Mike dropped Harry and I off at the train station in Niort, at 6am on Wednesday morning. After a coffee (me), hot chocolate (Harry) and pano chocolate (Harry), we boarded the TGV and sped off to Paris. Less than two and a half hours later, we were in a taxi, speeding across town to the Gard du Nord, where we made our way through customs and boarded the Eurostar. Again, in less than two and a half hours later, we were in a black cab, making our way to Victoria station. After lunch, we caught our train to Brighton. There were a couple of delays due to a fire in a tunnel. We eventually met up with Chris and Davey and made our way, after running back to find Harry’s suitcase, as he had left it on the platform, to the Coull abode in Hove. Claire was there to welcome us to their wonderful home, which is gorgeous. It overlooks the Sussex cricket ground, where the home team was involved in a county game.
Late afternoon, we all, along with Chris’ parents went for a walk to a local park. Chris’ folks walked their dog, Claire cycled off for a singing lesson, Chris and I lay in the park and the boys met and chatted up a local girl! After a roast chicken meal, Chris’ parents headed off, Claire looked after the boys while Chris and I enjoyed a great night, wandering from pub to pub, sampling the local hospitality. We ended up in a Syrian kebab shop, where we failed to impress the shopkeepers with our tales of Qatar.
Yesterday, we headed off at lunchtime and made our to collect our barge. After checking in and receiving all the health and safety instructions, we headed off in the late afternoon. There were locks and swing bridges to negotiate along the way. It was all great fun, as well as a steep learning curve for me. By the end of the day, Captain Coull had the three mates whipped into shape. We stopped for a pub dinner at one stage, before mooring for the night at 8.20pm, further along the canal. The boat has two double bed and two single beds so we are living in relative comfort. All of us are having a great time and are looking forward to the weekend on the water.
Meanwhile, A-L and the girls are having a good time back in France. A-L has been driving without any hassles and they had a nice afternoon in Saintes park, yesterday afternoon.
Saturday, we made our way to Newbury, where we moored in the early afternoon. It was great meandering through the middle of a town. After a pub lunch we watched The Dark Knight Rises at a local cinema. Early Sunday morning, we made our way back to our starting point. We stopped for (another) lunch, and then made the decision to return the boat early so that Chris could play in a gig back in Hove.
The boat trip was awesome. We all had a ball, messing about on the canal.
Chris’ gig was excellent. It was stopped, at one stage so that the whole pub could watch Usain Bolt win the 100 metres at the Olympics.
This morning, I took the boys to a local greasy spoon for a sausage, bacon and egg sandwich. Later, we all headed to Brighton Pier, where we had a good time on the rides and the arcade. Chris and Harry went on the Booster a 50 metre high insane ride. Wicked! Later, we had lunch and Chris joined up with some musical friends to entertain us with some outdoor jazz.
In France, K and R went to a festival with G&G on Sunday, while today they all went to the Castle of the Enigma, where they solved the puzzle and received their certificates.