Day 23: Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses to Briare

Walking in France: All quiet in Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses

All quiet in Rogny

Thursday, 2 July 2015
Distance 22 km
Duration 4 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 16 m, descent 29 m
Map 128 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

We left the charming but silent camping ground of Rogny at 6:45 am, munching our bread and cheese.

It was good that we had this marching food with us, as there was nothing open in the village for refreshments when we walked past.

Walking in France: Mystery solved

Mystery solved

We set off towards the dry flight of locks, wondering how the canal could possibly continue past it, when to our surprise we saw that it now went to the right on a much shallower gradient.

There were locks, but no multiple ones. The water was glassy in the early morning light, reflecting moored boats, lock-keepers’ cottages and small stone bridges.

Walking in France: Early morning on the canal

Early morning on the canal

Walking in France: Crossing the old Canal of Briare

Crossing the old canal

After half an hour we came to the junction of the old canal bed with the new one, where a rusty disused warehouse stood, a relic of the heyday of trade along the canal.

As we approached the highest point of the canal there were artificial lakes on either side of us, constructed to feed water into the locks.

The air was warm, heavy and humid, mosquitoes rose in whining multitudes, biting flies attacked us and we were burdened with a overwhelming lethargy. I tried to fan myself with the map but could feel nothing.

Walking in France: Swatting mosquitoes beside the Canal of Briare

Swatting mosquitoes

We were beginning to wonder whether we had somehow lost our health and strength, when at the topmost lock, almost from one step to the next, the air became fresh and breezy and our energy returned.

The locks were now facing the other way and we pressed on happily for another hour.

Walking in France: River Trézée flowing into the Canal of Briare

River Trézée flowing into the canal

The river Trézée followed along beside us until it flowed into the canal and the two went along as one.

The canal coalesced with the river on this straight section, but diverged on a more sinuous stretch lower down, rejoining two or three kilometres later.

When we reached Ouzouer-sur-Trézée there was a high road bridge leading into the village, but from the towpath it was tricky to see how to cross the canal. A man walking his dog obligingly showed us.

Walking in France: At ease in the main street of Ouzouer-sur-Trézée

At ease in the main street of Ouzouer-sur-Trézée

Once in the steeply rising main street we found a boulangerie but there was a sign on the door saying that it would open on Monday the 13th of July. We took that to mean that was presently closed, and turned away in disappointment.

Fortunately for us, a local woman arrived at that moment and explained that because of Bastille Day, the shop would be opening on the Monday before, when it would normally be closed. She pushed the door and it opened, to our great relief.

We got two croissants and a pain au chocolat and carried them across the street to the bar. Squeezed into a tiny table on the footpath, we indulged in our first coffee of the day.

Walking in France: Second breakfast

Second breakfast

It was pleasant in the shade of the building, with an assortment of locals coming and going. (The barman said there was a terrace at the back but it was in the sun at the moment.)

Walking in France: Crossing the second join of the Trézée and the Canal of Briare

Crossing the second join of the Trézée and the canal

Well satisfied with our little break, we resumed our descent on the canal and after an hour or so we came to the junction of the original Canal de Briare and the more recent Canal Lateral à la Loire, which was built 200 years afterwards, when the Loire became hard to navigate due to silting.

This spur of the lateral canal was needed to allow barges to cross the Loire on a high aqueduct out of reach of floods. The old canal, which was also the Trézée, kept going and emptied into the Loire lower down.

Walking in France: Junction of the Canal de Briare and the Canal Lateral à la Loire

Junction of the Canal de Briare and the Canal Lateral à la Loire

Walking in France: The beautiful and impressive Briare pont-canal spanning the Loire river

The beautiful and impressive Briare pont-canal spanning the Loire river

We walked another three kilometres past houses and bridges before we arrived at the famous pont-canal, a handsome and ingenious metal edifice designed by Gustave Eiffel and opened in 1896.

At the time it was the longest navigable aqueduct in the world and it remained so until 2002.

We had seen it before on our previous walk down the Loire (2006), and it was as impressive as ever.

Leaving the canal and pressing on into the streets, we soon found ourselves in the church square, an enormous tree-lined expanse full of bars and restaurants, a big contrast with the steep, narrow street at Ouzouer.

Walking in France: Out of the scorching heat in Briare

Out of the scorching heat in Briare

By that time it was midday. It was searingly hot and everyone was under an awning or an umbrella, but we found a table in the solid shade of the wall, which was even better.

We ordered coffee and got two more croissants, and that was lunch.

Walking in France: Lunch in the church square, Briare

Lunch in the church square, Briare

We were very glad that our walk was nearly over for the day, as it was no time to be out and about. The last kilometre or so to the camping ground was quite enough of a challenge.

Walking in France: Port de Plaisance, Briare

Port de Plaisance, Briare

We walked around the Port de Plaisance, as wide as a lake with its moored boats and its line of small restaurants, then onward beside the Loire in the blazing sun until we finally came to the camping ground.

The gates were open but the office was closed, so we went in and chose a spot near the ablutions block.

Walking in France: A vain attempt to get cool

A vain attempt to get cool

There were scores of caravans and tents set up, but the place was so large that it still seemed half empty. The grass was green, the trees and bushes shady, but we sweltered all afternoon – there was no escape from the furnace-like air.

Nevertheless it was a lot better than trudging on to Gien, and after delicious showers we kept our wet towels handy to refresh ourselves periodically. We gave Bert a shower too, as he had become rather grimy.

Walking in France: A clean Bert

A clean Bert

As the afternoon dragged on, the heat weighed on our spirits and we decided to walk back to town before we became completely morose. When we got to the exit gate it was 7:10 pm, which was when we discovered that the office had closed at 7 o’clock. It would be a free night’s accommodation.

Back at the Port de Plaisance, streaming with sweat, we sought refuge in a brasserie with a deep awning and several yellow umbrellas. Cold glasses of pastis and rosé improved our mood wonderfully.

Walking in France: Slightly cool at dinner

Slightly cool at dinner

Across the road were the boats, lined up prettily under a row of trees, and a slight movement of air off the water wafted over to us.

At about 8 o’clock we began our dinner. First we shared a mountainous salade niçoise, with which our host kindly provided an extra plate.

After that we had pasta – I had spaghetti bolognese and Keith had fettucine carbonara.

I told the waiter that the former was called spag bol in English, and he laughed and replied that in French our two dishes were tag bolo and tag carbo.

Walking in France: A magnificent salade niçoise to start our dinner

A magnificent salade niçoise to start our dinner

A woman at the next table spoke to us in English – she thought, mistakenly, that she had seen us on bikes earlier in the day.

They were Norwegians from Bergen and it turned out that they were on bikes themselves, doing a month-long ride from Dijon, along the Canal of Burgundy and then across to the Loire and down it, not unlike our route.

Walking in France: Tag bolo and tag carbo for mains

Tag bolo and tag carbo for mains

They were staying in hotels and today they had wisely had a rest day in their air-conditioned room.

With what remained of the spag bol and the bread, I made some flaccid sandwiches for our marching food tomorrow, as we hoped to leave very early.