Ride Day 17 – Buxy to Beaune – 68 km

This was Tony’s last ride with us, so we made sure it was a good one. It was mostly flat along the canal until we reached Santenay. It was also Bastille Day – 14th July.

A small hiccup at the beginning as Duncan’s bike was clicking on every wheel turn. Worked out this was the break pads on the front wheel. Totally worn out. Fiddled with to hold us through to Beaune where they would get replaced.

First stop Chalon-sur-Saône for a coffee. The Tour went through here on the 12th and we managed to avoid that event (on purpose). They were removing bollards and the locals enjoyed shouting at us as we cycled by, including “you are late” and “you are going the wrong way”. We did manage to get the photo below as a reminder.

The canal ride was fast and pleasant. Quite a few cyclists. The family below made us smile – the kids were obviously told if they wanted it on the trip, they would have to carry it.

Duncan and Julie visited Santenay in 2001 along with Montrachet and Meursault. We said at the time it would be s great place to be on a bike. Today we cycled through some great wine towns and the vineyards in between. Highly recommend cycling in this region.

Some villages had been tarted up and were more touristy than others but it was a fabulous ride. Lunch in Santenay (below). There seemed to be half locals and half cyclists at the restaurant and there isn’t even a second glance when you turn up wearing Lycra. Unlike the UK, there isn’t even a tut tut!

The wine has improved significantly too. It wouldn’t be too hard to fill the cellar with a few winery drop ins. Unfortunately, shipping to Australia with its tax implications make it impossibly expensive but to the UK we may have more luck.

staying in Beaune until Saturday. Strange but comfortable converted barrel room just outside the town walls. We have a patio garden and plenty of space. Tony two doors down but he leaves on the 6.30 train tomorrow heading for Amsterdam and believe it or not, without a bike (see how long that lasts Tony!). It’s been a grand adventure – So long and we will see you back in Yallingup early October.

Ride Day 16 – Viry to Buxy – 69 km

The pleasure of cycling has increased over the last days and today it’s been pretty perfect. Mixing it up is the way to go. Early morning front ended hills are better than end loaded ones. Such a challenge for the sore legs. 900m of hills before coffee!

Climbing hills has the benefit of awesome scenery and the joy of flying down the other side. This we did many, many times. A handful of cars, great route on very good roads.

Cluny was having it’s Saturday market. We picked up various delicious looking bits to eat sitting on the grass outside the Abbey.

Tony rested while we traipsed around the enormous abbey, head of the Clunisian order, with 10,000 monks and the largest Church outside Rome. Most of the church destroyed during the French Revolution, but various buildings scattered throughout the town. A drawcard for Americans, we found the most expensive nougat outside Heston Blumenthal’s pantry.

We then headed north to Buxy. This cycle path forms part of the Voire Verte 1 – the first off road cycle path, transformed in 1973 from an old railway line. France now has 28,000 kms of off road cycling. Considering the millions who use these every year including a massive portion of tourists, it’s easy to understand why this country has got the gist of why cycling tourism is a good thing.

We passed Chateau, vineyards and lovely small villages but we wanted to get to Buxy at a reasonable time. We thought the surface on this path better than the roads.

Arrived in Buxy in time to visit the tasting centre and sample a few whites. Great way of understanding an area. Wines are getting better as we head towards Beaune.

Finally arriving at our accommodation – above an antique shop where the delightful and eccentric owner has found that spare items can just go into the bedrooms! Nowhere to put your gear (and we travel very light). Breakfast in the garden, which Julie’s Father would have a fit over.

Ride Day 15 – Bourbon-Lancy to Viry – 73km

After a day off in Bourbon-Lancy to rest, and cycling into town for dinner the second night in a row, we were ready to leave. Not a place you would spend a long time but OK for a quick look. Tatty outskirts, but nice centre and we had two good meals, best value so far for a restaurant- three courses for €19.

Here is the route. Flat for the first 50km and a fast ride until we hit the hills.

Lovely canal path riding, passing over one bridge, Julie could see someone approaching from behind by bike. As we went to single file, an 85 year old went speeding by, baguettes in basket. We were doing 25, so he was flying. Then we noticed the battery! We also saw this on the canal – this is so rare, it’s the first one we’ve seen for several hundred kms.

