Chalons-en-Champagne to Vraincourt. Farewell to vineyards. We’ll miss you…

July 27-August 5, Chalons-en-Champagne. As I mentioned in my last post the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne had a bridge closure, stopping all traffic for about 10 days and so we tied up on one of the pontoons in Chalons to wait it out. There didn’t seem any point racing off up there and possibly not having a decent mooring and having to queue so we stayed put and enjoyed the port.
I’ve written earlier this year about Chalons so I won’t go on other than to say it’s a lovely spot with an excellent capitainerie. Damien and Matthew do a stellar job and are very nice guys with excellent English.

August 5th. Saturday. I have to say we were ready to move on, however nice a time we were having, so on Saturday we were up early and quietly slipped out of port at 7am. Apart from some black clouds threatening rain it was a really nice morning to cruise. We did catch up to a commercial barge at the 2nd lock but they stopped to pick up a baguette and chat to another commercial bargee allowing us to overtake them and we had a lovely quiet run into Vitry-le-François, some 29kms and 8 locks later.

At Vitry we picked up a remote control for the automated locks to come. The Vitry port didn’t look great, just like 2 months ago when we came through in the other direction. Its small and looked full so we decided to just keep going, through to Orconte, another 14kms away. That’s 8 1/2 hours total for the day and 45kms. Too long really but sometimes it just works out that way.
Arriving through the Orconte lock we saw 2 boats already on the small quay so put in stakes and a long power cord and settled down to relax for the evening.
However. One commercial barge came past us and into the lock and our boat was fine but later on, when we least expected it, another commercial approached the lock quite fast, sucking our rear stake out of the ground, swinging our back out, hitting the barge. We got quite the shock. They didn’t even blink an eye, going into the lock without a backward glance. To be fair their attention would have been on squeezing their large beast into the narrow lock. Meanwhile we ran to grab our metal stake before it fell into the water, check for damage on our boat (only paint lost, yay for steel boats) and then move onto the end of the concrete quay, without the need for stakes! Dramas! A lovely Belgium man helped us re-moor and told us he had sailed around New Zealand years ago and knew it very well. He also confirmed that barge was going too fast but there’s not much you can do. Lesson learned, if possible tie up into concrete bollards. I guess with the bridge finally fixed today after 10 days closure, there will be a backlog of traffic coming through.

August 6th. Sunday and a day of rest for us. The canal was quite busy and by the evening there were 4 more boats moored. It was a gin clear day, not too hot, perfect for me. Alan did a few jobs on the boat and in the afternoon we walked down the canal and up the other side. The internet coverage was rubbish so it was a very restful day reading books.

August 7th. Monday. On this canal the locks open at 9am for pleasure craft (7am for commercials) so we headed off at 9am and started our day’s journey. Another gorgeous day and we were entertained by the air exploits of jet fighters from the nearby Robinson Airforce base. The locks along here are activated with our télécommande (remote), except for every now and then when the lights are out and you wonder if the lock is broken but then it miraculously opens as you near it, presumably it’s a part of a chain or perhaps there is a sensor. Or did our Open Sesame work? We were given some excellent paperwork with our remote control but it didn’t mention that scenario. Just keeping us on our toes.
We arrived in St Dizier at lunchtime and decided to eat out for a change. We chose Le Commerce in the town square and it was very good. Entrecôte for Alan, hot goats cheese salad for me. Later we caught up on emails etc with the good 4G network in St Dizier.

August 8th Tuesday. The forecasted rain hit during the night and early morning so it was a late start as we headed off up the canal at 9.30am. The lockeeper at the first lock warned us the water levels were down 25cm at the moment, the depths about 2m which is fine. We travelled in convoy with a US barge, us in front of the locks which were like washing machines. The second lock was closed as they were clearing weed from the lock and river. It only took 30mins of waiting so that wasn’t too bad. We stopped at Chamouilly to have coffee and buy a baguette then continued on towards Joinville.

The locks along here are full to overflowing making for fun times when your fenders all pop out. We had a sudden gust of wind departing a very full lock and grazed the side of poor old Silver Fern and then lost one of our non-floating fenders which sank. Sigh.

