Barging in Burgundy
This would be our 5th summer barging in Burgundy on our beloved Shangri La. When my better half bought the boat, I had grand ideas of traversing the Inland Waterways of all Europe. My other half was much more realistic. And thank heavens for that. We spent 2 and 1/2 summers in the Netherlands, a hectic season trekking through Belgium into France. This would be our second summer in France. We had barely moved from Burgundy the year before. And it didn’t look like we were making great progress anytime soon. And the best bit – it was entirely OK. We had been taking our time stopping off at myriad little villages. Languishing at markets and dropping back on our intended schedule to enjoy just a bit more of a lovely place we discovered. Barging in Burgundy is indeed. a special experience.
Shangri La lifted out for a scrub
My husband went a few days ahead of me to get the boat ready and do a few small repairs. I was coming over with my mother on the Eurostar. This would be her first time on our boat. And her first time barging in Burgundy
Filling up with fuel
Day One – 28th June 2017
London to St-Jean-de-Losne
The trip from London to St-Jean-de-Losne is always hectic. There are only a handful of trains to this itty-bitty village. Our entire trip hinges around making sure we don’t miss one of those trains. It’s tight. I didn’t want my mother to have to dash with all her luggage. Luckily my better half came up to meet us at Gare du Nord and helped carry her stuff. Would not have coped without him. There is a taxi we could take for the last leg from the station to the boat but it’s so expensive when we convert it back to our local currency. It’s just over a kilometre. So, we walked. My mother walked too. She was tired when we got to the boat.
Apparently, it had been hot and dry for 9 weeks prior to our arrival. It was a warm evening so we sat outside on the back deck listening to the frogs, fish and birds. Eating and chatting. The shops were closed when we arrived so it was a meal of leftovers and what was on board.
St Jean de Losne
Day Two – 29th June 2017
Our second day was spent in St-Jean-de-Losne. I wanted Mum to see a bit of this important junction on the waterways. My other half had last dealings with H2O Marina. We needed to do major shop up for 7 weeks of boating and there is a lovely Casino supermarket easy walking distance from the boat.
One thing about H2O St-Jean-de-Losne is they have great wi-fi. And thank heavens as there was a major plumbing drama back home in South Africa. We did a little walkabout in the village. Visited the free Barge Museum. Popped into an eatery along the River Saône for a drink. And then back to the boat before the rain came down. I made a pasta packed full of French veggies, aubergine, courgette, onions, garlic and hearty tomatoes. Plus, some Violife vegan parmesan cheese I had brought over from the UK. Add a few glasses of Burgundy red wine. What more could a person want?
Sleeping in a boat is the best. The cabins are cosy with low ceilings. Add to that the motion and sounds of being on the water. I guess it’s a bit like being in a womb. Hypnotic. Definitely conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Read more – on this link.
Read from the start – here.
Finally we found the marina at Seurre. We didn’t expect the marina to be open on a Sunday and we were right. It’s looks a lovely place but we didn’t have access to any facilities or wi-fi. While we were catching up on things we heard a commotion outside. The Fire Department had arrived. They were trying to catch a swan. Couldn’t figure out why but my other half thought they said it had a fishing hook in it’s beak.
The villagers all flocked around to watch the dapper firemen chasing after the swan in a rubber boat. The swan wasn’t having any of it so it took a while. After all the fuss subsided we went for a walk. Not a lot going on. One pub open but that was all. Also not a big village so we covered it in no time.
Rescuers saving a swan
Back at the boat I made a big fat salad with a galette type thing we bought with some Provençal tomato sauce. Not sure what the difference is between that and regular tomato sauce as it came in a tin but it was great.
Monday morning Patrick went to the Capitainerie to let them know we had been at the marina and were leaving. And we were charged full price! Bit cheeky since there were no services.
Making supper – galettes with provencal sauce
We untied and made our way to St-Jean-de-Losne. The second big lock wasn’t anywhere near as problematic for which we were very grateful. It could be that the lock-keeper was more experienced or the paddles didn’t open as fast?