We reached Digion for a rare coffee, the place was full of long distance cyclists. Some very expensive – often electric – bikes. Photo by some Scots we’d seen passing by a day earlier. We said goodbye to the canal much to Tony’s irritation at Paray-Le-Monial. That slowed us down a lot with many hills to climb.

The countryside was just gorgeous, a good route through small hamlets and narrow lanes and when you could see over the hedges, the views were lovely.

We reached our rather remote accommodation at 5. First place with a pool and it was overcast! Our host Christine did a load of washing for us which then gave us time for a swim and beer (Christmas beer). Her daughter is in Washington selling Buxy (tomorrow’s destination) wine to America. We had a very good nights sleep in a very good bed with no traffic noise whatsoever. This was a taste of living in the French Countryside. Could have stayed here for an extra day but the itinerary beckons.

Ride Day 14 – Châtillon-en-Bazois to Bourbon-Lancy 70km – half way French Route- 3 weeks in.

A day of two halves. The first 35 km were on the final stretch of the Canal du Nivernais, the second 35 km on a route Duncan had mapped, taking us through peaceful lanes back to the Loire. On reflection, we should have added a day, completed the canal, and stayed in Decize and spent the night there. Next time! Here is the route. Flat, then hills!

We can understand now why some long distance cyclists carry tents and camp. There are certainly more opportunities of places to stay when you choose this option. Sections of our route were based on where we could find accommodation which was in short supply. We found when booking the accommodation that cycling tour companies had bulk booked rooms. The reason we left the Loire in Orléans was the lack of accommodation on that route.

A very rare occasion today – a coffee shop on the canal and a surprisingly good coffee, made with real, hot milk. At €3 it was worth it. However not a bite to eat here or anywhere en- route, thank goodness we had picked up quiche before we departed Châtillon-en-Bazois.

The last bridge/lock and lock house on the canal before we left it below.

The undulating ride to Bourbon-Lancy however was empty. We saw five cars in total. Far reaching views to National Forest. I doubt you could have such a great car free ride in the UK.

Rolling hills as well as lots of forest on very good roads and long steady climbs.

We arrived in Bourbon-Lancy after a long ride. We knew this place wasn’t ideally located but the hosts are very friendly, the rooms clean. We tootled up the road on our bikes for dinner.

A day off Thursday. Three long rides to do before reaching Beaune. The only accommodation with a pool tomorrow so it’s probably due to rain!

For those who wonder what we carry, below are the contents of Julie’s bags – total 8 kilos including the toiletries.

Finally, oddity of the week. Obviously when you are in Burgundy you want to stay in a wine barrel!

Ride Day 13 – Dornecy to Châtillon-en-Bazois – 60 km

A long day in search of the usual coffee shop/anything open shop. Plenty of canal flat riding however, very peaceful, very few cyclists. A seriously empty bit of France. slowly going up until the top of the canal and then slowly going down. Amazing how it all adds up with the bridges and surprised we climbed over 500m. You can clearly see the summit of the canal on the gradient below – the top bump is us climbing over the hill, while the canal goes through a tunnel.

We cycled off route into a village. This was the shop. The shelves were mostly empty and they served coffee in paper cups, mediocre coffee at best and in desperation we bought two quiches that had seen better days.

Then a few kms further down the track and we came across a cafe on the Canal. Typical. There appears to be no website to run along the maps provided telling you what is actually open. We feel sorry for the canal boats who send someone off up a hill for a couple of kms to find a closed or empty shop, very frustrating.

Plenty of bridges on this stretch with buttons to press to lower the bridge for the few and far between vehicles. We probably saw less than ten cars all day anywhere.

Arrived in Châtillion-en-Bazois late afternoon. A major road runs through it – desperately needs a bypass. This is where all the cars and trucks are!

Really good accommodation with large room and a garden out the back, there were a total of four pairs with bikes – all French, and a German family. Tony stayed elsewhere as there were no rooms left but he joined us for dinner. Everyone at a long table outside. A very pleasant evening with people sharing stories. Cannot think of a reason to visit this town other than if you are doing the same canal ride. Unless you visit the Chateau. Open from 2pm. Friday only. In summer.

