France 2011 - Lyon and the Saone River
22 June 2011
Lyon Pk 0
After navigating the mighty Rhone we arrived at Lyon, the third largest city in France known for its food and wine. What a great city Lyon is but unlike many other cities that have developed over the ages round a centre Lyon developed parallel to the river in waves from the major range of hill though which the Saone flows. When they had filled the space they moved to the next river the Rhone and when they filled that space they moved further east. Today the most modern apartment block are on the outskirts on the eastern edge of Lyon. We took the port side at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone and motored only a few kilometers to the end of the old part which is the southern tip of the Pesquile. Here in the redevelopment of this once wasteland the authorities have built a brand new marina and lake are water events. It is surrounded with modern well designed apartment blocks and what looks like a conference centre which would make Darling Harbour look like a toy model. The train runs right through the centre and the tram stops outside.
When we arrived at the new marina we could see the boats inside but the bridge was too low for Malua. After many calls on the radio to no avail someone spotted us and walked over and lifted the bridge. We went in and tied up alongside a floating wharf. Right next to Forever who unfortunately where just leaving. To find the entrance look on the starboard side when you pass the orange building you are getting close if you pass the fuel barge you have gone about 150m too far.
The following is a paraphrase of my blog entry at www.malua.blogspot.com/???? we arrived in Lyon and quickly took the tram into the centre of Lyon and then on up the hill to Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere then walked down through the rose garden into the old city and along the banks of the Soane back to the boat located at the southern tip of the Pesquile.
Day two with audio guide at ear which one can hire from the tourist office at the Bellecour square we took the metro to the Hotel de Ville – the Town Hall to get the background of the new Lyon National Opera house built inside and on top of the original walls. The roof is a black barrel vault of steel and glass which hovers over the Neo-Classical shell with its statues and columns.
From there back onto the metro for the ride up the hill in to the area of the silk workers of the past, the Croix Rousse or working hill. (Fourviere is the praying hill with all its churches). This area was the main silk producing district of Lyon which gave birth to the canuts apartments (not dissimilar to Venice) where the work was conducted on the ground floor with its long, large windows for light and high ceilings, the next floor for trade and the top levels for living. This area is regarded as the site of the first social revolt of the workers against the silk merchants. The local still view themselves as rebels and different which it is apparent in the architecture and street scape.
From the top of the hill we walked down the main Boulevard to the site of Croux Rousse which was in the C16 a large limestone cross but today it is marked by the Gros Caillou – big pebble which now looks like a stone too large for a frontend loader to move so the city fathers turned it into a tourist feature! It’s a long walk for a look at a rock but the view east over the city is rewarding and one realizes just how extensive Lyon is and how it has been built in waves extending outwards from the river and not in circles like other cities.
From here we took a Traboules - they are corridors that connect the internal courtyards of the adjoining buildings and apartments but also link the parallel streets. A short cut to get to work quickly if you know the route. The one we followed was through four courtyards and down many steps before we can out at the Amphitheater of the Three Gauls said to be the largest in Gaul but not used then or today to martyr Christians or to host concerts.
We were back at river level and walked down the Rue de la Martiniere to a mural of the famous people of Lyon painted on the side of a five story building. Next we crossed the bridge back into the Old Lyon - the narrow strip of land between the Fourviere hill and the bank of the Saone. The largest Renaissance area in France so the tourist guide states. Bounded by the three churches St Paul, St George and St Jean which we had visited the previous day and would return to hear a choir on Wednesday. Inside we watched the astronomical clock of the 14C go through its routine right on the hour.
Back along the rue de Beouf where we entered a Traboules at 27 to come out in Rue St Jean. The door is closed so all you have to do is ring the bell and the door will open and you will enter the world of the past with narrow corridors, steep steps and narrow internal courtyards, with people living in all the apartments.
