Beaulon - La Chapelle-Montlinard

After a long and relaxing week-end we left Beaulon on Monday the 7th of April at 9:12AM sharp. The departure time is determined by two factors, being (1) the agreed time of arriving at the first lock and (2) the distance to cruise before reaching this lock. In this case (1) 9:30AM and (2) close to 2 kilometers (1,25 miles). We entered the lock at 09:36AM, so we did well (enough). Following the valley of the river Loire downstream it’s interesting to see the surrounding land permanently dropping, thus necessitating canal-builders to create embankments, cuttings and locks (and lifts and tunnels). This picture shows an embankment, emphasized by the presence of the road next to it. After negotiating a lock downstream we are, of course, regularly in a cutting.

That evening we found an overnight stop at Decize, after 6,5 hours of cruising, 7 locks and 30 kilometers and a bit (18,75 miles). We moored on the canal, although it is possible to enter the river Loire, to moor closer to the town and explore her (him?). We decided only to do some shopping nearby and to explore Decise whenever in the future we reach the town by cruising the Canal du Nivernais. We have no idea what we might have missed…

On the 8th of April we negotiated 5 locks altogether. This was one of them with a scenery too pretty not to share with you. Our winter-violets are still doing well, aren’t they?

Fleury-sur-Loire (err, not)

The plan for the Tuesday was to make it a more relaxing day than the day before. Some 12 kilometers (7,5 miles) of cruising, only two locks included and an overnight stop at a place called Fleury-sur-Loire – according to our documentation a very attractive stopover place. (Supposedly with a snackbar on the quay! Wow!) Well, a lock keeper informed us about the place being occupied by two large barges and suggested either to continue further on or to try to moor alongside one of the barges. We hoped him to be wrong, but this is what we saw when approaching/rounding the bend towards this official ‘Halte Fluvial’. Another lock keeper told us that the first barge, the white one, is permanently there and the second one –with a large Dutch flag, no less- was there already for several days. We were forced to continue…

So, as said before, we were forced to negotiate 5 locks and to cover a distance of almost 25 kilometers (15,5 miles). After 5,5 hours we moored close to a place called Chevenon. When peacefully sitting inside, around 7:30PM all of a sudden another barge passed by at such an unbelievable high speed that we did not hear it approaching and more or less disappearing from view before we realized what was happening. We really have never experienced such a high speed, maintained by a passing ship, without any sign of slowing down. It was a miracle that one or more of our ropes didn’t snap. What on earth had got into the guy behind the wheel, one wonders?

Still at the Chevenon-spot, this was the view of the farm on the opposite bank, seen through one of our portholes. Even the car can’t take away the feeling that time has stopped there.

The next day, Wednesday the 9th of April, our destination was the old little city of Nevers. Only around 10 kilometers (over 6 miles) and two locks; the latter not even on the ‘main road’ but on the canal-branch leading to Nevers. We moored in the Port de Nevers, as seen on the picture, 10 minutes after noon and less than two hours of cruising.

Nevers’s skyline, as seen from the opposite (left) bank of the river Loire. The tower of the dominating building, the cathedral, is all covered in scaffolding.

Apart from the railway bridge Nevers has got only one bridge connecting the banks of the river. However It is an impressive one consisting no less than fourteen arches.

One of Nevers’ highlights is ‘Le Palais Ducal’. This is the view from the Palace towards the river Loire. The space is called ‘Place de la République’. Every town or city in France has a Place de la République, which enhances the impression that the idea of France being an empire or a kingdom again is nowhere near.

Here’s the view towards the palace. The building dates from the second half of the 15th century.

The cathedral itself was visited too, of course. We have shown pictures of stained-glass windows before and the interior of Nevers’ cathedral is unpretentious. So, as an alternative we publish this picture of one of the many confessionals we’ve seen in France. This cathedral was, of course, no exception. According to the note next to it this one is destined for the youngest children, say the 6 to 8-years old. They are no real sinners yet, at worst they are mischievous.

Bernadette (Marie-Bernarde) Soubirous (Lourdes, 7 January 1844 – Nevers, 16 April 1879) lived in Nevers from 1866 until she passed away. She is said to have witnessed 18 Marian Apparitions between 11 February and 16 July 1858. She is canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on 8 December 1933. Her remains are on display in the chapel of the convent she lived in. Making a picture of her, lying in her glass coffin, is prohibited.

In the garden of the convent one can find a copy of the scene in Lourdes where the Marian Apparitions are said to have taken place. It’s quiet here, contrary to Lourdes in the French Pyrenees, nowadays one of the busiest –if not the busiest- places of pilgrimage on the globe.

Pont-canal du Guétin

Nevers was left on Friday the 11th of April, 9:00AM. Less than one hour for the 2 kilometers-branch including 2 (automated) locks and over one hour for the 9 kilometers towards the first (staircase)lock, so we thought we’ll arrive around 11:00AM at the lock. Wrong, we entered the lock 20 minutes late. The lock keeper didn’t care. Before entering the lock one has to cross the beautiful river l’Allier on the 343 meters (1.140 feet) long aqueduct ‘Pont-canal du Guétin’. There are 18 arches, each 16 meters wide. L’Allier is a main tributary to La Loire and joins the latter just behind the road bridge which is visible on the right in this video. Perhaps by means of this video we can pass on some of the WOW!-feeling we have experienced.

L’Allier underneath, the aqueduct in the background and the upper lock of the staircase-lock (2 uninterrupted chambers) in the foreground – just to show what it looks like ‘up there’.

The upper lock of the staircase in the foreground, the lower one in the middle ground and the canal in the background. The difference in level between the aqueduct and the canal is 9 meters (30 feet)! For the unexperienced ones: when entering these set of two connected locks the upper one has to be full and the lower one empty. Try to figure out why – and after that try now to figure out how about the water-levels when, say, 5 locks are forming a staircase.

The Friday we stopped at Cours-les-Barres, having done almost 19 kilometers (12 miles) and negotiated 4 locks (apart from the 2 kilometers and 2 locks from Nevers to the canal). Almost 5 hours of traveling time. Free electricity, free water – and a grumpy baker. (Don’t do that ma’am, business in the country-side is already ‘on its last legs’.)

No traveling experiences or pictures this time. This is our mooring space for the week-end – at La Chapelle-Montlinard. To reach this we have done over 17 kilometers (> 10 miles) and 5 locks. We reached the last lock 2 minutes, yes two minutes, later than noon exactly. No mercy, we had to wait until 1:00PM, after the lock keeper had had his lunch break. Sacrosanct rules! We needed 4,5 hours for this leg, one hour of idleness included. (For some insiders: the house of mister Guy Toye is visible in the background.)

To be honest we did not explore La Chapelle-Montlinard. However, on a distance of roughly one kilometer (0,6 miles), after crossing the river La Loire, there’s a place called La Charité-sur-Loire. Very interesting and picturesque indeed, though this picture does not do justice to its beauty. Go there, if you can, and see for yourself. Au revoir!