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Getting the Boat
Canal du Nivernais

Saturday, July 1st -- Auxerre to Vermenton

Fields along side the canal

Before we left the hotel, we took advantage of their wonderful continental breakfast in the garden. The buffet was beautifully presented--meats, cheese, fruits, and of course, wonderful pastries. The kids enjoyed listening to all the different languages--French, German, and Italian.

We drove the 25km to Vermenton and arrived at Burgundy Cruisers just as they were leaving for lunch. The owners of Burgundy Cruisers, Steve and Zoe, directed us to a restaurant in town we enjoyed a light lunch. The kids were able to experience their first croque monsieurs, Christopher ate all of his while Patrick picked around the edges. Patrick obviously did not buy our explanation that it was just like a grilled cheese sandwich.

We had Burgundy Cruisers provision the boat with the basics such as bread, butter, water, eggs, and wine (of course!). We still needed food so we drove the 25 km to Avallon where we found a supermarket and bought groceries.

We drove back to Vermenton and checked out the boat. Wow, was it wonderful. We did not expect to have a boat so clean, well maintained, and equipped. We finished up the paper work and prepared to set off with Steve for our familiarization cruise.

Steve explained everything we needed to know and showed us a manual that covered everything we needed just in case we forgot what he told us. My favorite part of the demo was when Steve showed Julie how to climb down into the bilge to check the engine water and oil.

Steve also spent a lot of time talking about the towns and villages along the way. He recommended restaurants and sites as well as giving a bit of a history lesson on the canal. Also on board was also an informal guide of the villages along the way and what services they offered.

Soon we started up the motor and were ready to leave the quay. There is a large turning basin at Vermenton and we turned around and began to head down the embranchment towards the Canal du Nivernais. I must admit that steering a canal boat is a little different than a sail boat. After fishtailing down the canal for a few hundred meters, I have an a new found appreciation for those that man the helm of supertankers. I eventually got the hang of it. The key to steering the boat is anticipation as everything happens very slowly when steering.

Steve got us to the first lock which we managed pretty well. Of course locking down is much easier than locking up, but more about that later. Steve then left us on our own to return to his office.

We were finally on our own on a canal boat in Burgundy. Our two years of wishing, investigating and planning had finally paid off. Let the adventure begin!

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I have learned more about other countries by visiting their supermarkets than by reading tour books. Burgundy was no exception. The only carts we could find were pre-school sized (we found the regular sized ones later outside). We must have looked pretty of silly pushing around these pint-sized carts.

When buying produce you have to weigh and label the produce yourself at a special stand. If you dont (we forgot to label one), you get dirty looks from the cashier at the checkout stand as she must walk back to the produce section and do it for you.

I think that this was the only supermarket in France that carried Budweiser longnecks. They also had a huge selection of wine in all sorts of different containers, 750ml bottles, 2 liter plastic bottles , and 20 liter plastic kegs.

We were able to buy pasta, sauce, and some wonderful pates and sliced meats. Much of their standard fare would be found only in the finest gourmet markets here.

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