Category Archives: Dijon to the Loire

Events that happened as we went from Dijon to the Loire River

Getting to St Magnance

After stopping overnight at Pouilly-en-Auxios, we continued northwards along the same canal that we had followed the day before.

The weather was balmy, there was not a breath of wind and the scenery nothing short of spectacular. All along the waterway, buildings and bushland were mirrored in absolute perfection, disturbed only when a boat quietly moved past.

Canal harbour

Mirror image reflections

There were a number of people using the canal trail, but nowhere near as many as the day before. We were quite surprised at the popularity of the route for joggers, cyclists, walkers and serious hikers. Everyone was very friendly and cheery greetings were exchanged with each meeting.

I was intrigued by the lock-keeper’s cottages – small houses located at each lock, now mostly owned by people who worked elsewhere, not on the canal. Most were impeccably cared for and the gardens were just lovely. I was determined to get a photo of at least one of these beautiful buildings as we rode by, but this was not as easy as I had hoped. There was inevitably something in the way, or the setting was just not quite right.  But finally, I was lucky enough to find one that had a perfect reflection in the water and was just what I had been looking for.

Lock-keeper’s cottage

We left the canal trail at Villeneuve and rode on the roads to Semur-en-Auxios, where we stopped for lunch. The magnificent weather suddenly changed in the afternoon and became grey, chilly and overcast. It also coincided with a change in topography, as we exchanged easy, relatively flat riding with some rather more challenging hills.

Our choice of route had been largely non-negotiable, as we were headed west for our next stop in St Magnance. Whereas this is an easy place to get to in a motor vehicle, bikes are illegal on the very busy highways in France so those routes were out. The alternative was a legal, but very busy main road, which did not sound very attractive or enjoyable. So the hilly route was the way to go. But the extra effort kept us warm and we were very delighted at the way the trail bikes dealt easily with the uphills (the downs were also no problem :-)).

Our stop for the night was a really lovely B&B in St Magnance. Our delightful hosts treated us to an awesome dinner in front of an open fire. The attention to detail in this establishment was amazing and this was extended to the garden, which was impeccably tended and very beautiful. Our hosts took the time to chat with us for quite some time, explaining a lot of the French culture and teaching us useful new words and phrases to use as we went on through our holiday.

Beautiful garden

Lovely house in a pretty setting

My spoken French was full of mistakes :-), but I realised after speaking with our hosts at our first two B&Bs, that what I knew was sufficient to have a reasonably sensible conversation with the locals. The French people love to hear foreigners attempting to speak their language and will go to a lot of trouble to speak slowly and repeat themselves if necessary, so that you can follow their conversation.

At this stage of our tour, I stopped worrying so much about getting the verbs and sentence structure right and started to enjoy using the language spontaneously instead. It was wonderful.

(Follow this link for the itinerary and details for our Tour of France)

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Locks, castles and wonderful European hospitality

Lots of locks

Our first day of riding was a long one, ironically, one of the longest of the whole trip (75 km). But it was mostly riding along the Bourgogne Canal, so it was flat and easy territory to cover. We rode south alongside the Ouche River and then veered north west up the Auxois River as far as Pouilly-en-Auxois.

The mountain bikes performed beautifully and were quite at home on the gravel (and occasionally muddy) track. All the effort involved in getting our customised and familiar bikes to France had paid off. Everything worked well, no adjustments were required and we knew we could ride all day in comfort.

Typical scenery along the canal.

Typical scenery along the canal.

I was impressed at the quality of the trail and the overall condition of the canal, which was also very well maintained. River boats were frequent company. Almost without exception, they were beautifully cared for and proudly shown off by their owners as we rode by.

The locks provided a fascination all of their own, which I never tired of watching. For anyone who has not seen a canal lock in action, it is the way that boats are able to move upstream, by literally floating to a higher water level. A simple, but very effective process. Boats going upriver move into the empty lock, the gates are closed at the lower end and water is allowed to rush in until the lock is full. Then the gates at the upper end are opened and the boat moves out. The reverse process happens when going downstream. Nothing happens in a hurry, but that seems to be a feature of the life on these picturesque and peaceful canals.

Houseboat entering a lock as it progresses upstream

A rather unexpected discovery

We did not spend a great deal of time planning tourist stops. Neither myself or KJ are fond of crowds and our idea of a relaxing cycling holiday is to avoid places where large gatherings of tourists congregate.

Consequently, we had not spent any time looking at tourist guides, focusing only on our intended riding routes and issues we were likely to encounter with the bikes. It was therefore with great surprise, that we rounded one section of the track and were treated with a distant view of the beautiful Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. Folks who live in Europe may wonder at my fascination with castles, but the reality is that in the country where we live, there simply aren’t any and they are therefore a novelty!

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois

I was delighted with our ‘find’, and there was not a doubt that we would be extending the day’s riding so that we could ride up to the village and have a look around.

This fellow obviously had no fear of heights. Fixing shingles on the roof at Châteauneuf

The Château is in very good condition and is situated in a (similarly well cared-for) village atop a hill. The feared large crowds were not there and we pretty well had the place to ourselves! We spent a few hours having a look around and enjoying the views of the surrounding countryside and then had to get moving as we had a way to go to get to our first stop for the night.

A lovely welcome

We were made very welcome at our first bed and breakfast stay, where we were also treated to a superb home cooked dinner with local food and wine being the main feature. Our hosts did not speak much English, so for the first time, I had to rely on my limited French! There were two German guests at the B&B too – one amazing lady was fluent in English, French and German while her friend spoke mostly German. They were in France on a cycling holiday too, and it was good to compare notes and ideas.

Dinner was therefore a wonderful session of mixed languages, cultures and lots of fun and laughs. One of those truly unforgettable nights and a taste of the spontaneous friendliness that we would find everywhere we went on our trip.

(Follow this link for the itinerary and details for our Tour of France)