Monday, July 10, 2017

DBA 25th Anniversary Rally - Part 1

View of St Stephens church from the Aquarelle marina


We chose to cruise to Burgundy this year so that we could attend our first barge rally. This year was particularly significant as it is the 25th anniversary of  the formation of the Dutch Barge Association. Auxerre was the destination and what a lovely town it is. It probably has some of the best examples of medieval architecture in France, and with its position above the Yonne River, it is a memorable place to visit. Auxerre is situated in the heart of the wine growing region most noted for its Chablis. We arrived a week before the rally to give us plenty of time to explore and familiarise ourselves with the town.
15th century clock tower
Sunset view of the Yonne and the two of the churches overlooking it
The rally was actually on the Nivernais Canal a short walk out of the centre of Auxerre. We were one of thirty one boats, mostly barges, that gathered at Parc Arbre Sec to participate in 3 days of organised activities. If these boats were moored end to end they would have covered nearly 800m so many were rafted and at times they were three deep.
Just some of the 31 boats at the rally
Even moored three deep
Colourful boats and interesting names
On the first night Brad and Nancy from Libellule hosted the "get to know you" drinks party. Apparently at one stage there were 76 people on board so it was imperative that they were evenly dispersed throughout the boat rather than congregating around the food and drinks.
The party boat
A bit heavy in the rear end
Our first organised activity was a wine tour, wine tasting, visit to St Bris church and a luncheon at the mairie in St Bris. The wine tour was through the Chablis vineyards with an explanation of the 4 different categories from Petit Chablis all the way through to Grand Cru. As there is only 100 hectares of these Grand cru vines they are obviously the most expensive in the region and highly sought after by local vignerons.
Chablis Grand Cru vines

Our wine tasting was conducted at Domaine Bersan by the 21st generation of vigneron. We tried 4 different wines matched with 4 different snacks and were then given a tour of the cellars by the patriarch of the family. These cellars have existed for centuries but, during WWII, were connected so that the townsfolk could walk safely underground to the church. After the war they were blocked up again but as the Bersan family has accumulated properties in the town for family members they have been interconnected again to store their wines.
Wine tasting and food pairing at Domaine Bersan
Some of the casks stored in the cellar for future bottling
After the wine tasting we were given a guided tour of the Church of Saint Prix  and St Cot. For such a small village the church seemed to have a number of historical artifacts and interesting paintings.
The church of St Prix and St Cot with the gates of the chateau
The nave with the relics of st Prix and St Cot on either side
This painting depicts the family tree of Jesus and, amazingly, shows that one of the town's distinguished families is descended from Christ
This is a Catholic propaganda painting at the time of the Huguenots showing that the only way to get to heaven is to be a catholic
The copper cover of the font depicts the fleur de lys and dolphins which are symbols of royalty. It isn't known where this cover came from but it is assumed to have links to Francois I
After our tour of the church we were treated to a lovely lunch in the Salle des Fetes of the local Mairie, housed in the old chateau.
Happily enjoying our luncheon in the salle des fetes

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