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

From Deja vu all over again to Beaucoup de bubbly. The gorgeous Champagne region. 

Tuesday June 13th.
Talk about been there, done that. It was not a great morning for us. Things started off fine. I walked to the Best Boulangerie almost ever, picked up a delicious baguette for lunch while Alan paid the Capitain and organised for the lock to be ready for us.

Off we went at 8.30, a perfect day for travelling, sunny but not too hot. We waved at a friendly fisherman. 45 minutes later guess what happened? The engine light came on. Alan said he’d noticed the temperature gauge was creeping up quite quickly so was keeping an eye on it. Bugger! We floated around with the engine off for a while then turned around and headed back the way we had come. We waved again at our friendly fisherman who looked confused.

Deciding to cool the engine off we staked up on the bank and I made coffee (always a good idea) while Alan checked a few things and topped up the coolant tank which he thought looked ok but took 3 litres of water. Hmmm. Engine back on and the gauge stayed in the cool zone. Ok, maybe that’s it? So we turned around, again, and headed off, again. Friendly fisherman (by now I felt we were friends) just laughed at us and shook his head. Yup.
So off we went, two hours after we left Chalons, our eyes glued to the temp gauge. It was ok. Must have been the coffee.
We arrived in Mareuil-sur-Ay (try pronouncing that one), a perfect little mooring in the Champagne region not far from Epernay. There was a choice of mooring on the bank with no power/water or on the pontoons, €23 for 3 nights. There is a boulangerie, a tabac, bar and mini supermarket, all open now and then. We had a wander around the village with its Champagne Houses including the famous Billiecart-Salmon then aperos with our British friends on Arwen.

The next day we rode our bikes up the very steep hill (ok we pushed them up the last bit) to Mutigny, a small village amongst the Premier Cru vineyards and had the best tour we’ve had with Doris Huet from Sentier du Vigneron who walked us through the many parcels of land, giving us insights into the long and very regulated processes of Champagne producing. She has great English and a lovely easy to understand manner. If you are ever in the region I highly recommend adding this experience to your itinerary. Afterwards we tasted their own brand bubbly which was delicious. Next we stopped in at the Zimmerlin-Flament Winery in Mutigny for a tasting and purchased a couple of bottles.  Then a very fast downhill bike ride into Ay where, recommended by Doris, we tried a café gourmand in lieu of lunch followed by a ride along the towpath back to Mareuil-sur-Ay.
The following day I needed a rest after all that exercise yesterday so we pottered around the village, visiting the beautiful gardens at Billecart-Salmon, another famous brand. The boulangerie was open and worth the wait. Later on a big storm passed through, deafening thunder claps and torrential rain but it blew through quickly.
On Friday we left Mareuil hoping to stop at Ay to visit the museum but the mooring wasn’t great so we pushed on to Epernay, up an embranchement of the Marne. The mooring is right at the end of the embranchement, about 5 kms, and is run by the local tennis and rowing club. A delightful Capitain took €44 for 2 nights which is horribly expensive, but it’s Epernay and they have the Avenue de Champagne so I can see why they charge so much. (Alan had welcome drinks later with the Capitain and some French boaters who were complaining  about the high charges).

So we headed out for a wander and ended up at Moët et Chandon’s spectacular Champagne House, taking their English language tour, €24 each including one tasting. Fun facts: They have 1000 hectares of their own vines which produce 25% of their requirements and they buy in the rest from contract growers. All their Champagne is made with varying amounts of the three grape types, Pinot Noir, Meurnier and Chardonnay, they don’t just blend 2 like some other houses do, for example Blanc de Blanc or Blanc de Noir. This gives them their signature citrus notes and “thin bubbles”.

There are 34,000 hectares of vines in the Champagne AOC région, (they are not allowed to increase the size) and so price per hectare ranges from €1.2mill to €1.7mill for parcels in the Grand Cru areas. Vines are not allowed to be more than 1.3 metres tall, 300 million bottles are produced every year and grapes can’t be harvested until the AOC boffins give the go ahead. The harvest generally takes 3 weeks using 150,000 pickers who descend on the area for the vendage and the picking must be done by hand. Every aspect is regulated very strictly so you know when you buy a bottle of Champagne it will be good!

