Sauntering through Canal du Centre

Whoops whoops whoops! Pressed ‘Publish’ by mistake! But now all sorted I think.

 

I’m taking a break from lots of words for this canal section, but still got lots of pictures to share.

We joined the canal at Digoin, mooring by the viaduct, and with Keeva and Abi still on board.

After breakfast amongst the sunflowers we set off across the viaduct towards Paray-Le-Monial, with the girls adding a touch of glamour to the proceedings!

We passed under lovely bridges and past the (sadly to be missed) Snail Festival preparations.

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Ancienne écluse de Neuzy

We also passed the entrance to an old ‘narrow guage’ canal, complete with its own pont levée.

Next stop, Paray-Le-Monial; an absolutely delightful little town, where I discovered for the first time that moorhens have green legs! (Cool for cats or what?)

Out for a drink and a meal. I had my portion of escargots and Charolais beef and ice cream drenched in local alcohol!

The girls left next day and Stu and I continued on a strangely quiet barge towards the summit of the canal. We had a lovely lunch stop in sight of Chateau de Digoine, with a ‘swarm’ of baby cat fish swimming alongside.

imageI had a delicious lunch à la francàise with things we had bought in the charcuterie, boulangerie and boucherie in Paray – baguette, terrine de Lapin avec noix, oeuf et jambon en gelee, cows cheek salad in vinaigrette and big salad with radishes and dressing.
Tucking in now!

 

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Old furnace near Palinges

We wiggled round Montet where it seems that the canal was forced to go round an important persons chateau – not always easy – and past a beautiful old pottery furnace.

That night we moored up at Génelard. Just what is that creature attached to the quay??

Génelard had several unexpected treasures. One was this 1950’s fake Art Deco facade to an old factory that used to make mechanical parts for locks etc.

Another was the Trancées of Génelard – a cutting sunk round the town.

We carried on upwards next day, passing a famous ceramic tile factory, now a museum and another abandoned kiln. We were getting used to having traffic lights again too!

For cow lovers like me, some different cows. On the left some spotty cows, a change after all the white Charolais. On the right, one white cow who likes to be different – lying on the sun while the rest of the herd  crowd into the shade!

We found one of our (less) picturesque lunch stops by an old cooling tower, but with lovely flowers. As we moved on I was waiting with excitement for Chavannes lavoir, imagining another old stone washing place for villagers, only to find a monster facility to wash coal!

Next set of obstacles were the six bridges of Montceau-Les-Mines – a mixture of types of lift brudge and passerelles – leading us into Montceau lock.

We had decided not to stop in Montceau and continued on to Blanzy – a former coal mining town, though nowt like them that I know.

Next day we made the short trip to the summit at Montchanin, noting a change of traffic light structure on the way (bit nerdy!).

We came through the last lock Ocean side (see explanation later) into the top stretch.

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The mooring by the VNF office at Montchanin was quieter than it initially looked, with roads and bridges nearby.

And the town of Montchanin was pleasant, tree lined, with some houses decorated with spare tiles from the ceramics factories (more of these to come!)

After after a night at Montchanin we began our descent. An interesting start with the Captain looking to see if we had missed tripping a sensor on our way into Lock 1 ……. And once in the lock we had a great view down over the first staircase of four.

‘Écluse 1 Med’ had lots of interesting points. Firstly it helped us understand why the locks on the way up were all named ‘Ocean’, being closer to the Atlantic, and on the way down named ‘Med’, being in the direction of the Mediterranean.

Second was the amusing painted lock operation building, with mermaids depicting the  two linked rivers, Loire and Saone, flanking the architect of the canal.

And thirdly, a strange boat shaped sluice, or something……. (Since found out that it was a ‘lock boat’ – they would float it across a lock gate, open the scuppers and sink it to stem the flow of the canal while they worked on the gates.)

As we went into the deeper locks we began to see real floating bollards to descend with; what a treat. We LOVE floating bollards.

As we reached les 7 Écluses we found more houses and shops with the colourful Borgogne tiles.

Next to Lock 6 Med we went by another set of old canal and locks, the water cover in green algae. Next to it was an interesting decorated  building …….

Moving on down we came to what is now one of our favourite stopovers – St Julien-sur- Dheume, a quiet, peaceful village. Lovely lovely.

After St Julien there is a section where the canal and several locks have been moved. We could still see one wall of one of the original locks.

