Exploring France: Paris to Auxerre on a Linssen GS40.9

Peter Cumberlidge explores the French inland waterways from Paris to Auxerre as part of a delivery trip for a new Linssen Grand Sturdy 40.9

Cruising into Burgundy

We entered Burgundy just north of Sens (pictured below) and stopped to explore this historic port, clustered around a flamboyant cathedral.

A leafy stretch of town quay is reserved for visitors and we moored alongside near the old town centre and its maze of narrow streets.

Sens - visitor quayHere we found some enticing food shops, including a mouthwatering café-charcuterie called Le Village-Gourmande.

Near the cathedral a 19th century market is being meticulously restored. We lunched at L’Ambiance des Halles, a stylish modern bistro-fishmonger where you choose your fresh seafood and tuck into it as part of a three-course menu.

The weather had turned summery and Sens was in holiday mood. Back on board we relished our air-conditioning, until I turned the fan too high and tripped the whole quayside shorepower system.

There were more culinary treats to come. Tony and Nicola had spotted James’s birthday cards in our saloon and Nicola baked him a scrumptious chocolate cake, presented with a discreet number of candles. One of the great pleasures of cruising is meeting kind people along the way.

Up to Villeneuve

Casting off early next morning, we said au revoir to Archangel as a wispy morning mist cast a romantic veil over the river.

Pushing out of Sens into the country, we waved to our friendly bargee (pictured below) who was alongside a huge silo, loading his vital barley.

Friendly bargeeAfter entering our first lock quite quickly we had to wait inside while a small blue French boat called Poppie bumbled up astern after a plaintive VHF appeal to the lock-keeper.

I’d hoped to avoid this sharp-edged bumper boat who’d caused consternation in previous locks by not using warps and drifting about in the swirling inrush.

Beckoning this hazard alongside, we made Poppie fast and thereafter proceeded in amiable convoy until stopping for lunch at the pleasant town of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.

Too late for the riverside restaurant La Lucarne aux Chouettes, we rustled up a light three-course snack before wandering ashore. Villeneuve is a carefully preserved walled city with two spectacular entrance gates which house the town museum.

In Rue Carnot we saw a nostalgic piece of waterways history – the old bargees harbourmaster’s office with its elaborate balconies.

Villeneuve - Tour de BonnevilleLeaving Villeneuve we passed La Tour de Bonneville (pictured above), a striking three-storey round tower with a conical roof – one of the original seven from the town walls.

Low bridge at Joigny

At Joigny the Yonne has an expansive grandeur and a very low bridge. Perhaps we’d need to lower our mast for the first time?

The river was sinking nicely after its winter floods, but hadn’t reached the low summer levels which give more generous headroom.

Judging the clearance of a bridge is tricky until you get close and at the helm I was being briefed by Jane the optimist, always sure there was plenty of room, and James the pessimist, convinced we couldn’t possibly get through and disaster lay ahead.

As the man responsible for the safe delivery of our expensive vessel, I always heeded James’s cautious exhortations to sidle under low bridges at a crawl. However, Jane was always right and we had safe clearance under all Yonne bridges at the middle of the arches.

Joigny looked attractive, but the only mooring spot was full and we ended up alongside a houseboat for the night, unable to get ashore. Sadly we’d passed a notable restaurant before the town, because I thought its jetty looked a bit rough.

La Côte Saint Jacques (with two Michelin stars) would have been memorable, though we saved a hefty sum by cooking lamb cutlets and new potatoes on board. Joigny is known for vin gris, a rosé coloured wine made mostly from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. It probably goes well with cutlets.

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