After Moët we dropped in to one of the Champagne bars and tried a couple of the smaller houses bubbly. Because we’re equal opportunity tasters.
Saturday was another hot day. We walked to the Carrefour hypermarket to stock up but in the afternoon it was back to business, this time walking up to Mercier Champagne House for their excellent cellar tour. They have 18km of cellars underground cut into the chalk, all in one level, luckily for us they have a train that takes you through and an audio guide for all the different languages. Very helpful. Monsieur Mercier started his empire at 20 years old in 1858, with a desire to bring good quality Champagne to the masses and what a quirky man he was. For the Paris Exposition of 1889 he conceived and then built an oak barrel large enough to hold 200,000 bottles of wine, weighing 20 tonnes. Only problem was getting it from Epernay to Paris. 24 oxen were used, along with 18 horses for the steep bits. 5 adjoined houses had to be demolished, 2 bridges collapsed and trees were cut down to squeeze the procession through. Minor details though for M Mercier It took 3 weeks. He won second prize at the Exposition, overshadowed by a little building called the Eiffel Tower.

Mercier cellars were the first to be built to a rational plan which i guess allows access by the little train.

After the tour we tasted the Brut and Blanc de Noir, preferring the second so we made a small purchase! Hoping to taste one when we have family staying soon and one to take home. Maybe.

That evening we invited Don and Agnes off Moonshadow for aperos.
The next morning we moved a massive 45 minutes down the Marne to Cumières where there is a lovely mooring with free electricity and water. From there we rode our bikes up another very steep hill to the stunning wine village of Hautvilliers where the famous Dom Pérignon lived, invented the first Champagne and is buried in the Abbey. He was born in 1638 and died in 1715. He was a monk and cellarmaster at the Benedictine Abbey in Hautvilliers. He perfected amongst other things the art of producing clear white wines from black grapes by clever manipulation of the presses, started using corks instead of wood and also used thicker glass for the bottles which often exploded!

Both the Abbey and the village are stunning and well worth the exhausting ride. It was about 30°C so we stopped at the local cafe for a cold Paniche (shandy to us). Blissful!

So that’s where we are today. It’s hot and very windy and we are sitting on the deck admiring the vine-covered slopes above the village of Cumières thinking how lucky we are to be in this beautiful area. We are now on the River Marne and steadily getting closer to Paris!

This weeks stats:

Chalons-sur-Champagne to Mareuils-sur-Ay,

4.3 engine hours, 27kms, 5 locks.

Mareuils-sur-Ay to Epernay, 2.2 engine hours, 12kms, 2 locks.

Epernay to Cumières, 0.7 engine hours, 7kms and 0 locks (hurrah!).
Totals 5 weeks, 66.4 engine hours, 341 kms, 133 locks and 2 tunnels.

Back in the road

We turned around a corner and, Voila, vines vines everywhere.

Mareuil-sur-Au mooring

Bolly darling?

In the lock.

Vineyards for miles. Great views up the hill to Mutigny

Mutigny church surrounded by Premier Cru vines. I saw a few famous names in the graveyard including Plantagenet.

A Deutz vineyard

This shows a contracter’s tag

Moët et Chandon

Gorgeous views

Our lovely tour guide, Doris.

A pheromone tag to confuse the butterflies.

Tasting after our walking tour.

The unassuming Champagne house of Zimmerlin-Flament

Stunning views of the Champagne region from Mutigny.

Pink water lilies

Café gourmand in Ay

Mareuil

Lovely place in Ay

A very unassuming producer, A. Charbaut of Mareuil

Carnage after a swan squabble

Stunning chateau on the Marne river in Mareuil

Champagne de Castillane Tower in Epernay

Mooring in Mareuil

Stormy afternoon

The Dom (Pérignon) at Moët et Chandon

Caves at Moët et Chandon

Cellars at Mercier

The Riddler

Theatre in Epernay

Moet

Moët for miles

Champagne Bar

A small purchase at Mercier

That big barrel!

Mooring in Epernay

View of the river Marne and Silver Fern in the distance from Hautvilliers

Abbey of Hautvilliers where Dom Pérignon is buried

Dom Pérignon’s Abbey

Dom Pérignon grave

Cafe in Hautvillier

Evening mooring in Cumières. Just beautiful and all on our own.

Posted in Canal Lateral à la Marne, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

St Dizier to Chalons-en-Champagne. 

Week 4. Sunday June 4th. We walked around some of the sights of St Dizier, including the château. The weather was wet and grey which can taint your opinions of a town and we were happy to move on.

