Velars-sur-Ouche (upsetting the Brits)

We had been warned about the weed around Dijon
Friday was a non-moving day and we picked out a few places to visit in Dijon and, being partly cloudy, it was ideal for walking around the city.

Standing next to us in a little park by the port stands an obelisk commemorating the start of the works to build the Canal de Bourgogne.  Four stone plaques were added above the base over the years and one of them indicates that the first boat from the south reached the port on 14th December 1808 and another that the first boat from Paris arrived on 2nd January 1833.

The commemorative obelisk
Our first stop was to look around the Jardin Darcy which was the first public garden created in Dijon.  To us it was surprising that this was built as late as 1880.  It was designed around a reservoir built by Henry Darcy to bring water into the city.

Jardin Darcy
At one time Dijon was encircled by a city wall but most of it was removed over 100 years ago and the stone used for construction purposes.  One of the gates was left standing and is left rather isolated in the Place Darcy.

Porte Guillaume standing on its own in a square
A little further on we came across the impressive looking post office built at the turn of the 20th century.

La Poste in Place Grangier
Next was a visit to the market which was really one of our main objectives of the day as we needed to stock up with fruit, vegetables and cheese.  The market is open on four days a week and our luck was in for once; it was open on Fridays ūüėä There is a covered market, built in 1874, and many of the surrounding streets are full of stalls too.

The ornate covered market from the outside
The bars and cafés were beginning to get busy especially in the squares.

Place François Rude
 Next it was a visit to the Notre-Dame which can be seen on the right, down at the end of this square:

The Notre-Dame was built in the early 13th century and was adorned by dozens of gargoyles.  Apparently not many of the original gargoyles remain as most were removed when someone important was crushed to death by one of then falling on him.  Most of the ones that can be seen nowadays were added in 1880.

The ‘false’ gargoyles of Notre-Dame
Many ‘city’ mansions were built in the 1600s for the dignitaries of the time and most had their own internal courtyards and there were plenty to be seen, several with typical Burgundian tiled roofs.

Built in 1614 this mansion now houses the city’s human resources department!
Of course, there were many shops selling dozens of different flavours of Dijon mustard at tourist prices and I resisted the temptation even after having a tasting at one of the more upmarket places.

Coincidentally, we have just run out of a standard seeded Dijon mustard so we will be buying a replacement or two when we go to the supermarket tomorrow.  At least we can say we bought our Dijon mustard from the city of the same name.

Cheaper on the market stalls
The dark building on the right was a mustard shop and one of the older shops, being built in 1483
One end of a main road through the city stops abruptly by a church built in the 16th century.

√Čglise St-Michel (the church not the bike)
On our way home to the boat we went back through the Place de la Lib√©ration that we visited when we arrived at Dijon on Thursday.   The square isn’t really a square as it is bordered by a semi-circular crescent of houses built in 1685.

Half of the semicircle
We spent the afternoon back on board and were occasionally entertained by the arrival and departure of hotel boats as well as families of coots, moorhens, mallards and greylag cross geese.

We’re getting to the point where we’re going to have to decide our cruising route for the rest of the year.  When we get to the end of this canal towards the end of June, we will be popping back to the UK for some family events.  We will have five weeks cruising before going back to the UK again for our annual family camping trip in the Yorkshire Dales.  That will leave another three months cruising before mooring up in Roanne for the winter at the beginning of November.

As I’ve described previously, I do the outline planning and once agreed by both of us we have a series of further steps to arrive at a rough weekly schedule.  Other than the weeks available for cruising, which are fixed for this year as described above, I have to consider major places we want to visit.  Our current wish list includes Paris, Strasbourg, Champagne and getting down south to the Med and then towards Toulouse.

My initial thoughts are that we could do the first three over the rest of this year and will have to leave the Rhone, the Canal du Midi and the south of France until next year. 

Saturday was one of those days where the sun kept promising to come out but never quite made it until after we moored up in the evening.  We were leaving Dijon and heading for Vilars-sur-Ouche where we could moor for supplies right next to a supermarket and a fuel station.

On our way out of Dijon - is this where QR codes are made?
We turned up at our first lock at 10 as arranged; it was ready for us but there was no sight of an √©clusier.  We went in, tied up, closed one of the gates and waited.  We gave it 15 minutes before calling the command centre which was engaged each time I tried.  When I finally got through, I was given another number to call which I did.  This number too, was constantly engaged but in the end, it rang just to go through to an answerphone.  I left a message and then another and then another by which time we were joking that it’ll soon be the √©clusier’s lunch break.

