Our iron-butt mountainbiker friends think people who prefer improved trails are "Sissy Pants Riders".... maybe we should change our domain name to sissypantsriders.com! We loved the beautiful, flat, interesting Burgundy Canal trail so much we spent 6 days here - dodging the rain, stopping for photos every 5 minutes, talking to folks on the canal boats (they were the only English speakers around), and happily making our way from one restaurant or wine stop to the next. It's hard to imagine a more idyllic place for us Sissy Pants types.
A highlight of the visit and high point of the Burgundy canal (literally) is Pouilly en Auxois (pwee nokes to us English speaker barbarians) where the canal was forced underground into a tunnel for over 2 miles! The trail runs right along the top of the tunnel, with "wells" for air circulation the only indication of what's going on below. The tunnel is the exact size of the canal boats, so those crazy enough to brave the tunnel are surrounded by mossy black walls the entire slow way through. Many of the tour boats start on the East (Dijon) end of the tunnel because the passage not everyone's idea of a good time.
Amazing to think of the engineering technology and the financial commitment of this feat in the early 1800s. The tunnel has been functioning for nearly 200 years, but the canal was never really profitable due to the speed and size constraints. (this was, of course, well after George Washington & Co learned the hard lesson of the C&O canal but before the French learned the even harder lesson at the Panama Canal). Our amazement at the entire Burgundy Canal network has left us with the urge to seriously study the history of canals. Some amazing stories buried in the facts and events. Anyway it seem clear that the French pioneered many of the canal engineering techniques, especially the vast system of feeder lakes that keep the incredible high canals flowing along. (more on this when we get to the Central Canal system).
We met the people on the Savoir Vivre canal boat (last couple pics) - Americans on a one-week tour - savoring life very slowly.... They seemed to be having a good time and said the food was great! We debated whether we would enjoy such a trip (when we get old of course!) After passing and re-passing the same boat numerous times and thinking about a week to go from Pouilly en Auxois to Dijon... we thought it might feel a little slow. But maybe... who knows what we'll feel like next year?
The photos tell the story of the lovely current-day result of their efforts - one of the most charming and delightful rides anywhere in the world.
Sorry for the photo overload... do you know you can advance to the next pic by clicking on the picture? You only need to use the arrows if you want to back up.