Monday June 5th. Leaving St Dizier we cruised down the canal, past the Robinson Airforce Base to Orconte a mooring with power at €8 per night. Only one automatic lock not functioning today but again a VNF guy sorted it out. There were lots of biting bugs in the locks and I received more than my share of bites. The weather was lovely in the evening and we took the opportunity to go for a bike ride around Orconte (took about 30 seconds) and then along the towpath for a while. Very pleasant.

Tuesday June 6th As forecasted the weather was foul, the ropes creaking and groaning all night. Rain, hail, thunder and lightening and extremely windy. Not a day to attack the locks so we stayed indoors securely tied to the little quay. One of my pot plants was blown into the canal but I managed to fish most of it out with a boat hook. I’m hoping it will survive.
We waited for a break in the weather to go to the boulangerie (the only shop in Orconte) but the bread was disappointing, tasting like supermarket bread. Gasp!

Wednesday June 7th We woke to grey skies and a cold wind but decided to move on anyway, leaving Orconte at 8.30am. It was a bit of a hard slog in the cold, Alan commented I looked like I was going skiing I had so many layers on, but the weather mainly stayed dry and we continued on all day until reaching Châlons-en-Champagne at 5pm after 45km and 14 locks. We handed back the lock door remote at Vitry and from then on there were hanging cables over the canal to pull to start the process. One lock was broken but luckily for us a commercial barge had called VNF and he locked us through manually after them.
We have seen very few pleasure boats but quite a few large commercial barges lately. Some French, some Belgian, usually with a car on deck. They all give cheerful waves as we pass.

We moored on the stone quay rather than the finger pontoons in Châlons-en-Champagne as the weed was terrible. The Capitain told Alan they had cut it all out only a month ago. That stuff grows fast and it seems to have taken hold everywhere we’ve been lately. We put in two stakes as there were no bollards to tie up to, paid for five nights (€49) and settled down for a relaxing stay.

Thursday June 8 It was a hot day, the weather has been hugely variable. VNF have started grouping boats together through the locks up in canals north of us which means water levels are running low. That’s not good news for us as we are planning to use those routes on our way home later in the season. We will be keeping an eye on that. Our neighbours from Christchurch, Jacqui and Martin on Akaroa, pulled up that afternoon. It’s great to catch up with them over here! We had aperos on our boat with Martin , Jacqui plus Barbara on Kingfisher joined us.
Châlon en Champagne is a beautiful city, full of stunning architecture and interesting history. The Battle of Châlons was fought here in AD274 between Emperor Aurelian of Rome and Emperor Tetricus I of the Gallic Empire. In 451AD another battle of Châlon saw Attila turn back his westward advances. Châlon was also on the Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella during the Middle Ages. The Notre-Dame-en-Vaux (1157-1217) is now a Unesco World Heritage site due to its importance as a pilgrimage stop on the way to Spain. The church is incredible, inside and out as is St Etienne cathedral, a stunning building. Built between 1120-1634 due to financing problems and damage along the way it shows a mix of Romajnesque Gothic and even Baroque styles.

Both churches are gobsmackingly impressive with soaring gothic arches and huge stained glass windows. We spent the afternoon exploring St Etienne and Notre Dame and strolling through the Grand and Petit Jardin parks. The city feels well maintained and vibrant. Arguably the best place we’ve been this year so far.

Friday June 10th. It rained during the night and on and off all day. We had a quiet day. Later on we enjoyed aperos on Akaroa with a Dutch couple on Nanniguy (probably the wrong spelling!).
Saturday June 11. A hot day today. We visited the excellent Marche this morning and in the afternoon took the boat tour of Chalons, 45 mins along the small canal that runs through the town. Well worth taking. The commentary was in French and just a bit too fast for me but we were given a pamphlet in English so that helped. Very impressive light displays inside the tunnels.
Drinks hosted by Barbara under the trees was lovely that evening and at 9.30pm Alan and the others walked into the main square to see a light show and an amazing circus display including a grand piano hoisted up high by a tethered hot air balloon. A man played the piano while a woman stood on top singing! There were also ribbon dancers and amazing lights projected onto the Notre Dame church. The festival called The Furies has been on all week with music and circus displays all over town. That night the music didn’t stop until 6am but it didn’t bother us in the marina area although we did wake to find a smashed beer bottle on our deck.

Sunday June 12th was another hot day. 31°. We caught up on our washing and later on met with the usual suspects plus Alan and Di, Brits on Arwen, for aperos under the shady trees.

