November 2011 – revisiting our French trip …
We left Valence early Friday morning and did 6 hours motoring down river, then moored for the night at a little place called Viviers, which in the summer would be a good stopping place, but this time of year it is closed, and all the pontoons were lifted out of the water. So we had to moor against a pile/big post and couldnt get the bows near enough to the bank as it was too shallow, so we couldn’t get off the boat last night! Never mind, we had a lovely Spag Bol on board and a bottle of vin rouge.
We left at 830 this morning for another full day of motoring, but today we were going to encounter THE BIG LOCK! The Bollene lock is the biggest in France, and used to be the biggest in Europe, although I don’t know which country now holds that honour. It is about 10metres wide and 100 metres long, and the water drops 26 metres when it emptiies! It’s huge!
Its the equivalent to a four storey building, quite amazing. Apparently this lock is special too, as the water empties through the bottom of the lock instead of the sluices at the bottom of the gates. We were the only boat in the whole lock, but it empties quickly, then we were on our way again.
I was looking at the chart/book we use for navigation on the canals and rivers, and it gives you some information about the local area, and we passed through a section of the river where, in the space of a couple of miles, there was a nuclear power station, a troglodyte village, and a crocodile farm with 300 crocodiles housed in tropical glass houses! The mind boggles! I began to wonder whether these three things were linked! Suggestions on a postcard ….
We have come through some really remote parts of the French countryside. How these people live without a Waitrose supermarket or a Marks & Spencer food hall nearby doesnt bear thinking about. (For my foreign readers, these are my favourite luxury food stores in the UK). There is literally no civilization or sign of humanoid life for miles and miles. Then today, along the river bank, miles from nowhere, we saw two people jogging, and someone walking their dog. Where had they come from!! Do they live in a tent in the woods? is there a secret underground tunnel to some habitation nearby? Did they get dropped from outer space?
Tonight we are in a little marina in a place called L’Ardoise, or Lard Arse as I pronounced it. It is run by a German lady who helped us into our mooring. We didnt do the mooring ropes quite as she wanted and she reprimanded us – “I am ze Kapitan!” she said. You dont want to argue with her, clearly!