35 Miles in Two Days (Days 7 and 8)

After four relatively short (20-24 km) days we had our first long (~30KM or longer) days on the Camino in quick succession.

Day 7 (Sep 22): Los Arcos to Logroño, 27.8 Km, 160.8 Km (Total)

We elected to skip the hotel breakfast to get a jump on the day. We had our headlamps on as we headed out of town as the sun slowly rose behind us. It was cool (40’s) but lovely.

Daily Selfie

Everyone felt good and we had 11 miles down before lunch. It was a little cooler today which helps.

Walking toward lunch in Viana
A pilgrim shrine of sorts.

The last few miles in the heat are always the hardest but, with our early start, we managed to stumble into Logroño around 3:30 (though Jim and Leigh Ann had to hike another 10 minutes to their hotel). And we entered a new autonomous region today (La Rioja) which has different trail markers.

Trial markers near Lagroño

Unfortunately the cathedral in Logroño was not open but we managed to find a place that served wine just in front so we had a nice view.

The Concatredal de Santa Maria de la Redonda in Legroño
Day 8 (Sep 23): Logroño to Najero, 29.4 Km, 190 Km (Total)

Another early start with headlamps as we headed out of Logroño in the dark. We grabbed a coffee and a roll at a pandaria as we headed out of town.

People in the towns are quick to point the way when you wander off the Camino and lots of people say “Buen Camino!” as you pass.

The altar in the Parroquia Santa Maria de la Asuncion in Navarette

We stopped in Navarette for a coffee and dropped into the church which had an amazing altar. I also got a pilgrim stamp here. Then on to Ventosa and lunch.

Heading in Ventosa

Our system on long days of walking 5-6 miles to coffee and then another 5-6 miles to lunch seems to work well. After lunch there is only another 2-3 hours of walking.

And the next few days promise to be both cooler and shorter which will be a nice change.

First Week in Spain (Day 2-6)

Okay, the rain in Spain does not mainly fall on the plain. Either that or we are not near any plains. Our first six days in Spain have been sunny and warm. The days usually start in the high 40’s and slowly ramp up to the low 80’s by mid-afternoon.

Day 2: Roncevalles to Zubri, 21.2 Km (Day), 45.9 Km (Total)

Our first Camino hotel was nice – private rooms and bathrooms – so we are very happy. Everyone is a bit sore from yesterdays big climb but we are all moving well as we head out after breakfast.

Intrepid hiker ready for the day!

This is a short day (as are the next three or four) which is nice since there are no rest days on our schedule.

View on day 2

We had nice views today but nothing like yesterday’s stunning vistas. And we have noticed that a lot of the signs appear to be in Basque instead of Spanish.

Basque Sign (Common Toilets)

And we ended our day soaking our feet in the Rio Arga.

Rio Arga
Day 3: Zubri to Pamplona, 20.7 Km (Day), 66.6 Km (Total) 66.6

Another pretty easy day as we get our bodies to slowly adjust to a life on the trail (admittedly a pretty plush life with hotels every night).

Today’s 13 mile hike ended in the city of Pamplona. We took the advice of a gentleman we met on the trail who recommended the “River Route” into town rather than the standard route. He was right – it was shady and lovely as we followed the Rio Arga into town.

A brief stop on the way into Pamplona

Pamplona is a big city and we only got to see a little bit of it but the Pamplona Cathedral was very near our hotel so we visited it.

Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta la Reina, 23.3 Km , 89.9 Km (Total)

Today has our first climb since coming over the Pyrenees on day 1. Out of Pamplona we slowly ascend to Alto del Perdon (750m), a climb of about 1000 feet over 12 km or so.

Hiking out of Pamplona

Another lovely day that started cool (48 degrees) and slowly warmed up to the low 80’s.

Near the top – Pamplona in the background.
At the top!

The rest of the day is a gentle descent to our hotel in Puenta la Reina.

Our home for the night.
Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella, 21.9 Km , 111.8 Km (Total)

Big day as we past the first 100 km mark. Another warm day with no big climbs.

100M and still smiling!

We walk through rolling farmland punctuated but pretty little medieval towns.

Pilgrim art

And the churches! We see churches all day. Today we passed a church that held the oldest christian iconography in Spain (it has since been removed to a museum).

Interior of a church built in the 10th century.

We pass clusters of hikers and there are usually several small groups in sight as we hike but it never feels crowded.

Just a couple of hikers.

We finally arrived in Estella but our hotel was 1.5 km from the Camino so we had a nice stroll through town.

Impressive building in Estella
Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos, 21.3 Km , 133.1 Km (Total)

Our last easy (14 miles or so) for a while so we enjoyed it!

Another lovely day…

Los Arcos is named in honor of a battle won by the town’s archers. Pretty little town with a lovely church.