Monday June 13th Martin and Jacqui departed back towards Vitry this morning. We did a big supermarket run and then relaxed as we have a reasonably big day tomorrow heading up to Mareuil-sur-Ay, deep in the heart of Champagne.
We have absolutely loved Chalons-en-Champagne and highly recommend it. By the way, the best baguettes are in the boulangerie in the Place de la Republic. A-maz-ing.
So here are this weeks stats:
St Dizier to Orconte 2.8 engine hrs, 17kms, 8 locks
Orconte to Chalons-en-Champagne 7.7 hrs engine hours, 45kms, 14 locks.

In total: 4 weeks, 59.2 engine hours, 295kms, 126 locks, 2 tunnels.

Robinson Airforce base St Dizier

Passing commercial barge complete with car on board

Officially leaving one canal and onto Canal Lateral à la Marne

Chalons-en-Champagne has some stunning buildings

Hôtel de Ville

Inside Hôtel de Ville

Notre Dame de Vaux

I kid you not, the full Stations of the Cross in Lego takes Pride of place in this church!

Cathedral St Etienne

Marché

Marche

Marché deciousness

Part of the light display inside one of the tunnels. Music also played. Very clever!

Boat trip

Chalons has many timbered buildings

Light projections onto Notre Dame

A very sociable time! Martin and Jacqui from ‘Akaroa’, Alan and Di from ‘Arwen’ and Barbara from ‘Kingfisher’. Oh and me from ‘Silver Fern’.

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Posted in Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Canal Lateral à la Marne, France, French Canal boating, French markets, Holiday 2017 | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Chaumont to St-Dizier. A mixed bag.

Sunday, May 28. Mothers Day in France.
Not the best day for us. We cast off from Chaumont and headed through the first lock and all was looking good. About half an hour later 3 things happened. Our engine overheat warning light and alarm came on, the lifting bridge in front of us light’s were all out and so were those of the lock directly after the bridge. And there was nowhere to disembark as the sides were too shallow. Awesome.
We turned the engine off to cool it down and floated around wondering what to do. After a while a very helpful Frenchman from Paris came by on his bike and called the emergency vnf number. They told him they’d send a guy but it would take him an hour to get there.
We decided to turn around and limp back to Chaumont, very slowly, stopping to cool the engine down as we went.
Back in Chaumont Alan spent the afternoon changing the impeller (the cause of the overheating) and I cheered him on from under a nearby shady tree. 31° again. Imagine how hot it was in the engine bay! Spent the rest of the day trying to stay cool.

Monday May 29. We had another go at leaving Chaumont and the engine behaved. The locks seemed to be working fine and all was good. Until the door of the 5th lock of the day refused to open to let us out. Sigh. A call was made to vnf by the French boat in front and I made coffee while we waited. Not too long though. A guy arrived and reset the mechanism and we were released from the 3.5m bug infested depths.
Next stop was Froncles. Really nice quay with 100m of space. The power seemed to be shared by many campervans though so we needed 2 extension cables to reach a free electrical point. It was very hot so we stayed on the boat under the canopy and watched three fighter jets practicing dog fighting in the skies above. Great view. They carried on the next day. I think they are Dassault Rafale B (I googled it :-))

Tuesday 30th May. We decided to have a rest day today after yesterday’s long haul. We walked up to the town and stocked up on fresh food at the Carrefour Express supermarket. The rest of the day was spent reading and watching the boules games nearby.

Wednesday 31st May. We were off at 9am into the first lock on our own. The lock was full of grass and weeds. Really mucky, the worst we’ve seen and it’s been pretty bad at times along this canal. We had to stop after we left the lock to clean out the filter. It was full.
The locks were back to automatic although the lifting bridge in Vraincourt needs a vnf worker to operate it. The locks were all set against us though so we had to wait a bit for each lock to fill up for us. We passed a Dutch peniche going the other way. Another boat is a rare sighting. It’s very quiet.

The landscape is rural and very agricultural with an occasional field of cows. Mainly it’s cropping and lots of it with big paddocks and few fences. Lots of birdsong which is lovely. My favourite are the swallows and their antics, swooping along the waters edge. And the cuckoos. Love them.

We cruised through Donjeux with its small two boat mooring which looked lovely. Maybe another time as we were heading further along to Joinville. We passed over the Marne river and it looked so inviting!

