Thursday, 1 August 2013

Day 213 : barging revisited

I've been back home for a couple of days but my heart is still in Burgundy, somewhere on those tranquil, tree lined waterways with the sunlight sparkling on the surface, and possibly the odd duck.

I've been on chilled holidays previously, where you just lie on a beach or by the pool but they've never really seemed to feel quite as laid back as this one. Most of the time if you've gone to the effort of going away on holiday, especially to a new place, you feel you have to make the best of the opportunity, explore unfamiliar places, dashing off for new experiences and generally not just do nothing or it would must be a terrible waste.

But to be fair, given half a chance when I relax I can sleep for England. I think it’s because most of the time I'm living in a state of mild to extreme sleep deprivation. I just seem to believe that there isn't enough time for sleeping. First there’s work, so much work, too much work and then there’s catching up with friends, cramming in creative photography projects, maintaining a daily blog (eek), trying to keep up with my reading, my favourite TV shows on Sky+ and then all the domestic stuff. How on earth is there time to sleep?

My ideal situation would be to abandon all alarm clocks when on holiday but generally there's a timetable to adhere to. If breakfast is included you have to get a shimmy on by a certain time or that little avenue is closed. If an excursion is planned, they generally seem to cater for early birds so there's no lingering. When we did the Northern Baltic Cities cruise six years ago we got to enjoy some fabulous excursions Talin, Moscow, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Copenhagen et al but I also enjoyed the days at sea with no rushing around, perhaps a watercolour workshop and just time to really chill. As lovely as the little trips to vineyards, churches, cathedrals, museum, chateaux etc are they are not really on par with the Armoury containing all the fabulousness of Faberge eggs and the rest in Moscow and also I find myself cherishing the quiet time. The most energetic thing to do is watch the world drift by and occasionally brandishing my camera in the direction of a field dotted with those cylindrical bales of hay, a bird on a telegraph pole, pleasing stripes of the serene canal in front of us or the gushing water at the next lock.

Each lock was a fascination, the whole mechanism of raising or lowering our king of the canal seemed almost miraculous. Often our barge was so snug in the lock, we had to ensure our elbows were well tucked in for fear of grazing on the sides. The water starts as a sprung leak before it turns into a torrent. Our captain, in collaboration with the lock keeper, would regulate the flow before opening the gates with a big winching handle. The lock keeper would invariably be responsible for several locks in close proximity, so would buzz to the next one on a moped and be waiting for us as we drifted into view.

Sometimes the incline change needed would so great the lock would need to be so deep that our large barge would be dwarfed by the water-loving plants covered walls. You'd be so closely surrounded by the walls you'd look up to see just a small patch of blue and the walls dripping . One of the other guests told of a previous barging holiday where another passenger was very claustrophobic. She had found these sort of locks so impossible to cope with she'd had to abandon her barging holiday and seek another form of transport.

Today I tried to book another trip on the same barge. They talked of a Christmas in Paris which seemed an excellent idea and I immediately started researching the possibility of joining them. I've looked high and low how to book this. I checked with the travel agency I booked with, they certainly had nothing on their books for the rest of this year for the good ship Jeanine. I tried with the owners of the barge Croisi Europe but they also couldn't help. They think this is a private charter and I wouldn't be able to book. I also took the opportunity to complain about their shocking website concerning booking future excursions on this barge, the French I can more or less navigate with the help of google translate (and Michel Thomas) but there just seemed to be no way to view any trips, for the remainder of 2013 or even 2014.

I've been thwarted in my cunning Christmas plan. I haven't ruled out going to Paris though, but it's not going to be by barge it seems.


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