The road to Champagne

Wednesday June 1

The weather started out threatening, but ended up no rain all day.  We had a lovely driving tour on small roads through the French country side to the medieval city of Bourges.  We walked around admiring the old buildings,02-IMG_7741 visited the cathedral 11-IMG_7744 which had amazing stain glass windows done in the 13th century,06-IMG_772910-IMG_773508-IMG_773305-IMG_7739 had lunch in a park.  On the drive home we again went up to the hill top village of Sanserre for coffee and a better view as the weather was much more clear today.We stopped at a wine cave for a taste and bought a bottle for dinner.  We are ready to get back on our bikes tomorrow.

Thursday, June 2 La Charite-Neversay

Woke up to another rain day. Returned the car and got a lift back to the hotel. Left about 10:10 full rain gear. Rained lightly most of the day, although there was one period when it was harder and another short period when it was not raining. Learned of the flooding and evacuations in the town bordering the Loiret River which empties into the Seine. The water level there  is the highest ever recorded.  The Seine itself has not flooded yet, but there is some concern that it will flood in Paris next week. From our own observation, the Loire is over its normal banks but has not yet reached any occupied areas that we have passed.16-IMG_7768The picture above is another canal above and crossing the Loire River . The Loire is roaring along with whitecaps and waves.  15-IMG_7758

Met a couple from England today who had rented a boat for their holiday. They had been holed up for 3 days on the Loire Canal without moving. They were removed from the boat today and abandoned the trip. The canals are all closed in northern France. The canals are always full. If the locks were in use, the water flowing down stream would quickly overflow the banks of the canals and devastate surrounding, occupied lands. Who knew when we planned for this trip that water wings would be an essential part of our gear? We should never have left them at home.

Rolled into Nevers about 3 p.m. and found our hotel without difficulty. Took Ed’s bike to the bike shop for a slight adjustment.  Then we went to the tourist office and the Duke’s Palace, a 19th century gem that has been turned into the city council’s meeting room as well as other meeting rooms. 24-IMG_7824The conversion was well done with placards explaining the history of the building. The architects have left some of the beams and rafters exposed for the “awe” effect. They are massive.

Then to the cathedral which had been bombed during WWII and rebuilt since.1-IMG_78292-IMG_7832 A small portion dates to the 6th century. Not a particularly attractive edifice, but its size and age and the fact that it was built in about 45 years in the 13th century is amazing.  It exemplifies the power,  influence and resources  of the church in medieval times.

Friday, June 3 Nevers-Decize

Very cloudy and damp when we got up, but no rain despite the forecast. We can hardly believe it, for a change no rain all day, but quite cool.  We visited St. Etienne church before we took off.We took the bike route most of the day. The Loire continues to rise and run very fast. We were surprised that there are many places in France where the canals are actually on bridges over rivers that are perpendicular to the river. From what we can tell, these bridges do not leak.17-IMG_7776

The canals continue to be closed with no boat traffic. The picture all over France from Paris south is one of flood. Each day it gets worse. In Paris some of the museums are closed and preparing to remove exhibits for safe keeping. We met a German couple bike touring who will have to change their plans entirely because of the flooding and the French train strike.

(France is notorious for scheduled mini-strikes in many industries.)They came from the direction that we’re headed and said parts of the route are closed now due to high water. The combination of strikes and flooding has left them with no way of completing their plans to ride to Tours as there is no certainty that they can get back to northern Germany from there. They told us their route and the places that flooded. Their route was quite a bit out of the way with numerous climbs. They also told us of flooding in Luxembourg and Germany, but those areas are a minimum of 10 days away for us, so will likely change for the better before then. We exchanged contact information.

A bit later our paths crossed with a couple from South Africa (now living in Cambridge) touring on a tandem who had come from the Bourbon-Lancy where we are going tomorrow. They told us there was only one stretch of the route that we needed to bypass and that the alternate way was short and easy. We exchanged contact information with them and told them we would contact them when we got close to Cambridge in August. There information was a big relief as it means we can keep to our schedule and will not have to cancel our hotel reservations for tomorrow night and will not have to climb as the German couple advised.

Now for our ride today. Most of the day was riding along the bicycle (EuroVelo) Route #6 on the side of the canal. The surrounding farmland was lush and filled with crops. The rain has left many crops damaged. The fields are soaked with many spots pooling with water. Fortunately the crops are still a ways from harvest so hopefully they can dry out.

