Digoin - Roanne

Where were we again? Oh yes, in Digoin where we were awaiting visitors, being two couples arriving after one another. The first couple arrived on Saturday the 28th of September. The four of us had a really convivial one-and-a-half day. They left the following Monday in their camper-van. The sight of the motorbike on the trailer made our captain go green with envy.

Still in Digoin we went for the local railway station on Thursday the 3rd of October. We had tickets to meet the next visiting couple, that day arriving at the airport Lyon-Saint-Exupéry. Traveling time from Digoin to (train station) Lyon-Part-Dieu takes ‘only’ 2 hours and 7 minutes and the slow local diesel train stops at a lot of stations we do not care to remember the names of. Largely single tracked it’s no miracle that the train to Lyon departs 09:45AM whereas the first possibility to return is 6:08PM. Well, it gave us plenty of time to travel from the train station to the airfield by tram, which is another 20 kilometers. This picture shows Digoin’s lovely old fashioned train station. The (wooden) crossing is still at ground level and there is a good chance to survive while crossing as there are not many trains calling in at Digoin. Even the rail-track was not all that shiny, suggesting low key use. The returning train turned out to be popular to such an extent (commuters) that the four of us had to stand a considerable part of the journey and never found an opportunity to sit together.

Back in Lyon from its airport there was some time to do a bit of sightseeing. First we all needed a bite and a drink so we entered a small restaurant. The landlady informed us about being closed for lunch but not for drinking – and advised us to go to a next-door ‘patisserie’ to buy whatever we liked and to consume it at her restaurant, together with the drinks she of course was prepared to serve. And that’s exactly what we did (bless her!). Afterwards we had a walk in the train station area and encountered a public auction inside the handsome former Brotteaux railway station building, worthy of revisiting on a later occasion. The picture gives an impression of how the building looks on the inside.

Digoin one more time. This place has a lot of waterways, being the Canal du Centre and the rivers La Bourbince, l’Arroux and La Loire. Where the name Canal du Centre changes into the name Canal latéral à la Loire the river Loire is crossed by an aqueduct. Its construction took 4 years, starting in 1834. Some facts and figures: length 243 meters (over 800 feet), 11 arches of 19 meters (63 feet) wide at 12 meters (40 feet) above the river, channel’s width 6 meters (20 feet) and depth 2,3 meters (7,5 feet).

Accompanied by our visitors we left Digoin on Friday the 4th of October at 11:10AM. When approaching the aqueduct after a few minutes a boat was approaching from the opposite direction, coming out of the lock situated almost immediately at the other end of the aqueduct – visible in the distance. As we did not feel secure about the possibility to pass between the lock and the aqueduct we waited patiently. We could have continued but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The aqueduct after negotiating it without touching anything, having a final look towards Digoin, our home for 7 nights. Bye!

We cruised the Canal latéral à la Loire for a single kilometer only, one lock going down included. Then we turned left, heading more or less straight south, into Canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin. As we are following the course of the river Loire southbound the locks to come are all ascending ones. Some deep ones too ! This day we did only 9 kilometers (over 5,5 miles), 4 locks, the first one going downhill, the other three uphill. At 2:30PM we moored next to a bridge, close to a little village called La Beaume. Our male guest took this picture from a complete different angle we’re used to. We very much like the result.

A fine example of a bridge over the Canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin (and the skills of the photographer). We just thought it’s too pretty to keep it just to ourselves.

On the Saturday the weather was horrible, at least during the morning. Apart from that we were not in a hurry –at last!- so we decided not to move. On the Sunday, 6 October 2013, we left La Beaume at 11:10AM – by coincidence exactly the same time as on the 4th. On the way we ran into (rather : cruised into) a horsewoman and –man, exactly at a place where the canal became narrower over a short distance. The horses did not like the sight of this oncoming big ship at all, forcing their riders to dismount. Being experienced ourselves in a former lifetime with fearful horses we slowed down considerably so no harm was done.

Having visitors of whom one on the shore with a camera gives us the opportunity to publish some pictures shot from outside the ship. In this case a series of pictures about negotiating a lock. This one shows ours ship in full action, approaching one of the locks going uphill.

A view inside the lock. Sometimes the gates are leaking severely, giving the impression of a mini Niagara and causing such a level of decibels that having a conversation, however short, is out of the question. When there is also a bit of rain, hence the raincoat of the one worker outside, it makes for a considerable wet impression when seen from inside the wheelhouse.

Sometimes this is the impressive view when looking backward after having ascended a lock. Most of the time the difference in level is not as much as in this case, being 7,19 meters (almost 24 feet), making this lock the 4th deepest in France. The lock is not even equipped with floating bollards ! A long, very long, rope is what is needed. The lock keeper has got his/her own rope with a hook at the end, let it down, picks up the boat’s rope and attaches the rope to a bollard on top of the lock wall.

