Monday, 25 September 2017

Canal du Nivernais & Vermenton Embranchement: Auxerre to Vermenton.

Tuesday 19 & Wednesday 20 September 2017. Auxerre to Vincelles – 14 kilometers, 8 locks.

A knock on the window heralded the arrival of Zoë from the France-Fluvial/France Afloat base in Vermenton where we had arranged to overwinter, with the tidings that the canal was being drained in November and that they would have to move Elle after she had been winterized, something we did not want to happen at all. The long and the short of it is that we will now be overwintering in Auxerre – we just hope the security is up to spec.

Deciding to get a jump start on the mob aiming for the crêperie at Vincelles we moved upstream a kilometre and moored for the night just above the lock above Auxerre

and started for Vincelles in thick fog, early the next morning.

It cleared up beautifully later - the end of the rain and wind at last!

There was ample space for us against the wall and the rest of the day was spent chatting to other boaters.

The main reason for returning to Vincelles was that we had booked a meal at a restaurant in nearby Irancy which had been recommended by the mate on Randle so in glorious weather we eBiked the three kilometres to the restaurant Le Soufflot where we enjoyed some fine cuisine. And Irancy is a really delightful French village and the center of fine pinot-noir wines bearing the same regional name – and the equally famous Chablis is just next door.

Locked unfortunately.

The restaurant is where the pink doors are.


Fine wining and dining - we had the house wine accompaniment.

Pretty Irancy

Back on board we were joined by hotel barges Art de Vivre and Luciole and, as evening approached, a duo set up and we were entertained by delightful music which we enjoyed over a glass of wine (or two) aboard a hire boat with its French-speaking Swiss hirers. And the music lullabied us to sleep.

Not all our meals consist of fine dining. Spanish boquerones from
Darrell and Tess - delicious! 

Friday 22 September. Vincelles to Vermenton – 10 kilometers, 5 locks, 2 hours 35 minutes.

Despite the change in overwintering plans we decided to head up the Vermenton Embranchement and visit the small town of Accolay which had been recommended, and to see what the Vermenton base was like as we might be back there next year. Maybe not such a good idea – the setting at the France-Fluvial/France Afloat base in Vermenton is stunning and we are now really sorry that we would be leaving Elle to the possible issues related to being in a big town like Auxerre but Vermenton is very much on the radar for 2018.

Our Vermenton mooring view.

A bike ride to Accolay resulted in lunch at Hostellerie de la Fontaine which had been recommended above the restaurant in Vermenton and which was excellent but both towns are cute with, in our opinion, Vermenton taking first prize for amenities especially as the big Atac supermarket has attached washing and drying machines.

Vermenton main street.

Our Accolay restaurant.

But our time was mainly spent starting the winterising process; fixing a leak in the bathroom extractor fan, cleaning the shower plumbing, removing the bimini, cleaning the die-hard Weber braai, washing bed linen, test-packing suitcases and generally dreading leaving our cruising lifestyle.

Cleaned extractor fan cover.

Makeshift bimini


Visited by the wooden fence boat.

We did however take a ride to Cravant which is a two thousand year old Gallic town which has been very tastefully restored and which is very picturesque. It also has an interesting Scottish/English history

The 'city' gate.

Good coffee at this cafe.

A very old vine.

The wash-house, 'keep'/tower and church (11thC tower for sale, church closed this morning)

Advertisement for Vermenton pottery.

Vermenton church door arch - 12thC?

Vive la France.

Tomorrow we head back to Auxerre, do the last bit of winterizing, lift out on Thursday, book into the local Ibis and train to Charles de Gaulle on Friday.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Canal du Nivernais: Mailly-le-Ville to Auxerre via Vincelles.

28 kilometers, 16 locks.

Wednesday 13 September 2017. Mailly-le-Ville to Vincelles – 14 kilometers, 8 locks, 4 hours 40 minutes (95 minutes of delays).

Morning dawned with Elle rocking on the mooring and clouds scudding by but as the wind was forecast to be coming from behind we decided to move on, moi just hoping that we would not be blown into any lock gates. The lady lockie at the first lock arrived twenty five minutes late, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes but from then on the trip was singularly uneventful with the wind not being an issue at all!

