Day 4: French Food

July 6, 2008

Morning started with the baguette truck. You have to understand that Lucy-sur-Yonne is a very small town. So small it did not have its own boulangerie, a very serious issue in France although we did not know it yet. As I recall Carmen and I were on deck when a small white truck came screaming over the bridge towards town, honking its horn. Almost immediately people came streaming out from all the houses, heading as one for the truck stopped in the small square. The driver hopped out and threw open the sides and revealed baskets and baskets of baguettes. The residents lined up and soon clutched their purchases to their breasts and hurried home with their prizes. Then the truck closed up and zoomed off towards it’s next destination. It was all over in a flash. This was our first lesson in baguettes.

Then, after everyone was up and about, or perhaps before, I fired up the engine and headed on our way.

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Everyone took their turn at the helm as we got used to not over-correcting and driving down the canal like a bunch of drunken sailors. That was for later. Eventually we pulled into the basin at Coulanges and went for a little walk. There wasn’t much canalside except a nice old restaurant so we decided to see if we could have lunch.

I am pretty sure it was a Sunday and the proprietress looked at us like we were nutso, thinking we could just wander in with no reservations; at least that’s what I think she was saying. The place looked empty but I guess church wasn’t out yet. Anyway she found us a spot and we proceeded to test out our French on the menu. C was still mostly a vegetable-arian at this point so she decided to stick with the fish. For some idiotic reason I thought that a steak would be good. It probably was, but being from Alberta, we treat our meat just a bit differently. We ordered Zak something that he looked at but didn’t eat much of…I think it was a sausage or something. Carmen’s fish turned out (we discovered later) to be skate. It had the consistency of semi-raw chicken and tasted pretty close to that. Suffice it to say it didn’t fit in very well with even the broadest-minded pesco-vegetarian’s tastes. The highlight, in my mind, of the meal was the meat and cheese appetizer course in which we didn’t eat any of the millions of cheeses available (because, you know, cheese is gross) and did take a bunch of the charcuterie, but decided that dry sausage is, you know, gross.

All in all it was an enlightening experience and a great introduction to French cuisine. Wouldn’t have skipped it for anything.

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Then off we cast and down the canal we went. Beautiful scenery, calm motoring and a more of the same from the day before with a few exceptions. At one point we had to physically crank a bridge up to get under it, which was fun. Later on the canal actually crossed across the river Yonne; sort of like an intersection but with weirs on either side so you couldn’t turn onto the river. But then a little while later we did turn onto the river itself, bypassing an old section of the canal no longer in use.

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We travelled a little ways down the river and started to hit a bit of civilization again. The outskirts of Clamency began to show on either side of the river and eventually we saw the lock ahead that would take us back onto the canal and into their harbour. Clamency was our southernmost point on the trip. After we were done here we would backtrack and then go north of Chatel Censoir up to Migennes.

As we were approaching the lock, we saw it was occupied by a huge converted barge that was now a floating hotel. We saw a few of these on the trip. They have 6 or 7 cabins and do basically the same routes as we were doing but had dining rooms and stewards and even vans that would meet them and take them on excursion. These old barges were exactly the size of most locks. There was inches to spare on all four sides when they were in the locks.

After it was out turn in the lock and I discovered that the far end of it was actually a swing bridge, which had a load of people waiting for us to exit so they could cross. We slowly motored in and picked a spot on the old stone quay that was right at the edge of town.

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After we tied up and settled in we headed into town to explore. We managed not to get run over as we wandered the cobblestone streets staring at everything, although there were many points at which we we standing in the middle of traffic without realizing it. Damn cobblestone fools you every time. Clamency was wonderful. It had old half-timbered post and beam homes dating from the mediaeval period, examples of pretty much every century of stone and iron work and narrow, winding paths and alleys to explore. We grabbed a pizza for dinner, stocked up on some supplies and toured our first French church.

As churches in Europe go it wasn’t much, but it was our first and we sat and soaked it all in, from worn stone floors to soaring stained glass.

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Eventually we retired back aboard and amused ourselves until it was time to sleep.

As a postscript, let it be noted that unless otherwise stated we consumed at least two bottles of local wine pretty much every night, generally up on the deck but occasionally inside if it was cooler. And there was also lots of cribbage.