2018 Barging France

Nogent-sur-Seine and back again: 16/09 – 19/09

Nogent-sur-Seine – Bray-sur-Seine – Montereau-Fault-Yonne

We thought we might have made a mistake picking this mooring spot as the first afternoon wore on. Next to us was a large empty carpark in front of a substantial building of indeterminate purpose. As we were sitting there, cars began to arrive and speed around in a noisy, cavalier fashion.

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By some of the dress, it seemed like this might be hijinks associated with a wedding. Noisy and exuberant – it made one think that this might be the modern equivalent of charging horses around and flashing swords. Anyhow, no damage was done and after about 15 min, everyone left.

We took off on a bit of a cycle tour. First, we checked out the mooring we might have used, had we passed the last lock. Almost empty, but it certainly looked very comfortable.

The power station is in the background obviously and you can just see the floating lavoir moored on the right side.

Along the way, we passed an interesting historical reconstruction and mini-museum tied up to the shore. The floating vessel was a faithful reproduction of a bateau lavoir (floating washroom) of a type that had been, if not common, at least recognised, in the early 20th century.

A lavoir is a communal basin fed fresh water where the women came to wash clothes and meet their friends. In most villages, these were placed at a spot where they could be fed by a waterway and were a fixed building. This one differed in that it was movable and apparently returned to specific moorings on a monthly basis.

We also visited a small vintage car display in the grounds of a park/fancy reception facility

just the other side of the basin from Catharina Elisabeth.

Later in the afternoon, a travelling circus moved around the town performing acrobatic and balancing acts at different sites.

As each performance completed, we all moved off, following a chap with a trolley containing props, Pied Piper style,

shepherded by the local police who regulated the traffic. All having a great, relaxing time. Great fun.

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Musée Camille Claudel

We started the next day with the signature tourist attraction of the town. The sculpture museum dedicated to Camille Claudel. Camille spent her teenage years in Nogent and went on to study sculpture in various places but most significantly with Rodin in Paris where, apart from developing her skills, she became his confidant, model and lover. Tragically, she was confined to a mental hospital for 30-odd years until her death in poverty and obscurity in 1943. There is considerable controversy about how ill she was or whether she was simply a victim of neglect, largely by her famous brother, Paul Claudel.

Ian is not a big fan of sculpture but even he found this fascinating. The museum is new (opened in 2017) and beautifully designed – moving from room to room with nooks and crannies. It contains about half of Camille’s extant works (at one period, she destroyed many of her own works) which are fluid, striking and often erotic.

Camille Claudel (1864 – 1943) L’Aurore (~1900)

Given the times, her gender and the long period when she ceased to be active, Camille’s works were underappreciated in her time but she is now considered to be one of the most talented sculptors of the end of the nineteenth century.

The museum also contains a large number of works by other sculptors.

Paul Richer (1849-1933) La Poursuite (~1900)

Another attraction of the town is a house in which, reputedly, King Henry IV once stayed (we saw no evidence of Napoleon or Jeanne d’Arc in Nogent!) and dating from the 16th century. 

The framework was largely composed of wooden beams as is quite common for older buildings in the region.

No iron, not even for nails, was used in construction.

We went a bit further to check out the lock that we had avoided and, looking at the level meter on the upstream side where we would have exited, it was clearly only fractionally, if at all, deeper than 1 m – so we couldn’t have passed through.

The last marking we could see looked to be at about 1.3 m.

Our next, and last stop for the day was the Church of Sainte Laurent (Lawrence).

For a small town, this was filled with interesting art, sculpture and religious artefacts. Apart from an interesting life, St Laurent had a memorable death. One version of his martyrdom has it that he was slow roasted over hot coals while on a gridiron. As Wikipedia relates:

After the martyr had suffered pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he cheerfully declared: “I’m well done on this side. Turn me over!” From this St. Lawrence derives his patronage of cooks, chefs, and comedians.

In addition, we could add his patronage of the barbeque and the braai!

While we were there we were treated to a short concert of organ and oboe music. A delightful way to end a busy but enthralling day.

Next day was a Monday and, first thing, we went to the Hotel de Ville to report to the local police that we had had our camera taken the day before. While offloading our gear from Catharina, we had placed the camera (inside a shoulder bag) on the side of the wall against which we were moored. While we loaded other gear into the bike panniers, somehow we forgot to pick up the shoulder bag. We cycled off and about ten minutes later realised we must have left it behind, cycled back, but the bag had gone.

There was a slight hope that it was picked up by someone who would return it, but the police were dubious. Sometime after we had returned to Australia, we received a notification from the police that we used in our insurance claim and, eventually we’ve replaced the camera so the loss was restricted to the last set of photos that had not been copied off the camera.

We then set off for a short ride out of town to the nuclear power station. About 70% of France’s power is derived from such stations.

Reports were that there were public tours in the afternoons. However, when we arrived, the visitor centre was completely closed. We called a contact number and a couple of helpful souls, speaking excellent English, apologised profusely but said that the tours were now only held on Wednesday afternoons. We weren’t going to stay that long so we cycled back to relax on board as, being a Monday, very little was open in town.

The following morning we began to retrace our cruise still in pleasant weather but by early afternoon with some steady rain settling in, we were back in Bray and decided to moor up for the night.

Next morning we set off for the fairly short run into Montereau-Fault-Yonne – the town that sits on the confluence of the River Seine and the River Yonne. We took the sharp port (left) turn into the Yonne and moored up on the nice floating pontoon just under the bridge that spans the Yonne.

We were now set for the next and last stage of the season’s cruising, up the Yonne to our winter mooring at Migennes.

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    6 Responses

  1. Nogent looks fascinating but the story about St laurent is a bit disturbing. I don’t think I will ever braai with a clear conscience again – mans inhumanity…

    1. As you would know, being a church tourist, the stories around the martyrdom of saints are generally gruesome. Actually, a deeper reading of the accounts about St Laurence suggest this broiling story may have been a mistake due to poor translation. However, never let the facts …

  2. We moored up on that pontoon in Montereau last year and at night it reminded us of a Belgian motorway…blazing like the sun! We vowed never to return.


    1. We didn’t notice that as a problem but that is perhaps just us. We thought the mooring quite scenic because of the church across the river and the bridge beside us. More in the next blog…

  3. Hi both. Fascinating about the floating lavoir. Hope you made it to Gurgy OK. We set off down the Yonne on Saturday morning. Neil & Karen

    1. Yes made it easily and now in Auxerre. So sorry our blog is not up to date so you could cherry pick the bits that interest you. Might drop you an email with some tidbits.

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