Ride Day 12 – Auxerre to Dornecy- 77 km

A quick few pics of Auxerre. Probably the nicest city we’ve stayed in overall. No tourist shops, just a well run, quiet city. Beautiful streets, wonderful architecture and five minutes and you are alongside the river with total peace and quiet. topped off last night with a superb dinner. At this rate we will be twice the size when we return – food too good and rides too flat.

We met a couple from Melbourne who had bought a barge from Holland (109 year old cheese transport vessel). They keep it in Europe on a canal somewhere and spend their summers travelling the rivers. They were very disparaging about what they called “Tupperware Boats” – hire vessels that you get a quick 20 minute lesson and then let loose. They seemed to have it sorted on where to park for free. Interesting idea but I think we will stick to the bikes – boats are too slow.

Today’s route was long but flat – the little spikes are the bridges, of which there were many on mostly canal and the Yonne. Two spikes would be an extravagance so 94 makes us extremely spoilt. Probably the best ride to date. Good temperature. The only problem is that despite a super duper map of the area with coffee shops and cafes and restaurants marked, none really existed. Some were closed, others shut down. Found a camp site at around 40km for a sandwich and coffee. The search was extensive! I’m not sure this guy gave Tony good or bad advice on where to look.

Still looking for coffee…

We startled some wildlife – a family of baby mice ran all over the path and we managed to avoid squashing any. A deer was out of the forest eating the grass on the canal banks. Duncan thought it was a dog but when she heard us, she shot back into the forest.

Turned up at our basic hotel but the dinner prepared was simply enormous and quite delicious. Settling in to the routine now, just need to cut back on the food.

Other than the lack of amenities, the whole area is gorgeous. The small hamlets, farms and villages are well kept and with no new houses. Pretty much as they have been for hundreds of years. If we win Lotto we will buy one of these below!

Ride Day 11 – Courtenay to Auxerre – 72 km

One thing you cannot be on these rides is bored. No two days are the same, every corner reveals a different scene. We set of in good spirits, probably happy that we were leaving Courtenay, which you would only really visit if you had a strong interest in wheat!

We had a bit of uphill but then ten glorious kms of downhill. We reached St Julian-du-Sault in no time and had a terrible coffee for €1.10. We agreed that if we won the €60 million Euro Lotto we would pay someone to open a decent coffee and cake place. The town itself had some very handsome houses and it’s very close to the Yonne, which we crossed just after leaving.

We had this fabulous cycle path to ride on next to the river – it lasted about 2 km and then it turned to gravel and pot holes. We were to discover that this was actually quite fabulous compared to what lay ahead.

This is not an official cycling route – it was planned using google earth and perhaps when those photos were taken, you could clearly see the river path – which as you can witness below, didn’t really exist – oh, and we saw not one cyclist all day! the scary thing was it was so overgrown that you couldn’t see where the greenery ended and the edge of the river was.

We reached the empty town of Joigny for lunch. Pretty town and we had good salads for lunch. Was it worth diverting via Courtenay to visit – probably not but alright for a quick stop off.

We then joined a similar track between Joigny and Auxerre. We came across an English gentleman who had a house on the river – all manicured lawns and flowers. He came out to talk and said it’s not really rideable and was surprised we had made it that far.

We cut inland, went wrong a bit, joined the major road system and finally, after much discussion between the map readers, took a completely new route in to Auxerre. almost five hours in the seat in afternoon high temperatures.

We are in a converted barn with a mezzanine bedroom, Tony is around the corner. Auxerre so far seems gorgeous. We are just off a Main Street in the old town. There is work for Duncan to do, end of tax year crap, washing, haircuts, shopping, cooking and some rest for the bums, which after yesterday we are in dire need of. Three days here which will include a ride out to Chablis.

Ride Day 10 – Grignon to Courtenay – 57 km

Well, a real contrast to yesterday and I guess it’s good to mix it up. One word can be used to describe today’s ride – tedious!

