Wine run to the Med: Through the canals of France – Sailing Story Parts 4
Beware – the water can enter the locks with great force
And then this boat kept coming… and coming… and coming. The hotel cruise ship ‘Camargue’
We passed over the longest aqueduct in Europe, nearly half a mile long, at Briare. It carries the canal high over the River Loire and was engineered by Mr. Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame we then climbed to over 1200 feet on the du Centre canal, before being spewed back into the wide River Saone at Chalon and returned to civilization.
The River Saone was rather a disappointment the banks were so high the view was limited, but in a day or so we joined the Rhone at Lyon and what a contrast. We were ejected from the first lock at speed into the very fast flowing canalized section, then back to join the river again and past beautiful scenery at Vienne and Les Roches de Condrieu, famous for its special wine. So we proceeded on down the Rhone through wonderful and majestic river scenery and gorges, interspersed with the canalized sections with the locks and hydro-electric power. The locks are even bigger than those on the Seine, the largest being the Bollene when we were lowered 75 feet in the lock. The river is wide, often more than half a mile, and powerfully fast flowing. There’s no room for mistakes, and not many places to stop when you need to. Our last Rhone stop was at Avignon beside the famous bridge.
From the Rhone, we entered the Petit Rhone, which is about the size of a normal river in England, and then we rejoined the canal system again for the last leg of the journey. The canal Rhone-a-Sete takes you through the Camargue with its wild horses and flamingoes. We even came across a gypsy wedding where the men formed a guard of honor for the happy couple and fired a volley of shots from their guns after the church service. We passed through the wetlands, where they still harvest the rushes and had wide views of the distant blue Cevennes Mountains.
All too soon we arrived at Sete, our journey’s end, passing through the five swing bridges of the town to find the marina and the view of the Mediterranean at last. It might have taken us nearly three months from when we first started, but what a scenic route to travel and what an altogether unforgettable experience.