Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Lyon, Too Short, June 13-16

 We had intended to spend a week to 10 days in Lyon, France’s third largest city and culinary capital. The site, occupied by humans since before history was recorded, was a very important city in the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, our time there would coincide with a major heat wave.

Lyon from Google Earth

The Saone on the left and the Rhone on the right.

The oldest part of town is in that buckle in the Saone,


For such a big city on two major rivers, Lyon has a surprising lack of facilities for private boats. There is a long quay on the Saone about 2 k up from the junction with the Rhone (no security but some morning shade and free) and the new small Confluences Marina that is secure but very expensive and in the equivalent of a giant cement parking lot outside a huge shopping mall. Our original plan was to spend a few days in each location, bouncing back and forth since they’re only 2 k apart. With temperatures well into the 90’s, though, The Confluence was going to be a no go. So was pretty much all else except for museums, as a big city like that is a giant heat sink and it never really cools off. And when it’s that hot we’re not too interesting in eating big meals, either. Nevertheless, we found a place on the quay at 10:30 Monday morning and set off for the tourist office.

On the way into town we passed the Îsle de Barbe

a favorite recreation spot for locals.

Fourvière, with the Basilic de Notre-Dame de Fourvière above

It was Monday so of course everything was closed. We spent the afternoon wandering around the neighborhood between the two rivers including the giant Place Bellacour and the magnificent Basilic St. Martin d’Ainay.

We then walked down to see the Confluence. What was once a big industrial area has been rebuilt with residences, the shopping center and the small marina.

And then further down to see the architectural wonder that is the Museum of the Confluence (closed on Monday. Maybe another time.).

Tuesday were off up one of the two funiculars to the top of Fourvière to the Gallo Roman Museum, Lugdunum. The museum is built into the side of the hill so as not to interfere with the two existing Roman amphitheaters that are still in use today.

That is the museum behind the amphitheater.

Winding down through a long spiral staircase you learn the long history of Lugdunum, as Lyon was called by the Romans. Many beautiful ancient objects including some fantastic mosaics.

Near the museum is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere. We had to stop in to see this highly decorated church, built in the late 1800’s.

Wednesday was culture day. We took the tram to the northern part of the city and wandered around the Croix Rousse, having lunch at a cafe that would have been right at home at Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market. Honestly, a pulled pork gallette with a very tasty pickle and a glass of Lagunitas beer. 

Next it was on to visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts. We spent a couple of hours wandering through the collection of paintings old to new. I didn’t take pictures as the ones on the web are much better than what I could do.

Just out the front of the museum is the typically restrained Hôtel de Ville, the city hall.

After lunch it was back over to Vieux Lyon, strolling around the old neighborhood below Fourvière with its twisty streets and tiny alleys.

We didn’t get to do much of what we wanted in Lyon. When it’s so hot it’s a constant struggle to keep cool; making sure you’re always walking on the shady side of the street, finding the shady spot for a drink in a cafe and, importantly, keeping the boat from turning into an oven. The forecast called for continued hot and then turning very windy by the weekend. But we fly back to the US out of Paris in September and we’ll have to take the train from the south to get there. There is a TGV that runs from Toulouse, near where we leave Oldtimer for the winter, up through Lyon to Paris. Maybe we’ll make arrangements to spend a few days in the city on our way through.

Thursday morning we were underway again and after just 20 minutes we entered the mighty Rhone. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Trévoux and to Lyon, June 9-13


Trévoux reminded us of some of those hillside villages on the coast of Italy. Perched on the side of a hill above the water, steep streets and warm colors. It is just 20 k down the river from Montmerle so we were tied up Thursday in time for lunch.

The clock tower

When the 843 Treaty of Verdun split up Charlemagne’s empire, The Saone became the border between France and the Empire. Due to its position on the river, Trévoux became an important city. So important that it became the capital of the Dombes region in the early 1400’s with its parliament headquarters and a mint for its own money. In 1762 it was absorbed into France.

The mooring pontoon is run by the campground and, unlike Montmerle, it was staffed so the madame or her assistant arrived every day to collect the fees.

After lunch we wandered around town and up to the market square in front of the church so we could take in the view.

It turns out Trévoux is also a popular spot for the cruise ships. Thursday afternoon, two pulled into the town quay for a couple of hours.

Oldtimer looks pretty small in between these two ships

Friday was bike ride day. There is a bike path all along the river so we took advantage and retraced some of our voyage, this time from the shore. It’s a really nice, paved path and we checked out a couple of small villages along the way.

Up above town are the remains of a 10th to 13th century feudal castle. The top of the tower was partially dismantled for other uses but much of the old walls still remain.

Unfortunately the tower is only open on weekends so we couldn’t get the great view from the top.

Saturday was market day in the square in front of the church so we made the trek up for some fresh vegetables.