Arriving in Joinville the mooring place looked really nice. The only problem was the power had to be paid by credit card at €2 for 55mins. What?? We decided that was too expensive and didn’t bother. A shame as otherwise it’s nice with trees and picnic tables shared with campervans. Later on we realised there was another mooring further along the canal, attached to a hotel, which was very nice. Still it wasn’t hot so we didn’t need our fans on and saved ourselves the €s.
Joinville is a very attractive town with a stunning chateau, Chateau du Grand Jardin. As the name suggests the gardens are stunning with lots of topiary. The big church in Joinville, Notre Dame, has an impressive exterior. Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside as it was locked up. We did visit the Lidl near the mooring (not quite as cultural) and bought some duck for our dinner, accompanied with a cherry sauce I rustled up.

Thursday June 1st. We headed off downstream to Chamouilly which has a new quay with bollards and power/water. €8 for 16 hours and you pay by credit card into a machine. Must better organised here than Joinville and we really liked the small town which seemed better cared for than some others we visited. A boulangerie by the bridge and a Proximarché (grocers) on the other side. We stayed two nights and visited the church on the Roches-sur-Marne side. The Chamouilly church was being set up for a wedding or perhaps Pentecostal Sunday Mass.

Saturday 3rd June we cruised further along to St Dizier. A very long quay with power and water bornes which you can get jetons (tokens) for at the local cinema or sports complex across the canal. Power jetons last 8 hours. It’s free.
We plan to stay in St Dizier for two nights as the weather has turned cold and wet this weekend. We walked around the town which seems a mix of old and new. Maybe it was the grey weather or the fact it was Sunday and everything was closed but the place seemed a little sad. But the quay and water sports centre are very nice. The nightclub Ambiance is in the cinema complex nearby, open 2300-0400 Fri-Sun but we didn’t hear anything where we are moored down at the lock end of the quay last night.

So that’s the latest update. We’re still heading towards Paris and hoping the water levels stay up. With the hot May we’ve had I hear some waterway levels may be very low which happened two years ago. There’s more rain in the forecast as well as hot days so who knows how that will effect this year’s cruise. Flexibility is the key to this lifestyle!

Here are this weeks stats:

Chaumont-Chaumont (breakdown) 1.1hrs, 4kms, 2locks
Chaumont-Froncles,3.9 hrs, 23kms, 9 locks
Froncles-Joinville, 3.9hrs, 23kms, 9 locks
Joinville-Chamouilly, 4.2hrs, 24kms, 11 locks
Chamouilly-St Dizier, 1.5hrs, 9kms, 2 locks.
There were quite a few lifting bridges in there too

Totals so far this season:
3 Weeks
48.7 engine hours
233 kms
104 locks
2 tunnels

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Lifting bridge and tunnel combo

IMG_4788

Grain silos along the canal

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Mooring in Froncles

IMG_4794

Getting closer to Paris

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Lifting bridge/ lock combo.

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Heading into a lock over the Marne river underneath

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What a beauty

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View of the back of the lock as we descend. Nice waterfall effect.

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Joinville. A very pretty town

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Joinville

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Important business transaction.

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Shameless posing. Château du Grand Jardin, Joinville.

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Our hero. The weedeater, canal style. Need about 50 of these.

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Mooring in Chamouilly

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Roches-sur-Marne

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St Dizier theatre

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Memorial to the 1544 Siege of St Dizier, part of the Italian War 1542-46 which pitted Francis 1 of France and Suleiman 1 of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII of England.

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Famous icecream factory museum in St Dizier

Posted in Burgundy, Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, French Canal boating, Holiday 2017 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Piépape to Chaumont via the Balesmes Tunnel. 

Wednesday 24th May. Today we transversed the Balesmes Tunnel, nearly 5km long, built mid 1880s, and ‘supposedly’ well lit the entire way, more on that shortly. We left Piépape early that morning, climbing 11 locks in 9kms before reaching the tunnel and after a briefing from the VNF staff we headed on in. The lights are automatic so cruising slowly through they light the way forward. Unfortunately for us once we were well into the tunnel the lights went out and it was pitch black. While I raced into the galley to find a big torch Alan tried his best to work out which way was forward. Impossible as it turned out and we drove into the rail of the pathway on the left, causing crashes inside and out.

