Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


New plans, new wheels and old mustard

Sunday 22 May 2022 1:31 AM

Velars-sur-Ouche & Dijon

Now that we’ve turned around, it is so nice going down instead of up in the locks. It hardly puts any strain on ropes or arm muscles! The lockkeepers of the day could only accommodate us after lunchtime, so we didn’t get very far and spent the next night in Velars. The good thing was that the mooring was right in front of a Colruyt supermarket with fantastic choices of fruit, cheeses and patés. Our main mission however was to stock up with still and fizzy water, very essential during these hot days and difficult to transport without a car.

The following day we arrived in Dijon and went straight off to buy new bikes. Proud new owners of a blue and an orange folding bike, we dared the ride to a hardware shop to buy a lump hammer and an extension cord. This turned out to be a long trip and for me an embarrassing one to boot! The folding bicycles just don’t have the all-terrain tires we were used to and don’t behave like they should when mounting a curb!!! So now, after Austin has recovered from his previous fall, it was my turn to limp into the hardware. But fortunately, it was just a scratch and I am now less cocky riding my new bright orange bike.

We decided to take a couple of days break from cruising, so I could lick my wounds and plan our onward journey. Our kind boating friends Jan and Bill, and Lucy and Max across the Channel gave us some vital information about the canals. So we decided to head to the Canal des Vosges towards Lorraine unless we hear anything to the contrary.

Being in the town of mustard, we followed again the trail of the yellow condiment and the trail of the famous Dijon owl. While we remembered parts of the city from 9 years ago, we were keen to explore others. From the harbour, a tram takes you right up to the old centre of Dijon. We decided to start our tour at Jardin Darcy named after the engineer who brought much-needed water to town by building a big underground reservoir.

The impressive Porte Guillaume now standing alone, was part of the old city’s ramparts for centuries. On this Saturday, there were market stands everywhere, but none as busy as around Les Halles. These covered market halls are amazing and one can find almost everything edible there. Some form of indoor markets exist in most reasonably sized French cities.

We enjoyed revisiting the Palais des Ducs and perusing paintings and sculptures from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance in its Musée des Beaux-Arts. The palace bears witness to the power of the dukes of Burgundy who had colourful names like Philippe le Hard (Philip the Bold) and Philippe Le Bon (Philip the Good).

Of the many churches, the Saint Philibert church is one of the oldest. It serves now as an exhibition place as it can’t be restored. Most vaults and columns within are heavily supported and scaffolded. Built in the 12th century this church played a vital role in the winemaking of Dijon. The members of the winemakers used the church for their meetings and, as it said on the tourist information, were called “culs bleus”, translated as “blue arses”??? I asked myself “Did they sit in the wine??" One definition of “cul bleu” I found, was a name given to someone who is thought to be homosexual - even stranger!

Easier to understand would be the name "red stockings" (bas rosés) given to winegrowers who would emerge red up to their knees after prolonged grape treading.  

The beautiful "Place du Bareuzai” with the statue of the grape harvester got its phonetically spelt name from the bas rosés.

Although Dijon mustard isn’t produced in this town any longer there are shops galore with colourful and diverse varieties. You can buy honey-, sun-dried tomato-, garlic-, herb-, truffle-, black currant-, lime- mustards, a.s.o, as well as mustard pots, spoons and dispensers. Austin was more drawn to the displays in the patisserie, which were just as colourful.

Back at the harbour, sitting on the back deck, we were entertained by piano music and jazz while sipping on a cool rosé. 

It’s a hard life! But someone has to do it!

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