We arrived in Clamecy on Sat 11th July – a day early as we declined to stop at Coulanges. We had a couple of ‘inetresting’ manouevres to complete on this stretch. At one point the canal crosses the river Yonne. Not by bridge or aquaduct, you understand, the waters just cross with a weir on one side and the lock entrance straight ahead. Adrian has learnt to go v e r y slowly when entering locks but he couldn’t here because of the current which wants to take you to the weir and away from the lock entrance. Fun! There is also a very narrow, right angled entrance to the river section just along from Clamecy. More fun! Slightly frayed nerves by the time we arrived.
But we got there – the little port was full but we moored on the opposite bank and sussed out the other boats so we would know who was moving when. Sunday morning saw us up early and ready to jump into a space being vacated by an American couple. Good work! And our neighbours? Kiwis, of course!!
We then met a British couple on a wide beam narrow boat – Lazybones – and just seemed to chat and chat and chat. we all felt it was unfortunate that they had to leave as we got on so well. They had to get to Auxerre to take their tortoise to the vet to be checked over before going home for a spell.
Sunday was my birthday so Adrian put my beautiful mirror (art deco style made by a stained glass maker in Auxerre) and we watched the men’s tennis final with a glass of Cremant from Bailey. Then out to dinner in the evening where they put a candle in my dessert and gave us a glass of champagne to finish.
On Monday Adrian had a long cycle ride (23 kms) to go and fetch the car again. Then in the evening several of the boaters went to a jazz / folk aperitif concert in a yoart. Yep! that’s what I said, a yoart.
It was absolutely fabulous, a really fun event. 3 musicians playing a variety of instruments and generally having fun with the audience – about 20 people. One song had me a little perplexed until I realised that they were singing about a Harley Davidson – very strange pronounciation in french! Everyone was enjoying he music so much they just kept on playing and it turned into a party with everyone chatting, singing along & many dancing.
Every morning there is a lot of movement in a port like this as boats leave. But not on the 14th July, Bastille Day. The locks are closed for the day so everyone has to stay put. It was quite bizarre not hearing boats starting up and setting off – so quiet. The port was completely full and people were going and coming all day watching the various festivities in the town.
First a procession with brass band, then the ‘joutes de bateaux’ – jousting in little boats. This was scheduled to run from 2 to 6 pm but it didn’t finish til after 9pm. Then, my favourite, the fireworks. And what a show it was. We had ringside seats as the fireworks were set up across the other side of the lock. The canal was so still you could see the reflections of the fireworks. We invited a french couple and their 2 grandsons to join us so that the boys had a good view. Pablo (7 yrs) and Axel (5 yrs). Granddad works for the council and got a telephone call asking him when they should let the fireworks off! and Grandma works for the Tourist Information Office and told us of a nice restaurant out of town which we will try and go to before we leave. It was enjoyable to have them with us.
Then on 15th, before 8am, the queue for the lock started! Back to normal then.
Thursday was predicted to be very hot (38*c) so we decided to take the french government’s advice and go somewhere with air con. We went to the museum – it has 4 floors and got progressively hotter as we went up! But we particularly wanted to see the information about the flottants and flotteurs. Bascally in the 19c Paris needed lots of wood for building and heating. The forests of the Morvan region provided it. A few posts ago I talked about the ‘train de bois’ that came through Migennes, well it started from here, from Clamecy. Wood was collected throughout the region during the winter, cut to size and piled up beside the rivers ready for the ‘flottant’ in the spring. On a given date the wood was thrown into the rivers around and channelled down towards Clamecy where it was collected and built into the ‘trains de bois’. The ‘flotteurs’ were the men who guided the trains down to Paris. They were considered to be the lowest of workers but became organised into a union of sorts. In the second half of the 19th century this practice was superceeded by other forms of transport but some traditions live on – the ‘joutes de bateaux’ on Bastille Day for example. All age groups take part – I particularly enjoyed seeing the little fellas who were held in position on the back of the boat and had the pole supported for them. Ahhh! The overall winner is called ‘Le Roi Sec’ (the dry king) ‘cos he’s the only one who never got dunked!
We took the opportunity to drive up to Veselay, a medieaval hillside village with a romanesque Basilica. I remembered visiting here in 2009 with Nadine, Henk, Bernadette, Anne and Tony but found it to be more touristified now. Full of brocante and gift type shops selling rather overpriced bits and pieces. There were 2 stained glass shops which really weren’t a patch on the one we found in Auxerre. On Friday, still suffering from the heat, we went off to the Grottes d’Arcy. These caves are privately owned and have, apparently, been passed down within the same family for hundreds of years. Unfortunately photography isn’t allowed so you’ll have to access their website if you want to learn more. Really fantastic caves with amazing stalactites, stalagmites, columns and prehistoric cave paintings. Absolutely fascinating ….. and very very cool on such a hot day. I don’t know about you guys but I can never remember which go up and which go down – well in french stalactites ‘tombent’ (fall) and stalagmites ‘mont’ (rise). How easy is that!!!
There were various events and concerts in Clamecy throughout the week. So we just stayed and stayed – saw some jazz / blues in the street, African music in the park, went to the market, watched boats come and go – including 2 hotel barges, one of which nearly got stuck doing a 3 point turn in the basin. All together we stayed a week.