2024 Barging Briare, Canal de France Loing, River

Into the Unknown (12/06 – 16/06)

Moret-sur-Loing – Nemours – Néronville – Montargis

Guests arrive

Simon and Catherine have been on Catharina Elisabeth previously – in 2019 they joined us for several days cruising on the Canal du Nivernais. Now they are travelling around Europe having walked in Portugal, attended a wedding in Spain, visited Italy and southern France and after spending a few days with us they were off to the UK and Ireland. Seasoned travellers indeed. The train from Paris deposited them at the station where we met them and walked with them back to Catharina.

Moret-sur-Loing

By chance, it was Lisette’s birthday so the first item was a group chat with the children while our guests had a cuppa. Then off for a familiarisation walk around the town. We’ve covered this a bit before but let’s highlight a couple of items we showed Catherine and Simon. On the riverside, just outside of town was an exposition of photos from several photographers and the images were uniformly striking and creative.

My favourites were the quirky ones of Lego characters but just about all of the images deserved a good viewing.

Just a bit further on, the fun police had been in action. While the river has been running quite swiftly and hence not suitable for any sort of water activity, in the past, on sunny days and particularly weekends, the shallow waters on either side of the bridge were heavily populated by families, children, youths enjoying all sorts of water play. We had enjoyed watching the frolic on several occasions in 2018 and 2022.

Photo from the Seine et Marne newspaper

But now:

Don’t go on the islands, don’t wear bathers around town, don’t dive, don’t swim, don’t BBQ, don’t settle in and get comfortable, don’t play loud music – just DON’T

We walked across the bridge to our restaurant booking and had a very pleasant meal

overlooking the river and the town.

After lunch we took a walk over to the start of the canal where we had an aerial view of the lock we would pass through the following day.

We also took a chance on finding the cycle museum which we have never managed to visit before. Success – finally gained entry. Free and it is part bike shop, part museum. The name of the museum (and the designation of a mooring nearby) “Prugnat” refers to a company that moved to Moret in the middle of the 20th century and was a major supplier of bicycle parts for many years.

It was both comprehensive and interesting and most of the material was in both French and English.

The history of the development of the cycle was depicted on large boards with actual bikes to complement the written material. The first bicycle had no pedals and was meant to be used as a seat, with your legs doing the work, feet on the ground. Apparently, this enabled one to travel at twice normal walking speed.

The immediate antecedent of the bicycle

I found one item that was totally new to me. Before battery power, bike lights were powered by acetylene. Drips of water would be fed into a canister of calcium carbide and the acetylene produced is ignited to produce the light. Fascinating

 

After lunch we took a walk around the sights of delightful Moret:

Us at the Porte de Bourgogne.

 

Catherine on one of the isles

 

At the church of course …

 

The donjon (keep) where d’Artagnan guarded Nicholas Fouquet.

 

Outside the house where one of our favourite impressionist painters lived out the last years of his life.

 

Something for afternoon tea.

Nemours

The next morning we started our journey on the Bourbonnais route with the first of four canals we would travel this year – Canal du Loing. We started at 9 am following a French cruiser into the first lock. We spent the entire cruise with this boat so we were a bit squeezed in at the back but, even though he was operating single-handed, we had no problems with transiting each écluse. 

At the locks we soon settled into a routine with me helming, Catherine checking the clearance between Catharina’s stern and the rear gates, Lisette handling the bow rope and Simon triggering the lock filling with the blue pole. This canal operates using a remote control system for setting up the lock. You tell it if you wish to go up (montant) or down (avalant) and it empties or fills as necessary before opening the gates. With the Frenchman in front, he triggered that process each time.

Once settled inside the lock, you must push up a (rather heavy and often muddy) pole to make contact with the unit which then signals the lock gates to close and do its job. Our passage worked seamlessly, Lisette would check that the French boat was ready, then Simon would push the blue pole. Gates open automatically to let you out once the lock had finished its job.

The blue pole starts the cycle

After a pleasant but uneventful cruise along territory we had passed through in 2022, we arrived at Nemours and moored, like last time, at the top end of the long, unserviced, concrete quay. We were soon friends with our neighbours, Peter (a Kiwi) on an ex-hire boat, Panache and Harry, a Dutchman on a Gronningen Tjalk, Dageraad. Arrangements were made for drinks after dinner.

Catherine, Lisette and I set off for a quick tour of the town. Simon rested but walked into town later. It’s a nice town but a bit tired lacking in character in our view. However, the citadel is imposing, in great condition and houses a nice, if small museum (which we didn’t view this time but did in 2022).

Nearby is a pleasant plaza with many small bars and food serveries which was very busy on a sunny day last time but was almost deserted, with only one bar open, this time. The church suffered from having not a single statue or vitrine dedicated to Joan of Arc

After dinner, we had a great evening chatting with Peter and Harry.

Peter mostly single-hands his boat in the local area and lives permanently in France. He was a great source of advice for our next steps.

Peter’s Panache

Harry cruises with his saxophone-playing girlfriend who would be joining him in a few days and cruises extensively across western Europe wintering in Den Helder. His barge is in immaculate condition.

Harry’s Dageraad

Néronville

We decided to make our next mooring a wild one, near the small village of Néronville. This cruise finally took us into new territory for the first time since 2022. As we passed the spot we turned around in 2022, we really felt that our first real cruising season since 2019 had begun.

We cruised this section alone with Catherine responsible for waking up each lock as we approached. All proceeded smoothly (although had to squeeze past a commercial at one point) and after cruising pleasantly along past forests, fields and occasional small villages or farmhouses we left the Néronville écluse and moored against a small wooden-faced concrete quay. 

