May 31 and the first few days of June
It rained all day! We had another very wet journey, starting with the two locks to the tunnel – all covered on the last chapter.
We had got to about 1500 foot above sea level, which is where we began at Saint Valery-sur-Somme on April 1st, exactly two months before.
Setting off into great unknown again – we jumped off another cliff – went up last of the 3m locks before going through a 5km tunnel (we only kissed the tunnel wall once).
This was almost immediately followed by 6 x 5m locks going down, down, down. We were full of anticipation and adrenalin for this flight, but they were pleasantly tame and gentle.
Chatting to the eclusier at Lock 1 I asked about a huge old barge called Peter Pan that was moored up, and discovered that this was, genuinely, the ice breaker barge! A fluffy baby swallow preferred it as a summer perch.
We carried on down the chain in the rain, through locks 2 and 3.
All was going well, until at lock 4 we had an unexpected red light and had to call the en panne cavalry.
And then, ‘quell domage’; the blue lever to operate the lock was too stiff for me, so Stu came to help – and in using the red lever to steady himself managed to set off the emergency stop in error; very embarrassing! Ah yes – the sign does say ‘up’ to operate, and ‘down’ to sound alarm. Whoopsey-day.
The scenery was very different this side of the wet mountain – cattle grazing in alpine like meadows.
And the lock gates were different too – made of large panels of metal.
The barge came to a delightful woodland mooring at Piépape, becoming more delightful as it gets drier, but with more grey clouds looming. I decided that my reward for being so wet should be a hot chocolate with rum – mmmmm.
We crossed our fingers as we said that the weather should be getting better as we come down from the high hills over the next couple of days………
I went for walk round village of old stone buildings and houses – and got lost, so had to sneak into the grounds of the chateau, where I discovered I was locked in the grounds, and had to climb over wall into the graveyard to escape! But in doing all of this I discovered that Piépape had a boulangerie, open from 7.30-8.30 only.
We kind of felt that we were now over the hump of the canal, and on way down towards the Med now.
Hooray – better weather, and in fact it got better and better all day, ending up with beautiful sunny blue sky evening. We started the day walking into the village for a baguette as we had a long days travelling ahead (for us).
We started at 9am and ended at 5pm, taking in 17 locks and a viaduct (just a very short very pretty one over the River Badin.)
The canal was calm and green; all was well with our world. By late morning we were at Lock 21 – half way down the 43 locks (well almost). Sadly it was one of the many many lock houses that are now empty and abandoned.
We took a lunch stop at Cusey – a pleasant enough rural Halte Nautique. Soon after we got going again we passed from Haute Marne to Cote D’Or – a major landmark on the journey.
Some interesting moments – a rook flying school; Stu hung up in a lock when the ropes got locked in a crevice and had to use emergency procedures; later ended with mooring a 20m boat on a less than 5m pontoon! No probs.
The weather improved – the rain stopped and blue sky appeared.
Looks like we have found another fairly isolated and picturesque place, (St Seine sur Vingeanne) with water rats (nice ones), black kites, songbirds and a variety of butterflies and insects! Thank goodness, as it is about two hours to the next mooring South!
The evening was lovely and we sat on the back deck drinking a toast to our grandson who was 12 that day – although we were unable to speak with him as totally out of internet reception .
More rain! Is it really June? It poured and poured and poured, but we braved it and walked to St -Seine-sur-Vingeanne to the boulangerie, or so we thought.
What an amazing beautiful old village and chateau. It certainly was raining when we started out, but did stop later. Just as well because we discovered that the expected boulangerie was another 800m on into St-Seine-la-tour! We kept going and got bread, plus paté rolls for supper.
I went balmy with the camera as there was a multitude of ancient stone buildings in various states of repair – here are a few.
Back to Calliope and a quick lunch with our Saint-Seine-la-tour pain. Yum yum.
After lunch we continued southwards – looking for the sun! Captain Stu rather liked the metal bridges on this side of the canal, wondering if M. Eifel had had a hand in their design. We passed under quite a few – not sure which one this is!
We got down as far as Oisilley – first the famous viaduct, and then another very rural mooring on another tiny wharf. (8m long this one, positively huge . . ) Lovely. Suddenly we have internet again, and discover most of middle France is under water! So it wasn’t just raining in the mountains!
Next day walked to Renève for bread – much further than expected – and when we arrived the boulangerie had no bread, but husband expected back with some soon – so we waited (me sitting on the church steps) – and only one baguette appeared!
After a second night at Oisilly we went on down to Maxilly – seriously near the end of the canal – and stayed there two nights. There was a good boulangerie, but nothing else, in Maxilly so I cycled to Pontailler for a supermarket top-up.
We took a walk to Heuilley-sur-Saone along a lane lined with poppies and cornflowers – a rare very hot day.
Although the VNF had announced that levels were falling Stewart wanted to check the river levels for himself. (Down to about 3 knots from 7or 8 the day before, with dead animals and halves of trees whooshing by).
As mentioned, it was a very hot walk, and the day ended with a wonderful sunset.
We met up with a great Dutch couple – Jom and Dorothy – from an adjacent camper van and put the world to rights that evening over a couple of bottles of Rosé.
All looked ok, so we prepared for the last little stretch of the Canal Entre Champagne et Borgogne – just 2 locks, 4 bridges, and about 1.5kms!
First, Maxilly lock – just a few metres form ur mooring of the last two nights!
Then down the canal towards the last lock, number 43.
At Lock 43 we had to return our trusty zapper – the one given to us 18 days and 143 locks before at Vitry-en-France.
We were off onto the Saone!