Auxerre – Gurgy – Joigny – Cezy – Gurgy – Auxerre
At Auxerre, we caught up with Mary on Aquarius, who we had first met at Tannay on the Nivernais earlier this season. Lovely to catch up again. We took advantage of another few days here at the free mooring, with Auxerre having become one of our favourite places in this region. Auxerre is quite large, and there is always something new to discover. For example, this statue of Maréchal Davout one of the most famous military men of the Revolution and Napoleonic periods. He was educated at the military school at that time sited in Auxerre.
If we haven’t yet visited one of the many churches, then it is a given that we will do so. And if we have already taken a stroll through, we just might have another look.
And to cap it off, we can always get up early on a Sunday and attend mass. It was very interesting to follow the French service and compare it to our Australian Catholic mass.
Saturdays in any French town will often reward one with a wedding (or two), and it is a lovely feeling to be part of the crowd of well-wishers waiting outside the Mairie to see the newlyweds emerge with their bridal party.
For the last few days, the toilet had been making funny noises and it was getting worse at emptying. With the prospect of guests arriving, Ian, reluctantly, decided it was time for the bargee’s rite of passage – disassembling, repairing and replacing the toilet. This involved him dismounting the toilet itself, disconnecting the macerator unit and taking it out on deck to examine it.
The problem turned out to be that a guest had accidentally flushed a ‘wipe’. These things don’t chop up so it had wrapped around the macerator blades. A bit of tugging removed it and, when everything was put back together, the toilet functioned just fine. We remember our first stay on a barge as guests and the clear instruction: “three P’s ONLY. Pee, Poo and Paper”!
The whole job wasn’t as messy or offensive as he thought it would be, just a nuisance really. Still, he feels he’s now ‘one of the boys’.
Our last guests for the season were due to arrive soon and we had arranged to meet them in Joigny, where the train station is conveniently located not too far from one of the moorings. Barbara and Gus are old friends from Perth, dating back to high school when Barbara and Ian were classmates.
So once more, we left Auxerre stopping briefly at a very busy Gurgy and onto Migennes.
Here we had our first chance to see how Catharina Elisabeth had become part of the furniture at the mooring. For the last six weeks as we cruised along the Nivernais, we had been advised by one boat after another that Catharina was immortalised on a large banner at the Gurgy cabins.
Not in a particular hurry, we spent two nights at Gurgy relaxing and having a couple of walks around. Then on towards Joigny but with a visit along the way at Migennes, where we put on brave faces as we displayed our broken bimini to the chaps in Simon’s yard. I am not sure if even the promise of more Tim Tams was going to save us from their disappointment in us destroying the bimini that Mark had lovingly altered for us last winter. Rafting up several boats from the stone quay, we clambered up, over and around several barges, until we found ourselves crossing Muriel and Didier’s lovely Chamudi, to face the music with Mark and Laurence. Give him his due, Mark took it all in with good humour. Happily, Muriel had just made a lovely plum cake to celebrate the launching of someone’s boat as they were ready to leave Simon’s yard and move to another, permanent mooring at Châtel-Censoir. So we were immediately drawn into the serendipitous and perfectly delightful afternoon tea.
After a piece of still-warm cake and a conversation about insurance and repairs, we set off again to Joigny, where we would await the arrival of Barb and Gus.
Just before the bridge as we neared the town, we made a bee-line for a concrete mooring just outside the hospital, somewhat closer to the centre of the town than our previous moorings, narrowly getting our ropes on just before another boat arrived, obviously looking for the same spot.
We moved up to make room for them and then set off for a walk to the train station. Once Barb and Gus had arrived, we all took a slow stroll back through the town, and onto Catharina. We took a celebratory shot of the four of us on board in the late afternoon sun, which was mirrored in a delightful surprise gift of a jigsaw that arrived in Melbourne, some months later.
The next morning we spent several hours wandering through the town on the other side of the Yonne, absorbing the atmosphere of this charming place and bravely climbing ever higher on foot as the older part of the town on the right bank is built on a rather steep hill.
At the very top, we came across a lovely cemetery that Ian and I had not seen before, after passing through one of the old town gates. It was not far from the lavoir we found last time we were exploring here, the one that says, in no uncertain terms, that ‘cars must not be taken into the lavoir’. Alright then, we won’t.
