Departing Tanlay Wanderlust continued up the Canal de Bourgogne. The goal for the day was Ancy-le-Franc. Ancy, like Tanlay, is a commune in the domain of the Dukes of Burgundy anchored by a grand chateau. And just also like Tanlay, a brown tourist sign along the Autoroute du Soleil, the A6, encourages passersby to explore the town’s chateau.
The use of brown signs on the autoroutes and roads to direct passing tourists to nearby attractions began in France in the 1970’s. Since then the practice has spread around the world. Nevertheless by our unofficial, unscientific, and quite possibly incorrect survey, France leads the world in the number and variety of these signs. Perhaps this is because France has more interesting places to see. Or eat and drink, as many of the signs celebrate the food and wine that the region is known for. The French are fully committed to the brown tourist sign concept.
If a place in France is honored with a brown sign along the highway it is likely a good place to visit. In our experience, the quality of the tourist sign recommendations is high; there are very few duds.
There are a lot of tourist signs. If you attempted to see every advertised destination while driving across France, your progress would slow to a crawl. And though the signs tell motorists that there is something worth seeing nearby, it is often difficult to figure out where exactly the attraction is. Sometimes the places advertised are a substantial distance from the autoroute.
Other times, for example in the case of the brown signs that promote the regions’ famous wine, cheese, or food, the attraction is everywhere but nowhere in particular. For example, along the A39 there are brown signs that tell the passing motorists that the region produces the famous Bresse Chicken. The chicken from Bresse is worth celebrating. Bresse Chicken is so highly prized that it often is more expensive per pound than beef. Nevertheless, as a tourist, it is hard to imagine making a stop in Bresse to appreciate the region’s poultry.
(Actually, Bresse Chicken is not the perfect example. Along the A39, not far from the brown sign, is a motorway service stop, Aire du Poulet de Bresse, which reportedly is the biggest retailer of Bresse chicken in France. Motorists can easily stop and experience a Bresse chicken lunch, which might well please the creators of the brown sign.)
One way to avoid the dilemma of whether to stop in at the nearest tourist sign destination in France is to travel via the inland waterways. There are few if any brown signs along the canals and rivers. That simplifies things. Further, when you are averaging a blistering three kilometers per hour there’s no need to snap your neck back to get a glimpse of any advertised attraction that happens to come into view. If need be, you can even stop the boat and back up the canal to get a better angle. (I definitely do not suggest a similar approach on the autoroutes.) And when on a good day you travel 20 or so kilometers, it is pretty much impossible avoid stopping near any tourist sign designated place that happens to be along the canal.
Thus Wanderlust, as she traveled the Canal de Bourgogne, would unavoidably stop for the night near Ancy-le-Franc. The brown tourist sign along the Autoroute du Soleil should have caused us to stop and see Ancy’s chateau earlier, but it hadn’t. Indeed, brown sign or not, we might have never visited the Renaissance-style Château d’Ancy-le-Franc that was built in the 16th Century unless we were traveling by boat. Slow travel does have its advantages.
It is 21 canal-kilometers and 9 locks from Tanlay to Ancy-le-Franc. Wanderlust’s engine ran for 6.8 hours.
Clicking here will bring up a map of our route.