Decize: an island on the Loire
On the edge of the Morvan, and focal point of the southern Nivernais region, the picturesque country town of Decize is perched on a rocky island in the middle of the Loire. The town’s turbulent history has left its mark on the surrounding countryside. Situated at the junction of the Loire and the Aron rivers, and of the Nivernais Canal and the Loire Lateral Canal, Decize is a veritable waterway crossroads.
Gliding down the Loire
In the best local boating tradition, Les Ligéries (an association of former Loire boatmen based in Decize) organise cruises aboard a gabarre (traditional barge measuring 15 m by 3.70 m). You can also rent a barge for the day or canoe down the river with the Canoë-Club de Decize based at Saint-Léger-des-Vignes.
This former stronghold is enviably situated atop a rocky spur overlooking the river and the Nivernais Canal. With is many rivers and streams, Châtillon fully deserves its reputation as a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. Located in the middle of cattle and cereal farmland, Châtillon-en-Bazois is proud of its past (château and church).
Dive into the water at the Etang Vaux, between Châtillon-en-Bazois and Corbigny (altitude 260 m). This fishing, swimming and water sports area is very popular in summer and makes a refreshing port of call. There are facilities for waterway tourists at the port of Les Poujats. The canal is connected to the Etang (pond).
The “staircase” of Sardy-les-Epiry
The Nivernais Canal, originally built to supply Paris with firewood, is a true compendium of 19C engineering techniques (81 locks, extraordinary civil engineering structures) set amidst lush green countryside. One of the most beautiful and impressive constructions is the series of 16 locks in the space of 3 km allowing the canal to negotiate a major change in relief.
Vézelay: the eternal hill
Vézelay unveils its many charms to those who take the trouble to explore its steep streets. The medieval village spreads out over one side of a hill which seems to point up to its crowning glory – the basilica. Vézelay has been a landmark of Christianity since the Middle Ages. The faithful were attracted by the relics of Mary-Magdalen and later the town became an assembly point for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. It was here that St Bernard preached before the Second Crusade and were Philip Augustus and Richard the Lionheart met before the Third Crusade. Now as before, the town’s most famous attraction is the basilica of Sainte-Madeleine: “Undisputed masterpiece of Romanesque architecture”.
Travel back to the golden age of the log floaters.
On 14 July each year, Clamecy perpetuates tradition by staging very lively water jousts (the favourite pastime of the log floaters). You can find out more about this aspect of local culture at the Romain-Rolland Museum in town, or at Asnois (near Tannay) where the earthy founder of the “Morvan Log Train Association” exhibits his models and regales visitors with stories of the log floaters.
Go climbing above the Yonne.
How about a little rock climbing as a change from cycling? The Saussois rocks at Merry-sur-Yonne offer an extensive choice of climbs (400 routes rated 4 to 8 on the scale of difficulty). You will be rewarded by a view of the Yonne stretching out like a ribbon 60 m below you. The Surgy rocks are more accessible and suitable for beginners.
Auxerre, City of Artistic and Historical Interest, possesses one of the most beautiful townscapes in France: from the Pont Paul Bert, straddling the river Yonne, you can admire the many fine buildings: the Abbey of Saint-Germain, the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, the Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower), etc.