Four hours riding and Km after Km of wheat fields, peppered with corn, a sprinkling of chard but mainly wheat. We blame the French – they eat bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 57 km of it, some being harvested. Caused terrible hay fever. This was all mixed in with showers and head winds. All adding up to a day to be endured.

At least it started off well with a delicious breakfast prepared by Sophie, shown below and Flynn her cross English Setter/French Spaniel- a rescue dog which was intrigued by our bikes and gear and followed us everywhere.

Duncan had to work so by the time we really set off it was close to Noon. Thankfully not too hot.

Found an equally uninteresting place to have lunch. One can see why some places in France have cheap properties. Really looking forward to getting back on the rivers. This route could have been improved with following the canal further and cutting out a town. Let’s hope we can get the first 32 km knocked off tomorrow and find some nicer spots.

Ride Day 9 – Orléans to Grignon – 52 km

It’s unlikely you will find Grignon on the map – it has a population of 70 and some of them are Parisians with holiday homes. We chose it because it appeared to be on a route to the Yonne and Booking.com had very few places in the area. We can confirm that we were the only touring cyclists all day and our accommodations first Australian cyclists.

However, this may change as the tourism council and the government have a large budget (25 million this year) to put in a proper route through here in an attempt to take some of the weight of the cyclist numbers (and take business into the lesser known areas) from the Loire Route (1.5 million a year). So, Duncan’s route is a pretty good one.

We set off from Orléans with no trouble whatsoever, our Canal was adjoining the Loire for the first few kms. Gorgeous day, not too hot. Pretty perfect conditions.

Above is pretty much what we did for around 30km. Once they start working on this, the path will widen and there will be many signs. It was tranquil and quite lovely – just the sound of birds. We saw swans and a young coypu.

We did manage to find a village with a restaurant for coffee. We knew the prices would drop once we had moved from the main Loire route. This was especially the case with set lunch Menus as the one at our restaurant had a four course lunch including wine for €14. We didn’t partake as we had dinner booked in.

Our accommodation for tonight is the buildings on the right and Sophie our host is preparing our meal on the BBQ! It’s the place on the right, it was the “Controller’s residence” of the construction of the Canal, built in the mid 1600s. Really lovely accommodation in a house that was bought derelict and restored (Cousin Debbie!). She thought she would build up gradually but is now pretty much booked out.

Great first ride with Tony. More tomorrow.

Ride Day 8 – Muides-sur-Loire to Orléans – 47 km

We woke to a much cooler day. That heatwave appears to be over, so fingers crossed we get some cooler rides for a while.

We set off early, 8:30 and it was quite chilly! This stretch was quite lovely, very close to the Loire and through some very smart and pretty towns. Dozens of cyclists last us during the day – it really is quite a busy route but not enough to bother us. Very well marked route as usual. Love that when the route involves crossing a road, there is a cyclist “halt all traffic” button. Wish we had these in a few more places!

Beaugency was gorgeous. Found a coffee shop almost immediately at 10:15 and the best coffee so far – and the most expensive at €3.60. Orléans however, went up to €4.10. There is no getting away from it, the Loire is expensive (had coffee in Portugal for €.60 last year).

The scenery is refreshing with plenty of quieter stretches of river bank and then another town, such as the one below. Still, not much in the way of shops, toilets or any other facilities you may want or need. Back home in Dunsborough, with a permanent population of 5000 we have 13 coffee shops. Found only one on route open yesterday in 47km.

Passed a nuclear power station with only one tower puffing out steam. When all the French install an air conditioner soon, two may be going at full power next year!

Reached Orleans at 14:00 and checked into a hotel with aircon – 6 days after we needed it. Ensuring we have a good nights sleep for a change. Did a two hour tour of the city on foot – quite a handsome city and not crowded at all. Noticed the Sales were on but looking in Windows, a T-shirt at €42 was not going to do it, so hope our clothes last the trip!

We met Tony off the train at 18:50.

Quick change and out for a glass of wine while Tony got organised and then out for a rather good meal at a restaurant Tony had booked.

First ride together tomorrow into new territory and away from the Loire. We had realised when booking this trip late last year that accommodation was in short supply or very expensive along the Loire. Nancy suggested we try the Yonne River, so we will head across country over three days to join the Yonne at Auxerre.

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