Sunday, October 19, 2014

Les Anderlys, Day 2 of the cruise. Now it's Saturday.

Here I am , sitting having an American coffee with 2 petit macaroons. It's  morning tea time and I am overlooking our beautiful Rivé de Seine at Rouen, a large city north of Paris which contains approximately 100,000 residents.

Yesterday morning I awoke at 5 am., and began to compose my blog in my head for the day so thought I might as well arise and go sit on our private baloney and write some more as we sailed along the river. 
It was still quite dark outside and like all places country it was very difficult to differentiate between river and land at that time. Looking up I could see the stars which are so different to ours at home but at the same time, reassuringly familiar. Occasionally as I watched the landscape a large white fragment would loom by our boat and we would pass whatever it was. This substance was set back into the land, not close to the boat and I pondered briefly on what it may be but did not give much credence to its significance at the time because of the visual difficulties.
The beauty of the boat is the silence as we travel along, so as the sunlight gradually appeared to merge into the new day one could listen to birds chirping along the rivers edge.
Gradually as daylight took over from darkess I was able to visualise what it was I had been looking at in the black. They were immense limestone impresses in the hills as we sailed past this part of the country and through the course of the day they were very evident in places. Some were so uniform and square, I thought they might have once been battle forts long since forgotten and left by local landowners to the passage of time, but on closer inspection you can see that with wind and rain through the many years of their existence the elements have further exposed these walls and who knows, maybe in another 1000 years the landscape will take on a completely different persona as it is worn away even more.
We arrived this morning at Les Anderlys, a beautiful country town with typical French village scenery I had only read about before. There have been many times I have pinched myself to ensure that what I am looking at is real after all and not a figment of my overactive imagination. 
This village is so beautiful with its laneways and petite shops and alleys and boulangerie patisserie shops and market squares and churches....every town has its church it seems.
Our boat is moored in the heart of the 'old' part of the town and our activity selection for the day is to hop on motorised bikes and traverse this place.
We stayed local to the boat initially just to familiarise ourselves with the mechanics of the motor on the bike and once we were comfortable, off we went inland as it were.
Our first foray was the local streets and roadways. The hardest thing is remembering we must ride on the opposite side of the road. Don't think these French people would appreciate us having our own sense of road rules, so therefore we must abide their laws and that took a little getting used to also.
As it was early there was only a little traffic around so the gods were easy on us fortunately at that time. There had only been three of us who had selected these bikes and so Chris, the other 2 wheeler joined us on our adventure. We then decided to travel up the local hill to where King Richard, The Lionhearted once lived. Now I managed to make it part of the way up the hill thanks to my trusty battery bike but closer to the summit the pathway became one with very loose gravel and I think my bike felt my apprehension and started to slip backwards. Needless to say, Klutzy Balnaves managed to fall off her bike, skin her elbow, graze her ankle and place a big bruise on her buttock. As a consequence I got to push my bike up the remainder of the hill to the top where the views of the valley were magnificent and breathtaking, so my mind was far removed from my fall and I soon forgot about it as we wandered through the ruins of what was once a huge castle, equipped with moat, drawbridge and dungeon.
I walked down the slippery part of the pathway again, holding onto my bike with the brake on, as the one thing I have learnt about these contraptions is that they are very heavy and will have a mind of their own if you let them!
We eventually got to a more stable road surface and with brake still on and motor off, travelled back down the road, marvelling at the speed going down.
Back into the town again, we then rode on to a market which sold fruit, vegetables, handcrafts, clothes and shoes. This is quite similar to our own markets at home, but still a pleasure to experience, especially as I purchase a little psychedelic bag for work to carry my 'stuff' in all the while conversing with increasing confidence with the stall holder.
 The little bag is 10 euro which is a reasonable price and I am happy.

Once again we return to the boat on our now trusty bikes as we are riding on flat land. We still had an hour or so before we need to be on board again so Murray and I rode along the river pathway for a bit then returned our bikes before taking a stroll in the opposite direction.
It is so very peaceful here along the river. Occasionally we come across someone sitting, reading and others just strolling, admiring the day, we discover the local 'hopitale' and ambulance parked out front and there is a rather large building next door with beautifully maintained gardens called *** Retreate.
Next to this is a very old building which I presume is the original hospital which has since been superseded by the contemporary building in the same grounds.
Before too long, we have to say farewell to this lovely idyllic place and return to the ship for lunch as we set sail to further along the Seine.

The afternoon is filled with travelling along the river past little towns with their cottages and mansions situated along the waters edge. Some people are sitting outside and wave as we go past, others choose to ignore the tourists, possibly thinking us to be a blight on their otherwise pristine landscape, but c'est la vie.
Have I mentioned the weather? This day is glorious with clear blue skies and sunshine. The temperature hovers around 25 degrees in the afternoon and as we sit outside so as to appreciate the beauty of this land as we glide past, I think to myself I should have packed for summer, not autumn. 
We run from side to side of the boat initially oooohing and ahhhhing at the countryside, towns and cottages that we sail past. It seems there is a photo opportunity at every turn of the river, it is so picturesque.
Eventually Murray wanders off the have a sleep and I go downstairs to get out of the sun for a bit and to do some blogging before dinner.
Dinner once more comes and goes. Tonight it's Coq Au Vin and it's delicious. We are told they use roosters rather than hens but I cannot tell the difference. My palate is certainly bourgouis as always but I am enjoying every bit of it regardless.
Post dinner we are invited to a music trivia game held in the main lounge.
Might I brag and mention that out of six respective et mes amies won le competition...unfortunately we had to share the winning bottles of very raw cider and a suspect bottle of vin de blanc with Judy (she of Home and Away) and her team dammit! I suspect they had a bit of a head start given their background but nice to know we came up to par with them anyways.
For the first time in my life this evening, I tried a martini...shaken not stirred as everyone delights in saying. The bloody martini tastes like straight gin and vermouth, which it is of course, is bitter and horrible. The best part was the olives in the glass to be frank. I believe there will be no more martini for this proletariat in the future.
Our musician who composed the quiz encouraged everyone to get up and dance in between questions and your team scored extra points if you did. Needless to say this was an excellent encouragement to throw off our age cloaks and pretend we are youthful again for a short while.
Bruce also gave what is now his nightly donation to the music and sang his version of Unchained Melody whilst all the time gazing adoringly towards his lovely diminutive Judy who in turn sits gazing at him (all rather sweet actually).
Soon enough it is time again to wander off to our cabins for a well earned sleep. No early rising for this gal tomorrow if I can help it.

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