Boating in France: Warm and Sunny Burgundy

For over nine years, Neil and Joan have been spending their summers cruising the canals and rivers of Western Europe aboard their now thirty-one-year-old Dutch motor-cruiser, the “Estate.”  This year they are again sharing their experiences. This is the second of Neil and Joan’s  2010 posts. Check out last week’s post .

May 24, 2010

Pouilly-en-Auxois proved to be a great starting point for walking and biking. It is a small town, surrounded by spring-green hills. Over the next four days, we wandered in several directions and biked along the canal and out into the countryside. The area is fairly flat, making it an easy place to bike. There is a new museum at the port, tracing the history of the canal and the tunnel, but only open regularly during July and August.

Chateau-VandOriginally, we had planned to continue west on the Burgundy Canal, ending the summer in Paris and environs. However, the Estate “being a boat” means that she needs some specialized work done this fall at our homeport near Dijon.  We didn’t want to do more than 200 locks this summer, and continuing on the Burgundy would have doubled that number, so we turned around in Pouilly en Auxois and headed back towards the Saone River. Our plan is to cruise south on the Saone for about three weeks and then turn around and return to St Jean de Losne for the winter.

The weather started to gradually improve, so we decided to take our time going back. After again passing through the tunnel, we first re-visited Vandeness. We had another lovely meal at Restaurant de l’Auxois – this time lamb proceeded by a cheese and caramelized onion tart. To work off the calories we were adding, we did some more biking (to St Sabine) and walking.

We also re-visited Charolly, the British tearoom, small boutique (gift items, used books), and epicerie (a few grocery items). The very friendly owners, Brits who now live in the house across the walk from the shop, love the area and their life there. The back garden is a charming place to spend a sunny afternoon sipping tea or coffee.  While there, we asked about the graves of two British Airmen we had seen in the churchyard.  They told us the story of the crew of a British bomber that crashed just up the road in 1943, killing the pilot and bombardier, and how two of the five that had parachuted had been hidden from the Germans by local residents in an outbuilding on the grounds of the nearby chateau that was being used by the Germans as their headquarters for the area.  The men were eventually moved to Switzerland by the French underground. There is both old and recent history here.

TrainHeading down the canal, we serendipitously arrived at Chez Bryony in Pont d’Ouche on a Sunday, the day the historic steam train runs between Bligny sur Ouche and Pont d’Ouche. The narrow gauge trains are maintained, operated, and supported by a volunteer group comprised of French, English, Swiss, and Americans. The oldest locomotive dates back to 1910. Originally the train was used for the transport of coal from the mines to the canal for loading on to barges. What a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Old and young – all had a great time.

The next day we passed by the villages of la Forge and La Bussiere. Seven years ago, we enjoyed the grounds of the Cistercian abbey at La Bussiere and had a very pleasant dinner inside the abbey. It was then being run as a conference center. Now it is a very expensive hotel, restaurant and bistro.

Neil wanted to re-visit the medieval castle at Malain, about a five-mile bike ride from the village of Pont de Pany, so we Rapeseeddecided to stop there next.  I don’t think there is a chateau in France that does not require an uphill climb – and this time it was uphill the whole way. The rapeseed (canola oil is made from rapeseed) was in full bloom – bright yellow, surrounded by the green of various other crops. We decided not to hike to the very top this time, but the ride and the views were lovely.

Now we are back in Dijon, enjoying big city living, but tied up in a port that has nesting herons, ducks, coots, and geese. The Ouche valley was a wonderful place to spend a few weeks– yes, in both the cold and the heat, just cruising along.

Charolly English tea salon and boutique.
Vandenesse, France
Tel: 03 80 49 22 71

Restaurant de l’Auxois
Vandenesse, France
Tel: 03 80 49 22 36

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