We started Sunday, our last day with Susan, camped out just past the canal bridge over the Allier river (very close to where it merges with the Loire). We ate an early breakfast of oefs brouillés (scrambled eggs) with champignons (mushrooms), fromage (cheese) and lardons (hard to translate), then set sail (“set motor” just doesn’t sound romantic enough) for the city of Nevers.
Written records for Nevers go all the way back to 52 BC, when one Julius Caesar rolled through and made Noviodunum a storage depot for his war materiel. The city next entered the history books in the 5th century, when it was made the seat of a bishop. A thousand years later the Dukes of Nevers built a big palace near the cathedral, and for the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries Nevers prospered. It declined somewhat in importance after that, to where Nevers is now just a smal city in the approximate geographic center of France.
Susan took us to lunch at a nice pizza place on the main town square – plenty of people-watching – and then we wandered the city for some window shopping. Her husband secretly arranged with me so that we’d only visit shopping districts on Sundays, when everything in France is closed. Good call Greg!
That evening we met some fun folks on a charter boat in the Nevers marina. Three of them were licensing experts (two were independent and one worked for Sony) by way of Lucas Studios, and the fourth owned a charter sailboat in Grenada. We had a great happy hour talking about all the fun places in the Lesser Antilles (the Caribbean islands). It all started because I was wearing a Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” t-shirt late afternoon when I walked over to the Capitainerie, and one of them (Bob) commented that he liked the shirt, and that started the conversation about how my friend made the shirts – under license, of course – and then he said he was in licensing and then their skipper came on deck wearing a regatta T-shirt from a Caribbean sailboat race and that was all it took. And FYI, Susan’s a big sailboat racer, so everyone had a lot to talk about.
Monday morning the alarm gave us the jolt at a very uncivilized hour, and it was time to get Susan to the station for her 5:50am train to Paris. Local tip; don’t trust the taxi service in Nevers. We had carefully arranged a 5:00am pickup at the marina the previous evening, but 5:15am came and went with no cab so we hopped on our bikes and rode, with luggage, approximately two miles to the Nevers train station. The rest of the day we did laundry and chores and then continued south with the boat, stopping in Chevenon. A friend had recommended a restaurant there, which was (naturally) closed Monday.
We did take time to ride into the village, where we stumbled upon a 14th century fortified castle, Château Chevenon. What continues to strike me about rural France is the sheer number of châteaux everywhere. There must be thousands. This one had no sign (other than a plaque in the village identifying it as a 14th century château), no indication that it was occupied, nothing to give a hint of the events that must have taken place here. It was just sitting there, down a small road from the center of the village. It appeared to be a gorgeous example of a fortified castle, in excellent condition, and anywhere else in the world this would be a major tourist attraction, but here, 15km south of Nevers, it was just part of the scenery.
Tuesday we moved on to Fleury-sur-Loire, where we caught up with Bob and Lynn on Tracker, and they graciously let us tie up to them as the anchorage was completely full. We enjoyed a group happy hour, catching up on our travels since we last saw each other towards the end of our spring trip, and then retired to our boat for dinner.
Wednesday we arrived at our 9am lock appointment to find Paul and Susan on Gulliver, a modern steel boat done in the classic péniche style. We shared the locks with them to Decize, arriving in time for Heather to get a load of laundry started at the big Intermarché supermarket before lunchtime. At this point in our trip, with less than a week on the boat remaining, we needed to start thinking about what we were going to leave onboard, and get everything cleaned and bagged. We did manage a happy hour onboard Gulliver, they certainly have an amazing story. Paul and Susan left San Diego in 1982 on their sailboat, and didn’t get back until 26 years later! They were expert sailmakers, so were able to find work in anchorages all around the world. They spent 14 years in the South Pacific alone. In the mid 2000′s, they traded sailing for canal boating, and now live in France. Truly an amazing couple to chat with, we’re so glad we bumped into them. We had actually seen their boat this past spring parked on the Canal du Centre, flying a big American flag, and were hoping to meet them someday. Inspirational story.
Thursday morning Heather hopped a train back to Nevers to rent a car, and I started the cruise up the Nivernais Canal, stopping in Cercy-la-Tour. Heather was back with the car by the time I arrived just before lunch. Because our winter spot in Baye is so remote (no trains or buses or even taxis), we needed to rent a car to both get around in Baye and to get from there back to Paris. Europcar prices are quite reasonable; a one-way, one-week rental, Nevers to Paris, unlimited mileage, was less than $200 US. And the car is a diesel, so it gets close to 50 miles per gallon. Why they don’t have these type of cars in the USA is a rant for another day.
Friday morning dawned a gorgeous blue France fall day, and we cruised all the way to Fleury, then enjoyed a nice 21km bike ride to get the car. Saturday we continued into Châtillon-en-Bazois, a beautiful stop with free water and electricity courtesy of the town. The mooring is also directly below a gorgeous château. One bizarre bit of trivia about the town, from French Wikipedia; native son Pierre Rousseau, born 1863, was the chief cook on the Titanic and was lost in the sinking.
Sunday morning we started our cruise back to Baye for our winter mooring. The day was misty and chilly, not quite the final day of travel for our 2012 cruise season we had hoped for, but we soaked in the experience nonetheless, sad that it would be mid 2013 before we return to Après Ski to continue our journey through the French canals. We remembered the new friends we’ve made and the old friends we met again, including John and Karen on Chateau Dux, Tom and Lou on Herkelina, Arthur and Barbara on Ichtus, Bob and Lynn on Tracker, Ron and Lynn of the French countryside near Cluny, Wendy and Roger on Izula, Bruce and Yerda on Rival, Martin and Sue on Babushka, Paul and Susan on Gulliver, and David, Liz, Jeni, Ken and Roland on Mornington Croissant, who were very patient to help us with proper English lessons. We’ve also made some fun acquaintances with folks on charter boats, as well as various guests on the above live-aboards. Sadly there are a few folks notable by their absence on the canals this summer (for various reasons), including Susan and Jack of Aegir, and Eric and Sudi of OldTimer.
And of course we can’t close without mentioning Marianne and Jean-Pierre and their family, from near Dijon, they treated us incredibly kindly and were responsible for some of our favorite and most cherished memories of 2012.
This year’s cruise has reinforced why we bought the boat, we had so much fun that we seriously didn’t want to leave. Although we have a lot of great adventures coming up, including a partial ski season at Beaver Creek, we truly cannot wait to get back to France.
Fall 2012 Week 5 Numbers:
- Kilometers: 119
- Locks: 46
- Engine Hours: 25
- Cost of Moorings: 0.00 euros
Fall 2012 Total Numbers:
- Kilometers: 402
- Locks: 133
- Engine Hours: 82
- Cost of Moorings: 63.00 euros