Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: France - 2003

France Map - showing our current area of travels, click to view larger version
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(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on the image)

Summer has definitely gone away and we find ourselves pulling on the woolen socks, hats and gloves as the weather gives way to chilly temperatures that come close to freezing at night. What happened to autumn? We’re hoping for a warm break in November before winter arrives.

OystersBut that doesn’t stop the season’s events and the Bastille and Arsenal are the showground for two major festivals; the first is the oyster show complete with a life-size display of cultivated oyster beds and fishing boats, the other is a large contemporary art exhibition. At the oyster show they have set up several little colorful craftsman cottages wherein one can learn about oysters and their stages of development. A stage features a couple of singer comedians singing folk songs and telling tales. The audience is mostly families who enjoy taking the kids to learn about something new. Surprisingly there are no oysters for sale; it’s strictly public relations.

The art exhibition is even grander and consists of dozens of substantial wood shelters that take two weeks to set up. Surrounding the Arsenal they make entering and exiting quite a task negotiating through a maze of fencing to arrive at the stairway. The art is very bold and modern and all of it is for sale at varying prices. Crowds of hundreds mill about the whole time, making the scene at the Bastille a beehive of activity.

Chez Oo-La-La the month begins with Betty, Rob’s Mom, who has come to visit after her tour of Ireland. It makes for a great reason to visit the Louvre, Notre Dame, sit in cafes, have lunch at the Eiffel Tower and just have fun in general.

Notre Dame is only a fifteen-minute walk along the Seine from the Arsenal and so is St. Germain des Pres, one of the most famous neighborhoods in Paris, also known as the Left Bank. Lunch at the Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower is a special treat; the view is spectacular and the cuisine exquisite. Just remember to book about a month ahead of time.

Paris VueIt was lucky to have Betty here the first week of October so she could attend the monthly barbecue put on every first Thursday by the Paris Yacht Club and the Arsenal Marina. This month we meet lots of other folks from the United States, hailing from different parts of the country.

Marlane & BettyWe have discovered a few other outdoor markets within walking distance besides our regular Sunday morning one featuring French producers of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, baked goods, olives and spices. Another is open six days a week and is Algerian/Arab marchands who offer very similar products, however many of them are kosher or ‘cacher’ in French. Also, one is advised not to touch the produce directly; the vendors like to pick and bag the produce themselves rather than toss out a bag for the buyer to fill. It’s different and sometimes hard to get used to not picking up a pear or tomato to check for ripeness, but the prices are hard to beat. We haven’t been disappointed yet.

Mariealice CaroleThe goods from forays into these colorful street markets usually end up on the dining table in the ‘conservatory’. This is at the back of the boat, a tent like structure with four sides, heated so the beauty of the day can be enjoyed without freezing. So far it’s working very well and pink curtains have been hung inside to make it even cozier. There we enjoy dinner parties with friends and relations. This month it was a pleasure to welcome Parisiennes Marie-Alice and Carole on board. Marie-Alice works with UNESCO and Carole with the famous Clarins beauty line of products. Also, Fred and Kitty from Westsail Mariah. They hail from Norfolk, Virginia and are on a fascinating journey having completed an Atlantic crossing and a tour of the Netherlands, Ireland and England over the past couple of years.

George Diane Around the middle of the month we get a surprise visit from the publishers of France On Your Own, Diane and George. Their online magazine is very exciting, full of great information on France and free! Check it out on Stay tuned for we’ll be contributing an article soon to appear early 2004.

Bruno & LillyMarlane BernardOur team of port captains here at Arsenal is personable and always helpful. Bernard, Bruno, Olivier and Guillaume are terrific and there will be more on them in future articles.

Big BottleThis month is Bruno’s 50th birthday and he has a grand party in style on one of the excursion boats. Take a look at the size of that champagne bottle! This is a real bottle that contains 13 times the normal amount and is a big challenge to open and pour. The job gets done with panache and humor and the bubbly is consumed with lots of toasts and good-natured stories about the birthday guy. A great buffet and dancing tops it off.

Marlane & UnkeyFriday evenings are reserved for live jazz. Les Associes is a bar/restaurant just across the street from Arsenal on the Boulevard de la Bastille and lucky us: they feature a different jazz band every week. Just a five-minute walk away, 10 PM the music starts and goes on for several hours. It’s a great spot, elegant and not too smoky. The crowd is young and there are always university students around since there is no entrance fee. It is really fun to hear a Frenchman sing songs like ‘It Had to be You’ – it comes out more like ‘Eet ‘Ad to be Yoo’ so its all the more enchanting and charming. Maurice Chevalier is still around in spirit.

It’s not just all fun and games. Rob is back in French school, hard work but he is enjoying the challenge of twisting his brain around verb conjugations, pronunciation and new words. At least some days he does, it can be very tough going at times but we have a saying: Il faut persister! (One must persist.) Marlane is busy word-smithing the book Living the Dream on the Canals of England to be published early 2004 by Publish America. Check out their website at

And so the month ends, chilly still, but with one more surprise in store. A friend from over a year ago, Paul Levy from Montpellier, stops by to see us since he is in Paris visiting his girlfriend. We met at a café in Montpellier during lunch one day while we were shopping for the present Oo-La-La and have stayed in touch ever since. We hope to see him again on his next trip here. It’s great to move from the south of France to Paris and still see friends; France is a big country with a big heart too.

.....on to Winter in Paris


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