It was almost six o clock and we had to return the audio guide to Bellecour square. Lyons transport system is great, it works, is interlinked and simple to use. Don’t ride it without a ticket. We had been checked twice that day. The other thing is that you can ride for one hour on the same ticket. Jump on, jump off. It takes you right back to the marina. Dont forget to fill with diesel and exchange your camping gaz at the barge there because there are not many more places available on the Saone except at large supermarkets.
Your first Saone lock is only 9km out of town. It has a lift of 4.0m so one has to use the stepped bollards in the wall or attached high up. It is not difficult if you get your timing right. If you do not remove the line as it sinks under water it will slip off but this is a strategy I would not employ.
We left late in the afternoon after re-provisioning. Not an easy task in that part of the city and started a slow ride op the Saone through the heart of the old part of Lyon. One soon realized that you where not on the mighty Rhone, there is little current and the depth has reduced to less than 2 m under the keel. Still it is beautiful and the banks have lots of trees. After passing through our first Saone lock - easy we continued upriver. We set our sights on a small town Neaville with a mooring right in the centre. There is adequate depth although be careful with the rough wall and use your barge boards else the fenders will be damaged. See my blog entry regarding the market came to Malua at www.malua.blogspot.com/???.
Heading out of the city of Lyon and the suburb of Neaville we started to feel in the country of the Saone although there were sill many highways crisscrossing the surrounding land. The first major stop was Trevoux which is a very old town and the capital of Dombes. The mooring is upriver of the bridge adjacent to the caravan park. There is a great bicycle track all along the starboard bank. We cycled along the track to the next town of St Bernard.
Trevoux has in the 10 and 13 century an independent principality with its own parliament, hospital and interesting town houses. The local man in charge insisted that every member live in the town and consequently many fine houses where build, most stand today.
We walked through the town and out into the fields behind the town to discover the local practicing for some fair in which the local dressed up in the costumes of the day and enacted their daily activity. It looked great fun with the peasants trashing the corn and the noblemen walking around doing nothing. No change to the modern day.
Jassans- Riottier PK41
Just north of the last stop but set back from the river is the town of Jassans-Riottier with a good floating pontoon to which a number of boat can moor. We pulled up. Close by is a rather upmarket restaurant which was hosting an evening party - suits and long dresses. The town is not much to write home about but the large Carrefour caught our interest and we again stocked on essential like wine. The local police arrived in the morning to collect the 5 euro mooring fee.
The town across the river I understand deserves a visit. Villefranche sur Saone was founded in 1140 in the Beaujolais style, like Lyon with internal courtyards. We will visit it on the way south.
Great stop at a floating pontoon usually occupied by large barges who should not be there. We got there first and only one an American came in front of us. Behind was a much smaller barge owned by the ex editor of a British sailing magazine. He had some interesting stories about running a paper magazine.
Just down the road from the main bridge across the river is a Cave - cellar. The fellow is very passionate about his wines. Unfortunately our language barrier stopped us discussing the niceties of the different types of wine but in the end we purchased a large quantity of the local whites and a sac of red which has turned out to be exceptional.
The town is OK and has quite a good produce market on a Tuesday. A butcher at the market was offering a special on three different types of sausage. The lady before me asked in her best French for the special and the butcher loaded up the three types of sausage. I though I was getting a Kg for 6 euro but when he started my face fell. I only wanted one kilo but he indicated that If I took two I would get a third kilo free. Great deal but my calculations went wrong and in the end I paid 18 euro for three kilos of sausage. Good deal but how do two people eat that amount of sausage. I can tell you - with ease. It was just great.
Just up river is the second Saone lock which like the first is quite easy with a number of bollards in the wall. It only rises 2.9m
Creches sur Saone PK73
We had been warned that this floating mooring was shallow so we approached it with caution at almost right angles. We can alongside with ease and secured ourselves to the pontoon. Price 7.70 euro per night without water and electricity but the free use of their Wifi at the campsite. I was off in a flash to use the Internet and update the blog and website.
