When visiting France in April of 2014, I was amazed at the incredibly beautiful spring days following one upon the other like perfect pearls on a string. I was told that this wasn't quite normal, and that the weather can often be cool and rainy during that time. I was certain that in 2015, I could not possibly be so lucky. However, once again I awoke to yet another jewel of a day. As a Kansan, I appreciated every minute of that loveliness. We don't often have day after day of glorious spring weather. Instead, our springtime consists of a few lovely days broken up by thunderstorms and even tornadoes. Or sometimes, it's just plain windy. Or the temperature soars unexpectedly. Not so in the beautiful Loire valley. I'm sure that Darcy and Mathieu grew tired of my constant exclamations of wonder at the near-perfect weather we experienced.
When it was time for lunch, Darcy pulled out her tabletop grill, and together we cooked all of the bulgogi that we had been unable to eat the night before. It was a fun meal, and quite delicious! We had rice and vegetables to round it out. Of course, there was plenty of leftover pork, which would later go into Bento boxes.
When Mathieu returned from work, we gathered our picnic food, tablecloth, and other items and took off on a lovely drive to Briare. The population of Briare is around 7,000 inhabitants. Located on the banks of the Loire, it is a charming canal town. We found Thierry and Muriel near the Port de Plaisance, which was crowded with pleasure craft. The scene was lovely and peaceful. There were pots of flowers lining the basin, and on the boats we passed as we walked along the canal. On some of the boats, there were people lounging in deck chairs in the shade of the trees which surround the waterfront.
There is a fascinating feature of the canals in Briare. It is a canal bridge. Not just a bridge over a canal, but a bridge which carries the canal itself, by means of a series of locks, up over the river and across. This amazing aqueduct was constructed in the late 1800s by Gustave Eiffel. There are towpaths on either side of it, which are now used as pedestrian sidewalks to traverse the bridge. We enjoyed walking the entire length of it. The views are lovely, though I was hoping that we would see a boat come through. At the far end was a large flock of sheep in a hillside meadow, and we could see the sheepdogs running about, directing them. Just below was another field of sheep, many of them with lambs beside them. Darcy commented that, if she hadn't seen the animals, she would have thought their bleating came from humans pretending to be sheep, because they made such funny sounds. They had high notes and very low tones, and one even sounded as if it were mooing! One of them was very hoarse and sounded rather pathetic.
We located a picnic table near the river, where we had a great time talking and eating. We were visited by a pair of ducks, begging for food. We laughed at the frogs, though we couldn't actually see them in the reeds, because they were serenading in such varied and funny voices (much like the talkative sheep). We saw a cormorant diving for food in the river. Our meal was good. We began with chips, olives, and crackers. We drank cider or fruit juice as we ate the chicken wings, potato salad, tabbouleh, carrot salad and sandwiches. Darcy had brought along baguettes from her favorite artisan bakery. One was a sesame bread and one a poppy seed. We had plenty of ham, pâté, onion jam, salami, Brittany butter, and Gouda cheese to stuff into the wonderful baguettes. We finished the meal with brownies. I'm so glad that I was able to enjoy the company of Muriel and Thierry again. They are Darcys family in France, and it's comforting to know that. It's also wonderful that we have become friends and I hope that one day they will be able to come to America.