Sunday 30 June 2019

Joigny (and we’re off again)

Heading into Joigny with its vineyards on the surrounding hills
Well, that was a hectic week back in the UK; with so many children to catch up with we had no time for friends this time around.  It seemed to be even more hectic because we never stayed more than one night anywhere, and we travelled over 2,000 miles in the car.  We’ve certainly learnt that next time we will stay two nights in each place, but on the bright side we did the right thing by leaving Buddy with Sue & Paul on their boat down in Génelard.  It wouldn’t have been fair with all the travelling and he probably got spoilt rotten knowing Sue & Paul.

We did manage some down time and even got in a spot of butterflying with Sophie & Yanos on Yateley Common where we saw silver studded blues emerging. 

A torn right hind wing on a fresh silver studded blue
Yanos, with his eagle eyes, spotted a dark green fritillary emerging and we watched for several minutes while it finished drying its wings before setting off to find a mate.

Newly hatched dark green fritillary
Sophie & Yanos held a party near Oxford to celebrate Sophie’s 30th birthday and their first wedding anniversary.  It was an opportunity for their friends and many relatives to celebrate their wedding with them as the actual event had been a relatively small affair.  It was really good to spend the afternoon and evening with most of our children and some of our relatives.

We had appointments around Leamington Spa which we combined with a trip to Yorkshire to see my Dad.  One of the appointments was to get our life jackets recertified which is an annual requirement in France.

We came back to Migennes on Wednesday and, although we had heard about the predicted hot weather in France, we were neither ready for it nor really expecting it.  The temperatures have been around 40 degrees centigrade since we’ve been back but are predicted to drop to the right side of 30 for the coming week.  The highest shade temperature was 41.5 on Thursday but thankfully (for us) we didn't hit the highs of the hottest parts of France.

Our mooring for the last week at Migennes at the far end, four boats out
It really has been too hot, especially on a small steel boat and I passed out three times during our first evening back and, honestly, I’d only been up to drinking water – no alcohol.  The final time (we were still sitting outside) I was suddenly aware of Karen calling for help as I had been out of it for some while.  Simon, who owns the boatyard came to her call and was really helpful.  He monitored my blood pressure and heartbeat every 15 minutes until it was back to normal.  Even though I had been drinking water we put it down to not drinking enough and overexertion carrying stuff from the car across three other boats to reach ours.

We pootled around on Thursday and Friday and decided to start on our journey to Paris on Saturday morning; the last of the forecast very hot days.  We caught up with people we had met in the boatyard including Ian & Lisette from Oz who set off on their annual cruising trip on the Thursday morning.

Ian & Lisette getting ready to leave
On both days we drove into Joigny for various reasons such as food and bricolage shopping.  On the first trip Karen spotted a British post box outside the town hall as we drove past; unfortunately, it wasn’t a good old VR box, just a modern Elizabethan one..

...strange to see it in France though
One of our bricolage trips was to buy mosquito netting and we spent a couple of happy hours following Karen's ingenious designs to fit our windows and hatches.  Most of the openings are rectangular and once cut to size and edged with flexible magnetic strip they fitted perfectly.  We didn't make all of them but enough for the bedroom so we could keep the windows out and the doors open all night.

I said ingenious, but she hadn't come up with a final plan for the portholes so I stepped in with a temporary solution.  I had kept the broken throttle cable and used lengths of this to expand to the circumference and thus hold the netting in place inside the porthole surround.  I know it doesn't look the part but we thought that was ingenious too, as a temporary solution.

Friday is normally Simon’s boat craning day and it was interesting watching him from the front of our boat as he craned in a large Dutch barge.  I say interesting as he only had one guy on the ground helping him and neither were kitted out in hard hats etc.

Siga Siga about to be dropped in
We planned a short trip for Saturday so we could get moored up before lunch but we underestimated what we had to do before setting off and realised we wouldn’t make the first lock by noon.  We ended up mooring up for lunch at Laroche where we had spent a few days at the end of March before our trip around Burgundy.

