Our Barge, Odysseus

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Back Down the Bourgogne - July 22-28

More rain but less wind was on the agenda as we headed back down the canal toward Dijon. Luckily the scenery is very nice.

By Sunday we had returned to Dijon. On Monday after making Tim's train reservations for his Tuesday morning departure, we hit the town.
Since the weather was some better, we decided now was the time to make a trip up the Tour Philippe Le Bon. Built between 1450 and 1460, it was constructed on the site of another tower from the 12th century that had itself been built on the ruins of a Roman tower. It's 46 meters (about 150 feet) tall and gives a commanding view of Dijon's old quarter.

Looking East. St. Jean on the left and St. Philibert to it's right.

Place de Liberte. If it weren't raining this place would be jumpin'! The buildings facing it were the seat of the Ducs of Bourgogne government of old.

Dijon has many architecturally interesting buildings but we were especially taken by this Art Nouveau wonder.

And here, Tim demands satisfaction at the Palais de Justice.

They're building a tram system in Dijon. When it's done in 2013 it will be great. The current 20 minute walk from the marina to the train station will be cut to a 1 or 2 minute tram ride and you'll be able to cross the whole city in just minutes. In the meantime, since they decided to build both lines at once, major portions of Dijon are a mess. The area around the train station is especially bad with all the streets torn up. We thought this piece of construction belonged in an art museum.

Tuesday morning Tim left for Frankfurt and we did some shopping. Wednesday was museum day as all the museums in Dijon are free. Did you hear that? Free! Still no bike riding as the weather was still icky. Thursday we made the first lock at 9 am headed down the boring stretch. This time a big boat got to the front of the line somewhere along the way and delayed everybody but the only major rainstorm happened during lunch. Luckily we hadn't planned to get to the St. Jean town quay (now reopened) because we wouldn't have made it in any case. We staked ourselves to the bank just before the last lock on the Canal de Bourgogne at 6:50 pm. The last lock would wait until the morning. By 9:30 am Friday we were through the last lock, back onto the Saone River and secure at St. Jean's town quay.

Vandenesse and the Chateauneuf-en-Auxois - July 20

Who doesn't love a castle? We certainly do.
We entered the first lock on Wednesday at 9:30 all by ourselves. Up we went. While in the lock at St. Sabine we could get a view of our objective.

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois is a nearly intact 12th century stronghold originally built by Guy de Chaudenay. It was strengthened and extended over the next 300 years. It's now owned by the state and portions are open to the public. It's surrounded by a very quaint, picturesque village.
A little after 4 pm we were tied up in the port at Vandenesse, a little village about 5 k from the castle. Tomorrow we would make the hike.
In the meantime, we had an amazing view out our main cabin window.

Thursday morning was overcast with a few showers but we put on our raincoats, grabbed our umbrella and headed up the hill.

We spent a couple of hours inside the castle with it's tapestries and great rooms. Cathy Jo and Tim liked their new digs.

We also got some great views of the surrounding Burgundian countryside. That's the port at Vandenesse in the center of the picture.

Following yet another great French lunch at the Hostellerie du Chateau, we rolled down the hill. Dinner would be light tonite.
By afternoon the sun was breaking through the clouds and we got the "keeper" shot not too long before sundown.

Now if somebody would just photoshop out that electrical tower in the foreground.

Tomorrow we would turn around an head back down to Dijon.

