These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine 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, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

23rd - 27th September. Better weather, more walnuts, a great Gothic cathedral in Sens, then on through more locks to Cézy.

The weather is improving again. The whole sky was cloud covered, but the sun managed to shine below the clouds, just before it set for the night. Do these shadows set a record for length?

We continue to collect walnuts from the boat. This is our best “bunch” of eight!
Moving on to Sens, where the cathedral of St Etienne is fitted in between various other fine buildings. This cathedral was the first of the great Gothic cathedrals of France, and has a magnificent 12th century vaulted roof. There is also a great gold canopy over the altar, but this part was behind metal railings, for its protection.

However, we felt that the most impressive part of the cathedral was the 18 metre Great Rose window.

The sun was shining through this window, and the colour was reflected on the huge pillars.

Our own flowers are still quite colourful, as is Andy, as he counts walnuts, which are on the roof of the boat to dry!
The sloping sided locks now have floating pontoons, which makes them much easier to use. We are tied across both of these, because of the length of The Puzzler. We have seen very few other boats on this part of the river Yonne.

The gate paddles here are unusual, as the éclusier (lockkeeper) just pulls a lever to operate them, instead of winding a handle.

Beside each lock, the weir is guarded. There does not seem to be much flow on the river Yonne at present, but this shows that still waters run deep!

We took a detour off the main river to go to this delightful secluded mooring, near to the small village of Cézy.
Cézy is an attractive traditional French village, lying back from the river. A stream runs through this small building there, creating an ancient communal place for the villagers to wash their clothes. These lavoirs are a real reminder of times long ago.

We sailed past Joigny, but will visit here when we pass this way next spring. It looks to be an attractive town.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

20th - 22nd September. To Moret-sur-Loing, then up the river Seine to Montereau-Fault-Yonne. On to the river Yonne and sloping sided locks

The road into Moret-sur-Loing leads over the bridge and into the town through the town gate. Over to the left can be seen the 12th century church of Pont-Loup.

Unusually, the organ is mounted high up on the wall, inside the church. It is a beautiful church.

This fascinating old building is known as Bon-Saint-Jacques. Pierre Racolet redesigned the exterior in a neoclassical style in 1924, including his own “signature” of a rat in a pot of glue, the symbol of carpenters.
Leaving Moret-sur Loing, and the Canal du Loing, we were soon on the River Seine, and followed the barge Westphalie into an enormous lock. We are not so far from Paris here, but will save that for next year.

We are going 13 kilometres upstream on the Seine, before joining the Yonne river at Montereau-fault-Yonne.

A splendid bronze statue of Napoleon oversees the bridge at Montereau. This commemorates the French success at the Battle of Montereau, on February 18th 1814, when Napoleon led his men to defeat the Austrians, shouting that the cannon ball which would kill him had not yet been made!

On the other side of the road, this building has been painted with scenes from this battle.

This whole mural really gives an impression of the action then.

The collegiate church of Notre Dame, complete with flying buttresses, dominates the skyline, on the far side of the river Yonne.

It is just as impressive inside, and was built during the 12th to the 16th century.

Looking back to the “halte fluvial” as we leave the town, the rest of the battle of Montereau is painted on the building behind the mooring.
The locks on the Yonne river have sloping sides, presumably to make them stronger. It certainly makes them more awkward to use! We moored above the third lock, Barbey, and stayed there, doing not a lot, for two nights to give us time to recover from our energetic town visits.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

16th - 19th September. Map of France. We sail into Montargis and on along the Canal du Loing, picking lots of walnuts and sloes. On past Nemours to Moret-sur-Loing, joining the river Seine to go upstream to Montereau-Fault-Yonne.

The white line shows our route in France since the beginning of June. We are not too far from Paris, but are leaving that visit for next year.

Our next town on the Canal du Loing is Montargis, where the church of the Madeleine dominated this end of town.
At the other end of town the Chateau de Montargis towers ahead of us. This was built in the 12th Century. The weather was too wet to do much here, and we suffered from some not very Irish hospitality, when a boater, sheltering under her spacious awning, did not invite us in for our chat. She was very chatty, so we were soaked!

These are houses by the canal in Montargis, to show the shutters are open at last, at the end of a hot summer.

Along this stretch of the canal are many walnut trees, and often the best way to harvest them is from the roof of The Puzzler.