Back at St-Jean-de-Losne we were hit with a bit of an anti climax. We usually have to clean the deck chairs, table, etc and bring all that down into the spare cabin. The washing has to be done and packed away. The engineer comes to service the engine and “winters” the boat which includes emptying the water tanks. We use up the last of our food. Our last night on the boat is always sad.
But the nice thing is we usually have a good idea of where we’re likely to go boating the following year. And it’s looking like we’re going down the River Saône toward Macon and then back up to the River Seille to Louhans. From there we’re heading toward Digoin and Decize where we will hopefully moor the next winter.
When Patrick bought this boat I had grand notions of us traveling all over – Scandinavia, Eastern Bloc countries, UK and more. But the reality is boating is a leisurely experience and it’s not going to happen. We will explore as much of France as we can and then travel the waterways of Germany. By then it will be time to let someone else enjoy our boat.
Read from the start – here.
Near the bricolage was a huge bio (organic) food store that we absolutely had to visit. Neither of us could resist buying vegan frankfurters, veggie burgers and almond cream cheeze. We offloaded our goods back at the boat and decided to try the veggie restaurant after all. Who should be sitting there but my friend? I was more than a bit surprised given her earlier sentiments.
The food was good. Most of the veg friendly eateries we’ve been to in France tend to have a colourful array of salads with different dressings – finely grated carrot, red cabbge, celeriac, green leaves, butter beans, lentils – with a quiche or savoury tart. There was also a terrine and an onion and tomato bake with Provençal flavours. We had a pichet (pitcher) of wine to go with it. My other half and I were the only ones drinking wine in the entire restaurant. So much for the French cliché! But maybe lunch time on a week day had something to do with it.
The three of us walked back to the boat to escape the rain and read, rest or relax. I had a snooze. A huge plate of food and wine midday does that to a person. My friend decided to pack up early and head for her next Warm Showers host early. We never got to say goodbye.
Tariff per night at Chalon sur Saône is €13. Water is included. Electricty is a flat €3. However the next morning when my husband went for a shower, he discovered the facilities at Chalon sur Saône close on weekends. Would have been nice to know that in advance. At least spared us from trying to use them. And the wi-fi never worked. Although it’s hardly a lot of money – you are paying for facilities that you don’t actually get.
Our meal at Tout les Coleurs
What to do next year is the big question for us? The South African couple we met liked Lyon, so we decided to catch a train down there and see the city for ourselves. We also wanted to get an idea what the marina looked like. Trains come and go from Chalon sur Saône to Lyon around every hour to hour and a half. During normal travel hours. The train trip takes about an hour and twenty minutes.
I was struck by how green it was coming into Lyon. Not sure why I expected otherwise? Perhaps because Burgundy is less lush and we were heading toward the Mediterranean which is hot? Lyon is the 3rd biggest city in France. After Marseille and the capital Paris. By contrast it’s brighter, more spacious and dare I say this, cleaner than Paris. Lyon is also appreantly the gourmet capital of France. It was Saturday, market day, and we found a fabulous food market. I could go back just for that. There’s a narrow section between the Rhone and the Saône which we meandered through and is well worth exploring. We found a vegan supermarket. Un Monde Vegan. Who would have thought? Naturally we came out with a few items.
The other meal at Tout les Coleurs
A bloke at Un Monde Vegan recommended an eatery called Toutes les Couleurs. How could we not go there? We had a three course meal each and a pichet (pitcher) of wine to share. Our meal came to €65. All their food is organic. And tasty. A mix of raw and macrobiotic food. Beautifully presented. A lot of emphasis on presentation. They cut their carrot slices into perfect little daisy shapes. Not a place to go if you’re in a hurry. Wish I knew how they make their salad dressing. It’s divine! Their meals consist of a lot of leafy greens. Only fault is I would have liked a little more food.
For a starter I had a smoked lentil paté and my husband had finely chopped veg crudites. Served with a home-made bread. Our mains were a warm veggie and salad plate and a raw veggie salad plate. For desert we had a baked apple type thing with a caramel sauce and a raw cheese made with three different kinds of peppers for flavour. And more home-made bread.
