Loire and Sancerre


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Guest Reviews

Le Guetin to Briare - Loire and Sancerre barge cruise

Highlights: Le Guetin and Briare aqueducts - Wine tasting - Sancerre, Pouilly Fume & Pouilly Fuisse and a drive through its vineyards - Sample Crottin de Chavignol goats cheese -  Medieval book town of Charite sur Loire - Magnificent Chateau St. Fargeau

This fabulous six night Loire barge cruise starts at Le Guetin aqueduct and ends by crossing France's most photographed one at Briare. You'll tour vineyards growing Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and Pouilly Fuisse, sampling some of its fine wines along the way. We'll also enjoy some gorgeous 'Crottin de Chavignol' cheeses and Charollais beef that make this region so famous. Other than wonderful cruising, you'll discover the stunning gardens and immaculate riverside village of Apremont, the medieval book town of Charite sur Loire, the impressive Chateau St. Fargeau and waterways capital of Briare.


You'll join Nilaya at around 4pm on Saturday afternoon after Isabelle or I pick you up from the train station in Nevers. After settling in and freshening up, you can explore 'Le Guetin' aqueduct with its double step canal lock raising boats from the downstream end where we'll likely be moored. After  enjoying our champagne welcome aboard, you're dining ashore at your own expense. There's a couple of nice eateries right by the aqueduct a short stroll away.


After an extensive breakfast, we'll head of in our luxury minivan and visit the beautiful riverside village and gardens of 'Apremont sur Allier'. En route, we'll stop and view an intriguing piece of canal architecture. A circular canal lock that used to lift barges from the River Allier up into the canal above, but now long since abandoned. After a light lunch aboard, we'll cast off and enjoy an afternoon cruise on the 'Canal lateral a la Loire' through some wonderful rural countryside to the old river port of Marseilles les Aubigny. It offers an eclectic collection of boats and barges in varying states of disrepair but is always a fascinating place to explore. There's also an excellent cycle path along the banks of the nearby River Loire should you fancy stretching your legs. You might even discover a secret little 'Guinguette' we can tell you allowing providing an opportunity to swap cycle clips for dancing shoes along the way! In the evening, Isabelle and I will prepare a wonderful dinner aboard, hopefully served alfresco on our teak sundeck.


Today's destination is the small canal side village of Herry. After a light lunch aboard we have a couple of options this afternoon. One might be to visit the Chateau of Menetou Salon or the other choice, a visit the medieval book town of La Charite sur Loire. As part of one of the routes to Compostello in Spain, the town was founded in the 8th century. It's Priory and Church are both Unesco world heritage monuments and you'll enjoy wandering its narrow streets and the wonderful 16th century bridge that spans the wide Loire below the town. In the evening I plan for us to dine ashore, sharing the bill at a wonderful nearby farm specialising in regional produce and in particular home made Fois Gras. Weather permitting we'll dine outside in the old farms beautiful courtyard garden and if possible ask our charming hostess for a tour of the property and her amazing collection of farmyard friends including an emu or two!


Setting out after a hearty French breakfast, this morning we enjoy a short cruise through to the small canal halt at 'Menetreol sur Sancerre'. The name says it all really because high above our mooring lies the quaint hill top town of Sancerre. This part of the Loire produces some of France's finest wines so after a light regional lunch aboard we'll drive out into the surrounding countryside touring the vineyards responsible for production of the fabulous Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and Pouilly Fuisse wines. You'll get a chance to visit a couple of local producers along the way plus stop in the village of 'Chavignol', home to the wonderful little 'Crottin' goats cheeses. During the course of the afternoon, you might even pick up the odd bottle, cheese and some crusty bread choosing to continue your own private 'cheese and wine party' on deck as the sun sets? If not, our best suggestion is the excellent 'La Tour' restaurant high on the hill in Sancerre. We'd be delighted to drop you off and / or pick you up if you wish. One way or the other, dinner tonight is at your own expense.


We leave Sancerre behind us this morning, cruising the 'Canal lateral a Loire' downstream towards a wild canal bank mooring near the tiny hamlet of 'Lere'. En route, while in the lock at 'les Houards' I'll pop across the road and purchase some excellent goats cheese produced by the farm right there. After another of our carefully selected regional lunches aboard, this afternoons drive sees us visit the impressive small town and Chateau St. Fargeau. The castle dominates the place and we'll have a chance to explore both. There's also a fantastic 'Patissier Glacier' or ice cream shop just in case the weather's hot! If you fancy doing something a little offbeat instead this afternoon, we might be able to arrange a private tour of the nearby nuclear power station? You'll need plenty of ID but if you've never been inside one of these plants, it's fascinating! Isabelle and I will cook you a fabulous dinner on board tonight.


Cruising from Lere after breakfast, we'll pass through Chatillon sur Loire, possibly even stopping for lunch and opportunity to explore. Today provides one of the highlights of this weeks cruise, namely crossing the 'Le pont-canal de Briare' or Briare aqueduct. Built in part by Gustave Eiffel of tower fame, it's an engineering triumph and one of the most photographed waterways features in France. Built to bridge the Loire at the end of the 1800's, it's design even included electrical power generation for the lighting! Once slowly across, we'll double back and moor in the old port in the centre of town. During the afternoon you are free to explore this pleasant little place, re cross the aqueduct or wander the lovely paths laid out by the river and canals that criss cross the town. Tonight you can dine ashore at one of Briare's many simple eateries at your own expense.


You'll be leaving Nilaya after breakfast with most guests heading to Paris from Briare's mainline railway station a short walk from the barge.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Unforeseen circumstances sometimes affect our cruising schedule. These can include, but are not limited to: illness, floods, weather, canal closures, canal maintenance, lack of moorings, bureaucracy, strikes, civil disturbance, acts of god, the engine, and whims and fancies of both skipper, guests and crew. All of these things might cause last minute changes to the above and cruise routes. Although rare, we reserve the right to alter any and all routes accordingly. Flexibility is the name of the game and any such changes cannot be considered grounds for cancellation of the cruise.