Then suddenly the lights relit and we could see one of our balloon fenders floating away behind us. Since we were handily connected to the railing I gingerly climbed off the side of the boat with a boathook in hand and ran back, managing to hook the fender out of the water and returned to the boat feeling just a little bit frazzled. But we set off again, this time I sat up the front with the torch just in case and sure enough out the lights went again. Alan did a superb job keeping the boat heading straight and just as well as the lights were on and off the whole hour it took us to pass through. We tried going slower or faster but it didn’t seem to make any difference and we emerged into the bright daylight damp, cold and very tired. Note to self: Have our spotlight, powered by the generator, ready to go even if the tunnel is well lit!

Still, job done and after two more locks, (now having reached the summit we started descending) and tied up in Langres-Marne, celebrating with a cold beer.

Later on we had a catch-up with a South African couple, Keith and Val on Baars, who we had met a couple of years ago.

Thursday 25th May we took a taxi up the very steep hill to the ancient walled town of Langres. It is thought that Langres was founded as early as 2nd century AD and it was occupied by both the Gauls and the Romans. It’s a stunning town and as it was Assumption Day, a public holiday and important religious festival for the Catholics, we chanced upon an organ and choir practice before the service at 11am. Just stunning and so atmospheric.

After walking back down the hill we cast off and headed along the canal this time with a lockeeper accompanying us. We wondered why since the locks were automatic but once we arrived at the 6th lock of the day they became manual again. We arrived in Rolampont after 3 hours and just managed to get our bow onto the full quay and staked the stern onto a grassed area with some excellent help from the other boaters. Another quiet night for us with a big day planned the next day.

Friday 26th May. After visiting the market at Rolampont (only a fruit and vege stand plus the Rotisseried chicken van, we may have been too early for other stalls) we fronted up to the first lock of the day with a grumpy female lockeeper. It was a long slow slog of a day in a 30° heat so no wonder she was grumpy. But eventually she and I had a chat in French about us, our boat and France and she even smiled at one point! 7 hours, 14 locks (12 manual) and 29kms later we finally pulled into Chaumont to find the quay full. So disappointing. We noticed there were 3 metres spaces between all the boats so called out asking if someone could move forward, or back, so we could squeeze in. Initially we were either ignored or told no but we persisted and finally a lovely Australian on a big barge and a rather annoyed Swiss on a cruiser each moved allowing us the finally moor up for the day. We were exhausted! A very quiet night. I’m in bed by 8pm at the moment, so tired!

Saturday 27th May we took a taxi up the hill (another steep climb) to the city of Chaumont, the administrative capital of this area, the Haut Marne. It’s another beautiful town with a stunning cathedral, where we heard the organist playing one of my all time favourite songs, Halleluia, by Leonard Cohan. Amazing. We treated ourselves to Le déjeuner in the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville. Crocque Monsieurs on steroids. We took in the sights, including the Jesuit Chapel, then walked back down the hill in the 31° heat.

And here we are now, crashed out on the boat trying to stay out of the sun and watching boys jumping into the canal to cool off.

Here are our stats since we left St Jean de Losne.

St Jean de Losne to Auxonne. 3.1 engine hour, 14 kms, 1 lock

Auxonne to Oisilly Viaduc. 6.1 hours, 35 kms, 8 locks

Oisilly to Cusey. 5.5 hours, 27kms, 15 locks.

Cusey to Piépape. 3.5 hours, 13kms, 11 locks

Piépape to Langres. 5.3 hours, 20kms, 13 locks, 1x 5km tunnel.

Langres-Rolampont. 3.1 hours, 11kms, 7 locks.

Rolampont to Chaumont. 5.6 hrs, 29kms, 14 locks.

That is 7 days, 32.1 engine hours (we have started to turn the engine off in the locks), 149kms, 69 locks and 1 tunnel.

We are heading to Paris but it’s a long way off yet and we still have the Champagne region to visit with all its Houses and those tastings don’t do themselves you know.

Santé

Entrance to the tunnel

Tunnel entrance

Tunnel entrance

Inside the tunnel when the lights are on!

Yay!

Langres on the top of the hill

    Langres Cathedral de St Mammes

Inside the cathedral

View from the walls

Old carriage used to bring people up from the railway station

Stunning views 🙂

Back on the road again

Mooring

Chaumont Hôtel de Ville

Les Halles. The inside market.

Absinthe is back!

What a Croq!

