Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cruising back to our winter mooring

Our last passengers of the season, left on the bus up to Paris with Neil and the remaining crew fired up the engine for the two day cruise back to Auxerre and our winter mooring.  The mist hung over the water until mid-morning, we wrapped up warm and drank hot chocolates until the sun burnt through.

The Luciole crew leaving Clamecy on a chilly morning, en-route to Auxerre

We even experienced what it was like cruising, sitting on the sun deck, playing chess, dominoes (the game of the season, it was chess last season!). Admittedly the beer was drunk straight from the bottle but the whole experience of cruising on a sunny day along this Nivernais Canal, was great. We felt we knew what our passengers experience and that was rather nice!

We really did feel like passengers, although the service was not quite up to scratch

Friday, 28 October 2011

16 - 22 October

The last week of our season we cruised with more returning passengers from America and England.  The weather held out along with the deck flowers, which survived frosty mornings when the decks were rather skiddy (a matelots nightmare!).  On Friday we celebrated two birthdays - happy birthday once again guys - hope I am as fit in fifty years time!

The lock signs along the way of the glorious Nivernais Canal

Big thank you to everyone, passengers and crew for a great experience - matelot Will - over and out!

9 - 15 October

Well two weeks of our season remaining.  Where has it gone? 
Ever hopeful of lassoing a bollard on barge Luciole

What a great charter group of friends.  The crew greatly enjoyed your company.

2 - 8 October

This week the Luciole cruised with retuning passengers.  Which always feels an honour, I have to say!

Colour on the Luciole deck and along the Nivernais Canal towpath
Lots of walking along the tow path this week and lovely colours as the trees start to turn, with Autumn.  The colour on the Luciole deck is good too - the flowers are doing brilliantly, with the yellow daisies performing particularly well.  Its been quite a job looking after them through the season.  I have to admit I was not very green fingered in April, but pleased think I have turned a corner now!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

25th – 1st October

Willow tree hangs over the river Yonne

A fantastic week: The stunning weather continues, I’ve never been so brown! Cycling was popular this week with the whole family exploring the towns and villages along the route and finding the bars within them. One big family on the Luciole, many celebrations; a birthday, an announcement of expecting a baby and finally the birthday of the father of the group - celebrated in Halloween theme - the saloon was transformed. Hostess Helen made masks, host Tim carved pumpkins and all sorts of decorations were erected. A night to remember!

However, the week was not without incident. Two days into the cruise, the engine's starter motor stopped working after a short stop for lunch, one lock from our destination. Francisco drove the broken part to Auxerre that afternoon as the passengers left for Vezelay.  A new starter motor arrived the following morning at 9am and was fitted by 10am.  There was even time to spare before passengers returned from their morning tour in the market town of Noyer-sur-Serin; the Luciole cruised off down the canal shortly afterwards. It was as if nothing had happened at all, a good team effort by everyone.

18th – 24th September

Hot air ballooning over Burgundy
Autumn officially started this week, yet the hot weather is deceptive and the trees still very green, the only sign being that of ripe fruit on the trees. This week I fell in the canal, my first unassisted tumble – it wasn’t warm.

This week passengers took a trip in a balloon, taking off from Lucy and silently blown by the wind over the chateau of Faulin in the direction of Clamecy, I was lucky enough to get the chance to go up with them, it was a fantastic experience that gave me a chance to see Burgundy from a different perspective and get some aerial shots of the canal (to be found on the website in the near future)

A fair well to loyal hostess; Izzy, who returns to England in order to start her second year of University, she has been a great worker and friend to us all, she will be missed. I did the transfer to Paris in the bus to see her off. Her replacement: Tim - spent this week training with the two girls.

11th – 17th September

Captain Neil dresses up as a reverend.

This week captain Neil took on the role of reverend, renewing vows. Although not serious; a very memorable event. With the Luciole’s life rings being used as wedding rings.

