Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

In Briare

Since we have all the deferred maintenance to catch up on our cruising is going to be pretty limited, but it hasn’t exactly been all work and no play.

In 2016 when we visited Roanne, we met another American couple, Jim and Mary Neil aboard their barge Festina Tarde. One pleasant afternoon they introduced us to Pouilly Fumé, a sauvignon blanc wine produced on the east side of the Loire in the Sancerre region. Their favorite producer was a small one, Sebastian Treuillet, in the small village of Tracy-sur-Loire. When we were tied up in Sancerre that year we tried to cycle to the domaine but it was just too far and up too steep a hill, but we saved the information, assuming some day we would be able to make it. Since we have a car, this was that year. Our very helpful navigation system got us close and luckily there was a sign. A quick tasting and a chance to exercise our credit card resulted in a trip home with some delicious wine.

A few days later it was off the the caves of Bailly, home of the Cremant de Bourgogne, sparkling wine from Burgundy. We’ve been there three times by boat, twice in 2018. Again, we got to exercise the credit card.

And one of the pleasures of French towns is the weekly market. Briare’s is Friday mornings and we make it every week.

Just one of the many vegetable stands. There are others for

meat and cheese and always the roasted chickens.

You can also find shoes, clothes, handbags, mattresses

and just about anything else.

There are a number of English speakers in the port and there has been a pretty lively social scene. Not great for our livers but it does help pass the time! It’s mostly Brits and they are having to navigate the complication of Brexit. Since England is no longer part of the EU they can’t just pop back and forth like they did before. Without a visa they are limited to the 90 days in 180, just like us. Add to that the Covid complication with testing and quarantines and traveling becomes pretty difficult.

Meanwhile because of the recent surge in cases, the French government has decided to require vaccination to enter bars, cafes and other places that draw crowds. The day after President Macron announced the proposal there was a huge surge in appointments for vaccinations. You’re going to have a hard time keeping the French out of their beloved cafes! We have our card and the digital info from the State of California so we should be good.

While there may not be many European and American boats navigating the canals, the hireboat business seems to be booming, and the customers mainly seem to be French. There is a Locaboat base in the basin directly behind us and the boats have really been coming and going. The French are mad for ocean sailing but the inland waterways were, in their eyes, mostly for commerce, not pleasure. It seems the canals are being discovered, which is a good thing. Without commercial traffic, the smaller canals rely on government subsidies to keep operating and the more the French realize the wonder of their canals, the better the canal’s chances of survival.

One of the big Locaboats returning.

At 15 meters, it’s the biggest you can drive without a license.

The Briare Marina.

Oldtimer is at the bottom (yellow arrow) and the exit to the lock is at the top right, under the bridge.

The hireboat basin is through the channels behind us.

Meanwhile the rain we’ve been getting (luckily not as much as Belgium and Germany!) is keeping the town flowers in fine form. There have been a couple of warm days, but mostly the weather has been cool and partly cloudy.

The walk up to the main street in town from the Capitanarie.

We’re thinking maybe we’ll set off for our cruise this Friday or Saturday. We plan to get away for a month or so and just dawdle down the Canal Lateral a la Loire and maybe go a way up the Nivernais, navigations that we’ve traveled before. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

One Week In

It’s just been one week since we left Southern California and we think we’re finally settled in.

Almost two years worth of dirt and moss have been cleaned off Oldtimer, many spiders have been evicted from the inside, we celebrated my birthday with Sunday lunch at our favorite restaurant in Briare and, in contrast to 2018 and 2019, it’s been raining.

The flight from Los Angeles was blissfully uneventful. Angst over the possible corona virus restriction was unnecessary since we’re fully vaccinated. A look at our vaccine cards when we checked in for the flight was all that was required to escape both testing and quarantine requirements. There was no waiting at the check in counter and a very short wait to clear security. Sadly, the lounge was closed so we had to wait for our departure at the gate. The flight left a few minutes early and landed in Paris a little more than an hour early. CDG, usually packed, was eerily quiet. After we picked up our luggage, a phone call to the car lease agency brought the shuttle van to the terminal, we picked up the car and managed to find our way out of the airport without getting lost. The hour and a half drive to Briare went off without a hitch (well, aside from the traffic which was its usual Paris self) and the key worked in the door to the boat. We filled the water tank, visited the restaurant (not our favorite which is closed on Tuesday) just steps from the boat for dinner and collapsed in our bed.

Wednesday was shopping day in the morning and in the afternoon we began the monumental cleanup, removing. By Friday things were pretty much under control and we could relax a bit, tackling the long list of chores to be completed this summer.

A newly clean Oldtimer.

Yesterday, much to our surprise, the engine started without too much trouble and didn’t even smoke too much. The balky generator refused to start, however, so that will need some more work.

It’s been raining off and on since we arrived and was really pouring last night, putting a damper (sorry) on the festivities for the Fete National. They did manage to get the fireworks off, terrifying all the dogs in the Port, but we could only see the ones that went high in the air because the main venue was behind the trees at the back of the boat. We weren’t going out in the wet at 11 o’clock.

Speaking of rain, there are no worries about the state of the canals due to water this year. The Loire River is still in its banks but moving right along, quite a contrast with 2019 when sand banks were visible nearly out into the middle. The Trézée River that empties into the Loire through the Port, is flowing nicely, unlike the swamp that it was when we left in Sept. 2019. The reservoirs that feed the canals are all full so any cruising we do this year will be unhindered.

The Trézée enters the Port.

Last year is was barely moving.

The Loire from the Pont Canal in 2019

The Loire this year. More water!

We still haven’t decided where or how much boat traveling we’ll be doing this year but since we have a car for the whole three months, any time not cruising or working on the boat we’ll be able to do some touring.

People are gradually showing up to their boats in the Port so the social life is slowly returning. We’re glad to be back!