No, this isn’t a long lost Leonard Cohen masterpiece, more of a soliloquy encompassing our return to travel on the waterways after our extended stop at Montherme due to the devastating floods in this part of Europe.
After much indecision from the French waterways people (VNF), and a couple of false dawns we set off from Montherme on Wednesday morning, the 28th July, exactly 14 days since we arrived there. Motherme was a very accommodating port-in-a-storm (quite literally), with a very helpful harbour-masters office staffed by the local tourist office. Because of our forced stay they waived the mooring fees and gave us free electricity and water for our stay. This was most unexpected and gratefully received.
Eventually though, as the water slowed down a little and the number of trees and amount of debris rushing past lessened, it was time to haul anchor and continue our journey. With two weeks travel lost we figured we would have to make a decision about our plans for routs and maybe even winter moorings!
After a few hours pushing against a considerable flow on the Meuse as we continued our trip up river we found ourselves mooring at the lovely large town of Charleville-Meziers. As with most towns in this part of France, there seems to be huge walls dating back to mediaeval times, lovely local markets and boulangeries to die for.
Alfie looking not too impressed with his homemade French lead in Charleville!
From here with an inclination to make up time we pressed on the next day to Pont-a-Bar which is a small settlement at the junction of the Meuse and the Canal des Ardennes, which was our intended route west into Champagne country and onto Paris and Auxerre.
Popping into the local chandlery / boat hire base / workshop we were greeted by the news that the canal was closed about 35miles along due to a landslip. Asking when it might be open we were answered with a shrug and “monsieur I ‘ave no direct call to God!” Apparently the landslip, although not huge, was not a priority and therefore was on the list of ‘anything between 2 weeks and who knows when’ work.
Over a coffee with our travelling companions Trigger and Julie (and Smudge the Labrador) on Mimosa we had to have a resit and look at our plans. Either Mimosa or Anticus could get to Bruges or Auxerre respectively if our preferred route along the Ardennes was not available for longer than two weeks. It would mean too much rushing – too many miles and hours travelling every day, not enough two or three night stays in towns and villages and, in short, a bit too much stress.
So a decision was made, we would move to Sedan for the weekend; eat, drink, and be merry, and then Mimosa would turn around, head north in the general direction of Belgium and we would continue south. Our plans though took a turn, looking at maps and river conditions it became obvious that trying to go the long way around to Auxerre was just too many mile in too short a time. (This was not helped by the first two locks of the day malfunctioning, necessitating a wait for the VNF engineers to fix the things). So, after a number of emails we managed to change our winter moorings from Auxerre to St Jean de Losne! This was a saving of about 200 miles – 20 days or so.
There we have it, a great example of how our travels have to be under review always to cope with the many things outside our control, especially it seems in France (as I write this we have just been notified that VNF staff in our area are taking strike action through August).
Here we are, settled in Sedan for the weekend. Plans made, that may or more accurately, will, change and a leg of lamb from the local market in the fridge ready for our Sunday lunch – Trigger is on roast potato duty. A trip to the local market produced a beautiful piece of cod, and a fabulous boulangerie supplied us with cakes and bread, including Nicola’s new favourite, raspberry macaroon. Next update, hopefully, from somewhere closer to St Jean de Losne. C’est la vie.