The Canal de Bourgogne, Part Une - July 16-19

Serious planning for the Canal de Bourgogne, which connects the Yonne/Seine Rivers with the Saone, began in 1676 but work didn't begin on the section between the summit tunnel and the Saone until 1783. The Revolution and other turmoil caused extensive delays and the first through trip Paris/Dijon didn't occur until the end of 1832. Because there are so many locks and a 3.3 km summit tunnel there is no longer any commercial traffic, other than hotel barges, on the canal. But it's well known for it's beauty, especially the valley of the Ouche River (the part we would be navigating) so there is quite a bit of pleasure traffic.
Despite it's beauty further up, the first 25 k is boring; not a single turn as you cross the plain to Dijon, and 22 locks, all of them up on this leg of the trip. The locks are all manual, which means they all have to be operated by canal staff and they work from 9 am to 7 pm with 12-1 off for lunch. If we were going to do this in one day, which was our plan, everything had to work out just right.
We arrived at the first lock, but no one had passed along the word that we would be there so we had a wait for a lock keeper, and then a second wait while another boat joined us. Water levels are very low this year due to France's drought, so the canal staff tries to group boats whenever possible. Usually no problem except this put us in the front of the lock (not a great place to be when going up) in front of a cruiser operated by a couple that didn't seem to quite have a handle on this lock thing.

Going up!

Despite all that, including the stinky weather (occasional rain and very windy), we managed to pull into Dijon with about a half hour to spare.
Sunday the weather continued rainy (get used to this, you're going to hear it alot!) so we just wandered around town and indulged in one of our favorite French customs, Sunday lunch. After a particularly heavy shower we got a good demonstration of the French saying "Apres la pluie, le soleil" (after the rain, sun).

Since we would have to be back in Dijon on the 26th for Tim's train connection, we decided to get on with our journey up the Bourgogne. Our ultimate destination was Vandeness, just a couple of kilometers short of the summit tunnel, with Chateauneuf-en-Auxois nearby.
Monday morning it was up-and-at-em to make that first 9 o'clock lock and who should pull up behind us but the couple that had bedeviled our trip up from Dijon. They had once again cleverly managed to place themselves in the back of the lock.
We traveled about 15 k and cleared 13 locks, stopping for the day a little before 3 in the village of Fleury-sur-Ouche, while our "friends" carried on further. We didn't recognize it at the time because of all the new construction but we had stayed in this village with John and Patti Harman on their Capri during our very first barge trip. More rain ensued.
Tuesday was another 15 k, 13 locks and occasional rain to the village of St. Victor. Luckily we were securely tied up because it proceeded to get really windy in the evening. If we were going to make Vandenesse on Wednesday, it was going to be a little more work.

Hello Tim and To Dijon - July 11-15

Our original plan had been to stay at Bourgogne Marine, where we left Odysseus for the winter two years ago, just one day, organizing winter storage for this year. When we told Peter (last year's canal tractor; you remember him!) we were heading off to the Quay at St. Jean de Losne he said he thought the quay was closed for two weeks. A bike ride to St. Jean confirmed that the quay was being converted to bleachers for an upcoming canoe/kayak race and would be closed until the 24th. As it was the 12th and Tim would be arriving at the St. Jean train station on the 15th, we decided to stay put. Unfortunately, Christophe, who owns Bourgogne Marine, had decided to take an unscheduled vacation so the winter storage plans would have to be put on hold until our return the end of the month.

The St. Jean waterfront as it should be.

Bleachers under construction.

The morning of the 15th we left Bourgogne Marine, re-entered the Saone River for the brief trip to the entrance of the Canal de Bourgogne, just 5 kilometers away. We cleared the first lock into the canal and then staked ourselves to the bank. This was as close as we could get to the train station where Tim was supposed to arrive from Germany around 5 pm. A German train snafu ensued and he couldn't get his Skype connection working to let us know. The 5, 6 and 6:30pm trains arrived with no Tim. We walked back to the boat (about 20 minutes) and Cathy Jo started dinner while a note with directions to the boat was prepared for taping to the wall at the station for later trains. Luckily, the note, being delivered by bicycle, arrived just about the same time as Tim and all was well.
The next day would be long and tough so everything was made ready for departure.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Gray to the Completion of the Circle June 8 - 11

We left Ray sur Saone about 8 am; we had a little over 30 k to make before our next stop and it helps to be tied up early in the day so a spot is assured. However, when we reached Gray, we realized that wasn't necessary; there's lots of room on the quay and, if you're positioned where your cord will reach, free electricity. Ours is very long. It reached.
The weather had improved and Gray is a pretty big town with another of those cherished cruising items, a supermarket close enough to push the grocery cart right to the boat; no lugging all those heavy bottles of wine! We decided to spend a day.
After visiting the tourist office for a chat with a very enthusiastic, English-speaking tourist office lady, we made a brief walking tour of the town admiring it's 15th century church

and gazing over the red roofs of Gray.