Church in Los Arcos (Iglesias de Santa Maria)

Tomorrow is our first 17+ mile day so we plan to start early, before sunrise, to beat the heat of the late afternoon.

Day 6 Selfie!

Last week on the boat … with friends

With a couple weeks to go before the start of our Camino Frances hike we had a final cruise of the season with our good friend Linda and Emerson.

We cruised to from our home port in Saint Jean-de-Losne to Dole (one of our new favorite spots) ….

…. and then on Besancon before returning. It was a nice way to finish off the cruising season.

A Break from Cruising to….. Cruise!

So, where to folks living on a canal boat go when they want a little vacation? On a cruise! A much bigger boat of course. Our 40th anniversary Baltic cruise that was delayed twice by the pandemic finally happened (minus St Petersburg unfortunately).

Over seven days we visited six countries (none of which I had been to before – Roberta had been to Denmark). It was not only educational but a lot of fun. We arrived in Stockholm a day early to wander around and took (of course) a ferry out to Artipelag to visit the museum.

Then it was onto Helsinki where we did a bike tour of the city.

Then on to Tallinn where a very nice Estonian guide explained that they REALLY, REALLY don’t like Putin.

…. then Riga where, when asked, a very knowledgeable Latvian guide explained that the border with Russia was “not a Latvian-Russian border… it is a NATO-Russian border.”

Then back to Swedish territory, Visby on the island of Gotland where they have the longest continuous medieval wall still in standing. Our tour guide was a Brit who moved to Visby 40 years ago.

Okay… the places are coming pretty fast and they have several full bars on the boat so … oh right… next was one of my favorite, Gdansk Poland. The Solidarity Museum was very moving and a place I wish all our Neo-fascist MAGA folks could visit.

And, finally …… Copenhagen!

Heading Back South

We finished off the northern navigable portion of the Saône on July 28, exiting the final lock (#1) at Corre. Our last lunch on the Saône was a typical nature mooring. Thank goodness we have a master line-wrangler in the crew!

We elected to moor at the small village dock rather than the marina in Corre which turned out to be an excellent choice.

Our Mooring in Corre

And Corre was in occupied France during the war and, clearly, a hotbed of the resistance.

The next day we entered the Canal des Vosges heading toward Epinal. Lots and lots of locks! In 15 km we did 11 locks and most of them were quite deep (over 3 meters). Near Fontenroy-le-Chateau we met a VNF guy who asked how far we were going. We told him “Epinal” and he shook his head and said something about “bad water”.

Around lunch time, as we were passing through the Fontenroy port de plaisance, several people at the Le Boat base came out waving their hands and shouting that the canal was closed. And so… after confirming with the VNF, Fontenroy was, sadly, as far as we would be going on the Canal des Vosges this year.

Our Mooring in Fontenroy-le-Chateau

This part of France is in a drought and the reservoirs (“etangs”) are very low)so the canal was closed at lock #24.

The (very remote) Bains-les-Bains train station.

Not willing to give up (since Roberta had a scheduled hair appointment in Epinal) we rode our bikes (uphill!!!) to the Bains-les-Bains train station and caught a train to Epinal.

Cathedral in Epinal

We spent the night at a hotel (our first real bed in over two months) with AC!!! The next day we rode our bikes out along the Epinal branch canal (that connects with the Canal des Vosges) and it was nearly dry.

Epinal branch canal. Nearly dry.

So ended our trip north. After train/biking back to Fontenroy we headed back south to the Saône. We stopped at Scey-sur-Saone our second night back on the Saône. A nice little town with a very strange old building (but a good pizza place for Martini Night!)

And today we ended up a very dead little town, Soing (no boulangerie, no bar, no cafe, no epicerie) but a pleasant mooring. And, of course, they have the Eiffel Tower. So

The famous Soing Eiffel Tower.

North on the Saône

With about three weeks left before we head off for our Baltic cruise we decide to explore the northern reaches of the Saône.

We’ve had a couple of really hot days but, for the most part, the weather has been lovely. The nights are usually in the high 50’s to low 60’s and the days usually top out in the mid-80’s.

Leaving Gray, our second night out on the Saône

We usually try to stay in marina’s or towns with electricity service so we would have fans in the evening (I am working on changes to the boat wiring to allow us to have fans when we are not on shore power).

We are feeling more comfortable about nature mooring (nosing up to the bank and shutting off the engine) since I think I have found (and fixed) the engine starting problem.

Bert helming through the “Souterrain de Savoyeux”

Most of the time we are in the river with short “deviations” through canal sections to bypass portions of the river that are not navigable. We usual do 2-4 locks per day though they tend to be pretty deep (3 meters or so). And we did have one bad experience sharing a lock with a couple who clearly did not know what they were doing – their boat kept hitting the front doors. Not good.

Cocktails on shore

We often have dinner off the boat when we are in marinas since there is often little shade. We deploy our table and chairs and enjoy the shade.

