September 2004 Canal de Bourgogne

20th September - Canal de Bourgogne in Burgundy

Setting off from Migennes along the Canal de Bourgogne in Burgundy a large area in the middle of France. Most of this canal is only used for pleasure craft now with lots of hire boats in the summer months. The weather was very windy indeed and cloudy today, we decided to leave around 4pm after stocking up at the supermarket next to the canal we could take the shopping trolley to the boat and it saved a lot of carrying.

We let Pam and David know we had set off on our journey to meet them at the other end of the canal, our winter mooring at Saint Jean de Losne would be waiting, hopefully we would arrive before the canal closed for the winter some time at the beginning of Nov the locks would be closed for the winter on this canal. We were pleased to have an open schedule for the journey we where about to under take, relax and enjoy the historical places on the way we decided.

We just had to be in Dijon by middle of Oct for my sister and her husband's arrival from Liverpool, they are coming to stay with us and explore Dijon, we where to meet them in Paris for a few days but it's not possible to take the boat and have time to get to our winter mooring.

1st Lock into the Canal de Bourgogne

Migennes lock on the Canal de Bourgogne

The Canal de Bourgogne has 189 cut stone locks, it's 242km long and the official water depth is 1.8m, with a clearance under bridges of 3.2m no problem for us. There are six enormous water reservoirs holding a combined capacity of 29 million cubic meters of water. This tread of canal water links the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean.

We learned that because our boat was over 15 meters long we would be given help with all the locks along the Bourgogne (Just a few electric ones we worked ourselves, which we where given English instructions how to operate).

We where asked a few questions of how far we where going, how many people aboard by a student when entering the canal from the river Yonne, we still have not been asked for any of our papers or asked to produce even our license.

Canal long straight and tree lined in parts.

Canal de Bourgogne

How far did they say they were going!!! All the way I think.

Its a very petty canal the waterside views vary a lot from being enclosed by tall trees and woodland to open tracts and we found it very peaceful indeed, especially when reaching open rolling hill's and lots of distant wood land... not many boats about this time of year, in fact we went almost two weeks without meeting an English speaking person, only a few boats passing us, mostly hotel boats.

my first hair cut in France

Bad hair cut!!!

I was beginning to feel very home sick indeed some days. It did not help having my first hair cut in France and coming out looking like Maggie Thatcher (sorry Maggie) I thought my hair was so stuck out I felt ready to take off.

My hair took weeks to recover from this bad hair cut and I had many a bad hair day. John was so impressed he took this photo, it added 5 inches to my height.We did manage to laugh, glad we where not meeting anyone we knew... just yet!

Colour of trees wonderful at this time of the year.

Autumn colours

The colours of the trees at this time of the year was spectacular and I was always clicking my camera along the way... far too many photos to show you, but the flowers and displays along the canal again are just so wonderful, though flowers to buy in France are expensive in many villages and markets, and not as nice as the ones at home in say Tosco supermarket, but flowers were all around us all the way, may have been the time of year.

This lock keeper's cottage needed loving care... many just standing empty and unloved

We had many a nice cycle ride into the towns and villages, though often we would arrive in a village and they would be shut, closed for the day... often no people around or children, and at one point along the canal we missed out so much because one village would be closed Monday the next village St Florentine was closed Tuesdays and the next village we stopped was closed Wednesday, we thought we would never find a village open at one point. Guess our timing was out and some of the guide books where not as helpful as they could be, often getting things wrong, misleading information.

Do you like John's new shopping basket, just fits on the back of our bike and so handy too, proper French shoppers we are becoming. We even moored next to a visiting circus and enjoyed the nightly music and fun, entertainment was free too us.

New bikes and basket for shopping... flower displays wonderful.

Circus in town, nightly music free good view from the boat

We visited so many different places they all mingled together some times and it was hard to remember where we were at times, waking up in many different places we had some very mixed weather along the way, often cold and damp, but when the sun came out it was wonderful, we remained in shorts a lot of the way.

