France 2007 – Rivers Sarthe and Mayenne
FRENCH CRUISE 2007
RIVER SARTHE Le Mans to Angers 132k 20 locks
LA MAINE Angers to Bouchemain 8k 1 lock
LA MAYENNE Angers to Mayenne 124k 45 locks
L’OUDON Lion D’Angers to Segre 16k 3 locks
TOTAL 280k 69 locks
BOATS and CREWS
Tophyl – Bill and Ali Perry
Snapdragon – John and Carol Burbery
Annie Rose – Dave and Liz Smith
Grey Owl – Bernard and Joyce Snell
Owl and Pussycat – David and Doreen Ward
And for part of the trip, Matchbox – Ian Graham and Tricia
Day Brittany Ferry Portsmouth – Ouistreham : £583
Car and trailer parking for 5 trailers and cars at Camping de Gue St Leonard : £117Euros 30 / 5 = 23Euros 46 each
Launching and car parking at Club Maine Marine, Spay: 100Euros / 5
Shuttle trip Mayenne/Spay x 4 trips 113 miles x 2 = 42Euros 94 / 5 = 8 Euros 6
Total £618 for 3+ weeks’ holiday (to be added the cost of the excellent meals on average 50Euros for 2 meals and wine = £34 to eat out)
THURSDAY 26 JULY
We met up with John and Carol for our tow to Portsmouth. We were visited at the dockside at 10.00pm by our daughter and husband. We slept overnight in the corner of the car park just outside the control gates.
FRIDAY 27 JULY
8.45 Mont St Michel ferry for the crossing to Caen. Calm crossing and enjoyed meal in the restaurant. Arrived 3.30pm in Caen port and by 7.30pm arrived at Club Maine Marine, Spay, just south of Le Mans to be met by Jacques Robert manager of Club Maine Marine plus crews of Annie Rose and OAP (Grey Owl having launched at Le Mans not having received our itinerary! Grey Owl couldn’t travel downstream due to work being done on the first lock).
Enjoyed a drink in the club and presented M Robert with a club burghee. Due to a misunderstanding, Ali ended up (with Bill, John and Carol as passengers) driving for the first time in France following Mme Robert to a creperie at 10.30 after most had had a few drinks!
Cost of parking at Spay (including launch) was 4 Euros per night. – total of 100 Euros for all parking including leaving car there all through the holiday.
SATURDAY 28 JULY
Bernard arrived at Spay with his trailer at 10.00 and all the men left with trailers for Mayenne, where trailer storage had been arranged at Camping St Leonard for 5.10 Euros a day for all 5 trailers! (following negotiations by Bill with the Tourist Board). Bill drove them all back, dropping Bernard in Le Mans and arrived at 2.15pm when we set off for Le Mans on water following trip to the Supermarket. M Robert gave us all Club Maine Marine burghees to fly and stickers.
Secure moorings in the town of Le Mans. Walked into town for the evening to see the spectacular Nuit des Chimeres – pictures and sound projected onto the walls of the town. Amazing! (Bernard and Joyce had appeared in the Le Mans newspaper as they were quite an attraction and out of the usual type of boat – very nice photo and article)
>SUNDAY 29 JULY
Walked to town, and cathedral and saw the layout for the new tram system. Before leaving town, travelled on the river to the limit of navigation – much waving from people as there are not many boat movements on this part of the river.
River current quite fast, but not as fast as the jet or water skiers as we approached Club Maine Marine. It then it began to pour with rain. On in the heavy rain to moor overnight at Fille (restaurant closed – Sunday!)
Quiet night – awoke to sun. Very good epicerie. Left 11.00 to the new pontoons at La Suze sur Sarthe – ideal moorings. Ate at the St Louis restaurant with a very good 15E 50 menu: a promising start to our gastronomique trip! La Suze a very nice town.
TUESDAY 31 JULY
Sun again. Followed Snapdragon down who left early to meet up with friends. 2.20 on to Malicorne, arrived 3.30. No problem mooring. Town and pottery no more interesting than our previous visit so on to Parce, where we had an evening barbecue.
WEDNESDAY 1 AUGUST
Parce is a lovely old village – everyone very friendly. English steam boat moored by mill. Saw watercolour exhibition by Ray Toombs of Somerset! Left in sunshine for Solesmes and moored on new moorings by the park. Creperie wouldn’t accommodate 10 people so booked at La Boeuf Fermier where we ate in 2002. Another language problem when we expected ‘galettes’, but as per the menu we had ‘galets’which were pebble shaped burgers – but lovely! Had coffee on chairs in the park.
THURSDAY 2 AUGUST
Overcast and breezy so on to Sable for shopping and petrol. Moored on nice small park in Pince sur Sarthe – no shops, but a beautiful field of flowers by the small cemetery. BBQ in warm occasional rain. A local tree was freed from weeds around its base!