Then we encountered a lock with no lights but it did have an eclusier who we saw later on as he came to rescue us from another broken lock, this time we were stuck inside. I had to climb out and call VNF with my best French to send help.

However things turned a corner in the next lock when a dad and his 2 children were watching us lock through so we gave them a couple of little toy kiwis that we hand out to any littlies we see. They were so happy that grandmere came out of the lock cottage and presented us with a teddy that she made. How sweet is that. Another Goodwill Mission completed. Viva La France et La Nouvelle Zealande! Pierre le Bear is our new mascot.

The next few locks and lifting bridges were a mixed bunch, lights on/off/red/green/blacked out. A bit of a shambles really. But the rain held off with just a few spots during the day and by 5pm we had blue sky and the sun came out.

By 5.45pm we pulled into the excellent hotel mooring space in Joinville. We had barely tied up when a sudden storm hit us with crazily strong winds, rain and thunder. I was worried our Bimini would buckle in the gale. 30 minutes later the storm had passed through and then the sun came out again. The weather has been incredibly unsettled this year.

August 9th Wednesday. We decided to stay two nights in Joinville. The setting is lovely, treed and reasonably quiet and €7 for mooring, power and water. Also there is an excellent Brico (like Bunnings) and Super-U supermarket, both large, nearby. I picked up some new boat gloves as I’ve worn through this years pair already. And some waterproof Blackfox wool-lined boots for when my feet are sore (50% of the time). Very excited about those. We had a look at portable aircon units for when the weather is very hot which lately hasn’t been very often. I’m very happy with these mild temperatures. The bug bites don’t itch as much, you can sleep better at night and cruising is more comfortable especially since we are travelling with the Bimini down due to one or two low bridges.

In the evening I cooked a classic, duck a l’orange. Very 70’s dinner party. And delicious if I say so myself.

August 10 Thursday. There was a big black cloud following us as we cast off from Joinville. And I mean that meteorologically not metaphorically. But ahead of us the sun was shining so we tried to stay ahead of the weather. Not easy at 8kms an hour and locks to pass through. The air was cool and we were adding layers then taking them off again all morning. Good exercise! Makes me think of home (Christchurch, NZ). Four seasons in one day.
The countryside here is fairly rural with lots of agriculture, lots of cornfields, with hills on both sides in the near distance, a few herds of cows here and there. The vineyards of Champagne are long gone. It’s very peaceful, we only saw one boat ahead of us and one that we passed.

After a couple of hours we arrived at Donjeux, a small four boat mooring. The French barge that left Joinville just before us were moored and we pulled in behind them. It is a rural setting with lots of biting bugs but the power works so that’s a bonus. After lunch the French carried on up the canal but we stayed the night first having a walk around Donjeux on one side of the canal and Rouvroy-sur-Marne on the other, any commerce at either village has shut down.

Later on a VNF guy came by and asked where we were going and what time we were leaving.

August 11th Friday. 9am we were off up the canal, through the locks and under the lifting bridges. It was quite chilly, especially in the morning when we woke to mist on the water and 12°. My new wool lined boots are coming in very handy as by 11am it was still only 13° with heavy cloud. We had no problems with the locks today and tied up in Vraincourt by 1.30pm, between two rusty old commercial barges that don’t look like they have moved for a while. Power and water are available and I think we will have to pay when someone from the Maire comes down around 6pm.

The sun is trying to come out but the temperature has stayed cool at 17°. This summer has been so patchy and the waterways seem generally to be very quiet. Quite different to previous years.

So that’s it for another week.
Here’s the stats:

Chalons-en-Champagne to Orconte:

Engine hours: 7.1

Kms: 45

Locks: 14


Orconte to St Dizier:

Engine hours: 2.9

Kms: 17



St Dizier to Chamouilly to Joinville:

Engine hours: 5.6

Kms: 33

Locks: 13 plus 7 lifting bridges


Joinville to Donjeux:

Engine hours: 2

Kms: 10

Locks: 4


Donjeux to Vraincourt:

Engine hours: 3.6

Kms: 21

Locks: 8 plus 2 lifting bridges

Year to date:

Engine hours: 154.7

Kms: 936

Locks: 479

Tunnels: 7

This was very cool! Coming into land at Robinson Base.

