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Each year the Barge Association (our club) holds a continental rally and this year it is our 20th Anniversary. 35 barges were signed up to congregate at the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th Arondissement of Paris. The atmosphere in the bassin is amazing, many cafes and bars with young Parisians out all night on the quayside, eating drinking and making merry, playing music and generally having innocent fun. Earplugs are a necessity unless you can sleep through that but it's all in the spirit of the event!  The rally weekend coincided with the Queen's Jubilee Pageant  in London (we recorded the TV coverage) - so another reason for celebration.  We enjoyed a really fun weekend of meeting old and making new friends as well as chatting with newcomers who are researching the barging life or planning a purchase.  It is always interesting to meet them and to be helpful if possible, as we were once helped too. Events of the weekend included wine and cheese party (so much to appreciate), cocktail party at the local mairie and a barge handling competition. Our Sunday Jubilee Big Lunch which we helped organise, was a "DIY meal" with each main course coming from the barges' galleys, a selection of international home cooked specialities with starters and cheese provided from a local traiteur and patisseries from guests.  What a feast!  Luckily the weather was kind to us and during the meal a touring Canadian choir came and serenaded us. There was a lot of red white and blue!  Not just the French but the same colours for the Dutch and English!  Very international and great fun. Later we held a TV party on board Esme to watch our friends in England among many other boats cruising down the Thames in the Queen's Jubilee Pageant.  We spent ten days in Paris and made the most of the opportunity of getting out and seeing the city.  One of the highlights was cruising Esme up the Seine past all the famous landmarks, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. Unforgettable........

Barges at night Quayside night

35 barges and lively night life                 Quayside after dark, Bassin de la Villette

The Big Lunch

Busy cooks Setting up tables

Busy cooks                                     Setting up tables

What a spread All sat down

What a feast ...                               All sat down

Canadian choir Pageant on TV

Canadian choir                                 Queen's Jubilee Pageant on TV


The Marne

Having said goodbye to Paris we set off up the River Marne and soon started to appreciate its beauty - a wide and graceful river which winds through many beautiful towns and villages.  The locks all worked smoothly, many of them automatic and we took our time.  Having found a nice mooring it was ideal to spend a couple of nights there.  Often we would meet again with barges and their owners from the rally, so another chance to acquaint and spend a little time relaxing.  Lagny is a pretty town with lovely shops, restaurants and a food market - quite affluent being near Paris.  We enjoyed a classical choral concert in the Abbey with "The Three Tenors" (different ones) but an excellent evening.  Our next big town was Meaux and of course we enjoyed some of the best brie we had tasted.  Another lovely little stop was La Ferte sous Jouarre, where there is a massive Memorial des Anglais commemorating the battle of the Marne.

Lagny sur Marne Lock at Meaux

Lagny sur Marne                                Lock at Meaux

Marne bridges War memorial at La Ferte

Marne bridges                                  War memorial at La Ferte

Champagne country

At Nanteuil we saw our first vineyards as we entered champagne country.  The village was recommended to us and we were joined by friends who moored alongside, four barges squeezed in together.  Mike and Jilly joined us for a few days cruising as part of a motoring holiday in France.  We visited a local champagne house to taste and to buy some champagne.  Later, eleven of us had a super meal at the Auberge Lion d'Or.  

Champagne tasting Rafted at Nanteuil

Champagne tasting                              Rafted at Nanteuil

Meal at Lion d'Or Champagne vinyards at Damery

Meal at Lion d'Or                              Champagne vinyards at Damery


Epernay and Reims are the major centres of champagne production but a great deal of the lovely stuff is produced by small growers in the small villages and prices are much better in the country too. So we decided to see both sides. The Avenue de Champagne in Epernay is something else, fabulous architecture and very grand houses.  We chose the Mercier tour where there is a little train that takes you through the cellars and of course a tasting afterwards. We learnt a lot about champagne and realised why it is so special.

Visit to Mercier Cellars at Mercier

Visit to Mercier                               18km of cellars

Precious little grapes Avenue de la Champagne

Precious little grapes                         Avenue de la Champagne


In June many French villages and towns celebrate summer with a musical event. The Fete de la Musique at the small village of Damery was modest and such fun. They had a choir of local schoolchildren singing followed by a band and a super feast of magnificent sausage baguettes, chips and guess what ? more champagne!  Yes, it was unlabelled and only €15 a bottle (local produce) and served in tumblers.............Michael and Pippa on their lovely barge "Sterna" joined us for the event and we had a super evening.  Later we had whiskies in the local bar just to remind us of home.  A few days later we found ourselves in Tours sur Marne, a pretty village with the river Marne running very close alongside the canal.  This is a popular area for kayaking. Youngsters are dropped off and picked up at distant locations - good fun - super weather fortunately and they certainly looked as if they were having fun.  During our stay here we squeezed in to a very small mooring with "Joli Coeur", where Simon and Charlyn treated us to more champagne and a lovely dinner rounded off with some of the best Epoisse cheese we had tasted.  Our next stop was Chalons en Champagne which is a lovely historic town with so much to offer.  This is a classical and historic town with architecture more the style of the east of France (timber frames).  The shopping is quite fun  and there is a lovely cathedral too. Again a series of summer musical events keeps both the locals and the tourists entertained and we enjoyed an evening with an African band which certainly livened us up!

More champagne no label Tours sur Marne kids kayaking

More champagne- no label, no fancy glasses     Tours sur Marne -  kids kayaking


Chalons cathedral Concert in the square

Chalons cathedral                              Concert in the square

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