I am always a bit lost when visitors leave and not quite sure what to do with myself so as Laura is arriving on Thursday I get to catching up with the washing and tidying the place a bit. Tuesday the 7th April – we set off again and return to Lagny which we had visited with Daniel and Jonathan. As per our last visit we are the only boat to moor but when Charles visits the Tourist Information Centre to pay the €4.50 per day he is told that mooring is restricted to 48 hours with no return for 12 hours . Charles explained there were no other boats but rules are rules – we didn’t want to stay any longer anyway…….
Lagny whilst quite a small town has quite a lot to offer for the visitor. In 2006 an embarkation pier for passenger vessels and a long quay for pleasure boats were opened, however the colourful design was not everyone’s liking and provoked some strong reactions from the locals. In the middle ages Lagny was a prosperous town on the route of the Champagne fairs and today the centre of town has kept its medieval appearance. The ubiquitous church Notre Dame des Ardents et St Pierre (rolls of the tongue doesn’t it) is a 13th century structure. A sight we unfortunately missed was seeing a horse towing a barge. The company Ypréma specialises in processing clinker from the incineration of household waste. The two horses Kaiffa and Kadou carry out two runs a day pulling an 80 tonne barge made of recycled aluminium – not sure how we missed it though.
The weather is definitely improving so on Thursday morning we set off for Meaux (pronounced Mow) only to be thwarted at the last lock before entering the town due to an industrial strike. We knew the French air traffic controllers are on strike today as Laura is flying out and so we have been monitoring the situation but did not realise lock keepers consider themselves in the same category. A friendly commercial captain speaking reasonable English is moored up with a couple of other working barges and explains the situation and tells us to settle down for the night. He clearly was unsympathetic to the strike and with a Gaelic shrug continued with his bbq. As we take a walk into Meaux we are surprised at the size of the town and look forward to exploring it over the next couples of days but for now I take the bus for the 40 minute trip to the airport and Charles gets his bike out in search of a supermarket – I think I had the better deal as he had to cycle up quite a long and steep hill. Fortunately Laura’s flight was not delayed and we got back to the boat before 6pm and settle down for a quite night.
Commercial boats have priority so although the lock opened up at 8 am we are not invited to enter until 10 am and once again have the quay at Meaux all to ourselves. Its amazing how fast days shoot by and its late afternoon by the time we take a walk out to explore the town.
The canal Ourcq which crosses Meaux was built between 1803 and 1825 to bring water to the city of Paris which whilst in good order does not appear to be used. The construction of Saint-Étienne cathedral started in the 12th century and was not completed until the 16th century is definately worth a visit to see the fine stained glass. Laura and Charles get the bikes out on Saturday morning and join me as I take a 7 mile run through the park and along the canal. Charles is on duty to shoo away the pigeons which scare Laura and look out for dogs that are not on leads as I always worry they may not like runners – think Laura and I need therapy!!!!
We take the train into Paris on Sunday and start our sight seeing trip by visiting the Sacre Coeur.
As we are wandering around the church preparations are under way to start a service and we are treated to the lovely voices of the nuns singing hymns. As we only have the one day we decide to buy the open top bus tour which includes a running commentary, it also allows us to visit the four routes and get on and off as we please.
We catch a glimpse of the Paris marathon and stop for a while to shout our encouragements – I felt sympathy for the runners who looked shattered and will be in the same place later in the year – I just hope its a lot cooler for mine. We have lovely long lunch in the afternoon sunshine of Montmartre.
We get up early on Tuesday morning and take the bus to Disneyland Paris.
I comment that we may look out of place as we don’t have any kids with us but Charles says that having Laura and me all giddy is like having a couple of kids to him!!! Laura has planned the day already so we know which rides to go to first. Charles is ambivalent about rides but I really don’t like fast ones so Laura has to take them by herself. There is a variety of rides so we don’t miss out but we do find we spend a great deal of time queueing and think we should have made use of the fast track system.
We visited the Disneyland in America some years ago and have to say the Paris version is not quite as slick. Its a lot of fun though and we have a long and enjoyable day before returning to Meaux.
The last full day of Laura’s holiday comes too quickly – out come the bikes and off we go, Charles and Laura cycling and me running a 9 miler. Laura has done so much walking and cycling this past week she will be going home for a rest. Meaux also has a 48 hour mooring restriction but they are much more relaxed about it and allow us to stay for five days although we decide we don’t want to push our luck so cast off and head for La Ferté-sous-Jouarre.
The town used to be known as the world grindstone capital sending thousands of millstones to destinations throughout the world. We decide to have our dinner out as its Laura’s last night but find every restaurant closed so with sore feet after walking all over the town we return to the boat where Laura cooks chicken afritada and a veggie version for me – lovely. On Thursday we all take the bus to the airport and drop Laura off with me getting upset as usual – I’m really no good at saying ‘good-bye’ but we had a lovely time and its only a couple of weeks before we return to the UK ourselves.