Upper Loire Region
Loire — called
“the last wild river in France” — wends its way among the
country estates of former French kings.
river is wild, it can rise to the
brims of its levees in the wet season and shrink to a shallow
stream in the dry. Because of this mercurial
aspect, cruises in the Upper Loire region go instead via the Canal
Latéral à la Loire and typically begin at Briare.
tours which originate at Auxerre,
on the nearby Yonne River in western Burgundy, travel on that river or
its alternate route, the Canal du Nivernais. It makes sense to plan a
trip with an eye to the weather. We went once in late June
during a heat wave and, although the châteaux and such were
beautiful, it was hot as Texas.
barges are converted cargo haulers which can
offer quite a luxurious experience: floating hotels where the passenger
is fed and
pampered in grand style. Aboard one 100-foot barge, for example, eight
passengers are attended
by a crew of five.
tours offer superb passenger
comforts, but many
prefer to rent/hire a self-drive
boat. Despite some sacrifice in
luxury, they have the opportunity to be captain of
the craft and set the course and timetable as their own whims dictate.
barges and self-drive boats have several
options. Going downriver on the Yonne takes you to the Seine and Paris,
and beyond that to Normandy.
Cruising upriver (south) one can
go as far as Clemency, or take the Canal du Nivernais
every direction there are plentiful
cruise Central France’s canals and rivers. Many begin at Briare,
crossing the Loire via the famous Briare Aqueduct, for years the
longest canal bridge in the world, then head south on the Canal
Latéral à la Loire.
a relatively low population La-Charité-sur-Loire
is large enough to offer a full range of restaurants and shopping, but
small enough to be relatively free of congestion. Centrally located and
convenient to highways, we found it an excellent place to stay.
to some interesting classic architecture and an important stop for many
pilgrims en route to Santiago de
offers a lot to draw your attention. Not least is the convent where Saint Bernadette
of Lourdes lived and served.
is a village that looks almost as if the last two or three centuries
hadn’t passed. A
château on the hill dominates the area, its grounds having
been developed into a fine garden. The village is
located a fairly short drive from Nevers.
attraction at Sully-sur-Loire
is its superb 14th-century moated fortress, built on a site which has
been one of the few bridge crossings of the Loire since Roman
times. The commune itself is an interesting place to browse shops and
relax in an outdoor café.
most striking feature of Gien
is its famous bridge of 12 arches, commissioned by Anne of France,
daughter of the “Spider King,” as Louis
XI was known. Also interesting is her château on a ridge
above the river, now a museum of hunting.
castles in Germany’s Middle
Central France’s Loire Valley region is known for its wealth of châteaux.
Some are open to the public, some converted into luxury hotels, still
others privately owned and tucked away in relative obscurity.
travel by canal barge, automobile, or
self-drive cabin cruiser, a trip through
Central France takes you by quaint villages and pastoral countryside,
a landscape dotted with the regions's famous Charolais cattle
and, of course, many vineyards.