In the 2016 French barging season, Michael and I barged on our Betty B from Auxerre into Migennes and along the Canal de Bourgogne, accompanied by our barge partners, John and Margaret. This canal is a beautiful stretch of waterway with some lovely, historic and fascinating towns. You might remember that there were floods in northern France in May 2016, so our barging proved to be challenging, dealing with canal and river closures, as well as eclusier (lock keeper) strikes!
Along the route, I fell in love with one town, Saint Florentin and its fabulous Eglise Saint Florentin. We visited it twice, and the second time was just as special as the first.
The township of Saint Florentin overlooks the junction of the Canal de Bourgogne and the Armancon river. From some distance away as you barge toward it, you can see a huge church on top of a hill, as is the norm in France.
We moored on the right bank opposite the marina since the marina mooring was in disrepair. The large, imposing church, which we assumed was a cathedral, towered above us. At night, it’s floodlit and looks glorious bathed in lights.
It rained during the night again, and another grey day dawned. After breakfast, we set off to walk into the Centre Ville of Saint Florentin to find the Sunday market. On the way, the rain started again, lessening the joy of our walk up the hill.
We popped into the Office de Tourisme to inquire about the church and were told we needed to collect the key from the office prior to our visit. We walked past the two antique shops called hrocantes and took a look inside, as I’m always on the lookout for antique French asparagus plates. But no luck. It was then on to shop at the marche convert, a covered market, which we found next to the elaborate, ubiquitous war memorial with its flags and flowers saluting the war dead from WWI and WWII. It’s always sad to see how many young French lives were lost in these tragic wars.
The covered market was a large hall, but the day we visited, there were only a few stall holders. This was possibly owing to the bad weather, but also possibly due to our late arrival around 11:00 a.m.
One stall was devoted to the local cheese, Soumaintrain, made by the cheese-maker at the Ferme Leclere. She told us that this cheese is made in the Yonne Region, called Le Soumaintrain terroir d’Armange, after the local river. 1 was told the Ferme Leclere farm has been making cheese from their Montbeliarde cows since 1984, and the cheese is with the affineur (cheese maker) for maturing for 21 months. It’s a pale yellow to orange color, has a strong smell and soft, fine, creamy texture. It tastes of hazelnuts, champignons and the undergrowth.
We were thrilled to find this artisanal cheese and buy it for our guests arriving in a week’s time.
Since 2008, this farm has also made Le Chaource AOP, another great local cheese and a favorite of ours.
At another stall, the white asparagus looked lovely, so we bought some for dinner. We added some bright red strawberries to the collection, along with a freshly roasted chicken from the rotisserie man, which completed our lunch with the fresh baguettes.