France Bike & Barge – Day 4

Due to the high temperatures expected today (it has been hot all week), everyone agreed that we should depart at 8:00 A.M. to get a head start on the sweating.

Today’s ride was 28.4 miles @ an average speed of 9.27 mph. My GPS said it was 79 degrees, but I think it was well into the 90’s.

This morning’s riding started out in the countryside and we stayed there for a good portion of the day.

Our next fixer-upper?

This isn’t a great picture, but it was a gorgeous morning for a hot-air balloon to be up. It followed us -or we followed it- for quite a while. It made me think about the time I was able to go up in a hot-air balloon and then I nearly fell off my bike when I realized that it was 50 years ago!

We stopped for a water break near this church, but we couldn’t go inside.

We were riding down a back country road when I realized that an oncoming car would give me a great picture to show how narrow these roads were. I was impressed at how considerate most of the drivers were when they had to pass us.

This is the Église Saint-Martin d’Ouzouer-sur-Trézée. The church was first built in the 11th century, with the sanctuary “already” getting a remodel in the late 1100’s into the early 1200’s.

I was fascinated by how old the pews looked. Also, the “singing ladies” of the tour lifted their voices here, singing Hallelujah. They were delighted when Mike briefly joined in…so was I. He rarely sings in public, but I don’t think he could resist.

A bit later we were riding along and saw this rather plain-looking building through some gates. I was right behind Frederieke and just past this entrance, she glanced back over her shoulder in that direction and SCREECH! The brakes went on. We almost had a pile-up crash scene of 15 riders worthy of Tour de France coverage.

It turns out she had glimpsed a chateau through the greenery behind the fence. We turned around and even though the sign out front said “private property” -we followed our merry Pied Piper right in through the gates.

This is the Chateau de Pont-Chevron. It is actually a newer one -finished in 1900. It is now used for weddings and other events such as seminars or conventions. As you can probably imagine, it might take a line of credit on your house to stay in the cottage accommodations on the property.

We finally saw the Loire River for the first time this week by weaving our way into Gien from the back side using some lesser traveled roads.

It was a market day and the city was hopping. We stopped near the old bridge, along the riverfront promenade.

There has been a bridge at this location since well before the year 1000, but the current bridge was completed in the 1700’s.

I was very impressed by the size of the Plane trees that were planted along the riverside promenade. These trees were introduced in France in 1770, mainly as a source of firewood. They grow to between 100 and 150 feet tall. Napoleon actually ordered that Plane trees (and other trees that grow tall) be planted along the roads to provide shade for his marching troops.

We had about an hour to eat and walk around the area. Frederieke had mentioned some steps going up to the castle above the town, but we couldn’t find them.

When it was time to go, we had another stop to make before we said goodby to Gien. Frederieke took us to see the factory outlet store for Gien Pottery/Ceramics.

Gien Pottery was founded in 1821. The area was perfect for this because clay and other materials were abundant around Gien. The Loire was convenient for transportation of the wood needed to run the kilns. Also, the city itself was a crossroads for trade, so the pottery could be shipped to other places.

I really enjoyed seeing all the various designs and techniques used on the Gien pieces. The designs ranged from very traditional to very modern art styles.

Mike decided he’d sit outside so that I couldn’t buy anything. 😆 (He was the only one carrying money on the daily rides.)

After the pottery store, we rode back through Gien and over the bridge. I managed to grab a quick shot of the river while riding.

We stopped briefly on the other side so that we could make sure everyone had made it safely over the bridge. Once again, the Plane trees caught my admiring glance.

One last look at Gien across the river.

The picture below is of a public well in a small city we were passing through. It is hard to see, but what caught my eye was the wood that the chain would wrap around as the bucket is pulled up. It looked simply ancient. I don’t think the well was operational anymore -but I like that they didn’t remove the structure of it.

The barge was mooring for the night in Briare, which was about 10 miles from Gien. Even though Briare would be our final stop/town of the trip – I don’t think Frederieke could work out a different location for today.

We approached Briare from the opposite side of the Loire. What I hadn’t realized until we got to the top of the levee is that the Lateral Canal (coming from the South) actually passes over the Loire via an aqueduct to join with the Briare Canal.

This is one of the ornamental columns marking the entrance to the aqueduct.

The Briare Canal originally ended at the Loire. Boat traffic would then have had to cross the Loire to gain access to the Lateral Canal on the other side. Low water or flooding could interrupt commerce between the canals, so the idea of the aqueduct was suggested. It was built between 1890 and 1896 and is about 700 yards long. Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) was involved in the making of the piers and masonry abutments.

The aqueduct starts above the river’s flood plain across from Briare.
Mike on the bike path alongside the aqueduct.
The Clair de Lune at the Briare harbor.

We were able to find an open (!) local grocery store that afternoon and took the opportunity to stock up on some snacks for our cabin.

The rest of the evening was the same as usual – dinner and then settling down so we’d be ready for another early start due to the heat.


Categories: France 2023, France Bike & Barge - Day 4

1 reply

  1. Those trees were amazing. Looked like a beautiful city and ride.

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