The following morning, in glorious sunshine, we set off on the short cruise to Cézy, via a derivation (a narrow, straight stretch of canal that is built to avoid sections of the river). Many of the locks on this stretch of the river Yonne are built with sloping sides and using ropes to tether Catharina to the lock wall can be tricky. In some of the locks, the éclusier will take your rope as you enter the lock. At other times, you are on your own. We have tried a number of different techniques and think we have come up with a reasonable method to move both up and down in these locks. Some of them have floating pontoons attached to the sloped wall and, if you are lucky enough to have the lock to yourself, you can tie onto one of these. They are invariably about half the length of Catharina, but we have mastered the way we use them, and find the passage through these locks to be somewhat more relaxing. These pontoons rise as the water fills the lock (and lower as it is withdrawn), so you are basically carried up (or down) the wall on a fixed track. The éclusier pointed out that we could not travel much further as there was a broken lock at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne but we were well aware of this (and which was the reason we would not be able to reach Rousseau’s shipyard to be lifted out of the water for the hull to be painted this season) and did not intend to cruise beyond Cézy.
Just past this lock, the derivation comes to an end, joining once again with the river. We turned back onto the river in the direction where it eventually becomes un-navigable. Just a short way along, there is a pretty, secluded little mooring that we have used before. Fortunately, the space was free and we quickly made Catharina secure.
We were all keen to see if we could find the chapel of Chapel St-Julien-de-Vauguillain that had caught Ian’s eye when we were on the train to Paris a few weeks earlier. It was just a 9 km ride, nothing to Barb and Gus who regularly tour through Europe by bike. So we offloaded the four bikes and rode into the little village of Cézy, making the obligatory stop at the church, and the challenge that requires one to be the first to spot the Jeanne d’Arc statue that is almost certain to grace the church’s interior. Ian was particularly impressed with this charming little church.
Leaving the village behind, we made our way via the suspension bridge to cross the river – one of the few remaining suspension bridges in France.
Just a little way on, we were distracted by the sight of a lovely lavoir, the gated entrance being unlocked by a local woman. I asked if we could sneak a look inside, and she welcomed us in, telling us she was one of the volunteers that maintain the lavoir. She told us her parents used to be the lockkeepers at the lock we had just passed through. And she told us she had seen our lovely boat coming out of the lock a little earlier.
Back on our bikes, we cycled to the chapel, through some lovely countryside, finally crossing the river at Villevallier. The climb up the hill was very challenging, even for the two of us that were on the electric bikes (Barb and I), but it was well worth the journey. Eventually, we were rewarded by finding ourselves within the stone walls surrounding the chapel, high up above the village, with views all around the countryside and down to the river below. The Chateau de Vauguillain was built in the 12th century and went through the usual cycles of build, destruction, reconstruction until in 1630 most of the chateau was taken down and only the chapel was left. The inscription on the stone reads “Même parfois on sait qu’elle est vaine, il arrive parfois que l’on s’accroche à une illusion” [Even sometimes we know that it is in vain, it happens sometimes that we cling to an illusion] – we’re unsure why this is here but the calligraphy impressed Barb who is an accomplished calligrapher herself.
Ian had brought along the drone, and we tried our first shot at sending it out over the edge of the stone wall, to film us standing on the grassy slope that surrounds the chapel, which dates back to the end of the 12th Century.
Late in the afternoon, we spent a little time taking pictures of the bridge and a lovely mansion on the opposite bank, with Catharina nestled in her spot across the water.
In the morning, Ian went off on the baguette run, so we were adequately fuelled before retracing our journey back through Mr Grumpy’s lock, passing Joigny and Migennes, to secure a spot on the lovely long pontoon at Gurgy near another Aussie boat with a very unusual name.
We introduced Barb and Gus to the delights of free wine and cheese sampling, (casually pointing out Catharina’s fame on the large vinyl poster in front of one of the cabins) before settling in for the night.
The next morning, we cruised back through Auxerre, once again mooring beside the park having passed through lock #81 which marks the beginning of the Nivernais from this end. We took a short trip into Auxerre and visited the museum where amongst many historical artefacts was a striking modern triptych.
Barb and Gus had originally planned to leave and continue touring locally. However, we were pretty much at the end of our cruising season and our next journey would be back to Migennes to set Catharina up for winter. We had about a week to spare before this and we had decided that we would use Auxerre as a base to do some local touring using a hire car. So, we suggested they might stay a little longer and do some of the next stages of their touring with us. They agreed and we set about selecting a few places to visit.