Monday, June 6 Paray-le-Monial to Blanzy
Fog first thing in the morning, but it slowly lifted and turned into a beautiful, warm day. Coffee along the canal with Bonita and Peter from Australia with whom we have been hop scotching the last few days. She is 77 and he is 75.
We saw 13 herons on our route before lunch. We briefly visited the Demarcation Line Museum. The Demarcation Line refers to the “border” between Nazi occupied France and Vichy, France. Supposedly the portion of “Free France” after France signed the Armistice Agreement with Germany in 1940. The Germans lied.
The Demarcation Line was set as the mid-line of canals and rivers that separated the occupied territory of France as these were easy to identify and patrol. One example was at the famous and beautiful Chenanceau where the Cher River which flows through the chateau was the border between “Free France” and German occupied France. “Free France” is our description. It was not in fact free as Marshal Petan, who was president, and the council that governed “Free France” had to follow German edicts. Germany ended this farce in 1942 and occupied all of France. During the 2 years, “Free France” was a haven and route for refugees fleeing the occupied territories, but after the occupation in 1942 more than 10,000 Jews who had taken refuge in Vichy were sent to concentration camps.
We rushed through the museum because we got there at 11:45, not aware that it closed for “siesta” from 12-1:30 as is the custom with many businesses and attractions although the exact times depend on a number of variables of which we are not aware.
Charles De Gaulle, who was in Britain renounced the Armistice and the Vichy government and capitalized on it politically as he marshaled the Resistance.
We arrived in Blanzy about 2 p.m. and after ditching our gear rode around and looked over this modern French city, had a drink and arranged for dinner at our hotel, as very little in all of France is open Monday’s.
Tuesday, June 7 Blanzy to Chagny
A beautiful, bright morning. Breakfast of baguettes, butter and jam with 2 cups of coffee. Definitely not worth the 7.5 Euro, but all that was available anywhere near where we were staying. Street market across the street-a real bust with only 2 stands. Fruit lady gave us a very good banana and refused payment. We rode along the canal all day. Lunch on a park bench in a town that looked almost deserted. This seems to be typical of many of the smaller villages that we have been riding through. Little if any activity. No one walking or working or shopping. Boats were again moving on the canal, although we did not actually see any of them in the locks, we have been told that the locks are working on this canal. Saw our first passenger train in a few days. We were told that the strike is still effecting train traffic. Fortunately for us w have no train plans for the foreseeable future.
We tried to visit a winery and do some tasting at about 1:30 p.m. along the canal. The sign on the door said the tasting room was open 7 days a week from 10-6, but apparently, not today and not to bike riders as the woman proprietor removed the “open” sign from the door and closed it as she told us that the tasting room was closed. (Shades of a Steven Wright joke whose punch line is: “Not in a row.”)
The clouds started to build around noon, but it did not rain on us and the sun came out again about 3. The flat terrain has given way to rolling, green hillsides covered with crops and in the last 10 kms, grapes. The woman at the Visitor Center in Chagny was very nice and made arrangements for us to visit a winery/wine cave in the hills of Chagny. We did just that after dropping our panniers at the hotel. It was an uphill ride with aching legs, but we survived and really enjoyed the lesson on Burgundy wines. The winery/ vineyard has been in the same family for 300 years with some of the “recipes” handed down from generation to generation. The winery sits atop a hill overlooking Chagny and the valley beyond. We opted for a blackberry cordial/liquor which is sweet. The bottle and contents are heavy, but we decided to sacrifice our bodies and buy it. Now all we’ll need is a corkscrew. Dinner at the local Pizza Place. Before retiring to our room for the night, a guy rode up fully loaded who is riding from Belgium to Barcelona in just 12 days!!!! 160 Kms per day. Ahhh, to be young.
Last night we sent out 4 emails to Warmshower’s hosts in the town of Dole which we will reach on Thursday. From the profiles that each of the prospective hosts had prepared, all seemed enthusiastic and promising. As of this evening, no one has responded, which is quite disappointing and a bit baffling. We’ll wait until tomorrow evening before making a hotel reservation.
