Friday, October 26, 2007

The Aunts in France - and One Uncle

Day #1

Well, the much anticipated visit of Aunts Carol, Anita and Uncle Dick added to the highlights of this years cruising adventures.

Mary Ellen and I took the Shenandoah north, up the Canal du Bourgogne, to Dijon to meet them when they arrived from Paris.

They arrived on the TGV on Friday morning. Uncle Dick commented in passing on the speed of the train and how the cars they passed en-route seemed to be “standing still.” When I told him that the cruising speed of a TGV in France was around 300 km/hr (180 m/hr) he was mightily impressed. Now understand, impressing uncle Dick is no mean feat. But, the train to Dijon-Ville did!

Then it was off to the Hertz office to pick up the rental car. Errrrr...except for the fact that Aunt Carol had missed that she was supposed to have reserved a car. “Oh, was I supposed to do that?” she asked. In France, or for that matter, most places other than in the USA, you just do not simply walk up to a rental car office and tell them you want a car. This is stuff that has to be “arranged,” well beforehand, requiring security clearances, embassy permissions, volumes of paperwork and the promise that you will give them your first born son! I have found that Hertz requires a minimum of this sort of thing.

C'est ne pas problem,” said my friend, the Hertz lady, “We have a Golf Plus zat you can 'ave and we will geeve you zee special weekend rate!” She likes me because I only give them about twelve thousand dollars worth of business a year. I am seriously thinking about buying a car...

A Volkswagen Golf Plus is, let me tell you, anything but a “Plus.” But, beggars cannot be choosers so we loaded up and headed out.

The girls decided to stop off at the Saturday outdoor Dijon market, so uncle Dick and I headed back to the Shenandoah to unload baggage. I was so proud of my sisters, only one bag each. Each bag weighed about 600 pounds! Of course, the single-edged razor blades, Lawry's Seasoning salt, jalopeno peppers, flip-flops and other sundry items unavailable here were included in those suitcases.

After lugging the suitcases onboard, quai-side, uncle Dick and I headed back to town to meet up with the girls for a leisurely lunch. We decided on an outdoor restaurant in a quaint little square and had one of our favorite French meals – pizza!

Day #2

We woke the next morning to a drifting ship. The overly rambunctious local youth decided sometime during the night that a single mooring line was sufficient for the Shenandoah and untied the aft line allowing the ship to drift into the mainstream of the canal.

No harm done, we headed to Beaune for market, lunch and shopping. Then back to the ship for dinner onboard and our own version of a Burgundy wine tasting.

Day #3

...found us in the miserable little Golf Plus again, but this time cruising the back roads through Burgundy. A friend recommended that we stop at the Ch√Ęteau de Gevrey-Chambertin which we did and had a great time with the son of the current owner. He explained their small operation and the care they took to produce the small quantities of good wine every year.

Day #4

A nine o'clock lock time for the journey back to St. Usage.

(The statement, "nine o'clock lock time," makes me think of times friends and relatives have mentioned that they had a "tee time" they had to meet. I have never been a golfer, and to me the mere mention of the sport puts me to sleep immediately. So, I guess, instead of a nine o'clock tee time with a Ping driver, I have a nine o'clock lock time with an eighty ton boat - different strokes for different folks.)

The day started out a little foggy,

but quickly turned into one of those beautiful fall days that you remember as a kid. It's twenty-one locks back to home port and too much to do in one day.

Aunt Nita and Aunt Carol decided to do a little walking while the ship proceeded southward. It's pretty amazing, but you can actually walk faster from point A to point B on the canals than you can ride in a boat. This, of course, is due to the locks and having to slow, stop, go up, or go down, etc.

The aunts were able to get some good shots of the Shenandoah from the banks of the canals.

Although I have always encouraged nude barging, Uncle Dick was my first taker.

Hurray for Uncle Dick!

We decided to overnight at Longecourt, one of our favorite stops along this route, and get an early start the next morning.

Dinner onboard and waaaaaay toooooo much wine. But, as the sun set slowly in the west the evening took on an enchanted glow, perhaps again because of the wine!

Day #5

Arrived in St. Usage just after lunch. After a walking tour of the thriving metropolis of St. Jean de Losne and an aperitif in a quaint little river side cafe, we headed back to the ship for the final evenings festivities with the aunts...and one uncle.

We were sorry to see them leave the next morning when we put them in a taxi for Dijon and their train to Paris. Their visit with us was much too short and there were many more things we wanted to share with them here in our beautiful part of the Earth. Maybe next time...

I did notice that the wine futures on the New York Stock Exchange rose dramatically during the aunts visit. Was there any connection?