More jet geek pics

Last one.

Another beautiful sunset

Poor babies separated from mum in the Lock. She flew in to save them…

…then waited til they could jump out. Awww.

Running from the weather!

Déjeuner in St Dizier. Très bon.

Just wanted to say how happy we are not having to queue up at Orange telecom shop anymore. FREE is awesome!

Monsieur le Weedeater. Doing a fine but endless job.

Handout that came with the remote. Very handy info. We could have done with it on the way here.

Pretty house.

Overflowing locks make for fun times!

The broken bridge, now fixed. Shame the lock was playing up!

Broken bridge. What a mess.

Kiwi trinkets

Pierre le Bear. Thanks to the lovely family at lock 50, Chevillon.

My art shot for the week!

Hôtel mooring at Joinville.

Mooring at Donjeux

More stormy weather.

Donjeux the night before…

…same view the next morning.

Canal crossing the Marne at Rouvroy.

Lock and lifting bridge combo.

Posted in Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Chalons-en-Champagne, Chamouilly, France, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017, Joinville, Marne, Marne River, Orconte, Speaking French, weed eater, Wifi in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mareuil sur Ay to Chalons en Champagne via Reims. 

Saturday July 22nd.

It was a long day.

We departed Mareuil-sur-Ay early, 8am, in convoy with the Australian boat Le Piglet. We were both heading up the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne to Sillary.

Along this shortish canal the locks are controlled in ‘chains’, once you start at the beginning you should continue until you reach the end of the chain. The locks hold two boats at a time. The first chain was eight locks close together.

Unfortunately for us, although we started early, there was a commercial barge (that took up the full length of the lock) and another boat (smaller but the three of us couldn’t fit in together) in front slowing down the chain and so we had to wait at every lock. Very frustrating on a windy day!

The 2.3km Billy tunnel was fine, we just had to wait half an hour for a green light. After the tunnel things were just as slow and the day seemed to go on forever. After eight hours we still hadn’t reached Sillery and it started to rain.

Finally after nine hours we cruised into Sillery to find the port full. But there were plenty of helpers on land and we managed to squeeze onto the wall, tying our ropes around some hedge trunks. No power but we were happy to be there!

Sunday July 23. A boat left at 7.30am so we got up and quickly moved Silver Fern onto a pontoon with power. The weather continued to be patchy but we went for a walk around Sillery finding an Intermarché and what is proported to be The Best Boulangerie in France. I don’t know who decided that but the baguettes were outstanding so maybe it’s true!

There was a Vide Grenier (flea market/garage sale) on with loads of other people’s rubbish for sale. With a limited amount of storage space on a boat we don’t buy anything we don’t need so left empty handed, apart from the baguette. Priorities.

Monday July 24- Tuesday July 25th we mooched around Sillery and stayed out of the on/off rain. We stocked up at the Intermarché and enjoyed those delicious baguettes every lunch time.

Wednesday July 25th. We caught the 10.09am bus to Reims. What a beautiful city, in particular the Notre Dame Cathedral is stunning. It was on this site, although a previous church, St Nicaise, where Clovis the Franc was baptised by St Rémi, on Christmas Eve c.498, the beginning of the Christian tradition of the Francs. From 816 to 1825, 34 Sovereigns came to Reims to be coronated as Christian Kings. From 1211-1280 the new cathedral was built in the Gothic tradition of soaring to the light and to be closer to God (if I remember Art History 101).
Since the 14th century war, plague and famine as well as a roof fire and then the devastation of bombing during WW1 reaped havoc on the building but thanks to donations, particularly from the Rockefeller family, the cathedral has been beautifully restored, (although now it is under attack from pollution and weather). There are some incredible stained glass windows by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), a French very famous painter.

Next door is the Palais du Tau, built as the bishops palace and now a museum of treasures found and restored from the cathedral and displayed here. There are massive tapestries from the choir, ornate vestments of the priests and huge sculptures. The treasury alone is stunning. Well worth the 8€ entrance fee.

