European Travel and the Coronavirus
La Renaissance Barge Cruise Photos
Day 5: Thursday
Canal du Loing
On Thursday, we encountered the converted Dutch tugboat Van Speyk again--not just once, but twice. (Later in the day, we ran into the couple who owned the boat on the towpath, and we had a nice conversation on our way back to our respective vessels.)
As we cruised along the canal, Ellie--our pilot and engineer--invited the passengers to steer the barge.
In the picture above, Maurine Stephenson of Sydney, Australia takes the helm while Ellie plays the role of driving instructor. (Durant Imboden takes a Grand Theft Auto approach to barge piloting in the inset photo.)
Steering a barge isn't difficult, as long as you're in the middle of the canal and have a pilot on hand to rescue you from potential disaster, but you've got to plan ahead: In an "S" curve, you start turning the wheel for the second curve as you're entering the first.
Later in the morning, we boarded the VW minibus at a lock on the Canal du Loing and drove to Fontainebleau, the royal château that was a residence for a succession of French kings and Napoleon Bonaparte (who went into exile from Fontainebleau in 1814).
We toured the state apartments at our own pace with easy-to-use audioguides. Royal residences have a tendency to look the same after you've seen a few of them, but Fontainebleau deserves credit for being more outrageously over the top than your everyday palace or château.
When we returned to La Renaissance for a late lunch, we were greeted by a bird in the salad buffet (carved from an apple by our chef, Sylvain).
Later in the afternoon, our barge reached Nemours (the ancestral home of the du Pont de Nemours chemicals family). Nemours has an attractively-restored 12th Century fortress.
The town's medieval crusade church, L'église Saint-Jean-Baptiste, is just around the corner from the castle and has an historic organ that has been renovated and expanded several times since it made its debut in 1653.
This street in the historic center of Nemours is lined with stone pedestrian guards, which were intended to protect toes from being run over by wagon wheels in medieval times. (If you saw a wagon or carriage coming down the alley, you'd jump behind a stone barrier until it went past.)
Nemours is home to both theand the (shown above), where a park offers views of upscale houses across the water.
Nemours is only about 60 km or 38 miles from Paris, making it attractive as a dormitory town for commuters.
La Renaissance cruised ahead while we were exploring Nemours; here, you can see our barge's mooring site on the River Loing, just beyond the city center and close to a lock that would deliver us back into the Canal du Loing the next morning.
We finished the day with another of Sylvain's spectacular dinners, which included a main course of filet mignon de porc with asparagus and an irresistible tarte tatin with ice cream and a caramelized-sugar ribbon for dessert.
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