It was a nice cool morning as we unplugged, untied and left Leré. We cruised past the nuclear power plant which, let’s face it, is an eyesore. But it is what it is (whatever that means?). Not the pretty ‘bucolique’ countryside of La France that we normally see but we happily plug into power sockets wherever we can so we don’t want to be hypocritical! Bien sûr que non!
We decided to stay a night in Belleville. Now we were very close to the nuclear power plant and you could tell Belleville is a company town. Beautifully maintained houses, lovely swimming pool complex, everything is immaculately tidy and expensive looking. There’s obviously good monetary rewards in that industry. Also a supermarket within a few minutes walking distance. Always a bonus. And cheap diesel. It was so good we stayed another night.
The weather started to pack in a bit and the cool spell continued on well into the next week. We left Belleville and continued north in a convoy with two other boats, one with a lovely South African couple, Keith and Val, and the other a friendly Belgium couple. We travelled together up to Briare, over the aqueduct (built in 1890-4 and designed by Monsieur Eiffel, he of Tour Eiffel fame). To get to the port de plaisance, you have to go through the commercial part of Briare, along a wooded canal, then turn a hard left and through three locks. Quite a palaver but it’s a lovely port and very popular. The Capitaine, Dorothy, is Dutch I believe. She is friendly and extremely helpful, and speaks amazing English.
On Monday we met our friends, Nick and Cheryl, who came by train from Paris. Unfortunately the weather continued to be quite cold and wet. Bad timing. But that’s the way it goes and I enjoyed not being hot and itchy! They only had two nights with us so we decided to do a day trip from Briare back the way we had come and stopped in Châtillon-sûr-Loire for lunch then returned in the afternoon, just in time for aperitifs. We had a bit of a wait for the first lock on our return as, bad timing, we had to give way to a tourist boat which went through the lock then did a U turn and came back, a process that took about half an hour. Also a commercial barge came past at the same time. It’s always the way, nothing much happens for ages then things get busy!
Today is Wednesday. We saw Nick and Cheryl off on the train to Nevers and then to Tours. We have booked with the lock keeper for a 9.30am departure, back down the three locks and joining the Canal de Briare. It’ll be a big day, 18 locks in total, some ascending but the majority descending, finishing at Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses. Here there used to be a staircase of (obviously) seven locks, part of the original canal. Originally these locks were 27m long, but were extended to 32m in the 1830s. Eventually they were replaced by six separate 38m locks at the end of the 19th century. But they have been restored recently so we are looking forward to seeing them.
Here’s some history. The Canal de Briare is actually the oldest summit level Canal in Europe. In 1604 under the reign of Henri IV, the engineer Hugues Cosnier, started the construction of a canal to link the Loire and the Seine valleys. That ground to a halt when the King was assassinated in 1610. Very inconvenient. However two entrepreneurs, Gaillaume Bouthéroue and Jacques Guyon, financed the construction themselves in 1639 and the first barge made the voyage between Briare and Montargis in 1642. That’s around the time Abel Tasman saw a blob on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean and called it New Zealand. Quite an interesting contrast. No wonder we love the history of Europe!
Here are a few photos from the last few days…
So we have a big day ahead tomorrow. We are still hearing rumours that the Canal de Bourgogne may close due to lack of water. It has rained during the last few days but I doubt it would make much difference at this stage. However it is open at the moment so we will continue on our intended route which from here is Canal de Briare, Canal du Loing, Yonne river and then the canal de Bougogne. Fingers crossed for more rain. (At night would be good thanks) 👍