Wednesday, June 8 Chagny to Verdun
A completely uneventful day until…. The route was almost entirely along the Centre Canal through lush farmlands. There were a few vineyards, but no wine caves or wine tasting shops. Came across many fields where crops of grains were growing. Many of these had “gardens” of poppies which are stunning in color, but we’re sure they’re not appreciated by the farmers.
We stopped early for coffee and for our picnic lunch. It was warm and sunny until about 2:30. As we were about to leave from our afternoon coffee break it started to thunder and then rain. We went a ways and stopped on the bike path to cover our handlebar and trunk bags and wait out the rain. It did not last long. Shortly after we resumed our ride we crossed paths with a French couple who told us that the path a little ways further on was muddy and slippery. The woman showed us her arm covered in mud because she had fallen. They told us to be careful, but they did not tell us to change our route.
We got to the muddy part and decided to walk our bikes as the mud, although not very deep, was extremely slippery. The slippery part was about 1 km. The mud clung to our bikes and our bike sandals to the point that we had to disengage Maggie’s breaks in order to push her bike forward. Ed’s tires must have had a bit more clearance as they continued to turn. It took about 20 minutes for get both bikes through the mud covered portion of the path.. At that point it started to rain heavily which was a good thing as we used the puddles that accumulated to wash enough mud off our tires and brakes to be able to ride. We are not exaggerating when we say that the mud was at least an inch thick on both sides of the tires and under the fenders, both front and back and our bike sandals. The puddles helped free the tires from the brakes and allowed the wheels to turn, but we could only engage Maggie’s front brake. The path was, at that point, free of mud and we were able to get off the bike path and onto the road. We used more puddles to wash more mud off but were only partially successful. When we had gone perhaps 2 kms., we found a repair garage and asked the men working if they had anything with which we could wash our bikes. One of the men came out, hooked up a hose and turned the water on. It took us about 10 minutes per bike with the water on full blast to clean the bikes and our sandals. We thanked the man and offered to pay which he refused. We rode into Verdun about 15 minutes later, all clean and fresh. Our only regret was that we had not taken a picture of us and the bikes, but we were busy and a bit too muddy to take the camera out.
Still no response from the Warmshowers hosts in Dole, so made a hotel reservation.
Thursday, June 9 Verdun to Dole
Market day in Verdun. Quite a few stalls across from our hotel and down the road a few blocks. The only purchase was a set of 6 coffee spoons. (Small enough to fit in an Espresso cup.) The purchase was necessitated because Maggie had used our 2 espresso spoons to clean the mud off her brakes and in her exuberance in flicking mud off the spoon had lost her grip on the spoon which flew into the tall grasses and, despite due diligence, could not be found. The second spoon was rendered useless due to metal fatigue caused by Maggie bending it for better access to the mud stuck in the brake/tire enclosure.
Our longest day yet, 69 kms. A most beautiful, sunny day with a headwind all the way. We did not see any vineyards again today, although we are still in Burgundy and the main street of Dole is cluttered with wine shops. We rode along a few very small roads today to avoid the non-paved portions of the Euro Velo 6 route, but most of the day was along the canals and rivers which have gotten bigger.but not as brown from the rain. We arrived at our hotel about 3 p.m. only to find that it did not open until 5 so we went the ½ km. into the center of town, had coffee and visited the Basilica which was built at the beginning of the 16th Century. Dole has an interesting and vibrant old center.One of the side chapels was memorable. The stained glass in that chapel has 3 large panels that depict a fire in the church that was the subject of a miracle. (Notice the smoke in the middle panel..Our French was not good enough to understand the miraculous portion of the event, but whatever it was is now memorialized in the very pretty glass which was not made until the 19th Century.. Of interest also in the same chapel were 2 stained glass panels of historic note and seemingly not particularly religious. The subject of both was the king. One seemed to depict his visit to and praying at the church and the other his coronation at a the church.
The colors in all three were vibrant. There was a man playing gospel music on a register in the Basilica during our visit. The hole church was alive with the sound of Amazing Grace.
Dole is a charming city with many very narrow streets flanked by old, cute building facades. It was the birthplace of Louis Pasteur although most of his work was done elsewhere regarding pasteurization. After walking around for a couple of hours we returned to our hotel and checked in for the night. It seems that summer has finally come and we’re sitting in our room with the windows still wide open at 11 pm.