Four days at Pouilley – alternately very hot, very wet, quite windy. Altogether pleasant R&R. So relaxed that I took almost no photos! We were moored up just a few boats from Manuka – Guy and Vicki, our Piper boat friends, which gave the four of us an excuse for an evening of beer, wine, and swapping barging yarns.
We walked into town along the canal path towards the tunnel, so in the shade of a lovely line of plane trees. The town is not as old as most of the places we have seen, but bustles with boulangeries, boucherie, bars, restaurants and a range of shops. We only managed to give the bars our business!
Our mate Pam was in France following England in Euro 2016 and had some days off at Dijon so she hopped on a bus to Pouilley and we got 24 hours together – a chance for me to catch up on Portsmouth Football Club news.
We also caught up on a little cleaning and engine maintenance, although I have to say it was SO hot most of the time that work was not an attractive thing to do, unless it involved a hose and lots of cold water (Yes!!!).
When we did set off it was immediately into a set of locks going down, down, down. We discovered a new way to describe our speed – 7eph – écluses per hour – though has to be said they were automatic,. We we had a great éclusier speeding us down, and those 7 were within 2 kilometers, so only 2kph then.
As so often, the views were huge and magnificent – a sense of space and adventure, and the close up detail always interesting.
To reach our overnight stop we had to go through the first of three Tranchées –severe narrowing of the canal. (It means ditch in English, but thankfully a bit wider than most British ditches – but not much . . . . ). along its kilometer length were masses of wild flowers, and occasional passing places.
We also passed a long abandoned castle near Éguilly, masked by trees.
And then we reached Pont Royal – an intriguing small hamlet, miles form anywhere, consisting of a row of big houses along a quay side. Apparently it was an important port for wood and wheat in years gone by. Anxious moment coming round the corner and seeing all the moorings in the port full, followed by sense of relief discovering there were bollards on the straight just after – that’s us top left hand corner; lovely lovely spot.
Nature added to our enjoyment of the evening, with flighty swallows and a dramatic nightfall sky.
Next day we collected our baguette, ordered the previous day from the harbour master, and picked up some local rosé wine and alcoholic ginger beer too. We were off downstream again, aiming to get through 13 locks (ooh, that was a risky aim) and reach Maringy-en-Cahouët.
We were sharing the locks with another boat – actually the one that had unknowingly played hosts to the swallows the evening before; we just fitted in together.
The day’s scenery included some four footed excitement for me – relaxing cows and sheltering donkeys – one with his wooly, and overhot, friend.
The mooring was just outside Maringy and close to the lock; we went for a saunter round the village, in search of more water!
The village lies just below the canal, with the river Brionne running along at the bottom. Marigny –le-Cahouet has been there a long time. The old houses, barns and buildings plus the clapper bridge. There’s a boulangerie with small alimentation and, seemingly, a bar although not open for me to watch England’s football match.
The evening light was soft and enigmatic, soothing the village and the canal.
Having stayed awake to hear the second bad UK news of the week I was a bit tired next day when we set off at 9 with the intent of covering 19 locks. Even Stu found it was nice to sit down while paying out the rope in the locks.
By mid-afternoon, making slow progress with one eclusier who had left us with our Kiwi lock-mates on Kotare for an hour and a half at lunch time, we were relieved to pull in at Pouillenay ‘port’.
It was a great slug day – I like slugs (though not when they eat my delphiniums and lupins). The spits and spats of rain along the way created nice damp surfaces, especially on the lock walls, and I got several good photos of my sluggy friends.
During our enforced long lunch break at the bottom of lock 38 I had time to go foraging for photos around an abandoned éclusier’s house. So much desolate spirit around these houses – leaves me wondering who planted that cherry tre, put up that TV aerial, painted the shutters blue? They had planned, and hopefully had, a happy family life there – and now it stands empty except for the lizards.
Every lock has a meadow surround of its own. Sometimes as the boat rises or falls and the eye becomes level with the top of the lock wall, a stand of wild flowers waves gently in the wind.
The following day was a good day down the canal to Venarey. The countryside up here in the hills is continuously photographic – its hard to out the camera down sometimes!
We were sharing a lock with another boat again, a small cruiser who went into the front of the lock, leaving us two bollards at the back that were far better for control of Calliope.