We walked to the marina from the restaurant, which is a good 5 kilometres. The marina is actually quite far from where the action is. It looks new and seems to offer a lot. If only it was open. We had hoped to chat to the capitain and make plans for next year. It’s not a big marina, maybe 15 boats moored there? Perhaps there’s not a lot of boating happening in Lyon? Which is surprising given our experiences in marinas in Amsterdam, Antwerp or Paris. All we can think is people travel north to south to the Mediterranean and Lyon is merely a stop-over? What a lovely city to miss. I would defintely love to explore Lyon. We logged 30 000 steps on our day in Lyon.
It was time to turn around and boat back along the Saone toward St-Jean-de-Losne. There was such thick mist in the morning we could not see more than 60 or 70 metres ahead. My other half was using his mobile phone maps app to see where our boat was on the river. He had to be really careful as fishermen were out in their boats on a Sunday morning. As were canoeists and other pleasure boat enthusiasts.
There had been flood warnings after a few days of heavy rain and we feared the rains may affect the river as we were motoring agaist the current. However we made good speed. By late morning the fog lifted and the sun came out. It turned into a beautiful day. The trees were just beginning to change to amber and copper colours as autumn drew in. Ducks flew down and skated on the water while swans glided past the river banks. White cattle languished lazily on the fields. It’s the sort of day that makes boating so pleasureable.
Market at Lyon
We entered a lock that we had done when we went down the river and I expected it to be as uneventful. How wrong was I? It’s an enormous lock. The bollards are so far apart we could only tie the middle rope to the quay. Water flowing in caused our poor boat to lurch violently about. The back bashed aganst the wall then the boat swung around and the front bashed against the wall. This kept happening and all we could do was try to push Shangri La from the wall each time she swung around.
Read from the start – here.
This trip was divided into parts. We returned to the UK so my husband could go back to work in Azerbaijan which unfortunately cut our holiday into two. My job was to help renovate and fix a flat in South West London.
Moored in Verdun sur Doubs
Two days after my husband got back from his 5 week stint away we made the epic journey from our flat back to our boat. Starting with a 20 minute walk to the train station in South West London. Then an overground train to Vauxhall. No idea why but this train seemed to stand still for what seemed like forever nearly doubling our usual trip. Then the underground train from Vauxhall to Kings Cross St Pancras. Next we caught the Eurostar to Paris. Followed by the Metro from Garre du Nord to Garre de Lyon. A train to Dijon. Another train to St-Jean-de-Losne. And walked the final leg of about 30 minutes to the Casino supermarche in St-Jean-de-Losne just before it closed.
We carried our luggage, backpacks and bags of groceries to the boat. Switched on the water, showered, rustled up a meal and pretty much crashed. The next morning we had a friend joining us. When the boat is not in use – the gear that usually lies on the deck – mop, broom, boat hooks, step ladder, gang plank, 4 x deck chairs and table – all live in the spare cabin. That had to come out. But first the boat had to be cleaned. Then our linen had to be dredged up from under the seats and the beds made up. One other job we had been meaning to do was remove the davits and find a home for them.
We have nice sturdy davits. But they get in the way when we tie up stern-to-quay. They protrude so far back we have to bring the boat forward leaving quite a gap to leap when coming ashore. We thought they might fit under the bed but it turned out they were too big. The only other place for them was under the floor boards next to the engine. My husband was not happy about this. He can barely get to his engine and this wasn’t going to help.
After a few attempts which included some flames when the two ends of one davit almost jump started the engine we finally found a spot for them. The friend arrived while we were hoisting the davits into the hull and was swiftly put to work helping us. She was cycling from the the north to the south of France on the velo routes. We like that she’s also vegan.
Verdun sur Doubs
Once she was settled and her bike stowed safely at the back of the boat, her and I went food shopping. Two Tauruses buying food? Need I say more. My other half was trying to find out more about the jobs that were still not completed – like the generator. Sadly in the 5 weeks were away – H2O had not managed to get that done.
Finally a sense of order set in and I made supper which was a sort of ratattouile with rice, BBQ marinated tofu cubes fried crispy plus salads. And – of course – local Burgundy wine. We sat and spoke for a while and turned in for an early night.
