Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Touring, September 7 and 9

Friday afternoon we took the 15 minute train ride to the neighboring town of Gien. That’s where the rental car agency is that would provide us with transportation for the next 10 days.
After we picked up the car we made a beeline for the Faiencerie Gien, a famous pottery manufacturer. They have an outlet store and we thought maybe we could find a deal. Turns out the deals weren’t enough to cause us to part with our hard earned euros so we returned to the boat, continuing our end-of-season chores. Laundry must be done, oil and filters must be changed and things packed away for the long dark winter months.
Sunday we set off again, heading down along the Loire River, back through Gien.
In the middle ages the town of Gien-le-Vieux (Old Gien) became a parish when Saint Peregrine, bishop of Auxerre, founded the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the eighth century, Charlemagne authorized the construction of a fortified mound around the site of the present castle (château).
In the ninth and tenth centuries the decline of the Carolingian empire and Viking raids led to a gradual abandonment of Gien-le-Vieux. The population mostly moved to the site of the current town of Gien which was easier to defend. However, the church of St. Peter and St. Paul survived until the seventeenth century.
Gien had a large Protestant community during the French Religious wars and like its neighbors, Châtillon-Coligny, Châtillon-sur-Loire and Orleans, it was a Protestant stronghold. The churches were looted and clergy hunted.
Much of Gien was destroyed during the World War 2. The town was bombed by the Luftwaffe, who aimed to destroy the town's bridge over the river to prevent the French Army from retreating. The bombardment created a huge fire which destroyed over four hundred buildings, including the town's two main churches. The town was rebuilt after the war.

The Chateau de Gien and Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc loom over the city and the river.

Our next stop was the Chateau Sully. We had planned to take a tour of the castle but when we arrived there was a huge Fête de la Sange taking place. We think it had something to do with hunting (sang is blood) but the place was crawling with people and the parking was a nightmare. We wandered around for a few minutes and took a couple of pictures and then beat a hasty retreat.

If you follow the link above there’s lots more information on the castle as well as a video tour. Well worth a look!

Further west along the river, our next stop was Germigny-des-Prés to see an ancient oratory, or small chapel.
Built in 806 by Theodolf, the Bishop of Orleans and private counsellor to Charlemagne, it is all that remains of his villa.
The interior is beautiful, very simple and peaceful.

In the 19th century, during one of the many reconstruction efforts a mosaic from the 900’s, covered in whitewash and depicting the Arc of the Covenant, was discovered in the western apse. Created by a Byzantine artist, it is made up of over 130,000 broken glass bricks.

The inscription at the bottom translates to “Look on and contemplate the Holy Oracle and it’s cherubim, here stands resplendent the Arc of the Testament Divine. Before this spectacle strive to touch with your prayers the Master of Thunder - and please do not overlook Theodulf in your blessings.”

Next we were off to Orléans.

Joan was here!

A statue entitled I Die Through You. The monument is near the north transept of the cathedral. 
It was erected at the time of Joan of Arc's beatification in 1909 and canonization in 1920.

The city was having it’s fall fair where all of the cultural institutions and other clubs sign residents up for winter activities and distribute schedules. We heard performances by the city orchestra and a group of pipers. The model railroad club was there as were several youth sports leagues. 
Since it was pretty late in the day and we had over an hour’s drive to get back to the boat, we didn’t stay long but we lamented that the Canal d’Orléans is closed. We would have loved to visit here for several days by boat.

In a couple of days our next excursion would take us to a château under construction.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Year’s Statistics

Here’s the map of the travels for the year. The “parking” icons between Nancy and Strasbourg are the places we stopped on our return trip. As before, if you click on the frame in the upper right corner you get a bigger map that you can zoom on to get a close view of the area we traveled.

1531 kilometers (about 950 miles)
277 hours underway over 82 days
529 locks
21 bridges
5 tunnels
about 850 liters of fuel consumed

Still to come - chateaus and cathedrals: traveling the Valley of the Loire by car.

Friday, October 5, 2018

End of the Voyage, August 26 to September 4

Dammarie sur Loing turned out to be as advertised. We arrived a little after noon on Sunday to find a grassy bank with bollards just outside of the village with free water and power. The only possible drawback was that it appeared the dirt towpath was being converted into a paved bicycle trail. Some digging had gone on and there was construction equipment scattered around. Painting would not happen if they were going to be digging up the bank. Luckily one of the workers happened by and told us the work wouldn’t begin in earnest for another week. Not entirely true as it turned out but it wasn’t enough to cause us any problems. We broke out the sanders, vacuum cleaner and paint supplies and got to work.
By Tuesday we had a coat of paint on the exterior of the front cabin and the varnish was all touched up. Since stays are supposed to be limited to 2 days and we were at a good stopping point we figured we’d move on. Besides, there was rain in the forecast for the next couple of days.
Wednesday morning we set out for Ouzouer sur Trézée, 15 k down the canal. 4 k along we passed through the village of Rogny les Sept Écluses, one of the wonders of the canal. When originally built, the canal climbed out the the Loing Valley to the valley of the Trézée River by a seven chamber lock staircase. Now, the canal passes around the hill the structure climbed with six conventional locks and pounds but the remains of the staircase are still there.

