Sunday, 1 July 2012

France: Canal Boat Trip, Day 2 - Canal Lateral a la Loire to Nevers

6 May

Straight from our travel journal:

“We awoke to a freezing cold morning on the beautiful Canal Lateral a la Loire. The fields were all misty, and everything looked beautiful, like a washed out watercolour of a million shades of green. 

A cold morning.

The Cirrus was lovely and warm thanks to its great heating system, and we soon had the kettle on for coffee, and some cereal and toast happening before setting off on this crystal morning.  We arrived at our first lock just after 9.00, full of anticipation and excitement. 

Our first non-automatic lock.

There we were, absolutely freezing, and were rugged up with coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and – what – here comes the lock keeper in nothing but polo shirt, shorts and sandals. He was an absolutely delightful fellow, and even though he was dressed coldly, his smile was the biggest, warmest, most welcoming you could wish for on that morning.  This guy looked after three locks, and I found it a pleasure to get off the boat and help him with the workings, turning the whatevers and trying to chat away in my limited French.  

Love these locks - so exciting.
We had taken with us a few Australian souvenirs, things like key rings, fridge magnets, pens, but this man was so lovely, and such a great start to our boating holiday that I actually wished I had something a bit nicer to give him other than a small token of our thanks for his assistance. 

Mind you, at one of the locks I didn’t actually get back on the vessel before the water level dropped down and so I had to walk along and board once the boat had passed through the lock. The lock keeper told me that that was no problem, there were some stairs I could go down to a little landing and so I’d be able to get back on the boat there. My ankle injuries make me not the most stable of persons, and I’m not particularly good with things like ladders and stairs at the best of times. So, there I am, watching the boat pull in towards the bank, and I’m looking with absolute horror at these stairs I’m supposed to descend. I’m sure they were 5000 years old. They were old, they were stone, they were rough, they were very narrow, they were extremely steep – and there was no handrail. Apparently my trusty skipper was watching, thinking I would never dare to even attempt them but that I would instead decide to walk along the towpath until I found a more convenient spot. Somehow in some dark corner of my mind, however, lurked a bit of courage and so, fearing at every step a major catastrophe, I nevertheless made it down. Wow, the adrenalin rush was amazing. I am still so proud of myself. 

Are you looking at me?

The next two locks were looked after by a different chap. By the time we reached the second lock it was lunchtime – have to remember that all the locks close smack bang on time for lunch, whether there is a boat in the lock or not – and so we tied up at a mooring point just near the lock and enjoyed our lunch on the front deck, looking over the lovely countryside and breathing in that amazing clear, clean air. The lock house and gardens were absolutely charming to look at, and the scene was made even more idyllic by the antics of some rather cute goats in the lock keeper’s yard. 

Stunning scenery along the way.

After clearing this lock, we cruised on to Nevers, branching off the main canal and passing through two automatic locks. At the second one, unfortunately, I jumped off the boat a bit too enthusiastically. The boat was higher up in the lock than I realised, and so it was a big jump. Guess what ankle I landed on? Ah, THE FOOT! Agony, the sort that goes through your body and you feel you will never move again. There were people around, and another boat in the lock, so I had to put on a brave face until I could get back on board to swallow a few Panadeine Forte and get a compression bandage happening. 

Love this shot - it graces our loungeroom wall.

Getting into Nevers is just beautiful, stunning scenery, and then a straight road of water lined with stunning trees, and along the towpath people strolling, kids cycling, dogs running. Fantastic!  

After securing the boat, we walked into town, looking to buy some bread and wine, but discovered everything was closed. We found a little café open just over the bridge leading into the centre of town, and so we were able to sit and enjoy our surroundings while sipping a great espresso or two. I did ask a couple of people whether there was an epicerie or alimentation nearby, but they all said that, no, everything was shut. So, heading back to the marina we stopped at the caravan park, where a super helpful staff member was able to oblige us with wine at least. 

The "road" into Nevers.

This town is really impressive, very medieval in appearance, and with some great historical titbits. I believe it also produces some fantastic pottery. Definitely worth having a better look around tomorrow when hopefully my foot will allow a few hours walking, but that just wasn’t possible today – just getting into town and back again was about as much as I could manage. 

And so to settle in for a quiet night tied up at this great little marina.”

Catch you tomorrow when we head off a little village that just captivated us totally.

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