Two Rivers Cruise – La Saone et Le Rhone

From Chalon-sur-Saone, through Lyon, to Saint-Gilles

Thursday 18 August 2016

IMG_1728Leaving Fragnes (we like Fragnes) after a full moon night and just after breakfast we had a final short trip on Canal du Centre from countryside towards La Sâone.

Chalon_3

First we had to pass the the industrial end of Chalon-sur- Sâone, with the usual warehouses, old quays and occasional beautiful rusting barge before reaching the tall, narrow 10.76m ‘bis’ lock to drop us down to river level.

The mighty lock 34 of Canal du Centre – ‘bis’ – ready to lower us to Sâone level.

And it started to rain! Ah well – boating is a water sport I guess.

We joined the big wide Sâone uneventfully and started chugging downstream at a good pace, enjoying the grey-hued view of Chalon from the water.

The statue is important to me, and all those who wield a camera. It is of the unlikely named Nicéphore Niépce, born in Chalon in 1765 and widely credited as the inventor of photography.

tournus__afterThe countryside below Chalon is rather flat – less interesting than some, but the wide, open, view and the wildlife made it very enjoyable on a day when clouds lifted and the sun came through..

From the tall and narrow to the wide and shallow – we went through our one Sâone lock of the day – all alone in a huge space! Life jackets on! It’s the rules!

Chalon, after, Ormes lock

Chalon, after, Ormes lock

And look who we saw the other side of the lock!  Our friends on Lapin Vert, the theatre barge, last seen on Canal de Bourgogne weeks ago.

Not far on from the lock we came to Tournus and moored up at the quay – what a pretty place, full of history!

I loved some of the balconies, and all the flowers!  It is a must for another visit, to explore the abbey sector and the many little narrow streets.

We saw all weather from sun, clouds, pouring rain, mist and back to sun again by 11am the next day, when we were finally able to move on down the river.

Friday

The Captain feels he is relaxing into river ways quite quickly. Huge hotel barges ply up and down but there is plenty of space for us all on La tranquil Sâone. Cattle and horses graze; towns and villages look down at the water.

maconWe cruised a massive 57 Kms on Friday, past the graceful riverside house of Macon and ending up moored near Belleville. Macon, which looks a pleasant city. It’s a shame to miss such an important wine growing region, but if we are to meet our mates Chris and Tasmin in 3 days time we need to keep going.

Below Macon we began to see a new set of watersports make use of the river – water skiing, power boats, jet skis and ribs were more prevalent than skiffs and kayaks!

It is so much quicker with about one lock a day, and at a steady 12 Kms an hour with the current. Friday’s lock was called Dracé – as wide and empty as Ormes the day before, out in the country, with the hill town of Mogneneins in the distance. In contrast the abandonded old lock of Thoissey, just after Dracé, seemed gentle and contained.

drace_lock__after__almost_perfect_mooring!Soon after Dracé we spotted a ‘perfect’ rural mooring for us – except that the pontoon was 8m long and we are 20m. In a canal it’s ok to moor in such a short space, but on the river, with big barges, jet skis and power boats sending wonderful wakes our way, we thought it might not be wise.

We carried on to Belleville, and at first were alarmed to see a ‘No Mooring’ sign on the pontoon. We came up close, peering through binoculars, and saw below something that indicated it was the next day that mooring was forbidden, so tied up and crossed our fingers. All was well.

No time to explore Belleville this time, but an absolute definite for next time we pass through.

Saturday

After a nice calm night and pink purple dawn we had pouring rain – I don’t think it stopped until about 3.45 that afternoon! Nonetheless the intrepid crew slipped mooring ropes and set off to Lyon.

trevoux__before

On the way we saw some lovely countryside – hills, woods, islands, lakes – and attractive villages; but all through windscreen wiper!

And there is always the industrial side of the river, lending purpose to the maintenance of the locks, banks,  and navigation buoys.

We caught sight of the National Patanque Competition at Trévoux – an Italianate town somehow transposed to La Sâone.

I don’t give much info about the towns, but Trévoux is worth a quick mention. It was capital of Dombes, an independent principality with its own parliament until 1762. It has a 10th -13th century castle amongst other old buildings and is famous for diamonds and dictionaries – and Petanque!

As we passed through le point de Trévoux we remarked on some languishing ladies in blue atop the ornate piers, unconcerned by the rain.

autoroute_de_soleil!!_before_neuville

Route de Soleil!

Also unconcerned by the rain, or perhaps to escape it, were the cars whizzing South on the Route de Soleil, passing overhead for about the third time!

And then we stopped at Neuville-sur-Sâone for lunch. I ran through the rain to find a boulangerie, discovering on the way set of lovely lanes flanked by small shops of all types – how France used to be, but maybe tarted up for the Lyonnaise who were not far distant.

neuvilleNeuville-sur Saone has a claim to fame, linked to the Lumière Brothers. A congress of French Societies of photography took place in Lyon in June 1895. They had a boat trip on the Saône, to Neuville-sur-Saône where Louis Lumière filmed their landing on the Pastor dock. The following day the film was screened at the closing session of the congress. This film is considered to be the first “news” movie, the ‘ancestor’ of all news.

As we came on down into the Lyon conurbation we passed so many lovely houses and buildings, all set against a wet grey sky so not shown at their best.