Further laughs were provided by Francisco turning every item in the washing machine bright pink. The chess competitions among the crew are also heating up. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

Week: 4th - 10th September

Reflection on the river Yonne, the barge Luciole moored further upstream.

Yet more fantastic skies this week, managed to get some great photos recently.  The beginning of September and grape picking has started in many of the vineyards, including; Chablis - Neil is excited! His tour takes passengers up into the vines to experience first hand the process of this great white wine from picking to finish - all part of the Chablis wine tasting tour - his knowledge in all things Burgundy and French history shines through. Neil has spent a lot of time piloting and steering this week, his skills improving.

All is hustle and bussle in the office, would like to dedicate this next section to the person who is behind it all: Penny Liley.

Boss, friend and mother to the whole crew. Working hard to insure we all have a job, filling the boat, marketing and even making curtains. Dealing with two teenaged boys while running a family business cannot be easy and both passengers and crew are grateful for the hard work and effort put into it all, and thus having an impact on so many lives. So, thanks Mum.

Week: 28th August- 3rd September

The barge cruises a stretch above Mailly la Ville, passengers on deck enjoying a whisky

A charter group of friends this week took in the scenery with Neil's tours. The cruise was nearly a year of liaising with Penny who paid a visit to these great fun clients (who one night even stacked their cheese plates - thanks guys!!).  Another day we had a bit of an incident, which involved our chef and passenger Ken, lowering me, armed with the boat hook to try and retrieve the excapee (as you can see).....Great success!

Fishing on the Luciole - for what?

Caught - a bike = new sport 'bishing'!

Helen our newish hostess returned to England for a long weekend for her 22nd birthday for her Mum's birthday and engagement party, this meant we were a crew member short. Francisco's lovely French girlfriend came down from Paris, swapping roles of being with the gendarmerie (Police) to helping Izzy, who kept the whole show on the road.  Thanks Iz!

All the crew helped out to make sure we ran smoothly, with me even doing a breakfast shift, I enjoyed this a lot, but I still prefer my deckhand job! Although a hard work end to the week, it was good team work, with the crew pulling together - the weekend was time to chill and recharge our batteries. Good to have you back Helen!

To see photos and find out more see our other media pages:

Monday, 29 August 2011

Week: 21st - 27th August

Fantastic week, extremely hot to start with a lightening storm and spectacular stars. New hostess Helen and settled in and showed off her singing talent in spectacular form with Neil playing guitar, great send off to some great passengers, including chef Sebastian’s mother who was a pleasure to have on board.

Feature of the week: the boom. 

Now to explain; an arm hinged on a cable enabling travel from boat to bank without stopping. Very useful in the past for when the barge was horse drawn, however these days it’s use has come into its own. Various dangers include: stinging nettles, water and arriving back to boat too fast. The video above demonstrates how it should NOT be done, the correct technique is stomach on the pole and arms straight, using the legs to balance - however if a leap is required then different techniques maybe more appropriate, be sure to have tied your shoes on! Further complications arrive when the distance is too great, as can be seen bellow.

This week the boom was required for raising the lift bridge, running to the lock to wake up a sleepy lock keeper and most importantly delivering a vital gin and tonic to a parched passenger - James - delivering fine service the whole journey!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Week: 14th - 20th August

Luciole's chef, Sebastian cooks up a storm
A family travelling to the Luciole led by the highly respected matriarch; 90 year old Berle. An active group that lapped up the history from encyclopedic tour guide Neil. The younger generations kept the crew entertained late into the night, some good friends were made, “the best week of the season” - Francisco referring to this fun. Kat and David both naturals at steering the boat, with others setting the pace on bikes.

The return of Seb the chef, who excelled this week, and so a picture dedicated to his culinary creations. The loss of our hostess Fiona, who has returned ready for starting university in England.  Fi joined the Luciole at the start of the season - she ran a tight ship - and will be sorely missed. A fresh face of Helen arrived to fill the large gap.

