These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

8th - 11th September. A visit to Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, then up through the vineyards to Sancerre. On to the Briare Aqueduct and the end of the Canal Latéral à la Loire.

The village of Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, seen ahead of us, is aptly named, as the town of Sancerre is situated on the top of the hill above the village. Sancerre is one of the famous wine-growing regions of France.

We moored in Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, which has several “caves” where we could taste and buy Sancerre wine. We chose a white wine, which had been grown on a chalk soil.
Further into the village, some houses date back to the 16th and 17th century. It is a place with great character. The old railway viaduct is now just a footpath across the valley.
We walked up through the vineyards. It is interesting that vines grow best on stoney soil. Flint and chalk are both used, giving a different taste to the same vine.
Over three-quarters of the Sancerre vineyards grow white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc. These vineyards cover an area of around 2800 hectares (6900 acres)
The vineyards of Sancerre spread throughout 17 villages and hamlets. One of them,  Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, can be seen behind Andy and Shannon. We are making our way through the vineyards, up to the town of Sancerre.
In Sancerre we visited La Maison de Sancerre, which gives an excellent overview of this region and the history of the vineyards here. They are first mentioned in 582 by Gregory of Tours. and continued to develop in the 12th century through the combined efforts of the Augustinian monks and the ruling counts of Sancerre. However, the vineyard was destroyed by phylloxera, an insect, at the end of the 19th century, but was replanted with Sauvignon Blanc vines, which have been a great success. Active marketing by the growers themselves, especially in Paris, increased the status of Sancerre wines. Pinot Noir is grown for the red and rosé wines.

The vineyards can be seen stretching away in all directions up the hills from Sancerre itself.
Moving on from Sancerre, we went quite close to Belleville-sur-Loire nuclear power station. The charolais cattle seem very happy here, and are definitely the breed to be seen in this part of France.

This canal is popular with hotel boats, such as this one.

We are nearing the end of the Canal Latéral à la Loire, as we start to cross the Briare Pont Canal.

Looking down, the river Loire can be seen from the aqueduct.
The Briare Aqueduct was designed by Gustave Eiffel, and opened in 1897. At 662.69 metres long, it is the longest iron aqueduct in Europe. The large metal superstructure weighs 13,600 tons, resting on 14 pilings across the Loire river.

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