Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Marne: Meaux - La Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Charly-sur-Marne – Chateau Thierry – Damery – Épernay.

7 June to 13 June 2018.

138,6 kilometers, 11 locks.

Thursday 7 June – Meaux to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. 40 kilometers, 2 locks, 6 hours 15 minutes.

A very early start into misty, cool weather which cleared into another beautiful day, saw us passing through our first lock twenty kilometres upstream shortly after nine o’ clock. After the two tremendous thunderstorms we had experienced overnight at Meaux, the waters of the Marne were a swirling, muddy brown mix, not the deep green we were expecting and a sharp lookout had to be kept for propeller destroying logs.

Cruising is hard work!

One of the few boats we saw.

At the St Jean lock where we had to wait for a commercial to lock through, the lockkeeper asked (in French) if we had a telecommand (the gadget which opens locks automatically) – as none of the locks since Paris are automated it is a bit of a strange question and on hearing our reply in the negative he just looked at us and explained that if we had had one we could have activated the lock ourselves thus excusing his not answering his radio or phone. Like we believed him! Anyway, he disappeared into his office, handed us the little box and bid us adieu.

Cruising with the telecommend is a pleasure and on reaching La Fetré who should be there but barge Brunel and Philip hailed us from the bank where he and Sue were walking Dolly; over a quick lunchtime imbibation aboard Elle stories were swopped and we met on the pontoon for drinks later that evening.

La Ferté-sous-Jouarre is not a particularly attractive town although the pontoon mooring was pretty and ‘felt’ quite safe.

The long wall on the left of the river has mooring rings but depth unknown.

The Mairie and town square.

Bye bye Brunel.

Friday 8 June – La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Charly-sur-Marne. 23,5 kilometers, 3 locks, 3 hours 40 minutes.

The next morning was market morning and the Bates and Lynn went shopping before we set off on a steadily greener Marne looking for our next stop; a verdant part of the waterway with lovely houses and good views.

Some locks have signs insisting on life jackets.

We tried to moor up at pretty Nanteuil-sur-Marne for a restaurant lunch but the pontoon was a broken mess and the services had been cut off

The visitors pontoon at Neuilly-sur-Marne - what a waste.

so we headed on, stopping mid-afternoon at the park-like visitors pontoon near the town of Charly-sur-Marne, opposite the long ‘big boat’ quay and the highly rated restaurant ‘Le Bac’– which was closed! So we had a delicious, market bought paella for dinner instead.

The 'big boat' quay and restaurant on the opposite side.

Saturday 9 June – Charly-sur-Marne to Chateau-Thierry. 16 kilometers, 1 lock, 2 hours 15 minutes.

With a thickish mist hovering early the next morning I took a ride into the small town of Pavant then crossing the bridge into the possibly even smaller town of Charly-sur-Marne returning with a clutch of croissants for breakfast.

Then it was lines off and upstream towards Chateau-Thierry, somewhere we had been advised (1) to visit in preference to Epernay, and conversely, (2) to avoid due to crime (attempted theft of bicycles off boats) and the gritty inhabitants of the nearby refugee camp.

Yet more attractive waterway to keep our attention

The fully serviced quay at Nogent-l'Artaud just upstream from Charly.

and shortly after two o’ clock we arrived at the new looking Chateau-Thierry visitors pontoon, directly opposite the memorial to the American forces who were part of the town’s defence during the Battle of Chateau-Thierry during the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918 – and what a great town with the friendliest ever tourist office to boot!

The Memorial with the church in the background.

Looking downstream - Elle in front of the green hulled luxury hire barge.

A visit to the champagne house Pannier,

Some of our purchases.

a visit to the Castle from whence we were chased before the eagle calling performance (€9 per person) by thunder and the splatter of rain,

Climbing up to the castle.

Views from the top.

and a Sunday spent watching a kind of obstacle course marathon, participated by entrants dressed in all sorts of attire.

And to cap it all, David and Joelle treated us to Sunday lunch.

A delightful place to visit!

Church of St Crepin.

Spotted in the parking square.

Views of the town centre.

The town hall center with the American memorial church on its left.

Monday 11 June – Chateau Thierry to Damery. 45 kilometers, 4 locks (2 sloping with floating pontoons), 6 hours 20 minutes.

Monday dawned cool and misty once again and another early start saw us cruising past steep hills of vineyards, planted against the contour in order that the lime-clay soil could drain properly, lovely homes and pretty towns until we reached the village of Damery, home to about sixty champagne houses and distributors.

Spot the boating mistake...

Damery visitors pontoon with free services
From the bridge.

After a most tasty Mauritian Creole dish prepared by Joelle

we traipsed into town visiting first the second largest and still family owned champagne house, J de Telemont, for a tasting and some purchases.

Great advertising!

The tasting room.

As a complete contrast we then popped in to a small producer, Louis Casters, where more tasting and purchasing took place charmingly hosted by the gorgeous daughter of the owners – she, by the way, is studying wine management at a well-known institute in Epernay.

And we laughed!

Tuesday 12 June – Damery to Épernay. 10 kilometers, 1 lock, 1 hour 40 minutes.

Our final two days with our guests were spent in the champagne-dedicated city of Épernay. Having read that Reims and Épernay both vie for the title ‘Champagne City of the World’, Lynn and I both agree that this title should go to Épernay purely because champagne is core to its existence whereas Reims is a far more diversified city.

Our arrival day was wet and miserable and, while Lynn and I went laundering and shopping and getting sopping wet, Dave and Joelle went sightseeing and also got sopping wet. Dinner was had at the port-captain recommended ‘Chez Max’, a short walk across the river in neighbouring Magenta, where the food is very good but where booking is essential (03 26 55 23 59).

The next day, while the Bates took a Tuk-Tuk tour of the surrounding vineyards, the Cullens did a cycle ride around the immaculate, champagne-house lined Épernay

Avenue de Champagne

Looking the other way - Moet & Chandon on the right.

Take your pick.

At the other end of the Avenue is the Place de Champagne.

The winery boutique at Moet & Chandon.


Relic of Saint Vincent, patron saint of vintners.

The old entrance to the Church of Notre Dame.

The Church of Notre Dame de Epernay.

Joan of Arc subduing the English dragon.

Very poignant but...

...what happened?

after which we met up again at the tatty Brasserie le Central which is on the circle near the tourist office and where we had very good food at a very good price.

Steak Americane - excellent.

And then, with a flurry of suitcases being packed and good-byes being exchanged, the Bates departed on their way back to the good old RS of A and an eerie silence decended on Elle. Cheers guys – we enjoyed having you and we hope you enjoyed your stay with us.

A gift from Dave and Joelle - a much needed cheeseboard.