Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, June 18, 2016

New Region, New Wine, Good Cheese

Since we had now entered the Department of Nievre, leaving Burgundy behind, we had new wines to try. This very small wine region still grows the pinot noir and a little gammay for red wine but instead of the burgundian chardonnay, the white wine is produced from the sauvignon grape with the pouilly fume on the east side of the river and Sancerroise on the west. And, since this is early summer (although you wouldn’t know it from the weather!) the fresh goat cheese (crotins de chavignol, literally “goat droppings”) is abundant. Even though we knew we would eventually have to turn around a retrace our steps we didn’t want to miss this region.
Our first stop was the small village of Beffes and their new small marina. A French barging couple we met in Nevers had recommended a restaurant there and we figured a recommendation from the French meant we had to try it. The Crozet de Chemin was so good we stopped there again on our way back up the canal.

Next we moved on the the small village of Menètrèol sous Sancerre. As the name implies, the village is under Sancerre, which is on top of the hill.

The Chateau

The hike up the hill is pretty major and we’d been told that the 9 euro taxi ride was well worth it. We tried two taxi companies and were turned down flat; a strike by refinery workers was making gasoline supplies short and there was a two-day road race blocking the shortest way up the hill. We were going to have to walk. Luckily just down the road we spotted a taxi pulling out of the local supermarket and flagged down Madame Luthon who was only too happy to give us ride to the top. We made sure to get her card for the ride back. It would be a long hike to get around the road race.

The original fortified town of Sancerre was built in 1152 but the area has been occupied since Roman times. The castle and the surrounding walls were demolished after it’s inhabitants came out on the wrong side of the religious wars in the late 1500’s but the town remained, very medieval.
We climbed the 161 steps up La Tour des Fiefs, the only remaining tower of the 14th century chateau for a view of town and the Loire below.

The Loire Valley

Monday we moved on to the town of Lerè. Also very picturesque, it had a nice place to tie up although a new addition to the canal this year was causing some problems.  Deborah is a 40 meter new hotel barge run by Croisie Europe, the same company that runs the huge hotel barges on the rivers. Unlike the usual hotel barge that caters to only 6-8 passengers (with very high prices), Deborah carries 24 people; we’re not sure about the price. They have reserved space in all the moorings along the canal between Nevers and Briare for their stays and since moorings are very limited, it leads to conflict. We had our share. They made us move twice. Very annoying.
We did manage a nice bike ride around the countryside, stopping at a small farm to buy more goat cheese and beating the huge thunderstorm back to the boat by minutes.
We also picked Lerè because it was a short taxi ride across the river to a train station and Ines needed to get to Paris on Wednesday. We called the taxi and reserved it for about 11 in the morning as SNCF, the train people, said there would be one running around 12:30. The strike continued but supposedly there was limited service. Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

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