These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.


Monday, 18 June 2018

11th - 12th June 2018. Fontenay Abbey and the Grande Forge de Buffon.


While we had the car with us, we drove over from Montbard to visit the Abbey of Fontenay, which was founded by Saint Bernard in 1118.



The abbey itself was built in the Romanesque style, and was deliberately simply sculpted, so as not to distract the eye or the mind from prayer.


The abbey was very wealthy from the 12th century to the 15th century, with a community of more than 200 monks. They all slept in this dormitory, on simple pallets.


The dormitory is in the top half of this building, with the chapter house below it. This is used for everyday business of the community.
This vast plane tree has seen many changes here at the Abbey de Fontenay. By the time of the French Revolution there were only 12 monks left in Fontenay, and it was sold, to be bought in 1820 by Elie de Montgolfier, a descendant of the inventors of the hot-air balloon. He transformed the property into a paper mill. However, it was bought back in 1906 by Edouard Aynard, and he undertook massive restoration work, removing all the buildings of the paper-mill. The Abbey de Fontenay is now classified as a Unesco World Heritage site.


Driving back down the Canal de Bourgogne from Montbard, we return to Buffon, an extremely pretty village.

George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, was born in Montbard in 1707. He was a reknowned naturalist, the author of a monumental 36- Histoire Naturelle.
Louis XV, the King of France, asked him to undertake studies on the smelting and treatment of iron ore in Burgundy. These resulted in the Grand Forge de Buffon which was built between 1768 and 1772, and this was the first time that the three processes of furnace, refinery and foundry were concentrated in the same place.



Two of the three waterwheels at the mill are still there to be seen.

Friday, 15 June 2018

7th - 10th June 2018. On to Montbard, then Andy retrieves the car from Roanne. A weekend of Quilles in Mussey.

Andy had planned to catch an early train tomorrow, to retrieve the car from Roanne. Fortunately he checked at lunchtime, to find that it had been cancelled. As it was the only train of the day this was not too good! However, there was a train this afternoon, so an hour after we arrived at Montbard, he was safely on the train to Roanne, returning at midnight with the car.

We were delighted to have been invited by Bernard and Blandine to stay for the weekend of their annual Quilles competition in Mussey. We took part last year, when on this canal with The Puzzler, but this year it took us three hours in the car to get here.


Don't forget me!


Quilles is a French outdoor game rather like ten-pin bowling, but with 9 big wooden skittles.

Andy at full stretch. The Marne au Rhin Canal  runs right behind the two cars, up above Andy.


If you knock down all nine quilles with three balls, then you have an extra shot at all nine again.


In the evening we went to play pétanque too. This has been our busiest day for a long time!


After playing pétanque, it was lovely to relax with Bernard and Blandine in their garden. Evelyne is here for the weekend too.
On Sunday morning Bernard was hard at work, preparing batter for waffles to be consumed later today.
The vegetable garden shows much care and attention too.


Before going to the Quilles alley, we went to pick strawberries, which were grown at a very good height, making them very easy to pick. We got some fresh asparagus too, which was very tasty!



We should all have hairpieces like Evelyne, then we too might win the Quilles, as she did!



Sunday lunch in the marquee.



Andy is working on his technique.

Sally was in the playoff for second place, with three others, but only managed to come fourth.

Nous avons eu un très bon weekend. Merci bien à Bernard et Blandine. Bisoux, bisoux!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

1st - 7th June 2018. Cruising on the Canal de Bourgogne, with visits to Tanlay, Ancy-le-Franc and Cry.



It is nice to be on the canal de Bourgogne again. This wooded section is just south of Germigny.


This makes a good pillow for Shannon. She much prefers the canals.


The valley opens out near to Charrey, making a lovely wild mooring with a view.


We have been so lucky with the weather!
As we approached the wide canal at Tanlay, another boater summed up the mooring for us. “On the left you have electric and water and you pay. On the right you get nothing, and it is free!” He omitted to tell us that we would have to moor a metre from the bank, due to lack of depth, but then again, it was free!


The chateau at Tanlay is impressive, but was closed to visitors. Monday again!


St Vinnemeer is another picturesque village. The roses by the lockside cottage were the best yet.
In Ancy-le-Franc we followed signs to a viewpoint, up a track behind the church. It was quite a climb, and would have been a very good view when we got there, if someone had kept the bushes trimmed! The wild strawberries on the way up were delicious anyway.


