Souvenir

We travel or visit destinations that sell us mass produced and cheaply made trinkets that, if they don’t break on the journey home, within months the thin layer of paint has worn off, or the chrome plating has peeled off the cheap plastic base.

The result is that we are left with a bad taste in our mouths and a worthless piece of plastic or cheap metal, and we are reminded, not of the destination, but of how we wasted our hard earned money! Or by the same token of how our, well meaning friends were fleeced of their funds!

The French have got it right, souvenir simply means memory, and what better souvenir to have than a memory!

So if we don’t buy the cheap trinkets, how then do we ensure we have memories that are non fade-able and don’t peel off?

Get involved in the sights and sounds where you travel! How often do you hear a song that takes you to a place or person that moved you? Taste where you travel, cast caution to the wind and eat what the locals eat! If you didn’t exactly savour the food at least you will have a serious souvenir of where you were, something to remember the place by. A memento!

One very serious souvenir we have is the memory of the massive, Ormes ecluse on the Sâone River in the Burgandy region of France.

The following recount is of four intrepid travellers, who commandeered a six sleeper cabin cruiser and spent 7 idyllic days on the river Sâone travelling from Branges, in the Bourgogne region to Gray, an absolute picture in the Franche-Compte region of eastern France.

That is idyllic until Ormes!

Adventure was waiting for us at Ormes ecluse where the lock raises your boat a good four or five metres!

It may be clever to explain the lock system here just in case you have not been lucky enough to have encountered such an animal! The Romans are credited with introducing locks, ecluse in French, in ancient Europe. The river is by-passed to a boat sized water-tight container with swing doors up river and down river! One set of swing doors is kept closed at all times!

Travelling upriver your boat simply enters the lock and the boat is secured, (loosely), to bollards in the side of the lock. The downstream doors are closed and the upstream doors are then opened, filling the lock with water and raising your boat to the upper river level. As the water level rises you, obviously have to raise your mooring ropes to the upper bollards. Then off you motor to the next town, find centre ville and pillage the village for proviand and plus vin!

Travelling downriver the lock process is simply reversed, but you might stop later and pillage a different village! Onward to Ormes!

Just previous to this monster lock, we had passed a few massive river boats, both commercial and cruise “ships”. These gargantuans also have to go through the locks and they have right of way, so you often have to wait for them!

Approaching Ormes we were daunted by its sheer size, and as we eased into the lock via the massive gates, were shouted at by the lock master! Way up, on the platform outside his control room, he had a life jacket in his hand and was waving it as an indication to put on our life jackets. I’m sure I heard words such as stupide, cochon and vache! Surely it can’t be that bad?!

We quickly grabbed our life jackets from their lockers, and virtually draped them over our shoulders as we attempted to moor to the side bollards built into the lock walls! In the “panic” we missed the bow attachment but managed to secure the stern. The merciless lock master had, in the meantime, closed the entrance doors behind us, and without thought for these four pleb boaties, opened the massive upstream doors! A tsunami-like torrent rushed at us and threw the bow of our, now miniscule boat, over to the opposite side of the lock where Willem and Linda (mainly Willem) managed, using the flimsy boat hook against the opposite wall, to keep us from swinging around and head back down river! Kak!

Meantime the water level in the lock was rising rapidly and the stern was tied a little too securely, threatening to capsize our cabin cruiser! Merde! I had kept the engine running ready to motor out of trouble if necessary, but had to leave the controls and help Erika unjam the stern rope! We managed to loosen that, and as the torrent steadied, were able to raise the mooring to the upper bollards. Thankfully Willem and Linda had managed to get the bow facing the correct way, and steadily raised that rope to the upper bollards as the water level rose!

We found out later up river from experienced “passeurs”, (boaties), that the trick is to moor inside the lock as far back from the front doors as possible, and of course, make sure the bow is secure.

At the ensuing locks, we made sure that our life vests were at hand and securely fastened, and after Ormes we were ready for anything that any lock could throw at us!

There was a definite cooling of emotions after Ormes!

Frank Ifield, a Brit from the sixties, had a hit with I Remember You ! That is exactly what we could sing about Ormes!

St Vincent School For The Deaf make serious souvenirs for their pupils! Check out their website:

St Vincent School For The Deaf