That stack of crates in the back is more cherries.

About $2 a pound.

After the town market it was off to the supermarket to collect the last of our groceries. Sunday we would be off for Lyon, although we would be stopping just short because we wanted to take advantage of the big city’s free quay and we didn’t want to be there on the weekend.

Also, the weather was forecast to be very hot for the next few days and we wanted one more day on the river outside of town. Unfortunately it was very hot and the mooring, very quiet when we arrived before lunch, turned out to be a magnet for obnoxious young boys jumping in the river. Later in the afternoon about 12 of them showed up and started getting very aggressive. We had to call the gendarmes who thankfully showed up pretty quickly and shooed them away. A very nice mooring spoiled.

Monday morning we were off to the big city and moored up the a quay about 3k before the Saone meets the Rhone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Continuing South, June 2-9

 Our next destination was the city of Macon. We had visited briefly when picking up and dropping off the car in 2011 and not been overly impressed with the place. It seemed a little drab and quiet for a city of its size. Our guide book says that despite being over 2000 years old, much of the city was destroyed during the religious wars so it lacks the visible history of so many other French towns. Its still not our favorite place but they are sprucing up the center of town and there is hope. 

When we  arrived early Thursday afternoon we had intended to moor opposite the city center on a pontoon in front of a restaurant, but when we arrived it was full. Mostly it was full of Lennie and Di Greives nearly 20 meter Piper, Elysium (plus a hireboat). We had had great fun with them in Briare last summer and they had spent the winter in Paris. Sadly, they were not aboard so we headed over to the city front moorings only to find them surrounded by pavilions for the upcoming H2O F1 speedboat craziness over the weekend. We called Di and they graciously allowed us to moor alongside for the night. They would be leaving in the morning.

As a thank you, we invited them over for an aperitif and, as things go, it turned into dinner and a little too much wine consumed while the rain beat down on our patio umbrella. (It did keep us dry, though.)

They left in the morning, we tied up to the pontoon and then did some touring in the city.

The Macon waterfront and the Saint Laurent bridge.

La Maison du Bois, built around 1500.

We got a kick out of this display in the window of a burger place.

That translates as “Your future frites (french fries).

The sun sets over Macon with some rain on the horizon.

We had been having an issue with Oldtimers oil pressure being too low and we wanted to address that before we went too much further on the big rivers.

There was a boat repair facility in the Macon marina so late Friday morning we traveled about 3 k back up the river to their yard. After some consultation, their advice was to replace the existing oil with something thicker; there was nothing really wrong with the engine other than being old.

That done and the prospect of hot days to come, we left the marina Saturday morning (it’s in a basin off the river, out of the cooling breezes) and headed for our next stop, Creches-sur-Saone.

The mooring in Creches was another pontoon in front of a restaurant. Our Irish friends Kevin and Eleanor on Milou had passed us while we were in Macon and were waiting to grab our lines when we pulled in. 

Saturday we did a little bike riding around the countryside and got a look at the Chateau Estours, a private residence dating from the 11th century.

Sunday it was lunch at the restaurant after Milou left and the laundry was done. Monday morning we were off for our next stop just 20 k away, Montmerle.

This time the mooring was on a pontoon in front of a huge municipal campground. Normally the campground staff would be collecting the mooring fees. The campground wasn’t active, however, and with a little research, Cathy Jo discovered that the city hadn’t been able to find staff for the facility and wasn’t going to be able to open it this year. The pontoon was still in fine shape and we spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights there. Tuesday we made the hike up the hill to a tower and chapel overlooking town. The tower was built in 1843 but it’s only open to visitors in July and August so we had to be content with the view from its base. 

Thursday we moved a further 20 k downriver to our next stop, Trévoux.

Eleanor says goodbye

but we will meet again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Tournus, May 30-June 2


My last post I said there were only two locks on the Saone between Chalon-sur-Saone and Lyon. There are three. Sorry.

It was a little under 4 hours and no locks downstream to our next stop, Tournus. We were now in the heart of the Chardonnay region.

We visited here twice on our 2011 voyage, the second time during our return from the Seille River renting a car and touring around the countryside. It’s here,  here and here.

We had to make another turn around the Abbey of Saint Philibert and it’s crypt. What started out as a primitive oratory put up over the supposed tomb of Saint Valerian, an early Christian martyr, was expanded into a sanctuary for the monks of Saint Philibert, who escaped here in 875 fleeing the Normans. 

The facade with its hand cut stones dates from the 10th and 11th centuries .

Beneath the choir is the crypt, part of the original construction.

The real reason we stayed for three days, however, was because Tournus plays host to Aux Terrasses, a Michelin 1 star restaurant. After our disastrous experience in Chalon we decided we should treat ourselves. The price for lunch was very reasonable but there were no reservations available until Wednesday so we decided to hang around. The extra day also gave us a chance to revisit Les Vignerons de Mancey. We enjoyed our visit in 2011 and things haven’t changed. The short bike ride gave us a chance to stuff the wine locker with more of the local product.

