Home > Travel Blog > 2014 > May



Our stay in St Quentin was prolonged by an episode of acute back pain for Chris (probably due to lifting those batteries!). A couple of days of ice packs, pain pills and a bossy nurse did the trick. In the meantime she had purchased in the nearby brocante two pre-loved bar stools for the wheelhouse in the hope of improved posture for us both.

We left St Quentin in perfect weather. It's really beautiful here, lovely scenery, perfect entry into each lock as no wind!  We made a short stop at St Simon, our own private island for the night, grass cut, barbeque and picnic tables, even a petanque area! We sat in the sunshine and chilled out. Later we set up workshop on the bank and renovated the stools. His now has a fancy brass footrail which suits his anatomy perfectly.

“His & Hers” helm stools  Island mooring at St Simon
“His & Hers” helm stools                       Island mooring at St Simon

Sitting outside for our meals now - it really does seem like summer. Having have said that, the following day at Chauny we had black stormy skies and heavy showers. Anyway, it's been warm and sunny too, so no complaints. Chauny turned out to be a perfect stop for us. A great food market, excellent traiteur and everything we needed.

We hurried now to be off the big canals and after a long 50km day arrived at Vic sur Aisne. Here we met our old friend PC who had driven over from England. We took an afternoon out to visit the Clairerie d'Armistice in Compiègne Forest. This museum houses the rail carriage where the 1918 and 1940 Armistices were signed.  The pretty village of Vailly sur Aisne was particularly sobering with the massive war cemetery sheltering under the rocky outcrop of the Chemin des Dames. A cruise to Soissons and back to Vic sur Aisne made it a very nice week in good company - PC made us laugh, helped with the diabolical Sudokus and cycled off for bread and croissants each morning. He didn't complain about the food and took us out to eat - the perfect guest.

Clairerie d l’Armistice   Museum
Clairerie d l’Armistice                        Museum

Mooring at Vic sur Aisne  Market at Vic sur Aisne
Mooring at Vic sur Aisne                       Market at Vic sur Aisne

Vailly military cemeteries  Chemin des Dames on the ridge
Vailly military cemeteries                     Chemin des Dames on the ridge

We continued upstream winding through a lovely wooded landscape back to Soissons where by chance we met Pete and Fiona on their yacht  "Kismet".  They told us of their travels including a year in the Baltic (another of our ambitions). After a generous amount of wine we scuttled back to Esme in a torrential thunderstorm under borrowed umbrellas. We'll no doubt see them again in Brugge, where they winter. Always the unexpected encounter makes each day a surprise.

River Aisne near Soissons  Old Ships' cemetery
River Aisne near Soissons                      Old Ships' cemetery

We set out from Soissons early hoping to catch up a bit. Although a cloudy day the climate is very agreeable in this area sheltered between two big hill ranges. We saw lovely little villages and everywhere the exotic perfume of the wild acacias growing along the river. Then on to the canal, still surprisingly pretty as we could now look down on the surrounding landscape. Not many locks either and all working fine. VNF in evidence everywhere, buzzing along the towpaths and waving to us

Our next stop was Bourg et Comin at the junction of two canals, a pretty village with little streets too small for cars. Quite lively though and an impressive church and restored wash house. So peaceful overnight and no light pollution. This is the norm and we find a city mooring rather a noisy intrusion.

Roses of Picardie  Wash house, Bourg et Comin
Roses of Picardie                              Wash house, Bourg et Comin

Acacia blossom  Towards Berry au Bac
Acacia blossom                                 Towards Berry au Bac

Our next stop was Berry au Bac, once a bargeman's town at the junction with the Aisne à la Marne. It has that "border town" feel, the little bateliers shop on the quay that once sold everything from chandlery, food and was a bar, all closed up some time ago but still smartly kept.

Lots of locks on this next section up to Reims where we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in a perfect location, super food and fizz.  Met up with Chris and Paula on "Claes Compaen" who were also visiting the city. Plenty to see and do here including the usual sightseeing - beautiful architecture - from ancient Roman to Art Déco. Eighty per cent of the city was rebuilt after WW1.  Reims Cathedral is amazing - the arresting sight of the west façade is just a taster of the extraordinary beauty inside.

Centre des Congrès, Reims  Art Deco covered market, Reims
Centre des Congrès, Reims                      Art Déco covered market, Reims

We left Reims and did an eight hour day - fifteen locks and a tunnel.  Stopped overnight at Conde sur Marne to buy champagne from the producer here and to fill our water tanks -  the two essentials taken care of.

Tunnel de Billy – an easy one  Vineyard tools display at a lock
Tunnel de Billy – an easy one                  Vineyard tools display at a lock

Having cruised down to Chalons en Champagne we tied up in the Port de Plaisance next to Bernadette and Heinz Gubler on "Dagens 2", a Swiss couple we had previously met in Haarlem. Having forgotten it’s a public holiday (all the shops closed) we chilled out and enjoyed the sunshine. Later another barge “L’Héritage” appeared with British couple Ian and Ann so the six of us made up a party for a delicious meal on board “Dagens 2” and Ian entertained us later with Spanish guitar and lovely ballads. What a pleasant life we lead!  More news at the end of June.

Montagne de Reims  Chalons with friends
Montagne de Reims                              Chalons with friends
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