But it did give us a typical parapluies sur le pont moment.

lyon_diesel

We were on the look out for gasoil and somewhere to moor, and found both. The diesel pump was at a very friendly boatyard / chandlery. We filled up to be sure of propulsion on the Rhone.

lyon__mooringThen returning up stream half a kilometre or so we tied up on a tree-lined quay in the middle of the city. When the sun comes out this is going to be spectacular!

lyon_nightThe skies cleared as it became dark, bringing ‘spectacular’ forward by a few hours.

Sunday

Sun shining; it  was spectacular all over again.

There were no traumas joining the Rhone – just suddenly very wide, though no perceptible increase in flow. Seemed a quarter of a mile wide, so even had thee been loads of river traffic we would have been ok – and as it was we were the only ones there!

The confluence is marked by a slim isthmus of grass – and a huge modern museum building – both equally amazing in their way.

We had a bit of hanging around for the first lock, Pierre Bénite, as we had not qute grasped the ‘registration’ system, but once in the ‘sas’ (lock chamber), the floating bollards took us down the requisite 9m very gently.

lyon__lock_pierre_benite_6

Rules is rules, so life jackets on for the lock. We would be at our most vunerable waiting for a lock the Captain says, so we were lucky; with a low flow and a back breeze we were fine.

lyon__after_1Calliope glided on down the river, with the scenery opening, closing, changing. We passed towns and villages more reminiscent of Italy than France, so definitely now in the South and with a Roman influence.

lyon__afterOn the canals our expectations were to achieve 20 Kms per day; on the river, with few locks and a following current we have been doing 14Kms per hour on Le Rhone! White Water Barging!

We ate lunch on the go, with co-pilot taking the wheel while Captain ate, weaving my way in and out of bridges and boats coming the other way – with yards and yards to spare I must admit!

lock_vaugris

Just after lunch, before digestion set in, we were at the second lock, Vaugris. We only gave the éclusier a kilometer’s notice of our arrival, so we bobbed about a bit waiting for the lock to be set for us, and another bateau de plaisance also travelling downstream.

These big locks are so gentle that once tied up one can loll on deck during the descent.

By now the wind was starting to pick up …. Is it the Mistral???? We have been warned about the dangers of the Mistral, but ‘hell, came from a winter in Gosport!’

And its not the Mistral. It is northerly, but it is only 15kph, and its warm – though a 3 to 5hph flow coming up your aft at the same time makes it interesting . . . . 

We passed Viennes; it looks fascinating from the water, and through the greyish light; a town-in-waiting for exploration.

We were by then deep into Côte du Rhone country, slipping by lots of named vineyards; we passed so many vineyards – it was mega frustrating not to be stopping and trying them all, but actually there are very few mooring places on the Rhone. Capital V, capital F.

Our planned mooring at Chavanay was spotted from about 1.5 Kms away – a 20’ pontoon for our 20’ boat, empty. Hooray!

chavanay_mooring_3About half an hour after our joyful mooring out in the country we were joined by a HUGE hotel barge who was disembarking passengers for a coach trip! The Captain of this barge was superb, mooring up to 5 ‘ducs’, or huge black poles sticking out of the river, to which are attached gangways to the land.

Half an hour later, it was gone.

We had moored by a tall, elegant, simple monument. The plaque was a sad reminder of WW2 – something we thought we had left behind further North. The village were obviously very proud of this young man.

Stu and I took a walk round the village, bumping into the remnants of a holy of festivities  – the Vogue fete!  The band played on, with musicians in a variety of locations (and libations), and people (in a variety of locations and libations were joyous.

Not sure whether any of them made it it the evening’s dance and the 1.30am ‘Grand Galop’!

chavanay_6

And Chavanay has wine caves too – for next time.

It all led to a peaceful moonlit night on the river and a beautiful clear morning..

Monday

We liked the mooring at Chavanay, but had to continue next day, leaving the monumental nuclear power station on the opposite back behind us.

Setting off towards the South, we descended through Sablons lock, which had one huge door each end that opened sideways, and a hydroelectric power station alongside. To be honest, most of these big Rhone locks incorporate hydroelectric – good source of power.

Callliope cruised on, between Andance and Andancette, the former being clearly labelled! Three crosses on the hill above the church stood strong against the blue sky.

la_galaure_enters_at_st_vallier_

Many of the small towns and villages along the Rhone are just out of site, behind trees, or well above flood levels. One that we could see was St-Vallier, where La Galore river enters the Rhone under a low bridge. Nauticulars will notice the white horses just forming; time to re-check the wind forecast . . . .

st_valier__after__tour_d_arras

Before we reached Gervans lock the Tour d’Arras came into view above the trees, though the town of Arras was out of sight.

We were on and through this 11.5m lock quite quickly – getting used to them now, radioing ahead to say we are nearby.

arras__near__windyBy now the wind was picking up, a daily feature, probably linked to the ground warming up in the high temperatures we have been enjoying!

It almost felt as if we were back at sea – in a good way –  no, not so good some would say . . . . . .

We needed to reach our hoped for mooring at Glun to meet friends, so a quick bowl of cereal lunch for Stu and yesterday’s bread for me as we continued.

