Our Barge, Odysseus

Friday, September 30, 2011

The River Seille - Aug. 4 - 10

Just going over the blog, reliving this summers travels, we realized that our trip on the Seille River and visit to the market in Louhans didn't get posted. Because of the way Blogger archives posts things will be out of order but without further ado....

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.

On the bank in the trees.
Cathy Jo does a little gardening.

Heading up the river.

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!

These girls are headed for somebody's pot.

Fruit and veggie HQ.

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.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Map for 2011

Here is the map for our 2011 trip. As before, you can zoom in to see what we saw, albeit from the air. Some really beautiful country this year. Also, the .kml file will open the map in Google Earth for even more options.

Next year? We'll see.

And we've had a couple of nibbles on the boat. As I said before: Next year? We'll see.


View Voyage 2011 in a larger map

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (well, vans) Sept. 2

The trip home as planned was to take the Eurostar from Paris to London with an hour to make the tube trip from the train to Heathrow and then time for a leisurely lunch before our flight left at 4, then a shuttle van home.
Things got a little dicey when there was a signal problem on the Eurostar tracks and we ended up sitting in a tunnel in the English countryside for about 1 1/2 hours. Then the 1 hour subway ride ran a little long because of some delays on the tracks so our leisurely lunch turned into wolfing down paninis while on the way to the gate for our flight.
After an on-time departure we headed north.
The trip takes the great circle route from London to Los Angeles; leaving England and crossing Scotland, Iceland and Greenland before heading south just west of Hudson Bay, crossing Montana, Wyoming and Nevada before entering California airspace. Since the flight leaves at 4 and lands at 7 pm heading west, the whole thing is in daylight. Usually it clouds up the minute you head north but this time we were blessed with clear skies over most of the trip and a great view of the western Greenland fjords.

And not a wing shot among 'em!

There was a great swimming pool in this iceberg. Don't know that I'd want to go swimming in there, though.

We landed on time at 7:15 pm. Unfortunately, several oversees flights had landed before us and the customs and immigration hall was full. We couldn't leave the plane for about half an hour, then stood in line for about an hour and a half to get our passports scanned.
After the van made two circles around the airport looking for more passengers we headed up the freeway only to get stuck in traffic caused by a wreck on one of the busiest freeways in Los Angeles.
Finally, at 11 pm we were at our door. Thankfully, Mary, who had stayed in the house while we were gone, left us with a freshly made bed and coffee for the morning. This years trip was over.

Paris - Aug. 30 - Sept. 2

After getting things settled at our room, off we went into the city up to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. Except for a brief stay three years ago on the boat, we've always been in Paris either mid-May or mid-September and we hadn't realized the full impact of tourist-Paris. The butte was jumpin! The small sidewalk cafes were all packed and the narrow streets were full of "yoots," this area being a popular hangout. We had a really good pizza at the local "Pink Flamingo," and after a little stroll around the area, headed back to our room. Tomorrow would be eventful; a trip to Versailles.

Upon good advice, we purchased our entrance tickets to the palace at the train station before departing. That meant we only had to stand in one, 1 hour line for entrance to the chateau itself. Standing in line did give us a great view of the complex.

The old brick and stone chateau of Louis XIII was transformed by his son, Louis XIV beginning in 1661. The work continued until his death in 1715 but there were continual "upgrades" made well into the 18th century under the reigns of Louis' XV and XVI. In 1789 the king and his family were run out of the chateau at the beginning of the French revolution. In the mid 1800's it was officially opened to outsiders.

Some great trompe l'oeils painting on the ceiling in part of the Kings chamber.

The man, himself.

The Hall of Mirrors.

The Latone Fountain and Parterre, then the Grand Canal at the base of the "Green Carpet" and the Apollo Fountain. Unfortunately, they don't turn the water on in the fountains except on special occasions.

There are some pretty specialized jobs required to keep up a place like this. This craftsman was repairing the arm of one of the statues along the Green Carpet.