FRIDAY 3 AUGUST
Matchbox who had launched behind us and who had been in communication via text message, finally caught us up. They had moored above lock and arrived in the morning with a guard of honour. Had wine and lunch to welcome them then cruised for 2 hours to Morrannes – restaurant by mooring (all managed to squeeze in to moor) and some had moules et frites. No one about in the village in the evening. Very hot day. Spectacular sunset (NB Noah forgot his engine key before leaving from home and had to hot wire the boat, but fortunately Bernard’s fitted so his wiring skills were no longer required!!)
SATURDAY 4 AUGUST
11.00 to Brissarthe to shop where we stopped for lunch. Nice piece of river – but nothing else. Chateauneuf had very little, except restaurants. Ate under a willow tree alongside ‘camping cars’ – very hot evening.
SUNDAY 5 AUGUST
Very hot again and stopped at Cheffes for lunch under the shade of a tree then on to Briollay for the evening. Lots of families, so moved on and moored bow on at end of village. Very tidy village with flower-lined streets. Lots of frog noise in the night and Matchbox moored at other end of village and saw lots of coypu – very large rats! Rain, thunder and lightning during the night.
MONDAY 6 AUGUST
Awoke to rain which continued all morning, but a welcome relief to heat. Arrived at Angers in sunshine for lunch. Moored on Quai de Tabarly – no toilet emptying facilities as camping car park had been removed for new theatre development. Into city and rode on the Petit Train and saw their plans for a tramway. Ice cream on pavement café and walked around town. Very interesting ‘rice display’ in the new theatre centre where 1 grain represented 1 person, by ‘Stan’s Café’ of Birmingham. In the evening had fantastic wok meal at the ‘Rouge Tendance’ on the 5th floor of this building. Quite a lot of road noise during the night.
TUESDAY 7 AUGUST
Sunny morning in Angers, but decided to leave to get away from road noise. Petrol sought near lock down towards the Loire and captain of Tophyl fell in the mud getting back on board. Good job petrol in containers, floats. Tophyl, Snapdragon, Annie Rose and Matchbox off to Bouchemaine for lunch. Matchbox went onto the Loire which was quite strong! Photocall by Bernard at Angers before leaving for the Mayenne. Thunderstorm while we were in the first lock, and lockkeeper kept us locked in as it is forbidden for them to use a lock in a storm. Night at Juigne – improved weather. Nothing in village, but used BBQ and ate on Snapdragon and played Rummikub (others had moored downstream as moorings very limited).
WEDNESDAY 8 AUGUST
Left Juigne 10.30 for Grez Neuville where we moored on Nicols pontoon (fee payable). Lazy day reading until into creperie for evening. Very quiet night. Matchbox left us in the morning so they could complete the trip before going home a week before us.
THURSDAY 9 AUGUST
10.00 left to go up the River Oudon to Segre stopping at Lion D’Angers for shopping. After first lock swung at anchor for lunch then 2 more locks to Segre. Met Matchbox coming the opposite way at last lock. Sadly mooring on pontoons was ‘privee’ but moored along wall and had barbecue on grass. Here the river splits into the Oudon and the Verzee, which Snapdragon explored to their limit. Amazing artwork in church perched on the hill, but as with the church in Lion D’Angers, much building work needs doing. Also funny models spaced around the rivers.
FRIDAY 10 AUGUST
Back to Lion D’Angers after exploring town, and moored beside the Hippodrome for a barbecue (made mushroom, ham, egg galettes – lovely!) 2 young boys offered to move from their place on the bank so we could moor together – what a nice country! Raised a glass to Paddy as we remembered his last trip on Jig and how we had retrieved Jig from the slipway here in 2002.
SATURDAY 11 AUGUST
Left Lion D’Angers at 11.30 – overcast and cool. Swung at anchor for lunch then on to Chenille Change halte nautique where we visited the mill which is not only capable of producing flour but also produces electricity for 14 local houses: most of the weirs on the Mayenne as we travel up have their own generators on the weirs. Beautiful village – seemingly owned by local cartel that runs the restaurant, hire boat business, campsite and mill: well-loved church with amazing grotto on the hill. Ate at the Table de Meuniere – excellent ‘classy’ meal.
It is noticeable that above Chenille Change the towpath is good for cyclists and walkers where the area Maine et Loire changes to Mayenne: a large amount of money is spent by Mayenne to provide this facility.
SUNDAY 12 AUGUST
Sunshine cleared away the clouds for a fine morning. On to Menil for lunch and again moored at anchor by weir as moorings crowded with boats. Arrived at Chateau Gontier after a very large Mayenne Conseil General flag obtained in 2002 from the Conseil offices was erected on the roof of Snapdragon much to the amusement of onlookers. Moored on pontoons by Capitainerie near swimming pool. Explored old town and church – plain but beautiful. Bought take-away pizza and ended night on Snapdragon.