After lunch we decided to walk to the musée de la Reddition, or Surrender Museum, where on May 7, 1945 at 2.41am in the War Room of General Eisenhower’s SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters of Allied Expeditionary Forces) secretly set up in a Reims technical college, the Allied Forces obtained the unconditional surrender of the armies of the Third Reich. The room where the meeting took place has been preserved exactly as it was and is fascinating. What I also find interesting is that the site has continued to be a school, now called the Lycée Roosevelt!
Later we caught the bus back to Sillery having enjoyed an excellent day in Reims.

Thursday, July 26th.
That morning we tuned in, at 6am, to our dear friend Mike William’s funeral on the Gold Coast, Australia, via a live feed. It was a very sad morning but we appreciated being able to have attended in this way.

Directly afterwards we departed the Sillery port, again in tandem with Amanda and Peter on Le Piglet, and, this time much more quickly, headed back along the canal and down to Chalons-en-Champagne. We heard there is a bridge under repair further along the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne closing the waterway until August 4th so were very pleased to take the last two spaces on the pontoon in Chalons. We will stay there for a week as it’s a beautiful city with lots to see and do and it’s a reasonable price. We also heard there are problems on other canals, generally due to lack of water with some boats running aground, so plans are, as usual, very fluid. Shame the water isn’t!

This week’s stats:

Mareuil-sur-Ay to Sillery:

7.8 engine hours, 33kms, 13 locks and 1 tunnel

Sillery to Chalons-en-Champagne

7.5 engine hours, 40kms, 13 locks and 1 tunnel

Year to date:

Engine hours: 133.5

Kilometres: 810

Locks: 432

Tunnels: 7

Pretty landscape along the canal.

In the tunnel. And the lights stayed on!


Sillery. 12,000 bodies brought together, French soldiers who died in the fighting in defence of Reims 1914-1918

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Tau palace next to the Reims cathedral

Tau palace

Big scale fireplaces. I’m just in there for scale 😳

Beautiful tapestries saved from the choir in the cathedral

Palace chapel. The light is beautiful.

Treasury treasures.

Big scale sculptures rescued from the cathedral.


Great looking shop for foodies in Reims

Musée de la Reddition (Surrender Museum).

The room where it all happened.

The peace proclamation.

Surrender museum.

Here we go into the tunnel again.

Interesting mushrooms.

I love the choises of mushrooms commonly available in the markets here.

Now that’s a mushroom.

Heirloom tomatoes


Couldn’t resist the colours

Interesting drinks from the marché

Drinks on La Belle Vie with Pamela and Pat and Peter and Amanda from Le Piglet. Lovely dinner and evening.

Yes, that’s a floating elephant. I love France.


Posted in Canal de l'Aisne à la Marne, Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Canal Lateral à la Marne, Chalons-en-Champagne, France, French Canal boating, French markets, Holiday 2017, Marne, Marne River | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Mareuil-sur-Ay via Epernay. Favourite places revisited. 

Saturday July 15. We departed La Ferté-sous-Jouarre at 8am. It was a pleasant day for cruising, warm but not too hot. We had a couple of locks that weren’t working, the first one of the day and the last. Both had VNF staff in to operate them manually so we didn’t have to wait long, arriving at Chateau Thierry at 1pm.

Chateau Thierry was much nicer now that the carnival had packed up and gone to their next venue. We found, quite by chance on a walk up to the fortress site, a medieval fair with sword fighting, displays of rope making, carving and lots of stalls, everyone dressed in medieval costume. I love it when you stumble across something fun like that. Unexpectedly.

I found the history of the area very interesting. The site of the chateau of Chateau Thierry, 2.6 hectares, had slow beginnings. In the 4th century it was first a fortified habitat on the natural spur of this part of the Marne. In the 9th-10th century the Counts of Vermandois had a castle erected out of wood and stone. Thibault II, count of Champagne, extending the fortifications again in the 12th century by adding a new outer bailey of stone. Thibault IV continued the work in the 13th century. By then there were 17 towers and two doors, one to the south and the other to the east.

