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My June Vacation: Cruising Cognac Country
By Scott Croft - Published July 17, 2006 - Viewed 8064 times
The following photos and associated descriptions were taken during my recent family excursion during June, 2006 on Crown Blue Line in France. This name of this particular itinerary was called the Charente. We began our journey from the Crown Blue base in Jarnac and proceeded west toward Rochefort.
Locks were very simple to operate: we usually sent 2 crew ashore to handle the task of spinning the wheels that controlled lock doors and sluice gates on either end. At some, local entrepreneurs looking for tips did the task – I didn’t mind tipping them a Euro or two.
This small family-run distillery and winery was found in Le Las Bourg after leaving Cognac heading downriver. My family was the only people visiting at this time and it was nice seeing Cognac production on a small scale: they only one pot still for distillation. Note the width of the river – it didn’t get much wider than this except in towns.
Like docking, passing through a lock is a spectator sport, especially on a Sunday when everyone is fishing, swimming or picnicking on the river. This lock in La Baine was the only automated one, with a series of buttons that operated doors and sluice gates. There was also a wonderful old mill that was transformed into a restaurant, and you could go under the dining area to see the old gears and water wheels (they had never been removed) that had worn circular marks into the soft limestone building. It was sort of like touring an old factory as water still rushed through sluice gates.
The ruins of the 15,000 seat Gallo-Roman Amphitheater in Sainte, this was one of our favorite stops. An audio tour portrayed the life of the people of the times and you really got to feel like what it was like to be a Gladiator as well as a rich towns person attending the games through actor portrayals. If you look closely you can see the remains of the square ‘ante’ room (right center, just to left of grassy area and just above the arena floor next to big arched opening) where Gladiators waited their turn to live or die. Standing in that room gave me the creeps as did the other end of the Amphitheater where a large opening led to an underground cave where animals awaited their turn. The facility was built to hold the entire town. Today, Sainte was one of our favorite stops – it was the largest town and had a great market that we completely chanced upon.
This is the quay at Sainte, which was next to a neat public park. Sainte was the only town that required a transient slip fee of about $9 US. Most quays have water; this one had water and power, but we really didn’t need the power with our 6-battery boat. We tied up two nights but since this is France, the fee collector only came by one night and only paid for one. On the opposite bank was a magnificent view of the town and a 12th-Century church.
The quay at Sainte, just a tad downriver from where we tied up. The Twin arches were originally built by the Romans on the entryway to the bridge crossing the river, long since replaced. In the 1800’s they were moved to this location.
Coming into the only automatic lock in La Baine. The boat’s bow thruster made it very easy.
Again at the automatic lock in La Baine.
Coming back through the automatic lock at La Baine. Notice the rough water - just kidding! This is why canal boating is so easy and fun for everyone. No waves, tides or bad weather. Many times we cooked meal aboard while en route to our next destination - the galley floor never moved (unlike your standard power or sailboat).
Coming back through the lock at Jarnac. The wooden buildings with triple peaked roofs are the Courvoisier "factory." You can see a little of the black mold on the side of the building. Some of the dams at Jarnac that make up the river's water system that keeps pools at the level for boating.
Coming back through the lock at Jarnac. The wooden buildings with triple peaked roofs are the Courvoisier "factory." You can see a little of the black mold on the side of the building.
Some of the dams at Jarnac that make up the river's water system that keeps pools at the level for boating.
The author (Scott Croft) and his wife, April, at the helm. Canal boating means everyone can drive - even kids with some supervision, of course. I do have to say that on the whole, the women were better at driving than men! (OK, I am waiting for commments....)
The restaurant and water mill at La Baine. Note the high water mark on the exterior. Inside that door next to the stairs is where we walked inside to large room with a fireplace - I presume an old gristmill worker's quarters. But the room had a couple inches of mud...not the best place to be when it rains I guess. The restaurant was under the wooden roofed area at the top of the stairs.
D. Scott Croft
Assistant Vice President, Public Relations,
880 South Pickett St.
Alexandria, VA 22304
Work Phone: 703-461-2864, x3504
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