Just out of mooring area slightly north is the largest retail/outlet site I have ever seen. It has the largest Carrefour and Decathalon I have ever seen. We made a quick trip at the close of business to see if we could find a cheap bicycle for Alpha - one of our friend joining us in a few days. No luck on the cheap side compared to my two cycles for $0 euro at the flee market near Port St Louis.
The next day we got on our bicycles and rode into the hills to inspect the vineyards of area plus the chateaus. See the blog for a detail expose of our exploits. at www.malua.blogspot.com/??
After the quiet rural life of the previous mooring we entered the big city of Macon. It has a new floating pontoon with sufficient water but full of boats. We secured at the end of the mooring just under the walk down. It has the only shade on the pontoon so that afternoon the local drug induced teenagers decided to set up shop on the pontoon in the shade. I had ridden off in search of a bicycle and left Denny on board reading. These louts did not make a noise but their sheer presence was intimidating. Denny decided to stare than down. After a rather long time they got the message a moved down the mooring and finally left after a steady trade of quite good looking girls had purchased their supply for the night.
The next night was Bastille Day so we moved forward almost to the end of the wharf to watch the fireworks on the esplanade right in front of the boat. It was a great show deserving of a blog entry at www.malua.blogspot.com/????
We returned to Creches sur Saone for a few day just to meet the schedule of guests on board. While it is great to have friends it always seems to mess up your schedule no matter how well you plan.
The main moorings are down river of the bridge but from my experience they are always full. The upriver section is used by charter boats and is reserved although I would think if you defied the notice nothing would happen. We chose to go alongside up river of the bridge against a stone wall. There is just enough depth but the wall is rough so a barge board is useful. there is no water or electricity for more than 30 meters so bring a long lead or hose. The town is interesting with a very good cheese shop in the main drag towards the church. They say the church and the Abbey deserve a very close look. I agree but it now has to be great to get me turned on. On Saturday morning the market comes to town along the main street. It is very good. A supermarket down river is also good.
The tow path on the right side that is port going up river is very good and seems to go for miles. We rode the full length and only turned back when we could go no further. Great ride with river on one side and form land on the other.
There is a massive lock (long and wide) at Ormes right next to a barrage. It only rises 2.53 so not a challenge. Use the stepped bollards in the wall and stay back from the upriver gates.
Gigny sur Saone is and old lock which one may stop. Sundancer stopped here and said the restaurant is good. We pressed on upriver.
Chalon sur Saone PK142
A good marina which can get full during the middle of the week with charter boats but you should find a spot preferably in one of the spaces right in front as you arrive. Try to stay out of the channel on the port side as the charter boats bounce there way through the narrow channel - well almost all do! It is expensive at 20.00 euro a night for a 11.99 meter boat - water and electricity included but no wifi. The town is very interesting and puts on a good show. The photographic museum is a must. The great advantage of this marina is it is within a stones throw of Carrefour so one can wheel a shopping trolley back to the marina and deposit it along side many others. There is also a McDonald with free wifi.
The train station is on the free bus through the city and is a hub to many other cities. We took a train to Beaune 12 euro for two for the day return. A short ride with one train a hour. Well worth the journey to see the wine cellars in this city. We walked through 7 km of underground cellars filled with 20 million bottles of plonk going back to before 1930. Now that is a venue for a party.
Verdun sur le Doubs PK167
This is at the start of the Doubs canal which is rather shallow so we were not able to follow the river but tied up bow to the wharf along with a number of charter boat who were stern too. The current was mild so we did not drift down and in fact we secured ourselves to one of them to keep us off the dock. The price is 12.50 collected by Adrien the son of the owner and wife Valarie. The son had spent time in Australia as a French chef somewhere on the barrier reef but all they wanted him to do was fry chips! He left after a few days and went to Sydney as a real French chef. He convinced us to dine as his cafe that evening and we had a great beef and wine sauce dish, snails and an omlette. Not a great meal but would do for a light lunch. The town has a good museum of bread which was very interesting.