Our first lock for a while
The weirs by both of the day’s locks were of the needle dam type whereby metal poles or ‘needles’ are dropped into a retaining frame in the water until the barrage is complete.  Water flow is then controlled by removing or adding needles as required.

Needle dam outside Joigny

Some of the removed needles laying on top of the barrage
We had hoped that it would feel cooler cruising on the river but we couldn’t really tell the difference as there was no breeze, but we were glad we had bought the sunshade for the summer sun.

Cruising down the Yonne on our way to join the Seine in a few days
The locks on this part of the Yonne are half the size (100 metres long) of those we will encounter on the Seine (or indeed encountered on the Saône) but we still felt pretty small in them as we were the only occupants.  The locks seemed to empty quite slowly compared to those on other rivers but one éclusier kept us entertained by playing his guitar in the shade as he waited for the water to drain out.

Our busking éclusier
We were soon heading into Joigny and moored up for the day opposite a 2-star Michelin restaurant.  With starters starting at €68 we decided to give it a miss, even with air conditioning 😉

For once we managed to find a bit of shade by mooring up to some trees

Opposite the Côte St Jacques restaurant in Joigny
It has been so hot that Buddy hasn't wanted to walk far so later in the afternoon Karen went off on her own to find the local bricolage.  We needed a second sunshade as we have been finding that one sunshade is not enough to cover all three of us so.  She was successful and the plan seemed to work when we were sitting on the back deck.  We'll have to wait until Sunday to see if it works okay whilst cruising.

On Saturday we cruised nine kilometres down two locks.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Migennes (back on the Yonne)

Moored on the outside at Migennes boatyard for the next week

Although the sun was out when we awoke on Tuesday, we had cloud cover by the time we set off at 9.30.  Saying that though, it was very warm and another day in the low 30s despite the cloud cover.

After about four kilometres we were approaching Migennes.  When we left here in March, we had thought it quite a drab quiet town with some industry.  Of course, now it’s summer, it looks completely different and is busy, but without the sun when we went through it didn’t really look its best in pictures.

Industry as we approached Migennes
A couple of boats were coming out of the first lock when we arrived so there wasn’t a problem, for once, about whether or not the message had got through to the éclusier that we were on our way.

Straight stretch before the port
The town had put on a fine display of plant pots on the bridges and along the streets and even around the lock in the centre of town.

The port was jam packed with hire boats when we were last here as it was before the hire season, but today there were only a few boats not rented out.

The lock in the centre of town marks the northern end of the Canal de Bourgogne and drops boats onto the River Yonne.  As there is a river on one side, the drop is variable but the éclusier told us it was five metres today.  We can remember seeing this lock when we took a walk around Migennes and being full of trepidation about going through such a deep lock.  As we had dropped 11 metres to get onto the River Saône from the Canal du Centre a month ago we wondered what we had been worried about 😉

Leaving the last lock on the Canal de Bourgogne
We were soon on the River Yonne, which was very calm, and turned left towards Simon Evan’s boatyard where we had been dropped in the water all those weeks ago.

Back on the River Yonne
As soon as we were on the river, I rang Simon to check where we should moor.  He gave us a temporary mooring on the outside of three other boats while we sort ourselves out for the next couple of days.  We will then move it on Wednesday evening to a more permanent position whilst we are back in the UK.

As we were mooring up, I could hear Karen talking to a couple of people and it turned out to be Ian & Lisette on Catharina Elisabeth.  We were moored next to them before setting off at the start of the season and had conversed by email off and on over the last few weeks.  They have been coming over from Australia for the last six summers to cruise on their boat and had arrived for this season last weekend.  It was good to finally meet them in the flesh and, as we have to traipse over their boat to get on and off ours, we will be bumping into them a lot over the next day or so. Oh, and Lisette is mad keen on lavoirs!