As the green husks are just opening, some walnuts are falling, while others are still on the tree.

Further on, we also found some sloes, for making sloe gin. Have we picked too many??

These are Poitou donkeys, and a horse, which have escaped from their field on to the tow path.

The Loing river front is attractive in Nemours, where we stopped for shopping.

Out of town, this is how the other half lives!

Barge Sebastien is empty, so really fills the lock.

We had to change our plans, and bypass an attractive mooring, due to this fallen tree in the canal. Tomorrow this pound is to be closed so that it can be cleared.

Monday, 21 September 2015

12th – 15th September. Up to the summit level of the Canal de Briare, then down again at Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses, and on to Dammarie-sur-Loing, and Montbuoy.

We left Briare, where the Carrefour supermarket is just a bike ride from the canal, and continued up to the summit level. The last flight of six locks are a chain of locks so, once we had gone through each one, the next one prepared itself, ready for us, with not a lock keeper in sight! At the summit there are several small lakes, or étangs, with this one right beside the top lock. The structure in front of The Puzzler is where we move the blue pole to activate the lock.

This week has been wetter!
At Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses there are now only six locks, but each one has its own lock house. The original seven were rebuilt as a flight of six, so that boats could pass each other in between the locks.

These were the original seven locks, which were a staircase. They were replaced because they created such a bottleneck on the canal.

Five kilometres further on we visited Dammarie-sur-Loing. The war memorial here is rather different as it features a grenadier, throwing a grenade.

The main street here is obviously expecting some boats to come along, considering the line of mooring bollards!

Shannon found a lavoire to be a good place for a paddle!

It is nice to see the sun shining again in Montbuoy by the attractive 11th century church.
We paused for lunch above lock 13. Barge Sunny arrived just after 1 pm and asked us to help him into the lock. We opened the gates, he went in, and we had just closed the gates, when Madame Éclusier arrived back late from her lunch. No-one is meant to let a boat into a lock, except in the presence of a lockkeeper, so she was quite cross with Sunny's skipper. We did not hear whether or not he told her she should not be late then!

Barge Sunny was a tight fit in the lock. He is on his way to Paris.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

8th - 11th September. A visit to Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, then up through the vineyards to Sancerre. On to the Briare Aqueduct and the end of the Canal Latéral à la Loire.

The village of Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, seen ahead of us, is aptly named, as the town of Sancerre is situated on the top of the hill above the village. Sancerre is one of the famous wine-growing regions of France.

We moored in Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, which has several “caves” where we could taste and buy Sancerre wine. We chose a white wine, which had been grown on a chalk soil.
Further into the village, some houses date back to the 16th and 17th century. It is a place with great character. The old railway viaduct is now just a footpath across the valley.
We walked up through the vineyards. It is interesting that vines grow best on stoney soil. Flint and chalk are both used, giving a different taste to the same vine.
Over three-quarters of the Sancerre vineyards grow white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc. These vineyards cover an area of around 2800 hectares (6900 acres)
The vineyards of Sancerre spread throughout 17 villages and hamlets. One of them,  Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, can be seen behind Andy and Shannon. We are making our way through the vineyards, up to the town of Sancerre.
In Sancerre we visited La Maison de Sancerre, which gives an excellent overview of this region and the history of the vineyards here. They are first mentioned in 582 by Gregory of Tours. and continued to develop in the 12th century through the combined efforts of the Augustinian monks and the ruling counts of Sancerre. However, the vineyard was destroyed by phylloxera, an insect, at the end of the 19th century, but was replanted with Sauvignon Blanc vines, which have been a great success. Active marketing by the growers themselves, especially in Paris, increased the status of Sancerre wines. Pinot Noir is grown for the red and rosé wines.

The vineyards can be seen stretching away in all directions up the hills from Sancerre itself.
Moving on from Sancerre, we went quite close to Belleville-sur-Loire nuclear power station. The charolais cattle seem very happy here, and are definitely the breed to be seen in this part of France.

This canal is popular with hotel boats, such as this one.

We are nearing the end of the Canal Latéral à la Loire, as we start to cross the Briare Pont Canal.

Looking down, the river Loire can be seen from the aqueduct.
The Briare Aqueduct was designed by Gustave Eiffel, and opened in 1897. At 662.69 metres long, it is the longest iron aqueduct in Europe. The large metal superstructure weighs 13,600 tons, resting on 14 pilings across the Loire river.