Our hotel for the night is in the harbor of the small town of Devizes.  There are boats moored up outside our window.  It’s really a beautiful and peaceful scene.  All of these boats are stuck sitting idle with nowhere to go as the canals and rivers all remain closed.  The news of the flooding gets worse each day.

Saturday, June 4 Decize-Bourbon-Lancy

Another gray morning, in fact all day, but the only rain was a very light mist for about 15 minutes just after we left Decize.  We followed the route that the South African couple gave us which was flat with no flooding except on a field or two away from our route. The roads we took were very quiet with no truck traffic at all.  The farms along the route got bigger and bigger although there was no one working them because of all the rain. We had our usual coffee breaks.  The morningcoffee break was at a small café at a canal lock and the lunch one was at a Tabak in a very small village.

We got to Bourbon about 2 p.m. and spent the better part of an hour riding along the park/ thermal spa and talking to an Australian couple who were also touring. She was 77 and he 75. They were also headed east, so we may see them along the route tomorrow. We investigated going to the spa as this is a spa town with thermal bath and although at one time (Roman) there were a number of spas, there was only one now.  We’ll wait until we get to Germany.

Our hotel was at the top of the hill, far above the bike route, but in the middle of the ancient city.This B & B is really quaint. There are nic-nacs all over, from old sugar and coffee tins to farm tools and implements. The current owner bought it in 2000 and remodeled it so that all of the 10 rooms has its own toilet and shower.There is a back garden and a common room as well as many old pieces that really give the entire place a B & B feel. All of the guest rooms are labeled with the names of operas. Our room is the “Manon”.  . Although the front faces the old town square, it is down 2 levels from the bedrooms, so the bike entrance is in the rear, but not to mind, the rear entrance is just as unique as the front.





Inside rear entrance:13-IMG_7865We visited the large church which dominates the landscape06-IMG_7855. It was built in the late 19th century and is plain and a bit drab.08-IMG_7858 There was no one inside although there were a few lit candles.

We wandered around the rest of the ancient city and took some pictures of old buildings before going to the hotel.10-IMG_786104-IMG_785311-IMG_7862 We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that had a unique way of serving the chili oil:


Back to our room to work on lodging for the next 2 nights and refined our route to go to Germany. there.

Sunday, June 5  Bourbon-Lancy to Paray-le-Monial

Subtitled: P B & J AND CHAMPAGNE

A really great day

We were on the Euro-Velo 6 all day, a total of 58 kms. The weather was cool in the morning but warmed up late in the afternoon. The canal we were traveling along opened for limited boat traffic. At a little past noon we happened on a group of friends who had rented 2 boats for the week.  They were tying up the boats and were partially blocking the bike path so we chatted for a few minutes while they were tying up, and they invited us on board for a drink and some snacks. 05-IMG_787604-IMG_7871The drink was champagne. (Red wine was their drink of choice for the noon hour, but they had misplaced their red wine and had to settle for champagne.)  Some of them wanted to practice their English while Ed was practicing his French. One couple had lived in Chicago 35 yrs ago while the husband did research and taught at Northwestern. It was a very nice gathering with many stories. We were there long enough for them to offer us lunch, mostly veggies but we thanked them and took our P B & J’s o. We did however continue to drink their champagne with our PB & J while they ate their food.We pushed on after spending about an hour with them, but not before one of their members went below decks and “discovered” the missing red wine underneath the sink in the galley. So ended our version of the concept of  “bike and barge.”03-IMG_7870.

We rode the last 25 kms into Paray-le-Monial, had our coffee on a floating bar then visited the Cluny Basilica and surrounding ancient buildings. The Basilica was built in the 11th and 12th centuries. 07-IMG_7878The walls inside the Basilica were quite bright as if they had been cleaned in the recent past (meaning within the last century.)  Many of the other buildings were built in the 14th and 15th centuries.12-IMG_7898 The Basilica is presently the home of Monks and nuns and is a pilgrimage shrine as Saint  Margaret Mary Alacoque had a vision of Jesus’ heart in the church between 1673 and 1675. She was beatified and the chapel bearing her name is a  holy place where pilgrims can kneel before a wax statue of her..

In the Basilica there was a choir rehearsing  American Gospel songs (in English) for an evening performance. The woman soloist was speaking French as were the choir, the keyboard player and the concert master.09-IMG_7888It was difficult to understand the choir because of the French accents. The Basilica was a really good venue for the voices.

After walking around the old town 11-IMG_7897we rode 3 kms. to our hotel which was in the country, had their fixed price menu…and.fabulous chocolate desserts to end the day. Then back to the room for laundry and showers..



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