Auxonne - Charentenay

Where were we?? Oh yes, in Auxonne, arriving on Saturday, the 19th of May. During the week end we had visitors from our home country, being our sister(-in-law) and brother-in-law. They stayed opposite of us, on a camping site with their car and caravan combination. As you can imagine we had a great time and left not earlier than Tuesday the 21th to travel to a place called Lamarche-sur-Saône, negotiating only one lock and traveling just over two hours. Horrible weather....

On Wednesday, May the 22nd, the river had risen even more during the night before but we decided to soldier on anyway, because the mooring spot was a sort of ugly and we try to hold on to a certain schedule, related to visitors to come. The picture shows La Saône in spate; the garden of this lovely house is partly submerged.

That same Wednesday we -vaguely, possibly- planned to have an overnight stay at a place called Mantoche. We had read a positive review and seen some lovely pictures. Well, the only prove of the 'halte fluviale' were the signs in the centre of this picture. Everything else had disappeared underneath the water so there was only one possible conclusion: go on and hope for the best!

We were forced to skip a few possibilities to moor for the night, due to unaccessibility or being fully occupied until, at last, we reached (Arc-lès-)Gray at 5:00PM, having done two locks and cruised for 8 hours and a quarter! The word 'cruised' should be replaced by 'ploughed against the strong current'. It was a bit suspicious that we were the only boat on either bank of the river but who cares, we found a place at long last. A few days later we saw the same spot again. The water had dropped around 7 feet (really!) and we could now see that we were in front of a bridge-like construction with 4 or 5 arches. This was all invisible when we arrived. The quays in front of us, behind us and on the opposite side were all of no use for boaters, as they are constructed with several steps and for the most part deep under water. No wonder we were the only one on this illegal place......

Another view of the wild wild Saône, now seen from Gray bridge. Our boat is just visible in the background, in the centre of the picture, waiting for better times.

Gray is a place well worth visiting. This is the town hall with a roof very typical for the region - for some period no longer being Bourgogne but Franche-Comté.

On Saturday the 25th of May an official of VNF (Voies Navigables de France) strongly advised us to leave because it was thought the river would drop substantially and the danger of grounding was not unrealistic. So we left that day at 10:15AM without any idea where to go. The first thing to do was cruise into a lock just next to the barrier ('barrage') at Gray. Well, this was no job for the faint-hearted: just cruising was not good enough, it had to be 'full trottle' with a fair amount of agressiveness. 'La capitaine' did very well - with steady hands and shaking knees.

That same day we encountered the first tunnel on the Saône, part of the 'Derivation de Savoyeux' and thus a canal-like piece of waterway, which is absolutely relaxing after plodding along for hours on the river. When seeing the tunnel in the distance it is hard to believe there is no need to break down the wheelhouse. The lock keeper at the beginning of the cutting assured us about the tunnel being wide and high enough for our boat. He proved to be dead right and it was a lovely 640 meters (over 2,000 feet) long experience. Traffic lights make for a care free passage.

Eventually, after a few impossibilities, we found a place to stay at Charentenay at 6:30PM on a cutting, so no current for a change! We had done 6 locks and cruised for over 8 hours and it had been really exhausting. Here we were able to wait for visitors from The Netherlands, who'd arrive the next day.

The Charentenay-mooring seemed to belong to a restaurant on the bank 'L'Auberge des Hirondelles'. So we decided to have dinner at this inn, giving us the opportunity to persuade 'le patron' to allow our friends to park their car for a few days on his car park. The good man had no objections whatsoever. As a dessert one of us had this (brace yourself!) 'nougat glacé au gingembre confit et absinthe'. It was delicious. The spoon is real. The fork is not. To end this weeks events with, the most special thing of this restaurant was that inside the main lobby, annex bar, several swallow couples had built their nests and had kids. Bird-kids we add, to avoid misunderstandings. The birds are flying in and out by using a small window that is never to be closed. According to le patron's wife they go back to Africa in September, to return to this restaurant every spring - already for years. Hence the name of the restaurant. Amazing or what?