Possibly the most enjoyable waterway holiday we have had was the trip on the Nivernaise Canal in France.
The main reasons that made it so wonderful were that we were not bound to a hire boat schedule, and we discovered we ablolutely love France.
As I mentioned previously, Post on 27th November we were fortunate to have the use of a relative’s boat for a whole month, and this took the pressure off from a time point of view. It was also our first holiday in France, and we are now confirmed Francophiles!

There are so many aspects of the French waterways and French lifestyle that we love so it will take a few blog entries to cover them all.

Joigny France – House of Tree of Jesse

 We started our holiday in the little town of Joigny on the River Yonne, where the boat was moored. We were immediately captivated by the old style architecture of the buildings, and the picturesque narrow streets.
In the first picture is a perfect example of the half timbered construction of the era. This particular building is the house of the Tree of Jesse, taking its name from the tree carving in the frames.

The waterways are generally wider and deeper than those in the UK, and even though most of the locks are electrically operated, the French have lock-keepers, or ‘eclusieres’!!
Whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage is a moot point.
Although convenient not to have to wind paddles up and down and heave the gates open and closed as in the UK, the French lockies work ethic is the very epitomy of French lifestyle – that is: nothing happens in a hurry, and even less around meal times!
But we were quite happy with this arrangement – if one arrives at a lock at around 11.45 am, there is very little chance of transitting before lunch, so what better reason for mooring up, opening a bottle of local wine, and enjoying it with some heavenly French cheese and bread.

Lock at La Place

The lockkeepers are a bit of an institution.

Generally each lock has its own lockkeeper who lives in a cottage right at the lock.

Many grow vegetables, or make local wines or homemade produce which they try and sell to their ‘captives’ in the lock.

Some of their gardens are beautifully decorated with an assortment of accoutrements such as gnomes, swans, deer and just about any creature you can think of.
The lock at La Place (second picture) is a typical example.

Lock at Chatel Sensoir

 Unfortunately, the strain on the modern social services has forced a cut down on the number of lockkeepers, and many of the cottages are now disused with one lockie operating up to four locks.
The lockies are employed by the VNF (Voies Navigables de France) and are provided with a little white van so they can drive from one lock to the next.
The third picture is of the lock at Chatel Sensoir, complete with lockkeeper cottage and little white van.
This all contributes to the somewhat leisurely progress of the boater.
Should you find yourself arriving at the first of a particular lockie’s set of locks just after he has set out with a convoy of boats in the one direction, you might have quite a wait till he returns with the convoy from the other direction.
Oh well. Maybe anothe glass of wine?
A bientot.

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