The last 24 hours have been a bit nervous making. We loaded on the boat outside of Corbigny with some left over bread, ham and cheese from Paris, thinking we would find provisions in the next few towns.
Corbigny was too small for the train to stop there on Saturdays. We had to taxi in from a larger town. The little harbor in the middle of nowhere was so charming that we had difficulty sticking to our plan to head out that afternoon and head up canal before the locks closed. A beautiful old barge with majestic brownness kept calling to me and my camera-- as did Ian, speeding by on his bike... up and down the mule path in front of the harbor office while we readied the boat to leave.
Even though we did successfully break free from the harbor as we had planned, we didn't make it to Tanay before the open air market closed on Sunday. We motored nervously but happily from one tiny town to another looking for a boulangerie and fresh bread, a boucherie and some ham. We came to understand that some towns up-canal had boulangeries, but even they weren't going to be open until Tuesday.
We almost found food in Villiers-sur-Yonne, but ultimately what we had been directed to was not an open air market. Rather, it was a very ordinary flea market, complete with its own drum circle. Now we know where the French hippies go.
Not to be put down, we gathered our left over food from the plane and from the enormous and delicious French pizza dinner from our bike ride into Cobigny the night before. We tried not to feel deprived of food in this amazing place.
Because of distance and lock timing limitations, we couldn't be at a town where the boulangerie would open the next morning. We, therefore, stopped in the town of Veuilly-sur-Yonne to enjoy--just because. We moored by the brigde just after the lock simply because it was so beautiful.
This was the "modern" town created during the War of Religions in which the Catholic townspeople of Cluncy separated themselves and created a new town in order to protect themselves from the oppression of the Protestants in Cluncy. It is still tiny and some would say there isn't much here, but it is gorgeous. Sore feet and backs and a flat on Ian's bike were the only things successfully keeping us from exploring this little town with "nothing in it". I ignored the presence of the few, occasionally passing, cars and breathed the history. To us it was quiet. To itself, it was anything but and had a story to tell.
When we had asked a local if there was a restaurant, he said it was not walking distance and looked concerned that we did not have food. I reassured him we had provisions on the boat and we would be fine. He seemed satisfied and went back to helping his son-in-law load a truck: moving day-- even in 16th Century towns where it seems like the people shouldn't be doing anything but ambling slowly down the street together and having an all-afternoon, animated Sunday dinner with family and gossiping.
We sat on the deck of the boat that night... enjoyed the left-overs of our left-overs... and watched a couple of hirondelles (swallows) dive at the water. Mostly, though, we listened to the gorgeous white cows in the adjacent field saying their very long good nights to each other. The French countryside is littered with white cats and white cows. Some day I will learn why. Until then, I will continue to simply smile like I have been given a piece of chocolate every time I see one.
The cows are oddly prehistoric looking. They are majestic with strangely oversized heads and, odd, squat limbs. They have a beauty that entraps me every time. To the students of French bovine history, I apologize for my clumsy ignorance. Please do not look down on me, but, rather, educate me...
On the deck of the boat, Leigh baited the hook of Ian's fishing pole with a calamari from his pizza leftovers. We waited.
"French Pizza" sounds odd in the abstract, but it is something you will never forget after you try it. The French have taken the individual pizza concept from the Italians and made it exquisite. Pizza was my "splurge" when I lived in Paris as a poor expatriate. I was a regular at the inexpensive canned food store in my neighborhood, (which is now a Jaguar dealership ...just for some perspective on the current French economy...) As an expatriate, I took odd jobs to make extra money. Some jobs got me serving catered food to Peter Gabriel at the Amnesty International Concert and wandering backstage with Sting and Tracy Chapman. Other jobs simply got me scrubbing the toilets of other expatriates who had mysteriously found a professional niche for themselves. As for the French Pizza, it was my occasional splurge because it was relatively inexpensive, yet tasted over-the-moon decadent.
The fish weren't much amused with the token offering from our left-over decadence; they snapped immediately, however, at the evening bug annoying Leigh and which he flicked into the water.
Saying goodbye to the lovely, and now quiet, cows, we head out into the morning in search of a town with fresh croissants. Lock after lock. At peace, but hungry, all. We divided the last of the jambon blanc (ham) and trusted we would make it to Clamecy by noon, when all access to food would once again be closed against us.
I jumped off the boat at one lock on the way and left Ian and Leigh to manage the lines themselves. My camera/sketchbook drew me to the playful orange-red painted trim on the dock. The oddly modern and strangely interesting mistake built at the head of the lock attracted me, initially, as well.
The building was obviously a bold venture capital idea: build a bright, modern, circular, three story building on one of the oldest and most interesting locks of the Nivernais Canal and they will come, right? Wrong. It's empty and for sale, if anyone is interested...