2017 Barging France

Castles and Barbies: 25/08 -26/08

Abbeville – Long – Picquiny

We had a lovely cruise back up the river passing quite magnificent dwellings,

those not so magnificent

and also managed to capture a glimpse of the Château d’Eaucourt as we cruised by.

As we approached the lock at Long, we kept our fingers crossed that there would be space for Catharina Elisabeth to moor for the night – our conversation with Nils and Torild on Passe Lagom the previous evening had revealed that there were quite a few boats on the pontoon. On our forward journey, we had only stopped for lunch, so we wanted time to have a look around and explore the chateau.

Exiting the lock, who should be tied up but the Angry Frenchman’s boat? He was obviously taking short cruises each day and so it seemed we were likely to keep meeting up with him. We did try each time to wave and say hello, but he was having none of it.

We found a suitable space in front of another boat we knew, Le Séga (we had met this couple in the Dammepoortsluis in Brugges last season), and Ian executed a neat landing.

Château de Long

The afternoon was gloriously sunny and we couldn’t wait to get the bikes off. We really wanted to see the château but when we got there the gates were firmly closed. Lisette was able to translate the sign and when the caretaker approached from the other side, we understood we could take a tour at 5 pm. We were allowed to enter and wandered around the extensive grounds until meeting at the appointed time in front of the grand entrance when we heard the bell toll.

One of the outside displays featured a collection of implements once used for collecting peat.

It is quite a small château by any standards but beautifully preserved and, while the tour was only given in French, Lisette did her best to translate for the others.

Waiting outside the chateau.

The château was built in the early 18th century and after use and falling into disrepair, it was restored in the 1960s to its former glory. The interior is full of opulent furniture, striking wall coverings and many paintings and sculptures. The only drawback was that we were forbidden to take any photos. It was such a small group that Ian, who usually cheats in such matters, was unable to take even the most discrete shot of the gorgeous interior. I guess you’ll just have to visit yourselves (which is undoubtedly their reasoning!).

Part of the 20 hectares of gardens {more photos in the gallery below – click to enlarge an image}

The gardens were magnificent stretching into the distance across swathes of perfectly manicured lawns dotted with statuary.

We had cruised right past the chateau on our way to Abbeville and Saint Valery the previous week. We could now see that the conservatories, which are built on terraces that go right down to the river, are filled with both hot and cool climate flowers.

Spectacular flowers.
View down the Somme towards the bridge and Catharina beyond.
The wash house or 'lavoir' next to the river.
One of the many sculptures.
More lovers.
Spectacular flowers.



The following morning, we took our bikes for a ride / climb up the very steep cobbled streets of the town and found a vide-grenier (car-boot sale) in full swing. The sellers were scattered all around the town, nestled in front of the houses up and down the steep streets. We made it to the top and the lovely old cathedral but unfortunately, it was not open for a visit.

Returning every so carefully back down to river level, Ian spotted a young girl beside a table laden with Barbie gear, outside her house. We approached and showed interest in buying a bit of Barbie to bring back for our granddaughters and, with the fee agreed (20 Euros), the girl and her mother began to empty the trestle table and fill bag after bag with what proved to be quite a lot of Barbie gear.

There was a Barbie (who speaks French if you press her tummy) and a Ken, a kitchen and a bathroom, a laundry and sundry bedroom items. Lisette was beginning to panic at this point – how were we going to get this back to Australia? And it just kept going – until we thought it was done – when, with a flourish, an enormous Barbie sports car was pulled up from underneath the table and, in the absence of any more large shopping bags, tucked into our arms. We really are going to have to think carefully about how much we can bring back home each season.

Might as well ‘fess up now – when we were packing to come home, several weeks’ later, Ian was determined to leave nothing Barbie on board and Lisette, who generally does all the return packing, could see the pieces were too fragile to trust to a suitcase. So that left carry-on luggage. Embarrassed to say that Ian’s backpack held a variety of Barbie doll-house items and Lisette’s rolling carry-on had nothing but a large plastic sports car (and a change of undies).

In the end, it was worth it as everything arrived intact and our granddaughters, Charlie and Zoe were thrilled to bits to see the grand collection of Barbie items.

