Auxerre (River Yonne September 2004) a great meeting place, wonderful town to explore with every thing you need close at hand, very special to us being the first town we visited after arriving in France with our boat. As soon as we arrived we were invited out to dinner, then to a dance on Vivian's peniche Pourquoi-Pas what a boat, what a story they had to tell, Viviane made this a family boat, brought up five children on the boat, now all children have flown the nest... Pourquoi-Pas is now a floating entertaining boat in Paris, (Tel 01 42 24 15 10) the owner Viviane was taking a holiday and opened up the huge dance floor for us all to disco dance, the the dance floor 38 meters long below deck, (we all suffered calf cramps during the night too much dancing. perhaps drinking too much vino too) a wonderful evening, Viviane offered us free mooring any time we are in Paris, what an offer, we hope to meet up again soon.
We enjoyed a BBQ and a great evening together it was good to catch up with Moira & Peter, they were on their way back to England having had 3 weeks holiday in their home in Chantemerle-Les-Grignan in the Provence, very hot they said (see web page Feb 04). We enjoy having company and sharing the Moet with friends, they stayed over night the visit was too soon over. We had a few days exploring Auxerre also visited the huge Supermarche for supplies we took on water and stores and made plan's to set off on our Journey.
174 Kilometres long and 110 locks to go through.
We need more excise hopefully helping with locks and cycling & walking again.
Sad to see such beauty destroyed during the Tornado in July, it will be many years clearing up the tree's along the beginning of this canal. It was the start of France holidays, and every holiday boat seemed to join us on our journey, this meant waiting for locks at times, but all part of the fun, lots of accidents we also witnessed this month from people hiring boats. Our first stop on the canal/river was a place called Bailly we cycled to the Champagne caves, we enjoyed a one hour tour and guide on how wine & champagne is made turned & stored, (wear a jumper it's cold in the caves 4 hectors of underground quarries & wonderful sculptures from several artists are in the tunnel walls) free samples to drink before & after the tour, and free glasses to take away all for 4 euro's what a bargain, and free mooring too, we enjoyed this village and the art here, much cycling. John started with an ankle problem, swollen & sore, not sure what he has done, healing hands helping out.
We moored the first night between two hotel boats, enjoying watching them catch many fish. We also met Fabienne & Yves from Paris and his brother Claude who unfortunately hurt his foot jumping off the boat, he was to be collected by his sister the following day for a visit to the hospital, but not before they came on board for some drinks to help numb the pain, they invited us for drinks the following day at 11am... not coffee... oh no... champagne (they had delivered to the boat from the caves) we also tasted their favourite brandy, great French lesson's Fabienne is an English teacher in Paris, offered help too with French lessons. Magic moments thanks
We moved onto Vermenton, no room in the inn we had to moor just outside the large mooring point at the end of a four kilometre arm. Very nice village but oh the rain storm through the night... so we stayed on board. We received a phone call from Philip to say can they join us the following day, delighted we set off for Mailly-la-Ville the following morning were we where meeting our good friends Pam & David so we could all dine together (fear oh will there be food shops)... we could BBQ hopefully. It was a great cruise, Pam & David were waiting with a great mooring & greeting. We had a good chat too before Phil, Michele and Marc arrived, they had a long drive from down south, enjoyed their holiday down south, lots of stories to tell, family with us for four nights so we planned what we could do before they returned to England.
We had a wonderful time here in Mailly-la-Ville, biking, fishing, walking, house hunting, scrabble games, long breakfasts into lunch time, just catching up sharing dreams, some great BBQ with Pam & David. Wonderful trips out in the car, for supplies & sight seeing. Enjoyed a visit to the famous Chablis region called the "Golden Gate" of Burgundy famous world over. Great driving through all the growing vines such a beautiful town, so very colourful, lots of streams through the town. We visited a few caves for wine tasting, we also tasted a nice Chablis Grand cru too expensive for our pockets but we bought a nice Chablis premier for dinner. We have learnt much about wine as we collect research in different parts of the wine growing regions. Michele, Marc and I enjoyed working together in the galley, inventing some great new cookery dishes, captain & crew delighted in tasting our creations. Marc is great at tossing pancakes too.
David enjoyed sharing his first test drive with Marc allowing Marc to try his new engine bought in St Jean (see April 2004) Marc tried his hand at fishing too, Philip took a dip in the river, but did not recommend it to us, rater cold. Pam & David were moving back to Vermenton to meet Pam's sister Pat, we were all cruising onto Chatel-Censoir, for the night, Phil said he would cycle back for the car. We did not get far one hour, stopped for lunch, another two hour cruise, wonderful dinner then a walk up the hill to the village. It was soon time for our visitors to pack their bags and make their way home, I think they enjoyed being on the Moet and enjoyed a different out doors way of life on the French waterways system. they might hire a boat next.