The river runs right through the middle of town with a lock and weir combination (the weir is a sort of dam that keeps the river at the necessary depth for navigation) under a bridge that spans the river.

The lock is just to the left (follow the arrow) and the Quay Malvia,
where we were tied up, is just right of the picture.

Now that we were starting to get closer the St. Jean de Losne, central France's boating center, we were starting to meet more English speakers, a rarity until now. In Gray we met a New Zealand couple and their 16 year old son who had left Kiwi-land three years ago on their sailboat. To reach Gray they had traveled through and spent time in the US, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and were now working their way up the rivers and canals to spend the winter in Amsterdam. Tough with their deep draft sailboat and a hugh wooden mast strapped to the cabin top, but they seemed to be having fun.
Sunday morning about 7 we were awakened by a crackling sound that we originally thought might be kids playing with firecrackers as France's Fete National is just a few days away. It got louder and continued so we got up to see what was going on. The roof of a large apartment building across the river was on fire and we were hearing the sound of the roof tiles exploding!

When we left two hours later they were still pouring water on the structure with two ladder trucks and pompiers (firefighter) inside the building with hoses.

Our last couple of days on the river would take us to a stop in Pontailler sur Saone and then to St. Symphorien's Bourgogne Marine where we began last years journey.
Another circle complete.

The Petite Saone July 5 - 8

The Saone River, the navigable portion from Corre in the north to it's confluence with the Rhone in Lyon, is divided into two parts, the Petite, above St. Jean de Losne, and the Basse, or Lower. For this portion of the summer, we would be on the Petite. The locks are the smaller "freycinet" size, 39 meters by 5, so the huge commercial barges can't come up it, and the river itself is smaller, narrower, twistier and very calm.
The other big difference between river and canal cruising is the amount of work involved. On the Canal des Vosges, you are lucky if there are a couple of kilometers between locks. On the Petite Saone, some of the pounds (the water between locks) are 10 or 12 kilometers long and the rise/fall of the lock is only 1 1/2 to 2 meters as opposed to 3+ on the Canal.
Since we got a late start on Tuesday, we only traveled 23 k to the town of Baulay, stopping a little before 5. It was pretty hot but, since we were on the river now, swimming was in order! After cleaning the t-shirt out from around the propeller (don't know how long we'd been spinning that thing down the canal), We had a lovely dinner at the picnic table just above the pontoon with a view of the the village across the field.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday night we had wanted to moor below the town of Rupt sur Saone to visit the ruins of a chateau and tower but there was no place to tie up so we had to be satisfied with the view from the river.

Our next stop was Ray sur Saone, a stronghold since Roman times and the site of another big chateau, parts of which go back to medieval times. It was nearly destroyed during the 17th century's Ten Years War but then rebuilt and expanded in the 18th century. It's current owners began more restoration just after WW II. I took pictures as we pulled into to town moorings and a good thing, too. We no sooner got tied up than the rain began to fall. We did manage to hike up the hill to the chateau gardens in the evening during a break in the rain but by then it was too dark for pictures. Another time.

Entering Ray sur Saone.

Our next stop was Gray.

