Day 8: Rock and Roll

July 10, 2008

Leslie, Zak and I got up early and headed to the cliffs while C indulged herself with some alone time. We spent the morning making up bouldering problems and generally having some fun on the rocks. I think it was worth the extra weight of the climbing shoes, but your mileage may vary. When we eventually tired of playing around we took off our shoes and headed back to the boat.

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Back aboard we collected C and wandered down to the small store a few hundred metres down the road and had lunch outside at a picnic table. We finished off with some ice cream. Then it was back aboard and on to our next destination. I am not sure if I had it planned out or if it was just a choice we made that day. My notebook has Mailly-la-Ville in several (but not all) of the tentative itineraries I had made up, so maybe it was in the plan. Anyway, it was only like 5 km away and that’s where we ended the day.

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We didn’t stop here at Mailly-le-Château, but it sure was picturesque.

All of the locks on the canal de Nivernais have old lock houses where the original lockkeepers lived. Many of them have been bought up and renovated into little cottages where some of the current crop of lockkeepers live. Often they sell fresh produce of trinkets as well. Others of them are private homes and some are used for other purposes.

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When we arrived in Maille-de-Ville, we tied up and then Zak and I went for a wander. It was a pretty little town with only a few other canalboats there. As we walked along the old roads — seriously everything is made from stone: sidewalks, curbs, everything! — I got my first sight of an authentic milestone. We used to play Milles Borne a lot as kids, but I never really understood that it represented a real thing. We also found a local restaurant that looked good for later and then headed back to the boat.

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It had been a long couple of days, so we camped out under the umbrella and enjoyed the heat of the afternoon, relaxing and reading. Another great part of canal boating.

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Eventually we decided it was time for dinner so everyone cleaned up and we wandered into town to the hotel —at least I think it was a hotel, the closest Google gives me is Le Relais de l’Etoile which look familiar:

Be that as it may, apparently the restaurant wasn’t open yet so we were invited to sit in the bar and have a drink while we waited. I can’t remember the game show that was on the tv, but it was sort of a song-lyric/Name That Tune sort of thing. It was music and it was fun. Enjoy the show there was us, a bartender and a waitress. I think that was it, although there might have been a local or two. After a while the bartender let us know that the restaurant was now open and then showed us through a back door into the dining room. Communication throughout this little sojourn had been reasonably smooth with our bad french and his bad english but it was by no means perfect. This was made clear by the transformation of our bartender into our waiter and our waitress into our cook. It was awesome. He made a great waiter.

Fresh baked bread, delicious food, terrific service and a really, really nice atmosphere put this up there as one of the best dining experiences we had on the trip. What tipped it over into The best was the menu. French with english translations, the translations were so bad and so hilarious that we were forced to rely more heavily on the French than the English. I don’t know if they used a computer to translate it or just someone with basic english skills but the absolute literalism of the translations had us rolling in the aisles. Here are a few examples (I’ve included Google’s current translation in brackets):

Le Jarret d’Agneau Fondant au Thym
The Bulge of Found Lamb to Thyme
(Lamb shank with Thyme Fondant)

Les Profiteroles au Chocolat et Crème Chantilly 4 choux
Profiteroles with the Chocolate and Whipped cream 4 cabbages
(Profiteroles with Chocolate and 4 Chantilly cream puffs)

Les 12 Escargots de Bourgogne au Chablis
The 12 Snails of Burgundy to Wind fallen wood
(12 Burgundy Snails in Chablis)

And our all-time favourite:
La Salade Paysanne au Chêvre Chaud
The Country Salad with the Goat Heat
(Peasant Salad with Warm Goat Cheese)

It was so awesome! Check out the menu pic for even more fun.

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And that finished off the day except for the usual wine, cards and whatever. It was a memorable meal — I can actually say that, because I remember it well. And not just because of someone’s cleavage.