Thursday, 18 October 2018

Canal Lateral a la Loire: Nevers – le Guetin – Beffes – Chapelle-Montlinard – Champalay - Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre

9 October to 17 October 2018. 56,5 kilometers, 11 locks.

Tuesday 9 October – Nevers to le Guetin. 13 kilometers, 4 locks, 2 hours 10 minutes.

Waving farewell to the owners of the meticulously maintained, Lichtenstein flagged cruiser who had been our weekend neighbours,

we set off down the embranchment, up the two, three metre rise locks, and in no time we were back on the Canal Lateral a la Loire on a very grey and cool morning.

Mistletoe destroying the trees.

The viaduct across the Loire at the approach to le Guetin is awesome,

Geraniums growing in the lock gate,

as is the double lock which drops one some nine meters right into the long quayed port, which, at this time of year, was a blaze of colour.

Our view across the canal.

There is a small takeaway cum pub at the port where we enjoyed a beer after having exhausted all other options; the two restaurants in the tiny village were both closed, as was the one across the bridge in the village of le Grenouille.

So we sanded and filled and sanded and painted and now our port side handrails look lovely but the top driving position paintwork is now a mess of filler and primer!

On advice from Tony and Elaine we took a ride to the delightful and most photogenic village of Aprémont and where we gathered handfuls of chestnuts;

The old round lock before Apremont.

Horse chestnuts - no spiney jackets as the edible sweet chetnuts have.

First sight to Apremont.

later, during a Skype call to the Azores, Sian informed us that there different types of chestnut and the ones we had collected were probably horse chestnuts and should not be eaten – this was confirmed by Wiki “The seeds, especially those that are young and fresh, are slightly poisonous, containing alkaloid saponins and glucosides. Although not dangerous to touch, they cause sickness when eaten.” Which made me feel a little anxious as I had nibbled on one of them.

Morning sun fighting off the fog - this time the sun won.

Thursday 11 October – Le Guetin to Beffes. 17,5 kilometers, 4 locks, 4 hours 5 minutes (including a one hour wait at Marseilles-les-Aubigny for lockkeeper lunchtime).

Leaving the pretty port behind we cruised slowly down to our first lock, past the small port of Cours-les-Barres,

Port of Cours-les-Barres - a small boat and a small barge were moored left of pic.

Such a typical French farmhouse.

and arriving at Marseilles-les-Aubigny five minutes after lockie lunchtime so, in a brisk and variable breeze, we tied up to a pontoon in the rather scruffy port, wandered across to the butcher and bought some cuisses for supper later in the day; an hour later the lockkeeper arrived and smilingly let us through the two closely spaced locks and then followed us to our last lock of the day which deposited us at the deserted, spanking new, port at the village of Beffes.

Empty when it should be packed.

We never understood this sculpture opposite the port.

That evening we were joined by two hire boats but no other vessels docked in the four nights we stayed there and we suppose the reason is that there is not a lot to see or do in the town or its surrounds.

A boulangerie, restaurant (closed until 20 October), Proximarche,

19th Century church,


a couple of old wash houses

and, on the outskirts, a small chateau.

But we did manage to scrounge two old tyres (almost being eaten by a bull mastiff in the process) which we will need for hull protection in at least two upcoming moorings which have sloping sides.

We also finished painting the top steering position and, having run out of filler and paint with lots more still to be done, we arranged with John Johnson of Marine Diesel in Chitry-les-Mines to courier some to us which should be in Sancerre when we arrive there.

Monday 15 October – Beffes to Chapelle-Montlinard.  10 kilometers, 2 locks, 1 hour 50 minutes.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Beffes but it was time to continue through the month. In crisp but clear weather we set off down the pretty waterway until the spires of La Charité-sur-Loire rose into view;

New build luxury barge Jenal.

La Charite coming into view.

shortly afterwards, with the wind really starting to puff, we tied up against the sloping quay in the very unattractive port – but our newly acquired tyres were put to good use!

A very industrial mooring.

