August 7 to August 13, 2016. Mareuil-sur-Ay to Meaux. After only one week in Mareuil-sur-Ay we really didn’t want to leave, but Paris was calling, as was our flight home in about six weeks, so Sunday morning we bid a reluctant farewell to Tim and Heather of Chamamé, plus the locals Zeno and Vero, Jeremy, crazy-man-who-owns-three-boats Jérome, and Antoine.
Our first stop was Damery, where we ran into a couple we had met in Chalons-en-Champagne two summers ago, Chris and Karen of Moonglow. We stayed just long enough to spend the night and get a couple of baguettes from the boulanger opposite the church. The next day we had a nice cruise to Dormans, where we moored in front of Peter and Pam of Arianne, last seen in Bar-le-Duc a few weeks ago. They had their hands full with their friends onboard, a couple from Switzerland and two teenage girls.
The next day Après Ski entered new territory again, and we continued downstream (west) on the Marne. Our Tuesday stop was Chateau Thierry, site of two major battles, in 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars and in 1918 between the US and Germany. The WW I battle was one of the very first actions of the American Expeditionary Forces, which were formed and sent to France to help end World War I.
The town was also one of two sites of the famous Paris Gun, employed by the Germans during the summer of 1918 to lob shells at Paris from 75 miles away. The gun wasn’t that useful from a strategic standpoint, as during its three minute flight time it was subject to both wind and the Coriolis effect, but as a psychological weapon it caused quite a panic. The projectile reached a maximum altitude of 25 miles, meaning it was the first man-made object in history to reach the stratosphere.
There are some nice memorials to and restored battlefields from the US Army’s efforts during WW I, but the weather was sketchy and it would have been quite a bike ride, so we will have to visit them some other year. So instead we met our boat neighbor, Chris, of the 90-year-old Dutch barge Esme (his wife Diana was out of town). He has cared for the boat incredibly well and in fact is still in touch with the children and grandchildren of the original Dutch owner.
Next up was a tiny pontoon, only big enough for one boat, in Pont-de-Charly upstream of the lock. The town had both a Super U grocery store and a street market the following morning. Our market light has been on “low” for a while, since the last market we visited was in Chalons-en-Champagne several weeks ago. From Pont-de-Charly it was on to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, where we double parked against the hull of Sanne, owned by our new friends Geert and Simone (and the dog Tara), from Holland.
La Ferté had a nice street market the next morning and we took full advantage of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. La Ferté is famous for supplying millstones throughout the world. A millstone needs to be soft enough to cut and shape to the proper size, but not soft enough that it dissolves into the grain you’re milling. La Ferte´s stones are apparently juuuuusssst right.
From there we continued downstream to Mary-sur-Marne, and it’s one-boat pontoon. The local restaurant was on conges annuel (annual vacation), but fortunately the town was big enough to have a boulangerie up the hill near the church. We have had no bread emergencies yet this year, and have no intention of starting now.
And then it was on to Meaux, famous for their cheese, Brie de Meaux. As we pulled into our slip at the town dock we saw that the barge next to us was American (it has a US Coast Guard registration number in the window). In addition, there was an American flag flying from a boat a couple slips away. And before we even got organized, a sailboat pulled in also flying Old Glory. So in our sixth summer of cruising the French canals, where we occasionally will see one other American boat at a time, there were now four parked in a row in Meaux.
We invited everyone over to “our” dock and spread out the tables for a big pot-luck happy hour, which sort of morphed into a dinner, as these things tend to do. Present were Diane and Jean-François of the sailboat Seatern, Don and Sam of D’Eerste, and Anna cruising solo on the biggest barge in port, Isabelle. Anna lost her husband a few years ago but continues to live in France on her barge, spending most of the year in the Paris Arsenal marina except for a couple months in the summer when she parks in Meaux. I believe she is the deputy “mayor” of the Arsenal.
I need to share a story that’s close to my heart. The French believe that cheese is to be eaten sparingly, a bite hear or a nibble there. Our French friends definitely look sideways at us as we consume cheese by the kilo. But in a little market, somewhere along the Marne, we came across a locally-made cheese called “La Tentatrice” (the temptress). And at the bottom of the label was written, in French, “to be consumed without moderation.” Finally, someone in France understands us (and knows their audience).
The next morning we visited our third street market in four days, but I’m getting ahead of myself because it’s now Sunday, and technically part of Week 6. So I’ll be back with more of our visit to Meaux in my next post.
France 2016 Cruise – Week 5
- Engine Hours: 18
- Kilometers: 137
- Locks: 13
- Moorings: 2 Euros
France 2016 Cruise – Total
- Engine Hours: 74
- Kilometers: 409
- Locks: 143
- Moorings: 115.9 Euros