Through the lock at Ecuelles which is only 3.2m
An interesting place to stay. Dont be fooled by the obvious channel on the starboard side of the river, follow the blue arrow and go round the island to the floating moorings. The upriver mooring are very shallow so we tried the last two and was able to get into them. The fellow came for the money that evening and even through I told him I was only 11.9 he charged me the higher rate which I in my best French objected to so he only charged the 13.00 euro fee. The is suppose to be wifi but on both occasions we visited it was broken. The town has a good station which Alpha used to return to Paris via Lyon. We were sorry to see her go, she is such fun on the boat keeping a cracking pace, never letting up and inspiring us to do more and more. Thanks for the great time and especially the inspiration to prepare better food than the French.
This town has a great wine bottler - La Cave de Bourgogne 45 Gde rue du Boulevard St Michel Suerre 03 80 21 10 08. One should not miss a visit to the cellar. As usual we purchase much too much wine but was prepared with our 5 and 10 litre plastic jugs for the "after bottle" draft. The wine is good and dispensed via a bowser just like the petrol at a service station only cheaper!
St Jean de Losne PK215
The barge capital of France with two very large marines and two chandlers. It is also home of the La Boat charter business. Many British folk spend the winter in this area. The museum is a place to swap stories and to meet other English speakers. When we approached the town there was a marathon in progress so we were waved on unable to stop but on our return down the river we stopped and visited the Marina. They have a list of barges for sail from the plastic fantastic ex charter to real turn of the century long barges. The price ranges from 500 000 to 50 000 euro depending on age, condition and facilities. There is also two yards who will do some serious steel work on an old barge. I frankly dont know why one would stay here because the town has nothing.
The stepped mooring are a challenge for us as we found out when the water level dropped. The blog covers the event. Here....
Auxonne PK 234
After one comes out of the diversion channel and through the narrow exit just past the bridge is the floating mooring. The down stream end is very shallow but further up it is deep enough. When we arrived there was no space so we tied alongside a British barge. Well over 15 and not supposed to be there. the skipper was not on board and the crew obviously press ganged into coming was rather surly and said they had paying guest and they did not like us along side. I pointed out their length, their SSR number and paying guest on British barges in France with that type of license would put him back in jail. When the master returned he turned out to be very nice guy. We subsequently met him up the river. He had fired the crew and the guests.
Just out of town is a large Casino supermarket with another further south an Intermarche. It is a good place to stock up with food within walking distance of the boat. There is also a Brico hardware store with lots of tools, hardware and gaz and water fittings. As always half the price of boat Chandler. The copper 3/8 tube was only 2.60 euro in place of the 10 euro I paid in the UK. I stocked up on fittings which I used to re route the diesel excess from the generator to the forward tank.
Richard and Marita joined us for the next leg of the trip. They had driven from the UK via Epernay in Champagne so their boot was loaded with bottles. It was great to have them back on the boat again. Although last year it was a very short sailing experience in Corsica. I wonder if they realized that they would be passing through 42 locks in the following seven days.
We encountered the first lock within two hours, luckily only a 1.8 but very large. As we exited the narrow canal upstream of the lock the water was getting shallow and under a old bridge we hit the bottom very hard throwing Malua on her side. I must say it rattled me because it was so unexpected. On the way down I did not keep to the middle and sailed through without a bump except as my heart thundered against my rib cage.
We arrived at the next lock at Heuilley which is an automatic lock with a mechanism one has to turn on approach. The rise is 1.98 meters and the lock has stepped bollards so as the water rises you move your lines to the next bollard up until you reach the bollard on the side of the lock. We locked with another two boat. we came out of the lock and before I knew it there was a blue bridge over a side canal and there was our Canal Champagne et Bourgogne. A nice straight canal with green grass and trees. I immediately knew I was in the canal because the dept dropped to 200mm below the keel not for a moment but for all time. We had arrived at the challenge of the summer.