We publish this picture in honour of the many female lock keepers in France. In this case even two at the time, making our (standard) offer to assist superfluous. They all, the male lock keepers included, do a marvelous job. It’s only the odd one that is a little curmudgeon-like. The vast majority is absolutely friendly and helpful.

To ‘prove’ there was a team of two women doing this deep lock. We see them closing the lock behind us. Nothing is automated on this canal, it’s all manually operated.

The ship inside another lock this time, to show what it looks like from some distance. The length of ours hip is somewhat over 18 meters (60 feet) and the locks are 40 meters (133 feet). In theory the capacity of the lock is sufficient for two ships of our size. One would be reluctant to do that though, as the movement of the water –and consequently the ships- might create an awkward situation. We prefer to be on our own or with another ship up to, say, 12 meters (40 feet). That allows for some inevitable movement, apart from the fact that the bollards on the sides of the lock prevent the boats from using the available space in the most efficient way.

That afternoon, the 6th of October, we called it a day around 3:40PM at a place called Melay-sur-Loire – or perhaps Melay-près-Loire as the river is on a distance of roughly 2 kilometers (1,25 miles). Time cruised: 4,5 hours. Locks ascended: 4. Distance covered: some 23 kilometers (over 14 miles). Busy bees, that’s what we are.

The last leg for this season, from Melay-sur-Loire to Roanne, our winter mooring. It was Monday, the 7th of October 2013, starting time 9:30AM. On the way, at PK (‘point kilomètre’) 14,75 from Roanne to be exact, we passed a cruiser next to a place called Briennon. We had seen this boat before so as usual mutual waving took place. The man in the wheelhouse seemed ultimately relaxed and showed no signs whatsoever of leaving his mooring spot. When shortly afterward we arrived at the first lock for the day the lock keeper asked us about the whereabouts of this cruiser. We informed him about what we had seen and the lock keeper disappeared instantly in the direction of Briennon. It was all too clear that the lock keeper did not feel like doing the locks twice on his own instead of the more efficient once. We really felt for him and waited. And waited a little more. Finally the lock keeper reappeared – and the cruiser with him. So we did the last locks (3) together with this cruiser. Here we –le capitain and the male half of the visiting couple- are looking backward in anticipation of the cruiser. We entered the lock at 10:20AM and left 40 minutes later. Higher than average one might discretely say.

Just before we reached Roanne this gorgeous group of buildings (a farm (‘ferme’)?) caught our eyes. Combined with the background it makes for a delightful composition, we think, so all of you with an urge to draw or paint : feel free to copy it! To give credit where credit is due : the pictures 5 through 8, 10 through 15 and 18 are ‘borrowed’ from the collection made by the male part of the couple that has been our guests for a week. So a big thank you to Harvey, now back in Boston, MA, USA.

That memorable day, Monday the 7th of October 2013, 1:28PM, we reached the Port of Roanne, see http://port-de-roanne.fr. Only 25,5 kilometers (16 miles) and three locks, de deepest 3,04 meters (10 feet), the shallowest 0,60 meters (2 feet). This will be our mooring for the coming winter. The port is visible on the right hand side on the picture, the river Loire on the left hand side. Self-evidently more about the Port of Roanne in the coming weeks.

We rented a car this time to be able to bring our visitors back to the airport Lyon-Saint-Exupéry. That was going to happen not earlier than the Thursday, so we could visit some places of interest on the Tuesday and Wednesday. This is a picture of one of the buildings of the remarkable ‘village médiéval’ Le Crozet.

Another village on the same Wednesday, this time Saint-Jean-Saint-Maurice-sur-Loire, no less. We were less impressed by it than by Le Crozet –or we looked the wrong way, one never can tell- but the unreachable(?) Donjon, combined with a view onto La Loire (or a reservoir made in it) both made for the visit worth the trouble. Note the low level of the river (reservoir).

On the Thursday we traveled to Clermont-Ferrand, initially not only to visit this vibrating city but to have a go towards the nearby former volcano Puy de Dôme. We never made the latter because the voyage to Clermont-Ferrand consumed more time than anticipated –mountainous, winding roads- and the city was too interesting for leaving early. We’d like to go there again if getting the chance. The pictures were mainly made inside C-F’s cathedral. Unfortunately the quality is too low to publish them, partly because the cathedral is built out of black lava-stone and very dark – inside and out. We considered the atmosphere inside as exceptionally peaceful. No pictures of any of C-F’s buildings; instead one of all sorts of confectionery, photographed by la capitaine. One of her shoes is depicted too. Unintentionally, no doubt.

La Loire on Sunday the 13th of October 2013. Rivers can change rapidly. Therefore it’s the idea to publish a river-picture every week, taken from the same spot. If if becomes too boring we’ll abandon this idea as easily as we got it.