Thursday, 11 October 2012

Canal Du Centre & a Potty Full of Rain!

French canals have very matter-of-fact names. The Canal Du Centre is indeed in the centre of France. The Canal Lateral a Loire translates as "The Canal alongside the Loire". Which it is. And you can probably guess which two towns the Canal de Roanne a Digion runs between.

Anyway, we have been on the Canal Du Centre, and boy, have we seen some weather!

Being a luxurious type of boat, we have an outdoor potty, for when Emma can't quite get indoors quickly enough. It's about 12cm deep and after one 24 hours+ of non-stop rain, it overflowed. That's how much weather we've seen!

Stephen, between rain storms
But, it wasn't all like that and we have seen some fabulous countryside too (and some sunshine). It is all very rural here and most houses we pass have chickens, a veg patch and maybe some ducks too. The gardens remind my of the sort of garden my maternal grandparents and great-grandmother had, in Yaxley, Suffolk.

Dodging the rain, we stopped off at the Canal Museum in Ecuisses. There also used to be a tile factory in the village, making polychromatic tiles, so the museum covered that too.

The main part of the museum is housed in an old peniche, and once inside it is truly amazing how much space there is. Of course, it would have nearly all been used for cargo - the cabins and galley were also re-created and were tiny; much smaller than on our own boat.

Emma playing in the museum garden
The Musee in a Peniche.
All the locks on the first half of the Canal du Centre are called "Ocean 1" "Ocean 2" etc (Why didn't I take a picture of the sign for Ocean 11?) as the water drains into the Atlantic Ocean. Once you reach the highest point, the naming system changes and all the locks are "Mediterranean 1" "Mediterranean 2" as that's were the water drains to. All of a sudden and in a torrential downpour, we were officially heading towards the Med!

Countryside along the Canal du Centre
Actually, we only went a couple of locks further, as we have revised our original plan and decided to winter the boat in Roanne, rather than taking it down the Rhone to the Med. Various reasons for the decision - cost of mooring on the Med, the fact that with the high rainfall the Rhone would be very fast running, so risk of damage to the boat and (worse case scenario) maybe us too.

However, going to Spain for the winter is still on the agenda, but not by boat, and not just yet.

Next stop was Paray Le Monial, a place of religious pilgrimage for many. It has 34 convents, apparently, although we only saw one nun. It is a very beautiful town with an amazingly light and airy Church, dating from the 11th/12th century.

Church at Paray Le Monial

We were back into good weather again, which meant we had a lovely time strolling around the town and were able to sit outside at a cafe, watch the world go by and get an ice-cream for Emma.

Next stop - the aforementioned Canal de Roanne a Digion; our winter base.

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