A summer site to see are the areas farmers plant with flowers for anyone to pick. Our passengers stopped on the way home from a tour to pick flowers for the Luciole. The weather is still hot and sunny. Fields are being ploughed for their second crop, fruit ripening on the trees and the air filled with swallows. Burgundy is at its best.

Flower fields, for anyone to pick.  Luciole passengers gather bunches for our saloon 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Week: 7th - 13th August

A perfect entrance to a difficult lock.  Luciole pilot cheers at the success!
Francisco our pilot, cheers as he enters a lock - a difficult one - due to being straight off a river bend. The current sometimes catches the stern and pulls her round, entering at an angle is the worst way, with only 5cm to spare each side. Francisco an expert tailor as he threads the eye of a needle with a 150 ton thread. The deck sparse of bikes as passengers ride along the tow path.

This week saw a variety of new and old faces onboard: passengers, our website designer, crew parents, shareholder and agents were a great blends. Chef Dave produced some excellent cuisine, which I would like to thank him for and for fitting in so well while Luciole's usual chef Seb takes a week off.  Another week of laughs and blue sky for sure!

Week: 31st July - 6th August

Passengers enjoy lunch on deck as the Luciole cruises. 
Francisco at the helm with Fi serving red on deck. This week we stopped over night in Vincelles for a change, a great mooring on the River Yonne next to a weir, hopefully we will stop here again. 

Co-owner and long time barge-er John Liley was onboard this week (my Father) to pass on his expertises and knowledge, as well as to keep up his touch with the steering. My two brothers were also onboard; Tristram (15) helping out everyone - even the Chef, and Arthur (17) each spending free time fishing. It was nice to have the family around.

We are now into the second half of the season, it’s gone very fast! I hope the second half goes as well as the first and we all continue to have the same levels of laughter through out.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Week: 24th - 30th July

The Luciole had a week without passenger.  Crew travelled to distant places for a recharge of batteries (Barcelona in Spain and Brighton in the UK to mention but a few) and the Luciole received a mid-summer spruce up from our wonderful painter friend Roy.

The Luciole cruises the glorious Nivernais Canal

We said goodbye to hostess Alice (merci millions from us all) and hello to Izzy.  We have continued to keep it 'in the family'.  Alice is Giles Grenville's niece and Izzy, Tony's daughter -our website and brochure designer since 1975!  We have Fi (Alice's school friend) with us for an extra few weeks, before Helen, partner of my old school buddy Tim (they have both spent a number of pre-season work weeks on the Luciole over the last few years).  All sounds a bit crazy I know, but it works for us and we believe our passengers see so as well!  Roll on next week and the Luciole cruising the lovely Nivernais encore!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Week: 17th - 23rd July

We did not do terribly well with the weather this week to be honest.  After weeks of glorious sunshine we had a little more rain than we would have chosen.  The geese at Lucy-sur-Yonne however, are always happy what ever the weather.  We cruised from Auxerre to Clamecy, where the Luciole was moored for the week while crew enjoyed a mid-summer break and the barge received a mid-season spruce-up.

The geese at Lucy-sur-Yonne always have something to say

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Week 10 - 16 July

Our final week of family charters and a special cruise once again as we welcomed back returning passengers to the Luciole.  We commenced our cruise in Chatel Censoir which meant we were able to moor in Auxerre on 13th July, the city's night for fireworks, in advance of 14th July.  We were a little concerned the weather might not oblige but no need to worry, the fine rain ceased and the dramatic display commenced lighting up the sky and silhouetting the Cathedral Etienne and parish church.  A night to remember for us all!

Firework celebrations in Auxerre - as viewed from the River Yonne - the best place to be of course!

