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.

Friday, 15 December 2017

20th November - 13th December 2017. A visit to JB Clair and Renaison dam. Happy Hour at L'Authentique, then Saint Nicholas and Christmas lights. Villerest reservoir and village. Roanne's Fair Froide.

A French sky over the Loire.
We had a port outing to JB Clair, a local producer of cremant, which is basically fizzy wine. If it were produced in the French region of Champagne, it would be called champagne! This has been a family business for over 100 years.

There are a great many very old wine bottles in this attractive display, mounted on the wall, just outside the cave.

Inside the cave, apologies to Monsieur for the blurring! Here all the bottles are supported solely on thin laths, so it is a work of art to construct one of these stacks. Everything at this cave is done by hand.

After leaving JB Clair, we made our way up to the Renaison dam.

From the top of the dam it can be seen how low the water level is. This is the source of all of Roanne's water so should we be worried?
By the end of November, there are fewer resident boaters at L'Authentique, although the room is still full every Thursday for Happy Hour. This photo should have been taken earlier, before the wine bottles were empty, and the plates were still full of chips!

1st December brought our only snow of the winter so far, but it did not stay for long.

Saint Nicholas arrived on 6th December, but not by boat this year, as the police had decided that it might be too dangerous!

There is an annual competition for the best Christmas lights in the port. We are taking part this year, rather than competing!

Duck Story won first prize this year again. They do have a wonderful display.

We think that Taboe should have been second!

At Villerest the river Loire is held back by a massive dam to create this reservoir.

Here too the water level is very low.

Having walked along the reservoir, we returned to the village of Villerest where part of the church dates back to the 13th century.

In the town square, Andy is checking out our route back to find the car.

The streets here have real character.

The Fair Froide was certainly cold this year.

Shannon was fascinated by this squeaky dog. She nearly knocked the lightweight stall over, in her excitement!

Monday brought a gang of eight VNF men, here to tidy up the port.

Daisy dog is concentrating hard, so that her team wins!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

7th - 19th November 2017. Fuel delivery before the Roanne Port Dinner. Shannon likes the autumn leaves, and a kingfisher appears on a wall by the port.

We have taken the easy option this year to fill up with diesel from a tanker. It is a great deal easier than carrying it to The Puzzler in containers!

The Port Dinner was held in the Capitainerie function room this year.

There were 45 boaters from the Port of Roanne here.

A good time was had by all.

Come on now! This is a serious photo!

Les Français s'amusent.

It is nice to see Hervé, our capitaine, here too.

Katya and Jeremy, from L'Authentique, prepared a splendid meal for all of us.

A lot of bushes have been cleared, near to the river Loire.

The stepping stones are easy to use, when the water is as low as this.

Shannon loves to play in all the fallen leaves.

Meanwhile, at the end of the port, a kingfisher is appearing on a building.

By lunchtime on the second day, the background is nearly complete, and our artists are starting on the kingfisher.

By late afternoon it is nearly finished.

What a masterpiece!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

20th October - 6th November 2017. A visit to Norfolk, a college reunion for our 70th birthdays, then on to Cheltenham.

Our visit to England starts on the Norfolk broads where we were lucky to see a Norfolk wherry in full sail.

Then it is on to the Norfolk coast at Titchwell Marsh bird reserve, in bracing weather!

Back to Saham Toney where Andy is with his sister and brother.

On to Wiltshire, where we visited Bowood House, the home of the Marquis of Lansdowne, with all my college friends. These gardens were designed by Capability Brown.

We have all reached the age of 70 this year, so are gathered together to celebrate this occasion.

Mike is very kindly hosting our reunion, and calls us all to our celebratory dinner.

Everyone contributed to this grand occasion, and I think the meal ended up with 7 courses! It was so nice to catch up with all the news, and it seemed only yesterday that we were all together in Durham at Neville's Cross College.

Next we went on to spend time with Debbie and Matt. Our first outing was to Bourton on the Water, where the mini now has a good shape. Last time we were here, it was a work in progress!

The bridges in this town really give it its character.

The view of Cheltenham from Cleeve Hill is spectacular.

However, behind Andy, Debbie and me, the sky is threatening. Many thanks to Matt for sharing this, and other, of his quality photos.

The lone tree, on the top of Cleeve Hill, is very distinctive.

The sky keeps on changing, around Cleeve Hill.

The next day we went to Batsford arboretum, to see the autumn colours, with Matt and Debbie.

The house, nestling among the trees, is not open to the public.

There are some lovely autumn colours here in the Arboretum.

Debbie rubs Buddha's tummy, as everyone must!

Meanwhile Matt catches a good pose by the deer.

On our route southwards to the ferry, we visited Bathampton on the Kennet and Avon, where the line of narrowboats stretched away round the corner.

On the ferry Normandie, this mare and foal seemed to be very contented.

Down on the car deck, taller people had to duck to get to their cars! This is our first car for 10 years!