Everybody needs a lawn ornament like this.

We spent all day wandering about the chateau, the nearby Grand and Petite Trianons and the gardens. It was a beautiful day but we were a little footsore by the time we got back to the room about 6.

Happily, the weather during our stay in Paris was very pleasant. There was a little shower while we were at dinner on Wednesday night but other than that is was sunny and warm.
Thursday we spent just wandering around the city, visiting the area by the Seine, the St. Germaine neighborhood and the Notre Dame cathedral. We didn't go into the church, however. The place was crawling with tourist groups.
Friday morning it was up early. We had a 9 oclock train to catch. We were homeward bound.

Misc. Pictures - Where Do I Put These?

This is what happens when you do too many locks!

Cathy Jo's locking tools.

An indestructible ping-pong table near the Auberge du Coney. Even the "net" is cement!

Be careful when driving the car near canals. Especially on the ones that end up at the water.

Dave and Gill Renshaw's beautiful "Avontuur." We met them first two years ago on the Nivernais when they saved us with a hose clamp and this year on the Bourgogne and again on the Centre.

The Petite Rhone in the village of Chanaz on the Lac du Bourget.

Last Days on Odysseus? Aug 24-29

Maybe our last trip on Odysseus took place on Wednesday as we left the dock for the short trip to the fuel dock, filled up the tank and returned; about an hour in all. We had just a few short days to get the boat cleaned up, ready for winter and ready to be shown to potential new owners.
We intended to leave the boat fully ready for the next owners, "Go to the grocery store, bring your clothes, turn the key and go!" so we wouldn't be taking much more than personal stuff home. But over the years we'd accumulated quite a bit of "extras" that would have to be sorted through and either kept or discarded. France makes a special effort to publish lots of information for tourists and we figured it was our obligation to collect some of it. Didn't seem like we needed to keep a two year old schedule of summer activities in Alsace, though.
We also took the opportunity to do a little visiting. St. Jean de Losne is a central location for many English speaking boaters so we were able to make contact with peopled we'd missed over the last couple of years.

The St. Jean de Losne Gare d'Eau, home of two marinas.
Odysseus is on the left-most very long finger.
To the left is the beginning of the Canal du Bourgogne.

Tuesday the 30th about noon we locked up the boat and dragged our suitcases up the dock. The train from St. Jean to Dijon left at 12:45 and only took about half an hour so there was time for lunch before our 4:50 pm date with the bullet train to Paris.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Up the Saone, Onto the Centre - Aug. 16-23

Tuesday it was up the river again but not before one last good look at Tournus, a town we really liked.

We still had several days until we were expected at the sales dock in St. Jean de Losne so we decided to revisit one of the places we really enjoyed when we were in this area two years ago.
Tournus to the village of Fragnes, just at the beginning of the Canal du Centre, took up Tuesday. Wednesday we continued up the canal to a bankside mooring a couple of kilometers below the village of Rully. There's another great chateau in Rully although since it's still in private hands, only the gardens were open the day we were there. It's still a very imposing residence.

Some winemakers in Rully specialize in Cremant de Bourgogne, the sparkling wine made in the champagne style. We found one whose output combined the usual chardonnay grape with the sharper aligote grape. Delicious!
The next morning it was off to Santenay.
Santenay is a beautiful village just on the southern end of Burgundy's Cote d'Or and the quay looks out on a beautiful view of the valley of the Dheune River. Once again we found our preferred spot vacant and tied up.

The picture from 2 years ago. Nothing's changed.

Friday we rode the bikes through the countryside to see the reason this is all here.

Pinot on the hoof!