I took a turn at the helm, taking Calliope through the relative narrows by La Table de Roi – a small (6’across) flat rock in the channel where, apparently, Louis IX stopped to eat on his way to the Crusades.

We came into the Hermitage area, past Tain and Tournon and the many many vineyards terraced onto the slopes.

Tournon is overlooked by two watchtowers, and connected to Tain by the first suspension bridge over the Rhone in 1825.

glun__afterThe wind continued to pick up – blowing harder than forecast, but with a bright sky and sunshine – harder than forecast is correct.

We reached the wonderfully name Glun, and la Roche de Glun, and turned away from a canalised section onto the old Rhone and the hoped for mooring – which was totally full!

Stu managed a difficult astern manoeuvre in the wind, back onto the main route, refocussing to the South, with me contacting the friends and changing our meeting point.

A quick look at the map suggested that I should phone the port at Valence, and an extremely pleasant Capitaine told me he had a hammerhead on ‘J’ for our 20m boat – the second pontoon.

buorg-les-valence__lockThe 12km trip included another lock, Bourg-les-Valences. Here the ‘door’ rises up behind you out of the water, although this photo does not show the actin very well.

We entered the port a Valence  with me on the bow looking for pontoon J; the one closest to the entrance for H. The sign for the next was hidden by masts and wheelhouses, but surely would be I, not J? ………. As it emerged I could see that it was G, and coincidentally realised that in the French pronunciation of the alphabet, G is J, if you get my meaning!

Good, all sorted, and we moored up with welcome help from another boater as the wind was blowing us straight off the pontoon. We quickly met up with our friends, and after a 800m walk to Casino (supermarket, not entertainment!), we settled down to a very pleasant evening.

Tuesday

Lovely day – horizon to horizon sunshine, low winds. Perfect half days cruise, with Captain  Stu sharing the helm and binoculars with his old old Lake District boatman friend Chris – drinking orange juice look; mind, it was early. 

Through Beauchastel lock, past la Voulte with its fascinating buildings and lovely rock formations and onwards to find a resting place with a restaurant, if poss!

The four of us came down to le Pouzin quay which looked like a difficult mooring; the wall was tall, the two bollards too far apart to both be used, and the railings potentially insecure! Despite there being little to hang onto it all worked out , with the exception of one rope snapping after a small boat with a ridiculously large wake went by. Ah well.

le_pouzin_mooring

Lunch weas enjoyed by all, followed by a stroll round town for the men and relaxation for Tas and I.

The ropes continued to be tested by some big commercial barges and hotel boats – will they even get under bridge?

le_pouzin__swimming

Hey, got me a swimming partner, so while the old boat mates spun yarns and drank grog Tasmin and I took the healthy option of a cool down swim in the river. The current was strong enough to be testing, but not frightening, so good exercise for ten minutes or so.

Then off to a local pizzeria for a treat meal – all delicious, and with some delightful translations on the menu

le Pouzin

Chris, Tasmin and Stu at le Pouzin bridge

The evening walk back through warm air, past the illuminated bridge, to our floating apartment was just perfect.

Wednesday

This was ‘extreme écluse’ day; le Logis-Neuf (11.7m), Chateauneuf (16.5m) and the enormous Bollène at 22.5m!!!! (That is an 8 x storey building, with its roof on . . . . heroic engineering, and the smoothest decent ever.)

Prior to that we had a breakfast of croissants and hot chocolate before moving off in splendid sailing conditions; enough breeze to cool us down now and then, full on sun, and a gentle but persistent current in our direction.

Our first lock, Logis-Neuf, was the baby of the day. We had quite a wait for the lock to be ready, and then quite a wait for another boat to arrive and join us in our journey  11.7m down. It gave me time to inspect the floating bollards more than usual!

Birdlife was a bit more prolific than usual, with plenty of cormorants and gulls – and on a floating branch, an osprey. The photo, though not good, is included as we see them so rarely. Can I say “Cormorants to the left of me, gulls to the right. Stuck in the middle with Stu’? (Doh!) Guess it depends how much of a music lover you are!

In contrast to each other my Mediterranean garden was at the fore as we passed the nuclear power station at Cruas, where attempts have been made to make one of the cooling towers attractive.

chateauneuf_beforeFurther down river we saw the delicious town of Montelimar in the distance rive gauche, and beyond the inky outline of a mountain range.

Soon after the 16.5m Chateauneuf écluse came into view. As usual we radioed ahead to announce our presence. I know I am a bit of a lock nut! Chateauneuf had interestig features – ‘wine-stain’ colours to the locked, massive curved doors either end to hold the weight of water, huge doors part way along to make a smaller lock (I guess), a bit of a waterfall leaking in at the top end as we descended, and a rising, curved door, with metal gate beyond, to let us out at the bottom of our 54 foot drop.

There’s a couple of short videos filming the start and finish of our trip down at The start of the descent and ‘Getting to the bottom of the lock’

Below Chateauneuf lock is the Donzère Gorge. The river narrows appreciatively, although not to the scale of other famous gorges. There are many magnificent rock formations and cliffs that once formed the immediate banks of the river.

We had hoped to stop above the lock at Bollène, but the quay was full of commercial barges being loaded with very dusty stuff so we continued, down through the absolute biggest lock in Europe.

