We decide to stay at Bailly (pronounced Bayee) on Sunday to catch up on blogging, washing and ironing and general household stuff before heading off on Monday morning for a short trip to Vincelles; just a couple of kilometres and one one lock further up the canal to post letters and do a bit of shopping.
Afterwards we carry on along the Nivernais to Mailly-la-Ville and are surprised to see so many boats. We are very much in hire-boat country and the pontoons are full – to a sceptic this is probably due to the free electricity and water but of course it could be because it is a beautiful part of the world!! We see a bollard and a mooring ring so although the bank has a steep slope we can moor up and just need a bit of gymnastic skills to get on and off. We have a look around the village which doesn’t take long as most shops have closed down and there remains one local unimpressive store with an even more unimpressive proprietor which leaves our two supermarket bags redundant – we are ever the optimist so buy a lemon for our sundowners…..
Tuesday morning sees a mass exodus so we move onto a pontoon and baggy the free electric before taking a walk which Charles tells me is a six kilometre hike to Mailly-le-Chateau. The only difference between the two is that for some reason we are staying in a female village (la) and the chateau is a male village (le). It is a lovely walk in fine sunshine but the chateau is a bit of a disappointment – maybe we have seen so many now we are getting picky but it looked like one of those houses that young kids draw: an oblong with a number of square windows and a door somewhere in the middle – very uninspiring but with great views of the valley. We are hoping to find a small restaurant or bar but no luck so back to the boat for a very late lunch and a much longer walk than six kilometres.
As the afternoon draws to a close a few boats moor up and we see Triton approach to moor up behind us and its good to see Peter and Gwen who we had previously met in Auxerre together with their friends Yvonne and Andy visiting from Scotland. We join them later in the evening for a night cap or two or three. We are now building up quite a list of people to visit in New Zealand. I am wondering if everyone from New Zealand are nice people or we have just been lucky to meet some of the best ones – This may sound like we are buttering up our New Zealand friends in preparation for a future visit to their country which of course would be nonsense…. or would it……
Both boats set off on Wednesday morning and coincidently both end up mooring at Lucy-sur-Yonne which is not too unsurprising as moorings are relatively sparse. There is nothing in the village which is a bit of a disappointment as I am in great need of some chocolate which I forgot to buy on our last shopping trip so make do with fruit and yoghurt – not a great substitute.
Two small moments of relative excitement happen on this stretch – we meet our first boater operated lift bridge and apparently there are several over the next few kilometres. We also were sent into a bit of a spin (literally) as we approached a lock – not realising the River Yonne crossed the canal flowing down from the left over a weir to the right. The cross current was unexpected and Charles aborted the entry into the lock and turned 360 degrees to head in under more power although the current still managed to sweep us sideways making contact with the bank before we edged into the safety of the lock.
The sweet problem is soon rectified when we arrive in Clamecy – whilst small in UK terms is quite a large town in French terms and more importantly sells chocolate. On our arrival Peter comes out to help with our mooring ropes as does the captain from another Piper barge Decize (sorry didn’t catch his name).
The town is beautiful and in the words of Romain Rolland: ‘Amidst its circling hills, careless and spruce, with its gardens, its tumbledown cottages, its rags, its jewels, its dirty and smooth reclining body and head crowned with a stone lace tower, the town leans above the rivers’.
Clamecy reminds me in an abstract way of York with cobbled roads and narrow meandering streets. The cathedral (Cathedrale St Martin de Clamecy) whilst small for cathedrals has the most impressive stained glass windows. We decide to pause and appreciate the scenery at a little bar where Charles orders an ‘un grand et une petite bierre’ only to get a small glass for him and an even smaller glass for me – we must try harder with our French. That said I think this is an opportune moment to point out that my husband is incapable of pouring equal proportions of wine into two glasses, he always and with no exaggeration always pours more into his glass than mine. Whilst there is a case that he is bigger than me (thanks Alan) and the Department of Health specifies that men can consume a little more alcohol than women I don’t think it is fair. But being a woman I will have my revenge; he just won’t know about it until its too late….. (Charles comment – “We are literally talking millimetres here!!”)
Rant over – as we continue with our wandering we identify a nice restaurant for a Friday night treat but bump into Andy and Yvonne to hear they had already booked a table for the night and not wanting to invade on their last night with their friends decide to postpone our night out. Walking back to the boat Peter and Gwen invite us to join them so we spend a lovely evening with engaging company and very nice cuisine with a super atmosphere and just pleased, unlike our company, we don’t have to be at the railway station at 6.30 in the morning to get the Paris train.
Routine seems to have slipped in without invitation and so I am back to washing and ironing during the weekend – the good thing is that with the beautiful French sunshine washing doesn’t take long to dry and ironing is more of a habit than an expertise so takes even less time. We visit the Saturday market to stock up on fresh fruit, salad and veg which we are finding quite expensive but we are doing our bit for the French economy. We also treat ourselves to one of the irresistible little cakes (chocolate of course) as we buy our weekend croissants and the ubiquitous baguette. In preparation for enjoying this feast we embark on a longish two hour walk which provides us with all the brownie points we need to indulge on our earlier purchases and of course more wine – what a life……
The Yorkshire man decides he doesn’t want to pay for another nights mooring so we cast off and travel 9 kilometres and four locks to Villiers-sur-Yonne which whilst deserted provides free water and electricity.
It is a beautiful spot and whilst we may have said this before The Nivernais Canal is one of the most beautiful canals we have every been on. There is not much to say about Villiers – it has about 300 inhabitants (as per the 1999 census) no shops and no bars. So we take our daily saunter to the next village, Breves and enjoy a small bierre in the only place that is open but is full with five customers before strolling back through the beautiful quiet countryside for a Sunday lazy afternoon enjoying a bottle of Rosé courtesy of Sancérre as we relax on our deck – have I said ‘what a life….’
We end the day with a home-made vegetarian Moussaka, salad and baguette – it necessitates two cook books but ends up with a Sally adaptation as I have no intention of using half a bottle of a 2011 Irancy Grand Vin de Bourgogne, never use quorn so substitute lentils – I’m sure it will be wonderful……
(Charles comment – “it was!”)