Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Friday, September 22, 2017

On to Vitry-le-Francoise, Aug. 17-20

Vitry is at the junction of three canals. It’s at the southern end of the Canal lateral à la Marne and the end of both the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne and the western branch of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. It also has good train connections to Paris. Cathy Jo’s father would be traveling from France’s capital to join us for five days and that was a good place to pick him up. We had two days to get there from Chalone; that would still put us in town the day before he was scheduled to arrive, giving us time to do the inevitable chores necessary before guests, like clean up!
We had read about the village of Saint Amand sur Fion and it’s 13th century church in some tourist brochures; it was halfway between Chalone and Vitry near the moorings at Chaussèe-sur-Marne so we planned our Thursday night stop there. It was only about 18 k and 3 locks so our usual 9 am start got us to the moorings just about lunch time. 
We came out of the Chaussèe lock to find a nice long bank backed up by a large grassy area with a couple of picnic tables and conveniently spaced bollards and all for us; nobody else about. That was kind of the story for most of our trip this summer. Between the closures for the drought and canal maintenance, things were very quiet on the northern canals.
After lunch we set off for St. Amand, about 7 k away and only a couple of little hills. Along the way we passed a small champagne house. We noted that for the return trip.
Situated on the banks of the Fion River, Saint Amand’s original claim to fame was it’s vineyards, but the phylloxera disease in the 1770’s put an end to that and the residents moved on to farming and livestock. Mostly now it’s a grain growing region, although vines were replanted in the late 80’s and the first harvest from the new plantings was in 1994.
The town has retained over 100 of it’s half timbered buildings and they are very picturesque.

A chambre d’hôte in St. Amand

But we had really come to see the church. It’s an unusual design with a front porch that resembles a cloister. Original construction started in the 12th century but most of what we see today is from the 13th.

That’s our patron Saint Nicholas on the right stained glass window and St. Eloi on the left.

On the way back to the boat we stopped in at the Bertrand-Lapie champagne house. The madame, Marie-Josèphe Bertrand, was more than willing to leave her riding lawn mower and give us a taste. We had a nice chat and took home a couple bottles of their very excellent product.

Friday morning it was off to Vitry, arriving at their very small marina about noon.The “harbor” consists of one longish pier in a very narrow channel to a few finger pontoons. A hotel barge takes up most of the pier leaving (luckily for us) just enough room for a smaller boat at the end. That leaves even smaller boats to push through the trees to access the finger piers and just enough room to turn into the dock amongst the weeds. And it’s expensive. And not very close to the center of town. And the train station is all the way on the other side of town. We were not impressed. Oh well, at least there’s a big grocery store close by.

The hotel barge was gone for this “Google Earth” shot.

Saturday afternoon Cathy Jo’s father, Martin, arrived and he quickly settled into Oldtimer mode.

Sunday morning we were off, headed east on the Canal de la Marne au Rhine.

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