Mon 19 Sept - sunny, Mantoche, Gray, Intersport, drinks, packed, Paris class

The morning dawned sunny at Heuilley, but we were in no urgent hurry to get anywhere, so we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast on the back deck, and then Rita did some reading for her studies, while I continued reading a novel. Around 1100h we left the Heuilley mooring, bound for Mantoche, our other favourite mooring on this stretch of river. We deliberately left at this late hour of the morning, with the intention of getting to Mantoche around 1230h. We have found from experience that by this time, many of those mooring the previous night (especially the hire boats) will have left their mooring, while not many will have yet stopped cruising for the day. And it turned out to be the case, when we arrived after a beautiful river cruise to an empty quai at Mantoche, and we had our choice of mooring location, which we selected as the southern-most position, with our rear deck facing clear water and the setting sun.

The Mantoche mooring is special because of the Chateau which fronts directly onto the port area. There is a iron railing fence separating it from the port, but it's easy to get a good photo between the railings.

We had initially thought of just stopping for an extended lunch at Mantoche, but given the quality of our mooring position and our love of the serenity at this mooring, we decided to stay for the night. But after lunch it was still early in the afternoon, so we decided to jump on the bikes and go for a ride to Gray, where we planned to take advantage of the Post Office (where Rita had to send some books home to Australia) and the range of shops near the Gray port. So after an hour's riding, we doodled around the town on our bikes until we found the Post Office, and then headed across to Intersport where we wanted to buy a new tyre for Rita's bike. The bike mechanic at Intersport was very helpful and made sure we got the correct tyre. While Rita was finalising the purchase of the tyre, I noticed that they had a sale on hiking boots. Since my hiking boots in Taggerty had just about fallen apart (for the second time) I decided to buy a pair to take home. Luckily I found some size 43 boots, and they were wide enough to feel really comfortable (many boots I'd previously tried in France were too narrow for my feet). We then headed over to Intermarche, where we bought some provisions that we would need for the rest of the week, and then started on the ride back to Mantoche.

We got back to Mantoche around 1700h, and so we thought we'd see if the corner shop was open, where we might get a cold drink. It was open, and was in fact under new management, with the previous lady in charge moving on to new ventures, and a young bloke now in charge. One of the advantages of this is that he has lots of other young mates, and they all seemed to be there having a drink as well, and chatting to some of the older residents of the town. A very amiable environment.

After our drinks, we headed down to the quai, and were surprised to find it packed, with some boats double-moored. There was also a large group of people gathered around the picnic tables, enjoying some food and drinks and lots of talking.

We hijacked one of the participants as he took a load of empty wine bottles to the recycling bins, and learnt that the group consisted of ex-teachers and ex-students of physical education from an institute in Paris. Each year they get together for a couple of weeks to reminisce about the good old days (going back 50 years for some of them), and to undertake some sort of adventure. This year that included going barging in hire boats for a week. They were a very friendly bunch, and as twilight approached they left the picnic tables (clean) and retired to their boats where they continued the festivities, as the sun set behind the Mantoche Chateau.