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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A Summer Ride on a Gabare Along the Charente River


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Flat bottom cargo boats (gabarres) were once commonplace on the Charente River that flows past the Courvoisier House in Jarnac and through the town of Cognac. These boats transported salt from the Île de Ré and oaken barrels of Cognac and eaux-de-vie from Cognac. Gabarres were the ideal vessel for moving products in and out of the Charente region. Cognac warehouses were located on the banks of the Charente so that they could load their cargo on to gabarres for transport to the Atlantic Ocean harbor for international export.

Today commerce is no longer conducted via gabarres and the gabarres have virtually disappeared from the Charente riverscape, with one exception, gabare replicas that ferry tourists along the Charente.

Last summer the most famous of the tourist gabarres of the Cognac region, La Dame Jeanne did not sail. Built in 2001, La Dame Jeanne, a newly built replica of the garbarres of yore, met her tragic fate in December 2016, when it was damaged while docked and began to sink. While La Dame Jeanne was rescued by crane from sinking further, the sailing craft suffered extensive damage. This put La Dame Jeanne out of commission permanently.

Cognac with Charente River, France.
A view of the Charente River
The Renaissance!

In order to ride a gabare while in Charente, you’ll have to travel east of Cognac (about 18 miles/30 kilometers) and even east of Jarnac to the town of Saint-Simon. There you will find the gabare “The Renaissance”, a replica of an eighteenth century gabare. The Renaissance has capacity for 70 passengers (67 guests and three crewmen) and does daily (except Tuesdays) one hour and a half tours from April through October.

The Renaissance Charente River tour begins in the gabarrier village of Saint-Simon, which once was a major home to gabare repair and construction. Indeed, of the approximately one hundred gabarres conducting commerence along the Charente in the early 19th century, about a quarter of them called Saint-Simon their home port. The remaining gabarres docked at Cognac. According to Saint-Simon Village Gabarrier, in 1885 near the peak of the gabare transport industry, Saint-Simon had 38 gabarriers out of a total population of 540.

The Renaissance tour heads west from Saint-Simon to the former shipyard, then to the islands of Vibrac a preserved natural environment, then further east to the river lock at Juac, then on to Saint-Amant where you can see a well preserved 12th century abbey and then to Graves, a small village of less than 350 people that is surrounded by cognac vineyards, before returning to Saint-Simon.

Part of the Renaissance experience includes visit to the museum Maison des Gabarriers.

Current prices:
€ 7.50 for adults 15 years and older-price includes a museum and gabare ticket.
€4 Children from 5 to 14 years old
Free for children under 5

You can also elect to visit the museum only for
€4 for adults
€2 Children from 5 to 14 years old
Free for children under 5

There is no gabare ride only ticket

Please contact the operator below to confirm ticket pricing and availability at the travel information below:

House of Gabarriers
Le Bourg
Impasse of the forge
la France
email: [email protected]
05 45 97 33 40
06 65 55 40 20

Departures at 10:30 *, 15:00 and 16:30
Every day except Tuesday, from April 27 to October 7, 2018
*In April-May and October, the 10:30 walk is only on reservation

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