At the last lock we realised that we were entering serious wine tourist territory as there was a sign offering to have one collected from one’s boat and taken for a half-day tour of the Chablis vineyards at the snip of a price of 65 per person…

The long wall outside the crêperie (pancake restaurant) at Vincelles had an opening for us and in no time we were safely tied up;

Vincelles mooring.

after a light lunch, it was off to the nearby Atac supermarket to provision up. That evening we had supper at the much rated crêperie and while my goats cheese salad was good, Lynn’s escargot crêpe and chocolate and cream pancake desert were rated “okay, but not that great” – the escargot dish was a real disappointment and was simply snails in garlic and parsley butter tossed onto a pancake, a combination which did not really work. A cream sauce creation would have complimented the crêpe far more.

The next day, after doing a load of washing at the Atac

and taking a short tour around the small town we set off over the river, through the pretty riverside town of Vincelottes and down to the caves at Bailly some three kilometres from our mooring. For 6 per person the tour of the underground chalk cellars capable of housing some seven million bottles of Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wine is a must and two glasses of bubbles, and the souvenir flutes, are included in the price. Bargain!


Murals in the cellar.

Anyone for bubbles?

Friday 15 September 2017. Vincelles to Auxerre – 14 kilometers, 8 locks, 4 hours 40 minutes (50 minute lunch stop).

The luxury charter barge Randle had moored behind us at Vincelles and they were also leaving for Auxerre so we locked through with them all the way – with their twenty three meters and our thirteen, the locks were pretty full of boat.


Auxerre lock decor

Tree pruning crew.

Coming into Auxerre - stunning!

The Aquarelle hire boat base at Auxerre was packed with, in some cases, boats three abreast, many of which were closed up for winter. Fortunately, the wall on the old city side of the river (we’re on part Nivernais canal and part Yonne River) had a space right at the downstream end which was ideal. Mike, the friendly captain collected our money for a three night stay and one electricity jeton and then it was braai and chill time. We were joined by a huge Le Boat who squeezed in behind us and whose luncheon had obviously been good judging by their sundowner loquaciousness.

Saturday morning it was off to the automotive spares outlet to find a gas strut to replace the one which holds up our doorway hatch (no luck!) and to the eLeclerc supermarket for food and wine.

Part of the fish counter.

We do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in supermarkets but with only a small 140 liter food refrigerator/freezer we can only store a limited amount of meat, veggies and salads. And then we wandered through the old city which is really lovely albeit quite crowded with tourists – to be expected this being Heritage Weekend when many of the museums and galleries are open to the public free of charge. But Sunday was to be our ‘tourist’ day…

The Aussies behind us (Pete, Barry and ? and wives) were in fine fettle once again and after lending them a water connection gin swilling Pete came aboard with a bottle of wine which he emptied before they all set off for dinner. We heard them arriving home after midnight amid much laughter so obviously a good time was had by all.

Auxerre mooring.

And so Sunday arrived with the first task being to make five trips to the nearby Atac fuel station and to load up two hundred litres of diesel, the same process to be repeated the following day. With a jerry can apiece we set off down the cycle path, filled the jerries, bungy corded them on to the carriers and mine promptly fell off! Back in place, Lynn gingerly moved off but crash – jerry can meets concrete. It was corded back on again but not before both jerry can and bike had taken a tumble. And I did a good job of repeating the comedy of errors. The plastic of the cans was not bonding with the steel of the carriers at all so leaving me on guard Lynn went back to Elle, collected some straps and eventually we made it back, emptying twenty litres into the tank and saving the other for a top up when we close up for winter. We will not be repeating the process, choosing rather to pay the exorbitant surcharge and fill up the remaining three hundred and fifty or so litres at the Aquarelle waterside diesel pump.

On the way back with our fuel we happened to bump into Aussie Barry off the Le Boat boat who said that that the other two guys had sat drinking bottles of red wine until 5am – they all left at eleven thirty for Migenne for ‘hand back’ and the hangovers must have been monumental.

And then the heavens opened and the wind blew and so it continued the whole day, dashing our sightseeing plans and, being Heritage Weekend, it was a double whammy.

Braaing in the rain - enormous cuisses.

The next day the weather improved somewhat and our first stop was the Post Office where a parcel for Lynn’s brother Ian was despatched to Diksmuide and then we made a fainthearted attempt to ‘reverse follow’ the tour of the old city. We missed quite a lot but I found the place delightful although Lynn thought that it lacked the buzz of some similar sized French towns.

Cadet Roussel

St Eusebe Church founded in the 7thC.

That evening we had sundowners at the café across the road where we bumped into the recently retired Professor of Hydrology at Pretoria university Fanie van Vuuren and his wife Leone.

Fanie bemoaning the Springboks record 57 - 0 drubbing by the All Blacks!