We cruised further north of Auxerre than usual, passing through a number of the larger locks on the River Yonne.  Once upon a time they regularly held up to four freight barges - carrying or going to collect cargos of cereals or rock - been no sight of any barges this far south these for many years though.  Captain's dinner just north of Laroche Migennes was memorable, as was our early morning Saturday cruise to the lock to allow our family to disembark. 

Days and dear people to remember always as Luciole cruises a river section under the dramatic limestone rocks at Les Saussois, near Merry-sur-Yonne 

Week 3 - 9 July

The Luciole had our second week running of a wonderful family charter, and again 3 generations, which included 2 sets of twins!  The weather was kind to us with barmy evenings, but relieved to say a little less heat in the day and in the galley!

 Mid summer makes way for haymaking along the Nivernais Canal, where the Luciole moor

We had a bit of a door issue one evening, but no worries 'DIY Dave passenger extraordinaire' was on hand to help, securing the hinge, aided by pilot Francisco.

DIY Dave our seventh crew member for the week comes to the rescue

After we had said goodbyes and waved our bus off the Luciole felt rather quiet and empty.  The cheery little children's laughter rang in our ears, while we packed the toys and books away in a box for another time...... week to remember for sure (never forgetting the fantastic jump rope skipping in the moonlight - girls - Chatel Censoir will never be the same again!).

Happy memories of our wonderful family charter group on the bow of the Luciole

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Week 26 June - 2 July

Summer heatwave hit Burgundy this week, very hot! Passengers and crew enjoy a cold white wine in the cool lavoir at Lucy - an old covered wash house for clothes, nearly every village in Burgundy has one. 
Barge Luciole passengers enjoy a cool wine in the lavoir at Lucy-sur Yonne 

Lots of swimming was done in the River, even some jumping off the boat. The perfect solution for cooling off! Really enjoyed the week, great to see many generations of a family enjoying time together.  

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Week 19 - 26 June

Cruising from Auxerre to Clamecy this week; 7 passengers took a balloon trip, leaving from Lucy sur Yonne - flying to and over Vezelay’s basilica - apparently an incredible experience.

Balloon flights from the Luciole towards the Basilica of Vezelay,  over the glorious Burgundy countryside
A first for me this week, I fell in the canal. Helping Alice to retrieve a lost item with a broom she over balanced, bringing me in with her! Dressed up in our smart clothes just after captain's dinner. It was a bit of a shock to the system, and worst of all; caught on video camera! 

Overall a really relaxing week, one couple returning to the Luciole 3 years later, bringing friends. June is coming to end and the hot summer weather is starting to arrive.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Week 12 - 18 June

The 8th week already! Time flies when you’re having fun. Burgundy as beautiful as always. Photo below showing the Luciole in the lock, while passengers take photos of the butterflies and bees in the lavender.

Week went very well, no real bumps into the locks and the boat looking top notch.  Some fantastic skies this week: in Auxerre the sun setting on storm clouds, a river sunset at Bailly and the full moon earlier in the week.

Passengers were great. One of whom travelled miles on the Luciole bikes, while others relaxed with the slow pace of the cruise and Burgundy life style.

Our passengers catching a snap of the butterflies on the lock house lavender

Week 5 - 11 June

A fantastic week. A great group on the Luciole who re-set the high bar. Lots of laughs from the moment they stepped onboard till the very end. Highlights being the continuous pranks played on the girls during service and through out the cruise, everyone in the kitchen helping Sebastian the chef, every passenger donning a life jacket (as a joke) and the Rose wine went down very well! A great sunset in Bailly over the river once again allowed some fantastic photos.

Luciole passengers enjoying chef Sebastian's delicious diner 
A bit of rain this week didn’t manage to dampen the spirits and Sebastian's food was loved - as shown in the picture above! A trip to hospital for myself to sort out my hands and my first transfer to Paris in the bus was rather daunting but all went well in the end.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Week 29 May - 4 June

Sunset over the River Yonne from the deck of the Luciole
This week started with a bang. The second lock we became stuck on a log, two metres long and hidden bellow the water line – the width perfectly fitted the gap between the lock wall and the boat. Trapped half way out, unable to continue or reverse back into the lock. After various scratching of heads it became apparent there was only one solution; a tractor was called, within 3 minutes of the farmer arriving we were pulled back off the log enabling it to be fished out – it was huge! Cruising was resumed and so did the week. Who said barging was boring? 

