Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Green and "Gray"

Wednesday 25 May 2022 10:47 PM

The Petite Saône and the City Gray

A fresh wind from the North - I think - (in Australia it would be a “Southerly”), has helped cool down temperatures very pleasantly for cruising. So on Sunday, we passed through the 22 locks from Dijon back to St. Jean without a hitch, partly thanks to a pair of excellent lock-keepers who prepared all locks ahead of us. We arrived at 5 pm just in time for a piece of neighbour Kerry's homemade black forest birthday cake. The next day was spent with housekeeping, answering emails and phone calls to some of our errant children. And then we were off again, this time upriver to the Petite Saône. At Auxonne we passed Napoleon's military school and also an old friend: the beautiful barge “Maria”, until recently owned by our lovely American boat buddies from Toul, Patty and Don. So nice to see Maria looking as good as ever!

The skies were a little grey but the previous day’s rain had stopped. It was lovely to power along a clean river without dodging weeds and branches. The riverbanks looked very lush and green with no industry and hardly any houses to be seen. It was all forests and meadows. Plenty of swans, coots and herons populated the river with skylarks and buzzards gliding overhead.  The few automatic locks were easy to use and filled up quite gently making the journey fast and pleasant. We went all the way to the town of Gray that day, about 60km from where we started in Saint Jean de Losne. 

Gray was getting ready for the “Rolling Saône” Festival which will be rocking the town on the weekend. Part of the left river bank was fenced off for this occasion. A nautical halte with enough depth for boats with a draught greater than 1 metre, lays about 600m north of the old centre, a nice green stop away from the streets with electricity and water. At the moment there is so little pleasure boat traffic, that nobody collects money for the mooring. Close by is a great Lidl shop and we were sorry that we had already stocked up with essentials.

The narrow lanes to the old centre of Gray are a little steep for my cycling prowess and are much better discovered by foot, so we left our bikes downtown. Like in many French places, the neglected house facades have their own charm and history. At the peak of town stands the 16th-century town hall with a colourful tile roof and Corinthian columns. In former days, the ground floor of the building also served as a market hall while the first floor was reserved for municipal activities

Nearby are the remnants of the old fortress and the Basilica of Notre Dame. 

A significant religious figure was the Augustine preacher and reformist St Pierre Fourier. He has a fountain and a tower to his name. During the ten-year war between Louis XIII and Franche Compté, the town was his refuge from the prosecution by Cardinal Richelieu. The St. Pierre Fourier Tower has a wooden staircase that can turn and thus reveals the entrance to a hidden study and meditation room. 

We decided not to stay for the "Rolling Saône” Festival, but roll on up the quiet, picturesque Saône instead. 

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