In the end an √©clusier turned up and came to see us.  He told us it was his day off and that he lived in the lock cottage and he had just come back from shopping.  He called up a colleague and arranged for us to be met after lunch as there would be no time to get an √©clusier to us to see us through before lunch.  He did take pity on us and filled the lock for us so that Buddy could get off if he needed. 

Buddy and I went for a walk along the River Ouche to see Lac Kir while Karen prepared lunch.  The lake was a popular place with lots of sunbathers and even swimmers despite the cloudy skies.  This canal follows the valley of the Ouche from its summit all the way down to Dijon.

Lac Kir – created by damming the River Ouche
A lady √©clusier came out of the lock cottage whilst we were still eating lunch but only to tell us she would be with us at 1; she happened to be the wife of the earlier guy but was working today.  She was a lovely lady and saw us through all the locks and was very patient as we were constantly stopping to clear the weed hatch.

Passing a weed collecting machine
We had problems with weed for the first eight kilometres after we left the port in Dijon until it miraculously disappeared after the penultimate lock of the day.   The weed was generally just below the surface but as you can see in some of the photos it was so choked that it was also floating in places. 

It was the first time we have lost count of the number of trips to the weed hatch since we have been boating.  Until today, the worst we have encountered was on the Lee navigation that heads out of London through Essex.  There are weed disposal machines on that river that are given names by local schools as a community exercise, but I cannot remember any of them.  The ‘Mean green Lee collecting machine’ rings a bell as one but I don’t think that’s quite right.

Dumping the weed
Ignoring the weed, which was pretty difficult, the scenery was actually stunning with steep hills covered in woods cascading right down to the canal side. 

We finally arrived at Velars-sur-Ouche about four hours later than we anticipated but at least we could moor right outside the supermarket and fuel station.

Our mooring for Saturday night
It was our first trip to a Colruyt and our ranking would put it at the other end of the spectrum to Grand Frais who are the equivalent of Waitrose.  The best way to describe it is to say it seems to be run like Aldi or Lidl but very messily.

Our Colruyt
Knowing that hotel boats use this canal to get up to Paris we asked a boater friend, who had been on one of the trips, how they coped with weed.  We had heard that the crew often have to get in the water to remove the weed, but we rather thought that was an urban myth.  Brian sent some photos through that convinced us otherwise.  The standard procedure is to stand on the back gates of a lock and clear the rear propeller with a pole:

 Clearly that isn’t always the most effective way and it’s into the water they go:

 Thanks for the pictures Brian 
Brian, from nb Hanser (blog link on the left ūüėČ), also told us that these boats are rudderless and are steered by having propellers at either end.  I’m not sure how they get the weed off the propellers at the front without getting in the water though.

Before I go, I would like to clear up a misunderstanding that gave rise to a comment left on our blog the other day.  A fellow Brit was upset that we were considering taking water from one of the water points at Dijon that are used by the hotel boats.  I hadn’t mentioned that the √©clusiers at Dijon had told us to do this as our own water points weren’t working.  In fact, other friendly boating sources also advised doing the same and said the best time is at lunchtime when a berth is free.  That way you know that a hotel boat won’t be arriving as the locks are closed.  Ironically, we didn't get water in the end as all the berths were taken.  Hopefully that puts the matter straight ūüėĀ

On Saturday we cruised 11 kilometres up nine locks.


Shaun said...

Despite your defence of your 'free' water strategy you seem to be missing the point. Neither your group of fellow boaters nor the lock-keepers can legally advise you to take water from a water point paid for by a commercial hotel boat. It is like arriving at a pay port, attaching to electricity, filling up with water and then leaving before the (known) fee collection time - we've seen it happen often.
Interestingly, what has been your total financial input to the French waterway system since you arrived in Migennes?

Shaun Cullen said...

Apologies, I omitted my surname.

Caroline and Martin said...

Hello, I've just come across your blog and am totally engrossed in your travels, thank you for taking the time to write about it. Caroline

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Hi Shaun. Thanks for your reply but there seems to be a misunderstanding. I would not take, nor condone taking, water or anything else that should be paid for. My understanding was that the water in Dijon port is free which ever water point is used. I can only assume from what you say that there are water meters on the hotel boat points that were not obvious to me. If they were apparent then, of course, I wouldn't have even thought of taking water. No doubt like you, I am quite happy paying for water and expect to especially as the licence fees are relatively cheap in France. Cheers, Neil

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Hi Caroline. Thank you for your kind words. Do you have plans to travel around mainland Europe?

Shaun & Lynn aboard "Elle" said...

Bon voyages, les papillions.
You will pass us somewhere on the CdB and we can share views.

Caroline and Martin said...

No we have no plans to travel in mainland Europe in our boat, we do visit friends who live in France but that will be our limit, that's why it's nice to read about your travels.