Canal Cruising in Burgundy, France. Part 2

The second part of our journey with France Afloat along the canals and rivers of Burgundy takes us from Saint Florentin to Vermenton. We continue our cruise along the Canal de Bourgogne to the River Yonne and then the ever so beautiful Canal du Nivernais.

In Part 1 of this adventure, we boarded Ziggy in Tonnerre and learned the basics of boat handling and manoeuvring through the many ecluses (locks) whilst travelling down the Canal de Bourgogne.

The sun shining as we cruise along.
Day 2   Saint Florentin to Migennes

Canal de Bourgogne

Waking early, refreshed and confident we walked in to the delightful town of St Florentin in search of breakfast.   Cafe au lait et croissants were on our menu and a delicious start to the day.

St Florentin is a picturesque and quintessential French town with steep cobbled streets,   We would have loved to stay another day but as were attempting a 7 day cruise in 5 days, time was not on our side and we needed to push on to our next destination.

Elegant French balustrades in St Florentin


Our second day of was much more enjoyable and relaxing despite the intermittent rain.  We had well and truly mastered the locks and felt confident as we made our way along the Canal de Bourgogne. The lock keepers on this scenic part of the canal seemed to be mostly university students and all happy to greet us and help with the ropes when needed, then wave us on our way.

Once entering your first lock of the morning, the lock-keeper asks your destination and phones ahead to the following locks to prepare staff for your arrival.   The system seems to work very efficiently.

Helping open a lock in the pouring rain


We arrived in Migenne in the late afternoon and were surprised to see the marina fairly empty.   As we moored and connected our power and water we looked around can could see why!

Migenne is situated alongside a busy, ugly, noisy railway line which services both passenger and freight trains throughout the day and night.  As it was too late to move on to another town we decided to give Migenne the benefit of our doubt and headed in to town in search of a quaint French restaurant for dinner.

There is nothing quaint or French about this town.  The only “restaurants” we could find were a kebab bar and Moroccan cafe and chose the former.  Not exactly what we had in mind and no drinks on the deck that night due to the noise and smells of the railway line.

It is a good reminder that these canals were originally built as a transportation links and not for pleasure boats.

Day 3   Migenne to Auxerre

River Yonne

Soon after departing Migenne our path changed as we turned left on to the fast flowing River Yonne.

This part of our journey was quite different to that on the canal.  The Yonne was large and busy in comparison and the map reading skills we learned at our orientation were needed as we followed the navigable route.

Woodlands and meadows passed us by as we negotiated several large locks.  The locks on the Yonne were manned but automated so despite being larger, were faster to travel through.


Cruising past quaint country villages

Wild life was abundant and we spotted grey herons, kites and kingfisher birds.  Fish were plentiful also with wild trout swimming in the clear river.   Our favourite little animals were the water rats which scurried in to their canal bank homes as we passed by.

As our day on the river came to a close, we arrived at the beautiful, medieval cathedral city of Auxerre.  In fact, the Cathedral of St Etienne and Abby of Saint-Germain were our first view of Auxerre as they dominate the skyline as we cruised up the river.

Steve, the Managing Director of France Afloat, was waiting at the marina to greet us and assist moor Ziggy for the night.  It was a delight to meet him.

Arriving in to Auxerre

That evening we took a leisurely stroll in to Auxerre, a stunning city rich in history and charm.

Medieval Auxerre

There was an abundant choice of restaurants and bars and we found a lovely old French restaurant where we were able to taste some of the local Auxerre wine.    This city if famous for wine production in Burgundy, particularly Chablis.  We selected a lovely Pinot Noir to accompany our dinner.

Dining out in France in general is good value.    Our dinner in Auxerre was superb and  only 17 Euro for a 3 course meal. My entree, gazpacho, was the best I has tasted!


Day 4   Auxerre to Vermenton

Canal du Nivernais

We departed early as we had a relatively long distance to cover as we planned to reach Vermenton for the night.  Ideally we would have loved to stop the night in Cremant, a town a little over half way, but as the following day was Fete du National  (Bastille Day) we were unsure if the locks would be operational on such an important French holiday.   It turns out they were!

Departing Auxerre en route to Vermenton

Soon after departing Auxerre we turned in to the Canal du Nivernais and it did not disappoint!  Considered to be one of the most beautiful canals in France, it lived up to our expectations.

Tree lined vistas with quaint villages along the canal were a delight and shared  by many fishermen, cyclists and hikers enjoying the paths.

Canal du Nivernais


Changing scenery – always interesting


Arriving in Vermenton  in the late afternoon we were sad to be at the end of our journey but glad to have one last night aboard Ziggy,

The sun emerged after several cloudy days which made the  pretty little village even more picturesque.  Flowers were everywhere and the local community obviously takes a lot of pride in their village,

A local fosse, once the village wash basin,


The morning market in Vermenton is lively and we enjoyed fresh,  flakey croissants, pain au chocolate and coffee for breakfast. Very French and very delicious!


Fresh and seasonal vegetables


As our time on Ziggy came to and end, we packed and once again found our land legs for the drive home.  Our car had been transported to from Tonnerre to  Vermenton by France Aloat,   Although only 5 days had passed we reflected on our fabulous journey.

Cruising along the Canal de Bourgogne, River Yonne and Canal du Nivernais had been a wonderful experience.   We faced some challenges and  learned  many new skills.  

We were proud and felt like true” boaties”. The spectacular scenery along our route was amazing and we were privileged to see this part of France on a luxurious canal boat.  Although guests of France Afloat, all opinions and comments are our own.

Thank you France Afloat


The  journey we undertook from Tonnerre to Vermenton on a luxury Linssen boat starts at 2000 Euro per week.  For more details on this and other cruises with France Afloat