The Saône: Tournus to Mâcon

If we can keep up, which we often can’t, it’s good to follow the commercials down the river and join them in the lock. With no locks between Verdun and Macon, there was no need.

Having broken free of Saint Jean de Losne, at least for the time being, Wanderlust was on the loose. Heading south on the River Saône we figured we’d cruise to Lyon. And maybe, if we chose to be adventuresome, we would go as far south as Valence on the Rhône. The plans weren’t well considered and there was no end date, at least for the moment. We knew we would have to return to Saint Jean at some point in the not too distant future. For now Wanderlust was free to wander. The plans would be made as we went.

As we left Tournus the next obvious stop on the River Saône was Mâcon. Mâcon has a well-developed port de plaisance with all of the facilities. This port is about three kilometers from the old town center. The guides also mentioned unserviced moorings near the center of the commune.

Wanderlust at the municipal mooring in Macon on the trip back upriver

As we approached Mâcon the entrance to the port de plaisance appeared as a narrow well-vegetated cut on the right bank of the river. The port looked attractive, as far as we could see. But it also looked like getting in and out might require substantial maneuvering in tight quarters. Without a bow thruster it could get ugly, particularly in the wind. We visualized Wanderlust’s 41 tonnes crashing into every fiberglass boat in the port on the way to a mooring. The insurance company would not be happy. So rather than attempting Mâcon’s port, and risking the insurance company’s wrath, we decided instead to try one of the two pontoon moorings near the old town. At the very least we could look first before we decided where to stop.

On the far side of Mâcon’s old bridge we found the new municipal pontoon. The metal pontoon was installed earlier in 2017 just upstream of the mooring dolphins used by the massive the Saône-Rhône cruise ships. There was no power or water available for the visiting boats, an inconvenience. The upside of the lack of facilities was that traveling boats tended to stay for short periods only. It made it more likely that we’d find a spot, as we did.

Église Saint-Pierre in Macon

The further downriver the more commercials there are

As you migrate through France’s many departements the architecture and the culture change gradually. Fifty kilometers from your starting point the differences are often hard to discern. One hundred and fifty kilometers away and things are noticeably different. In Mâcon, though we not yet left Burgundy, we were starting to sense that things had changed: The character of the south of France was starting to creep in.

Like some many places along the Saône and Rhône, Mâcon has a long history that extends past the Roman times. Notable sights include the old bridge over the Saone, Pont Saint-Laurent, whose initial construction dates from the 11th Century. Remarkably Pont Saint-Laurent remained intact as we passed under it on the way in to the pontoon. The old cathedral, Vieux Saint-Vincent, also dates from the 11th Century, and is worth a visit. We also liked the Hotel-Dieu, an old charity hospital.

Macon’s historic bridge

For sure the sights in Mâcon are worth seeing. But I wouldn’t put this as a place to go to see “things”. Instead for us a visit to Mâcon is was about relaxing in a plaza on a sunny day sipping adult beverages in the open air. Mâcon is a place to enjoy the experience of being in France without the burden of touristic agendas.

Wrapping around the city on the western side of the Saône is Cote Mâconnais, Burgundy’s southernmost wine appellation. The region is famous for its Chardonnay-based white wines. This is the southern extreme of the Burgundian wine appellation. The wines, such as Pouilly-Fuissé, retain the minerality of white Burgundies from the north but tend to be more fruit forward.

To explore the vineyards, and buy wine, we’d need to rent a car, which seemed too big of hassle at the time. We could have stayed longer in Mâcon to taste wine and do other things but we figured we’d stop in again on our return trip up the Saône. When traveling by boat there are times when there is only one route possible and out and returns are inevitable. It makes the decision to leave before you’ve done it all easier. You always expect to return shortly.

Motorcycle training for young people


A map of this portion of Wanderlust’s cruising season can be seen in this link. says that it is 26 kilometers from Tournus to Macon. There are no locks on this segment. Wanderlust’s engine ran for 3.1 hours.

The apothecary at the Hôtel-Dieu de Mâcon, the historic charity hospital.

Perhaps because I’m a chemist by training, I like apothecaries. This one is from l’Hôtel-Dieu de Tournus, taken during our last stop.


One thought on “The Saône: Tournus to Mâcon

  1. Pingback: The Saône: Lyon | Wanderlust

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