Old wine presses are dotted all around this area

Sunday the 26th April and only a fortnight until my half marathon – not sure where the time has gone but May is creeping up on us very fast.  I decide that I want to do one more long run before my first race so Charles works out a 10 mile route – basically its running along the road for five miles and then turning around again.  He forgets to mention there is nearly a 400 foot elevation just to make it interesting and unfortunately am not equipped with the 21 gears that Charles has access to with his bike but I am pleased to have run it in just under 1 hour and 4 2 minutes at a pace of 10.08 mile per minute.  Half marathon – easy peezy!!!!

Rueil is a lovely mooring
Reuil is a lovely mooring

We are just getting the boat ready on Monday to set off when I go to unplug the electric cable and am asked by one of the party of three French couples enjoying a picnic nearby if I could make coffee for them all – They don’t appear to speak English so I try my best to engage in conversation and pray Charles will come out soon.  Its not long before I am sharing a plastic glass of champagne with them and we are getting on like a house on fire – the champagne comes outs of unlabelled bottles so goodness knows where it comes from but champagne is champagne and it would be rude to refuse.  Charles soon realises I am having a better time than him and joins us.

That's a nice boat!
That’s a nice boat!

It’s not the warmest of days so go our separate ways and we leave Reuil and head for Damery a distance of around 10 kilometers – we don’t want to over do things.  Damery is a small place but with quite a number of champagne growers.  We haven’t heard of most of the labels and wonder how on earth they  make any profit and where they sell their stock.  We take a walk around which doesn’t take too long and find many of the shops have closed down but their is a small grocers where we can at least buy a baguette. On the Tuesday we get our bikes out and cycle into the countryside.  We have read about a model village in one of the vineyards which depicts the whole champagne process from beginning to end  and are pleased we make the effort to find it.  The model village at the Arnaud Billard vineyard is definitely worth a visit with over 220 figurines which we walk around with a printed guide explaining the whole process – no wonder champagne is so expensive as it is a very labour intensive process.  The champagne tasting was enjoyable too so there’s another couple of bottle bought for our wine cellar. Click on a picture for the slide show:

First thing Wednesday we are enjoying our first cup of tea of the day and putting the world to rights when Charles points out that we need to be in Reims by Thursday night so we can go and pick up our car from Briare.  Out come the guides and it transpires he is right again and its time we got a wiggle on – anyone would think we are on holiday!!!

Posh remote control for the locks
Posh remote control for the locks

Off we go and get through the remaining couple of locks on the River Marne where we hand back our locking remote control which we will miss greatly.  We leave river to enter the Canal de L’Aisne a la Marne,  pass through the first chain of locks and decide to moor up for the night and arrive in Sillery on Thursday afternoon before the Friday bank holiday when the locks will be closed.  Fortunately there is an Intermarche in the village and very near to the port where we are moored so can eat tonight….As we are soon to return to the UK I have been using up food but we are down to the last few crumbs and I think I may have a revolt on my hands if I don’t produce a decent meal tonight. We learn that in France during their bank holiday not only are locks closed but also most of the public transport so we walk the 7 or so miles to Reims  – pronounced believe it or not as ‘Wranse’  – we have had many a Frenchman in stitches and confusion with our poor pronunciation of this town.  As we walk through the town we come across the champagne houses of Tattinger, Lanson, Mumm and Veuve Clicquot  – I appreciate I am name dropping but I am in total shock when Charles ignores them all to head for the railway station telling me we don’t have time to stop – its just not fair!!! We do manage to catch the train to Paris and then onto Briare where it is nice to see familiar surrounding again even though the port is virtually empty of boats.  We are hoping to see Dorothé but learn later that she had to return to Holland as her mother had suffered a stroke.  We collect the car which is all in one piece and make a small detour of about 100 kilometers to buy some Bailly bubbles that I have become accustomed to and also to get a couple of cases for Laura and Emma back in the UK arriving back in Sillery late in the evening.

A lot of chanpagne at Bailly!
A lot of chanpagne at Bailly!

On Saturday we are joined by Ian and Jill on Jazz who are mooring up for the week and we take the opportunity to get to know each other by taking it in turns to host a little drinks party over the weekend and thoroughly enjoy ourselves and I even manage to get in a couple of runs too. In between socialising we start packing and sorting out all the stuff we brought over from the UK in February that we really don’t need and will now return to the UK. Charles manages to dispose of two Belgium gas cannisters and we pack the two English ones in the car but the space they leave is soon filled up – its amazing Bluegum doesn’t sink…. I don’t think we have quite grasped this minimalistic lifestyle!! The first weekend of May is clearly the time boaters return to their boats after the winter period and we see a great flurry – well that might be an exaggeration but there is clearly quite a lot of activity with folk cleaning and loading up their boats.  We meet Keith and Debbie Wade from the UK who own a wide beam  named Avalon which is moored next to us and are happy it is all in order and starts first time.

The car is all packed up and we have an early start on Tuesday – UK here we come……………

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