We’re still in Toul, waiting to set off on the canals toward Paris. D-Day is now April 3 (or 3 April as the rest of the world writes it). We were all set to leave when we received letters from French Immigration notifying us that we are scheduled for “radiological and medical examinations” and an interview for our long stay visas on 2 April in nearby Nancy. We’d been told it would take months for our visa applications to be processed so we’re going to take advantage of this quick response. We’re collecting all the documentation we brought with us, just in case: birth and marriage certificates (properly translated and attested by the French Library in Boston), lack-of-criminal-record certification from the Ipswich Police Department, dental records, pretty much everything except our “permanent folders” from elementary school. Nonetheless, we are certain there will be some absolutely necessary document that we can’t produce.

We are itching to get underway. Looming over us for the past three weeks has been our first lock, just 50 meters (which is what they call yards here) from where we are tied up. It will be our first lock, the first for Harvey to try to steer the barge into and the first for Sandra to lasso bollards. Here it is:

Our first lock at Toul

We’ll obviously fit in this lock, after all, we just watched from our galley window as a 38 meter commercial barge went through the lock. Sandra’s comment was, “Look at the arms on that woman at the wheel.” Nonetheless, this lock (an “ecluse”)  has been an intimidating presence looming over us.

We’ve planned our route to Paris for the June 1 Dutch Barge Association get-together. We’ll head north through Verdun and then west through the Ardennes then circle around Paris from the north and motor up the Seine right through the heart of the city. Sounds easy. This route is 538 kilometers and 127 locks, all at about 4 mph. We’ll get there by June 1. It was a four-and-a-half hour drive from the Paris airport. Here’s our first week’s route:

Our route from Toul to Verdun, Week One on the road to Paris

While we had our rental car – we turned it in yesterday – we took a couple of reconnaissance trips to Epinal and Roanne scouting out places to spend next winter. We spent a night in Burgandy wine country in Beaune and confirmed our French restaurant theory that the best meals are at husband and wife restaurants filled with French people rather than tourists.. We’ve replaced the rental car with a couple of bicycles we bought and fitted out with baskets, saddle bags and the all-important baguette holder. (A “catastrophe” this morning – no bread – was averted by resort to the emergency baguette in the frezzer.)

We planted our “lawn” on the aft deck: a spread of astroturf on which we plotzed our picnic table and chairs, and the sun umbrella.

The aft deck, with our lawn and picnic table, and our new bikes

This is high end yachting. The boat is ready to go. The engine started instantaneoulsy and purred like an Edith Piaf ballad. It is a marine version of a big Ford diesel, six cylinders and 126 horsepower. It craves a CB radio. It is a powerful creature sulking in the engine room beneath the wheelhouse. You approach it by a ladder through the floor, and give it the respect it requires. This morning, the several barges here made a joint fuel purchase. The diesel truck won’t show up inless you are buying 1,000 liters so we each took as much as we could hold. This purchase filled our fuel tanks for the summer, and the separate heating tank for next winter. The diesel, like the wine, comes in rouge and blanc. The white diesel is for the engine and includes a transportation fuel tax. The red, sans tax, is for non-transportation use and goes into the tanks for the heaters and the generator. Supposedly, the water authorities check the engine’s fuel filter for which color diesel it is using and fine you heavily for running untaxed red.

Hoop is looking good, the decks and cabin sides are scrubbed, the Ipswich Bay Yacht Club burgee flies at the bow and the Stars and Stripes at the stern. Next posting will be from someplace that isn’t Toul, assuming, as the Maine lobsterman once told us when setting off into pea soup fog, “Nice weather for cruising, if ya survive.”