Home > Travel Blog > 2014 > August



We travelled to England to see our family and really appreciated the kind loan of a car from Philip and Bogusia. On our return to Gannay sur Loire, all was well and we were also grateful to Sid and Mark at Entente Marine who looked after our ship. Their busy boatyard offers repairs, maintenance and moorings and we met some of their happy customers including Henry and Steph (who will winter in Brugge with us). We had a nice evening at the bistro “La Vacancière”, where Jean-Claude and Lena provide their own brand of French hospitality. Having returned our friends’ car we were joined by our Belgian friend Sofie and set off cruising again, heading north on the Canal Lateral à la Loire.

Gannay sur LoireEntente Marine in action
Gannay sur Loire                               Entente Marine in action

Having left Gannay we set off apace to catch up some distance, 28km on our first day and the sun shining. We have over 900 km to travel back to our winter berth so we will be cruising about thirty hours a week from now on. Arriving at Fleury sur Loire the moorings were full and Pat and Jill on Topaz invited us to raft up - another chance to catch up and chew the fat.

Just another lock, 900km to goFleury sur Loire
Just another lock, 900km to go                 Fleury sur Loire

At our next stop, Plagny, Sofie proved that she just has to fall in love with a cat at every port. This one is called Fifi and no doubt flirts with all the passing boaters.

At PlagnyBBQ chef in action
At Plagny                                      BBQ chef in action

Sofie has a cat in every portSofie checks out the view
Sofie has a cat in every port                  Sofie checks out the view

The spectacular aqueduct at Guétin was worth a movie. The Loire is quite wide here and the views amazing. We know that Briare, in a couple of weeks will be even more so, in all the picture books but this one was impressive for a starter. It is followed by a double lock with big descent to the next section.

Le Guétin pont canal over the LoireIntense concentration
Le Guétin pont canal over the Loire            Intense concentration

Alternative flower potsCours les Barres village street
Alternative flower pots                        Cours les Barres village street

At Cours les Barres we said goodbye to Sofie, the train station at Fourchambault being a short taxi ride away. All the way to Paris the train line follows the river and canal, so meeting friends is easy on this route. That’s good because we have more friends joining us soon. Our next stop was at La Chapelle Montlinard where we had a super evening with friends Guy and Ruth at their beautiful home. After this we stayed at Sancerre. The historic hill top town was well worth the climb and where we sampled the famous wine. It was here that we met with Stephan and Annelie, young Germans with their small children on holiday here. They also have a boat so we found plenty to talk about. We had a meal at the local Hotel Floroine, (more Sancerre wine tasting). The patron has a big collection of hats displayed but desolé, he lacks a British bobby policeman’s helmet. That evening we made friends with two more Germans, Reiner and Juliana who have an old Dutch barge too.

Our first glimpse of SancerreWalking through the vineyards
Our first glimpse of Sancerre                  Walking through the vineyards

Mediaeval streetsSpectacular views
Mediaeval streets                              Spectacular views

Local biker ‘s pillion girlie!Old grape press, better than trampling
Local biker‘s pillion girlie!                  Old grape press, better than trampling

Disused rail viaduct, MénéteréolNo trains, just hike or bike
Disused rail viaduct, Ménéteréol               No trains, just hike or bike

Main street , Ménéteréol sous SancerreTypical Sancerrois lock house
Main street , Ménéteréol sous Sancerre         Typical Sancerrois lock house

At lock 36 Houards, wine not being advertised here but by word of mouth, we were able to purchase some great Sancerre wine at good price intending to put some by for another day. Our next stop was Belleville, super little spot, luckily several eateries, well-kept and very floral. There’s a good deli where we got local goats cheese and pate, etc. Here we met Richard and Karin, New Zealand round-the-world sailors who now have an old Dutch barge and a more sedate life. We all made an outing to the local Nuclear Power Station, a fascinating visit.

Lock where the wine is soldBelleville Nuclear Power Station
Lock where the wine is sold                    Belleville Nuclear Power Station

Spooky cloud of steamMisty morning at Belleville
Spooky cloud of steam                          Misty morning at Belleville

Also fascinating is why the cattle when grazing face the same way, reaching the corner of the field they all turn and face the other way. Just something to think about on summer holidays.

Cattle facing east, all togetherNow they turn to face west!
Cattle facing east, all together               Now they turn to face west!

We then crossed the famous Briare Pont-canal or aqueduct, a spectacular sight that appears in all the French waterway books. As we crossed the canal over the river Loire we were photographed by numerous tourists.

Approaching the Briare Pont-CanalThe River Loire below us
Approaching the Briare Pont-Canal              The River Loire below us

Properties near BriareLock leads to the old town
Properties near Briare                         Lock leads to the old town

Here we joined the Canal de Briare and found ourselves going upstream now through very beautiful countryside.

