Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Tanlay to Ancy-le Franc, June 6-10

It’s been a tough couple of years for the Canal de Bourgogne.  It was very hot and there was very little rain last summer, then again very little rain this winter. That led to low water levels in the reservoirs that supply the canals. In order to keep the canals operating, the VNF, the national waterways authorities, have had to lower the water levels in the canals. That means many of the “wild” bank moorings (and some other more developed stopping places) are unavailable and, in the case of the Canal du Centre, the hotel barges have had to leave because they need more depth than is available to operate.
There’s also a problem with weed. It looks sort of like aquarium plants gone wild. It chokes the canals, wrapping itself around propellors and clogging engine cooling systems that use canal water (not us). We haven’t had that much trouble with weed this side of the summit but we’ve been told that on the other side, especially in Dijon and below, that’s it’s pretty bad. We’ll see.

We delayed our Wednesday morning departure from Tonnerre long enough to do a little shopping at their open air market and made it to our first lock about 10:30.

From the market, fresh local cherries for about $3 per pound.

 With an hour stop for lunch we managed to cover the 8.5 k and 6 locks to be tied up at our next stop, Tanlay, by about 2:30. We wandered about town in the afternoon to get our first look at the main reason for stopping here, the Chateau de Tanlay. We would be taking the tour on Thursday.

Construction of the existing chateau began in the mid 1500’s by Francois d’Andelot and was completed about a hundred years later.

Those entrance pillars sort of reminded us of Angkor Wat.

The whole chateau is surrounded by a moat.

The most amazing room was the Grand Galarie, all trompe-l’oeil.

After our visit to the chateau we unloaded the bikes and headed up the road for the Abbey Notre-Dame de Quincy.
According to a sign there it’s open for visitors later in the summer. It was a big, active self-contained Cistercian community founded in 1133 but most of the buildings are from the 13th and 15th centuries.

Tanlay is also the starting point for the hotel barges that operate in the region. They make the trip back and forth to Veneray les Laumes, about 60 k towards the summit.They’re big and deep, helping to keep a channel open for us and keeping the weed down. There were only two currently on the move and we were able to avoid them for the most part.

Friday morning we headed out, hoping to make our next stop at Ancy-le-Franc but by about 11 am the predicted wind started and it just got too difficult to handle the boat entering and exiting locks. The lock keeper agreed. We found a mooring at Lézinnes before the lunch closure and tied up tightly. We spent a couple a hours with Neil and Karen on the narrowboat Chalk Hill 2, heading in the other direction. They were able to give us some good information on potential stopping places before we reached the summit of the canal.

Saturday morning the wind had died off and we were able to make it through the 4 locks to Ancy-le-Franc before noon.

Between 1766 and 1807, Ancy was a center of faïence, tin-glazed earthenware, with a large factory founded by the marquess of Louvois-Cortanvaux. In the early 1980’s, archeological excavations at the site turned up many examples of the china produced at the factory and today the buildings have been turned into a small museum. For the princely sum of €1 each we were able to roam through the 5 vaulted rooms, viewing some of the china and fragments produced in the factory and learning all about the manufacturing process.

There is a chateau in Ancy but we’d just been in the one in Tanlay so decided to give it a pass. We had seen in a tourist office somewhere, however, that there was an old church with restored frescoes not too far away. It was only open in the afternoon on the second Sunday of the month. We were in luck. We made the short bike ride up the canal to Chassignelles to see L’ eglise romane St Jean Baptist de Chassignelles.

We were about a half hour early for it to open and we despaired that, since it was Pentacost, the keys might not arrive but luckily, just a couple of minutes late two elderly ladies arrived and opened up the main doors.
Built in the 12th century, the interior walls were covered with geometric decorations and medallions of the apostles. Over the years it was all covered by many layers of whitewash that had to be carefully removed during the restoration, completed in 2008.

One of the ladies gave us the story of the church and it’s restoration, at our request speaking her French very slowly so we could understand. We felt really lucky to see this monument.

On the left is a fresco mural of the Annunciation and the surrounding black funeral band 
commemorates the death in the 16th century of the Marquis de Louvois, the Count of Tonnerre.

Monday morning it was off to our next stop, “Metal Valley,” the area around Montbard.

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