The doors are gone but the lock walls are still in place.

By 2 o’clock we had reached Ouzouer to find a very pleasant mooring in a park with the usual services and Guy and Jane on Hibou whom we’d met on the Nivernais. They were going in the opposite direction from us when we left Clamecy so we closed the circle.

The rain clouds are gathering.

Ouzouer is just a small village but very proud of their flowers. 

We’d really like to hear the story of this structure!

Wandering about the village during the day we saw what we thought was a pizza restaurant and since we hadn’t had a pie in awhile, decided to have a meal out. When we showed up at the place at dinner time, however, it turned out the restaurant wasn’t fully operational yet (no restroom facilities) so they were takeout only. We ordered our pizza and took it back to the boat. We had a better wine selection anyway.
Thursday morning we were off to our final stop for the year and more painting. After we visited Briare to drop off Ines for her taxi ride to Paris in The Flood Year (2016), we spent the next night at Beaulieu. Another long grassy bank with water and power outside a village. Time for more painting. The bonus was that it was just a couple of hours past Briare on the Canal Lateral a la Loire. Also, just a five minute bike ride down the road was a pick-your-own vegetable farm. We could have the fresh haricourt verts we’d been missing all summer.

The Beaulieu mooring in 2016.

On that road to the vegetables was a big poster advertising a Concours de Peche, a fishing contest, that would feature a friture lunch. Friture is a pile of little freshwater fish, like smelt, fried up an served with frites. Along with a glass of wine, it sounded like a great €10 lunch. We cycled off to the contest with another couple we had met at the moorings, bought our tickets and stood in line. When we got to the front, however, the last of the friture went to the people in front of us. Foiled! Apparently there were many more people for lunch than last year and they hadn’t bought enough fish. There was plenty of wine and potatoes, though, so we bought some frites and a bottle of the local rosé to drown our sorrows and cycled back to the boat for a pity lunch.
By Monday afternoon we’d managed to complete our painting tasks so Tuesday the 4th we headed back across the pont canal over the Loire and onto the branch canal that leads into the Briare marina. By 1:30 in the afternoon we were secured in our winter moorings. 

The entrance to the Pont Canal from it’s Wikipedia page.

Oldtimer in her winter home.
Briare is a "3 Flower" town.

Our flight back to the US wasn’t until the 18th so we had plenty of time to complete our end-of-season chores and do a little touring around the area by car.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Almost Done, August 24 to 30

We pulled into the moorings at Chatillon-Coligny close to 3 pm on Friday. A nice mooring with a long quay and several finger pontoons; there was plenty of room and water and electricity were provided. There was a notice that we were supposed to check in with the capitanerie/tourist office upon our arrival so we wandered up, wallets in hand. We were asked to provide the name of the boat and our nationality and then wished a “bonne journee.” No charge!
We had been clued into a good restaurant by other bargees so we walked in to town to find Le Coligny and make a reservation for Saturday lunch. That task accomplished we headed into the heart of town. There were flyers in the tourist office for the Fete Insensé that was scheduled to take place on Saturday. We weren’t sure what that was all about since insensé translates as “mad” or “foolish” but we wanted to see what town looked like before madness took over. What we found was a pretty typical small French village in the Gâtanais.

The bell tower tops the old city wall near the church St. Pierre-St. Paul.

On Saturday after our delicious lunch at the moderately fancy Le Coligny we headed into town for the Fete. Booths with all sorts of masseuses, aroma therapy consultants, aura readers and the like were set up around the center of town. One storefront held a make-your-own-music workshop with, shall we say, eccentric instruments (we spent a few minutes banging on things).  In the evening there was the usual food and drink and music, of a sort. We think maybe they gave the local high school garage bands time for a couple of songs on the stage. We could only take so much of that before we had to retreat to the boat.
Sunday morning we made a trek to the grocery store. We had our eye on a mooring just 6 k away that was outside a village but had free water and electricity. The weather was supposed to be reasonable and those painting jobs were calling. We wanted to get started.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Montargis and the Canal de Briare, August 22 to 24

Construction on the Canal de Briare, designed to connect the rivers Loire and Seine, began in 1604 by King Henri IV but was delayed by his assassination in 1610. In 1639 the works were taken over by a pair of private investors and the waterway opened for navigation in 1642, becoming Europe’s first summit level canal. It was modified several times but was not really financially successful until the canalization of the Loing was completed in 1730, making access to the Seine easier. We entered the canal at the top in Montargis and would travel it’s entire 56 k length to Briare. 
Two small rivers, the Puiseaux and the Vernisson join the Loing just before it reaches Montargis and the city is crisscrossed by small waterways. In fact the city claims to be the “little Venice of the Gâtinais”, as opposed to the other little Venices (Venicei?) across Europe.

