Let me tell you a story of canals and coincidences here at PumpjackPiddlewick

I have a little story to tell. A story of boats, canals and coincidences. How sometimes life circles around on itself.

Almost exactly 5 years ago, I enjoyed a visit from my parents here to France. I was looking after a Chateau at the time. But it was also a time of transition, moving on. It was time to look for a new place to live. So with my parents we decided to journey together and visit various villages and areas to see what places appealed as potential new homes.

Where it started

One of the places we visited was a little town called St Leger Sur Dheune, in the Saone et Loire region of Burgundy. It ticked all the boxes for me with a variety of amenities. It even had a canal, something which appealed to my Dutch mother.

We of course went to visit the canal, the Canal du Centre or Centre Canal (The Canal du Centre, originally known as the Canal du Charollais, was opened in 1792 and was the first watershed canal allowing boats to pass from the north of France to the south.)

The first coincidence

And in visiting it came across a lovely large Dutch barge moored up. It was very obviously re-designed to be a floating hotel. We met the Captain and chatted with him and then the tour guide as she returned with the guests. And then out of the blue we heard my father’s name called. 

It turned out a couple on the boat were from the same town my parents were living in and they knew each other. What a strange coincidence. Or, if you prefer, it’s a small world. 

Sadly the town was not meant to be as I wasn’t able to find a house that fitted our needs, and budget, there. However, a house was found 5 kms away from it. And duly purchased.

The second coincidence

Let’s fast forward to today. No, actually I have to start this part of the story 10 months ago. I saw an advertisement for a job, as a tour guide on a hotel barge. I recognised the barge colours as those from the one we had seen in St Leger sur Dheune. It seemed fate was calling. Or coincidence? I applied and got the job.

In March I moved on board l’Impressionniste. A 39 meter, 12 passenger barge, called a ‘peniche’ in France. One of the number of barges run by European Waterways. And thus began a new chapter in my life on the Canal de Bourgogne. (The Burgundy Canal is a canal that connects the Yonne river at Migennes with the Saône river at Saint-Jean-de-Losne. Construction began in 1775 and was completed in 1832.)

The journey

From April, our crew of 6 cruised l’Impressioniste between Fleurey-sur-Ouche, just west of Dijon, and Escommes, just before Pouilly-en-Auxois – the top of the Burgundy canal. The canal actually goes uphill from Saint-Jean-de-Losnes as it passes through the plethora of locks, finally going through a 2 mile tunnel at the top before heading downhill to Migennes. One week we went one direction, then turned around and went the other way the next week. 

But the the thing about that top of the canal, it was fed by reservoirs. Reservoirs dependent on rain fall. We watched the water get lower and lower as the heat of summer did its worst. Rumours started to circle that we would be moved off the canal. And then suddenly, it was true. We journeyed back towards Fleurey-sur-ouche… and kept going. On into Dijon, capital of the Cote d’Or region of Burgundy. 

Our route changed. It was now from Dijon along the Burgundy canal to Chagny on the Canal du Centre, via the Saone river. We were going east and south, instead of west. Same itinerary for me as the guide, just varied driving times. We arrived in Chagny (west of Chalon sur Saone on the map above) after a hard week of learning all new moorings, routes, and river cruising as well as canal.

The third coincidence

And then word reached us that the rest of the Burgundy canal, from Dijon to St Jean de Losnes had closed. It was all change again. Our Saturday afternoon off suddenly turned into moving the boat. We were to take l’Impressionniste to St-Leger-sur-Dheune, further up the Canal du Centre.

Arriving in St Leger felt like I had completed a circle in time. A tale with a beginning and end, where the start led around to the finish. Our season on the barges ends in another week. It seems very fitting that it should end where my first glimpse of these barges began.

A story of coincidence? For certain, but also it just feels very right. As this chapter comes to a close, a new one begins. Will it also be full of canals and coincidences? Only time, and this blog, will tell.


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