He left us behind to moor up when we reached Venarey. When we arrived the wall was full, but we had been told that a boat would leave at 1pm, so sidling up to a beautiful genuine old barge called Constanta 1901 we asked if they were going that afternoon. Luckily they were, and their Swiss hospitality extended to allowing us to moor alongside them for an hour until they left.
Stu and I walked intotown for supplies. It was quite hot, and we both found ways to cool down, some would say showing our different personalities off perfectly!
It turned out to be a very friendly place to moor. Tim and Val on Doorengone invited us over for a glass of wine that evening. In the morning Marion form Moondance came for a chat before we left, while her super husband Charlie cycled into town to get bread for us all! Merci beaucoup.
On Friday we moved on again, this time to Montbard. The éclusiers had had fun decorating the lock bollards last year, which added some amusement to the trip.
We had finished with the staircases of locks, so everything was gentler. Our éclusier was a great, the sun shone out amongst scudding clouds, and we had locks to ourselves!
The éclusier’s lunch break occurred before we arrived at Montbard, but he left us at a charming centuries old village called Coucelles-les-Montbard. He told us there were at least two bollards in the grass below the lock …. and so there were, once we found them!
We had time after lunch to walk up into the village – yet another place with so much atmosphere – you could feel the centuries of people living there through good times and bad.
The journey on through the countryside showed that agriculture is still working well in the Cote D’Or hills, with some harvesting going on.
And then into Montbard, where Val from Doorengone was waiting to help us tie up. Friendly helpful folk are boaters (nearly) all. A relaxing day. Just time for a kip, a quick shop, and then out for a drink and supper. Despite the attractions of the old town we picked the Hotel de la Gare and had friendly service and a relaxed meal.
Should we stay or should we go? That was our anthem for 18 hours in Montbard. We had plans for next day – the park, the museum, the castle. But the night was not so good. A toxic blend of trains and mosquitoes led to us deciding to move on next day.
I had picked out Cry-sur-Armançon, recommended by DBA members as quiet, peaceful, rural. We travelled downstream with our New Zealand friends from a few days before on Kotare, moving into very different country with high cliffs on one side. The village of Buffon, famous for its c18 forges, rose up directly in front of us, then we turned the bend and continued into the countryside.
Cry seemed very promising, despite the warnings of the éclusier that the water was a bit shallow. We went in to the side of the basin as he recommended, and moored up with a Heath Robinson assembly of ropes, one bollard, and two spikes!
All seemed well; Stewart had a siesta and I had a cup of tea but the attractions of Cry were evident to others. An enthusiastic party of about 8 arrived, with camper van, two motor bikes, tents, beer and fishing rods. Unbelievably, to us polite Brits, they set up their angling actually amongst our mooring lines, and round the rest of the basin. Although they were nice enough folk, we realized that this was not to be our weekend rural idyll, so I cycled down to the next lock to see what options we had.
With a bit of a wait for a boat coming upstream we were able to go down two more locks and moor at Raviéres wharf. The area seems famous for its stone, signalled by the huge lump but the mooring, carved with RAVIERES “La Pierre” (the rock).
Back to trains and mosquitoes, but in every other way a very pleasant place to be. Phew!
The villages of Raviéres and Nuits-sur-Armançon, separated from one another by canal and river, are similar, with intricate narrow twisting lanes and allies, ancient houses and buildings, and plenty of character.
They also have a small set of shops and restaurants, providing all the basics.
We stayed for two nights at Raviéres; this allowed me time to cycle back to Cry and Perpigny to see the old bridges and lavoirs (sorry – the lavoir experience is about to begin in earnest).
The ride caused me to pass by our short lived mooring at Cry, only to find that the fishing party had moved on, and a broadbeam boat arrived. It also allowed time for some cleaning of deck, windows and hull, plus rest, reading and wine.
On Sunday we voyaged on towards our goal of Tonnerre by Wednesday. The canal was wonderfully empty – we passed one boat all day – a narrowboat from Weybridge where conincidentally we were moored exactly one year ago.
We passed ruins, flowers, animals and flowers. Stu was active at some locks, helping éclusiers and making 4-legged friends.
I was on lavoir lookout and able to scramble ashore at Chassingelles while in the lock to take photos of the lavoir 20 yards away.
