Spring 2012 – Week7 Recap (he said)3 Jul 2012
We began the week at the very top of the Canal de Bourgogne, about 1000 feet above sea level, the highest point on the water route between the Med and the English Channel. The canal quickly drops off the summit into the Brenne/Armançon valley; the first 40 kilometers north of the summit contains 55 locks, including one stretch with 40 locks over just 15 kilometers.
People say the Burgundy Canal south of the summit is the most beautiful part, but if this week’s section of the northern half is not as nice, it’s only slightly less stunning. The hills are a little more widely spaced, and the valleys are a little wider with bigger fields, but the villages are just as beautiful, and the provisioning options are a touch better than last week.
Sunday afternoon, after crossing a 10km stretch with no locks, we stopped in Pont Royal, a nice free mooring with pay water and electricity available. We hoped to see the England vs. Italy semifinal Euro Cup match, but the only local bar closed at dinnertime (?). Fortunately, Arthur and Annebärbel (Barbara), the nice Swiss couple we’ve seen off-and-on since Dijon, invited us over to watch the game on their satellite TV. The weight of two extra people on the boat changed the dish alignment a bit, but Barbara quickly went outside and made some adjustments and everything was fine. We contributed dessert and a bottle of Muscat, and settled in to watch England hold off the strong Italian attack for the full 90 minutes plus 30 minutes of extended play. Italy finally prevailed in a shootout, as they deserved to. Arthur thinks they are the strongest team in the tournament, and may just win the title. We’ll check back in next week’s recap to see whether he was right.
Monday was un grand jour des écluses (a big day of locks). We appeared for our 9am appointment at lock 14, accompanied by Arthur and Barbara in their boat Ichtus. The next two locks were spaced a couple km each, and then the fun began. By noon, and after 14 locks, Ichtus was finished, and they stopped for the night in Marigny-le-Cahouet. We started again at 1pm and continued all the way to Pouillenay, only 6km farther, but with 19 additional locks! Once we moored up we reviewed our progress in the book, and confirmed that we had traversed a total of 33 locks in 6.5 hours of travel, easily a factor of two more than we had ever done before. Definitely not a record we have an interest in breaking. Amazingly, we actually had time available to do another six or seven locks before closing time, but Pouillenay was the best mooring spot around so there was no need to push any farther.
Fortunately, our big day Monday meant that Tuesday’s trip was an easy morning drive into Venarey-les-Laumes, a medium-sized town with two big supermarché. We used both to restock our pantry and fridge, as the last real shopping had been last Saturday afternoon back in Pouilly-en-Auxois. From Venarey it was an easy bike ride into Les Laumes-Alésia to their weekly street market, and we continued our ride up the steep hill into Alise-Ste-Reine, a hillside town overlooking the beautiful Brenne river valley.
Our Wednesday morning cruise took us into Montbard, the biggest town since Dijon two weeks ago. The port area is somewhat industrial but the town itself crawls up a couple hillsides and is quite lovely to look at. It was definitely time for a laundry day, and we found the laverie automatique after a few false starts. The town claims the famed naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, as its own, even though he was born about 10km away in Les Granges-sous-Grignon. In addition to a big statue of the man, we found a Buffon Park, Buffon Chapel, Buffon Institute, Hôtel Buffon, le Petit Buffon restaurant and even Les Grandes Forges de Buffon a little ways up the canal. That evening we watched Spain and Portugal play to a 0-0 tie over 120 minutes, just like the England-Italy game. Spain prevailed in the shootout so they will appear in Sunday’s final match.
Montbard is also a major rail stop, useful since our friend Jen arrived in France Thursday from DC. A couple quick train rides and she was aboard, celebrating Thursday happy hour on deck with a flight of French cheese and wine. Our dinner resulted from a nice surprise; the daughter of our new French friends in Dijon, Cécile, works in Montbard, and she showed up at mid day with a sack of lettuce, radishes, and edible flowers from her garden. We turned it into a big salad with goat cheese toasts, topped with the edible flowers. It was so incredibly nice for her to take her lunch hour to come find us in the port. We’ve now met almost the entire family except for one sister.
Later in the evening it was back to the pizza place to watch the other semifinal match, Germany vs. Italy. Italy was too strong right from the first minute, and never gave Germany a chance, securing their spot against Spain in the finals with a pair of goals by Mario Balotelli, a classic Italian name except for the fact that he’s a huge black guy with more than a passing resemblance to Idi Amin.
After two nights in Monbard we set out Friday morning for Aisy-sur-Armançon, with a stop at Les Forges de Buffon, which date from the mid 18th century. This was the most advanced forge of its day, combining stamp mill, smelter, refinery, and rolling mill in one site. The Armançon River was diverted into a pond, then diverted into three different waterwheels to run the various operations. The forge worked for close to 100 years before a massive flood in 1866 destroyed the iron-making capacity. For a few decades the site was used to produce cement, but all commercial activity stopped in 1923. The forge was restored in the mid 1970′s and has been an historical site ever since.
Saturday we moved a little farther north to Ravières, and its sister village of Nuits-sur-Armançcon. In Nuits we visited the restored Château, which in the 16th century controlled the valley with the elegance of a pleasure villa but with the defensive duties of a military fort. The area is along the classical border between Burgundy and Champagne, and over the years was the site of many battles between Catholics and Protestants. The interior has three separate sections depicting furniture and accessories from the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. That evening we watched a beautiful sunset from deck while enjoying Heather’s marinated pork chops and herbed rice.
Looking forward to next week we should have several more opportunities for Château visits, plus a swing through the tiny vineyards of Tonnerre, one of the many less-famous wine-growing areas of Burgundy. We will also report on the final match of the Euro Cup football (soccer) tournament, it’s touch-and-go whether we can find a town containing not only a bar with a TV, but a bar with a TV that’s also open Sunday night. Because much of France is usually closed, this could be a big roadblock to us watching the game. If all else fails we can hope to end up in port with Ichtus and their satellite TV again. Stay tuned!
Spring 2012 Week 7 Numbers:
- Kilometers: 72
- Locks: 75
- Engine Hours: 21
- Cost of Moorings: 20.00 euros
Spring 2012 Total Numbers:
- Kilometers: 626
- Locks: 276
- Engine Hours: 130
- Cost of Moorings: 183.60 euros