I thought my other half wanted an early start but it turned out to be more leisurely. Breakfast was granola, almond milk and fruit plus a chocolate, banana, protein powder smoothie. Then we started on our journey toward Chalon sur Saône via Verdun sur le Doubs where we would spend out first night. Lots of little towns lurk nearby or on the river. The river can flow quite fiercely, particularly after Lyon where the Rhone and Saône become one river. It was not our intention to get that far south. But at the very end of summer, early autumn the Saone was moving gently. Which meant coming up against the current back home would be a whole lot easier.
There were only two locks. Big locks. We were locking down. We managed both with no hiccoughs. At Verdun sur le Doubs we tied up. Fortunately the Tourism Office is right next to the marina. The friendly ladies there gave us a leaflet to do a walking tour. It’s not a big place so the walk didn’t take long. There are yellow fish painted on the roads a person can follow them to see the sights. My friend was accosted by a little old man who regaled us with family photos and dragged us into his house. He showed us his wine collection. His photos. He also showed us his weeds that he was cultivating for some reason. His English was no better than our French so much of the conversation was lost.
Verdun sur le Doubs is a typical small French town. Very few people. You see beautiful heritage homes for sale. Many of the shops have closed. One can only hope these ancient places will be protected. The marina was fine. Friendly Capitain. Wifi was rubbish. Had to give up. But to be fair, this is a recurring problem on the waterways. Always wonder how an ordinary café can provide excellent wi-fi to numerous patrons but most marinas can’t provide wifi to boaters?
Back on the boat we had a lovely hot shower. Then we snacked on corn chips and salsa. As well as the obligatory glass of Burgundy wine. I made a split pea and potato soup which we ate with a crusty French baguette.
Chalon sur Saône
It was a short trip from Verdun sur le Doubs to Chalon sur Saône the next day. In the driving rain. Chalon sur Saône is a popular marina and people report not being able to berth. They don’t do reservations. Luckily this time of the year it’s quieter. We found a lovely spot side-on. Electricity worked. All good. Thursday 13th October for some reason, the marina was closed. We saw a notice saying as much. Which meant no wifi. No access to the facilities. And we couldn’t go out as we couldn’t get back in. The last two require a code or tag to open the doors or gate.
It’s also colder in October. It was around 6’C. So hard to believe that just five weeks proir we sitting on the back deck, my husband in shorts and myself in a sarong. Now we were wearing long johns, socks and so many layers on our upper bodies I felt like the Michelin man.
After a lunch of left-overs we donned our waterproof jackets, hats and gloves and went walk-about. The Tourism Office gave us the usual walking tour map. And showed us where to find veg friendly places and supermarkets. We did a mini shop-up and went to a cafe with wi-fi to catch up on comms over a Thé Vert (green tea) and, would you believe a Soy Latte?
Chalon sur Saône
Supper was a vegan corn and potato fritatta with salads. We discussed visiting the only veggie restaurant – La Pierre Vive – but my friend felt it was too expensive at €13.80 for the buffet. She’s traveling on a really tight budget and been using – Warm Showers – a free Airbnb type accomodation for cyclists. Or, friends like us to avail herself of free accomodation.
While we were eating our boat windows were leaking. This is an ongoing problem on our boat. The windows don’t exactly fit the frames meaning there’s a gap where water sneaks in. And the heating worked intermittently. It’s defintely time for Shangri La’s heating to get a service. Yet more things to add to the repairs list. Sigh! The best thing to do in cold weather is pile on the layers and keep warm in bed. And so it was yet another early night.
It rained most of the night. I absolutley love the sound of the rain against the deck. But also the sound of rain splashing on the water. After a brief respite it was raining again the next morning. We knew we were coming back to Chalon sur Saône, so decided to leave the walking tour for a drier day. My other half located the Capitain and paid for our stay. the Capitain gave individual wi-fi codes for each of us. Seemed so promising but of course the wi-fi didn’t work inside or outside the boat. We tried sitting at the office but it made no difference.
Market at Verdun sur Doubs
It’s possible to get International Roaming but for South Africans right now the rates are extortionate. SA has some of the highest data rates in the world. I tried appraoching EE in the UK to upgrade my pay-as-you-go card since I don’t have a contract. They want £18 per month plus £3 per day for a limited amount of data. Really, actually, it’s easier to just go for a coffee every few days to get wi-fi. Not ideal but hopefully one day . . . . . . .
