Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Briare, April 16-28

The Air Malta flight was smooth and uneventful. After arriving at the Charles de Gaulle airport we collected out rental car and managed to find our way out of the maze that is the road network at CDG. I think we made three complete circles before we were completely out of the complex. Then it was time to tackle the Boulevard Peripherique, the Paris ring road. Those of you in Southern California who have driven the 405 have gotten a taste. A couple of hours later we were in Briare, awakening Oldtimer from it’s long winter sleep.
Other than the drifts of leaves from the chestnut trees that had dropped over the winter, the boat was in pretty good shape. The solar panels had kept the batteries fully charged and all we needed to do was fill the water tank, remove the bicycles and other boat bits stowed inside while we were away, unpack the suitcases and head for the grocery store.
Giving the boat a good scrub the next day was helped along by the good weather. Daytime temps were in the upper 60’s to lower 70’s. We were wearing shorts and t shirts, flip flops and bare feet.
We would have the car for about a week so we had several shopping trips to make. The garden had to be bought and planted, Cathy Jo wanted to paint the deck and there were several little maintenance jobs to be tackled, but we did take one day off to travel up the Loire to Sancerre. We paid a visit to a cooperative and came out with some bottles of a very good Sancerre pinot noir and made another stop at the Domaine Roger Pabiot where Mssr. Pabiot was very happy to sell us some of his pouilly-fumé.

Easter Sunday we decided we should visit another of the famous Loire River chateaus, this time Chambord.

Building began in 1519 by Francois I but when he died in 1547 is was unfinished. Louis XIV finally completed the works between 1660 and 1685 but he only spent a few days there. Various nobles carried out projects and expanded it’s grounds and in 1840 the chateau was on the first list of Monuments Historiques de France, and later opened for visitors. The state acquired the chateau from the relatives of Henri of Artois, the last direct heir of Louis XIV, in 1930.

It’s still very early so the gardens haven’t really leafed out.

While the exterior is pretty spectacular, we were disappointed by the interior. There were a few displays of furniture and paintings and a nice exhibition of royal carriages but most of the many rooms were empty. The chateau does feature Leonardo da Vinci’s double helix staircase.

We got back to the boat in time to enjoy an Easter dinner of barbecued lamb and topped it off with a decadent Paris Brest, especially made for Easter.

The boulangerie-patisseries really go all out for the Easter holiday. We saw a huge chocolate Easter bunny for €120. Our favorite boulangerie in town had this display of their Easter treats.

Tuesday it was time to return the car to the Paris airport. This time the maps program gave us a route that didn’t include the Peripherique. The traffic was still bad in places but not the complete standstill we experienced before. The Paris Metro took us to the Bercy train station where we caught the train back to Briare. It was feet and bicycles from now on.

Monday had been Cathy Jo’s birthday but the restaurant we wanted to visit was closed that day and we were returning the car on Tuesday. We booked a table at Le Petit San Trop for Wednesday dinner. We had another delicious dinner (I had been dreaming of their escargot for months) and Cathy Jo topped it off with her favorite desert. If you don’t know what you want, order the Cafe Gourmand. It’s all there!

Other boaters were also returning for the season. The marina’s rates go up for the summer on May 1 so everybody was getting ready to leave. Brits Klaus and June on Doris Pickle and spent the winter in the port but Chris and Jackie, also British, our neighbors on Jolie Roger (pronounced the French way) had returned. Shaun and Lynn returned from South Africa for Elle. John and Sharon from Seraphim II arrived from Paris where they spend the winter. In a switch, they close up the boat for the summer so they can spend the time in Massachusetts.

On Tuesday the weather decided to turn iffy; cold and occasional rain for most of the rest of the week. We did manage to make a visit to the Museum of Mosaics and Enamels in Briare (no pictures allowed). We had planned to leave on Saturday but the weather was awful. 

The cherries will follow.

Sunday, although the weather was only slightly better, we decided to leave anyway. We would only have 5 locks and a couple hours travel up the Canal du Briare to reach our first stop, Ouzour-sur-Trézée.

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