We rested put the boat in ship shape order again, and enjoyed several interesting walks over the following two days, some shopping in the market to replenish our stocks. We also had some maintenance work to the battery system as one of the batteries had over heated. We had wonderful moorings again totally free, we are beginning to like boating in France all the more. Our next stop was Coulanges-sur-Yonne I really enjoyed the way the Nivernais crisscrossed numerous rivers and streams, every lock different, colourful too with fields of sunflowers as you can see.
Clamecy is a very attractive town completely surrounded by water, described as the town of beautiful reflections and that is what we found here, wonderful cheerful lock keeper let us into particularly attractive moorings, wonderful view of the festival of floating barges on Sunday... crowd got very wet as you can see, hand made water floats what a treat to watch all the fun. Wonderful restaurants to sample, the museum of Romain Rolland paintings close by, we were here for the final music concert in the Parc Valvert. We people watched we explored and we rested here, it's a town we would happily stay a while if we had more time. Enjoyed time with tourists as we were moored next to the lock, many visitors this weekend for all the festivities, France loves to have colourful festival's and celebrations. Nice property here bargain priced too, not yet ready though at this point in time John says.
We have a wedding to go to in September in south of France... we need to have the boat in a safe place not sure were yet, we also need to hire a car. We were enjoying totting along this canal, me cycling a great deal, doing the locks and the wonderful swing bridges.....my muscles are growing stronger, I managed six hours hard work yesterday 10 locks 6 lift bridges plus 17 miles cycle ride. I really enjoyed helping the students at the locks also our chatting, August is when students work some of the locks here, one student told me they have a waiting list as so many young students want a summer job working the locks here. We have seen many accidents, people & dogs falling into locks, people jumping and missing their footing, we see hire boats ramming bridges and walls, much damage to boats, not enough experience also they are traveling too fast leaving no room for mistakes. No wonder it's so expensive to hire a boat. One family we met paid £4,000.00 for two weeks then they had fuel on top and traveling to France, so they want to get as far as they can for their money. Not all hire boats are the same, we remember only too well when we first started, we are enjoying giving help when asked or when it's needed. No shops here...so we even helped out from our stores too. Van's deliver here to the smaller villages but if you miss them tough.
We stopped at Ted Johnson's mooring in Chitry-les-Mines near Corbigny, (friend of Willem's & Ursula) he has a wonderful well stocked parts shop near the marina. John bought a new battery, a new shower pump, impellers, engine filters, and another 15 meters black rope, some locks you need a lot of rope. (Ted says it's fashionable for boaters to buy black this year). We stayed here for two nights, generators or BBQ are not allowed in his marina Ted told us when he delivered our battery, we had both going at the time turn them off!!! I Think he had had a bad day. John has worked very hard here on boat maintenance, new battery installed, new shower pump, the leaking pipe on our generator renewed, we are now ready to continue our journey. I enjoyed resting my muscles from all my cycling. We are reading some good books our daughter Teresa bought for us, she knows our tastes well.
Robin (stranger) knocked on our boat and introduced himself, he used to have a boat in England, lived here 17 years now he buy's & sells property (aged 76) we enjoyed a glass of wine and talking to him, the following morning he knocked again, Irene do you want to go shopping with me to Corbigny he had brought his van, (for John's beer he thought). I grabbed my purse off we went (food I thought) you can get more shopping in a van than a bike he said... I was able to fill up with wonderful meat from the region (good advice what to buy). One thing about this canal is no shop's... all local shop's seem to be closing down, as people move away from the area... no work, many a hire boater we met was so disappointed with lack of people & shops.
Climbing to the summit was special 20 boats in all (both ways more going up with us)... perhaps a little too busy for some grumpy lock keeps (2) they are not used to this amount of boats all at once, (or us) but it made for good friendships and meeting people from all over the world, none of us in a rush and all part of the experience, lots of address & telephone numbers exchanged. Some really good lock houses given over to artists displaying pottery, water colour art, and my favourite a display of photographs from a famous artist, which I enjoyed browsing, thanks to the bike and time on our hands due to the wait for locks, nice not having to rush through this part of the canal.
A low of our travels at present is that we cannot get a phone signal much of the time here (also the phone bill's) we need to be in contact with our children right now and it can get us down, we do some times wish we were back in Canada, Leeds & Manchester, I missed speaking to my mum on her birthday also. We have our down days but that is life we can't be where we always want to be, clouds are not just for the sky... I know they will pass and all will be well in time.
