My Travel Blog

Daily Life In A Small European Village

When Rabelo is on the move, we usually end up moored next to a small village. When I say small I’m talking about a town with a population of no more than two or three hundred.  There isn’t even a place to buy a newspaper.  If you want a fresh baguette you have to know when and where the bakery truck stops.  Most cruisers we’ve met complain that there is nothing to these small villages and they all look alike.  Lisa and I disagree.

“A typical small village that we enjoy exploring.”

“You have to be a real man to paint your barge like this.”

After a long day on the rivers and canals we like to take a walk.  Usually our walks start around nine in the evening though it is still light out until after ten.  In the waning light we’ve found that each village has it’s own flavor.  Some are clearly more prosperous than others.  Some take great pride in maintaining their environs even though they may not have as much as the towns down the river.  One thing that is universal, no matter how small the village, there is always a church.  Even the churches match the flavor of the town.  Some are well maintained while others are in sad shape with broken stained-glass windows and leaking roofs. You can also tell a lot about a town by the cemetery next to the church.  Some are dilapidated and shabby while others are well maintained with lots of fresh plastic flowers and expensive new headstones.

“The evening skies are always beautiful.”

“No matter how small the town there is always a church.”

“There’s always one guy that has to have his Lawn Gnome’s.”

While exploring we’ve found beautiful vegetable gardens and orchards.  Some homeowners love flowers and cover their front yards and entry walks with them. Many places raise geese, ducks and chickens.  Sometimes there are elaborate outdoor toys for the kids.  We’ve seen trampolines, swing sets, large playhouses and even indoor pools.   There are usually logs stacked up in the corner of the yard for the fireplace.  Our understanding is that homeowners are given an allotment of how much timber they can cut each year.

“Plenty of firewood.”

I think what we enjoy most about these villages is the texture.  American cities don’t have texture.  We have smooth walls that are straight never bowed or leaning.  Our homes are covered with plaster or siding.  In these little French villages they have used the native stone to build their homes for hundreds of years.  The few homes that have added plaster to the exterior walls stand out as a modern affront to the town’s character.  Most of the homes, even if they have plaster, will leave some of the existing stonework exposed.   There is that rough gritty look to the stonework that seems so permanent.  We see rock walls that have been there for centuries, and will probably be there for many more.   Of course there are those walls that appear to defy gravity.  They call out to each passerby that I have been here forever and there is nothing you can do about it.

“Walls with character.”

“An old barn screaming to have its picture taken.”

“Going for a walk in a village with the church in the background.”


-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave” – 
a Chuck Palmer Adventure novel


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.