June 12, 2021

From afar in Loing

By Olivier Razemon

Posted at 12:15 a.m. yesterday, updated at 6:23 a.m. yesterday

It was Henri IV’s dream. Link the Seine to the Loire, to speed up the transport of foodstuffs and products from one province of the kingdom to another. More than four centuries later, containers are racing on the motorway, but this journey is now accomplished by bicycle, through the Loing Valley, from the south of Ile-de-France to the Loire Valley.

The journey, part of the Scandinavian European route which links the north of Norway to the south of Spain, begins on a quay in Saint-Mammès, in Seine-et-Marne. This is where the Loing, which has its source in Burgundy, flows into the Seine after a course of 143 kilometers. Let us admire for a moment, in the morning sun, between two curtains of greenery, the calm river, barely disturbed by the passage of a few barges.

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Taking mainly towpaths, the route will first run alongside the Loing canal, built at the start of the 18th century.e century to spare ships the changing moods of the river. Then it will be extended to Montargis, in the Loiret, by the Briare canal, completed seventy years earlier. At its peak, in the XIXe century, this crucial waterway saw 3,000 to 4,000 boats pass per year, which, taking into account the sixty locks to pass, constituted a performance!

In Moret-sur-Loing.  The bridge allows you to cross the Loing.  On the right, in the background, the Church of Our Lady of the Nativity of Moret-sur-Loing.

Adjacent to Saint-Mammès, the town of Moret-sur-Loing guarantees the essential supplies which precede a long journey. Bordering the narrow streets traced in the Middle Ages, a few café terraces invite you to gain strength. The food shops offer what to compose a picnic, vegetables, bread, cold meats and then the morétain, creamy cheese with barley sugar, because it is in Moret that nuns invented, in 1638, this colorful delicacy.

Once these provisions are stored in their saddlebags, cyclists will cross the Loing on the bridge painted by Alfred Sisley, and will admire, on both sides, the steeple of Notre-Dame church and the Porte de Bourgogne, which locked the access to the city. On the left bank, the priory of Pont-Loup hosts contemporary art exhibitions.

Birdsong

The first kilometers of the track, drawn between the Loing and its canal, hesitate between the landscapes of the suburbs and a rural atmosphere. Swans swim at the foot of cement works and cylindrical or cubic grain silos. Restored stone farmhouses stand next to standard pavilions. Sunday hikers take advantage of a bridge over the canal to observe, through binoculars, the flight of two geese geese abandoned by their swarms.

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