After another great dinner at Du Terroir, a restaurant in town, it was off again Saturday morning.
It had turned punishing hot on the canal so we found a shady spot in Fragnes Saturday afternoon and spent some time seeking shade in the nearby park. Sunday we bicycled to the river, about half an hour away, for a little swimming. Monday after a brief stop at the waterside grocery store, not a supermarche, not a hypermarche, but an Espace Cultural complete with canal bank mooring, we reentered the Saone.
The afternoon found us on the pontoon in the village of Gergy where swimming was in order.
Tuesday was a long day, 45 kilometers but only two locks and another good look at what the French call "fishing."

By 4 pm, Odysseus was in the slip where it would spend the winter and, maybe, find a new owner.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to the Medieval - Brancion and Cluny

Sunday started off clear but by the time we hit the road it had clouded over again. We headed for Brancion anyway; when we visited on Friday we hadn't gone inside the remains of the chateau and it seemed like we really should.
Only residents are allowed to bring their cars into the village, everybody else has to park outside and walk in.
The town is perched on a spur of land between two ravines overlooking the countryside. Its dominated by the remains of the feudal castle which dates back to the 12th century.

One wall of the ruined interior showed an old fireplace with it's flanking windows.

Climbing to the top of the tower gives a great view of the village, with the church on the end of the plateau and the limestone-roofed market hall.

After Brancion, if was off to the abbey town of Cluny, and now it was really raining.
The monastery in Cluny was formed in 910 and it only took a couple of dynamic abbots to build the abbey into a major power. The abbot was very close to the Pope and the abbey church was, until the 1800's second only to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. All over the region, monks from Cluny built their distinctive, romanesque churches. But, as happens, the power of Cluny declined and in the 1800's the abbey church was mostly dismantled for it's building materials.
We never could figure out why the tower in town is called the Tour des Fromages, the Cheese Tower, but we climbed it for the view.

After Cluny it ws back to the boat. The car had to be turned in Monday morning and after a train ride back to Tournus, we'd be heading back north.
But first, one of the reasons we're here.

Touring the Countryside - Aug. 11-15

When we were in Tournus before our trip to the Seille, we had moored on a pontoon south of the city's main bridge. Stays there are limited to 2 nights. On the north quay, however, stays of up to three weeks are allowed and, if you know where to look and get there early enough, free power is available. We satisfied both criteria when we arrived Wednesday afternoon so we decided to take advantage of the situation, rent a car for three days and tour the Maconnais, home of the Burgundian white "noble grape," chardonnay.
Since there were no car rentals offered in Tournus, we took the half hour train ride south to Macon and picked up a car at the train station. Off we went in our Peugeot 107.
Our first stop was the Roche de Solutre, what the Michelin Guide calls a "true emblem of southern Maconnais…that can be seen from miles away. The superb limestone escarpment, with its slender outline and sphinx's profile, is one of the major prehistoric sites in France." It positively called out for a climb.

From the top of the rock you look down on the villages of Pouilly and Fuisse, which give their names to very fine white wines.

We wound our way through the vineyards following one part of the Burgundy Wine Road; the villages of Verze, Ige and Aze. We had hoped to find a restaurant for lunch but hadn't had any luck. We did find an open boulangerie, however, and after buying a baguette, asked the woman behind the counter if there was a restaurant nearby. "Ma oui!," was the reply and we were directed to La Dirose in the nearby village of Serrieres.
Those of you longtime readers may remember the 11 euro lunch on the Marne River three years ago. This was another one of those: three courses with wine included for 11 euro 50. The "menu du jour" began with a terrine du mason, a sort of cold homemade meatloaf. Usually your plate arrives with a slice of the terrine, a salad and some cornichons, small, sour dill pickles. At Dirose, we got the whole loaf pan with a knife stuck in the middle; serve yourself! It was followed by a fish stew (it was Friday, after all), and desert, all washed down with a delicious local white wine dispensed into the bottle from a tapped barrel. We waddled back to the car.
The days touring concluded with a stop at Brancion, a feudal market town. The day was gray and overcast, not great for pictures and it had been a pretty long day already. We just wandered through the village, but since it was just 20 minutes from Tournus and the weather was supposed to improve, we decided to come back on Sunday.
Saturday was a beautiful day so we used the opportunity to travel to Lac du Bourgé, France's largest natural freshwater lake. It gave Cathy Jo a chance to dip her toes in some really clear, cool water.