Does it look or feel different to the other big locks on the Rhône? Well probably not a lot, at least not on a benign August day, but just knowing that you are dropping the height of three houses is something to keep you awake on a dreamy afternoon. (Actually I had to be woken up to do it!)

It was a 10 minute smooth as silk descent from hot sun to welcome shade, and I even got a good shower from a spray leak in the wall at about 3m down, that continued to soak me with water all the way down to the bottom!

The associated dam and hydroelectric power station was designed by architect Théodore Sardnal, built in 1947 and officially opened in 1952. It is now a historic monument, as well as a working generator.

Still with Tas and Chris aboard we arrived at Saint-Etiennes-des-Sorts to find the pontoon occupied. We turned round and examined found tall wall at the upstream end of the village and located enough rings, some at water level and some 4′ above. With ingenuity, acrobatics, boathooks, (competent helmsmanship) and leaning overboard we managed to tie up securely for the night – although it did require the deployment of our ladder to get on and off the boat, even for swimming!

Across the river, solidly watching from the top of a cliff, was the Mornas Fortress, with colours changing as the day progressed into night.

St Etiennes,

St Etiennes

Downstream, as twilight faded in, we could see a cluster of village buildings, including the church overlooking the water.

st_etiennes_morning_sun__wallThursday

Next day the sun streamed in once more. Chris set off early, hitch hiking, to collect his car from Valence, returning for lunch before taking himself and Tasmin home.

Stu and I had a relaxing afternoon and evening, including for me a late evening stroll in the cooler air around the village.

Friday

We liked Saint-Etiennes, and seeing the boat on the pontoon leave at 8am we decided to make the 400m journey down to that mooring and enjoy one more day at the village.

We had been told that there were no longer any shops or boulangeries in the village, so we were surprised to read a sign at the pontoon telling us that there was a an selling bread at the bus stop each morning from 8.30-9.30, and an épicerie van once a week on a Friday morning for an hour. We moored up on Friday morning!

I set off to find the bus stop, asking along the way, and discovered that the dépôt de pain had relocated to the Petit Restro. This was easy to find and a friendly welcome resulted in the lunch time baguette and a promise to return in the evening for a beer.

st_etiennes_shop_3

Then, just before 11.30, a van drove along the riverside road tooting; must be the épicerie!  I followed the sound and found a shop-in-a-van continuing everything I could need. His card reads ‘Épicerie, Fruits et Legumes, Boucherie, charcuterie & fromage à la coupe, Depot dépôt de pain, Crèmerie, Produits régionaux, Droguerie, Parfumerie, Timbres post, Presse …..’

I only needed one word for it – superb. In addition to buying some chicken legs for supper I noticed a regional specialty, from Sète, called ‘tirelle’ – or in my words, cephlapod pie. But I don’t know my version until I had heated it up, quartered it and served a portion to Stu – who pronounced it fish paste tart! No, it wasn’t that nice . . . . .

IMG_2080

Another relaxing afternoon, reading, gentle cleaning, and an exfoliation of my feet by the local little fish!

One more bit of retailing to do; wine, veg and eggs. I had noticed a big high wall with a big high wooden gate on my evenings perambulation the night before – and a sign saying that they sold ‘vin en bouteilles et ‘bag-in-a-box’, ouefs, legumes et fruits’ – and were open after 1700 each weekday. So off we went to explore, rang the bell in the wall, and went in to an authentic rural courtyard and barn, linked to the Le Jonquiers vineyard.

A 5L Cotes du Rhone winebox €8; a bottle of white Vignognier was €6. I am not sure how much the 10 eggs, aubergines, onions and garlic were, but the total bill was €20. It’s how I had hoped rural France would be. (And the wine was more than palatable; apparently if you buy 4 x 5l boxes it’s only 7 Euros each – I’ve made a note for the trip back . . . )

On the way back we stopped for a beer at Petit Restro, and sat watching small village life swirling gently around us. I could describe so much; I am saying too much already.

saint_etiennes_electricityBut I had better tell you about our electricity cable. We were pleased to moor Calliope in such a way that the stern overshot the pontoon and allowed our 10m power cable to suspend over the water to the electricity point on the land. It worked perfectly – until a large boast with a particularly big wash rocked Calliope so much that the wires popped out of the plug on the boat and disappeared into the river. I hope not too many fish were electrocuted!

After a third wonderfully peaceful evening and night at Saint-Eiennes-des-Sorts we said au revere et bientot.

Saturday

saint_etiennes_dawnFeeling much more relaxed we awoke to a perfect dawn. A gentle 21Km day was plotted, from Saint-Etiennes to Roquemaure, another free mooring at a small quay.

roquemaure_mooring

Our prayers were answered; the quay was empty. Along the way we had just one lock at Caderousse – a mere 8.6m. And I can remember only a few weeks ago being excited about he 7m lock on the Canal de Roanne  à Digoin!

We moored up and stayed two nights, entranced by the ruined Chateau de l’Hers on the opposite bank (it used to be an island in a much wider river, and paired with another castle in Roquemaure village – photos below). Like the fortress at Saint-Etiennes, the stonewalls changed colour with the arc of the sun.

The weather continued to be hot and sunny. We learned that a flat calm morning would likely be superseded by a breeze midday, then calm period in the afternoon before evening breezes blew in.