Along the way on this canal were another set of atmospheric abandoned lock houses.

wine_purchase__cheilly-les-marangesSo with With another 46kms still to Chalon we decided to hit another 20 Kms from St Julien to Cheilly-les-Maranges. This turned out to be a good move as we were able to buy some good local wine at Chailly!

The start of the next day’s journey gave good scenic views, plus a wacky garden.

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We passed a lovely old steam boat (tug) which deserved a photo.

Then into Chagny over a viaduct above a railway for a change. We found baguette for lunch, and chicken quiche, before leaving Chagny through a narrow channel!

We went down through some lovely locks, both abandoned and occupied, on our way to  Fragnes – and often the ‘garden’ within the lock was just as stunning.

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Then at the last lock before Fragnes we thought ‘where is the green light…..?’

 

 

 

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Aaah, there it is, amongst the Foliage!

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, moored up at Fragny, just outside Chalon!

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The cruise down to Chalon-sur-Sâone was a short one and we knew we would be whizzing straight past on a downstream current so we visited Chalon by bus! The old town near the river is a fascinating place to walk around.

Now for our river trip on the Sâone and Rhone!

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Roanne and Return

Three days getting there from Diou; three days RnR at Roanne; two days back to Digoin, although maybe the RnR was more Rock n Roll than Rest n Relaxation because we picked up 17-yearolds Keeva and Abi while in Roanne!

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So it started calmly enough – in fact very gentle and peaceful; we liked it! We came form Diou and did a smart turn to starboard into the Roanne to Digoin canal, 56kms.

The first lock, going up, was automatic; “are we know all about this”, we thought. Then the next included an éclusier who let us know they would be with us at the third – Chassenard – a 6m deep lock (gulp!).

The lock has interesting old hooks on the wall that barges used to use for their ropes and gradually move up, or down, with the water. These days the éclusier lowers a rope with a hook on it to take your rope up, out of sights, and round a bollard on the quay; very civilised.

La Beaume mooring

La Beaume mooring

After three locks, and a later than usual start from Diou, we decided to moor up at la Beaume. The official quay was full, but a well placed one of trees acted as an additional series of mooring posts and we soon tied up in the glancing evening sunlight.

A stroll after supper led to the surprise discovery of a stork in a field, hoovering up grain spilt during a recent harvesting.  These were the prelude to seeing 14 storks stocking up in another field the next day. We are just not used to storks! Wow!

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le Beaume evening sky

 

The light was magical, with mini rainbows flickering among the sunset clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

Next day was to be a 20km day to Artaix, rising up through (what we thought was) the deepest lock in the French waterway network. It turns our that there are even deeper ones in store on La Rhone – more of that in weeks to come.

There was much to see along the way – such a variety of buildings, bridges, glimpses of La Loire and insect/butterfly life.

 

All of this relaxed us for the expected excitement ahead – rising up in our first 7.2 metre lock, Bourg-Le-Compte. That’s 23 and a half feet – the height of a house.

As we got closer we noticed as the giant downstream doors opened that only the bottom half of each door moved.  We could see at the end of the cavernous chamber water already pouring in through various leaks and, as we got closer, slimy ladders reaching skywards on each wall.

The éclusier pulled our ropes up on his hook and we held on tight for the elevation. It was a very smooth ride; we emerged 20 foot up, and glided out to the next pound.

We passed a nice mooring in a basin just outside Artaix and continued to our anticipated mooring closer to the village …. oh no! The map had misled us, and the mooring place we were aiming for did not exist; it was behind us in the nice basin!

So we left that one for our return trip, and carried on to Les Poteaux, jumping ashore with stakes and a hammer to moor by a bridge. We had a noisy evening (neighbours!) but from 10pm a quiet night, waking to another blue sky summer morning.

Just the run up to Roanne to do now – easy n a day; 26 kms and 3 locks. Along the way we saw the big bridge over La Loire to Iguerande, with Mailly on the hill beyond, and the tight squeeze Pont Dupian just after; all definitely worth a visit next time! But this time we have to arrive, shop, hire car and collect grand-daughter plus friend.

Potteaux after

By mid-morning we were going past Briennon – what an attractive little port! But with nowhere to easily moor we thought we would carry on through the next two locks before éclusier déjeuner time. We ate as we motored and pleasingly arrived at the lock into Roanne port just before 1pm.