MONDAY 13 AUGUST
Returned downstream in sunshine to moor at the beautiful Jardins de Frome to go to supermarket. Off at 2.00 upstream towards Mayenne and the start of manual locks. Weather forecast not good, and being a Monday the creperie alongside La Benatre lock (as recommended by Ian) was closed so carried on to Port Rhineguard as there was nowhere suitable for 5 boats to moor on this stretch. Port Rhineguard moorings full of boats at the local boatworks, so moored bows-on to bank and had a barbecue. Agreed in view of weather reports would carry on to Laval in the morning.
TUESDAY 14 AUGUST
Overcast but not raining so left at 11.00 and as one bike had a puncture, OAP’s Brompton for 8k to Laval. As we approached Laval so it started to rain. Managed to moor on pontoons at halte nautique in Laval but even the restaurant here was closed due to bad weather. Watched DVDs brought over from the UK, the abysmal ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and the better ‘Last Emperor’ as rain fell constantly from 3.00pm. Walked into town in the evening and returned to chat with man from boat ‘Noisette’ from Club Maine Marine who advised us of bad weather in the channel the next day.
WEDNESDAY 15 AUGUST
Rained some of the night – but the promised storm never arrived! Feast of the Assumption so very few shops open, but many that had been closed for the summer were to open tomorrow. Chateau only open pm, so after watching a Nicols boat having trouble getting under the Pont de l’Europe due to rise in water levels (it hit twice!) we visited chateau for a guided tour. Had a meal in Le Taverne Maitre Keiter – Tourist Information having found that this was the only place with room – which was excellent meal and service. Returned and chatted to people from ‘Noisette’.
THURSDAY 16 AUGUST
Sunny morning – bateau lavoir closed until afternoon, so walked to church – not very attractive. Moved off pm in company with a day boat (English from Redruth who used Tesco promotion for £40 Eurotunnel deal to get there) and canoes accompanied us to mooring at St Jean, which were reserved on Fridays for the trip boat – but were empty for us on Thursday! Alongside an unopened camping car field complete with hot showers, toilets and a lit and covered barbecue area. We spent ages getting the fire going and we enjoyed a communal barbecue and fruit salad, followed by a game of ‘Chronology’ and silly party games. The lights in the barbecue area even came on as it got dark! Evening not spoiled by a couple of heavy showers.
FRIDAY 17 AUGUST
Decided to forge on for Mayenne as others had arrangements for Mayenne on Sunday. Ali rode bike all day to go ahead and prepare locks – some manned by travelling lock-keepers, 1 of whom contacted the press who met us at lock 2 where we finished the day and ate at the excellent Beau Rivage
This section of river is quite different after Laval: lower banks, very rural. All day we only met 4 boats – and they were in 1 lock travelling together! We had a lot of interest from locals and tourists (some English). Met 2 of the daughters of the baker Mr le Peculier and saw the Panda used to help Paddy in 2002 – and they certainly recalled the incident.
SATURDAY 18 AUGUST
Mist soon cleared and we set off at 9.00 for 4km and 1 lock cruise into Mayenne. Arrived 10.00 and visited Tourist Information to thank them for their help in arranging the trip, then to the market and met Mme Le Peculier and thanked her for her help in 2002. Afternoon with men to the campsite to get cars via Snapdragon, and two got their trailers. Carol took Snapdragon back to Mayenne. David drove Tophyl crew back to Spay (56km) to get their car. Barbecue on quay in the evening but ate on Snapdragon as it was cold!
SUNDAY 19 AUGUST
Rainy and grey. Pompiers on quay practicing using hoses and rescue boat (causing waves – so asked to slow down – which they did!) We drove to the Gallo-Roman town of Jublains – fascinating! Showery weather though. Retrieved Grey Owl with no difficulty and they slept on the quay that night as they were leaving at 6.00 am. The rest of us ate at the Grand Hotel – not much better than in 2002!
MONDAY 20 AUGUST
Cloudy – visited supermarket for wine etc – retrieved trailers from camp-site. As soon as we started to retrieve the boats the heavens opened and it didn’t stop raining while we did it: thankfully no problems! All ready to go by 5.30 – GPS took us all on different routes (Tophyl’s and OAP’s being out of date in places). Arrived at Ouistreham around 8.30 and ate at the restaurant near docks. Atrocious weather overnight – rain and wind.
TUESDAY 21 AUGUST
Ferry (Normandie) left at 9.00am. Sea slightly choppy – but not raining. All survived the trip back and we all ate in the restaurant – we had the buffet. On arrival in England we all went our separate ways – Tophyl travelling to Pewsey for their daughter and husband and friends to use on K and A until Bank Holiday Monday.
An excellent, relaxing 3+ weeks on superb, quiet waterways, with good weather, `super food and really good company. Roll on retirement!