We love the French flair for public art!  This school of fish suddenly appeared in Digoin, in front of a little museum which outlines the major role that the Loire River has played in French life as it meanders hundred's of kilometres to the Atlantique. In Roanne, where Nooit Volmaakt winters, as well as in all the surrounding villages, there are numerous displays of public art, frequently on town roundabouts. Once we noticed a collage of brightly coloured bicycles.  Another time there were empty, gilded picture frames which captured the flowers along the canal. 





The French spend a lot of time making exquisite gardens, often creating wonderful topiary.  This photo is from a formal garden, but on another occasion we were moored just down from a hilltop village  and noticed an elderly lady who lived on the other side of the canal balanced precariously on a shaky wooden ladder.  She was outside her small, well-kept home, with gardening shears in hand, doing battle with a topiary bush in her front garden!  Our hearts were in our mouths and we wondered if we should run over and offer to help, but she seemed to have everything well in hand and judging by the bush, she had been shaping it for several years. 






 I love it when our guest crew includes women who love to shop!  I know some incredible shoe shops and an unbelievable consignment clothing store along one of our routes.   I like nothing more than to take them to these places and seem to have acquired a new skill as a “picker”.  By this I mean having the knack of sifting through clothing racks to find just the right, high quality dress or coat for someone.  French clothing is beautifully made.  I also love to find children's clothing which I bring back home to Canada for friends. 



Although a relatively small city off the tourist beat, Roanne is recognized by the French as a centre of gastronomy.  As well as a weekly outdoor market, it has an enclosed market called Les Halles Diderot, which features many award-winning food provisioners in France.  Highlights of the twenty or stores featured include a superb cheese shop, an incredible chocolate shop with ethically sourced chocolate from all over the globe, and a seafood bar with fresh oysters packed on ice and rushed in from Brittany.  Roanne is also home to the famous Maison Troisgros Restaurant, which boasts three Michelin stars and offers meals at a price that rivals what most Canadian families devote to a week of groceries.  We have never been tempted to go there, but we have treated ourselves to the Chateau de Champlong just outside Roanne for its welcoming atmosphere and unique dining experience.  



Marc and I love dogs, and we love to make new dog friends along the canal.  This little fellow has learned to greet us as we ply the waters. We suspect it's not just because he likes us for who we are.  He knows where the dog biscuit supply lives in Nooit Volmaakt's wheelhouse.




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