Saturday was invigorated by wat we thought was a flypast of about 5 sea planes, that appeared to landed the river further downstream. In fact they were part of a firefighting team, scooping up thousands of litres of water to dump on wild fires somewhere – or practising. At one point they swooped down over a barge, landing and taking off not far in front of it; I hope the Captain was expecting it!

IMG_2102Further invigoration for me was through the use of the biggest private swimming pool I have ever encountered – the whole of this stretch of the Rhone just for me, with warm stone steps at the end of the quay for easy immersion. On Sunday I dived in from the boat – feeling quite brave at my age; stupid really.

Sunday

roquemaure_3

Stu and I went for a walk round the village in the cool of the morning air. Along the way I saw lots of little white flowers – except they weren’t. They were little white snails!

We found a small town full of surprises; it has rich history, part of which is, regrettably, being the place where that pest of  grape vines, phylloxera, was introduced to France in 1860 from America. Not one to be proud of, but plenty of other points of interest, a lively retail and bar/restaurant area, and the ruins of the aforementioned castle, now part of someone’s home.

roquemaure_duskTwo pleasant evenings at Roquelaure, during the second of which we planned a long day South and onto the Petit Rhône. Seems like a good idea through those millpond calm hours.

Monday

avignon_lock

Our last day on the mighty Rhône – and it happened to be more than breezey, though certainly not a gale! (Hmmm, it had been picking up since 6am , and the wind forecast predicted 15kph plus later with up to 20kph tomorrow; time to go . . . ) We set off early before the midday winds came in and passed through Avignon lock on a bit of an adventure; our first lock on the Rhone shared with a big commercial vessel – called Poseidon! All went well.

We by-passed Avignon (it is up a side shoot of the river) having a better view of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. I would have loved to see the famous bridge that people danced under, rather than ‘sur’ as described in the song.

last_lock_on_rhone_for_usTaking note of the quite expensive, but not very attractive, marinas along the way we came to our last lock on Le Rhône, with the wind at its trickiest, blowing sideways across the river. We were helpfully blown onto the small waiting pontoon, but that made it difficult for the Captain to persuade Calliope back into the stream and through the lock mouth. He did it! Bravo!

Below the lock the river runs between Beaucaire and Tarascon – both of which have castles. In fact there was a castle on almost every tenth hill we passed, and I had to rein in my photography. Here’s a small selection, especially the Tarascon side, a very together castle, called Chateau de Roy-René, the 15th century King René, son of Louis II of Anjou.

It felt like quite a long day so we were pleased to spy, just before Arles, Le petit Rhône forking off to starboard, with a dredger working to improve the channel nearby. The morning’s high level clouds that had made it less bright than usual were lowering, and making photo clarity difficult for this amateur.

Good bye Rhone

Good bye River Rhone

Goodbye Le Rhône. We’ve spent 9 glorious and exciting days in your company. À bientot, l’année prochaine peut être.

What a change! From a wide open vista back to a quiet, narrower, tree-enclosed waterway.

We found the hoped for 6m jetty at PK296.5, as detailed by the DBA members, just a couple of kilometres before St Gilles; we tied up, and enjoyed the solitude.

petit_rhone_bug_2The flora and fauna is so different down here – definitely Mediterranean. I went ashore with the camera, but apart from this red mini beast I didn’t capture anything good ‘on film’. We were a little bothered  by biting mini beasts later, but a mélange of smouldering coils, sprayed skin, swatting and spraying kept us safe for the night.

petit_rhone_nght

Tuesday

_bye_bye_petit_rhone

The scent of sea salt was in the air! Casting off at about 9am Calliope glided through the last kilometres of the blue green Petit Rhône morning to reach Saint Gilles lock by 9.30.

St Gilles lock

St Gilles lock

A quick radio call resulted in the lock being prepared for us – the lock that would take us off the Petit Rhone, off the river system, and back into canals – the Canal de Rhône à Sète.

15cm_down

Would this be a big drop down – after all we have become used to locks from 7m to 20.5m over the past 10 days? Actually no; the drop was 15cms – fifteen centimetres! If you don’t believe me, just look at the waterline.

But it is obvious from the huge lock doors and vertical sets of bollards that in different river conditions it can be a lot more.

onto_canalSo that’s it for this section. The Canal de Rhône à Sète will be a somewhat different experience I think. Let’s see.

Lateral to La Loire

We said good-bye to the Canal de Nivernais at Decize, but still had a few more days before we were to say good-bye to Jenny and  Charlie so as a boatload of 4 we voyaged down a small section of La Loire to join the lateral canal.

IF

Decize

Two seemingly big, adjacent, locks called Ter and Bis act as the barrier between river and canal and we approached with caution the blue rope ‘pull’ that would prepare and one the first lock for us.

The doors were a new fascination, having a ‘window feature’ at the top allowing us to see in and through each lock. I guess these are filled in when the river is in flood.

It’s great having guests aboard who are comfortable with the lines, allowing this totally amateur photographer time off for a few extra shots! Thanks Jenny.

Once the two locks were traversed, quite simply as it happens, our joint reward was time off on the front deck taking in the scenery.

IF

Locks with 2 vantelles per porte

 

I noticed on the Canal latèral à la Loire that the locks were different again from other canals. For example each gate, or porte, has two vantelles, or paddles, allowing more control over the rate and direction of water flow into the lock. On the whole this resulted in a smoother climb for Calliope and crew.

