Sunday, 16 June 2019

St-Florentin (another mystery tour)

Our mooring for the last couple of days at St-Florentin
We were heading off to St-Florentin on Friday as Peter & Helen were stopping off to say hello on their way down to their house in the south.  We had arranged to meet our éclusier at the first lock at 9.10am; I know it seemed an odd time, but we had suggested 9.00am and were told that it would take them 10 minutes to get there from home so ten past would be better (they don't start work until 9.00am).

We had to set the alarm as we needed to leave by 8.30am because it was a few kilometres away and arrived with five minutes to spare.  There was nobody in sight and we hung around outside the lock for a while before deciding to pull up and get off the boat to wait.  That plan didn’t work as the sides were so shallow, so we just turned the engine off and we gently grounded and carried on waiting.

Hanging around at the first lock
After a while we convinced each other that there had been a misunderstanding and that they would turn up at 10.  Ten o’clock came and went and still no éclusier and we were really beginning to rue not having taken a phone number yesterday evening.   The locks on the other canals we have been on so far and also those on the Saône side of the summit of this canal have generally had contact numbers to call.  For the last 100 locks though there have been no numbers and we have taken the mobile number of the last éclusier we have seen each day.  For some reason we have stopped doing this for the last few days.

An éclusier, on patrol, finally turned up on a scooter but explained they had no record of our request, but he would see us down to St-Florentin.  On the way we passed the obligatory lavoir of the day of course.

Lavoir at Germigny 
Ironically the last lock we went down actually had a board with contact numbers on it, so I made sure I took a picture of it just in case.

The lock at Germigny was originally built as a double chambered staircase but when the locks were enlarged to the Freycinet standard in 1882 it was converted to a deep single chamber.   

Strange lock at Germigny
The narrow section we are driving into is the old top lock chamber.  The other odd thing about the lock is the mandatory sign that means ‘Stop in certain circumstances’; it just seemed an odd place to have it and we have only ever seen it on rivers or narrows before.

As the lock was approaching six metres in depth and didn’t have sliding poles or floating bollards, we were glad of a couple of things.  Firstly, that we had bought extra long lines before coming over and secondly, that we had t-bars fitted over our rear dollies to keep the lines from slipping off as they get to the vertical.  I know we had a couple of dollies with t-bars added on both sides at the front of the boat too but we have used those on nearly every lock we have been up over here, so we have been glad of those since day one.

Going down
We finally made it to St-Florentin before lunch and made arrangements with the éclusier (we hope!) to leave on Sunday morning.  There’s a large port in the town with a marina and plenty of moorings with services.  As we didn’t need any services we moored in a stretch before the next lock where it was free to moor even though we were still in the town.

Arriving at the port at St-Florentin
Moored at St-Florentin
Once we were moored up, Karen went off to get a couple of things from town and I took Buddy for a walk further down the canal and then into the old part of town.
Parts of the medieval town
On our way back from our walk I chatted to a couple of the people in the port, an Irish couple and a Brit who had just arrived for their annual holidays.  They keep their boats in the marina rather than the UK which is a bit similar to having a holiday home abroad I suppose.

Just in front of our mooring is an aqueduct over the River Armançe and then a lock.

Our view from the front
Our view over town
Peter & Helen turned up during the afternoon with their friend Elizabeth.  We hadn’t seen them for some time and as this was their first visit to the boat, they had plenty of questions.  We spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting before they had to leave for the next leg of their journey.  It was really great to see them and catch up and, as they travel down five or six times a year, we will no doubt meet up again and hopefully, next time, we can spend longer together.

When they were leaving Peter did let drop that they also enjoy finding lavoirs so it’s not just us who are mad 😉

When Karen was out in town, she had popped into the tourist information office and picked up a leaflet detailing a heritage/historic walk around town.  We will be doing this on Satuirday as well as visiting the market so it will be interesting to see how it compares with the one we did earlier this week in Tonnerre.

Karen also found a cuckoo clock house on her walk
On Friday we travelled ten kilometres down four locks.

We awoke on Saturday to lovely blue skies, but it did feel muggy.  After Karen came back from her run we headed off to the market and then called in at the tourist information office to pick up the key for the large church at the top of town.  This was the first stop on the heritage tour of St-Florentin that Karen was taking us on.

We had to provide id to get the key but didn’t have any with us; however, the lady seemed to like us and was happy I just left my name and French phone number!  As is often the case, the church was ostentatious by being far bigger than it needed to be for the size of the town.  We were surprised to learn that it wasn’t even finished as the nave was never built, that really would have made it more like a cathedral.

The touristy bits of the church were the locally made stained glass windows and the stone statues which were produced by the Troyes school of stained glass and sculpture in the early 1500s.  We don’t remember seeing so many stained glass windows in a church before and they really were stunning considering they were nearly 500 years old.
Some examples of the stained glass and statuary

By the time we were dropping the key back it had started getting cloudy and it was feeling even muggier, so we were expecting rain.  The rain never arrived, and the sun came back out in the evening, but we heard from other people in France during the day that hadn’t escaped some rain, so it seemed we were fortunate.

The next part of the tour was around the medieval part of town looking at the narrow streets and timber framed houses that we had seen yesterday.

One of the timber framed houses we missed yesterday
The museum which was in the original post office wasn’t open, so we made our way to the old abbey gardens at the top of town. It afforded a wonderful view over the surrounding countryside across the higgledy-piggledy roofs of old town.

Looking over part of old town
The round bell tower is the only remaining one of the original six towers that were part of the town fortifications built in the 12th century.

The 16th century town fountain with bronze dragons
The rest of the walk was around the canal to see points of interest like the port and the aqueduct and the lock next to our mooring.  We did get to see the aqueduct from the side with its strange drain holes.

The aqueduct built in 1810
After lunch we went on a bike ride as we wanted to go back and have a look at the lavoir at Germigny that we passed on Friday’s cruise.  We found it to be in need of a bit of attention, but it was nice and cool inside.  We even saw a couple of European Green Toads that made their way into the water when we got close to them.

Inside the lavoir de Germigny which still has its drying rails
 When we were nearly home, we stopped to chat to a nice Aussie couple who had just arrived on their Dutch barge, Quercy.  We had met them at Tonnerre, so it seems we are travelling at the same speed.  They have brought their dog over with them and she and Buddy obviously remembered each other from Tonnerre and had a good run around while we all chatted.

We are well on target for getting to Migennes by Tuesday afternoon as we only have 19 kilometres and seven locks to do, some of which we will do Sunday.


  1. No, not just you - Lisette is mad about lavoirs too.

  2. Oh, and regards to your daughter’s interest in the social aspects of the lavoirs, there’s a short informative piece at

    Including this telling description of the reception for those unwelcome:

    “The presence of a male adult was prohibited and in case of offense the man was sometimes assaulted and thrown into the water harshly under the laughter and mockery of the whole group.”

    1. Thanks Ian - I've passed this on to Sophie too