Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Apremont-sur-Allier, Fri. Aug 20

The weather was going to be very nice; sunny with highs in the mid 20’s C. Great for a bike ride. One of “The Most Beautiful Villages of France” was just 6 k down a nice shaded bike path. Off we went first thing in the morning.

The path follows a small feeder canal that takes water from the Allier River to the Loire lateral canal. It used to be a working canal that provided access to the river through a unique round lock.

2 k past the lock is the village of Apremont.

In the Middle Ages, Apremont thrived from the activity of the local quarrymen who cut the stones used to build the cathedral of Orleans and the Abbey of St Benoît-sur-Loire. In the mid 1400’s the chateau was a stronghold and prison for the Dukes of Burgundy, who were affiliated with the English. In the 15th century, Louis XI acquired the buildings and it went through its typical French chateau ups and downs. In 1722 Louis de Bethune bought Apremont and since then the château and its estate have been in the same family. In 1818, Caroline de Massevan inherited the estate, then pretty much in ruins, and she and her husband decided to rebuild it. In 1894, the ironmaster from Le Creusot, Eugène Schneider, fell in love with the site of Apremont, which belonged to his family-in-law, the Rafelis-Saint-Sauveurs. He bought out all other family members and became the sole owner of the château and village, which he transformed over fifty years. He had buildings not corresponding to the style of the site destroyed and replaced by groups of houses built in the local medieval style. In 1969, Eugene's daughter, the Duchess of Brissac (Marie-May Schneider, then married to the Duc de Brissac), inherited Apremont and in in the early 1970’s decided to greatly expand the gardens. The Parc Floral opened in 1976.

Looking toward the chateau over the village roofs, with your back to the river.

After passing through the entrance lobby you are faced with the most beautiful wisteria.

photo from the Apremont website

There are three “follies” in the garden, built after designs of the Russian born architect and artist Alexandre Sérébriakoff.

One is The Belvedere up at the top of the hill. The inside features four ceramic panels that took 10 years to manufacture in Nevers.

This panel show the characters from the Commedia dell’Arte Pulchinella puppets in the Apremont gardens.

The other two garden follies are the Turkish pavilion and the Pagoda Bridge.

After a couple hours in the garden and a light lunch by the river, we walked up to the chateau after looking at an exhibit of horse drawn carriages and wedding dresses through the years.

It is still a private residence and there are no tours but there is a very nice view over the countryside from below the walls.

After a very enjoyable day it was back to the boat. We had 7 days left on our cruising permit and not much ground to cover so it would be a very leisurely cruising week.

More info on the chateau and gardens is at

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