We visited some wonderful places and at times it was also hard going with many locks to negotiate especially getting towards the summit oh the views... I often cycled ahead to help set the locks, some times we had one lock keeper sometimes 4 would turn up... they collected apples, pears and walnuts from the trees and always seemed to be eating or drinking along the canal, we got lots of fresh fruit from the trees too and leant a lot.

The lock keepers (eclusier) either had a car or motor bike to get them to the next lock often staying with you all day very helpful indeed... we would tell them what time we wanted to start the next day and they would be there ready and waiting to start. Lock keepers did not speak (just one had a little) English so John got lots of practice with his French at times, sometimes mishearing or misunderstanding what we where told, on the whole we got by. All the lock keepers took lunch at 12 o'clock on the dot and often did not start again till 1.30 - 2pm so we took to visiting villages and having lunch at this time. I did a fair amount of walking and cycling along the Bourgogne and it was enjoyable. John was happy to navigate the boat, though we did take it in turns, he played captain more than me.

At times this canal was ravishingly attractive, rolling hills like in the Yorkshire Dales, and at other times an assault course like the day we did over 30 locks and with the language barrier made it hard at times, you don't have the language barrier in the Yorkshire Dales, I often thought.

We cycled to many a chateau having a picnic lunch out and taking wine with us in our basket,calling for fresh bread at a boulangerie on the way. It was magic these days when we just stayed in a village and went exploring for a few days, resting and relaxing and enjoying the weather. At one point we came to fields of sunflowers all just sitting there, too late to see them at their best.

Some of the wonderful Chateau's we cycled to along our route with great view every were you looked.

Typical 1792 French wash house we saw many different ones at each village we visited, lots of houses needing tender loving care and restoration too... I would love to get my teeth into another house, one of these days... who knows. John's not ready yet, but never say never.

I bet the women of France had a good old chin wag on washing days around these often natural pools of water, tons of history not always in English though.

Montbard an industrial town in a pretty setting... though I was not sitting pretty when we arrived here, my phone was not working the weather was not good and it was very cold and damp, which always affects my neck, but you get on... John was still in shorts and very reluctant to put long pants on, he did not want to accept the weather was beginning to change.

Cell hire of York (I hired a French phone and number from them and brought it with me) offered to deliver me a new phone within 24 hours of my complaint, which was amazing to say we were in the middle of France on a canal! A hire boat company allowed us to use their office as our address for the delivery of my new phone which was very kind of them, the French are so trusting and friendly at all times we have found. While my phone was not working for e-mail's we used the Internet service provided in most post offices. We also booked our Canada flights while in Montbard for November. I think it was good we had Canada to look forward to... seeing Louise would always lift me.

A stormy day on the canal de Bourgogne, also a hotel boat we met on the way in the setting sun.

The weather improved and so did my mood too, we cycled, we walked and enjoyed some great meals. I made lots of French meals, and enjoyed the time cooking and shopping.

We ran out of water at Pont Royal... no way of getting any water it was turned off along with the electric too, at this mooring, as the boating season (hire) was finished, so they thought, but here we are. The Mayor came and said sorry. It was like camping having no water... lucky we had plenty of bottled water and wipes for a quick shower, thankfully we got water within 24 hours, but again we learnt a valuable lesson - be more careful with the water! If we could change two things about our boat it would be a bigger water tank and a bigger diesel tank too. Enjoyed a meal out and met some English people running a hotel boat, so we chatted and sat out in the sun and enjoyed the evening, they had family coming over from Paris and England so we shared in their excitement.

Hotel boat coming out of lock... no room even for fenders or fingers on top

That's John chatting to lock keeper, getting good at his French now

John decided to do some boat maintenance along the way, he serviced the generator and checked the engine and the batteries, he keeps that department in good order, you could eat your dinner off the floor in his engine room. The water pump packed up on our travels, thankfully John had a spare once again, and he was able to repair our system back to normal.

Enjoyed lunch at this Abbey, wonderful place to explore Abbaye de La Bussière-sur-Ouche.

We headed for Dijon were we would meet my sister Sharon and husband Tommy, it was so good to have that visit to look forward to, it kept me going I think, through my home sickness periods.

Next stop city of Dijon...