9th April 2017. Saint-Florentin, France.

I woke up as the sun was rising today, I wanted to take photos of it reflected on the still water.  It was so much more beautiful than I’d expected, there was a mist rising off the water as the sun slowly appeared over the horizon.  I was outside for ages taking photos of the heron that flew in and the spray coming off the water that funnelled through the lock gate.  Whilst I was by the lock I noticed headlights appearing on the bank opposite where we’d parked the van and as I walked back I watched lots of fishermen starting to set up their equipment.

I was absolutely frozen by the time I went back into the van, I’d put on the first thing I could get my hands on before I went out which was a dress, my padded jacket and flip flops!  I had only intended taking a couple of photos but I hadn’t realised it would be SO beautiful out there.

I defrosted over a cup of coffee and breakfast whilst we watched even more fishermen arrive.  Darren told me it was a fishing competition, it turned out he was correct as one of the men blew a whistle to start the competition.

We watched for a while, one man caught a large fish during that time although we speculated on why they needed so much paraphernalia to catch such small fish when every morning our brother-in-law Kev (or Action Man, as I like to call him) paddles out in a fishing ski in shark infested waters and lands fish larger than him (he’s over 6 feet tall) using just a sea rod.

Just then our neighbouring motorhomer, who had a great parking spot that enabled him to look down the canal, drove off!  Time to move I reckoned, however just as Darren was about to start the engine to move to the other spot a car parked right next to it and we reckoned it might look a bit ‘off’ if we parked our van right beside him in an otherwise empty area so we gave up on the idea of relocating and carried on with getting our bikes out then and cycled up the tow path to see what was we could see.

It’s been a long time since we had the bikes out, the last time we were somewhere safe enough to cycle was in Roquetas de Mar, Spain, two months ago!  Needless to say our bodies pointed that out to us! (speak for yourself, my bum was fine).

We cycled past two locks and two bridges before I decided we needed to stop for a while, along the route we saw a few fishermen dotted along the canal, none of them seemed to have caught anything at that point.

We hung around on the bridge for a while as I took photographs of the canal, I’m SO glad we spent some time there because we suddenly noticed a wake in the calm water, unfortunately the creature was ²/3rds of the way across the canal when we finally managed to focus our eyes (and the camera) on it, we couldn’t believe our eyes, it was a BEAVER!  I had no idea that there were beavers in France, mind you I didn’t know there were beavers in Sweden until I saw one in Stockholm.  It was a wonderful surprise to see this little blighter.

We stayed there for quite a while in the hopes that we’d see it again but it didn’t reappear so we cycled back to the van, stopping briefly to pat a huge dog and have a very short conversation about him with the people walking him.  They started chatting to us about something else too until they eventually realised that we didn’t understand everything they were saying which was the moment to say goodbye!

We carried on cycling with my legs complaining all the way.  I hadn’t realised quite how wobbly my legs were until we got back to the van and noticed the car had gone.  That was Darren’s cue to go and move our van.  As he waled off I decided that I needed to tell him something so I got off my bike and went to run over to him but my legs had different ideas and suddenly turned to jelly, consequently instead of an elegant run to the van I staggered to it!  Rather humiliating but at least I’m under no illusion as to how unfit I am nowadays!

Darren moved to the other spot so we had an even prettier view than before and we got the chairs out and sat in the shade beneath the blossom tree.

I have never sat and studied the insects flitting in and out of flowers before but as I had the time I laid back in the chair and checked out what was going on in the tree, it was a hive of industry.  The majority of the bees flying around were TEENY little bees, I’ve never seen such small bees, they were in and out of each flower in a blink of an eye.  Every so often a big fat bee would squish its way with determination into a small flower whilst above the tree, shimmering silver in the sunshine, a cloud of minute flies congregated.

While I was watching the bees the fishermen returned to continue their competition, they had swapped places so the men who’d been sitting on our side were now on the other bank.  We didn’t see them catch many fish but we did see lots of fish jumping around in the water in front of us, it was almost as if the fish were taunting their would be captors.

Not long after we’d moved a French motorhome arrived and parked near us.  We had a little chat about the weather and how hot it was, he and his wife seemed to understand my limited French so I was very happy.

When the competition had finished and the heat had died down a bit we went to explore the town.  It was interesting.  As we climbed a sweeping staircase there was a sign for a tourist route round the town which we tried to remember but when we finally got back to it discovered that we’d zig zagged around all over the town, as usual.  During out walk around we saw the windmill which over the years had had houses built up against its walls, just around the corner from that down a little lane the road opened out  and there was the enormous and very grand church.  We saw some ornate fountains and a carving of a turtle outside the museum.

While we were looking at the buildings by the turtle an elderly lady who was walking her dog kindly stopped so I could finish taking my photograph, then she came over to ask whether we were visiting the town and where we were staying.  Throughout this trip it has amazed me at how generous people have been sharing their time with us.  We had a few problems picking up what she was saying, my French isn’t that good, but she then repeated it in a different way so that we could understand.  She ended by asking whether we were going to have a meal while we were in town and gave us directions to a restaurant that she recommended.

We followed her directions and found some other pretty parts to the town that we hadn’t seen.  We found the restaurant but unfortunately it was closed on Sundays so we walked back to the van along the path that ran through a small park beside the river.

We watched the sun go down over the church again in the evening and our French neighbour waved as he closed up his van for the night.

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