The passengers made full use of the bikes and well kept towpath, as well as swimming in the river at Lucy and Bailly. A mid week storm provided a freshness to the air after a hot day and helped relieve the areas drought after all the good weather.

Week 22 - 28 May

Lavender sky over the Luciole on her tranquil mooring at Lucy-sur-Yonne
Purple sky as the sunsets, the Luciole moored at Lucy sur Yonne next to the old village wash house, just off to the left is the river Yonne which passes through an old mill just up river.

An active week; cycling, walking and fishing. Cruising is still going extremely well, the dreaded lock of Basseville – where the river current crosses perpendicular to the lock entrance, was entered without a bump – that’s two weeks in a row! Hopefully that’s not jinxed it. A Birthday celebration made captains dinner ever more special.

Week 15 -21 May

The barge Luciole leaves a lock escorted by swans

Chef Sebastian's delicious gourmet puddings
Another great week, another ‘wedding’? Champagne and cake for all. Remembered for the nicknames given to the crew: The tailor – Francisco for his ability to thread the eye of a needle (the boat into the lock) Gandalf – Sebastian, for his magical cooking. The women that lived in the shoe – the girls. Swiss army knife – me? Googless Wikipedius – Neil for his unfathomable knowledge.

The sky has been incredible this week, with some fantastic sunsets. The canal is getting busier with summer months, and the water level is getting extremely low. We’ve passed herons fishing, cows grazing and hawks circling, don’t think I will ever get bored of this scenery. The photo above show an escort of swans as we leave the lock.

Week 8 - 14 May

Luciole takes on extra passengers looking for greener pastures!
   Various generations from a family of nine were on board this week, with a great mix of ages and by the end of the week had gained four more members, with the four others fitting in amazingly. Plenty of sunshine but with a much needed storm thrown in overnight, soaked the region and provided a spectacular lightening storm. Photo above of two horses using the boat to cross into a grazing paddock - providing an alarm clock for the chef!
    Lots of card games this week, with some chess and jumping off the boat thrown in. The Birthday of passenger Paul meant an evening of celebrations. 
    Made some great friends with smiles all around, continued the season at the same high level of where it left off, having to remind myself that i’m working and not just on holiday as well!

Week 24 - 30 April

Luicole in the early morning at Mailly-le-Chateau
  The second week saw a mixture of nationalities: American, Australian and English. Water level on the canal was low meaning we got stuck! Sat on the bottom, saved by some extra water provided by the lock keeper we lifted off, cruising continued, further dramas included a snapping of a bow rope, quick reactions helped saved the lock gates and probably the boat. Sun and cool air made a pleasant week for sitting on the sundeck drinking cocktails. Returning to Auxerre

Week 17 - 23 April

The 2011 season has officially started, and what a great week to start off. The boat was looking as good as new. Cruising went without a glitch and the weather was perfect, especially for April. Seb’s food set off at the same incredible standard he finished last year and the two new girls coped with everything.

Barge Luciole's wonderful crew from left to right: Captain Neil, deckhand Will Liley, hostesses Alice & Fiona, chef Sebastian and pilot Francisco

A lively bunch of 14 American/Canadian passengers got on extremely well, the highlight of the week being the re-marriage in celebration of two client’s anniversary - with Captain Neil playing the roll of priest and the crew providing the live band. Pilot Francisco’s birthday was another celebration. 

Spent the week laughing and met some great characters, some of which I had trouble keeping up with. Some great memories had by all, and now looking forward to the rest of the season.