More innovations continued when Chateau Thierry entered the royal domain in 1285 with King Philippe IV ‘Le Bel’, nicknamed as such for his apparent good looks, adding in great kitchens to the seigniorial home. The 15th-16th centuries saw dry ditches dug and a double bridge added. By then it was a residential palace. Blanche d’Artois, Antoine the Great Bastard of Bourgogne (quite a title), François d’Orleans and cardinal Richelieu all added civilian and religious buildings.

However it was destroyed for the most part in the 18th century, presumably during the French Revolution, turning back into its former military function and became a citadel for Napoleon’s troops. By the middle of the 19th century the fortification was turned into woodland park, although in 1918 a mounting for the infamous Paris Gun was found near the castle grounds, the gun apparently having been moved elsewhere.

So there it is. The rise and fall of a Chateau. Left standing are parts of the old wall and the Saint-Pierre and Saint-Jean Gates. It’s an interesting place to visit.

Sunday July 16th. Leaving Chateau Thierry at 8am we were hoping to find a space on the small quays at either Damery or Cumières but after a long day’s cruising we found they were both full. It was disappointing but we decided to risk carrying on up to Epernay in the hopes of finding a spot. The river to Epernay is a five kilometre one way branch of the Marne and luckily there was a perfect Silver Fern sized gap. Hurrah! After seven hours and 55kms we were very happy to settle down for a three day stay.

In the early evening we walked into the town (it’s a long walk) to the Champagne Tasting Bar CComm to sample six champagnes from small producers. My favourite was a 100% Pinot noir. Delicious.

Monday July 16th. We took a taxi up to Hautvilliers to show Georgie around one of our favourite villages. It is the birthplace of Dom Perignon (1639-1715) who ‘discovered’ the following, as a cellier at the Abbey. He founded the major elements of making Champagne wine:

1. The gathering of grapes of different origins to make a vintage

2. The quick and fragmented pressing of the grape

3. The use of bottles made of thick glass to preserve the wine and maintain the bubbles

4. The use of a cork wrapped in a seal bearing the arms of the Abbey

5. A cellar dug in the chalk so as to assure the ageing of the wine at a constant temperature.

Clever old him. I bet there were a few injuries before item 3 came into play.

The Abbey at Hautvilliers was founded in the late VIIth century by St Nivard, Rheims’s bishop, apparently inspired in a dream by the ‘dove of the devine spirit’. Voilà.
We stopped for lunch at the Cafe in the square which was very good,especially the frites, and later on took a taxi back to Epernay.

Tuesday July 17th Georgie did the cave tours at Moët et Chandon and Mercier and enjoyed them as much as we did last month. It was a stiflingly hot day, mid 30s and we all had swims at some point to cool off. Later on we had drinks on the Aussie boat, Le Piglet, with Melbournians Peter and Amanda.

Wednesday July 19th Georgie headed off on the train to Paris and on to Barcelona while we cruised back onto the canal Lateral à la Marne to Mareuil-sur-Ay. It was a cool day, in total contrast to the last few days and I was very happy about that. Love the cooler temperatures. We really like Mareuil, it has finger pontoons, power and water (€22 for three days) and an excellent boulangerie.

Thursday July 20th We woke this morning to hear our very good friend, and Best Man at our wedding, Mike Williams passed away this morning after a long illness. Although it was expected it still hits hard. He was a good guy and will be sadly missed. We drank a toast to him with a good red wine. I’m sure he would approve. I could almost hear him say, “Just get on with it”.

RIP Mike.

Friday July 21st. Today we did all our washing (have I mentioned how great it is to have our on-board washing machine?). The sheets dried in about half an hour. It’s another warm one but not outrageously so which is nice. We discovered a taste delight at the boulangerie/pâtisserie. La ficelle is a smaller thinner type of baguette and ours was filled with bacon and cheese. Yum. Maybe we’ve been in a baguette ‘traditional’ rut! 😳

Tomorrow we plan to turn off the Canal Lateral à la Marne at Condé-sur-Marne and head north again along the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne to Sillery where hopefully we will find a mooring from which we can visit Reims by bus. It will be a very long day, 39 kms, 13 locks and the 2.3km tunnel de Billy.