 

 

IF

Stu and Charlie moving on upstream

The day was fine and the journey relatively undemanding, with only 5 locks after Ter and Bis. Charlie and Stu took turns at the helm while Jenny and I took in the view.

Nature had some surprises for us. Stu noticed two storks standing in their nest atop a telegraph pole some three hundred yards from the canal and despite distance and the movement of the boat I caught a ‘not-too-fuzzy’ photo.

Then there was the amazing living slime on a lock wall – what is that stuff??

And the baby poule d’eau (moorhen) found by the éclusier in the swirl of scum and weed by the lock gate, followed by a second found by me, its little head just trying to lift and breathe through the mess. The éclusier’s wife took them in to care for.

We had chosen our mooring for the night with care – Les Vanneaux – because it had a restaurant and our guests had offered to take us for a meal. Having moored up right beside the restaurant we approached with fingers crossed as it was Sunday and highly likely to be closed on the evening ……. but we were in luck. A simple barbecue menu was on offer each evening from Thursday to Sunday. Stewart and I enjoyed both our treat and the company!

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Les Vanneaux morning mist

Next morning we awoke to an eerie mist across the river, lending quite a magical feel to the start of the day. It soon cleared and by the time we were on our way the sun had swept up the moisture; another blue blue day began.

There was a definite new confidence to the crew; Jenny was throwing ropes onto bollards with far more ease and Charlie was understanding how a cumbersome barge reacts, compared to his beautiful sleek sailing yacht. Look – no hands . . . . . 

VAnneaux, after, Besbere lock

Besbre lock

Needing bread for lunch we stopped at Garnat-sur-Engiêvre and walked into the village – but all was shut on a Monday, so back to the boat and onward upstream to Beaulon where there was the promise of ‘lundi pain’. The captain took the opportunity to stretch his legs, which were stretched more than expected! He was gone for half an hour or more, returning with packaged pancakes, croissants and sliced brioche; all he could find left on a Monday shelf in the one small shop open. It was an interesting lunch (not . . )

Hunger sated for now we moved on towards Diou, are stop for the night. On the way we went through and over the lock and viaduct near Dompierre. The latter took us over little the river Besbre which joined La Loire about 4km down.

The last night’s stop for Jenny and Charlie was at Diou. We had hoped to moor on the quay, but when we arrived it was full so we pulled out the stakes and hammer and moored up on the grass bank. Next day, as the photos declare, our friends on Piper boat Rangali left the quay to go downstream.

A rare photo of Stu and I on the back deck was taken by Charlie. Thanks mate!

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The Loire at Diou with Charlie and Jenny

That evening and next morning we wandered round Diou, admiring its stretch of La Loire, the church, useful small shop, excellent boulangerie, and an ancient wine press (??) hidden in the corner of an ancient garage.coach house.

Diou still has a decidedly rural feel, so plenty of opportunities to see cows, donkeys and ponies!

At 11am it was time for Jenny and Charlie to swap barge travel for the faster alternatives of taxi, train, plane and ferry to return to the Isle of Wight.  We waved good bye, then headed for the short stretch of canal towards Digoin.

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Changing canals again

Just before Digoin we saw the right hand turn towards Roanne – 56kms – and left the Canal Lateral á La Loire for a week or so.

Our objective? To reach Roanne in time to tidyup  boat, shop, and hire a car – then collect Keeva and Abi from Lyon airport; the next episode will describe it all.

14 days on the Nivernais Canal

If you are ever going on the Nivernais, allow a month or more. There are lots of lovely places to enjoy and explore. Our 14 days were magical, and tiring! We were on a mission to meet firstly two friends, and then a grand-daughter, hence the speedy trip.

 

Migennes lock

Migennes lock

Talkin’ ’bout Migennes-eration – a good place to set off from. (Ho ho ho – Hope I get old before I die . . . )

On Yonne

On L’Yonne

To reach the Canal du Nivernais from the Canal de Bourgogne we had a short trip out on L’Yonne – a river – wide and flowing much gentler than it had been until quite recently.

First floating bollard lock, Bassou, Yonne

First floating bollard lock, Bassou, Yonne

The Yonne has some HUGE locks, sometimes with sloping sides and floating pontoons.  Not sure about them! (Billy totally unfazed, contemplating the end of the bit of string)

Bridge, Pont and lock de Raveuse

Bridge, Pont, Bill and lock de Raveuse

To navigate the locks we had Bill helping with ropes, Stu maintaining our position with the engine and Lesley out of sight with rope between teeth while taking this photo.

Neron, Whoops. lock blocked,

Neron, Whoops. lock blocked,

At Neron a holiday boat locked us in the lock, making a strange manoeuvre …… something most of us have done in the early days, and no doubt will inadvertently do again at some point in time.

heron in lock gate

heron in lock gate

From Neron to heron on the inside of a lock gate – novel way to fish.

Auxerre, Bill’s first view

Auxerre, Bill’s first view

Bill spies Auxerre and its heavyweight crouching churches. (Heavyweight crouching churches? . . . . )

Auxerre mooring 1a

Auxerre mooring number one

Auxerre – first mooring on wall, requiring ladder scramble ashore – fun in a long dress and with a bad back – not!

