted on wild strawberries!


Moving on through Bosse bridge, this could have been on an English canal, except for the lack of other boats.

A lorry was needed to clear the wood from the fallen trees. There were a few small branches still in the water, but nothing to worry about.

The canal de Clignon is a small feeder canal, and comes in near the head of the Canal de L'Ourcq.
This canal is navigable for small craft, with a 12 metre winding hole after 1.2 kilometres. We walked up to this point, though its towpath could do with a trim! Yes, that is a train crossing ahead of Andy.
Near the winding hole the canal de Clignon crossed the river Ourcq on an aqueduct. The muddy coloured banks show how high this river has been.
Four kilometres further on, Mareuil is the next village. This view of  Mareuil church, together with the millstream, could have been painted by Constable, if he had been French!
To the right of the millstream, the canal de L'Ourcq comes to an end, but navigation continues on upstream for another 10 kilometres. However, this lock is not working just now, so this is as far as we can go.

Setting off to go back down the canal, Shannon is on a constant watch for coypu. She loves to see them, either on the bank, or diving to escape The Puzzler. Moorhens are nearly as good!
The two avenues of trees just before Varreddes are the most impressive on this waterway, with tall trees which are possibly birch, on the right, and hornbeam on the left.
Returning through Varreddes lock, we found that this lock is different to all the others, as far as keys are concerned. Mr Eclusier had worked us through last time, so now it was trial and error. It is a two key system here, and they must be used in order, or the lock will not let you have your key back! Eventually I had to go to find someone to help. He too had difficulty, and had to give me his key instead of our original one, as it was securely locked in! Incidentally, have you ever seen such a long lock, with only 3.1 metres of width?

Twenty minutes further on, we came across the remains of yet another fallen tree, which had just been cleared. It was quite a relief to get out of these woods, with overhanging trees threatening us at every turn!
All other locks on the canal de L'Ourcq are quite simple. The top light is green, so put your key in beside it, and turn it. This closes the lock gate and fills or empties the lock. The bottom light then turns green, and a key turn here will open the gates. Do NOT forget your key!


There is a great deal of urban art along this canal, and some of the artists are quite talented.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

1st - 9th June 2016. On the Canal de L'Ourcq

Our first mooring on the canal de L'Ourcq was overshadowed by this large mural. We were still in the outskirts of Paris, but the weather was so wet that any potential troublemakers were not to be seen outside. The canal soon narrows to that of an English narrow canal, and has a depth of 0.8 metres. This is fine for us, but stops all wider and deeper boats from using this delightful canal.


So far there has been a good towpath all the way along this canal.
We stopped in Claye-Souilly for a couple of days. This is a delightful little town with all facilities. This work boat is the first other craft that we have seen, since leaving Paris.


Even the insects have a fancy hotel here!

On the way out of town, this clever mural was painted on two sides of the small building, with the join being difficult to spot.
All along the canal de L'Ourcq, there are avenues of trees. These are newly planted hornbeams along by the canal. The towpath continues to be excellent.
At Fresnes there are bollards all along this bank, with a small area strimmed round each one, for ease of use. As we seem to be the only boat on the whole canal, we appreciate this.


Two coypu on the opposite bank fascinated Shannon. We watched them grazing for ages.
One couple told us that they have walked along the canal daily for the last six years, and we are the first boat, apart from the work boat, that they have seen here. At the Ecluse de Fresnes, the lock was rather slow to work. We have our own key, so this is no problem. However, the man from the lock cottage came straight out to see that all was well for us, which was reassuring.


Shannon and I have walked along the towpath on most mornings.

We have a good view over the Marne valley, as this is a contour canal. We are well above the villages.


The town of Meaux can be visited from both the canal de L'Ourcq and the river Marne. There is still a lot of water in the Marne. Despite it being Sunday, the cathedral was very closed.
We followed the canal for ten kilometres as it meandered around Meaux. These swans paddled for ages in front of us, before deciding to take off and leave us.
This canal was dug by Russian prisoners of war in the time of Napoleon. It was built both as a water supply for Paris, and also to transport the grain of this region to Paris. Arable farming is still very important here, and the canal still carries non-potable water into Paris. Because of this there is a steady flow of water down the canal.


Just round the corner at Poincy, we moored above this wonderful garden.