We stop during the day at any place that looks interesting (a chateau or the remnants of a 13th century castle for instance). And we took a short side trip to Traves to see the “Pierre Percée” (pierced standing stone). They have no idea how old it is or who put it up.

And we always try to slow the boat when we pass fisherman so as not to disturb them, though sometimes that is difficult.

Typical French fisherman.

A Week with the Kids!

After our shake-down cruise we welcomed Francis and Emilie on board for a week of cruising on the Rhine au Rhone canal. Still having engine starting issues but … it works most of the time.

Route for the weeklong visit of Francis and Emilie

With only a week we decide on a one-way cruise. First, a short jog up the Saone to Auxonne and then back down the Saone to catch the Canal de Rhone au Rhine (the Saone empties into the Rhone at Lyon so is considered part of the Rhone system).

Auxonne

Napoleon is pretty big in Auxonne – he went to military school here and they are quite proud of him. After walking around a bit we drug our chairs up to a pretty spot (out of the sun!) overlooking the river for a aperitif.

Wine!!!

A bit later the most amazingly dirty boat pulled in right behind us. I think it belongs to Pigpen.

And the award for dirtiest boat goes to…..

We left Auxonne in the morning and headed for the first lock on the Canal de Rhone au Rhine. The canal jumps in and out of the river Doube and a good part of our trip was in the river. The first lock is manned and we got a lecture about safety, locking technique and how to operate the remote that we were given to operate the locks in this canal (they are almost all automatic).

Dole

Marina with Dole in the background (arrow is our boat).

We did a longish day (7 locks and 25Km) to get to Dole. We planned to spend all next day here exploring. This turned out to be a great call since Dole is wonderful. Charming city with lots of shops and restaurants and the marina is quite nice.

And Louis Pasteur is BIG in Dole. He was born here and this year is the bicentennial of his birth. We had a nice dinner at a place on the (no longer used) Canal des Tanneurs where, incidentally Pasteur’s father had a business and where Pasteur was born.

Dinner on the Canal des Tanneurs

And, because there is always something we don’t understand, here is a little gem from Dole… I especially like the DeLorean as a waffle.

Besancon

From Dole we took two days to get to Besancon, the biggest city on this excursion with a population well over 100,000. We stopped at Ranchot, a little town the first night.

Our anchorage at Ranchot.

We wandered around the village and stumbled into a local artist exhibition in the chapel where Francis and Emilie bought a souvenir painting.

Lunch in Ranchot

The trip from Ranchot to Besancon is highlighted by a short tunnel section and one double lock.

Besancon is a very old city (dating back to Roman times). The original city was on almost an island made by the Doube and easily defended. There are still remnants of huge fortifications above the city.

Old part of Besancon. Circle is where we moored.

Fortifications overlooking the entrance to Besancon from the Doube.

We spent an afternoon at the Victor Hugo museum (he was born there) and did the tourist “Petite Train” ride around the city.

This region (Franche-Comte) was not part of France until the 17th century when it was conquered (by Louis 14?) (though it was also part of Spain – this is very confusing). And some people obviously think that was a mistake.

Myfavorite piece of graffiti in Besancon – Evil Spongebob!

Shakedown Cruise Complete!

After two weeks on the Saône and Seille we are back in St Jean de Losne waiting for Francis and Emilie to join us for a week. The map shows our route south from St Jean for the two weeks we were out. Total distance was about 180 km.

Map of our shakedown cruise

Down the Saône

After leaving Tournus we did an out-and-back route on a side canal to Pont-de-Vaux. Not a great canal and not much to see or do in Pont-de-Vaux so probably won’t be doing that one again.

Bert making friends in Pont-de-Vaux

We got back to Tournus after a rainy day. We really like Tournus – it has a great hardware store, a Supermaché within easy walking distance and has a great little place to moor the boat right on the Saone. Also there is a pretty good pizza place right on the river.

View from our mooring in Tournus

After re-supplying in Tournus we continued down the Saone. We decide (after talking to Alex and Deb on “Sadie”) to take a little detour up La Seille. Pretty little river that is navigable (with locks) up to Louhans. The first lock has an operator but the remaining three are all manual and boaters are responsible for operating the locks.

Eclusier on the first lock La Seille
Walking to dinner is Cuisery.

Spent a night in Cuisery before continuing on to Louhans. Louhans is supposed to have a great market on Monday so we want to be there for it. Unfortunately it rained all day so we got completely soaked operating the locks.

Raining on the way to Louhans

It was still raining when we left Louhans but the forecast is improving. We get lucky and most of the rain has stopped by the time we hit the first lock.

Our system for these locks is for me to hop off and do all the lock stuff (doors and gates) while Bert wrangles the boat. Works pretty well – I have no idea how a solo cruiser would handle this.

