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.
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.
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.
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)