The 76 year old owner invited us to come and look round, and we were certainly impressed by it. The Puzzler can just be seen, arrowed, on the canal up above the garden.

As it was a very hot day, Shannon found a cool muddy puddle, created by the immense thunder storm last night.
We have come through Varreddes lock, the only completely manual lock on this canal. It is the only original lock which remains. There are two parallel locks, but now only one is in use. We are stuck here until Friday, as there are some fallen trees further on, which will be cleared then. Our own waterways man is keeping us informed!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

28th - 31st May 2016. Down the River Seine to The Arsenal in Paris. We saw the Notre Dame Cathedral, L'Arc de Triomph, the Eiffel Tower, Jardin des Tuileries and Musée d'Orsay, before heading out of Paris on to the Canal de L'Ourcq, to escape the floods.

Our last night on the Seine was on a houseboat mooring, in a suburb of Paris, Athis-Mons. The people on the next door barge were very friendly.
As the Marne joins the Seine, in Paris, there is a large Chinese restaurant, right on the junction. The weather has not been kind to us today.

We rose up three metres from The Seine in the lock at the Arsenal. Remember this measurement!



Having been given a temporary mooring, outside two barges, we set off to see some of Paris, before the rain comes. The Bastille Monument is quite near to the North end of the Arsenal port.

Crossing over to the Île de la Cité, the Palais de Justice lies ahead to the right. There are a great many trip boats of all sorts on The Seine in Paris.



The Notre-Dame Cathedral also lies on this island in the middle of the river. Can you spot Andy among those in front of the building?


The carvings on the frontage are truly wonderful.



Once we are inside, we continue to be impressed by this building.

As there is a service in progress, we are all in silence, and this creates a terrific atmosphere in the cathedral. The singing of the congregation is lovely too.


This is part of a frieze, which has been carved to tell the full story of the life of Jesus.
Outside the Cathedral, there was a large marquee with an exhibition to celebrating local breadmaking. All the ovens were in use, with baguettes being produced en masse.

Just over the road was a very moving exhibition in a museum which told the story of the deportation, mainly of Jews, from France to concentration camps during the Second World War. The numbers involved are quite horrifying.

Back at The Arsenal, we have now moved The Puzzler to her proper mooring, here on the right, outside another barge. It is much easier to get to the dockside here.


On Monday it rained all day! We are using the metro instead of walking everywhere today! The Arc de Triomphe is our first visit.

There is quite a strong police presence in Paris at the moment as the city is still on terrorist alert. We are all out of the rain here under the Arc de Triomphe.
Next stop is the Eiffel Tower, reaching up to those clouds, which seem very close today. We walked on across the Seine from here, to walk on the South bank, then back to the Jardin des Tuileries. Perhaps it was the weather, but neither of these impressed us very much. Jardin does imply some display of flowers, rather than empty flower beds!

On Tuesday we went to the Musée d'Orsay, as it had been recommended as being more manageable than the Louvre. We only had to queue for half an hour in the constant rain to get in!

Once inside, we were impressed by the fine structure of the building. There are rooms displaying both art and sculptures which lead off the main hall, at all levels.
This was our favourite picture here at the Musée d'Orsay. It is by Eugène Bernard (1850 – 1921) and is of Peter and John hurrying to the sepulchre on the morning of the Resurrection. The two disciples are so real in it.

Van Gogh is well represented here in the Musée d'Orsay, and Starry Night seems to be everyone's favourite, judging by the crowds who want to see it.

Apparently Claude Manet had his own lily pond, so that he could concentrate on this, for many of his famous canvases. This one is called Water Lilies in Pink Harmony.
Meanwhile, back at the port, the River Seine has risen by over three metres, and is now on a level with the full lock at the Arsenal. As it could well be still rising, we decide to leave by the “back door” at the other end of the port!

This 2 kilometre long tunnel leads us through to the canals of Paris. It does not look very inviting, but we are expected at the first lock at the far end of it.
There are four double locks to go up, to reach the next level, and our lock keeper obviously wants us through as fast as possible, with every paddle up to fill each lock! Carrying on up the canal, we are now on the Canal de L'Ourcq, and stopped, without incident, for the night in the suburbs of Paris. With this amount of rain, we would be very unlucky to have any trouble at all!