(For those perplexed by the term ‘lavoir’, it is not a communal lavatory! It is a communal place to wash clothes, with a constant supply of fresh water running through and sloping washing stones all round the edge. I fell for them as a child living in a Maltsese fishing village where the women collected to wash their clothes in front of our house, while the men mended their nets. It was a truly communal activity.)
We stopped for lunch at Ancy then on to Lèzinnes for the night – giving me a chance to examine my nets . . . . .
It was a tranquil mooring at Lezinnes; we walked into the village to find the Lavoir and maybe a beer. The first was locked and the second closed!
But we found a man with a key to the lavoir and so pleased we did. This is one of the best – providing the villagers not only with water and scrubbing stones, but fire places and big hanging rails.
The next day we had a short trip to Tanlay, passing by Ancy-le-Libre (lovely tower), Argentenay lock (lovely art), and several herons in flight.
Tanlay is home to a wonderful chateau with a gatehouse as big as many a mansion! (Blooming bonkers!) It’s a good place to stop, with plenty of mooring and a pizza restaurant/bar right alongside.
We did a quick tour of the village, mainly to take in the exterior of the chateau and, surprise surprise, another lavoir – this time built alongside the chateau wall, just to remind the villagers at their laundry who the boss really is!
Now off to Tonnerre to meet Stu’s old schoolmate Billy. I did get another lavoir photo along the way, but I think I will save it for a special lavoir bloggette. Along the way the lock keeper at one of the ecluses offered ‘salad’ for €1.50 and Chabis for €6.50; we bought one of each. The lettuce was genuine enough – I watched him dig it up. The Chablis is of dubious origin!
We arrived and tied up at Tonnerre in time to go for a walk up (yes, its up a bit of a gradient) into town, passing over the Armençon and two of its tributaries.
Tonnerre has a lavoir truly of note. It is the circular Fosse Dionne – a natural spring near the top of the hill that opens into a huge clear pool.
A washing trough was built around this, allowing laundry at the perimeter and drinking water to gush down from a central channel. There are four fireplaces built around the circumference. The whole thing is a wonderful combination of nature and man. I can recommend this as one of the most astonishingly beautiful places I have ever seen; words can’t describe it, the pictures can only give you a clue.
Stu and I had a great evening with our friends Nils and Torild on Passe Gomme, moored up a few yards away before a day preparing for Bill to arrive. This included a 4km walk to and from the supermarket – must take the bike next time, a wishy-washy deck wash in the hot sun, and a kilometre uphill cycle ride with Nils and Torild to a vineyard.
We had a good meal out in town with Bill at Le Petit Gourmand – not haute cuisine, but good value French cooking at €12 for Menu du Jour.
Next day we were up and off down the canal by 9.30, fresh croissants in hand! There were some lavoir moments right next to locks, aided by Bill taking the front rope, before we reached Charrey for a lunch stop.
Charrey is a very pleasant rural mooring, with lots of flowers and butterflies in July, so popular with this amateur biologist!
We continued towards Germigny where we planned to stop for the night, passing the neatest horned éclusier team I have ever seen, cows desparate for shade, and a young heron who tried to escape is by taking off and landing a few yards ahead of the barge.
We almost missed our mooring, caught up in noticing yet another lair right on the canal bank; Captain had to go hard astern for a hundred yards! But well worth it for a peaceful night in the countryside.
Bill and I took a walk round the village, with its strange church (half the roof appears to be missing) and the welcome Armençon river and weir where I took an impromptu dip to cool off a bit.
A beer on the back deck before supper and Scrabble ended our day in the sun.
And then it is the final day on the Canal! We are off to Migennes. We passed St Florentin and its church on high, westward towards Briennon-sur-Armençon for the usual enforced one hour lunch break.
This was a total break for yours truly as I twisted my back holding Calliope away from another boat in a lock, and spent a few hours lying down listening to Bill learning to be crew!
He and Stu brought us easily and safely into Migennes for our last evening on the Canal du Bourgogne.
We found ourselves moored up next to another super Piper barge Wanderlust, but sadly David and Beckie were away for the weekend.
We have spent 25 good days on this canal, through very varied weather and scenery, meeting old friends and new, and (one of us) becoming a lavoir lovie!
Now through the final lock and onto the river Yonne, heading South into the sun; I wonder what this river has in store for us.