After 4 comfortable nights at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre –we tend to get a bit lazy- we left on Monday the 18th of August at 10:17AM, again without exactly knowing where we’d end up that day. A certainty, however, is that we are unmistakable in Champagne-area. The wine-growers obviously take the water they need from La Marne wherever they can. This is what a pumping installation looks like.
That Monday, after a good 5 hours of upstream cruising (27 kilometers, 17 miles), 3 locks included, we ended up at a place called Nogent-l’Artaud. From descriptions, got from (Dutch Barge Association) DBA’s member-website, we know most of the time to a certain extend what to expect, in this case a place offering room to just one ship. A little sigh of relief escaped both of us when we discovered the spot to be unoccupied. Doesn’t it look fabulous?
The described information from DBA mentioned free electricity as well as free water. And indeed, the text on the facilities promised us heaven. (Even the key to the train station can be obtained and, as we understood, the restaurant is a kind of international consulate as well.)
We arrived that afternoon 3:14PM. Bad luck, the train station is only open till 1:55PM, although the text on the facilities itself suggests something different. No key.
Still full of courage we moved on towards the restaurant – only a few steps more than the train station. Alas, this restaurant obviously makes a living for the owner after only two hours of working, more precise: being open to the public, daily. Friday and Saturday are very busy though, we have to give him that. No key. Fortunately we have a brand-new battery bank, still making us feel very happy.
Tuesday morning, 9:45AM, we left Nogent-l’Artaud with the vague idea to go to a place called Jaulgonne. On the way we traversed one of the bigger towns along La Marne, called Château-Thierry. The town is visible in the background here. We preferred to travel on. Maybe we’ll have an overnight stop here on the way back – it looked attractive enough.
That day we encountered a white Tjalk, la capitaine’s favourite type of ship, so it was inevitable to photograph this little event. When passing we think we saw the name of this lovely little ship in a split second: ‘Gretige Henriëtte’ (‘Eager Henriëtte’). If so, this ship is in Roanne during the winter also. We think it’s the funniest name in Roanne, ever since we read it.
Jaulgonne was never reached, because a spot similar to the one at Nogent-l’Artaud came suddenly in sight and it was too attractive to ignore it. We moored at Mézy-Moulins at 1:40PM, after just 22 kilometers (14 miles) and 2 locks – the second one ‘en panne’ (double red); the problem quickly solved by an employee of the unsurpassed Voies Navigables de France (VNF).
The village of Mézy-Moulins contains, among only 529 inhabitants (2011), a beautiful and impressive 13th century Gothic style church, Notre Dame. It’s a real surprise to find a church like this in such a small village.
The next morning, Wednesday the 20th of August, we woke up to see only thick fog outside. Later on the still strong sun burnt it all away. Halfway this process it looked like this. Peace- and beautiful at the same time. Unmistakably a first sign of the autumn drawing nigh.
The 20th we left Mézy-Moulins 10:26AM. On the way, after 4 kilometers (2,5 miles) we passed Jaulgonne and felt pleased not to have cruised that far the previous day. A ship like ours can hardly moor there; we’d say only when feeling desperate. We ended up at Dormans, 15 kilometers (less than 10 miles) from our starting point, only 1 lock included and moored 1:00PM. The picture shows only two ships moored at the floating pontoon. Later on, returning after some shopping, there were five of them - one breasted up to ours. Of course we accepted that without any hesitation. We wish every boater would…
On top of a hill next to Dormans one can find ‘La Chapelle de la Reconnaissance’, commemorating the two victories at La Marne during The Great War. This impressing monument was constructed in 1920 at the request of Le Maréchal (Ferdinand Jean Marie) Foch.
The chapel on the inside. Numerous unknown soldiers are buried here. Only a handful could be identified. It’s always humbling to visit this kind of monuments.
The view from the monument towards Dormans’ castle and beyond.
On we went, on Thursday the 21st of August. Time of departure: 11:38AM. Destination: we’ll see. The first lock that day, Vandières, was ‘en panne’. Here we are waiting in front of it, together with a fellow ‘sufferer’. As the picture shows, it’s not a punishment at all to be in this area. Of course a VNF guy turned up and helped us out.
After 2,5 hours of leisurely activities –basically manipulating the throttle-/gear-handle and turning the wheel- a floating pontoon came in sight. We had done 14 kilometers (9 miles), 1 lock ‘en panne’ included. Immediately we decided to call it a day, stay here for a few days and not to continue any further on La Marne. So we moored 2:20PM; the place is called Reuil. (Don’t try to pronounce it. It’s in the same category as Reims – or worse. Something like ‘Roy’, can you believe it?) ‘Why not go to Epernay?’ we can hear someone ask. Well, it’s expensive to moor there, we’ve read, and the Champagne-wine is cheaper when bought somewhere in the countryside.
Electricity and water are both free -once again, bless them (the French)- though a bit at a distance from the pontoon. Our electricity-cable, 30 meters, appeared to be of sufficient length, just. The water hose was too short, again: just. So we added a good 2 meters (the joint is visible where blue becomes cream) and a sort of ‘pistol’ that we always use to clean the ship. We were thus able to fill up the water-tank from a distance. A ‘fear’ from the beginning became reality after a while when the joint finally gave way. By that time we were satisfied with the result so far.
As every village in this area there’s a warm welcome by the winemakers, excuse us: the Champagne-creators. Reuil is not an exception.
At every street corner one can find the names of the enterprises, small and big, earning their livelihood by creating Champagne or buying and selling it. Note the name of Arnaud Billard at the bottom of the large sign.
This is the sign of ‘Domaine Bacchus’, the name of the company, ran by the Champagne-creator Arnaud Billard and his wife, including a museum and a B&B. We went for the museum as well as the Champagne. Not the B&B, as we travel around with our own.
‘Domaine Bacchus’ was situated at around 1 kilometer (0,6 miles) from our present mooring. We went there by bike – folding ones. This picture is the proof of it. Don’t think ‘it’s only one kilometer’. That would be right if the road would be level. Well, it’s hilly and we are not in our thirties anymore… (Not in our forties either.)
The museum, part of ‘Domaine Bacchus’ is a funny as well as an instructive one. Funny because of all the nice (moving) puppets, the buildings and tools. Instructive as it explains the outdoor part of wine-making, the growing, next to the indoor part of it, the process that eventually ends with the bottling.
During a bike ride to the next village, a distance of 3 kilometers (1,8 miles), for shopping as Reuil has zero(!) shops we saw this statue. Just in the middle of nowhere. It’s Notre Dame de Vignes, apparently the patron saint of the wine-makers. De date of 8 December relates, so far as our knowledge tells us, to the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The year? Perhaps the year (date) the statue was erected.
That same ‘shopping bike ride’ lead us along a war cemetery. Yes, again, and it never fails to impress. At least these young men are buried on a lovely spot – for what that’s worth.
Unfortunately we were confronted with a small gang of 3 youngsters during three consecutive days. They pretended to be fishing but used the pontoon to run up and down, to shout, to make a mess with their stuff, in short to harass us. We decided to ignore them. One day they provoked us by putting one of the catched fish on top of our ship. (You’ll understand that all the, little, fish they caught was handled without any care, not put back into the river and died utterly unnecessarily.) We think that the majority of French kids are well brought up. Those three were the exception, of course one ‘leader’ and two admiring ‘followers’. When this sort of circumstances present themselves we wish our French was good enough to be able to solve this kind of problems verbally. We would like to have given the leader a good kick in the a... But we are fairly civilized and know it’s not the best solution. Tomorrow, Monday, we’ll leave Reuil, after having been here for 4 nights. À bientôt!