France 2011

IMG_1005It’s been a major getting everything organized for this trip in the three days we allowed, it was far too little. Collecting the bikes (from Alton and Nuneaton), arranging MOT’s, visiting people and all the rest then having to pack was very stressful for all concerned - especially with full on jet lag! There may have been some disharmony.

Anyway. We had an early start (due jet lag and anxiety) with a late departure (more stress) then a dry but cold (10-12 degrees C) run down to Dover. Fortunately traffic was heavy but free flowing and we were in good time for the 12:20 ferry, which was a bit late.

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Read more: 27 May 11 - Departure

IMG_1015Dinner last night was the €25 menu and was pretty good although not quite as good as I remembered it. Service was a little on the minimal side but despite that all good. The Chateau de Cocove still gets a thumbs up in my book.

Underway by 8:30 we had breakfast at a nearby bakery, so nearby that we revisited the village three times before making our escape on the A26 peage (motorway).

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Read more: Saturday 28th May 2011

IMG_1031Our first full and unbroken nights sleep since before we left NZ. Quite a relief actually.

We decided to start going south towards Baye from the Le Boat depot at Tannay. I had sworn after last time not to use Le Boat but they seem to have gobbled up all the other operators so there is little choice. It has to be said that their rates for ‘extras’ are usurious. The bikes (which you need) and fuel are all extra and the prices are very cheeky. You just have to get over it.

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Read more: Sunday 29th May 2011

IMG_1032Cycling up to the hill to the nearby(ish) 3 kms village of Corbigny is a bit of a struggle but we manage it for a welcome Perrier and coffee. A little shopping for breakfast and other consumables follows with a helter skelter down the hill. A bit scary

M. The lock keeper was very keen for us to travel in tandem with another ‘Le Boat’ boat to conserve water in the locks. They were a bit crash and bash but all was well until we reached a lock with too little water in the pound above. M. said we should wait until 3pm (this was just before 12) for the pound to refill.

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Read more: Monday 30th May 2011

IMG_1044Rain in the night and strong winds persisted into the morning and much much colder. One of the crew down with dysentery in the night left us three handed to get through the locks in intermittent rain.

It has to be said that all the lock keepers were very helpful and quite charming but my word we got cold. One lady even sold us some fresh bread. Great.

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Read more: Tuesday 31st May 2011

IMG_1085Laundry done, water filled and ready to go early but more engine problems. The temperature alarm on the engine would not stop despite the engine being stone cold. Once again Michelle gets called.

This would seem to be a standard fault and Michelle knew exactly what to do and came in with a bottle of bright yellow fluid, refilled the radiator bottle (right - still no radiator) and we were away.

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Read more: Wednesday 1st June 2011

IMG_1111A much nicer day today and a relatively early start as we have agreed to convoy with ‘old smoky’ at 9am.

The book says that the market day in Clemency is Saturday so we now have two days to get there. Let’s hope that we don’t need to resort to Michelle’s assistance again.......

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Read more: Thursday 2nd June 2011

IMG_1122Exploring Tannay is a bit of fun, I am released from supermarket duty and am free to get a pastry, put away a couple of cafes, haircut and generally wander about town practicing my bonjours. It’s not large but the people watching is none the less fascinating for that. 

By the time the hot and tired shopping party return it’s back to the boat for lunch and me to keep my head down. 

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Read more: Friday 3rd June 2011

IMG_1144A terrific day wandering about the town. It’s pretty small so impossible to get lost and there’s lots of shops to look at. As a special bonus Saturday is market day so there’s a good range of produce to buy. There’s also a good launderette, a cafe (Mon Oncle Benjamin) with free wifi for Skype and a china shop with a wide range of stuff you don’t yet know that you need. The museum is also an interesting visit.

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Read more: Saturday 4th June 2011

IMG_1161An early(ish) sunny morning stroll through town to the cafe to join the men betting (possibly on Rapido whatever that is) and have an expresso is likewise rewarding. Baguettes, croissants, huge eclairs and the like are a welcome by product of our visit to town.

By the time we left we had to do quite a bit of motoring to get to our night stop at Roches du Saussois. This area has huge limestone(?) cliffs next to the river and is really spectacular. You can (and we did) climb the rocks via a scrambly sort of path and the view is very rewarding. Luckily we missed the very heavy thunder shower

IMG_1185A group of young french climbers came to use the pontoon for a swim after a long weekend of rock climbing. Another Coffee Break French opportunity and I must say the podcasts make it seem much easier than the real thing turns out to be. Luckily they had quite a bit of English but they let me practice.

Sadly the Saussois pub was well shut (on a Sunday evening, madness) but our barbecue on the pontoon went surprisingly well with the very excellent Sancerre wine we had bought at Le Martin-Pecheur.

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IMG_1199A bit of rain overnight and much cooler morning and a second excursion to the top of the rocks with the full party give a few planking opportunities. By the time we had finished breakfast and were ready to go there was only time for one lock before the lockkeepers shutdown at noon.

