Saturday, August 11, 2007

FROM THE YONNE TO THE CANAL DU NIVERNAIS

From the town of Villeneuve sur Yonne, our next stop was at Joigny. The Tour the France was arriving there on the July 11 and we wanted to be there for the event. The approach to the town on the river is superb, and as we were coming in the sun touched us with its rays and the light began to change. We passed in front of The Cote St. Jacques, famous for its wines, and the restaurant by the same name, one of the best in all of France. It had been rainy all day up to that point. Luckily, when we got to the port we were able to tie up to a large pontoon on the outside, all by ourselves. From our boat the view of the town was outstanding. We went into town for a while until a sudden rain storm caught us off guard. We went back to the boat, had a lovely meal and went to sleep.

The next day after doing the laundry, it started to rain which meant I could not hang my clothes to dry. We found a Laundromat nearby and used the dryers. We then went by the tourist office, got all kinds of information about the town and activities and went back to the boat. That day we met a German couple and their son who came to have some drinks with us. They had rented a boat for 10 days, it had rained every single one up to that time and they were to return their boat the next day. How sad. And to think that most of the people on rental boats were in the same situation.

The town was preparing for the arrival of The Tour de France, so all public parks and gardens had been done in bicycle themes, they had giant TV screens all along the quay, and all types of activities were planned for the day. It was a Wednesday, but the town was given the day off for the occasion. Bill and I had made a reservation at a restaurant called Paris- Nice, which turned out to be one of the best we have tried in a long time. Our meal was superb from beginning to end, as well as the service and presentation of the dishes. We had a great time. Around 5:30 PM we went over the bridge and took our places on the quay below one of the giant screens to wait for the parade of accompanying caravans. There were thousands of people lined up along the way donning their favorite team's shirt or cap, waving their flags, some singing their country's national anthem. It was a beautiful sunny evening, a true change from the weather we had been having. Finally, the leaders could be seen a few feet away, then the "peloton," zipped by, all in a flash. The arrival about a block away we were able to see on the giant screen. So much preparation, organization and money are put into this event, but the French do it right. It is quite the spectacle.

That same evening we walked over to the center of town whose narrow streets make you feel like you are still in the XIV Century. The half timber houses have some of the most beautiful carvings we have seen in houses of the era. Just across the street from the Mairie and the old library is the house where Madeleine Sophie Barat, founder of the Community of the Sacred Heart was born and raised. Since I went to a Sacred Heart school, I was very interested in visiting the house. It was almost 8:00 PM, so I did not think we could go inside. Bill and I were reading the exterior plaque when a nun came walking in and asked if we wanted to visit the house. Of course, being an alumna of the school gave me the right to a very thorough visit by a wonderfully enthusiastic nun who showed us around and told us anecdotes about M. Sophie, a most interesting tour. The gardens are gorgeous and the house is currently used for religious retreats for women.

Down from her house is the Church of St. Thibault which has over its main door a beautiful equestrian relief of the saint by the Spanish Golden Age sculptor Jean de Juni. As we entered we could hear the organ playing and realized that we were in for a treat. An organist was practicing for his concert the following week and Bill and I sat through the whole thing, all alone in this beautiful church while we admired the beautiful stained glass windows and incredible statues in the interior. It was quite a special day from beginning to end.

The next day we left Joigny and had to wait for about two hours before the second lock while it was repaired. We had lunch after stopping in Migennes and turned around to arrive at the charming village of Gurgy about 5:30 PM. Soon after another boat called Bayleaf pulled up behind us. We had seen them in Joigny and in Sens, but had not talked to them. They are Jill and Kevin Makins, an Australian couple from Surfer's Paradise who have been sailing all over the world and in France for a few years. We connected right away, and since then we have been meeting in other places as we make our way down south. The next day, July 13, I remember very well because it was the first real summer day we had since we left Briare the first week of June. We met a large Vietnamese family the Nguyens, half of them French and the other half from California. They liked our boat, so we invited them for a visit. The grandmother had come to France from Vietnam to see her family, so they thought that a boat trip would be the best. They were enjoying themselves, no doubt.

