(Plombières-lès-)Dijon - Auxonne

On the Monday, the 13th of May, we left Plombières-les-Dijon for 'the real' Dijon. This interesting medieval city was reached after two hours of cruising, including five locks. The city's harbour, in the background, did not offer the facilities we hoped for (space, water, electricity) so we moored alongside the quay on the opposite side. Some joker untied the front rope during one of the nights we stayed here. Luckily it was on a canal - and not a river. For obvious reasons we prefer rings over bollards, it's safer and offers the additional opportunity to use a chain and padlocks.

Our barometer, a dear heirloom from la capitaine's parental home and our most important weather forecaster, is already for longer than we care to remember on the 'R' of 'Regen' (Rain). One would think the thing has gone broke finally but on the contrary: it is raining day-in-day-out. A bit discouraging, to be frank, and cold as well. We are not ready yet to dispute global warming although we did not notice one bit of it for foo long a period.....

The Dukes of Bourgogne, next to the rulers of France and the Holy Roman Empire, were equally powerful in the past. Their empire, including a huge part of The Netherlands, existed for about 500 years roughly from 1000 to 1500 AD. Dijon, the capital, was a place of tremendous wealth and power and one of the great European centres of art, learning and science. This picture depicts the Duke's palace with La Tour Philippe le Bon (The Tower of Philip the Good).

A view of the city from La Tour Philippe le Bon. Height 46 meters, number of steps only 316. Nothing is too much when pleasing our viewers is involved! It is impossible to offer a sunnier sight for reasons already described.

Many still-inhabited town houses in the city's central district date from the 18th century and earlier. Dijon architecture is distinguished by, among other things, toits bourguignons (Burgundian polychrome roofs) made of tiles glazed in terracotta, green, yellow and black and arranged in geometric patterns. (Wikipedia.)

Another picture of Dijon's centre. Sorry, we no longer are able to disclose the name of this square because we donated the city's map to visiting family members who are planning to travel to Dijon tomorrow (21 May). Well, you can do without the name, can't you? We consider this picture unique in the sense that an unexpected lighter spot is visible either side of the church's spire. Would it finally.....? (No, it definitely would not.)

When one says 'Dijon' one says 'moutarde' (mustard) at the same time - so to speak. Dijon is famous for its mustard which originated in 1856, when Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic 'green' juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe. In general, mustards from Dijon today contain white wine rather than verjuice. When reading the sign above the window of this fine shop, mustard was made in Dijon long before Jean Naigeon did his 'invention'. Do we have to comment on the umbrellas????

And now something completely different, being Dijon's Musée des Beaux-Arts. Go there if you can and it's free too - at least when we where there. Here's a magnificent statue of Hebe, the goddess of youth, and the eagle of Jupiter, by François Rude.

We know this is a fairly lousy picture which, under normal circumstances, would never see the light of day. But it is a bust of the great composer of French baroque music Jean-Philippe Rameau (Dijon, 25 september 1683 – Parijs, 12 september 1764), as seen in the museum. It gives us the chance to introduce you to his magical music. Follow the link on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poIf8Jl6wBc, and perhaps, hopefully, you will be pleasantly surprised.

The main attractions, or at least among the main attractions, of the museum are the tombs of Philip II the Bold and his son John I the Fearless. Unfortunately, the hall with the tombs inside was closed because of renovation. That seemed bad luck, as both tombs are decorated with 40 (each) stunningly beautiful and detailed little alabaster sculptures, 'les pleurants' (the mourners). Lucky us, around 40 of them were on display inside free standing glass display cases making it possible to look, rather: gaze, at them from all sides. Here is a fine example, described as 'pleurant with hidden face using his habit for wiping his tears, with the left hand on his chest'. All sort of emotions, well known by us human beings, were represented by fine little detailed statues, all of them made with obvious loving care and patience.

Although the water tank, situated in the front of the boat, is huge and sufficient for at least three weeks we wanted to top up for ballast and easier handling as well as sitting deeper in the water, thus creating a better view forward. But there was no water tap on the quay side... A friendly French boat owner, living on the boat that is visible on the left on the first picture, had no objections whatsoever for us to more alongside his boat and using his long hose, making it possible to reach a tap on the shore of the harbour. Thank you, Manuel! The name sounds Spanish but for the record: he is 100% French.

Because of the dreadful weather we stayed in Dijon for a longer period than anticipated; we did not leave earlier than Friday the 17th of May. It took us 5 hours and 10 locks before we moored at 2:30PM at Bretenière. Apart from a bunch of guys in funny outfits preparing for a stag night and helping a lock keeper, nothing special happened that day. The pictures of the men were not good enough to publish. We are extremely critical! (Unless of course it is about Jean-Philippe Rameau.)

A considerable part of Bourgogne was hilly, almost mountainous, as the pictures of recent weeks have shown. Now the landscape is flat, like our home country, possibly because of the wide Saône basin. It makes for a different view and is a prelude of the river soon to come.

On our way to La Saône we spotted two young boys on the towpath who were throwing stones. In the water, it has to be said, but it is always wise to scowl at them (without overreacting) and have a photocamera visible at hand. It worked: they cleared off. So we can delete the pictures that show their faces....

Saturday the 18th of May at 5:47PM we finally reached the river La Saône at Saint-Jean-de-Losne, after more than 8 hours of cruising and the final 12 locks . In 32 days we cruised the entire Canal de Bourgogne and negociated 189 locks. The euphoria of this achievement caused a temporary black out, making us forget to take a picture of our mooring spot. So we have 'borrowed' a nice picture from the Internet. We refuelled the dieseltank, almost 250 liters, at the fuel station where the two big blue pillars are visible and we had an overnight stop on the other side of the bridge where, if you try hard enough, you can see the boats.

On Sunday the 19th we were back where we had been for a long period, being a river - La Saône. The rain that has come down lately causes a strong current, made visible by this picture. We are used to cruise on 1200 revs and refuse to increase this, as it burns more diesel and the speed hardly increases. Apart from that we are in no hurry. Having said that, there was a moment that we passed the mouth of a tributary that had formed a sand bank, thus forcing the water to 'compress' itself through a narrow channel, causing a very fast current and decreasing our groundspeed to a mere 0,8 knots (1,5 kilometers) an hour. Our normal groundspeed that day was around 3 knots (5,5 kilometers) an hour.

Later that day we reached Auxonne. It took us 3,5 hours and one lock. The lock is automated and is brought into action by twisting a cable, protected by a thick plastic hose, that is hanging down in the middle of the channel. It was new to us and worked wonderfully well. The cable is twisted, lights start to flash, the lock is emptied (dependant of the situation of course), the lower gates are opened (we are going upstream), the boat enters the lock, a steel bar inside the lock is lifted, the lower gates close, the lock fills itself, the upper gates open, the boats leave the lock - job done! Today, Monday, we stay in Auxonne because the already mentioned visiting family members are with their car and caravan on the camping site opposite our mooring space and we are having a good time, in spite of the never ending downpours. Tomorrow, Tuesday, we'll see....