The lock before Ravières was very well kept.

There is a big quarry, taking a lot of the hillside, before the mooring at Cry. Two long distance cyclists pitched their tent on the far side of the canal inlet here, arriving as darkness fell, and leaving at the crack of dawn too.


Some of the houses in Cry had real character.


Here's hoping that someone will harvest these cherries! We liked the garden wall.


Out in the country again.


These locks can be quite rough. We have three éclusiers travelling with us today, showing how few boats are on this canal.

27th - 31st May, 2018. On to Auxerre, as the Canal du Nivernais is open at last. We are untied at Monéteau, then leave the river Yonne at Migennes, going on to the Canal de Bourgogne.

After 7 weeks on the Canal du Nivernais, we can at last continue on to Auxerre. The problem was a weir, which had somehow gone wrong, but there was little evidence of this, except for the line of sand bags alongside the river in Vaux.


Auxerre cathedral is always imposing, as we approach the town.


Inside, it is noted for its height.


Also for all the stained glass, particularly that which surrounds the whole chancel.



However, this one of Joan of Arc, on one of the side windows, is much more modern.


Auxerre is an attractive town, with many old timbered buildings.


The clock bridge is another memorable building.


Our flowers have been better this year and here they are enhancing the cathedral, as we leave the town!
Moving on from Auxerre, we came down Boisseaux lock. As we came past this lock mooring it began to rain, and by the time that we were round the next corner, at Monéteau, it was extremely wet. We pulled in to the mooring bollards there, with difficulty as it was very shallow, and managed to loop ropes on, without getting too wet. Half an hour later the rain had stopped, and two young lads walked past, saying bonjour very politely. We did not realise it at the time, but they had also unlooped our ropes from the bollards, and we found ourselves floating away downstream! Which is why we are pointing upstream, towards a lock which we have just come down!


This section of the river Yonne is very pleasant in good weather.


Leaving the river Yonne at Migennes, to join the canal de Bourgogne. We found Mick above the lock, and caught up on the misdeeds of Meg and Billy!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

15th - 26th May 2018. A week at Mailly-le-Chåteau, then on to the end of the Vermenton branch of the canal and, later, a visit to the Caves of Bailly Lapierre.

At Mailly-le-Chåteau, the town is in two halves, being built both at the bottom and at the top of the cliff. Our mooring is just round the corner, in an inlet with room for plenty of boats, with free electric and water.
The second night that we were there, this fleet of five boxey boats arrived, with 45 children on board, aged 10 to 13 years. They were on the last night of their weeks holiday, and came from the outskirts of Paris. After an energetic game of football, they all moved quietly to their campfire, and had obviously had a great week. What well-behaved youngsters!



Shannon found new friends nearby.
Walking back along the canal, we climbed to the top of the cliff in the nature reserve called Bois du Parc. From there we could look right back, across the valley of the Yonne. Our route took us away from the river and canal, through the woods and out on the other side. The road would have been too long a walk to get back, but we found another track back through the wood, and then a lane back to the boat. Throughout the wood we found wild asparagus to pick, which is a really tasty vegetable.


After a week, we left Mailly-le-Chåteau to continue on, and joined the Vermenton branch, which is quite narrow.
We stayed two nights at Accolay, but with a trip up to the end of the canal at Vermenton. Our bikes had their first outing this year, as the supermarket is at the other end of town, and we hadn't seen a shop for 12 days! Do not miss the walk in the Parc des Isles there, as it is well worth a visit. We used the bikes to get to the park, and Shannon really enjoyed riding in the basket again.


Back on the Nivernais Canal, the valley is quite wide here.


Now this is proper cultivated asparagus!
The buildings of Bailly Lapierre can be seen ahead of us, lying halfway up the hillside. The caves where the wine is made, go directly into the rocks behind these buildings.
Inside the caves, the temperature is a steady 12°, so take a warm top with you, when you take the tour! There are about five million bottles in here, all at different stages of maturity.


These caves are full of history, being the source of stone for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This was my favourite carving - there are several in the caves
The carvings were each done by a different stonemason.

Bailly's have made wine here since 1972 and we bought enough wine to merit a lift back to the mooring!


When we first arrived at the mooring, our deck was level with the stonework.
By the next day, however, the river level had dropped by nearly three feet, so it was a real climb to get off the boat. Apparently the hydraulics at the next weir had jammed open, which we could see as we scraped the bottom of The Puzzler along the lock cut.