Moret Sur Loing is a beautiful little medieval town, with a number of weirs criss crossing the town centre. It was Sunday afternoon, and the grassy banks were full of French families relaxing. There were several artists with their easels set up, smocks on and all painting various representations of the medieval mills with their water wheels, and the towers and turrets of the old buildings and churches in the centre. This beautiful little town has also been a source of inspiration to artists such as Monet, Renoir and Sisley. Moret sur Loing, which is close to Fontainbleu, was the summer residence of the French royal family before the Revolution. We took the bikes off the boat and cycled up to the next lock to have a look at our first French automatic lock. It appears that a sensor on the bank detects your approach, and gets the lock ready for you. Then the gates open, you go in and half way down the lock chamber is a blue rod which you either push or pull or twist and that sets the whole procedure in motion. You have to go slowly past the sensors or else it doesn’t work!
Next morning we strolled into the town to find that most shops were closed as it was Monday. We need to remember that for the future. We spent the day moored there, Neville doing some work on the boat and me downloading the photos we had taken and cataloguing them. In the early evening we took a stroll down to the town, but there were only a couple of bars open, and no restaurants appeared to be doing business. So we went back to the boat just in time before a huge thunderstorm loomed on the horizon. A little toddler and her mother, together with a tiny puppy appeared, (part of a family who had walked by to set up a fishing pitch the evening before.) The were obviously waiting for the father (who we had just seen in the town) to arrive to set up his pitch for fishing again. I exchanged a few words, and the little girl pointed to the sky and said “tonnere”. The mother pointed out that I was English (we fly the royal ensign at the rear of the boat and the French flag at the front) and I said we called it “thunder”. They left when the rain started to fall, (the father not having arrived) and we ate dinner through the storm which quickly passed off to the north east.
Tuesday morning, still grey with the threat of rain but we must move on. We have arranged to join a dutch barge festival at Paray le Moneil on the 20th June, and we still have a lot of kilometres and locks to do.
We woke up early on Tuesday morning, anxious to be underway as soon as the locks opened. The first lock was automatic, with detectors upstream and downstream of the lock. Once the mechanism has picked you up, an array of lights indicate whether you can go in or not, and once you get the green light you enter the lock. Halfway down the lock is a kind of blue rod, next to a red rod, and you pull the blue rod in order to close the gates and start the gate paddles either filling or emptying the lock. If anything goes wrong you have to pull the red rod, and the whole mechanism will grind to a halt and can only be re-initiated by a lock-keeper – so not a procedure you want to get into. All went well, and then as the heavens opened we carried on upstream to Nemours, negotiating six locks on the way. Unlike in England all the locks are manned and operated by keepers, but they do expect you to give them a lift with opening and closing the gates, to save them having to walk around the lock to the other side. Some were quite chirpy, one or two others very sullen.
We arrived at Nemours just after lunch and moored up at a quay with water and electricity (free!). So now we are all watered up again (we can last about a week without refilling the water tanks, and we can go crazy with the lamps tonight! We can also use the immersion heater, though when we have been underway for three or four hours with the engine heating the water we usually don’t need to.
Nemours boasts a fine 11th century castle with four rounded towers, (now turned into a museum) and a church with a wooden spire. We rode into the centre on our bikes, and visited the shop from which chain (SFR) we had bought our “dongle” internet access. It was on offer with a mini computer (with the French keyboard), and we wanted to ask them what we had to do to make the dongle work on our own portable computers. The answer was “you can’t”. The deal we had struck (20 odd euros a month for two years) relates only to the mini computer, and the dongle, we were told, doesn’t work with other laptops. Just a tiny gem of information that slipped through the net of our language capability when we bought it.
Since I am a touch typist, I find it very frustrating to use the French keyboard on the mini computer, as there are several letters in different places, and the punctuation marks are in completely different places. So I would just have to create my emails on my own laptop, save it to the memory stick , transfer it to the mini computer and then cut and paste into emails. Hardly spontaneous, but better than nothing.
(Later on during our cruising in France, we discovered that there was an SFR software disc which was compatible with Microsoft, and we were able to download it to our laptops and use the SFR dongle direct from those. It’s worked very well, though there is a monthly download limit. It’s not too difficult to keep within that limit, particularly as there are more moorings offering internet access – though not usually free!)
Next morning, Wednesday 4th June, we went to the market and bought potatoes, cheese, eggs. Tried to ask for cheese for grilling, never twigging that the word I would be searching for was gratin! Doh! We left around 9.45am and kept going until Cepoy, through some drizzly rain. We stopped briefly at Souppes, a nautical halte close to a factory. At Cepoy we managed to moor next to a youth hostel, and somehow managed to find chains on the quay that no-one else had. An old Frenchman who had been trying in vain to hammer some stakes into the ground looked very put out that we had discovered them, even though I pointed out that there were more further up the quay. He huffed and puffed and carried on hammering in his stake, with the aid of a dutch couple, who also had failed to notice the chains.