And off in the distance, the Alps.

Sunday morning we used the car for a serious grocery shopping and then headed off again.

Saone Ship Traffic

While not the biggest or busiest river in France, the Saone does carry a variety of commercial traffic.

Here's a barge with a "pusher" tug.

This is the older "peniche" style commercial boat.
She's about 130 ft. long and 16 ft. wide.

This guy barely made it under the bridge in Tournus.

We saw quite a few of these cruise ships on the river.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Why Young Men Would Enjoy French Canal Cruising

Tim just emailed us these pictures from our trip.

On the Burgundy Canal all of the locks must be operated manually (check out the "Lock Game" in the sidebar and you can see the principals by which the locks operate if you don't already know). During the summer when things are busy, teams of lockkeepers, usually one professional VNF (Voies Navigables de France, the French waterways authority) employee with a student or two hired for the summer, operate a string of 2, 3, or 4 locks and then pass you on to the next team. When we left Vandenesse, the VNF guy seemed very happy, whistling while he worked and greeting us with a hearty "Bonjour!" when we approached the first lock. Then we got a look at his team. Oh, la la!

Nobody else was moving yet so we got these three for three locks.

The lock doors open with long levers and the doors can be pretty hard to open when the water is still pressing against them. Ms. Ducret and her "friend" were putting their backs into this door.

And then there were these happy boaters getting ready to go up a lock. The photographer had abandoned his post!

Thanks for the pics, Tim!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Tournus - August 2-4

Hugh McNight calls Tournus "one of the most pleasing towns on the entire river," and we would have to agree. Just big enough to have all of the necessities (grocery, a good selection of boulangeries and specialty shops), but small enough to easily navigate on foot; great old buildings and some narrow twisting streets. It also has a two day free mooring pontoon with water and electricity (if you can fight off the hireboats for a spot!).
The centerpiece of the old town in the abbey church of St. Philibert, a romanesque construction from the 11th and 12th centuries, although the crypt (which is open to the public) dates from the 6th.

The interior has been tastefully restored.

Here's one of those narrow alleyways from the middle ages.
Wednesday morning we visited the 17th century Hotel-Dieu which the town has maintained in magnificent fashion.
We visited the Hospices of Beaune several years ago and this facility is right up there. The hospitals for the poor and destitute were constructed with donated funds; the nobles providing the money to fulfill their "Christian charity." The Beaune facility was willed several very prosperous vineyards to provide it's endowment; the Hotel-Dieu in Tournus wasn't so lucky. But because of this, little upgrading was performed over the years and when the hospital finally closed in 1982, little had to be done to restore it to it's original state.
Just like in Beaune, the patients had a curtained bed (with a stool to reach it) that had a door in the back allowing entrance to a passageway for the nursing nuns to use for access.

There were three wards, one for women, one for men and one for soldiers, all radiating from a central chapel that was visible from all the wards so the patients could join in the celebration of religious services.

The view from above; men's ward in the foreground, women's ward on the other side of the central altar and the soldiers ward to the left, out of the picture.

Another part of the building housed the Apothecary with its cabinets holding all of the elixirs required for medicine in the 17th century.

Hand-blown glass jars held these two "medicines."

Tournus is in the "Maconnaise" region, home of France's finest white wines and there's a great cave just outside of town that features the local cooperatives wines. On the site of an old gas station, it's only been open for three months and they've really gone all out to provide a first-class facility. It turned out to be a little more of a walk than we thought but, luckily for us, after our tasting and purchases, the owner provided us with a ride back to the boat in his car. Service with a smile!

Thursday morning it was off again. Just 6 kilometers down the Saone we turned left and though a lock into our next navigation, the Seille River.