Since we now are back to no bread we stopped to explore the tiny cliff top town of Mailly-el-Chateau. Sadly we had just missed the boulangerie and had to make do with a coffee at the cafe. French opening hours are a mystery to all.

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Read more: Monday 6th June 2011

IMG_1277Vermenton boasts a supermarket and a laundrette which we made good use of. We will BBQ on the banks of the canal tonight and spend Wednesday/Thursday nights in Auxerre. Once again we have missed the morning lock keepers hours but that really is hardly a problem.

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Read more: Tuesday 7th June

IMG_1282Excellent pain au raisin at Vincelles. We stopped to look at the caves of Bailly some 20 minutes down stream but sadly the next tour was four hours away. Some Aussies in the lock had told us that we should ride over to the village of St Bris les Vineux, a bit steep but only a couple of kms.

By the time we pushed the bikes to the top of the hill and saw the decent on the other side there was a general ‘non’. We should have realized the Aussies would have us on.

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Read more: Wednesday 8th June 2011

IMG_1330Spent the day looking around Auxerre. There’s a self guided walk and lots to see (and buy if you’re so inclined). Crepe for lunch and a very nice dinner at La P’tite Beursaude at the end of the day - not quite up to the standard of the previous nights but pretty good none the less.

Only blot on the landscape is the cold I’ve come down with, I blame getting soaked in Tuesdays downpour.
We had an interesting chat with a young(ish) American couple on Wednesday who had a very very nice hire boat out of Vermenton. They booked it through France Afloat and it is not only better equipped with a far more suitable layout than ours but it’s almost new. It has to be said the our Le Boat is getting tired and the design is poor with the forward cabin annoyingly cramped.

While on this subject, as I found last time, the Le Boat ‘extras’ are really annoying. Engine hours, bikes (€45s a week - each), insurance, cleaning charge, navigation book, diesel    deposit, etc., etc. Is really a turn off. We want to know what the cost is going to be and the barrage of rip-off add-ons really spoils the experience. The engine hours add-on also clearly encourages higher speeds rather than a leisurely troll down the canal and you see the Le Boats giving it the gravy.IMG_0309

I don’t know what France Afloat charge but in our view Le Boat is a rental firm best avoided.

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IMG_1364This is effectively the last day on the boat as we have to vacate by 9am tomorrow. A taxi is arranged to get us back to the bikes at Tannay but I’m not clear how we will leave there as a runny nose in the helmet is a bad thing.

The run is a simple one from Auxerre to Migennies on the Canal de Bourgogne. Given the time we have to return the boat we are obliged to spend the night in the base. Another annoyance as pick up time from Le Boat is 4pm particularly since we get to pay for the cleaning......

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Read more: Friday 10th June 2011

IMG_1370Oh what a night. Dinner was at the Du Canal and had our party divided on the meal. For some great for others ok at best. Obviously it depend what you have. The real down side came later.

Migennies has the nastiest railway station that can be imagined. Freight trains ran all night, seemingly through the boat. You’d want the later checkout time and bring the boat in though the lock at 9am when it opens. Just don’t stay at the base, you’ll regret it.

The taxi arrived more than punctually and returned us to Tannay for the bikes. The driver was most interesting having lived in Australia for 15 years and then returning to Tannay. Obviously great insights and excellent english.

The afternoon was spent visiting the basilica at Vezlay (relics of Mary Magdalene) and the to Avallon. Finding a hotel proved mer difficult (actually only expensive) as the Logis de France was full and we just did not want to be out of town.IMG_2578

We ended up at the Hostelry de la Post (same names keep cropping up) in the middle of town. Very nice room and spacious too. Sadly the restaurant has all the ambience of a dead cabbage and the food can only be described as bland. I suspect my trout was frozen at some point but it was just tasteless. Pity as the service was otherwise good.

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IMG_1380Laundry morning at the Laundromat over the road, The joy of clean cloths and how we take them for granted.

The afternoon takes on a tour of the Morvan Regional Park, just excellent, lovely countryside and empty roads with a few other motorcyclists taking advantage of the glorious weather.

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Read more: Sunday 12th June 2011

IMG_1406Still in Avallon the forecast has changed to now not include rain. We decide however that we should stay another night anyway and have another look about the surroundings. Avallon is in any case closed on Mondays.

Todays destinations include Montreal, Noyers-sur-Serin, the Abbay de Fontanel (UNESCO world heritage) and Semur-en-Axis. All are interesting but the day is much warmer than yesterday and the heat (and our colds) make us pretty tired by the days end. We were planning on Tonnerre and Tanlay as well but flagged those at lunchtime.

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Read more: Monday 13th June 2011

IMG_1436The colds have left us feeling like another day in Avallon was in order so we did a few more housekeeping matters. Getting M’s trousers ironed(!) and posting a bunch of ‘not required on the voyage’ items back to the UK. This should ease the packing and lighten the load on the bikes. The postal customs form nearly defeated Coffee Break French at La Poste but a very nice English speaker stepped in and helped out at the end. I must do more lessons.

