Barge Cruise Photographs
The Intrepid Crew:
Here are the four people who guided us through our first barge cruise: Cedric (guide), Jonno (chef), Angelique (hostess), and Gaetan (captain).
Angelique practiced her English while she put the rest of us through our paces in French.
Angelique clowned around and kept everything from ever getting too serious.
Cedric was constantly on the move. He would advance the minivan, go shopping when necessary, and prearrange our visits; and he would rejoin us mid-cruise from all directions.
In addition to creating amazing meals with local foodstuffs, Jonno also helped Gavin when Gaetan was not around as he learned the surprisingly tricky techniques necessary to keep the Barge moving in a straight line.
Gavin with Gaetan our captain, and Gavin's chess partner, and Jonno relaxing after a pleasant day of cruising, sightseeing, and eating and drinking like royalty.
Our fellow passengers, joined by Ange, wore ties for the captain's final meal. The feast was a more than worthy send-off.
The Cruise:
The ancient fortified entrance to the town of Nevers. The city is home to one of the great faience factory's in France, and the cobalt blue porcelain is famous nationwide.
A rare look at the 4th Century baptismal found in the basement of the local cathedral after a bomb dropped during WWII fell into the church and blew a part of the floor to pieces.
A classic view of the canal from the perspective of the barge's helm. A little of the abundantly available wine was the perfect complement to the gentle progress of the boat.
A quick look at our accomodations. Living on the barge wasn't exactly roughing it.
Sancerre is one of the great Burgundy vineyards, set in the valley of the upper Loire.
Sancerre's cave: although we learned that whites are left in the bottle no longer than six years ideally, they had reds in here from the turn of the last century.
The cooperage of Sancerre's wine barrels means a great deal to the final outcome of the wine, as we learned.
If we approached a lock on the canal between 12:00 and 1:00, we waited until the lockmaster completed his or her lunch before we could move on.
Another of the region's great vineyards is Pouilly Fuisse. You can taste as much as you like so long as someone in your group buys something.
In the evenings, if there was time, we would play Boule. Cedric played with aplomb and judged the epic matches.
Despite ample opportunity to practice, we never improved our technique sufficiently so that we could legitimately compete against the crew's superior skills.
Gien was another of the beautiful towns that we came across during the trip, and it is host to another of the great faience factories.
The entrance to the canal bridge above and across the actual Loire river: a more dramatic approach to Briare is difficult to imagine.
Our barge, the Bon Vivant, crossed the bridge easily with Sue and our fellow passengers enjoying the view.
The bridge was designed and built by the Eiffel firm famous, of course, for Paris' landmark tower.
As we crossed the Eiffel bridge, Briare appeared on the Loire's opposite bank; and so did the end of our cruise.