Chapelle-Montlinard has nothing at all to offer but a couple of kilometres away, east across the Loire, is the intriguing city of LaCharité-sur-Loire, once home to the second largest cathedral in Christendom where some two hundred monks lived in a complex spread over three hectares. For those interested, some of its fascinating history may be read on the town’s website linked to above. With many nooks and crannies and guarded by the enormous battlements, one somehow always feels that the ghosts of past and present ‘religeoisie’ are spying over your comings and goings.

The main roan into town.

Maybe a booking is advised?

Pretty Mairie.

Details of the Cathedral.

The founding Prior is apparently buiried behind the altar but we couldn't find him.

The Prior's house.

Perhaps 'over-restored'?

View from the base of the battlements.

The battlements.

A view from the base of the battlement walls.

Tea shop - cute!

The chateau at Chapelle.

But we had a pleasant birthday (moi) lunch at a small café on the opposite bank in the ‘town’ of Berry, a place to which Joan of Arc had once retired after having failed in an attempt to storm the city – her only defeat during her participation in the 100 Years War.

Back across the Loire and aboard Elle I left Lynn to go foraging for walnuts.

Tuesday 16 October – Chapelle-Montlinard to Champalay. 8 kilometers, 3 locks, 1 hour 45 minutes.

Albeit chilly in the mornings cruising conditions are nigh perfect with autumn colours painting the canal banks with earthy depth.

Beat this beauty!

An about-turn saw us safely tied up to the oddly spaced bollards in an oh-so-pretty, leafy glen just outside the farming hamlet of Champalay.

Taken from the bridge over the canal.

Again, to the east and across the Loire River lies the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire, one of the centers of the world famous appellation Pouilly-Fumé and its lesser known cousin Pouilly-sur-Loire, a wine made from the Chasselas grape rather than the sauvignon varietal.

The Bridge Over the River Loire.

Pouilly main road.

At the tourist office is to be found the Wine Tourism Center (La Tour de Pouilly-Fumé - sensations et decouvertes) which houses the sensory tour of the making of the two wine varieties. We have been to dozens of wine tours/tastings but this one was very well done indeed and we would heartily recommend that anyone stopping off in the area make the effort to enjoy the experience - €7 per person gives you the tour plus a tasting of four wines. And the small shop attached to the Center sells a number of local wines at reasonable prices – so we just had to…

Experiencing the Wine Tourism presentation.

The aroma cellar - absolutely unique!

To finish, the tasting.

And anyway, Pouilly-sur-Loire is a pretty, small town well interspersed with wine récoltants and négociants (retail outlets for wine growers and wine merchants) and worth a visit in its own right.

On the road back to our mooring I left Lynn by the way to walnut forage once again – our stock is growing and I just hope SA Customs do not examine our suitcases like they did last year.

Wednesday 17 October - Champalay to Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre. 8 kilometers, 2 locks, 1 hour 50 minutes (15 minute delay at the first lock).

On a very mist shrouded, chilly morning we set off downstream


for our nine o’clock lock appointment only to find the gates tightly closed against us and no sign of a lockkeeper. Ten minutes later Lynn phones and gets the now customary j’arrive (I’m coming) and five minutes later monsieur arrives, cleans the debris from the lock door, presses the buttons in the little control hut, the doors open and we finally are allowed in. Half an hour after arrival we exit the lock and are on our way north to the equally famous wine center of Sancerre where we tie up a couple kilometres downhill of the famous town at its lesser known neighbour, the tiny village of Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre.

Warming up.

Sancerre on top of the hill, Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre alongside the canal.

A somewhat chaotic lunch was had at the jam-packed restaurant of the small hotel Le Floroine – not the most gracious service, perhaps understandable under the circumstances, but the tête du veau was delicious; I was just praying that we would not be presented with the whole calf’s head on a plate and fortunately the chef presented the de-boned version.

headgear collection inside the restaurant.

Tete du veau.

Then it was back to boat for a snooze and then the rest of the day ‘at leisure’ watching the hire boats mooring up, some occupants departing into the distance, uphill to Sancerre, some just chilling on their boats and some, whose lunch was obviously more liquid than ours, planning the remainder of their day most loquaciously.

A good day.

Waking the next day to a very grey and misty morning we waited until quite late before setting off up the long hill to the delightful Sancerre village but that is a story for another day.

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