Charlie (4) arranging the house – Zoe (2) wasn’t being cooperative!

And, as another aside, many of you will remember the song by Aqua “I’m a Barbie Girl”. Take a look at this video from our new favourite group ‘Post Modern Jukebox’ for their version (and perhaps check out a few of their others).

YouTube player

The weather remained glorious and we took a ride along the towpath to the site of the first hydro-electric plant to be built in France. The story goes that the town of Long, being rich and prosperous from the peat collected in the region, was the first town to be electrified in France. The power was derived from the hydroelectric plant that was built there in 1900. It delivered 120V DC power to the entire village until 1968 when they converted to 220V AC. So, ironically, by that time, instead of being a leader, their supply of electrical items was impoverished because of their incompatible power supply. The plant is open for tours but, of course, not on the day we were there – so we merely peered through the window.

We made our way back to Catharina, stowed away all our Barbie toys and set up to leave for Picquiny. We arranged for Deb and Peter to take the bikes and ride to the next lock, tasked with taking photographs of Catharina as she cruised past the scenic château and along the gorgeous river.

It is not easy to get pictures of your own boat in motion, so it is always a treat to take advantage of having an extra person or two on board.

Keeping an eye on the time, boat and bikes kept sight of each other, meeting up for lunch some 10 km along the river. After lunch, Peter swapped places with Lisette, the guys cruised off, and Lisette and Deb cycled the next 12 km onto Picquiny, where we had decided we would once again spend the night. This meant Lisette could video Catharina passing through a double lock under Ian’s experienced control (see below…) which was quite fascinating.

YouTube player

Exiting the lock, we found, you guessed it, our old friend the Frenchman and his really grubby boat – I’m sure he loves it, as he should, but it has a number of old green tarpaulins stretched here and there, hiding the structure, and more balloon fenders than I have ever seen in one place before.

Guess who’s moored with us?

We were keen to visit the nearby theme park at Samara which we understood to be a recreation of Neolithic life in the Somme from the Stone Age to the start of the Iron Age, but only Ian was game to get on a bike and cycle off this late in the afternoon, after the remaining three of us had taken considerable exercise already.

So Deb, Peter and Lisette helped clear some of the excess beer supply, and Ian took off on his own bike ride. Although he arrived not long before closing, he dashed around the park and through the Museum. It was excellent even from this brief visit. The museum was full of detailed maps and posters, all with English translations available;

there were artefacts and reconstructions, and there were lectures going on (in French) to groups of children and their parents discussing the details of Neolithic life.

Outside and further on there was a section where several ages of dwellings were recreated – from the first temporary shelters used by nomadic hunter-gatherers,

through early stone age longhouses

and on to small clusters of individual dwellings that might have characterised the region not long before the arrival of the Romans.

Too soon, Ian left and cycled back to Catharina via the towpath, a lovely ride, to see what the others had been up to. Had Pete and Deb climbed the hill to the ruined château? No, not at all, they were dozing on the back deck.

So we set to dining on deck and as the sun went down, the Frenchman and his wife and their three tiny, yappy dogs, went past us for an evening walk. Not to be beaten, we called out ‘bonjour‘ (which we immediately realised was a mistake as the French have endless ways of greeting people: morning, afternoon, evening, night, weekend, Saturday, Sunday, holiday, breakfast, lunch, dinner…) and it was now evening, so ‘bon soirée‘ would have been more appropriate. The not very friendly Frenchman, without even turning in our direction, mumbled something about it being evening, not daytime, as he pointed to the rising moon. And grumbled off. Well, we tried.

So, off to bed, to ponder if we would be cruising with him all the way to Amiens tomorrow – and because we haven’t had a map for a while, here is the route for the last few days and the one for tomorrow.


Older post:   More recent post:

    One Response

  1. A very enjoyable post. I did laugh about the Barbie gear and also about the angry Frenchman. That first hydro electric power station looks interesting! You really made the most of the Somme and I’ve enjoyed the trip with you. Your barge looks beautiful on the water. It’s lovely to have photos like that, isn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *