I took a solitary breakfast in the dining room of Le Rocher waited on by Maryline Brunaud, now unaccountably without glasses and contemplating distant mysteries as before.
I took the D973 out of town, but soon turned off onto the D15 that would take me to Lamenay-sur-Loire.

View on the Loire from the bridge on the D973 west of Bourbon-Lancy

The D15 and thereafter, the D116 closely follow the route of the Canal Latéral à la Loire to Decize and the going is therefore very flat and easy. This was a completely uneventful journey, the most notable feature of which was the number of large birds of prey to be seen, hunting in the harvested fields.

A large bird of prey - buzzard? kite? - on the bale of straw

There was also a fair amount of wildlife activity in the canal, herons, coots, coypus and huge, unidentifiable fish.

The ubiquitous 'ragondin' - a cool, unhurried chap.

I was cycling along the canal side when I realised that I had a competitor: a large coypu was swimming parallel to me in the canal. He gave me a brief, indifferent glance as I prepared to take the shot and then carried on as if I didn’t exist.

Decize, the next town of any size on my route, I found to be a bit of a dump and I didn’t linger there.

View of Decize from the bridge over the Loire

The journey from Decize to Nevers was complicated by road closure once the D116 had turned into the D13. The bridges over the canal were being renovated and the road was therefore unusable. I carried on along it nonetheless, hoping that at the closed bridges I’d be able to continue along the tow-path. This turned out to be possible, though the state of the path made my progress pretty slow. The weather was also getting a lot warmer and the battle with tree-roots, rocks and sand got me sweating and thirsty.

From Chevenon, I stuck to the tow-path until my destination, Nevers. The canal doesn’t actually enter the town of Nevers, but finishes in a canal-port and then enters the Loire itself.

The canal-port at the Nevers end of the 'Canal Latéral à la Loire'.


Once across the bridge and in the town centre I took a look around. There’s the Palais Ducal at the end of the Place de la République. This Renaissance pile is considered as the first château of the Loire, though quite what this ‘first’ means is not clear. It can’t mean geographically or historically first because those distinctions belong to fortresses higher up.

The Ducal Palace of Nevers

There’s the Cathédrale Saint-Cyr-et-Sainte-Julitte dedicated to the three to five year-old martyr and his mother. The Saint Cyr in question is Saint Cyr of Antioch who is not to be confused with Saint Cyr of Constantinople, nor with Saint Cyr of Alexandria and is either the youngest Christian martyr or one of the youngest depending upon what he age is believed to have been.

The cathedral of Nevers seen from the left bank of the Loire

A few old streets remain around the centre of the town, but much of it is fairly unremarkable.

La rue de la Parcheminerie, Nevers

But what struck me most of all was the bustle and noise of the town centre. Everywhere you went there were competing musical events, choirs, bands, orchestras, individual instumentalists and so on. There were also immense crowds clogging the centre around a huge fairground. Sometimes the cacophony of the competing musical offerings was unbearable. It was all in aid of some national music festival that was happening on or around the day I arrived –  I couldn’t get a very clear idea of what was going on.

I had a bit of refreshment and then made for the Hôtel de Verdun, my goal for the evening.

It turned out to be rather run down, conventionally malodorous and run by a chap who coldn’t have been more than thirty-five but who was as grumpy an old codger as you could hope to meet. He grunted at me, shoved a key and a little slip of paper across the counter, and muttered something about a code. It turned out that this slip of paper contained a vital piece of information that I was gong to need later but, as it turned out, didn’t have.

I showered gratefully and went out for dinner. I found a Greek restaurant on the Place  Carnot and had a meal outside to the accompaniment of a hideously noisy rap band on a dais in front of the Caisse d’Epargne.

It was after this meal, washed down with a jug of Greek wine that I discovered the importance of the slip of paper and the code. The hotel was bolted and barred and there wasn’t a soul to let me in. I rang the bell furiously, but without result. I began to imagine myself sleeping on a bench in the park opposite and was looking around in a bit of a panic when I suddenly realised that another guest was opening the door. I nipped in smartly behind him. He pulled a suspicious face and tried to block my way. I explained the problem and he stared at me as though he expected me to pull a knife on him. I dangled my key in front of his nose and went off to my room. I’m not sure whether it was the Greek wine, but I fell fully clothed onto the bed, and that was that.


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