Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nevers, The Great Taxi Ride and Plans Set in Jello

By Thursday the 26th we’d made it to Decize and the junction with the Nivernais Canal. We weren’t heading onto the Nivernais but Alan and Sharon on Drumsara intended to on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, you need to cross a section of the Loire River to get to the beginning of the canal and the authorities closed it before they could make it. The river was flowing much too fast. Meantime we headed further down the canal beside the Loire; several times its curving channel comes close to the canal and we could see the water rushing by. We spent a couple of days on a quay outside the village of Chevenon and bicycled the 10k into the Nevers port to check it out. The stories we had heard about it were not inspiring and we wanted to see for ourselves.
Port de Jonction is at the end of a 3k side channel that used to lead into the river. The last lock is blocked off and pontoons have been put in a portion of the old commercial port. The major problem is that the city is on the other side of the river, about a 20 minute walk away and part of that is on what was now a wet, muddy path. 

The Nevers Cathedral is actually two churches combined, with both romanesque and gothic choirs. Construction started in the 6th century with major renovations in the 16th. The River Loire is in the foreground. In a couple of days it will be roaring!

The Ducal Palace was the home of the Dukes of Nevers in the 15th century. It’s now houses exhibits and the tourist office.

Nevers is also the final resting place of Saint Bernadette, she of Our Lady of Lourdes. We were told no visit to Nevers would be complete without a visit to the Espace Bernadette where her exhumed, intact (although wax coated) body lies in its brightly lighted glass case. We paid our respects.
Meanwhile it continued to rain. Not really being media connected, we didn’t realize the chaos and flooding that was occurring throughout central France. When we did find out about it, all our plans for the summer would have to be rearranged.

We’d arrived on Monday afternoon expecting that Ines would arrive on the first. Unfortunately, there’d been a miscommunication and she wouldn’t be arriving until the 2nd. And there were more complications. The French government is trying to make major changes in French labor law and at least one of the major unions is having none of it. Strikes have been rampant and one of the major groups taking part is the train employees. Ines made it to Paris from Brussels but could find no way to get to Nevers. Her creative solution? I bet you don’t often see Paris taxis in Nevers!

The greatest part of this story is that Ines is fluent in Spanish, not so much in French. The taxi driver was a retired flamenco dancer (he said it was too hard on his knees) so his Spanish was pretty good. Ines arrived about 3 pm so we got underway just to get out of Nevers, settling in after just an hour underway at the nearby village of Plagny. We discovered that this section of the canal had just been reopened. It had overtopped it’s banks and was shut down for several days while we were waiting in Nevers.

More bad news awaited us. Our one and only firm plan for this summer had been the Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival that takes place on a island in the Seine River just south of Paris in late June. Barges cluster around the island for a 4 day fete. Disastrously, one of the canals we would have to transit to get there burst it’s banks. The authorities said it could be anywhere between 2 and 4 months for the repairs. There was no way we could get to the festival. (We found out later that, because of the major floods on the Seine, the Festival would have to be relocated off the island and we wouldn’t have been able to get the barge there anyway.) In fact, we would have to turn around a retrace the entire journey we’d made so far this year. Plans made in jello, somebody said.

The usually placid Loire churning under the Nevers bridge after the big rains.

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