After a short wait we were up and into the port, with directions towards a mooring space towards the far end.

That evening there was music in the market place so after a wander round town to admire some old buildings and amazing trompe d’oeil we sat by the fountain listening to the music and watching the crowds.

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Flybe flight arrives form Southampton.

After a day of rest and pottering it was Saturday and we were off to rediscover other modes of transport!  The hire car, a modest Nissan Micra, ‘cheapest-you’ve got’, went so fast after our pedestrian 6km per hour for the past 4 months. And seeing planes arrive and depart at the airport was a stark, noisy, reminder of the life outside the canal network.

If you have read Keeva and Abi’s blog about their days on the boat, this may seem a bit similar, but then we were on the same boat.

The girls plan was to get a tan; simple. Except as we drove back from the airport the storm clouds gathered ……..

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….. and once back on the boat a massive electric storm hit Roanne – rain, thunder and lightning all around us.  I could sense the disappointment emanating from the girls.

 

 

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Sort of lardy cake studded with pink pralines

 

Next day was cloudy, but dry so they put on their shorts ready for the sun.  We set out for the obligatory croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast, plus the Roanne yummy speciality ‘La Pralaline” – a chintzy looking pink confection that is much nicer than it looks!

 

 

Then a walk round town to choose a restaurant for K&A to eat at that evening. It was Sunday. Roxanne has a very traditional attitude to Sunday! Just about everything – shops, cafés, bars, museums – was shut!

But Keeva has fun ion the fountains, and we did find one restaurant that was open Sunday evening; the girls photographed the menu so that they could translate it back on the boat.

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A&K at Roanne Plage

We walked round the port, dropping in at Roanne Plage, a place whose name had offered spot much fun, but is actually a large sandpit with a café and a fountain.

Things looked up that afternoon. The sun came out and we went to the outdoor pool, with water slides, flumes, lots of water, and virtually no other people!

That evening they went out for their meal while Stu and I prepared for the next day’s cruise.

The return trip

Quite amusing to travel back on he same waterway, but this time in the company of two lively teenagers.

It was still and quiet during the day as they took in the sun and began to achieve their tanning objective.

Bit more hectic when we went for a countryside stroll in the evening, round the sleepy, scarecrow invaded, village of Artaix.

Getting back to the actual journey …. having set off at 10 we stopped at Briennon for lunch. There is a wonderful dinosaur of a crane on the quayside, interesting buildings and a view out to distant hills.

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North of Briennon

The canal passes through gentle countryside with enough straight stretches for the girls to take driving lessons from the Captain – even I had took the wheel for a change.

We moored up at the Artaix basin that we had missed on the way up – and it was as lovely as it had looked, though quite busy with boats and camper vans.

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Artaix basin mooring

After supper we went on the aforementioned scarecrow walk, and found other points of interest in Artaix.

They have an old weigh bridge, complete with the weigh master’s little office, weights and scales. And  in Fenruary 1933 the canal collapsed near Artaix – a major catastrophe. We walked back via a footpath and bridge over L’Arçon river, quite small at this point.

Next morning broke bright and sunny. We were off to complete the canal and get round the corner to Digoin.

Random old artefacts kept me amused as usual.

Then we were back at our 7.2m lock, this time to go down, with the girls decorating the foredeck. Stu got the chance to step off and help with the gates; I got the chance to photograph the turning mechanism of the gates!

The canal from Bourg-Le-Compte to the end was peaceful and pleasant, passing by our night’s mooring form a few days ago near Le Baume, and gradually working our way up to join the Canal du Centre.

To be faithful to the title of this bloglet I should end here, but with just 36 hours left of the girl’s sojourn with us I am including a little of those last hours.

 

We had an evening’s mooring just outside Digoin, but close enough to walk in over the amazing viaduct and have a beer in the centre together.

IMG_1420And then our last day voyaging together, over the viaduct, up to Paray-Le-Monial. It was another blisteringly hot day with plenty of sunbathing opportunities, and another outdoor pool to enjoy in Paray once we arrived.

That evening we went out together in the warm sunshine, taking a quick tour of Paray’s lovely buildings, stopping off at a bar or a drink (once the kids chose what they wanted!), and then a meal to suit us all overlooking the river and the Basilica.

It would not be complete without the famous Oreo photo, and the cat who looked on.

It was helpful, fun and lively having this two on board. Sorry to say goodbye.