Our Barge, Odysseus

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

To Auxerre - July 18-23

Since it was a whole 32 kilometers from Joigny to Auxerre it would take us two day to make the trip. We spent the night in a little town called Gurgy alongside the bank at the city park. One of it's features was a woman selling postcards and objets d'art and giving foot massages. Ines and Cathy Jo thought it would be a good place for a picture.

Saturday about noon we arrived in Auxerre. It's supposed to be one of France's most beautiful cities and we'd have to agree. Twisty streets lined with 13th century timber-framed buildings, hidden squares and a waterfront dominated by two beautiful churches make it very picturesque.

Religious buildings are documented on the site of the Saint Germaine Abbey since the 5th century and the crypts under the existing building date from the mid-800's but most the the building now visible is from later. The church itself was completed in the 13th and 14 centuries, the tower in the 12th while the cloister, sleeping quarters and refectory date from the 17th. The buildings now house Auxerre's Museum of Art and History with a collection of medieval and Gallo-Roman art and artifacts.

The other church looming over the waterfront is St. Etienne's Cathedral. Here, the crypts date from the 11th century with work on the main buildings as they now stand taking place between the 13th and 16th. As I mentioned before, we're now out of World War territory so most of the stained glass and statuary remains from the original, although most of the smaller outside carvings have lost their heads in the various religious wars and revolutions France has experienced.

This is the view of the front of the cathedral.

The city also has a great clock tower built in the 15th century on the foundation of what was originally a Gallo-Roman tower and first used as the count's prison. One side tells the hour, the other the positions of the sun and moon throughout the day.

The town's mascot is Cadet Roussel. Guillaume Roussel moved to Auxerre in 1763 and after serving as a servant and footman, set himself up as a private bailiff. Apparently he was just a little eccentric. One of his political enemies composed a song to make fun of him but it was taken up as a marching song by soldiers during the 1792 French Revolution and became famous throughout France. A town mascot deserves a statue.

Tuesday about noon Ines took the train back to Paris, hopefully this time the 1 hour trip is was supposed to be and about 5 pm our friends John and Patti Hardman arrived. You may remember them as the people who got us into this barging thing in the first place. A link to their blog is in the sidebar. They are in northern France and Alsace this year and left Capri in Toul to drive down for a day's visit. On Wednesday, John helpfully took me to the nearby hypermarche so I could fill up the jerry jugs with cheap diesel and exchange a butane cylinder then he and Patti were going to take us out to lunch in the "nearby" village of Avallon. It's away from the canal too far for us to visit but supposedly very quaint. Unfortunately, "nearby" turned out to be about 50 kilometers. About the time we were about ready to chew off the ends of our fingers, John said "Here!" He pulled into a small restaurant in some unknown village and, in another great French moment, we had a wonderful lunch on the terrace overlooking a park.
About 4 pm John and Patti headed off and we made one more run to the grocery store for provisions. The wine rack and the pantry were full. Time to be off down the Nivernais!

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