Nearby is a château which gives its name to the village, Château-Landon and this was our tourist destination for this trip. Lisette and I elected to cycle up the hill while Catherine and Simon chose to take the hour walk. We met at the old abbey ‘Abbaye Royale de Saint-Séverin’, which is now a retirement home. Founded in 545 it honours the monk Séverin who nursed Clovis, king of the Franks (considered to be the first King of France) back to health from a serious illness. You get to be a Saint if you save the first King simply by covering him with your cloak. The abbey went through many ups and downs and most recently was owned privately and then donated to the local Department to be used as a nursing home for the elderly.

The references on the internet said it was possible to enter, but as luck would have it, we were quickly invited into a vestibule where a slide show was in progress. That day and the next two were an ouverture exceptionnelle – sometimes you get lucky! Invited to sit and join the few visitors already there, we were quickly herded along to be given a brief tour of the crypt below.

Provided with hair nets and hard hats,

Many entreaties to “watch you head”

our motley crew of four joined the well-dressed French woman who was our guide, and who proceeded to deliver what appeared to be a very comprehensive account of the findings of this crypt. Sadly, entirely in French. Lisette began translating for us, but keeping up with the next sentence became challenging when she had to stop to whisper to the rest of us. The takeaway points were that they had found no less than three churches dating back to the 12th Century; it was not really a crypt in that there were no stone sarcophagi found resting below; however there were a couple of wall frescoes that told of the founding of the churches which had been somehow photographed and printed onto canvas cloths so we could see the elements of the paintings.

Rather poor transfer of the 12th century fresco onto plastic but placed where it was found.

 

A better image is reproduced in the church. The original is inside the abbey.

We continued with a visit to the church, Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, which features an impressive bell tower and, as the church is atop a significant hill, is a landmark in the region.

No Joan of Arc sadly but some nice wooden sculptures.

Passing out of the town, we passed the remains of the church of Saint-Thugal whose tower forms part of the ramparts of the town. 

Tower of Saint-Thugal in the centre and the abbey further down.

The following morning saw us begin the final stretch of the Canal du Loing in nice but cool weather. We had bit of excitement at a red light which required some quick reversing and we put Simon and Catherine off board to investigate. An approaching boat in a narrow stretch of the canal turned out to be the reason but it gave Simon the chance to take some photos as we approached the lock.

YouTube player

 

The Canal du Loing becomes the Canal du Briare at the junction with the Canal d’Orléans near Montargis. Sadly, the Orléans Canal has fallen into disuse and while there are some rumblings about restoration, it seems very unlikely that it will ever be navigable for boats like ours. However, we had it in mind to go to Orléans via bus sometime in the next few days.

Entrance to the Canal d’Oréleans blocked off

Montargis

Arriving in Montargis, we tied up rather close to a commercial mooring, putting ropes around metal bars, and inserting a metal pipe through the holes in the bar to prevent the ropes sliding off. Lisette started to prepare lunch while I got off and did a recce along the quay. Sure enough, there was a spot long enough for us, which would also mean we were not encroaching on commercial moorings should another large boat show up during the afternoon. So we moved off to relocate and settled in place, in front of a lovely luxemotor, Maria, owned by Mike and Karen, with the delightful Oscar (French spaniel). Lunch was dealt with and off we all went for a walk.

We knew from other friends that the town of Montargis is known as a ‘Little Venice’ (one of many across Europe, it would seem)

… and our restaurant behind

and there was a walk that would take us across 17 bridges. It was to be our last day with Simon and Catherine and we decided to see as many of the bridges as time would allow.

Several of the canals were embellished with small dinghies full of flowers

We did about half of them before the call to déjuner became insistent and sauntered to a lovely place, Brasserie de la Poste. Yes, originally part of the post office building, the space is now given over to a hotel and this wonderful restaurant.

Yes, I’ll have goat’s cheese for entrée – wow!

Although the weather was still rather threatening, it did not rain on us, and we continued on a little way to work off our lunch, and saw the two locks that we would be passing through to leave the town in the next day or so.

Lunch may have been perfectly filling, but there was room to buy some chocolates when we passed an amazing Chocolatier,

rather disarmingly met at the door by a life-size statue of the Quasimodo.

It was time for our guests to pack their bags once again and make their way to the train station for their return to Paris and to continue their intrepid travels across Europe.

Farewell to Catherine and Simon – great crew and intrepid travellers

For us, another couple of days exploring Montargis and a greatly-anticipated side trip to Orléans – the town that made Jeanne d’Arc famous.


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    4 Responses

  1. Wow, Your trip into the unknown is sounding fabulous and your photos are brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing.
    I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing about more adventures with Marianne and Jim some time soon.

    Watching on with envy.
    Jane Harrison

    1. Thanks Jane, after many years of not much cruising, this year, so far, has been wonderful. We’re also looking forward to Jim joining us again and meeting Marianne – in just a couple of weeks.

  2. We had a wonderful time and your blog brought it all back. Hope the cruising is excellent. ❤️ Thanks for having us – was a joy. Been walking the Great Glen Way in Scotland along the canals and it has been reminding us of our fun on Catereina Elisabeth.Big locks here.

  3. Wiw! Another episode ofcthe adventure’s of Catharina Elizabeth and the Eurmacs! As usual brimming with photos and interest thank you! It was really good to read about Montargis especially as we met you shortly afterwards. We had such a marvellous time with you on CE, so relaxing it was very restorative inspite of our 5 kms over 4 days. Our travels after we left you were a bit overwhelming especially at Le Quesnoy. Now we are on a dig for 6 weeks where the owls swoop low over the field each evening. Stay safe and I look forward to the next episode, with love Gina

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