Someone having a very bad day

Back onto the Saône heading to Macon and we saw what can happen if you ignore the channel markers. This was a Le Boat rental and it looked like everyone had been evacuated. And there are big barges on the “Grand Saone” (the part of the Saone from St Jean-de-Losne to Lyon).

One of the bigger barges we saw.

Macon is one of the oldest cities in France, dating back at least 2,000 years but there is very little old stuff remaining because most of the city was destroyed in the religious wars. There is one strange old wooden building dating from about 1500 that still survives. It is covered in carvings of naked guys and monkeys.

The marina is very nice and there is a lovely shaded path from the marina to town but Macon itself is not particularly charming. We did a short run into town which was lovely.

Leaving Macon we headed north towards our home berth in St-Jean. We stopped for Martini Night in a an old, unused lock that somebody has converted into a mooring with services. It was nicer than it sounds.

Martini Night on the Saone.

And with only minor engine starting issues we finally reached St-Jean…

Home!

Finally Cruising!

After three weeks and a few days we finally raised anchor and headed out onto the Saone!

Back on the Boat

After being evicted from Decize for four days so the mechanics could have their way with her we finally moved back aboard Friday, June 17, almost exactly three weeks from the day we arrived in St Jean. No one was around when we finally got permission to return and, of course, the engine didn’t start. But… a couple of texts later and an H2O guy shows up with the big booster and we started Decize and moved back to the marina.

Finally back in the Marina!

St Jean had a big festival Saturday so we stayed one more day to enjoy the fun.

Cruising – Week 1!

Sunday we weighed anchor and headed south on the Saone, still a little concerned about engine starting issues …. but hopeful. Our first day we cruised 48 Km to Verdun-sur-le-Doub passing through two of the big locks on the Saone.

It was a hot, windy day and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Captainerie served ice cream, beer and wine.

View of the Captainerie in Verdun-sur-le-Doub from our boat.
Decize from the Captainerie

With the exception of a few pretty impressive thunderstorms things are going well – the engine has started first time, every time so far. We spent two nights in Chalon-sur-Saone, a big city after three weeks in St Jean and we nabbed the last visitor spot, too bad for the people in Le Boat rentals!

Entrance to the Port de Plaisance of Chalon

And Roberta finally got her first Leffe Ruby.

We left Chalon after some major shopping (including a lot of fans!) and headed for Tournus, a place we have never been but will definitely return to. A great town with lots of shops and restaurants and a great hardware store (though a strange obsession with hair – I counted 8 coiffures in a four block area).

We spent an afternoon exploring, visiting the famous Abbaye Saint Philibert.

Our mooring in Tournus.

Two weeks, no motor, new bikes and the hunt for the elusive martini glass!

We arrived in St-Jean-de-Losne almost exactly two weeks ago. We had planned to spend a week provisioning and getting the boat ready before heading out… but things have not quite worked out.

We arrived late on Thursday and were unable to secure a taxi so …. after 24 hours of travel we had a lovely mile walk from the train station to town.

Our first view of St-Jean-de-Losne on the road walk from the train station.

The next morning we walked to the marina looking for Decize. We were directed to the H2O workshop area where we found Decize moored on the ramp.

And on board a bottle of cremant and a nice note from H2O.IMG_0745_8756

So… we are good to go, right? Tried starting the motor so we could move over to the marina but …. nothing happens. Over the course of the next week we moved out of hotel and onto Decize, we got moved from the ramp to the workshop dock and we finally met with the shipyard manager.  And….the engine still doesn’t start!

After an hour or so troubleshooting (Thursday, exactly one week after we arrived) we all agree that the problem is the starter motor. So… another almost full week waiting for the starter motor.

While waiting we decide to take the train to Dijon and get bikes. The train runs a couple of times a day and takes about 30 minutes.

Waiting for the train in St Jean

The first bike shop we walked into had exactly what we wanted.  We bought two bikes and were told to return in the afternoon to pick them up so headed for downtown Dijon to search for things we could not get in St Jean… a picture frame and …… MARTINI GLASSES! Martini glasses are not a thing here in France and we have yet to find decent ones (though we continue to look).

IMG_0873_2471
Our new bikes on Decize
Bert with our new “Martini” glasses.

And, of course, being Jason and Roberta we decided not to wait for the train (three hours away) and decided to ride out new bikes back to St Jean (about 35 kms). Did I mention these were city bikes? With not much in the way of suspension? We took the recommended route, the canal towpath which started out paved but quickly turned to rough gravel. Two hours, tired and hot, with sore butts, we pulled into the marina. But we beat the train!

Meanwhile back in motor-land we finally got our new starter in and installed. After several false attempts we finally go the motor started! We even took Decize for a quick spin around the marina but….. well more on that next post when I explain why we still haven’t left St-Jean after two full weeks.

Our new starter motor!!!