Ian & Lisette washing down Catharina Elisabeth
Everyone in the yard seemed to be busy working on or cleaning their boats ready for extended cruises but we did have a quick cuppa with Ian & Lisette before lunch.  As we haven’t been inside a Dutch barge before nor they a narrowboat we will be closing that gap tomorrow, no doubt with some wine to celebrate.  During the day we also chatted quite a bit with the other couple in the picture who were protecting themselves from the sun but I’m afraid I don’t recall their names.

The clouds all but disappeared over lunch and it became even hotter, but we had jobs to do.  Poor old Buddy, being nervous, found it difficult getting onto the quayside.  As we are a low boat, he has to get on our roof first which he really hates but once on the barge next to us he was soon getting across the three larger boats to reach dry land.

One of the first jobs was to make sure the car was Ok, which it was, so we took a trip down to Grand Frais near Auxerre as we promised Sue & Paul, who will be looking after Buddy for the next week, that we would get them some halloumi.  It seems Grand Frais (= French Waitrose) is the only supermarket that stocks it over here.  While we were out, we also got a French gas bottle (yes, the fixings are different to UK ones) and filled up our jerry cans with diesel.

It was hot work carrying the jerry cans and full gas bottle across to the boat when we got back but we did it without any mishap.  And some other good news, the gas adaptor I had purchased in the UK worked on the French gas bottle 😊.  It always amazes us how long gas bottles last (up to three months) considering we do all our cooking using gas apart from barbeques of course.

Evening at Migennes
It was lovely being on the river, but we were rather wishing there would be a breeze to cool us down.  Of course, we’re now not sure what sort of clothes to pack for the UK as, if the weather is the same it will be like last year’s heatwave when we were in Yorkshire.

After Tuesday’s seven kilometres down two locks we are back where we started from having covered a circular route around Burgundy covering 663 kilometres through 389 locks.  Apart from feeling very nervous when we cruised in extremely windy weather on the River Saône we have enjoyed every minute of it and would do it all again.  It was our fault that we cruised on that windy day so even those nerves could have been avoided. 

Our journey started by heading south to Auxerre on the River Yonne where we picked up the Canal du Nivernais and continued south to Decize.  After a short stint on the River Loire we continued south east to Digoin on the Canal Latéral à la Loire.  Then we joined the Canal du Centre heading north east to Châlon-sur-Saône.  That was when we joined the River Saône up to St-Jean-de-Losne where we joined the last canal, the Bourgogne to head back north(ish) to Migennes.

We have seen some beautiful countryside in a part of France neither of us really knew before.  We have met some lovely people, both boaters and non, and realise now that the trepidation of how we would be accepted as Brits was totally unfounded.  Without exception we have been made to feel at home and many French people have told us we are more than welcome over here and should stay.

So that’s the end of our first epic adventure which we would highly recommend and would love to repeat.  The next one will be a lot shorter as we are only going down the Yonne and then the Seine into Paris, but it will be quite different.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Esnon (the last stretch)

Moored at Esnon for a couple of days
For those of you who’re a little tired of hearing about lavoirs then fear not as we saw none on Sunday.  You’re not saved from the other recent repetitive theme though: éclusiers not turning up.

My morning walk with Buddy took us around the small park in St-Florentin that we hadn’t visited during our stay here, not even on the heritage tour.  Once again, the sun was out, and it felt very warm even first thing in the morning.  Two rivers run through the town, the River Armançon that we have been following for some days now and a tributary to it, the River Armançe.  The Armançe is the river that flows through the park and where we saw what looks like a bandstand built as an island without access.

The island bandstand in the River Armançe
We had definitely agreed on Friday afternoon that we wanted to go down the St-Florentin lock at 10.00am on Sunday.  The éclusier and both of us even repeated what we agreed a couple of times and we heard him ringing it in too.