This week in numbers:

La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Chateau Thierry

Engine hours: 4.8

Kms: 39

Locks: 4

Chateau Thierry to Epernay

Engine hours: 6.7

Kms: 55

Locks: 5
Epernay to Mareuil-sur-Ay

Engine hours: 1.8

Kms: 12

Locks: 2

This seasons totals, after 2 months:

Engine hours: 118.7

Kms: 737

Locks: 208

Tunnels: 5

Chateau Thierry

View of the town

The remnants of the Chateau/fortifications

Remaining gate, St Jean door (1285-1306), Actually a true standalone small fortress

You can see why this site was used as a fortress

Medieval madness

This massive owl stunned us. Enormous and beautiful.

Fascinating stuff

The beautiful Marne

Three beers.

Backgammon battles in the twilight.

Isn’t this an inviting entrance.

Million dollar grapes

Louis Nicaise rows

Pinot noir grapes down to the Marne

Hautvilliers view to the Abbey church.


A beautiful evening in Epernay

I’m pretty happy with my duck dish.

This ones for you, Mike.

Mooring in Mareuil-sur-Ay

I should have taken a photo much earlier! La ficelle est yum!

Posted in Canal Lateral à la Marne, France, French Canal boating, French fauna, Holiday 2017, Marne, Marne River | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Paris, au revoir. The return up the Marne to Lagny-sur-Marne and La Ferté-sous-Joyarre

Friday July 7th. Paris. We were loving being in the heart of Paris and sharing it with family. Alan and Georgie took a hop-on hop-off Batobus boat, checking out the sights along the Seine and in the evening we caught the boat again then walked down the Champs Élysées, stopping for some very expensive drinks and Georgie checked out H&M, still open at 10.30pm. It’s always humming down there, a great atmosphere.

Saturday July 8th. The All Blacks were playing the third Lions test in Eden Park, Auckland, that morning and would you believe it there is a bar on the Left Bank called Eden Park Bar (I found it on the Internet and confirmed they would be open at 9.30am to show the game) so Alan and Georgie headed down to watch. A draw surprisingly!
In the evening we ate out at a restaurant in the Bastille area. The Steak frites were excellent. Thanks Georgie 🙂

Sunday July 9th. The Bastille market was on today, always bustling, then Alan took Georgie over to the Opera Area where they checked out the Gallérie Lafayette, the Madelaine and of course the Opera.

Monday July 10th. Today we were planning on leaving the Arsenal and cruising down the Seine but woke at 7am to a big storm, loud cracks of thunder and lots of torrential rain. The storm started the night before and inundated some of the Metro stations including the one closest to our mooring. Not a great day to travel so we all stayed in bed and later topped up the groceries at the local supermarché, between showers.

Tuesday July 11th we woke to a cloudy sky and a hint of rain but decided we were leaving regardless so once out of the lock we turned right for a scenic jaunt down the Seine, under the beautiful bridges, past the Notre Dame (waiting for a green light first as it’s one way), the Museé d’Orsay, the Tuileries and Place de la Concorde. Finally we came to the Tour Eiffel. C’est magnifique! A little further on we arrived at the mini Statue of Liberty and turned around, heading back.
It was such a big moment for us, a bucket list item, and even though there were a few raindrops the cloudy skies made for some very atmospheric photos.

Back past the Arsenal and we continued up the Seine, turning left onto the Marne and into a lock. From then on we saw a lot of traffic, large commercial barges coming towards us and we had to give way a number of times. At one lock as we departed there were 2 big commercials and 2 small cruisers waiting and it took a bit of clever manoeuvring by our captain to get past them, especially as the lock entrance was on an awkward angle and the large boats needed plenty of room to turn. Those guys are clever! Our guy’s pretty clever too.

Towards the end of the day things slowed down as we caught up to a commercial barge going the same way as us, and in between was another cruiser, on a 9km stretch of canal. We were almost at idle speed so as not to rear end the boat in front which made for a rather slow end to the day as we finally reached Lagny-sur-Marne. We celebrated our arrival with apéro beersies in the square.