We left Gurgy under a most beautiful sunny sky and this part of the river Yonne was gorgeous. We saw lots of herons, mandarin ducks carrying their freckled little ducklings on their back, and a couple of martin fishers. The river was wide most of the way and the approach to the city of Auxerre, magnificent. From the distance its three most distinctive buildings, the Abbey de St. Germain, the Cathedral of St. Etienne and the Church of St. Pierre can be seen. It is a breath taking view no matter what time of the day. We were told to stay in the Port de Plaisance and tie up to another boat because the Independence Day fireworks were to take place that evening. Bill brought the boat in alongside an old tanker called SHELL owned by several couples who have it for one month each out of the year. There were dozens of boats already there and many more came that afternoon for the festivities. Bill and I had a great dinner at the Creperie du Pont, one we had discovered last October when we were there in our car.

The fireworks display was fantastic and all of us sat on the decks of our boats sipping on cocktails, lights above our heads, multicolor sparkles flying and bangs echoing in the most stunning of settings. Certainly an evening to remember. The next day, July 14, the real holiday, it was a very hot day. We had made a reservation at a place called Le St. Pelerin, known for its wood burning oven. The lunch was great and copious, so we decided to walk it off by walking the town from north to south. The very sober Cathedral is being worked on but we were able to see it. We also visited the Church of St. Pierre and the center of town with its beautiful XV C. clock tower. That night we had Kevin and Jill over for drinks on Biesbosch and had a great time with them.

The next day, we left Auxerre and soon we were on the Canal du Nivernais, built to connect the Loire to the Seine. The locks are smaller, the lock keepers nicer (usually students with summer jobs) and this northern stretch of the canal, fantastic. We tied up before a lock, had lunch and even a nap! In the late afternoon we tied up the boat and walked up the hill to visit a cave where they produce a white sparkling wine as well as some good roses and others. We got back on the boat, the canal widened to the point that it looked like a river, and in a couple of hours we moored at a little town called Vincelles. The village had a tiny grocery store, which doubled up as bakery and bookstore. After dinner, we took a walk to the town of Vincelotte which is on the Yonne, parallel to the canal. Great little cafes and a beautiful restaurant by the banks, lovely architecture, all and all a great area.

On July 27 we were supposed to be in Chatillon en Bazois to take part in a boat rally that our friends from Anfra told us about. At this point many of the boats we encountered were traveling to the same event, so we met some new people on the way. At Mailly le Chateau we stayed all by ourselves in a basin at the foot of the promontory, walked up to the town, true little hamlet full of treasures, like the path to it, a former mule path, the chateau with its adjacent park and the XII C church with its most unusual statues. That evening we watched the most competent of boules players trying to outdo each other at it. They were absolutely fantastic!

The sun shone for us for five days in a row, and just as we thought that summer had truly arrived, the weather changed. The next week of cruising we had showers, patchy skies and cooler weather.


Medieval church along The yonne


Joigny


Tour de France Decoration at Joigny


July 11 at Joigny


Victorious!


A XIII C half-timber house in Joigny


The house of Madeleine Sophie Barat in Joigny


The smiling Madonna XIV C.


The Nugyen family


Auxerre Port


Kevin and Jill Aussie friends at Auxerre


Along the Nivernais


Old lock house on The Upper Nivernais Canal


Bill helping lock keeper


Sunflowers of The Nivernais


Mooring at the foot of Mailly le Chateau


Mailly leChateau


XII C.church at Mailly le Chateau


Les Roches de Saussois


Les Roches


A beautiful lock


Same lock


Chateau de Faulin on The Nivernais


Draw bridge before Clamecy


Moored behind elizabeth in Clamecy

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