|Sancerre's vineyards make a beautiful patchwork|
We were up sharp on Monday (9th April) morning and Mike headed to the Beffes Tourist Info office, which advertised opening at 9am, with the hope that they could flick the water switch and we could fill up before heading off for our first lock at 10am. There was not a soul in sight though, so we headed off, frustrated and hoping that we’d get water somewhere. To add to our frustration, we’d woken to the usual sound of rain on the roof and donned on our waterproofs for a wet cruise. If only we had a waterbutt……..
At the first lock of the day we asked the lock-keeper if there was water at our next stop. No, it wasn’t switched on yet and as with most of the ports wouldn’t be switched on for at least another week. However, he thought it was on at the port at La Chapelle-Montlinard and offered to phone and check. It was on there, so we said we’d take a break for water and were provided with the phone number of the next lock to let them know once we were on our way again. As we filled up I set the washing machine on to get a load at least started and filled a bucket as well to top up a bit once we were underway.
The rain hung around for most of our 4 and a half hour cruise to Champalay, where we stopped on the pretty rural mooring and as soon as we got the pins in, the sun came out – woohooo!! I took advantage to clean off the yellow dust which had been half washed off by the rain and no sooner had wiped down the length and breadth of the boat when the skies darkened and the rain came on for the evening – oh well, at least she’d be really clean. There wasn’t a great internet signal, so Mike stropped about a bit and got on with some work before battening down the hatches for the night and watching a crap film from Billy’s hard-drive. We need to find some DVDs somewhere……
Thankfully the next morning dawned a little brighter, though with a chill in the air, we put the fire on to warm up the boat a bit and set off for today’s target – Sancerre!!! Or rather Menetreol-sous-Sancerre, which is the nearest stop-off to reach Sancerre. Having decided to stay a couple of nights there, we were given the phone number for the next lock, to call ahead when we decided to move on. The little port at Menetreol is free to moor, but 7 euros for water for 24 hours, and 7 euros for electricity for 24 hours. Having filled with water, we didn’t need it and hoped that there’d be enough sun to benefit from our solar. We had a quick wander round the pretty little village, bought a baguette, had some lunch and then set out for our first wine tasting.
We walked back up the canal a bit to Eric Louis, where we were given generous tastings of several of their white wines and quite delicious they were too!
|Don't know where to go for wine? Just follow the signs...|
|Oooooo.... a little bit of each would be very nice thank you!|
|Half of our purchases... yum!|
We purchased a dozen bottles in total, including a treat of the Cuvee du Pauline, named after the great grandmother, and lugged them back to the boat, where we found we now had company as barge Aurigny with Peter and Nicci on board had arrived. We hadn’t met any other boats since leaving Puzzler the previous week, so we were delighted to have some company and arranged to meet for beers in the local bar a bit later.
|The port getting fuller at Menetreol-sous-Sancerre|
|Our local, on the right :)|
Round about 5.30pm, the waterway became like Piccadily Circus with around half a dozen boats zooming past, one hire boat bumping us as they moored behind us, another mooring in front – but then changing their mind and moving on, and a New Zealand couple on a hire boat managed to squeeze in between the other hire boat and Aurigny. Peter and Nicci had sensibly had their dinner before heading to the bar just after 6pm, so after a couple of glasses of wine we asked for menus and had some dinner there which was very good and good value for money too. We were also the first company Aurigny had had for a few days, so after leaving the bar, we accepted an invite for a nightcap and we continued our evening til about midnight!
The next day was sunny, but cool in the shade and as Peter and Nicci set off on their bikes to pick up their car, we set off on foot to Sancerre, perched on a hilltop and surrounded by a patchwork of vineyards. It was a lovely walk along an old railway line and then across the vineyards with a last climb up the steep hill to the town. As it was lunchtime the town was quiet so we did the best thing and went for a leisurely lunch.
|Menetreol has a few interesting old water pumps which were the only way to get fresh water up to the 1950s!|
|Looking down on Menetreol from the old railway line|
|Sancerre on the hill|
|Looking down one of the pretty streets to the vines|
After lunch we wandered around the town a bit more then visited the little museum which included a four-minute 4D film. I’m ashamed to say I squealed quite loudly at the ‘snake’ which came out from under my seat – thankfully we were in there on our own – heh!
|There's also a tractor simulator you can have a shot on!|
The visit finished with a taste of the local produce, which was quite unexpected and very welcome. Last year we were in Chablis region, which is made with the chardonnay grape and which we really enjoyed. Sancerre is made with the sauvignon grape, on four different types of soil, which gives the variety of taste. It’s superb and we’re now interested to buy some more Chablis and do a direct taste between the two! Our next stop in Sancerre was the Feif’s Tower, the last remaining part of the original castle, its 195 steps take you up to the most incredible 360 degree views of Sancerre and the surrounding areas.