Wednesday July 12. A long day’s cruise up river to La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre, 70kms but only 5 locks. At the last lock we were reunited with a lovely télécommande remote so no more lockeepers for a while. In theory, anyway.

Thursday 13th-Saturday 15th July. La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre. The locks are closed on French National Day, Quatorze Juillet as it’s known here or Bastille Day to foreigners , so we stayed for three nights. It’s so peaceful and treed, one of my favourite stops. Being free helps! We walked down to the war memorial and I noticed a Frank Woolley (Woolley is my maiden name) listed from the Royal Field Artillery unit. I wonder if we are related.

On the 14th we watched the parade in the morning, including some old USA vehicles, marching girls and band. Again in the evening, at 10.30pm, another parade followed by an excellent fireworks display. It’s great seeing how many people turn out for the celebrations. We were surprised to see all the shops and bars open and doing a roaring trade during the day. I really like this town.

Tomorrow we head off again towards Chateau Thierry. Our plan is to show Georgie some of the Champagne region before we take her to Epernay to catch a train next Wednesday.

This week’s stats:

Paris Arsenal, a jaunt down the Seine then back up the Marne to Lagny-sur-Marne:
7.3 engine hours, 50kms, 5 locks

Lagny-sur-Marne to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre:
7.4 engine hours
5 locks
1 short tunnel

Total for the year so far:
Engine hours: 105.4
Kms: 631
Locks: 197
Tunnels: 5

Eden Park Bar, Rive Gauche, Paris

Cruising down the Seine on Silver Fern.

Cruising down the Seine on Silver Fern.

Museé d’Orsay

Mini Statue of Liberty

Bridge detail

Bridge detail

Shameless selfie

Notre Dame

Busy Seine river

Busy commercial barge

Recycling barge turning around behind us.

Georgie enjoying the sights

Mooring in Lagny-sur-Marne

Enjoying an Apéro in Lagny

What to choose, what to choose? Fromagerie in Lagny.

Matching wine to cheese

Brie de Meaux with matching Bordeaux

Brie de Meaux matched with Chateau La Capelle Bordeaux Superier 2014

Short tunnel de Chalifert

Through the tunnel

July 14th celebration parade

July 14th celebration parade

July 14th celebration parade

July 14th celebration parade

July 14th celebration parade

14 July celebrations La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre

Feu d’artifice 14 July

Posted in Canal Lateral à la Marne, France, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017, La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre, Lagny-sur-Marne, Marne, Marne River, Paris, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lagny-sur-Marne to Paris. We made it!

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La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Lagny-sur-Marne. Colds and bad weather? Still France, still fabulous. 

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Posted in Coypu, French Canal boating, French fauna, French markets, Holiday 2017, Marne, Meaux | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cumières to La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre. Vineyards and heatwaves. 

Monday June 19. Cumières was an excellent stop for us. The beautiful wine village of Hautvillier a highlight of the season so far. But it was time to move on so we cast off and headed downstream. The engine water started to overheat again so after a few locks we tied up and let it cool down. Alan added more water and is becoming increasingly confident that the problem is a leaky radiateur cap. After a cool down and water top up we continued towards Dormans, 25 kms west of Cumières. The weather is again stunning. 30° and the odd puff of breeze. A swim may be on the cards this week. While we are moving the breeze created is blissful! We are cruising through endless slopes of vine covered hills on both sides of the river, in places extending all the way down to the water. Dotted through out are the ubiquitous little white vans of the workers, tending to the vines. They must get very hot!

We moored at Dormans and visited the impressive World War 1 memorial behind the town on the grounds of Chateau de Dormans. The memorial is massive and encompasses a chapel, a crypt, a small museum of weapons and uniforms, and a 100 step spiral staircase to a magnificent view over the vineyards. Truly stunning and well worth the climb.

The mooring is ok, €9.90 for mooring, power and water. The downside is the very loud and busy train line and church bells that ring every 15 minutes. So not a peaceful stay but we swam twice, the temperature at 33°C was stifling. We encountered a psycho swan. He pecked at our boat, tried to mate with the fenders and generally made a nuisance of himself consistently all day. We later saw a pair of swans with five cygnets so he was probably protecting his territory.