As you approach the tunnel's (3) having climbed the Sardy 16 locks, it is like cruising under a vaulted ceiling of a green cathedral, (time of day helped us 5pm) I took many many photographs one could imagine you are in the Amazon, the ocean above is the Morvan forest... to think they dug this all out, it reminds you it's an amazing man made canal and we floated down enjoying every moment, best approach to a tunnel we have had yet. Lots of waterfalls... caves... and wild life abound around her. Our friend Willem said he had a party once in a cave here, and stopped his boat in the tunnel to play his flute, amazing sounds he remembers no engine no lights. Hope the lights were on red at both ends Willem.
The weather was not so good when we arrived at Baye, choppy with the wind and a rather huge storm which made for good skies. I caught a great photo with a lighting strike at last I did it... we cycled and walked and took in the views... no shops... most have closed down... enjoyed being the only boat here on the wall. Robin joined us to our surprise on Sat we had a meal and then he took us for a drive out also to see his home which has gone up for sale due to his wife's ill health, so sad they have been together 50 years, she wont be coming home. Wonderful stone 3 bed roomed home (tiny village) he's done his home to a high speck at £165.000.00 we think it's a bargain, breath taking views towards the Morvan forests, we enjoyed our trip out and he enjoyed sharing his stories with us... anyone interested in a nice home for sale 10 min's from Etang de Baye get in touch with me. I'm on commission he said.
Lots of hire boats coming & going here. Yachts sailing much activity in the mornings. We saw a fisherman and his wife catch a huge pike... lots of pike-perch, black bass and huge carp weighting 20lbs, alas I caught nothing with my new rod... not the weather for fishing I thought soon gave up. We had to light the fire yes in August one night is was so cold... We moved on to keep warm a few days later, I cycled to the locks....much further between locks now as we start our decent. Strange feeling as we have been climbing up 120 locks since leaving Paris. I am cycling down (wow) we did 14 locks in an afternoon so enjoyable.
This was a good setting next to a rather large Chateau at the side of the canal, harbour master Chris was very helpful on our arrival, on asking about restaurants he promptly phoned for a reservation for us and booked the owner to pick us up, after doing all those locks we thought we deserved a nice big Charolais steak, we had a wonderful meal & bottle of wine, the desert was the best ever, though the chief said the oven had been too high not so I said... our car ride to & fro was delightful, so nice to be driven around the area felt like royalty tonight. Met Frank whom we moored next to he helped John splice our new ropes and was in & out with great stories. We enjoyed lots of domestic chores here such a good electric supply. The weather was still stormy and raining a lot still at night, it feels like autumn already just now, even the trees are showing sign's of the change. We continued on, me cycling to the locks, when I think back to last year I cycled 10 yards got off bike then walked 30 yards now I have now managed 20 miles in one day... so I am getting to feel fitter, though I walk up hills, still Rome was not built in a day as they say... I did have two nasty falls off my bike this month, but nothing broken, just dented ego and lots of bruises, now I just ride on good cycle paths.
John was not impressed with this house oh but the views I said... the new life we could instill in this property... "Irene I prefer the peace of looking at the new life being born around here... was his reply...
Not enough room to show all the villages well dressed locks and all the wonderful photos that I took along this canal, but I hope I have given you a taste of what it is like traveling along with us, you could wander back and forth for a couple of years and not see it all, different days, moods, weather, meeting people all make a difference to a place. We had some wonderful nights moored at the side of the canal... just the two of us the sky & stars and oh the wonderful silence.
The place was deserted all but a few caravan's & tents, also most other sites we have seen are empty, (August!!!) a few hire boats around though. Our next stop for a few days was the town Decize wonderful entry to it along the river Loire great views too. We met up with Pat & Mervyn traveling on boat Trucy, we enjoyed a night on Moet & night on Trucy sharing our stories since we both departed Saint Jean de Losne over 4 months ago they are now proud grand parents of twins, and have just returned from a trip home to England for baby's arrival. John & I enjoyed a long bike ride (got lost on the road) back to the village of Champvert, village festival, many artists bands and programs organised over two days. The highlight for me was a helicopter ride over the Canal du Nivernais, just me and the pilot what an experience it was to end our journey of the Canal du Nivernais and see the countryside from above. John thought the helicopter too small for his comfort (only 3 person)... he kept his feet firmly on the ground this time. I enjoyed the thrill of the ride seen here taking off.
We continued our journey onto the Canal lateral a la Loire, the weather also changed wonderful long hot summer days again, to think we had our fire on last week. We enjoyed cruising and biking so much we just continued, we have done this canal before and were able to see many things we missed first time round we also met up with old friends on this canal... (see May page for canal photos.) One of the high lights was seeing a storks nest high in the tree's next to the canal as we set off, Pat & Mervyn were lucky to get a photo of the baby stork in the nest at the time, sorry I missed this photo opportunity. The stork truly blessed their family too!!! We were so lucky with the locks a lock keeper had them ready for us all the way we made wonderful progress and just enjoyed continuous travel & sunshine. This canal needs much work.