The navigable portion of the River Seille is only 38 kilometers and, except for small villages and the larger market town of Louhans at the end of the navigation, twists and turns through a rural landscape of cornfields, trees and livestock farms. There are only 4 small locks and, in a new twist, only the first lock off the Saone is staffed. Boaters have to operate the other three themselves.
Water traffic on the river was first recorded around 1000 with rock salt being carried down the river to the monks at Tournus. The locks and bridges were installed in the late 1700's. Commercial traffic, never very heavy, dwindled throughout the years and it took serious work in the 1980's to save the canal from dereliction.
Now there are four hire boat companies renting boats along the river and there is quite a bit of traffic.
We left the pontoon at Tournus about 9:30 am and made the 6 k to the entrance to the river in a little less than an hour. We made our way through the first lock and then found a spot on the bank just 6 k up the river. We were tied up in plenty of time for lunch.
Cathy Jo does a little gardening.
We traveled a little further Friday, finding another bank mooring in the trees after negotiating one lock. It seems that since there is so much hireboat (read - inexperienced) traffic on the river, the hireboat companies have hired people to staff the locks so there was an eclusier. Lucky, too, because there was a line of boats waiting for the lock and without help it would have taken much longer than the nearly an hour it took to get through.
The end of day three found us at our ultimate destination and the end of the navigation, the town of Louhans. The home of the only chicken with it's own AOC, the Bresse chicken, and an amazing market.
From David Downie's "Food and Wine" (The Little Bookroom, 2010), "If you visit one market in Burgundy, make it Louhans. It ranks among the top three in France. Held since the 1200's, from dawn to 1 pm Mondays. … Stands mushroom all over this surprisingly charming, little-known farm town of 6,000 inhabitants. You'll find eggs, live chicks, mature birds, the feeds and treatments for them, cages, poultry farmers' tools and chicken theme knicknacks. Live ducks, geese, rabbits, goats, porkers, sheep and other livestock are ranged amid items normally found at other markets, from fruits and vegetables to wines and cheeses, terrines, salamis, pates, candy, chocolate, herbs, plants and seeds." And, he might have added, every type of clothing item known to man (or woman). "Arrive early: tens of thousands attend, the atmosphere is festive, and traffic snarls." He was right on every count. It was MADNESS!!!
Looking down Grand Rue, Louhans' main street. According the the tourist office brochure it is the longest street with arcades in France. 157 arcades, the oldest dating from the 15th century, line both sides. If not for all the people and tents, you might be able to see them!
Our plan had been to leave after the market on Monday afternoon but it was pretty windy and we'd had a wild morning so we decided to stay put and leave Tuesday morning.
We awoke to the sound of rain on the cabin roof but the shower had passed by departure time so we shoved off.
As before, the last lock up the river was unstaffed so we had to work it ourselves, but the other two had lockkeepers. We tied up in the same spot we enjoyed our first night on the river after a brief lunchtime stop in the village of Loisy to admire the 12th century chateau and the still-working mill.
Wednesday morning we were off again, re-entering the Saone River and tied up in Tournus by 11:15.