Fontenoy le Chateau and the end of the Canal des Vosges, July 3-5

Another beautiful little village, Fontenoy le Chateau was an important fortified town from the 13th to the 17th centuries but went into decline after an attack by French and Swedish troops in 1635. It made it's big comeback with the opening of the canal in the 1870's and now boasts a couple of very nice tourist hotels, a hire-boat base and a very good boulangerie that, luckily for us, is open until 12:30 on Sunday afternoons. We pulled in about 20 minutes before noon, put out stakes for a free mooring across from the hire-boat base and made it to the boulangerie in plenty of time. That gave us all day to explore the village.
Up on the hill overlooking the Coney River valley are the remains of an old chateau, now primarily used as a graveyard, and a great view of the surrounding town and the green forests of the Vosges mountains. Down in the valley sits the medieval town with it's narrow twisting streets and picturesque buildings with the canal and river twisting their way through. Very pleasant!

Under the blue canopy center right you can just see people finishing their Sunday lunch.

Monday morning it was off for our last day on this canal, but first we had to endure some typical Canal des Vosges scenery.

There's quite a bit of wildlife along the canals; eagles and hawks, swans and ducks. To make it easier for the ducks to get in and out of the water when the canal sides are sheet piling, the waterways people have helpfully provided "duck ramps."

Monday afternoon we pulled into the village where the Canal des Vosges meets the Petite Saone River, Corre. It was time for the 4th of July!
For the first time in three years, Tim wasn't here to provide us with one sausage short of a meal and there were no other Americans, let along English speakers, around but we managed a good old American meal anyway. Well, almost. The barbecue sauce for the chicken had harissa in it, we had to use cornichons instead of pickles in the potato salad and the wine was French but it was a great meal nevertheless.
There was a gas station about a five minute walk away so we filled the tank and jugs.
A word about fuel; along with laundry, one of the drudgeries of canal boating. There are very few waterside fuel stations (I can think of two) in northern France so diesel has to be carried by jug from gas stations. A gas station close to the water is a thing to be cherished. A typical sight is the canal boater trundling back from the station with fuel cans. We have a hand cart that will hold our two five-gallon-equivalent jugs and I made three trips to the station to top off Odysseus. You can stop feeling sorry for me now.
So Tuesday the 5th about noon we were off onto the river. We had covered 129 kilometers of the Canal des Vosges, negotiating 92 locks in about 6 1/2 days underway.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Down We Go, July 1-4

Still lots of locks but now they're down, which is much easier, there's a little more traffic but the weather and the scenery are beautiful. Friday was 17 locks in 11 kilometers and Saturday 10 lock in 11k bringing us to the canal bank at the Auberge du Coney. After leaving the Moselle River near the summit, the canal follows the Coney River down to the Saone. Somewhere in the past, someone, when hearing we would be making this trip, told us we had to stop for a meal at the Auberge du Coney and for that, we thank them.
It's a "renowned beauty spot," according to McNight and there are lots of holiday cabins and tourist facilities about. We found just enough space on the pontoon in front of the restaurant to tie up and went up to make our reservation. We then took a couple of hour bike ride to Bain les Bain. In Roman times it was known for it's hot waters and it was very fashionable in the 19 century. Emphasis on was. Maybe because we were there on Saturday afternoon and everything (I mean everything!) was closed but we were unimpressed. The gardens were beautiful but it looked like the town had seen better, more prosperous days.
The dinner turned out to be Italian; pizza, pasta and Italian wines on the menu, and it was very good (and very inexpensive).

The tie up at the Auberge.

The Auberge du Coney.

Sunday it was off to another beautiful village, Fontenoy le Chateau.

Locks, locks and more locks

The Canal des Vosges (a much nicer name than it's previous "Canal de l"est, Branche Sud), connects the Moselle River with the Saone; 93 locks in about 120 kilometers. The Romans thought about making some kind of connection when they were in charge but the technology didn't exist at the time. It wasn't until France lost Lorraine to the Prussians in 1870 that the construction of the water link became a high priority. Work started in 1874 and was completed by 1882. It's also part of the through-route from the Mediterranean to points north. We saw a lot of sailboats (with their masts stowed, of course), many of them with Scandinavian flags. We found it to be one of the prettiest navigations we've done in France, very green and peaceful.