My other half particularly wanted to locate a bricolage (hardware) as his rechargeable torch had seen better days. And he wanted some tape to hopefully tape the gaps on the windows before our boat was wintered. Not ideal, but infinitely better that sodden, damaged wood paneling and water logged, mouldy curtains. We parted ways with my friend so she could explore and we went shopping.
Read from the start – here.
We had friends driving up from the south to join us on the boat. They texted us to say they were running late as traffic in Marseille and Lyon had been hectic. That gave us a chance to shower and prepare a BBQ supper which we planned to cook on the grass next to our boat. It was fiercely hot. I made tofu and veggie kebabs, a couple of cold salads and rolled some potatoes in foil to cook on the fire.
It’s always nice to have people with us on the boat. For them going through a lock is a new experience and I get a break from it. But also, they see the waterways and a country from a completely different perspective. A city break in Paris is what most people who go to France do. It’s around the 5th most visited city in the world. Very few people see historical and beautiful places on the waterways. How nice to share those experiences and see them from another person’s perspective? One would think that being in a confined space such as a boat would be awkward but when you’re on the move and doing so much a person doesn’t get to that point.
VNF remote control and Waterways Fluvial map
H2O were a no show the next morning and since we absolutely had to sort out Shangri La’s engine before we could move, my other half phoned them. They promised to come straight after lunch. We took some time out from boating and went walking along the canal to a camping area where people could swim in the river. People and dogs were frolicking in the cool water. Then we all went to have an ice cold drink up at a local cafe. My other half dashed back to our boat to meet the mechanic who re-fitted the – now fixed – engine part in no time at all and re-joined us. We had a lazy afternoon reading or snoozing.
As the day got a bit cooler I stayed back and made supper while the others went up the road exploring. They stopped for a drink and met a local woman who rather regaled them with stories. No-one was quite sure if they were real or she had a vivid imagination. She said things like her job was to find people traveling the waterways and interact with them. Back at the boat we had a potato and veggie galette with salads for supper. Then sat on the back deck chilling, chatting and listening to the world.
Cruising the canal
The next morning with extra hands on deck we untied and got ready to go back to St-Jean-de-Losne. Around lunch time we were about to enter a lock when the gates refused to open. We could see another boat coming the opposite way and wondered if they had right of way. But no. My better half tried phoning but there was no reply. A hire boat arrived behind us and tried phoning as well. No joy. Their boat was lying shallower than us in the water and two boys managed to get ashore. They spoke to the people on the opposite boat and tried to locate VNF to help. We suspect everyone was on lunch so settled down to a light meal while we waited. No idea what went wrong but next thing the lock opened. That incident caused us to lose over an hour of travel time.
But what we did discover was we had made front page of the local newspaper. A burly man came running past us on the tow path and recognised us.
VNF map of the route at a lock
Back in St-Jean-de-Losne we parked in our usual spot. It’s been our home marina for a season. Did some shopping and then freshened up to eat at a local brasserie. We all had a great meal and after supper went for a walk along the river. My husband and I like to go “boat perving” as we call it when we look at other boats. We were especially interested in how other people manage the heat in their boats and resolved to make a canopy so we could cover the windows and create shade.
Our last stop was Auxonne. It didn’t take long to get there. Once tied up the guys caught a train back to Dole so our friends could collect their hired car. Trains in Auxonne were not as regular as we thought but better than St-Jean-de-Losne. A couple of hours later they were back. Our friends packed up and we walked with them to their car. They left for a lovely cool lake near Lausanne. We stripped to nothing to try and keep cool as temperatures topped 38’C and even 42’C depending on where you were.
Later the afternoon we took a walk into the town to look for provisions. There we bumped into two Danish blokes who had helped us with our ropes when we arrived in Auxonne. They kindly offered to buy us a drink which we accepted. Rosé with ice. We particularly wanted to know more about the waterways in Scandinavian countries. The skipper had done a lot of boating there. He’d even been to Greenland. The big thing for us to remember is that boating costs in France are reasonable. It would be 3 – 4 times more in Denmark and Sweden. But apparently it’s incredibly beautiful. Particularly the waterways on the west coast of Sweden.
