Wednesday, 4 July 2012

France: Canal Boat Trip, Day 3 - Nevers to Cours-les-Barre

7 May

From the travel journal:

The day started beautifully with a delightful Welshman speaking to us as we walked through the carpark towards the steps, ready to walk into town to do our shopping. He and his wife, Hazel, are retired and now spend nine or so months of the year living on their charming boat, and the other three months back in Wales. They just cruise around all over the European waterways, but Nevers is their “home base”. We asked him for directions to the nearest store, but he said that he and his wife had noticed my bad limp and so he offered to drive us to a good sized supermarket so that we could do a big shop. This was an absolute God-send as my ankle was really painful. It was just lovely to find such unexpected kindness; it really restores your faith in humanity.

I really wish I’d caught his name, but it was one of those situations where you know you have been told but don’t like to ask again. Anyway, he – lovely man – drove us to a large supermarket where we were able to really stock up, including buying a couple of thick jumpers. The weather had been so warm, verging on hot, in Paris that we assumed it would be like that down here in Burgundy and not brought enough warm gear with us.

Heading back to the main canal.
When we got back from the shops we realised that we didn’t really have time to explore the city, and I wasn’t really in a position to do so, and so we filled up the water tanks, thanked those kind boating neighbours, and set off. We couldn’t really hang around, because tomorrow is the 8th of May, which of course is a holiday in France to celebrate the end of WW2, and even the harbourmaster – a very helpful chap – at Nevers couldn’t tell us whether or not the locks would be operating, so we couldn’t take the risk of being stuck somewhere and not getting to the end of our cruise on time. It’s a shame really, because this place seems so interesting, and the port facilities here are really excellent. Ah, we’ll be back another time, I’m sure.

Lovely canal-side houses

Because we had set off so late, and because there was a really slow, rather long boat in front of us, we didn’t make it through the second automatic lock out of Nevers before the lunchtime closure, and so we tied up to a little jetty and enjoyed the warm sunshine and a delicious, simple lunch – our favourite, Paris ham, cheese, tomatoes, baguette, and of course wine.

Wonderful scenery.

After leaving the Nevers area we came in due course to the absolutely amazing Pont-Canal du Guetin, a “canal bridge”, or pont, high up over the Allier River

Approaching the Pont-Canal du Guetin

This pont-canal is not only really beautiful – classic, elegant design – but quite an amazing experience, sailing slowly along that ribbon of water and looking down over the side of the pont to the river far, far below. The pont-canal leads to an incredible, and quite challenging double lock, which drops you, in two stages, under the main road of this incredibly pretty village of Guetin.

And across we go. Fantastic!
As with so many locks, locals and passers-by stop to watch the boat go through the lock. It sort of makes you try that little bit harder to get the ropes secured properly and to actually look as if you know what you’re doing. It’s really fantastic, though, being on a boat going through a lock and having an interested audience smiling and waving at you from a bridge or a canalside. It’s a great chance to call out a friendly “Bonjour”, and to hear back “Bon voyage” as you depart the lock – really a lovely aspect of a canal trip.
We then had one rather small lock to pass through on the way to our destination, Cours-les-Barres. Going through this lock, which of course would seem small anyway after the huge drop of the double one we had passed through, provided a great little bit of entertainment as there was another vessel there, crewed by two elderly couples, one French and one Italian. They had, I think, had quite a bit more vino than us to drink and were very merry. We called to each other, chatting in our variety of languages and accents, hand-signalling when communication was difficult. When they realised that we were all the way from Australia, they started kangaroo hopping around the back deck – the ladies immaculately groomed and sporting enough jewellery to sink a smaller boat, the men looking a bit dapper, all doing Skippy impersonations. 

By the tie-up point at Cours-les-Barres

After passing more stunning scenery, and catching glimpses of chateaux on hillsides, we pulled up to the quay at the absolutely picture book pretty village of Cours-les-Barres for the night.  

What a beautiful spot - invites a walk.

Once the boat was secured, we were off and wandering. What a lovely place, and what a perfect spot to spend the evening.”

Catch you later.

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