“Vin rouge or vin blanc?” asked Anias, our charming waitress. It was hard to decide; the wines on le carte before us bore the names of the towns we’d cycled through over the last few days: Irancy, Saint Bris, Coulanges.
Today had started with a short ride from Auxerre along the Canal de Nivernais to Vaux where we had branched off en route to the vineyards.
A gentle breeze was behind us helping up the gentle hill to Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, cycling past fields of corn moving in Mexican waves and filled with poppies and cornflowers.
We swept down into St Bris through deserted streets past sun dappled flowered courtyards and old stone buildings to the church.
John, our leader, had arranged a tour with the verger, a heavily moustachioed local, who showed us the delights of the 13th century church with its treasured 16th century Tree of Jesse.
Afterwards we rode on to Chitry with its fortified church then, after a short uphill stretch, lunch overlooking the route we had cycled. The day had ended with a
welcome nine kilometres downhill.
“Vin blanc to start and vin rouge to finish.” We deserved it. The wines at Le Petit Guyon where we had eaten all week complemented Christian, Le Patron’s, menu of all local produce. Tonight was a starter of pate with tomato and basil sorbet followed by salmon trout and tarte au prunes.
During the week days of cycling alternated with days of walking. The previous day we’d taken a train to Champs Saint-Bris and walked through vineyards watching the vines being tied in and trained.
Our base in Auxerre was a romantic historic town with a wealth of ancient architecture and quaint shops.
Not least, the local patisserie where we collected our morning sandwiches, or in my case almond croissants.
This was a very friendly town; not surprising when you learn that it’s most revered inhabitant was a benign bailiff, Le Cadet Rousselle.
Our Dutch style bikes made pedalling easy along the canals. Nevertheless stops were needed for that well-deserved coffee or ice cream
Wildlife was abundant: damselflies, a nesting grebe, an otter and an eagle. Some of our group hadn’t cycled for many years and were surprised and delighted with their achievements. Our longest day was forty miles but the flat paths around the canals – and the companionship – made it fly by.
Our last night: just finishing the tarte au prunes and vin rouge while Anias’s sister sings us an Edith Piaf song as a farewell.
Au revoir Auxerre!