Just before dark, a huge big hire boat full of Americans arrived right next to us. They bashed and crashed and shouted and made an almighty noise until finally – they tied up. Nice enough people but I wondered why they had to shout when they were on a boat right next to the person they were talking to. All sorts of dramas ensued as their power kept failing. They asked for help and my husband checked all the obvious things. Turned out they were trying to heat shower water, cook, use the oven as well as run an air conditioner – with all the windows open. I guess there were about 9 people on the boat. It was obvious they had overestimated the available power supply and their needs. My other half tried to politely explain this to them.
Luckily for us they went off to find a meal and peace returned. We could hear fish splashing and leaping about in the water. I often wonder how much fish the ubiquitous fishermen catch?
Our last day of boating was a short trip back to St-Jean-de-Losne. By the time we go there it was so hot that all my sunscreen had dripped off and was burning my eyes. I was stuck to my clothes and just feeling yuck. We had 3 weeks of washing to do. My better half went to chat to the boat yard to discuss work to be done on our boat. The generator and electrics stil had to be fixed. We had also grown tired of the davits that poked out forcing us to moor away from the edge of the quay. One of us is less keen on great leaps than the other one. Initially we had plans to fit a bendy bit that would allow the davits to fold in. But soon realised they could easily be removed and stored in the hull. We love free, easy solutions like that.
Meanwhile I walked to the laverie (laundry). Luckily it wasn’t too busy and I could make a start. When my husband came past we decided the only thing to do in such sticky heat – was have a glass of rosé. With plenty ice. Nothing like a tipple to take away the drudgery of chores and help forget the heat. On our way back we heard there was going to be a concert at the marina – French Floyd. France’s version of Pink Floyd.
I treated my husband to a veggie Plat du Jour (meal of the day) at Auberge de la Marine. Then we went past the concert. Wow! French France were so good. It was a fabulous evening. Until I got back to the boat and discovered I had been charged for our meal – twice.
The very next morning I marched across the bridge to Auberge de la Marine and showed the owner the transaction confirmations on my phone. She insisted it hadn’t gone off twice so I asked to use their phone. And phoned my bank in South Africa. Who were emphatic it had gone through twice. The owner wasn’t having it but I instructed the bank to remove one of the debits. Meanwhile my husband bumped into the Danes who confirmed they were joining us for a drink on the boat. I had wanted to invite them but could not remember doing so. We thought there was a misunderstanding and settled to a quiet last night on our lovely boat.
Poster advertising French Floyd
Much later who arrived? The Danes. With a bottle of wine. I dashed down below to put on proper clothes as I was wearing a sarong. We had a marvelous evening. Spoke and spoke and spoke. And drank. We did rather regret it the next morning though when we had to drag ourselves out of bed to catch the only train to Dijon. Fortunately the train was on time. No strikes. No delays. Back to city life. Pushing and shoving and an impersonal way of life. Lucky for us, we would be back on our beloved Shangri La in a few weeks.
I often wonder why France is such a special country? French people love food and eating. Can’t fault that. Long lunches with a fabulous meal and a glass or two of good wine are totally in order. Regional dishes and produce are revered. The French are fiercely resistant to change and maybe that’s a good thing. Cultures and customs continue so we can hopefully enjoy them into the next century. Quality of life is important. I love that’s it’s illegal to contact an employee after hours in France. We can’t speak much French but we’re forced to try and it’s a huge help being able to read menus and road signs.
One regret we have as vegans is that it’s almost impossible to eat out. Gastronomy is such a big part of the French experience. We made the choice to forgo animal foods for ethical reasons and are resolute that we’re doing the right thing. Luckily the on-line vegan community is huge. And global. There’s a site called Happy Cow which shares veg friendly places around the world. We know the world has to change as animal agriculture is not sustainable and look forward to easier eating experiences in time to come. And to be fair our lot as vegans in South Africa isn’t a whole lot easier.
The journet continues – here.