Thursday September 8th. We left Lyon, turning ‘a droit’ up the Saône, back the way we had come. I was a bit reluctant to leave, I loved feeling part of the hustle and bustle of the city while having our boat as a little oasis of calm. Sitting on the deck, people-watching, is one of my favourite things. However Alan was keen to head off, feeling it was time to move on, and we needed to be back at St Jean de Losne in a week.
Lyon is a gorgeous city, mixing old and new into something unique and fascinating. One day we took the Vaporetta (ferry) up the Saône, alighting at the passerelle and crossing over to the oldest part of Lyon.
Up the steep hill sits the basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere, built in the 19th century to appease the marauding Prussians. Outside it is distinctly different from any church I’ve seen in this area, with a slight Russian or Turkish feel. Inside the mosaics are stunning. And, due to its relative youth, they are in incredible order.
Next to the basilica lie the semi-ruins of two Gallo-Roman amphitheaters, free and open to the public, and still in use. The theatre was built around 15BC, shortly after the foundation of the city, and it is the oldest and one of the largest of Roman Gaul. Originally it was enclosed and could seat up to 11,000 people. Nowadays without the outside walls the capacity is 4,500. There’s a museum as well.
In front of the basilica, down the hill, is the Cathedral St-Jean. And in between there are restaurants, cafes and shops. It reminds me of the left bank in Paris. Just a lot less people!
We crossed back over to the newer (relatively speaking!) side of Lyon (between the Saône and the Rhône). Here there are many upmarket shops, and more cafes, bars and of course beautiful architecture.
So, we loved Lyon and I hope we come back again. But off we went through the middle of the city, around the Ile Barbe, and on to the Couzon lock. When we rounded the corner we got a bit of a fright. In front of the lock was a massive crane with its arm and bucket deep into the water. There were two work barges there too. And obviously the light was red. It all looked a but chaotic so we decided to tie up onto a passenger ferry quay, back around the corner, and call the lock on our cellphone. There is a channel on the radio (22) for this lock but we can’t understand a word of what’s being said so phoning seemed better. It’s times like these I wish my French was a LOT better. The eclusier said he spoke no English so I tried my best and he helped with a few key words in English (so he knew a little) and we worked out he would get everything moved aside and we would wait 10-20mins. And sure enough all the machinery tied up alongside and the lights went red and green, meaning the lock was being set. I heard him say, on the radio, “Ca marche”, and so we untied and headed off. The doors opened, the light went green and in we went. Another ‘pleasure bateau’ showed up and they followed in behind. After that it all went smoothly and we were through the lock about an hour after we arrived. We waved our thanks to the eclusier, up in his control tower. He was really helpful considering my fumbling French, and we were very thankful.
Lesson learnt? Understanding lock-related French on a phone (or radio) is really important but also really hard. Speaking it is so much easier! My French is getting better but it’s a slow road.
We continued on, the sky was a soft blue, not a cloud to be seen. The forecast is for more hot weather but the cool breeze along the river was soothing. We passed a commercial barge coming the other way, loaded with sand and we exchanged cheerful waves. A pleasure boater passed by, flying a French flag and they waved too. Gosh, what a friendly lot we are!
We passed Trévoux, surprised to find it almost empty and no hotel boats tied up either. Where is everyone, we thought. It was tempting to stay there but we wanted to try the mooring at Montmerle-sur-Saône, another couple of hours away, so we continued on, enjoying the weather and passing scenery. It was 26° with a breeze from the north. Perfect.
Montmerle was also quiet and there was plenty of room but we remembered Belleville, only 5 kms away, is free compared to 10€ so carried on. Luckily there was enough space, just, for us and we moored. And straight into our togs and into the water. Bliss.
We stayed in Belleville for four days, biking back to Montmerle one day and enjoyed the swimming. Two cruise liners tied up during that time (one had 30 kiwis on board, some came to say hi) plus a German man on a tiny yacht, heading for Portugal.
The only downside of Belleville became evident on Sunday when every man and his dog launched their speed boats or JetSkis and preceded to race up and down creating a huge amount of wash. It was like being on the ocean in a constant squall. We were happy to leave on Monday!
Monday September 12 we headed out early, 7.30am, and presented ourselves at the Dracé lock at 8.15, locked up with no drama AND a cheery wave from the control tower! After 57km and 6 and a half hours, we arrived in Tournus. There was one tight space available which Alan skilfully slotted Silver Fern into.
I really like Tournus. It has a beautiful Abbey, quaint winding streets and lots of history. The quay is always busy, half of it is reserved for Saône Plaisance rental boats which doesn’t leave a lot. It is free power and water which everyone loves. Downside is a bit of a smell. Not exactly sewerage but a bit off. There were three cruise ships that came and went, presumably to pick up/drop off passengers into buses for side trips. The Cluny Abbey is near here but it’s not on the water.
After a night in Tournus we departed early again, 7.45am. The reason was I had had an email from the VNF ( I’m on a mailing list for what they call ‘Avis à la batellerie’ which lets us know of any issues on the waterways) which said there would be work on the Ormes Lock from 10am to 5pm so we wanted to pass through before that started. And it all went well, the lock was ready and they hadn’t started their dredging yet so they moved the equipment out of the way for us. I love it when a plan comes together!
So we continued on to Chalon-sur-Saône where we need to buy a few things at the big Carrefour before heading on to either Verdun-sur-Doubs or Seurre tomorrow morning. We should be back in St Jean-de-Losne by Thursday, time to clean up the boat a bit before friends join us at the weekend. Silver fern needs a wee tidy up after three weeks on the Saône!
Lyon to Belleville 6 hrs, 55kms, 1 lock
Belleville to Tournus 6.4 hrs, 57kms, 1 lock
Tournus to Chalon 3.4 hrs, 30kms, 1 lock