We made what turned out to be a brief stop in the cit of Epinal. There is a separate 3 kilometer arm of the canal that takes you to town, crossing a bridge over the Moselle, which the canal follows closely to near it's summit. We pulled into tthe marina about 5 pm after a very hot day and 15 difficult locks. The next day was also very warm so we did a little walking around and, after a large lunch, visited the Musee International de l'Imagerie. Epinal is famous for print making and the museum contains a pretty comprehensive history of the craft (plus it is air conditioned!).
Late Tuesday it began to cloud up and Wednesday morning it began to rain so we ended up doing boat chores and didn't get out much. Thursday's weather looked better and we had a chain of 15 locks in about 3 kilometers to reach the summit of the canal. We left at the punishing hour of 8:30 am so we could get to the first lock around 9. We negotiated the series of locks with no problem, accompanied by a Swiss couple in their cruiser, reaching the summit after about 2 1/2 hours. after the 11 k summit pound, we entered the first lock on the downhill side and found a wall to tie up to near the village of Girancourt. Nothing there but a small peaceful village surrounded by farmland and a good place to spend the night.

Charming Charmes, June 27

Hugh McNight provides us with a little background on Charmes. "…in the 14th century it was overcome by plague and famine; in the 15th it was effectively burned to the ground by Charles the Bold and most of the inhabitants killed; similar misfortune occurred in the 17th century; and finally during World Wars I and II. All was bravely rebuilt between 1947 and 1952." We found the village very pleasant with three (!) good boulangeries and a big nearby supermarket.
They also really roll out the welcome mat for the "camping cars." The tie up is a long quay with water and power points and just on the other side of the sidewalk are places for rv's, what the Europeans call camping cars.

Looking down from the bridge over the canal one way,

and the other.

There is a great bike path along this part of the canal; the tow path has been paved, like we've seen in previous years. Sunday morning Cathy Jo did the laundry (always an enjoyable task) and in the afternoon we set off up the canal. About 10 k along the path we came upon the village of Chatel sur Moselle and it's 11th century chateau, which is in the process of being restored. On that Sunday the fortification was open to the public and we were able to wander around on our own, down through little stone doorways into underground chambers and passageways. Unfortunately, we didn't take the camera on the ride so we didn't get pictures but it was quite an experience and pictures from underground never come out anyway.
Monday morning we left Charmes behind and headed up the canal.

Off the River, Into the Canal des Vosges, June 23-26

We left Toul Thursday morning and, after a couple of locks, returned to the Mosell River. This section of the river carries very little commercial traffic so it is possible to moor along the bank, something not easily done when huge commercial barges are thundering past.
We tied to the bank near the village of Maron and a couple of large barges filled with scrap for the steel mills at Neuves-Maisons did go by but there was a bend in the river just ahead so they were traveling pretty slow.
Friday about noon we passed through lock #47 at Messein and entered the Canal des Vosges. Here the locks are much smaller and closer together so what little commercial traffic there is (we saw one peniche while on the canal) is limited to the 39 meter variety.
We spent another peaceful bankside night and Saturday afternoon arrived in the (we think) aptly named village of Charmes.

More from Toul

Toul is another very old city. Since it's in the bed of the Moselle, it's been fortified for a very long time; the last great works put up by our old friend, Vauban. The marina is outside the remaining city gates but there is a good view of the 13th century cathedral across the fields.

We also like this very ornate doorway, kept when they rebuild the building around it.

We had missed what passes for excitement in the Toul marina. We arrived on Tuesday to find the reasonably new building housing the toilets and showers closed and a blue plastic tarp covering the center of it's roof. Apparently Sunday morning about 2 am there was a very loud explosion and the roof was blown off, starting a pretty spectacular fire. A gas leak was the word around the docks. Meanwhile, a portable building was being trucked in a hooked up to provide the boater facilities.
As expected, Wednesday was cloudy a rainy with some huge thunderstorms. At one point around noon, it was so dark we had to turn on the lights. Our decision to wait until Thursday to continue looked pretty good.