Friday, 12 December 2014

July 2014 - Touring the Marne to the Saone & UK baby visit

We just loved Chalons-en-Champagne (so good they named it twice, formerly Chalons-sur-Marne) and could fill several blogs with our pictures of it.  Here is just one of the many, wonderful squares there:
The town has several canals that you can visit on a motorised barge, which was amazing:
We just came out of that little entrance, really, don't believe me:
I forgot to mention that the town had enclosed a lot of the canals (rivers really) to provide more building space !
I thought you might like standing on your head?! This was an exit of one of the tunnels. Next stop was a little place called Orconte, nice mooring, little facilities, but great for us, as we saw a boat very like ours, one we knew and had used as a specification for the painting of ours:
See what I mean?  Looks kinda familiar.  Our next night was near Ancerville, near because the heavens opened and delivered such an impressive downpour that at times we couldn't even see the bow! Luckily we'd moored to a few steel rails in a field, as it continued until dark.  Next morning we saw some moped riders opposite who stopped to hail us; they told us that a tree had fallen and blocked the canal, and we thought he's shouted that it could take 10 days to clear!!  We decided to cycle up to the very nice mooring in Ancerville and investigate this for ourselves:
This tree here is just one of the ten (trees, not days it seems), the next one you see is bridging the whole width !  We'd moored at the lovely new quay, which had all facilities, but it was too new to have been connected to water or electric yet !  Also we had to use the new lamp units to help moor as they'd not yet put anything to moor to!  Next year it'll be good.  They cleared the trees only a little after the forecast 10am, and a queue of boats proceeded on their way. Next stop Joinville:
We stayed here a week, and Nik's sister drove all the way down to us in her camper, which was great.  There was this Petit Chateau to visit, a deliberately beautiful building for entertaining.  That day there was a piece of musical theatre going on, where we acted as the mobile audience:
We had some niice trips out, one day we visited Colomby les deux Eglises where Charles de Gaulle lived in this house - the tower he had added on himself to give him a lovely office:
After saying farewell to our valued guest, we made our way throught the dense carpet of weed that hid a canal, past some impressive aquatic tractors that were heaving it out, and on to Vouecourt:
This was their impressive wash house, rather romanesque inside, a good stop.  We were now on the canal rather than the river Marne;  it was hot enough to lower the front windscreen for the breeze !
There were some little bridges en route, and it still feels odd going up over the river:
The next few nights we spent at Chaumont, another very impressive old, walled town:
It was quite a walk, or cycle up to town.  Based on the postcards we sought out this viaduct that seemed to be so much off the tourist route as to be without any signs to it !
It's more impressive than it looks, and there's a public walkway along level 1, heaven knows how impressive it must be to walk on levels 2 or the top !  Next stop was the amazing town of Langres:
We could easily have spent a month or so here, with its lovely ramparts walkable all around the town, and many churches and other historical buildings to visit.  The art galleries and museums drew us in from the heat, and had some excellent art and history.  One picture took my eye:
I hope you can see the look on the male doll ? There are a lot of local artist's work, Jean-Marie Maillard, 20th Century and very original and skilled. I'd never heard of him though.  Now we would have stayed here longer except we received the news that our first grandchild had decided to appear 2 weeks early, so had to make haste to reach Auxonne, where we'd booked a berth for a few weeks.  The first challenge was the 4.8 km tunnel.  Why do they always look so earie on approach?
  This tunnel was unusually well lit:
This was to be our longest day, 26 locks, 26 km, including this tunnel, 10 hours travelling!  This was partly because stopping places were very, very few, or full, or too, too small:
We did find one just tiny bit longer, at our target location of Cusey, then I again suggested a smaller boat (they'd been following us through the locks) moor alongside.  We both made an early start.  Then, at one lock, some guy lounging in a deckchair told us there were two Peniches coming our way (that means the largest, commercial size barges).  We couldn't see them but kept out a weather eye.  I look at Nik and say "Wouldn't it be awful if one were to come around the next bend, just there where it's so narrow !!"  Well, picture this, bearing in mind that we have to pass to the right of them:
We'd been speeding along, to make good time, and he certainly was.  In this pic we'd already emergency stopped and used bow thruster and all to push ourselves over, into the shallows!  I have the sequence here:
He did take avoiding action:
So in the end, we had loads of space, but at a cost (that comes later).  So, I hear you think, what about the next Peniche ?  Well ,we decided to use the duc d'Albe (big steel posts) to moor ourselves securely, or so we thought, to let them pass us.  This was not our best idea, it turned out:
Up until he'd actually passed, I was convinced we'd at least scrape, so couldn't contemplate a picture.  Despite 4 ropes, bow and sternlines secure, we swayed about like a cork under the suction and again I had to use motor, bow thruster and everything to oppose it.  He didn't slow down, and didn't shake my hand (I stuck my hand out for this, but he was preoccupied, yet we were easily close enough). Wow!  Next night in Oisilly, then on to the River Saone, through a very impressive lock, but to reach a lovely river.  So we moored up in the marina at Auxonne for a longish stay, hired a car, and off to UK.  Our cat Bollinger never liked car travel, or I think that's what he said:
You really need the sound to understand his feelings most clearly;  we just use ear defenders.  It means we have to use motorways and drive like we have two great-great aunts in the back.  Then the goal:
Is he ready for his first sailing lesson?  I'll only give you one more of the multitude taken, usually against the light (!), this time with his father:
He's much bigger than that now !  That took us well into August, which is the next instalment.

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