Going upstream nowNested in to our berth for the night
Going upstream now                             Nested in to our berth for the night

At Ouzouer-sur-Trézée there was a choral concert from the Singet de Cracovie, part of a regional programme of concerts by young European musicians. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estivales_en_Puisaye

Evening concert at the local churchRécital Singet, Estivales en Piusaye
Evening concert at the local church            Récital Singet, Estivales en Piusaye 

On our next section of locks there was a mobile team to help take the ropes and work the old mechanism. This is another chance to practise our French. Often there are tourists around the town locks who take an interest and ask lots of questions about our life. We are fluent on that subject now! Coming down to Rogny les Sept Ecluses we shared locks with a Spanish family on the last day of their boating holiday who brought their food for a shared lunch - Ana and her two sons Alvaro and Ignatio from Barcelona.

Local spectatorsThe seven ancient locks
Local spectators                               The seven ancient locks

Mooring up for the night, unusually we had to pay a mooring fee here but it was worth it. We then walked round the little town and enjoyed exploring the old seven locks, built by Henry IV in 1642, a big engineering feat in its day. It had one problem - ships could not pass each other and it took a day to get up or down the 3 or 4 km stretch. By 1887 the increased traffic necessitated a new system and the new canal de Briare was built, linking the Seine with the Loire, a major development in the French inland waterway system. The seven locks were replaced by six new ones to take much bigger ships.

Rogny les Sept EclusesOur Spanish friends
Rogny les Sept Ecluses                         Our Spanish friends

Another lovely stop was at Montbouy, another memorable village with exotic flowers everywhere. Plants that cannot survive in northern Europe thrive here in the Loire valley. We have seen very little traffic, some days only one or two other boats. It’s been said that tourism has been down this year in France and certainly there are very few French boaters; they prefer to use their waterways for fishing.

Admiring the viewThe story board
Admiring the view                              The story board

Geese on guardHorses watch us pass….
Geese on guard                                 Horses watch us pass….

Montbouy  Lockside flower garden
Montbouy                                       Lockside flower garden

Incredible flowersThe Loing at Montbouy
Incredible flowers                             The Loing at Montbouy

Our lockie at MontbouyAnother lovely church
Our lockie at Montbouy                         Another lovely church

Montargis is a large town where we arranged to meet our Norwegian “family” from the train and a chance for a mega supermarket shop, bikes groaning under the load. There is a lovely approach from the south via two locks, several pretty ornamental iron bridges and flowers everywhere. On this Sunday afternoon we again had many spectators watching our every move with fascination! The little side canals between the houses are reminiscent of Bruges or Venice.

Montargis, little side canalsMontargis entering lock
Montargis, little side canals                  Montargis entering lock

Here we enjoyed the hospitality of Parisians Francine and Brunot who have lived aboard their French Freycinet barge for seven years and have created an magnificent spacious interior – much bigger than Esme - it even has a lift! They were caring for a friend’s dog when they came to us – he really took to Chris!

Canal at MontargisSays he doesn’t want a dog?
Canal at Montargis                             Says he doesn’t want a dog?

Soon we were on a four day cruise on the Canal du Loing with Grethe, Siri and baby Magnus who is nearly two. What a delightful baby - he adapted well, made not one attempt to fall in the canal or down our steep stairs – the holiday was much more relaxed than we hoped and he is a very contented little boy. They like life on Esme and we had a super time. By the week’s end we’d arrived at Nemours, a lovely town where we had a day of sightseeing and shopping before seeing them off at train station.

Out on the townMagnus in his jimjams
Out on the town                                Magnus in his jimjams

Breakfast timeOur Norwegian “family”
Breakfast time                                 Our Norwegian “family”

Yes, it’s a hen house on a boat!Waterwheel, Montargis
Yes, it’s a hen house on a boat!               Waterwheel, Montargis

Chateau at MontargisRiver Loing at Montargis
Chateau at Montargis                           River Loing at Montargis

In a day or two we were onto the River Seine, a real river, wide and impressive with big beautiful homes. We stayed at Melun where much of the old city is on an island, lively shops, foodie heaven, pavement cafes and French lifestyle in action on a late summer weekend. Then on to Morsang sur Seine, where we stayed near a fantastic lock and weir complex where after dark we walked across the river bridge witnessing the incredible floodlit sight and intense roaring water many meters below. The bridge at Vitry sur Seine is quite amazing too, a massive suspension bridge. Soon we were at the junction of the rivers Seine and Marne. Left is Paris, right is the river Marne which is the way for us this year.

Approaching St MammesA real river here!
Approaching St Mammes                          A real river here!

Locks are getting biggerThe prison at Melun
Locks are getting bigger                       The prison at Melun

Nice riverside homesCloser to Paris
Nice riverside homes                           Closer to Paris

Bridge at Vitry sur SeineThat’s Paris that way!
Bridge at Vitry sur Seine                      That’s Paris that way!

Nice to be back in familiar waters on the Marne and we look forward to enjoying it again as we did in 2012 and sharing it with friends Sue and Ian. September news to follow soon.
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