Still moored at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, our neighbours during 6 days, Tony & Nik on ‘Archangel’ left on Monday the 8th of June. The dirt that accumulates between ship and bank breaks free as is clearly visible here.
We left on the Tuesday, after having been inhabitants of Villeneuve for exactly a week. On the way to our next destination we encountered this narrowboat, which reminded us of a former way of life. A nice way of life, we must add.
During that day we descended four locks and were accompanied by a Dutch hotel boat, named ‘La Nouvelle Etoile’, in the last two of them. See their website http://www.lanouvelleetoile.com/ and be flabbergasted about what they offer their guests. Be prepared, however, that it might be a bit over the price of a budget-holiday. This is of genuine 5-stars-class!
Three-and-a-halve hours of cruising, four locks included, brought us into the small town of Sens. (Over 25.000 inhabitants, urban area nearing 60.000.) We settled ourselves around 2:30PM, exactly at the same spot we have been in week 14 – 2013, when the bridge over the river was seen in the background. This time the scene is pictured as seen from the bridge. The hotel boat –over twice our length- is on its bespoke mooring at the end of the quay.
Coming back to week 14 in 2013 we already had a picture of Sens’ cathedral Saint Etienne (Saint Stephen). The building adjacent to the cathedral, providing accommodation for the town museum, was covered in plastic sheets then, obviously because of a renovation project. Well, this is the stunning result.
We cannot, however, skip some features of the cathedral’s interior. It’s just full of splendour. So for a start here’s a picture of the inside again, this time a lot sunnier than in 2013.
One of the 18th century chapels is called Sainte-Colombe. We repeat the English clarification next to it: ‘This 18th-century chapel houses the Mausoleum of the Dauphin and Dauphine. It is the work of Guillaume Coustou the younger (one of a famous 18th-century family of sculptors) and dates back to 1777. Miraculously, it escaped the revolution unscathed, even though it contains the tomb of Louis XVI’s parents, whose remains still lie in the cathedral chancel. Two distinct sculpted symbolic groups adorn the monument: on the right stands a pair of statues representing Immortality and Religion, with the spirit of Science and the Art at their feet; on the left is a statue representing Conjugal Love or Marriage, flanked by the god Hymen, carrying a dying torch, and Time, symbolized by an old man carrying a scythe…’
A detail –the right hand side- from the described mausoleum. For more about the sculptor, and his family, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillaume_Coustou_the_Younger.
Another original 12th-century chapel inside the cathedral is called after Saint-Savinien (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savinien_de_Sens, only in French). He was the first bishop of Sens and decapitated by using an axe in or around the 3rd century. The event is brutally represented by this work of art by an unmentioned artist, dating from 1772.
We forget about all the beautiful stained glass windows and end the subject 'cathedral' with the the Davy du Perron (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Davy_Duperron) Mausoleum. ‘This mausoleum, dedicated to Cardinal Jaques du Perron (died 1618), friend of King Henry IV, and to his brother Jean, who succeeded him as Archbishop of Sens, was erected in the chancel in 1637’. Sculptor unknown; again not mentioned that is.
The monks on top of the monument are clearly visible and are, well, not all that special. The mourning little angels(?) however, deserve a closer look. Aren’t they utterly moving? (And chubby too!)
After leaving the cathedral for a visit to the museum we discovered that we, once more, had fallen victim to the French habit of having long, long lunch breaks. So we were forced to skip visiting Sens’s museum and continue towards the orangery, situated behind the combined building of cathedral and museum. On the way we noticed this ‘toutou bar’ - ‘toutou’ being a French affectionate name for a dog. Charming, but bone dry on the inside…
The orangery, fortunately is open for the entire day. What more is there to say than that this combination of equally beautiful buildings and their garden is a joy for everyone’s eye?
Sens, a so many towns, once had its own defending walls. There’s not much left of that, an exception being this part. It looks as if it must have been considerably effective.
