Auxonne is a fairly typical medieval town with remnants of a town wall, a church, a Chateau, a market place. Auxonne also has an army garrison and it was here that Napoleon Bonaparte started his military career. While not a huge town it does have all the facilities you need for an extended stay.
Pauline and Stewart arrived to splendid weather and spent a couple of days recovering from jet lag by taking advantage of the sunshine to mosey around Auxonne and relax before starting our cruise.
Our cruise started after the obligatory trip to the boulangerie for bread, cake and quiche - lunch sorted. As we left Auxonne another two smaller cruisers were ahead of us so we assumed they were together and would go into the lock together. But no. After the first boat went in, the second boat stuffed around so much that they shut the lock gates before he entered. So then the sequence of opening was out of whack and we when pulled the cord to announce our arrival the other boat went in, effectively taking our place. It would have been so much easier for them to have turned around and re-pulled the cord but instead we had to reverse back to the cord and pull it again. Instead of taking 30 minutes to do this small section, it took 90 minutes.
It was then a relaxed and uneventful cruise to St Jean de Losne. This port is very popular, particularly with overseas boat owners, who only cruise for 2-4 months. The reason for this is that it is located almost in the centre of France and a number of canals and rivers pass through this area so it's easy to do the Canal de Bourgogne, The Canal Rhine au Rhine, The Canal du Centre, Canal de Briare, The Nivernais, the Saône River and the Canal Entre Champagne and Bourgogne. We were pleased to be able to find a mooring, with power and water, right in the centre of town on the stepped wharf. This area would be great in summer as there are a number of restaurants overlooking the Saône.
From St Jean de Losne we turned into the Canal de Bourgogne. This is one of those lovely rural canals with trees lining the canal and views of amazing yellow canola fields in between. These canola fields are even more impressive when viewed against a backdrop of black thunderstorm clouds. Fine weather in the morning - thunderstorm in the afternoon.
On the smaller non commercial canals it's not unusual for the VNF to have a lunch break between 12 and 1pm. So they usually leave you in a lock to eat lunch and then come back after an hour to let you continue on your journey. If they leave you in a lock at the top then you can take the opportunity to go for a stroll.
After two very serene days we arrived in Dijon. By this stage Stewart and Pauline had totally relaxed into the barging lifestyle and I don't think it would take much to convince them that retirement isn't such a bad option.
We were a bit apprehensive about staying in Dijon as we had been warned that it was difficult to find a mooring in the port for a boat of our size. The only suitable place was a Quay alongside a park overlooked by apartments. A number of barge owners had said there were issues with drunken and drugged people making lots of noise and that things had been stolen from boats and people jumped on your boat. Well we stayed 2 nights and it was so quiet. I think we were the noisiest people on that section after our return from Le Sauvage restaurant late on Sunday evening! And come Monday we were the only boat moored here.
No trip to Dijon is complete without a trip to a "moutarderie" . We found Moutarderie Fallot down a side street near Notre Dame Cathedral. This cathedral has a carving of an owl on one of its exterior walls (Rue Chouette), where you make a wish and rub it with your left hand to make your wish come true. Anyway the mustard shop has a vast array of different types of mustard that you can sample before you buy. The honey and balsamic as well as the provencale are both very tasty without being too hot. I'm not sure whether its the association with mustard but there appears to be a number of good restaurants here - from Le Sauvage that we ate at on a Sunday night to a cheap and cheerful bistro, L' Edito, next to Porte Guillaume, where we had lunch on Monday. The wine is pretty good as well - Pinot noir, Chardonnay, aligote to name a few.
Dijon was also the centre of the Ducs de Bourgogne with the Palais and Cathedral St Benigne where all the Dukes are buried.
Tuesday arrived where we said goodbye to our guests, who were heading on to the next part of their adventure in Ireland, and we continued our voyage up the canal de Bourgogne.