Basilica of St John the Baptist

Basilica of St John the Baptist

Basilica of St John the Baptist

Chapel of the Jesuits

Posted in Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Oisilly, Cussey, Piépape, eclusiers, French Canal boating, French markets, Holiday 2017, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

St Jean de Losne to Piépape. The Saône and Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

Saturday May 20th. We departed our home port of St Jean de Losne after topping up our water tanks and buying a crusty baguette for lunch. The weather was very cloudy and only 12° although at least it wasn’t raining, yet. Our destination was Auxonne, up the Saône river about 16kms away and only one lock.

On Friday we had dropped the rental car in Dijon and taken a train back to the port (30mins). The rain was almost torrential on the drive but there was a break for our walk from the station to the port. However a kind lady picked us up and drove us back. This is obviously a common occurrence and our second lift from the station. Madam told us she works in Dijon as do a lot of St JdL residents if the large number of passengers alighting here is anything to go by. Very friendly and kind people.

So off we went on our 2017 inaugural cruise. There were some big black clouds looming overhead but the sun was struggling to shine. The wind was chilly. There was quite a lot of traffic on the river. We passed boats heading the other way including a wide body narrow boat.

We waited at the Auxonne lock in the rain for 15 mins until it was free then locked through with two other boats (one kiwis from Palmerston North, the other British). No problems and we arrived in Auxonne at 13.45, tying up in the marina. First day and first lock of 2017 done and dusted!
We walked into town (fun fact, Auxonne is where Napoleon did his Army training), bought some fresh milk and quiche lorraine for dinner.
The mooring cost €14 for the night including power.
We enjoyed a quiet rosé on the deck as we watched a hot air balloon drift by.

Sunday 21st. I walked into town for our last baguette for a few days while Alan topped up our water and we were off.
There are a lot of locks on the Canal Entre Champagne et Bougogne but the great thing is they are operated by a remote control. There is a machine that drops the remote out and away you go. Press Avalant for descending or Montant for ascending as we were. Once in the ecluse theoretically you press the Bassinée button, the doors shut and the lock process starts. This worked most of the time. When it didn’t we could manually lift the big blue pole thingy to start. If you can reach it. If not, up the ladder you go, slimy and murky as it is.
We arrived in Oisilly, by an old viaduct, and tied up along the side of the canal in the shade. A lovely spot all by ourselves.

Monday 22nd we headed out just before 9am after I did some yoga on the aft deck which was lovely and Alan got the boat ready. My yoga ‘zen’ didn’t last long as today I decided to put my big girl pants on and take control of the boat. In and out of locks with barely a scrape, things were going very well. Then my luck failed on the way out of a lock when the fenders all popped up (the locks are filled right to the brim) and I did hit the side just a tad. I wasn’t having any fun at that point and had a wee break from the stress. I think I can at least manage the boat if I had to now but I also think my skill set is firmly working the ropes!
We finished up the day in Cussey where there is a mooring with power but no water available. Also no shops as expected. Eventually 3 other boats arrived to join us, 2 yachts (French and Brits) and one cruiser (Swiss). We went for a bike ride further down the canal along the bike track which was very pleasant. The weather was beautiful.

Tuesday 22nd after another short yoga session we headed off and things were going well until lock 13 where we were stuck inside a lock with double red lights meaning it’s kaput. So up the ladder we went and I called on the intercom stuck on the side of a shed to talk to VNF. My French is obviously getting better because a very nice lady sent a very nice man down in his (not that nice) van to sort out the problem and after discussing what our plans were for the next few days we headed off again and tied up for the night in Piépape which used to have a boulangerie but sadly that shop been closed for some time. A common occurrence. We are surprised at how quiet the canal has been. Today we saw only saw 2  other boats.

We’ve been out of Internet coverage for a few days and I got a nasty shock to see I’d missed quite a few calls from family letting me know my mum was sick. It is times like these you realise how far away from home you are, how much you rely on the Internet for communication and how lucky I am to have 3 sisters and a brother who have got things under control. Get well soon, Mum!

Tomorrow we will be heading through a 5km tunnel and on to Langres. Here are a few pics from the last week.

A bientôt.

Posted in Burgundy, Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, Oisilly, Cussey, Piépape, Holiday 2017, Saone river, Speaking French | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bastille Marché, Paris

The stunning market near the Bastille  considered one of the best in Paris and was busy the day we visited. Lots of fresh seafood, meat (including horse) beautiful flowers.

Posted in French Canal boating | 7 Comments