Saturday, August 5, 2017

Loing and Briare Canals

Moret sur Loing is a very picturesque town set on the Loing River. The old mills on the river have inspired a number of painters over the centuries and the town is also renowned as being the place where barley sugar was invented.

Lovely town of Moret Sur Loing
Watermill on the Loing River in Moret
Old mill now the Moret museum

We stayed here for a couple of days but as mooring space was restricted we moved on to the very picturesque Loing Canal. Our next stop was Nemours which was due to have its Medieval festival the next day but as mooring space was again scarce and it was going to rain anyway we decided to push on.

Getting ready for the Medieval Fair in Nemours
Old canal in Nemours

Neronville, our next stop, was just a hamlet and the mooring was next to a picnic spot. A pretty tranquil spot for the night. Even though it was drizzling we still managed a walk along the pretty towpath.

Lock keepers house on the Loing in Néronville
Tranquil mooring in Néronville

Our next stop was Montargis, which we approached with some trepidation. We had heard some pretty bad stories about this place especially from a boating perspective. There were tales of youths jumping on boats, bikes and other unsecured items on the deck being stolen. Rather than stay in the marina, which a lockkeeper had already told us was full, we opted to moor on the Quay outside the police station. It was well lit and there were security cameras. We figured no one would be dumb enough to steal anything here. We woke the next morning to find all our gear still on the boat.Montargis is quite a pretty town and with its system of canals in the old town it calls itself the Venice of the Gaitinais. It is also renowned for its praline so I had to make a visit to the famous shop where it all started. Monsieur Eiffel was also here putting his name to the bridge over the canal.

Praslines were invented in Montargis
Canals in the historic part of Montargis
Monsieur Eiffel’s bridge across the canal
Reference to the waterways through Montargis – Venice of the gatinais

As we approached Briare we were coming to a section of the canal that had been built during King Henri IV’s reign in the 1600s. These old locks were a lot smaller than the current Freycinet but it’s incredible to think that the principle has been around for so many years. The first evidence of these old locks was at Dammarie sur Loing and then again at Rogny les Sept Ecluses. As the name suggests there were originally seven locks in a row, what are called staircase locks. These locks have now been replaced by six bigger locks at a greater spacing than the original.

Waiting for the lock keepers to have their lunch
One of Henri IVs old locks
The original staircase locks at Rogny Les Sept Ecluses
Rogny Les Sept Ecluses
From Rogny it was a short cruise to our final destination on this canal to Briare. We had met Dorothée, the harbourmaster, at the DBA rally and she had organised a good spot for us right across the road from the best restaurant in town, Le Petit St Trop. And of course we had to try it!
Briare is very picturesque at the junction of the canal and the Loire river so there are many waterways and lovely walks. They also have a weekly market and while we were there they had a Vide Grenier. This literally is empty the attic and is much like the car boot sales in the U.K. and “trash or treasure” type markets in Australia. So you never know what gem you may find. Unfortunately there weren’t any gems for us to buy at this one. 

This chateau is now the town hall
The wash house in Briare
The Loire River at Briare
Looking from the port to the hire boat base
Briare port is divided into 2 sections by a lock. This is the lower port

There was also a party at the commercial port with food, drink and music. 

The girls got into the action with their upbeat tunes
Apparently the French were the first to wear kilts!

Briare is also noted for its mosaics. This is especially evident in the church which has mosaics everywhere, courtesy of a local ceramics manufacturer. There are also several shopfronts with mosaic work on them.

The church in Briare with mosaics and enamel work on the outside
All of the floor area is in mosaic tiles

Mosaic shop front

However, the Briare Pont Canal is the most impressive thing about Briare and this canal. This 662m long aqueduct was completed in 1896 and until 2003 it was the longest navigable aqueduct in the world. Monsieur Eiffel also played a role in its construction being responsible for the masonry work. This aqueduct replaced a river level crossing that was very dangerous when the Loire was in flood.

The Loire river from the aqueduct
View as we cruised across
A hire boat navigates its way across the one way aqueduct

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