Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Friday, November 2, 2018

Final Days, Sept. 15-18

We were on the final push to get Oldtimer ready for the winter but that didn’t prevent us from having a little fun. One day after our chores were complete we drove down to Genelard on the Canal Lateral a la Loire. Carmen, of Beauregard fame earlier in the summer on the Canal du Nivernais, had finally been joined by her husband Roger. We wanted to meet the mystery man so we took off one afternoon and joined them for a glass of wine (or two) and an apertif.
Mostly it was chores: cleaning, more cleaning, laundry, changing engine fluids and filters and more cleaning.
By Sunday, all was complete. It was off to the Hotel du Rivage in Gien for the night, followed on Monday by a train ride to Paris and the RER to the area around Charles de Gaulle Airport. We had booked a night at a hotel in the nearby village of Roissy that was on the shuttle line to and from the airport. We assume many airport workers live in the village which features several giant generic hotels and lots of small restaurants. We had a stroll around the very pleasant town and a nice meal in the evening. 
Tuesday morning it was off to the airport for the flight home; this time the train and plane travel going off without a hitch, in contrast to our trip over in April.
By Tuesday afternoon we were on the ground again on the freeway back to Ventura, another season complete.

One More Chateau

A next day we set off for a visit to a very different chateau, Chenonceau. It wasn’t until we were doing a little research after our visit that we discovered it’s the second most visited chateau in France after Versailles.

The castle has a fascinating history revolving around the women responsible for its construction and expansion.

Originally built in the 13th century by the Marques family, the castle was rebuilt in the 14th after it was burnt. Debts caused the chateau to be sold to Thomas Bohier, Chamberlain to King Charles VIII  in 1513. Bohier’s wife, Katherine Briçonnet, oversaw construction of an almost entirely new castle between 1515 and 1521.
In 1535 the castle was seized from Bohier’s son for unpaid debts to the king. In 1547 after the death of Francis I, the new king, Henry II, gave the castle to his mistress, Dianne de Poitiers. She greatly expanded the buildings and constructed extensive flower and vegetable gardens. After Henry died in 1559, his strong-willed widow and regent Catherine d' Medici forced Diane to exchange it for another. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite residence, adding a new series of gardens. As Regent of France, Catherine spent a fortune on the château and hosted spectacular parties. In 1560, the first ever fireworks display seen in France took place during the celebrations marking the ascension to the throne of Catherine's son Francis II. The grand gallery, which extended along the existing bridge to cross the entire river (that’s to the left in the above picture), was dedicated in 1577. Later owners included Gabrielle d'Estrées, Louise Dupin and Marguerite Pelouse, whose work on the castle exhausted her finances and forced her to give it up in 1881. In 1913, the château was acquired by Henri Menier, a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates, who still own it today.

During World War I Gastin Menier set up the gallery to be used as a hospital ward. 

It doesn’t look much like a hospital ward now!

During the Second World War the château, with it’s gallery, was a means of escaping from the Nazi Occupied Zone. The hallway went from one side of the River Cher (the Nazi side) to the "free" zone on the opposite bank. 
In 1951, the Menier family entrusted the château's restoration to Bernard Voisin, who brought the dilapidated structure and the gardens (ravaged in The Cher River flood in 1940) back to its former glory.

Louis XIV, the Sun King. Amazing frame, amazing hair!

After the afternoon at the chateau, it was back to the boat for the final preparations for it’s long winter sleep.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

They’re Building a Chateau!

In the many seasons we’ve spent around this area we’ve seen the tourist information brochures for Guédelon but never managed to visit. It’s not really close to the water so not accessible from the canals by bike but it’s only about 45 mins from Briare by car so this year we thought we’d pay a visit. And the folks from Hibou had told us it was very worth the trip.

In the late 1990’s a group decided to build a replica 12th century chateau-fort from scratch using the methods and materials of the time. Proceeds from admissions and donations are used to fund the project; no government money is involved. You can read the story on their website at (make sure you choose the “Anglais” option in the upper left if you’re English speaking!) and get a great drone tour of the project. Also more information at the Wiki site 

It was a beautiful day for our visit. There was much activity and lots of visitors.

That’s a human-powered winch/crane on the left
 at the base of the tower where they’re building the roof.

When completed, this will be the entrance gate with a bridge over the “moat”.
All of that scaffolding is constructed locally by hand; no power tools.

The entrance gate from the outside.

During our visit we saw workers dressing stone blocks and decorative touches, making bricks from clay and straw, cutting roofing shakes from local oak logs and making clay roof tiles, tending the horses used to pull the carts full of construction materials, making rope from locally grown fibers and ate a delicious lunch complete with bread made in the wood-fired oven.
In theory, construction is supposed to be complete sometime in the early 2020’s. We plan to come back to watch the project progress. It’s fascinating!

With our time in France coming close to an end for this year we had one more chateau to visit. Chenonceau.