The walk around the town, comprising the interesting features of it, brought us to the former pig-market (‘Place du Marché aux Porcs’). We did not see any pigs. What we did see was how some people behave like pigs…
To our amazement we noticed Sens having a red light district as well
We left Sens on Friday the 12th of Junre, after having been there during three nights. On the way, at PK 76 to be exact, L’Aqueduc de la Vanne, crossing the river Yonne, came in sight. Not only makes the river-crossing for a nice picture, the entire system of keeping Paris on its feet, the aqueduct being part of it, is very interesting. For more about the aqueduct see https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqueducs_de_la_Vanne_et_du_Loing (French only).
Several times, when we were on our way towards Sens and also when being moored there, we saw commercial boats cruising up and down – empty as well as, well, half laden. Here we see ‘Winnetou’, just after passing us on the Friday and on its way to get a load again further up the river.
Full of confidence we were to be able to find a mooring at Pont-sur-Yonne. After all this place does not offer that much attractions and the two mooring pontoons offer ample space. When arriving our thoughts proved to be a mistake as there was no sufficient room for our 18,31 meters (60 foot) little ship. But… to our joy ‘Gesina’, owned by the lovely couple Nigel & Maggie Charman, was moored there and we were invited to breast up. (They are on their way towards Narbonne, we towards Antwerp. That’s at some distance from each other!) Let’s say we had a great afternoon and evening together, sharing food, drinks and laughs.
As already mentioned Pont-sur-Yonne is not all that interesting. This advertisement however, as seen from P-s-Y’s bridge, catched our eyes. Although an original and attracting text we did not have the impression that this restaurant is still in business.
We had reached an agreement with the lock keeper on duty the previous day to be at the first lock on Saturday at 9:00AM. So we said goodbye to Nigel and Maggie and left 8:49AM to cruise less than a mile to the lock, named ‘Champfleury’. Being punctual did not pay, as there was no one to be seen, the lock was not ready and on VHF’s channel 69 there was no reply whatsoever. We had to wait for a full hour before the lock keeper showed up, together with the aforementioned commercial barge ‘Winnetou’. The latter, 80 meters (over 250 feet) long and 8,20 (over 27 feet) wide, seen here next to us 18,31 meters (60 feet) long and 3,75 meters (12,5 feet) wide. We could be inside the lock together, because the lock walls are straight and the lock chamber widens substantially after entering.
Behind a commercial boat
As you’d guessed we entered the lock first, moved aside and were followed by the commercial barge. When leaving the lock the commercial barge moved first forward, followed by us. It’s wise to start moving after, say, at least a minute because the turbulence caused by the commercial’s propeller is pretty violent. After that the commercial barge cruises a lot faster on the river –one kilometer ahead after 4 kilometers (2,5 miles)- but had to slow down considerably when cruising the over 4,5 kilometers (more than 2,5 miles) ‘Dérivation de Courlon’ – a canal, cutting off a heavy meandering part of the river. On this canal-part we catched up quickly and followed the commercial real slow.
An extra delaying factor was an ascending commercial barge, forcing the barge in front of us and ourselves to wait before the first (of two) locks in the canal-part. Both commercials are passing here, having just enough room to do it. Apart from the slowing down we cannot enter this lock together with the commercial because this lock has sloping sides. We would have been wedged together at the bottom of the lock. We know beforehand who’s going to ‘win’ and ‘lose’ that battle! Although the lock is not visible the height of the bridge gives away there must be one in front of it. There is, we can assure you.
The Saturday was very tiring for several reasons – having to wait (the first lock, behind a commercial, lunch-break) the most influential – apart from sloping lock-sides in the last three locks without the help of a mobile pontoon. We descended six locks altogether, finally reached Montereau-Fault-Yonne and were able to grab the only remaining mooring space around 4:00PM. That was over 7 hours of almost uninterrupted activity, standing and waiting included. (‘They also serve who only stand and wait’ – John Milton, Sonnet 16 ‘On His Blindness’.) We’re just visible behind the 3 arch bridge over L’Yonne. The 2 arch bridge over La Seine is visible on the left. It’s a riddle –an unimportant one, we’ll give you that- why the Yonne isn’t called La Seine and the other way around, since the Seine is narrower and shorter than the Yonne – both from here to their sources. Bye for now.