Cheryl Smith's sabbatical 2011 travel blog

Our "Old Salt"

the salty riverboat guide tells the stories of the past

campsites on the other side -- very inviting playground

Monday we went to the tourist office and spent three euros for a local walking map, 13 routes in all around Beaulieu. The first we picked was called Pathway of Discovery and was only 5.3km long – easy. It started outside our hotel with a left turn and an immediate right, but then we got lost with the next instruction that read: ”a little further on take a path going uphill on the left.” It didn’t exist. First we saw a private drive but no path on the left.. so we climbed the hill a little further, no path on the left, and climbed some more but still no path that would lead to a cemetery and a promised look-out over the city. We gave up on the

‘self-guided tour’ and kept walking up the hill, puffing as we went.

A few of the houses on the way were for sale. As we slowly climbed the very steep hill we imagined ourselves living there and walking home with our fresh baguette every morning – perhaps that explains why the population is trim and fit looking – even the middle aged. Either that or the French didn’t get the fat gene. We had a good walk up the steep hill (did I mention enough that the hill was steep?) then back down to the village where we had greater luck this time following the instructions of another walk.

In the late afternoon we climbed on board a re-constructed flat-bottomed boat similar to the ones that worked the river in the 1700’s and 1800’s moving lumber down a river that included dozens of rapids. Our little tour stopped just before the first falls thankfully. We learned how the boatsmen first built the boat, made the dangerous journey and then sold their goods plus the boat before walking back home only to build new boats and repeat the process the next year. The arrival of the train and the flooding of parts of the river for hydro electricity put an end to it all. The storyteller spoke in French and we had a rough script of his story so tried to follow along best we could. He was a rugged man who style of speaking was animated and punctuated with a few cigarette breaks during the 90-minute trip.

On the opposite side of the river was a campsite and it looked like a dream spot for all the families as the kids were swimming, paddling canoes and generally enjoying this idyllic location. Indeed I could easily have seen myself camping there too!

Later we dug out our ‘dress up’ clothes and went to dinner in the hotel restaurant. We haven’t done much restaurant dining so this was a treat and I do think we were served some of the veggies we had given the chef. Or so I convinced myself.

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