A big river in full spate is an impressive sight. Boiling brown water whips past you at incredible speeds carrying all manner of debris, including complete trees down to the sea. The Loire must have a huge catchment area, so the recent rains have swollen it to way beyond its normal capacity. They warn of swimming this river in its usual state, so to attempt it now would be slightly foolhardy.
I stayed one night in Briare which is a canal town with an aqueduct over the river. A picturesque place.
Walking back to the campsite after a fine dinner of sausage and lentils, I saw a coypu sat on this bank munching bread left by fishermen, totally unconcerned by my presence. They look like a guinea pig on steroids.
Many towns and villages straddle both banks, some with very grand bridges, such as the one at Gien.
Even the viaducts have a grandeur about them, built in times of greater prosperity.
I stopped the other night in a place called Jargeau, which has quite a history.
During Joan of Arc’s time the English took a shine to it and occupied the place, but Joan led a force to liberate the town. The locals obviously were very greatful and her statue commemorates the event. Subsequently Jargeau was twinned with Corsham in the UK who gave them a red phone box, which doesn’t quite compensate for burning the poor woman at the stake in my mind, but that’s history.
I met this very accommodating character building a traditional Loire sailing boat. He was finished for the day, but seeing my interest kindly gave me a guided tour and explained the construction techniques.A lovely chap and a lovely town. No wonder the English wanted it.
Orleans is most definitely worth a look. It has a very ancient quarter which I walked this morning, full of old shops and bohemian restaurants. A clean and ordered city, it has a state of the art tram network. A civilised way to travel the urban environment.
Next I’m tracking north to Chartres, another cathedral city which has an ecclesiastical puzzle.