We left Auxerre last Tuesday morning after an extended stay in sweltering heat.
We visited another Crypt at the abbey church of St Germain. The crypt is partly Carolingian, with tombs and 11th – 13th century frescoes. We had our own personal tour of the crypt and learnt that St Germain was the first person to keep ‘relics’ and therefore is credited with starting tourism! The things you learn….
But I think I must be losing my touch! We were in Auxerre nearly a week, in sweltering heat and I never looked for a swimming pool. The day before leaving we discovered there is one just along the canal……. looked tempting but we now had to get moving so I never even got in the water.
The Canal du Nivernais was dug / built during the 18th & 19th centuries, opened in 1843 for navigation after the tunnels at La Collancelle, the summit, were built. Boats were hauled by horses, donkeys or mules. The main activity was timber floating which was carried out on all the rivers of the Morvan region up to the end of the 19th century.
Today it is a lovely canal wending its way through rolling farmland. We are now seeing that the wheat has been cut and huge rolls of hay remain in the fields. Beginning to see fields of bright yellow again – sunflowers not oil seed rape!
This canal is a bit of a challenge for Piedaleau because of the height of her side rails so we are taking great care as we approach bridges & lifting bridges. We have even gone to the length of setting up height guides using kiddies fishing rods. We are as ready as we can be (we hope!).
The first night we stopped at Bailey but refrained from buying any more Cremant. We did, however, return to Irancy for lunch at La Soufflot and buy another half dozen bottles of the red from the cave next door.
We then went on to Vermenton which is along a side channel off the main canal. This is where I hired a boat in 2008, with Frankie, Greg and Mary, to test out if I thought I could manage Misty Morning here. I then returned with Nadine in 2009 and I remember we experienced an amazing electric storm – watched it ll around the mooring basin from the top of a hire boat listening to The War of the Worlds and Richard Burton’s velvet voice. So atmospheric …. until the rain started and we all ran for cover! The mooring basin appears to have changed – very much quieter, although the lady in the office said this was because all the hire boats are out. Still it seems pretty empty to me. Another change is a ‘beach’ about 500m away up the river by a campsite. Unfortunately this was one of the few cool and cloudy days, so I didn’t go for a swim.
Our next scheduled stop was Pregilbert where there is a trout and salmon farm where there had been an Abbey years ago. At first it was occupied by monks and later by nuns and became so powerful and influential that the Pope limited the number of nuns to 100. During the 17th century the Mother Superior installed a canal with flowing water and stocked it with fish. The French revolution put an end to all this wealth and the Abbey was knocked down but a trout and salmon hatchery was set up in part of the grounds. I remembered buying fabulous fish there previously so Adrian and I moored up and trotted off with our shopping bag. Imagine our disappointment when we found that it was shut, under new management & the fish tanks being rebuilt but with no indication of when it will reopen! Poo and blast we cried as we defrosted some sausages for dinner.
This then brought us to the LOW bridges around Mailly-la-Ville and Mailly-le-Chateau. All our checking and planning ….. easy, no worries, got under without a problem!
We moored at Mailly-le-Chateau for the night where Frankie had marked a ‘very pretty, mooring – well she marked it but in the wrong place on the map but we found it anyway. And beautiful it was too. Behind the mooring a little river flows past and I finally had a swim! Bit like those pool machines trying to swim against the current – getting nowhere fast – but very refreshing. We were the only boat and so we slept on top of the boat under the stars (ok so we were under the bimini, under the stars) and it was fantastic. Pretty dark so the night sky was superb and the night sounds incredible. A pair of owls sounded as if they were having a terratorial battle right beside us. I mentioned before that I enjoy being moored in the centre of a city, well ‘au sauvage’ is my absolute favourite.
Onwards to Chatel Censoir for the next night. All these villages are sleepy little places with some charm but little of major comment. Previously I visited Vezelay from here but this year we will go later as we have the car with us – ie Adrian is doing his cycle rides back to where we last were in order to collect it. This means we are trying to restrict our distance to between 10 & 15 kms each day so our next stop was to be Coulanges. However when we arrived around lunchtime it was to discover a busy, messy, noisy travellers’ camp beside the port. we carried on after lunch to Clamecy.
We locked through with an young english couple on an old wooden yatch which was fun. This is their first time boating in France – they came across the channel and are heading south to the Med, hopefully.