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Read more: Tuesday 14th June 2011

IMG_1461After a final walk about Avallon and we set off with the intention of going to Dijon via the scenic Michelin route. Sadly this was defeated by the head cold as the inside of a helmet is not a place you want to be with a runny nose.

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Read more: Wednesday 15th June 2011

IMG_1486A short trip to the pre booked Mercure in Dijon is scheduled for after our walk into Nuit St George for a pastry and coffee. Fortunately we didn’t get soaked in the heavy shower as we were able to simply have a second coffee.

By the time we got to Dijon the rain started in earnest and we were obliged to find our way to the hotel in pouring rain. Not difficult with the GPS normally but they are digging up Dijon to install a tram/railway and the place is a nightmare of one ways and diversions.

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Read more: Thursday 16th June 2011

IMG_1495Friday is one of the massive market days here in Dijon and it is just huge. We spent the day looking about that and the town’s ‘Owl Trail’, a self guided walk around the town finally ending up climbing the tower for the city view. Just great but pretty tiring, at the end we saw a party doing the tour on Segways, we really did think that looked like fun.

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Read more: Friday 17th June 2011

IMG_1539Mary has discovered that the Mercure offer free breakfasts to the over 60’s so we gave that a bash. Sadly it’s a hotel breakfast but the croissants and so forth are very good so that’s what we have.

Beaune is our first stop and full on market day. A splendid show complete with a friendly  accordion player. That and the amazing medieval Hotel Dieu (hospital/hospice) make it a great place to linger. We sadly are on our way to the country having booked the Chateau LaTour in Fours in the neighboring department of Nevers.

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Read more: Saturday 18th June 2011

IMG_1579Again we have decided to stay a second night here too. Packing seems so unproductive and having found a nice place it makes sense to make the best of it. Dinner will be a minor problem as Le Chateau LeTour is a dinner free zone on Sundays.

Our tour takes us to the flea market at nearby Remily and then on to Bourbon Lancy for a first rate lunch at La Grignotte. The day is hardly warm but pleasant for riding through really spectacular rural countryside.

Overall a first rate day.

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Read more: Sunday 19th June 2011

IMG_2651Reluctantly leaving Le Chateau LeTour we head North East to Gray (well we had to didn’t we). A picnic lunch in the fields is very pleasant but the trip goes rather wrong when we turn up back in the mess that is Dijon. The road signs have been removed and the place is bedlam, luckily it’s Monday so everything is inexplicably shut.

Gray turns out to be rather no descript and the Logis de France (Le Fer a Cheval) is really pretty run down. The other hotel on the roundabout is worse as it’s closed and no one answers the bell. This will be a one nighter.

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Read more: Monday 20th June 2011

IMG_1610An early off in the morning (the hotel is not a place to linger). We have booked the Michelin guides recommendation of Hotel Vauban in  for a couple of nights, hopefully it will be ok.

We start by following the Valley of the Soane as far as Vesoul which is very scenic. Again a picnic lunch works well and we sit by the side of a little lake near Vesoul to have this. Actually all very nice.

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Read more: Tuesday 21st June 2011

IMG_2683The front rooms at the Hotel Vauban are a bit noisy (the road outside) so I’d opt for a rear one. The hotel is however quite charming and M. Is very amicable. Today is a ‘on foot’ day and the bikes remain in the garage, it’s far too hot to get into the kit.

I do however have time to research the GPS and it seems that there is a reset which gets it going again. I don’t know why it won’t charge in the bike cradle but from others experience that may have simply gotten too wet at some point and failed. Dratted nuisance however. I’ve ordered a new one, not that that will help this trip.

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Read more: Wednesday 22nd June 2011

IMG_1658Another good nights sleep at the Vauban despite the noisy road. Breakfast is simple but expensive really for croissants and bread however it is just downstairs.

Today is off to the Ballon d’Alsase per the Michelin but Doreen has gone on strike claiming she knows nothing of France. My fix last night was plainly way off. Groan.

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Read more: Thursday 23rd June 2011

IMG_1671Doreen has recovered (courtesy of a huge download from Garmin at La Campagnard) and guides us across country to Verdun. That is after an obligatory start walking around the tiny Plombieres-les-Bain market, filling with the bikes with petrol and ourselves with pastries in the almost dead quiet town.

Verdun is of course the site of many battles But the most famous must be those of the first world war. They have built a memorial to the dead and an ossuary for the bones of many (hundreds of thousands) who dies but were not identified.

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Read more: Friday 24th June 2011

 

 

 

IMG_0322Terrible night at Le Hotel Coq Hardi. Beds uncomfortable and the pedestrian only mall a real noise trap, the dustbin throwers, plant waterers, allsorts were out in the night. Tonight looks to be even worse with a free waterfront concert, several tinnes of kit is being unloaded from trucks this morning.

The one benefit of the early start is that we were able to get the laundry done in a very clean and well organized launderette, M. Was even there cleaning it at the time we arrived and helped us get it all going. Actually the clothes will probably never be the same, much of the colour has washed out.

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Read more: Saturday 25th June 2011