We return to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre a little sad knowing that we don’t have any more visitors for a while so we open a bottle of wine to console ourselves. We stay in this little town for a couple of days and enjoy a run for me and cycle for Charles and return one afternoon to the mooring to find we have neighbours, a small cruiser with French occupants.
On Saturday (18th April) we head off for a remote spot next to Nanteuil-sur-Marne and decide to eat out at a nearby Auberge du Lion d’or. The place itself looks a bit run down but we are pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and we had great service.
We head off again on Sunday morning and make a short stop at Charly-sur-Marne to stock up at a SuperU which is only a five minute walk from the quay and replenish our much depleted cupboards and wine-rack. Fully laden we head off for Nogent-L’Artaud which again is very small but rather quaint and appears to be the place the locals visit on a Sunday afternoon to walk along the river and stop to have picnics.
No rest for us though as I want to attempt a half marathon as the real thing is only three weeks away so off we go. I would like to report it was a breeze but it was hard going with two very steep hills – one of which Charles had to get off his bike to push it up – or should I say my bike as one of his tyres had a puncture. It was also very hot and I was grateful for my water-pack and energy gels. But I did it in 2hrs and 20 minutes which for an oldie isn’t bad timing and I feel very satisfied. Whilst it is good exercise for Charles I’m not sure I could be as motivated if he wasn’t spurring me on so its a win win all round – I wonder if they will let him cycle alongside me in the race proper?? Charles fills the kitchen basin with salted cold water so I can soak my burning feet which is absolute bliss. But I recover quickly and enjoy a nice cold Leffe – not sure Bupa would recommend beer but we both feel we deserve a treat. (I use Bupa for my training and nutrition guide.)
We take the bikes out so we can explore the countryside and we are overwhelmed by the number of Champagne caves and it takes a lot of will power not to stop at them all – we do succumb in Charly sur Marne however and sample a rose and a Blanc de Blancs produced by Figuet & Fils.
Cannot say we have heard of them but enjoy them so much we buy a couple of bottles – thank goodness we had the sense to buy panniers for the bikes….
Some pointers I have learned to enjoy champagne at its best (especially for my girlfriends)
1. Do not put champagne in the freezer to speed up the chilling process as it impairs the flavour
2. Allow it to chill well – patience is a virtue
3. Use flutes that are clean without any residue from the washing up
4. Only fill the glass half full – this allows the flavour and aroma to do something good
5. Slowly savour – do not rush (there’s always another bottle chilling in the fridge)
6. Do not consume with food (including aperitif nibbles)
I think I have been guilty of all of the above but now I have been educated I am sure I will become a professional champagne drinker in the future – it certainly suits me and I intend to practice until I get it right.
We enjoy another day in Nogent before deciding on Tuesday (21nd April) to set off for Chateau-Thierry.
The dates are not for the readers benefit but to remind Charles and I not only what day it is but also what month!!! As usual we find the quay empty of boats but are impressed with the new pontoon and potential facilities. There is a credit card machine where the boater can pay 5 euro for the nightly mooring, 2 euro for 12 hours of electricity and 6 euros for water. Quite an expensive quay plus someone should have informed the architect that pleasure crafts do not use the large electrical fittings that the hotel boats use and most are unlikely to have an appropriate connector. We are not alone for long as a steam pleasure boat moors up behind us. Charles engages conversation with the Swiss couple and learns that they designed the boat themselves in the 1990’s. Powered by coal it does 1 kilometre to 2 kg’s of coal!!
Camera at hand we take a walk around the town which has in the past suffered severe damage caused by two wars. Joan of Arc visited in 1429. We climb the hill to enjoy great views over the Marne from what remains of the castle.
Inside the walls there is an opportunity to see birds of prey but we are treated to our very own show when one of the birds ignores the calls of his (or her) handler and lands on a wall about a foot away from Charles. The handler is forced to walk down the hill tempting the bird with a dead mouse who after some time reluctantly climbs onto the handlers arm – that would be the bird not the mouse. We enjoy two nights here to visit the area, complete our training routine and stock up. The weather is wonderful and its great to be back in shorts and T shirts and we make the most of it by taking our time cruising down the Marne.
The scenery is spectacular even though the vines are only just budding but everywhere you look you see hillsides full of regimental vertical lines – its enough to make your mouth water. We head for Jaulgonne which has a rather dilapidated mooring but that does not detract from the beautiful tranquil surroundings.
The village itself is small but holds the ever essential boulangerie . The mooring and facilities are free however a key has to be collected from the Mairie (town hall) which is only open 8.30 to 11.30 so we do without. Whilst it is relaxing enjoying the scenery from the boat; its a completely different experience by bike. The bikes have been a real bonus and allow us to see much more of France and whilst the hills are hard work the exercise is not only good for us but allows us our little indulgences without guilt.
On Friday we are off again – no rest for us professional tourists! We arrive at our first lock of the day and use the handheld remote control only to see a red light. We wait awhile and when nothing happens press the button again only for a message to appear telling us basically we know you are there you’ve already pressed the button, wait. We decide to moor up when Charles uses the bow thruster to enable me to get the rope around the large dolphin (mooring for the large commercial boats) and nothing happens. Well that is not strictly true, nothing happens to the bow but there is a loud unfriendly noise that does not sound good, in fact it sounds distinctly expensive!!! But Charles is a competent boat handler and doesn’t need a bow thruster to get the boat in safely by which time we see a barge approaching from behind. We meet Ian and Jill on Jazz – its a small world as they know Maggie and Nigel and are quite jealous that we both have moorings in Narbonne for winter. They are trying to secure a mooring too so hopefully there will be quite a clan of us. The weather forecast is changing so we moor up at Reuil which is a tiny village but with a lovely mooring and settle down for the weekend.
For those of you who have known us for a long time or have followed our adventures on our narrowboat; Ebony No 1 – you will be aware of Charles unscheduled dips into the canal or rivers in the UK. It tended to be a yearly expedition and as only his pride got dented provided amusing stories to our blog. After Charles spoke with Piper Boats to discuss the bow thruster problem he decided to go and have a look as it was suggested that we may have lost the propeller. As this was going to be a scheduled dip into The Marne I quickly got the camera out – this was something not to be missed. Although I am the stronger swimmer I declined the invitation to dive down under Bluegum myself as I had only just washed my hair…. So we get the boat steps out and have the life ring to the ready.
Charles dons his swimming shorts, T shirt and crocs together with my goggles and gentle eases himself into the river which is apparently freezing. Much discussion takes place and a couple of attempts to lower himself under the surface but understandably he didn’t fancy swimming under the boat – so apart from some good photos we are non the wiser.
Instead Charles makes a call to a friend who also has a Piper boat and who also has problems with his bow thruster to discuss possible solutions or actions. Seems likely it’s a failed gearbox – get the credit card out! We can function quite well without a bow thruster but its great to have when it’s windy or there is a strong current. We will be in St Jean de Losne in early June where there is a big boatyard which is a Vetus dealer.
Thunder storm is predicted on Saturday but we risk it and have a cycle to Chatillon-sur-Marne. Its a hard slog up the hill but we are rewarded by magnificent views over the Marne.
There is also some classic car event and we see some lovingly cared for old cars. There is an imposing granite statue of Pope Urban II (1088 to 1099). Apparently his claim to fame was initiating the first crusade which saw the taking of Jerusalem by Godefroy de Bouillon in 1099 – didn’t do him much good though as he died in the same year.
It’s a hard life being a professional tourist …………………