Tuesday June 20th. Another hot day, temperatures are forecasted for 36°C this week and there is little breeze to cut through it. The Marne river is beautiful here. Twisting and turning between the vine covered slopes.

We moored in Chateau-Thierry on a small pontoon, room for 3 boats. Parked on the adjacent road were lots of circus caravans. They were setting up for a fete at the weekend which will make the mooring very noisy so we didnt want to stay here long. The heat was oppressive during the afternoon, hitting the forecasted 36° or more. Alan traipsed off to find a bricolage and mechanic, on the hunt for a new radiator seal or cap but no luck. He did however find the right tool to clear the weed from the electric toilet so job well done, pun intended. Later we found a restaurant in town with a water mister, spraying a fine mist of water over the patrons to keep us cool. So delicious.

Wednesday June 21. Yet again a scorcher, (are you sick of hearing about the weather yet?) The French authorities have declared an orange alert for almost all of France. After the national disaster in 2003 when 15,000 mainly elderly died in a heatwave, they take it very seriously.

We set off at 8.30am and enjoyed the breeze created by our movement. After a while the engine needed a cool down so we moored in Charly and did our grocery shopping at the nearby Super U, a good size supermarket not far from the river. Very convenient. Later we cruised on down to La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre (that’s a mouthful!), a lovely mooring behind a small island so some shade in the evening. Hurrah! The temperature crept up and up to 37°C. We swam off the back of the boat and it was lovely. It was hard to sleep that night as the cabin temperature was stifling.

Thursday June 22nd. Yet another 37°C day, the last for a while I hope. We explored the town with its pretty Hôtel de Ville built in 1886. We tried to check out the church but couldn’t find a way in, a metaphor if ever I wrote one. The boulangerie closest to the bridge does a very acceptable baguette. We spent the afternoon moving from the deck to the river and back. The air was stifling.

Friday June 23rd. We were planning on heading the 40kms down to Meaux today until we read on the VNF iPhone app that there is going to be a water festival this weekend and the port would be closed. So we stayed put and instead, since the weather has finally cooled off, walked to the WW1 War Memorial commemorating the 3,888 British soldiers who lost their lives in the 1914 battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne rivers. Sobering stuff. The heatwave has finally calmed down and it was only 27°. Much more pleasant.

Saturday June 24th. Another cooler day today. Yay! A very quiet day, grocery shopping at the local Carrefour and some housework. It’s lovely to stay in one spot for a while, especially one so pretty. Being free helps of course. We’ll probably head off on Monday although if all the boats here are going to Meaux there may be a problem with space but we’ll see what happens.

We are only about 50km west of Paris now and have over a week until our booking at the Arsenal port.
Here is the week in stats:

Cumières to Dormans, 3 engine hours, 24kms, 3 locks

Dormans to Chateau Thierry, 2.8 engine hours, 25kms, 2 locks

Chateau Thierry to La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre, 4.8 engine hours, 39kms, 4 locks.

Now we are on the Marne river and not on canals there are less locks and consequently we are travelling further, more quickly.

Totals Week 6

77 engine hours, 429kms, 178 locks and 2 tunnels.

High on the hill you can see the famous Veuve Clicquot chateau, 1848.

Lock in front with the vines of Champagne surrounding.

Nice spot. Bet they have a nice view.

Crazy swan

Mooring in Dormans

War memorial in Dormans

A beautiful and substantial memorial

The tiny museum inside the memorial


Panorama from the top.

My favourite photo of the day.

Chapel in memorial.

37°C Yes, don’t mind if I do.

Instructed the captain we NEED one of these on our boat!

Unusual architecture for this area.

Another gorgeous chateau

Lovely day for a cruise.

Passing hotel barge

La Ferte sous Jouarre. View from Charles de Gaulle bridge.

Memorial to 3888 British soldiers who died during the WW1 battles in this area.

La Ferte sous Jouarre Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall)

Posted in French Canal boating, Holiday 2017 | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments