Friday, September 29, 2006


We decided not to go to Cambrai until after the visit from our friends Skip and Jill, so we continued making our way south on the Canal de Briare. After Chatillon Coligny, and the experience of Friday market in the rain, we continued down to Ouzoer sur Trezee, along a very beautiful stretch of the canal. At the lock of Moulin Brule, we stepped off to see the 4 old stepped locks, no longer in operation, a fascinating site. Just after this, we went through the prettiest and most flowery lock we have seen on this trip, the lock of La Picardie. We stopped the boat just before it, as it was lunch time for the lock keeper, hence the lock being closed. We walked to it to take pictures, had our lunch on the boat, and then went through it.

Our stop at Ouzoer was wonderful. It is a very small village, but so authentic and old and with so many pretty corners everywhere. The mooring was just after a beautiful metal bridge covered in hanging geraniums and in front of a park. We had beautiful weather the two days we spent there. We stayed for the Farmer's Market on Sunday, held at a farm about 1 Km from the Port. We were told they would have tents set up so people could have lunch there. This was a fabulous experience. All the people were locals out for their Sunday family lunch at the farm. They had all kinds of delicious things being prepared by the different vendors. We opted for a wild mushroom omelet and some very dark hardy bread and a bottle of apple cider. It all tasted so good! The people sitting next to us, an older couple were delighted to see some Americans there. They seemed so surprised that anyone from California would ever want to leave the state.

Monday morning we left Ouzoer on a very foggy and rainy morning, and this time we were down locking through six locks to get to Briare. As soon as we got to the port, I talked to Christophe, the captain about the possibility of wintering the boat there. He had heard from a friend that we were interested in a spot, but told us the port was full for the winter. In the afternoon, when we were in his office talking to him, we found out one of the boats might not be staying, which meant we could have its spot. He said he would let us know on Friday.

Briare is mostly famous for its PONT CANAL (Canal Bridge) of almost 700 Mts. going over the River Loire. It was built in 1890-1894, and a work of incredible engineering. The canal part of the bridge is done all in steel, and the masonery work by Mr. Eiffel is outstanding. The town is gorgeous, and the port has everything nearby, a great place to be. The town is surounded by water, the old canal is still there, the Canal de Briare, the Canal Lateral a la Loire, and of course the River Loire. We spent a lot of time walking around, especially along the river. It is so wild and beautiful on this side of the valley. Our friend Earl came for one night and got to walk the length of the Pont Canal, as well as along the banks of the river. It is at Briare that Skip and Jill joined us on the same day that Earl left. We have been with them for a week and have seen some lovely country and experienced some great things.

We rented bicycles and rode back to Ouzoer sur Trezee along the tow path. It was a gorgeous day, so we took our time. We found a cute little restaurant a had a fabulous lunch. We decided to ride back along the Loire and up to the Pont Canal before returning our bikes. There is an ice cream place by the Pont Canal, so after a day of exertion we felt we deserved a little treat, and it tasted great.

Before leaving Briare, we were given the good news that we could have a spot for the winter. Needless to say, we were very glad, and relieved, since it meant we would no longer have the pressure of having to find something quickly.

It was a treat for Skip and Jill to experience the crossing of the Pont Canal as their first barging experience. It is thrilling going over a river in your boat. We stopped just after it and had lunch on Biesbosch. We continued as far as Chatillon sur Loire where we tied the boat for a couple of hours to walk to the Ecluse de Mantelot, which connected the Old Canal Lateral a la Loire with the river. This lock is a monument, although it is still in operation. We had seen a model of it at the museum of Briare, and were really glad we got to see it.
We continued to Beaulieu, tied the boat after the town bridge, and decided to explore the town the next day.

Bill got up and found a bakery, as he does in every town, got great croissants and bread, we had breakfast, cleaned up the boat and went into town. Beaulieu, although old, is not a particularly interesting town, although it has a charming little church and a few pretty streets. It was Sunday, and we wanted to have lunch out. The restaurant we chose was having an event, so it was closed, but we found another, L'Auberge de la Tour, which despite the slow service, turned out to be very good. After a great lunch, we walked across the canal towards Bonny, over the river. It is true country with cows and sheep. The river is very wide there, but still not navigable.

To be continued. . .

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