As we were moored in sight of the lock, we could see no sign of life as ten o’clock approached but we were being positive and pulled up to the aqueduct just before the lock so we could stake our claim 😉

Sure enough no one turned up and I called both the numbers that were (unusually) present at the last lock we went down on Friday and I had made sure I had made a note of them.  As luck wouldn’t have it, both went through to answerphone, so I left messages on both.  The next approach was to ring the port and get a number from them.  Both numbers given in the waterways guide for the port were no longer in service, so we resorted to a web search and finally found the correct number. 

The guy who answered was extremely helpful and even said everything in French and English which was amazing as we hadn’t stayed in his jurisdiction as he pointed out 😉 He said he had seen us waiting on the aqueduct and had already rung VNF and said an éclusier was on his way.  He also mentioned that those who pay for moorings in the marina or quayside (in his jurisdiction) get the additional service of him arranging an éclusier for them.

Zachariah was our enthusiastic éclusier who saw us through the first three locks and was full of apologies.  In the past, when we haven’t moved for a couple of days, we have been knocked up by an éclusier checking when we want to leave, not so over the last week.  We do remember seeing Zachariah scooting past us several times over the weekend, enthusiastically waving, but never thinking of stopping.

A rather twee lock cottage
Because of the delay in getting going we didn’t complete our journey before lunch so stopped just short of a place called Brienon-sur-Armançon having arranged to restart at 1.30.  This time the éclusiere was ready for us when we arrived, and she quickly got us through.  We were back to a guy at the last lock and when he asked when we wanted to move on again, I made sure I saw what he wrote in his notebook.  Yes, he had written down ‘Chalkhill Blue 2 – mardi – 10’.  Mind you I did confuse it all to start with as I had been thinking today was Monday and not Sunday so had originally said we wouldn’t move until mercredi!

Last lock of the day – Moulin Neuf at Brienon-sur-Armançon
As we came out of the lock, we passed a blackberry bush in full bloom and it seemed to be smothered with marbled white butterflies.  If you can ever see one at rest, we think you will see they are really beautiful butterflies.

Image from
We moored up at a small village called Esnon and will be staying here for a couple of days before our last cruise on Tuesday before coming back to the UK for a few days.

On Sunday we cruised 12 kilometres down five locks.

As it was going to be a hot day on Monday, Karen went for her run early and I put another coat of undercoat on the side we are working on.  First, I had to do a bit of gardening by cutting back the long grass and nettles on the bank to avoid being stung when I was doing the painting.

When Karen returned, she said that the towpath back down to Brienon-sur-Armançon was practically in the shade all the way and suggested we took a bike ride down there.  We were glad we did as we found three lavoirs!  I will refrain from saying too much about them other than their basins weren’t the usual rectangular shape, instead being round, oval or hexagonal.  They will be added to the ‘Lavoir’ tab with more information when I find the time 😉

Cycling past the port at Brienon-sur-Armançon
The three lavoirs of Brienon-sur-Armançon
 The town church seemed to be quite a mash up of styles from the outside.

Some of the streets and a château in the middle of the town:


On the ride back we stopped at a lock as we saw Kev & Deb were having lunch on their boat, Rangali, while they waited for the end of the éclusier’s lunch break.  We had been moored near each other when we spent a couple of days in Tanlay last week.  We had a quick chat about our respective plans but had to leave as we were getting rather hot standing out in the open.

Later in the afternoon we had a walk around Esnon and were rather surprised by this strange looking building on the edge of the village:

The reason we were surprised was that it turned out to be a lavoir.  So after saying I wouldn’t mention them I kept my word for Sunday but with four in one day on Monday I just couldn’t resist it.  Oh, and while I'm at it, you may remember I said that Peter & Helen, who visited us on Friday, had told us that they were also keen on lavoirs.  This morning I received an email and pictures from Helen as they had found a lavoir at St Gengoux-le-National after leaving us. 

On Tuesday we will be heading the last six kilometres back to Migennes when we will have completed our round tour of Burgundy – 414 miles through 389 locks since 27th March 😅

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.