Roanne - Artaix

The female half of the two of us has been looking for a French person willing to have a regular conversation, as a method to improve her knowledge of the French language. Too late, on hindsight, she has met (for the insiders: at L’Authentique) this lovely French lady who wants to speak English, so there was a mutual interest. The two women are befriended ever since. Last Monday, only a few days before our planned departure on Wednesday from Roanne we were invited by her and her husband to visit their ‘maison de famille’ in Saint-Marcel-d'Urfé, a small village at a distance of some 30/35 kilometers (20 miles) south/south-west from Roanne. The weather was gorgeous and we had a lovely ride, not using the main roads, from Roanne to Saint-Marcel-d'Urfé. The picture shows the rear side of the house; the two men inspecting the bottles and awaiting the arrival of the two women.

A marvelous view from the balcony of the ‘maison de famille’. A ‘maison de famille’ is, we are told, litteraly a house that can be used –and is owned- by an entire family rather than a single person or a couple. All family members are entitled to visit the house and/or live in it when required, say for a holiday – of course after consulting the other family members. In this case outside our friends no other family member shows any interest, so it’s virtually a second house in the countryside for them.

On top of a former well there’s an ‘insect-hotel’ installed, just visible on the first picture. It is shaped like a bird-box but filled up by pieces of wood with tiny little hollows. Busy bees gratefully use this luxury accommodation and did not seem to be bothered by our close presence – and the other way around.

La chapelle de la Chirat is a 5-centuries old chapel, one of the few monuments situated in Saint-Marcel-d'Urfé. Although the village has only 289 inhabitants (2012) there’s a ‘real’ church too! We are in France, remember?

The village is situated at an altitude between 491 and 900 meters (1.635 – 3.000 feet), so a walk is not without difference in height. We did a walk nevertheless. A bit of exercise is what people of our age should have – sometimes. In case you’re wondering whether we reached the 900 meters/3.000 feet the answer is: no. (Did you expect differently?)

Saint-Marcel-d'Urfé offers some lovely views. Here’s another one, just randomly chosen. The few clouds showed a straight bottom during the entire day. An interesting meteorological feature. By the way, the Dutch word ‘meteorologisch’ (= meteorological) is considered the most difficult word to pronounce in the Dutch language (for the record: 2 defibrilleren and 3 bavarois).

On Wednesday the 15th of April we left the Port de Roanne ( at 10AM sharp. There was a lot of honking and waving from other boats while on the way from our mooring spot to the first lock, being the port’s exit as well. Perhaps because it was known that we are not planning to return, who knows. Whatever reason, it was really special! Our French friends kept us company during the voyage of 15 kilometers (over 9 miles) to Briennon, 3 locks included. They had never experienced being on a moving boat and liked it immensely. After having had lunch in Briennon –illegaly moored up for an hour-and-a-half, luckily the passenger boat ‘L’Infatigable’ was on a cruise for a few hours- we bade farewell to then. Reluctantly that is, we really hope to see them both somewhere in the future.

We were extremely lucky with the weather on that Wednesday. When it is like that one tends to make a picture of every nice panorama. The problem is that it never stops! So here’s just one of the pretty ‘Val de la Loire’ with the river visible behind the trees.

This time we navigate Le canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin for the fourth time (up and down). In doing that we passed, skipped if you like, the stopover place at Iguerande on all seven former occasions. Not this time though, while passing it for the eighth –and probably last- time. According to our information there’s water as well as electricity available…

…but the facility offered a sad sight of being thoroughly ruined. What the heck drives the mind of people doing this, one wonders. Although we do not really need it (yet), our large water tank is still filled up and our boat is equipped with a trustworthy generator, it is annoying all the same.

When leaving Iguerande the next morning, Thursday the 16th, the weather was dull indeed, yet without rain. Therefore another picture of one of the views that are permanently on offer. Without exaggerating we can say it’s a privilege to be in France’s beautiful countryside.

A Magnolia (this one being a magnolia x soulangeana we think) blossoms intensely but short. This one already lost a part of its flowers. ‘Be quick’ we thought – and this is the result.

After a cruise of less than 5 kilometers (around 3 miles) we moored at Melay-sur-Loire, with the plan to meet the owners of the good ship ‘Vrouwe Dirkje’ whom are living there in a house close to the canal. We had borrowed some dvd’s from them – and vice versa. They returned from the Netherlands just after we moored there. Speaking about timing! We had a great evening together, overloaded with music, conversation, laughter, some liquor and food – and in the end we got our dvd’s back and kept theirs! Fortunately our daughter and one of theirs live in the same neighbourhood in the Netherlands, so we can drop of their possessions when we visit our family. The world is a village! We forgot to make a picture, so this is one from the 6th of October 2013. Well, nothing has changed since then.

On Friday the 16th we left Melay-sur-Loire around 11:30AM. Again we did not have to negotiate a single lock during the day’s journey of just a little bit over four (4!) kilometers (2,5 miles) to a favourite stopover spot at Artaix. This picture suggests that we seem to have ended up as part of a travellers community but that is only appearance; it’s a family, children included, here for a weekend of fishing (and table tennis).

The scene as seen from the opposite side. The (evening-)light is too beautiful to skip this one.

The picture before this one was taken when standing between the two trees in front…

…and this is what it looked like last autumn. One can see la capitaine’s point when she states that her favourite season is autumn. The captain however is more practical – he prefers spring because the entire season is still in front of us then.

When using the bikes to go to Marcigny, a somewhat bigger town with proper shops at around 4,5 kilometers (less than 3 miles), the views are pretty, pretty and again pretty. Here’s one…

…and here’s another. A description is superfluous, it’s all obvious when looking at it.

To end with this time a picture of la capitaine in full action on Saturday the 18th of April 2015, returning from shopping in Marcigny. We are still in Artaix, even today – the Sunday (‘blog-day’). Tomorrow we’ll leave for the first lock at a distance of 1,8 kilometer (somewhat over a mile) where we have to arrive at 10:00AM. The lock keeper approached us by car on Friday to inform about our plan(!!). She did not have to do that, because we had asked the lock keeper at the last lock (Wednesday) for the phone number of his colleague. But this is what they do. Bless VNF! Bye for now.