We approached town from the north. The moorings are on the canal
 just across from the Lac des Closiers.

The tourist office even provides a walking tour of “The Circuit of Bridges” taking in the 17 bridges in the town.

One of the locks in town. The moorings are just through it. That’s Oldtimer!

Every year there is a countrywide judging of the floral displays of the towns and villages of France. Montargis is very proud of it’s “4 Fleurs” designation. Under almost all of those 17 bridges is a boat planter with a floral display.

We also visited the Eglise Ste Madeline and admired it’s beautiful stained glass.

Thursday afternoon we cycled down the towpath the the village of Amilly. While visiting the tourist office we had seen brochures for a modern art exhibition space in an old tannery. Appropriately named Les Tanneries, it opened in 2016. We were given a personal tour of the venue by a young intern. She told us it was the first time she had given the tour in English but she did very well. The space includes two floors of exhibits and an outside sculpture garden. If you follow the link you can learn more. It’s all in French but it details how the industrial space was first abandoned then repurposed as a welcoming place for artists.

Time was growing short so it was time to move on. Friday morning we were off to our next stop, Chatillon-Coligny.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Up the Canal du Loing, August 19/22

In 1719 the Duke of Orleans, already owner of the Canal d’Orleans (now sadly closed), decided to canalize the Loing River to connect his existing canal to the Seine. The work was completed in 1724. Originally the canal was made up of a series of river sections connected by constructed waterways. Major improvements, including expanding the size of the locks, took place in the 1800’s and left only two sections of river as part of the canal; right at one end from St. Mammes to Moret and in Nemours. It’s a very pleasant waterway with recently automated locks allowing Cathy Jo to once again exercise her “supapowa”.

The remote control used to trigger the locks.

We picked up the remote at the first lock just out of Moret about 9 am and after 13 k and 6 locks found a mooring spot along the bank in Montcourt. It was a nice spot, basically in the backyard of a row of houses, three rings on a grassy bank. We were just in time for Sunday lunch, just a little after noon. We went for a little bike ride around the area after lunch a stumbled across a big field of something that looked a little familiar.

No it’s not the smoking kind. This hemp is probably used either for the oil or the fiber for fabrics.

We weren’t planning on spending much time in any of our stops along the canal. We were supposed to arrive in Briare (our winter moorings) in a little over a week and we wanted to get some painting done before then. We were scoping out possible spots; free with water and electricity provided but not close to a town so our noise and dust wouldn’t cause problems. Also, since we are planning on hauling the boat out at Migennes in the spring, we’ll be retracing our steps then and can revisit anyplace that looks interesting.
Monday morning we headed off to a slightly bigger town, Nemours. it was just 5 k up the canal and no locks so we were tied up by 10:30. One of the mooring spots on our chart was close to the center of town, a pontoon in a park on the river, only room for us. It looked a little sketchy but we tied up anyway. It turns out the “official” moorings are through a lock off the river where there’s room for several boats with water and electricity available. We were only going to stay the one day so we remained where we were although we did have to give some “side eye” to some “yoots” who showed up with a boombox and settled in right at the top of the ramp down to the boat. They were too young for drinking, though, so they cleared off after awhile, leaving us in relative peace.
The view to the other side of the river as the sun went down was very picturesque.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the town but, like many of the smaller towns in the area, it looked like it had seen more prosperous days.
Tuesday morning we were off to our next stop just 15 k up the canal, Neronville. There was a good bank with lots of bollards and a park with picnic tables and some shade but the main reason for our stop there was that it was an easy bike ride to the town of Chateau Landon, another Village de Caractère.
Situated above the Fusain River the town has had a long history. Inhabited in Neolithic times and apparently an important Gallic city, not much is known before an oratory to honor St. Severin, who miraculously cured Clovis, king of the Franks in 504, was built on the site in the mid-500’s. In the 1000’s an important abbey was constructed and heavily modified in the 1200’s. During the Revolution all of the religious buildings were confiscated by the state and sold into private hands. In the 1890’s the abbey was given to the state and converted into a retirement home. In the 2000’s, the building was completely renovated.
Limestone quarried near the town was used to build the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur  and several bridges in Paris.

Approaching town from the other side of the river.

The Abbey/Retirement Home is all the way to the right
 with other town buildings constructed on top of the old defensive wall.

Sitting all by itself out in the middle of a farm yard just outside of town,
 the Saint-André Tower is all that remains of an important abbey.

Wednesday morning we set out for Montargis, the town at the junction of the Canal du Loing, the Canal de Briare and the closed Canal d’Orleans.