Wednesday we showed up at the appointed hour at the restaurant and were escorted to our table. What followed was two hours of great food and excellent service.

There are no menu choices, just what the chef cooks, so we ordered the three course meal with wine parings. The wine choices gave us an opportunity to taste a couple local wines, including pouilly loché, a very small AOC that produces wines from the chardonnay grape similar to pouilly fuissé. After two amuse bouches, a cup of cold fish soup and then crackers and a small tart, the entree was a seafood salad with clams and crevettes, greens and a vinagrette. That was followed by a main course of filet du bar, a white fresh water fish, with fennel three ways; shaved, as a mousse and a battered and deep fried flower stalk. The fish was served on a cream sauce and the copper bowl held a cream, garlic, potato puree.

Following a palate cleanser of raspberry iced tea, more amuse bouches appeared, mimicking the previous ones, but these were sweet.

Little crackers with lemon cream and flowers

Dessert was a mixed fruit dish with a pastry crust and a sparkling granache rose. It was all very good and filling but we didn’t feel stuffed when we were done, just very satisfied.

Restaurant cravings handled, Thursday morning it was off to our next stop, the city of Macon. Once we passed the mouth of the Seille River, just 6 k downstream, we would be on new, to us, water!

Monday, June 6, 2022

On the River, Chalon-sur-Saone, May 28-30

 Cruising on the river, especially the Saone, is very different than canal cruising. There are very few locks (only 2 in the 144 k between Chalon-sur-Saone and Lyon) the river is very wide and at this time of year, there is very little current and we are going downstream.

When we stopped in Chalon in 2011 we only stayed one night and did very little exploring. The mooring was in a marina across the bridge from the main part of town and, by our standards at that time, expensive. Now there is a secure pontoon right on the city front that’s less expensive than the marina for a boat our size . The picture of Oldtimer at the end of the last posting is on that pontoon.

We arrived Friday afternoon and did a little exploring but decided to leave most of it for Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

Friday night Bill and Nancy tried, I say tried, to take us out for dinner. While sailing in to town, Nancy made online reservations for a nice restaurant on the island. We arrived at the appointed hour to find the restaurant closed. It was a very busy holiday weekend so we walked down the restaurant street, trying to find someplace that wasn’t complet (full). We finally found a place that would seat us. After a lengthy wait, our first course arrived. Then we waited and…watched in frustration as others who were seated after us had their main course, coffee, paid their bill and left. We finally confronted the waiter who told us we would be served in “five minutes.” By now it was after 10 o’clock. Bill paid the bill for the two bottles of wine and the starters we’d had and we retreated to the boat where Bill cooked up omelettes. Not a happy restaurant experience!

After the Vaniotas’ departure we wandered the city, which we discovered we really enjoyed. The shops were busy, the streets crowded and everything looked relatively prosperous.

It’s believed Chalon-sur-Saone was founded in the 1st century BC on a terrace above the river. It changed shape repeatedly to encompass its population and attempt to protect it from various invaders like the Germanic tribes in the 3rd century.

From an exhibit we visited in the town museum, Chalon in 1785 

with fortifications on the hill above town, now gone.

The city waterfront and the Saint Laurent bridge.

This half-timbered building, the Mothe House

 is on the main square in front of the Cathedral

Built in the Roman and Gothic styles, from the 9th to 16 centuries,

the cathedral facade was destroyed during the Revolution and rebuilt in 1827.

Attached to the cathedral is a most beautiful cloister. Archeological studies have discovered that construction on the cloister was begun sometime around 1000 and is the oldest in the region still standing. It’s even older than the cathedral itself. In 2009 it was closed to the public and serious study and reconstruction was begun. One whole wall had to be demolished because it was in such bad shape but it was reconstructed close to the original style, but not so close that it’s not easy to see that it’s new. It was finally reopened to the public in 2020.

The old, restored part

Saturday afternoon after escorting the Vaniotas’ to the train station, we wandered over to the giant shopping center near the marina and then surprised Pete and Sarah, our friends from Briare on Mariana, and made arrangements to meet at the Sunday market in town.

Sunday morning we arrived at the square in front of the cathedral and made the circuit, picking up fruits and vegetables along the way. We noticed that the street leading away from the square also had some stalls so we started down it and kept going…and going…and going. We never did reach the end as we had arranged to meet Pete and Sarah in front of the cathedral and were afraid they might think we forgot. It was truly an epic Market!

Sunday night we were treated to the light display on the Saint Laurent Bridge.

Monday morning it was off to our next stop, Tournus and another serious attempt to fill the wine locker.