In Roanne where we will return to winter Sojourn, the barging community is nicknamed the “River Rats” and we were told that the canals are like one long village… It’s what we have experienced.. You make friends, good friends, quickly. Then off they go… For a month, or six, or even a year. Then around the corner comes a barge you recognize, you may exchange only a few words, or moor up together for a day or so.
Like friends from the barge Gulliver, (he is over 80 young, and she is in her seventies, living 6 months in France on their barge, and the other half of the year on their sailing boat in San Diego) They tell us about the annual Blues festival in the town of la Charitee sur Loire (on the river Loire, as there are other La Charitee towns)
We agree to meet them there. We have already been through la Charitee, which is only about 50 km from where we are, but on Sojourn this is a two day trip! So we catch a train, leaving Sojourn moored up securely. I mean securely. My careful husband buys extra chains, and ties her up in 6 places, and we leave her, cycling with rucksacks on our backs to the train station. It’s 30 km to Nevers where we have to change trains. We board a train of only two carriages. Large sign shows us which carriage we have to get into with our bikes.
How bike friendly is this! Another joy of being in France – people on bikes are considered in so many ways
A big burly smiling conductor checks our tickets, and I ask if I can take a photo of the train driver whom I have spied from our seats.. His door is open. No fussy security in the villages and towns inFrance. They are delighted to have their photo taken.
And when we get off to change trains and platforms, “my” conductor presents me with his name tag and carries my bike off the train, down the stairs and up the next flight to the next platform! We have experienced nothing but kindness and friendliness from the French people.
We check into the hotel, and off to the first performance. It’s at the foot of the Notre Dam Cathedral .. Spectacular setting.. We sip beers, people watch, little children jump and play , or some sit on the steps listening to the guitar and songs. What a life for families.
Musicians have come from all over Europe, with guitars, double base, drums, harmonica, keyboards..
They play at different venues… The church cloister, library, outside restaurants.
And in the evenings, in the town hall which was the grain barn in medieval times.
Before we go la Gare we walk to the medieval ramparts of this town, now only populated by some 5000 people. La Charitee had its high days in the 12C to 15C. An important market town, which grew out of the priory built by Cluny monks. Sadly, the younger people are leaving for the cities, and although the town still retains its air of elegance, the architecture is impressive, there is also a feeling of its glory fading. Like an old lady, whose time has passed, and she wearily accepts this.