There are so so many old houses and churches. Lovely lovely meal out with Bill at restaurant behind the red and green sun shades; restaurant is called St Nicholas after the square and after the patron saint of mariners. (Thanks Bill – good to have you on board)

Onto our second mooring – right by a couple of bars, but feeling safe under the godly surveillance of three churches! Mind you if we had know the cost of staying there each night, which was NOT displayed at our mooring point, we would have remained on the wall.

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Allez les bleus

 

 

 

Euro 2016 final; the locals prepare, but I am drinking the wrong colour beer – Kriek.  Either sad French or elated Portuguese fans kept us awake much of the night!

 

 

 

 

 

Auxerre town 7

Auxerre – a modern aspect

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Leaving Auxerre

Time to leave after two nights with a top up of fuel and water, and a serious lightening of the bank account. Ah well . . . .

We were sort of off the river and into the Canal du Nivernais, although much of the ‘canal’ is delightfully the river. And despite the town’s historical links, Auxerre lock has the most modern surround I have seen.

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Champs-sur-Yonne bridge and needle weir

Some points of interest along the way.

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Upstream from Auxerre

Bailly; there’s a massive wine cave in them there hills! It’s full of creamant bubbly-luscious drinkable stuff.  Visited, did tour, tasted, bought some; saving it to savour.

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Upstream from Bailly

The countryside opened up to reveal hills and pastures, forests and cattle.

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Lavoir de Barzarnes

On our way down from Bailly we found a pretty little mooring by a bridge near Bazarnes and I was despatched to the village to find bread.  Before I found the boulangerie I saw the telltale roof of a lavoir down a little lane. It was one of the most beautiful I have seen, with a small river flowing in one end and out the other. Wish I had had some washing to do!

Mailly-la-Ville was planned as a three night stop, to take us through Bastille Day when (we thought) the locks would all be closed. The three pontoon moorings were just right for us and several other boats, with free water and electricity. The village had character, boulangerie, épicerie and a bar. Really nice stop over place!

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dragonflies and water lily in L’Yonne

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Mailly-la-Ville’s Bastille Eve Fireworks (both of them at once)

On 13th July the local children paraded with lanterns to their firework display on the bridge to Mailly-L’eglise.

Discovering that the locks were open on 14th July we decided to move on south, past the Roches du Saussois ……..

…. enjoying views of L’Yonne …….

…….. fascinated by the antiquity of the Chatel-Censoir lock house, and the modernity of the éclusier’s little office.

The views and nature were unendingly fascinating; hopefully these picture will paint the thousand words my brain cannot bring together.

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Alongside at Lucy-sur-Yonne, after thunderstorm

 

Our next night was at another tranquil village mooring – Lucy-sur-Yonne. We were just a few yards away from the river and a lavoir – but I have restrained myself and not included this one.

 

 

 

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Chateau de Faulin

We walked out between the wheat fields in the late afternoon sun to take a look at Chateau de Faulin – a fortified farmhouse. I long to know who they were fortified against. Were there marauding peasants? Was Bourgogne at war with another region of France? Someone who knows history will let me know, I hope. (I suspect it was the Blooming British pet)

The opposite bank at Lucy-sur-Yonne provided a gentle parade of animal life, including an occasionally noisy family of geese and a cat who did not become a snack.

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First view of Coulange across L’Yonne

 

 

Next day we continued west a bit towards Coulanges, then gradually south again.

We had a ‘feeling foolish’ moment, approaching a closed point levée, looking around for an éclusier on bike or scooter to open it, with Stu gently braking mid channel. Ah, I see it now …. one of has to get off and operate it!  There’s a mini mooring and a set of buttons to press!  Push and press at Pousseaux.

And what is that beyond the bridge??

Old lock and farm buildings seem a natural part of their surroundings as we float on by.

Then, getting close to Clamecy at La Forest, a wake up to the crew as we took a 45 degree swerve to the left to go through a very narrow and awkward barrage flood gate! I don’t know how Stu does it; all I have to do is click the shutter! Narrow’s OK, it’s the little side currents they throw at you that keep you on your toes. That said, I’m awful glad we’re not any wider. . . . 

Clamecy lived up to its description as a ‘pretty town’ with many medieval buildings, streets and steps. It has a massive and interesting history linked to the timber industry, floating logs and rafts down to the Seine and Paris. We were lucky to get space in the port, and used it as a stepping off point for exploring the town and the market.

Two little details – the statue on Bethlehem bridge of a ‘floateur’ waiting for work with the logs and rafts, and a magnificent butterfly that spread its wings on the ground before me.

Clamecy also boasts two lavoirs – a renovated one, now used as an art gallery, and a very sad, tired one and full of weeds, where the roof has fallen in

Our next stop at Monceaux Le Compte was a few hours longer than expected!

Montceau aground

We woke up aground. Ooh La La to starboard

Several hours, conversations with éclusiers, and multi litres of water we were off. What had happened to us, and several other bats up and down the pound? It seems that three days of small mistakes in water management had resulted in too little left on the canal.

We continued through ‘drawbridges’ at Dirol and elsewhere, noticing lots of extra water flowing over the top of lock gates and into the locks!

