Monday, 10 November 2014

Onwards to Paris

Every five years, at the end of the season, the Luciole must make her way to Paris for her routine hull inspection. Its an exciting journey, every once in a while, and it seems like only yesterday we were making the trip in 2009! As the Luciole cruises down the River Yonne, joining the River Seine at Montereau, the same debate commences, surely if you study the map, you too will wonder if it really is the River Yonne that flows through Paris and not the River Seine!

Cruising on rivers, with their large locks is a very different experience from our friendly, rural Nivernais Canal. Huge barges, some as 'pushers' with an extra barge attached to the front, thrust past the Luciole, often leaving us feeling as if we were not cruising at all, but bobbing around at sea.

Photos below, taken by my son, William capture the voyage to the shipyard in the north of Paris.

On Saturday morning we waved goodbye to passengers of the last cruising week of the season. We cruised through the day, in the Autumn sunshine and moored on the Seine, in the picturesque town of Saint Mammes.

The Luciole is seemingly left standing on choppy waters, while overtaken by a powerful freight barge.

Nearly loaded. The Juan de Nova sinks deeper into the water as gravel is funnelled into her hull.  We passed many gravel pits along the river banks, towards Paris.  Water transport is by far the most economical way to carry heavy, bulky loads.

Our work goes on too. Tom scrubs the sidedeck whilst we cruise.

An unloaded - high out of the water - 'pusher pair' storm on past us.  The hull clearly visible, without a cargo to weigh the barge down in the water.  On loaded barges you occasionally see river waves lapping over the side decks.

A grey morning and Luciole waits to descend in a large Seine lock.  The weir to the right, allows a frightening amount of water to rush through. Water is carefully controlled, it needs to be with the conflux of the Seine and Yonne at Montereau, vast volumes descend after rainy spells.

Reaching the outskirts or Paris.  River route map to hand.  A night time mooring a little more elusive!

Cruising again, early in the morning,  The River Seine divides round the island of Île de la Cité and close down on the water's edge, with its two dark windows, the 'Memorial des Martyrs' can be seen. Open to visitors, the memorial is dedicated to the 200,000 French citizens who lost their lives in the concentration camps of World War II.

A magnificent view from the river, cruising under Notre Dame.  Our Captain Francisco as a Paris 'Bateau Bus' pilot, regularly cruised the route, but taking the Luciole through Paris is a whole different experience.  His old friends heard through the grapevine that we were 'in town'.  Horns were blown, salutes and noisy hollers exchanged. A far cry from Kenneth Graham's 'Wind in the Willows' but none the less, enormously up-lifting!

The Seine narrows as we approach Pont Neuf.  The yellow diamond on the preceding bridge indicates the arch we must cruise through.  In 1985, for a fortnight, artists Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude's art installation, saw the bridge wrapped in a golden fabric.  In my younger days, before barging, I frequently cooked in Chamonix, the French town that lies in the valley at the foot of Mont Blanc. Whilst visiting Paris, I was delighted to bump into my old friends - Chamonix guides - donned in climbing tackle with abseiling skills abundant, helping to wrap and transform the oldest Parisian bridge crossing the Seine.  Nowadays art installations are more common, although it has to be said 'the Christmas tree', by Paul McCarthy on Place Vendome, recently went up and then sunk, deflated, sooner than expected!

              Cruising under Pont des Art, now known for its 'love-locks'.  The padlocks clearly visible and on the northern side, the section that fell away under the weight of the lovers' mementoes. The Institut de France, seen here stands at one end, with the Louvre at the other.

                                          A rare photo of William (usually the photographer) as we cruise beneath the Eiffel Tower.                                                         Cloud obscuring the steel work near the top, gives an erie appearance.

Destination reached.  The delights of the shipyard at Saint Denis on the northern edge of Paris.  A far cry from the glamour and beauty of our morning cruise beneath many of Paris's most famous landmarks.  Gone is the golden guilding, replaced with the raw rusty steel of the tracks and pulleys that will slowly haul the Luciole up onto dry land. An undignified process for a barge of nearly 100 years, who started work carrying cargo, but is now proud to boast that she was the first hotel barge to cruise the French waterways.

The scary process of being hauled up the tramway, leaving the water below, is complete.  Large 'chocks' keep the Luciole balanced straight. Scrubbing and cleaning the hull quickly began in readiness for the 'inspection'.  An anxious time, while measurements are taken and steelwork agonizing wait and......the news is music to our ears. The old girl is indeed, still in good shape!!

Days end. Tom and George sit on the side deck, guitar and vocals make for an unusual sound in this industrial landscape of pylons and cranes.  Far far away from Burgundy, for now under blue sky, we can only dream of returning home.

19th - 25th October


It is always a surprise when the last week of the season arrives.  We begin cruising in April and before we know it, nearly thirty weeks later, we are waving goodbye to our final passengers.

The Luciole cruised with passengers from all round the world - America, Canada, Australia, England and Scotland. Richard and Susie Parsons joined us for lunch one day too, to spend the day with their son, crew member George, pictured below with Francisco.  Always a proud moment for us to have Richard onboard, the humble man we put on a pedestal, who started hotel barging in 1966 on the Palinurus, now called the Luciole.

Francisco makes his speech on the final Captain's Diner of the season

The Luciole cruised further north, along the River Yonne for the end part of the week, with Friday night's mooring in Sens. We were making our way towards Paris for our five yearly hull inspection. Matelot Tom, as ever assisted Francisco, as they negotiated the new territory and larger locks and William Liley, came out from London to assist with the down river cruising. Hostess Noemi made welcome drinks, always delivered with a glorious smile.

With the change to our usual itinerary, tour guide Anna as capable as ever, took passengers to the beautiful Cistercian Abby at Pontigny, followed by coffee at the impressive hotel restaurant the 'Cote Saint Jacques' in Joigny. We were delighted to have on board the parents of our talented chef Marc. A prouder mum you could not meet! Penny also joined the cruise and the Luciole felt a real family.

Our sincere thanks to all our passengers for cruising with us this season. It has been another wonderful year for the Luciole.  Next season we celebrate 49 years of hotel barging. No doubt it will be here before we know it!

Mirror reflection at midnight in Sens. Perfect stillness at the end of our season.