|The current chateau at Sancerre|
|Heading back down to the boat through the vineyards|
Our descent from the tower continued into our descent from Sancerre and we began our walk back down to Menetreol, enjoying the views and tranquillity of the vineyards. Back at the port another boat had arrived, Whisper, with Sue and Allen (Australians) on board. After our late night the previous night, we weren’t too fussed for a heavy one, but joined the others for a couple of beers for an hour or so. As ‘regulars’, for two nights anyway, a bowl of whitebait found its way from the kitchen to our table, complements of the proprietor, and as one of only three fish eaters between us, I managed to scoff most it to myself – yum! We then went back to the boat and watched an episode of The City and The City on iPlayer, which Mike almost managed to follow………
The forecast for Thursday was not good, and we were enjoying the company at Menetreol, so we decided to stay put another day. As the heavens opened in the morning, I went with Nicci and Sue to the market at St Satur, had a coffee while waiting for Peter to come back for us, then stopped off at the supermarket to top up our supplies, which were thin on the ground. Mike meanwhile, stayed on board and did some work. The afternoon was spent on board, Mike working and me playing with SmartDraw and designing various options on what we can do with the house to have a layout that is more suitable to our lifestyle and way of living in the house. Mike has also been doing some drawings and although we’ve not compared, have agreed we’re probably going to fall out over it. Both of us will have to compromise over something………
Meanwhile, the other lot went off to Eric Louis to do some tasting, and bought enough to warrant a free bottle (frankly they bought enough to warrant a free case, in my opinion), so an invite to apperos at 5.30pm ‘and it’s only apperos, just for an hour or so….’ said Nicci……….was offered and taken up. Figuring one bottle wouldn’t really go that far between six of us, we took a bottle along and some nibbles, to find Sue and Allen had had the same thought. We drank all our bottles, plus a couple more at least, I think, and at one point I came back for more nibbles……. I think it was after 9pm when we left……. And a few minutes after that that Mike misjudged the distance between Quaintrelle and the quayside and almost got a dunking! The thing is, in his defence (mwuahahahahahahaaa……), the quayside has a sloping wall, so we had to sit Quaintrelle quite far out or she tippled (well, rather Mike than her – mwuahahahahahaha), and we’d find all the drawers on the port side opening up and we’d list horribly to starboard. So it was quite a step onto her, and in his, shall we say, vulnerable state, he didn’t quite make it, but did manage to hang on (thank the lord for good handrails) and only one leg went in, mid-shin deep.
The trousers and shoes were put on the stove, and Mike was put to bed. I wasn’t long after him………
None to crisp the next morning we got up and got ready to move on. Aurigny were also heading off but Whisper was staying another night as they’d had word that paint they’d ordered had arrived at Corbigny and were driving over to collect it.
|Peter and Nicci heading off and Sue and Allen staying put behind us|
We cruised for 10 minutes then pulled over at the supermarket for some diesel, then as we left called the lock-keeper to let him know we were on our way. It went through to an answering machine, so I left a message and we continued on. 50 minutes later we arrived at the lock and there was no sign of anyone. We waited and as time ticked onto ‘Lunchtime’, we settled down to wait until 1pm, using the time to forage some wood for the fire. By 1.10pm there was still no sign of anyone pitching up, so I rang again – a different number that was posted on the hut at the lock, and this time I got the lock-keeper who said he’d be there in 10 minutes. 30 minutes later he arrived and put us through the lock – one of the less communicative of the VNF workforce, he didn’t do the usual, “where are you going? When will you stop? When will you start tomorrow? “ but merely grunted and pointed in a forward direction at each lock…. At the third and our last, I said, “Monsieur, on s’arrette a Lere pour ce soir, et continuer demain.” He grunted, said “Au Revoir,” as we left and we guessed that at the first lock of the next day we’d just have to wait til we got there and make a phone call.
|The port at Lere under a pretty evening sky|
|Big tree reflections|
Which is exactly what we had to do this morning. We spent a quiet night at Lere, a pretty village, where we managed to fill up with water, but their power wasn’t switched on. It was a non-alcohol day (surprise, surprise), and after binging on the last three episodes of The City and The City, we headed to bed fairly early, only to wake up on a complete tilt as the pound had lowered during the night and we were sat on a pile of silt! After straightening her up, we had our weekend bacon butties and headed off around 11am. We reached the lock at Belleville at 11.20am and the lock was set for us, so we pulled into it and went to the hut armed with the phone. The lock-keeper answered and explained he was locking through another boat at the next lock and would come to us straight after.
As it reached the magic lunchtime, 12 noon, we realised we’d be waiting til 1pm. This time we used the time to make use of the tap at the lockside and topped the tank up as I’d washed some bedding this morning as we cruised. I don’t know – it’s flood or famine with the water on this canal…….
Give him his due, the eclusier arrived just before 1pm and apologised that we’d had to wait, but it was just the timing – I said it wasn’t a problem. We weren’t in a hurry and we only had a short way to go to our next stop – Beaulieu. Which is where we are now, Mike is doing some work whilst listening to York City cock up another football game and I’m – well, obviously, I’m doing this!
It’s now two weeks since we left Roanne and it’s been lovely pootling along this beautiful section of canal, although the weather could be better. Mike has had his shorts on twice. I need my legs waxed….. :)