Leaving Montceaux late we adjusted the plan and had a short day to Chitry Les Mines –  scarily hitting some rocks whilst mooring, but seemingly no damage. The photos show peaceful views out of the port, across the canal – and omit the three large boats full of youngsters on an activity holiday!  Despite the apparent threats of late night noise they were worn out by 1030 all became quiet.

We arrived hot and slightly bothered, so I went in search of foot cooling resources. I hardly dare mention that I discovered an ideal spot in a lavoir. The Yonne flowed by, depositing clean sand, and I lay down in the water to lower my core temp.

Oh yes, there is also a good cafe there – good prices and smiling service.

Next day was designed to be a short trip to Sardy where we would take a good rest before tackling the 16 locks to the top. We neared Sardy in temperatures of the high thirties, looking forward to stopping. Then, one of those serendipitous interventions, a lady éclusier mentioned that the 3 boat loads of kids were also going to Sardy and maybe we would prefer to moor above écluse 12?  We took her advice, steeling ourselves to the additional 5 locks, and what a good decision.

The magical mooring above écluse 12 is a barge’s wonder to behold! Truly.

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Fully clothed, soaked and cooled – and happy

 

 

My first action once moored was to cool off in the water. Too hot to waste a moment I was in fully clothed again.

The area around the mooring abounded with creatures and plants – lots of butterflies and other nature to get close to.

So now we just had 11 locks and three tunnels to the top.

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3 elusiers at ecluse 3

The final 11 locks in 2 kilometres were made easy by young, hard working, teams of éclusiers and stunning scenery.

The tranchée to the tunnels was very beautiful, if a little precarious – with rocks at the edges just below the waterline.

Three tunnels and three approaches for Le Capitaine to steer through, light/dark/light/dark/light/dark/light. Gimme an F . . . 

Baye mooring

And out onto the lake at Baye – wow!!!!  Another swimming opportunity.

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Low bridge.

First challenge after Baye at PK 62 is a bridge, unnamed, and no wonder. It is apparently 2.7m high, which is interesting in a boat 2.85 high …… made it with inches to spare!

There’s a treble lock  closely followed by a double lock on the way down to Chattillion. Our éclusier on the first three also had lovely little chocolate fondant cakes for sale – €2 each.

We passed over a small aqueduct that took the river Aron below, and through Mingot lock towards Châtillon-en-Bazois.

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Chatillon approach – Aye aye, what’s going on here? . . . .

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I am sure Captain Stu will have something to say about the hairpin bend and bridge into Châtillon!  The map gives an indication of the necessary manoeuvre.

 

 

 

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View from the wheelhouse

We moored up below the chateau, where we belong – and discovered that there was a ‘jazz festival’ at the port that very evening. This event was simply lovely small town France get together. We were made so welcome; tout la monde was served an aperitif of rosé wine with pamplemousse (grapefruit) and we could buy tickets for various sausages with chips.

The DBA recommended our next mooring – thank you; another gem.

Anizey is a basin above a lock, just after another bridge we should not fit thorough! This bridge is also labelled as 2.7 and we are 2.85 ……. (Bit tight this one, with a footpath off to starboard)

I liked the bridge, the mooring and the nature.

Butterflies and lizards to enjoy as I wandered round the sunlit, then twilight, basin.

Next day was the final dash to Cercy-la-Tour where we were due to meet two friends Jenny and Charlie from Tulsa Oklahoma. We got as far as Villard lock, 19, only to be stopped for lunch. Never mind – it was a very pleasant place to eat and relax – and take photos!

Cercy-La-Tour is a great place to welcome friends to the French canal system. The village, up a steep hill, is ancient and picturesque.

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Cercy-la-Tour lock

 

The lock is one of the most colourful!

(Thank you Jenny for this, and several other, photos!)

 

 

 

 

The scenery after Cercy, down to Decizes, was open and full of colour (and weed)

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Jenny 

 

and Jenny and I could relax on the front deck while Charlie was first Lieutenant to Stu.

 

 

 

She took some great photos along the way – here’s a few I love.

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The mooring we chose in Decize was right next to supermarket, ideal for taking on food, drink, and gas!

 

 

 

We walked into town for a couple of drinks at a pleasant bar, getting a good view of the old Loire, bridge, and the city on the way.

The next day we left the Nivernais, spending a short time on the Loire before gong through two interesting locks, Ter and Bis, to join the canal latèral à la Loire – and the next chapter!

 

 

Going down the Yonne side of Canal de Bourgogne

 

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Pouilley basin

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.

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Castle near Eguilly

We also passed a long abandoned castle near Éguilly, masked by trees.

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Pont Royal

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.

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Doubling up in the locks

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.

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Captain of the ropes

 

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.

 

 

 

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Locked in lunch – Lock 38Y

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.

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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.

 

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On the way from Maringy to Venarey Les Chaumes

 

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!

 

 

 

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Following on into the lock

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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Venarey Les Chaumes

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!

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Bollard in there somewhere!

 

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.

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Buffon

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.

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Cry basin, after we left.

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.

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The bridge at Cry sure Armencon

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).

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Moving on from Cry to Arlot lock

 

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!

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Welcome shade at Tonnerre

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.

 

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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.

13639851_1763435707233586_1750635830_oStu 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.

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Leaving Tonnerre

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.

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St Florentin lock and church

 

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.