Ramble II – Bailley and Briare

We’re off on another ramble! Our first stop is in Bailley, where we’ll visit the caves of the local wine cooperative. This winery is known for sparkling wines – we’d call them champagnes except that a wine cannot be called a champagne unless it comes from the champagne region. The wines made here are made with the same type grape using the same process as champagne, but “champagne” they aren’t and “sparkling wines” they are.

After the tour – not exactly exciting – we tried a couple of the wines. One was a regular white sparkling wine, the other a rosé. Now, I have to say, we are not fans of “pink champagne,” so we were wondering about that rosé, but I can tell you that rosé sparkling wines are a long, long way from the pink champagne swill of years past. This rosé sparkling wine is really good – crisp and dry and just a touch of rosé; we split a case with Mary & Gilles (note: in France, a case is six bottles, not twelve). Cost: about $11 per bottle.

Then it was off for a first look at the most unusual and most historical canal lock in France. Now, both regular readers of this blog will recall that Laurie and I really enjoy walking along the canals of France and seeing the locks in action, so we were looking forward to this one: a set of seven locks that go up a hill, constructed in the early 17th century and used for over 250 years. They are not, of course, used today, and the lock mechanisms are gone, but the lock structures are still there.

Here’s what the Sept Écluses look like today:

From the bottom...

From the bottom…

From the top. You can see the canal in use today.

From the top. You can see the canal in use today.


When the Sept Écluses were replaced by a wider canal, there were 3,000 to 4,000 boats using these locks annually. I suspect each passage up or down the locks took about three hours.

Next day (okay, I’m jumping ahead here), we returned and walked along the canal – unused since 1889).

Laurie, Mary and Gilles on the walk along the 17th century canal.

Laurie, Mary and Gilles on the walk along the 17th century canal.

The canal at the top of the locks. It's had 130 years to get overgrown with trees.

The canal at the top of the locks. It’s had 130 years to get overgrown with trees.


That really was it for the first day. So we went to our place for the next two nights: a B & B. Now a few words about B & B’s…

Our experience with B & Bs has not been all that great, and this one kind of fit in with that experience. It seems that French B & Bs often want to give guests a room with Old French Charm (OFC). Unfortunately, OFC requires money, because OFC requires antiques, and money for decorating is one thing B & B owners seem to lack. So the rooms get decorated with Old French Junk (OFJ). This B & B – on a beautiful estate, with a beautiful garden and beautiful main house – was furnished in a style best described as … um…er…well, I don’t know what; OFJ, I guess. Pictures:

The "chandelier"

The “chandelier”

 

Note the can of bug spray on the night-stand: always the sign of a high-class establishment. None of the furniture matched, none was of high- or even medium-quality, and most of it appeared to come from a garage sale. We even had a decanter and glass set that had a sign on it "For decoration only."

Note the can of bug spray on the night-stand: always the sign of a high-class establishment. None of the furniture matched, none was of high- or even medium-quality, and most of it appeared to come from a garage sale. We even had a decanter and glass set that had a sign on it “For decoration only.”

Fortunately, traveling with Mary & Gilles avoids the other complaint I have about B & Bs: making new friends at breakfast. The four of us can sit and talk about the day’s plans or yesterday’s activities or whatever – we have never run out of conversation topics. So I don’t have to sit down and make nice with total strangers. I am definitely a morning anti-social guy, so talking with a bunch of people I don’t know and will never see again is not my cup o’ tea!

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One Response to Ramble II – Bailley and Briare

  1. Greg Thompson says:

    Amazing coincidence, I saw a show on TV last week that had a segment on that canal and how ingenious the engineers were in figuring out how to get the canal over the hill.

    Greg

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