Our Guide Fluvial for the Marne (the French Nicholson’s) had advised that we should give three hours’ notice of arrival at the first lock taking us from the Seine to the Marne. As it’s an automatic lock and operated by a full-time eclusier we didn’t see why we had to and decided just to arrive at the lock and radio ahead as we approached. The guide said VHF 20 was the channel we should use, so as we drew closer I called the lock. Silence. We weren’t worried though as the little cruiser that had overtaken us at great speed leaving us rolling in its wake was waiting – they must have been waiting a while – shame….. There was no response on the radio so with the lock light turning green having brought another boat down, we headed in with the little cruiser and roped on. It was another awkward lock with climbing bollards rather than rising, so we would have to manually move the front rope up as we rose from one bollard to the next. As we were in gear and pushing against the front rope to keep into the side, this meant going into neutral for a moment to loosen the rope to get it off one bollard and onto the next, then quickly getting back in gear before the wash of the lock pushes us too much. Thankfully the lock was gentle and we rose up easily with no trauma. At the second lock, which wasn’t much further on, we realised why we’d had radio silence. The book said VHF 20, but the signs at the lock said VHF 22…….. between locks for ship to ship coms was VHF 69. Having successfully navigated up two locks without using the radio, we decided that we probably didn’t really need to as they would see us coming, but it’s useful to know if you have to wait for another boat coming down and stuff. There was still a bit of commercial traffic on this section of the Marne, but as we came out of the second lock, we found ourselves magically transported to Henley on Thames – or at least, that’s what it looked and felt like!
|Leaving the second lock on the Marne and all is quiet....|
|Sharing the river|
|Rowers and paddle boarders galore!|
We continued on through another couple of locks and a tunnel, without using the radio except to listen, and moored up for the evening at Neuilly sur Marne where, with it being Sunday, the French were out in full force along the riverside and there seemed to be a great hullaballoo going on through the trees. After mooring up, we went for a quick explore and found that Neuilly Plage was on, on the other side of the island we were moored on, and it was heaving. Like in Paris, a ‘beach’ had been set up with sand, deckchairs, petanque, ice cream, inflatable swimming pool and the French were loving it. We headed off for a quieter stroll through the park on the island. There were a couple of groups of men remaining when we returned and they stayed late into the night drinking and talking, and whilst I (the light sleeper) nodded off easily, Mike ‘sleeps like a log through anything’ Queenan was kept awake by their chat.
|Nice little mooring at Neuilly sur Marne|
The next day we pushed off late morning with our target being Lagny sur Marne, where we would spend a couple of nights as we had some time to kill. We arrived at lunchtime and squeezed into a space on the pontoon and after some lunch and trying to stay cool on the boat, headed out into the late afternoon sun, which was still hot, and had a look around the town and did some shopping at the local Monoprix. I was really keen to go for a run but it was really, really hot and muggy, so we lazed around some more, had some dinner and then got the Ninebot out to play for a while. As we packed it away, just after 9pm, I decided it was cool enough to go for a 20 minute trot, so headed off up the riverbank.
|Always happy to see a Super Furry!|
The next day we had a lie in, late breakfast and then caught up on chores. There’s always something to be done on the boat and the shower pump had been playing up a bit so I decided to give it a thorough clean out – it was disgusting! Mike was keen to touch up some of the paintwork, but it was too hot so he decided he's have to leave it til later in the day. We went for a walk over the other side of the river to Thorigny sur Marne to see if the Fanprix supermarket there would have some of our missing items but we were out of luck. It appears we’re in a section of France where they don’t drink Syrop de Pamplemousse Rose…… In the evening we went for a stroll along the river to look at some of the posh houses which prompted a discussion on what we are looking for in a house in France. We have started the search in earnest as it’s been mooted that anyone who lives in France before Brexit in March 2019, will likely have certain rights reserved for health care and pension for example, so I have been scouring the Gironde for a suitable property and we have some lined up to view hopefully later this month.
Wednesday was just a short hop to the town of Meaux, where we have been before via the Canal de l’Ourcq and it was a pleasant cruise with a couple of locks and a tunnel. The commercial traffic was few and far between now but we did pass one barge getting filled with grain.
|Another well-lit, wide, straight French tunnel|
|A long straight cutting to Meaux|
|Grain barge getting filled up|
|This motorway bridge looked really familiar - we had passed under it on the Ourcq, as it spans the whole valley.|
We had contacted the Port de Plaisance at Meaux a while back to book a space for a week as we were heading back to the UK for the Deer Shed Festival, but it’s a strange arrangement there. The port is managed by the Tourist Office and whilst they were happy to say yes that’s fine to come for the week, they were unable to actually reserve a space for us, so we were relieved to pull in and see there was plenty of space. Our relief was shortlived however as we tried to hook up and found the electricity points weren’t working on our pontoon. Another pontoon had the power and water point all wrapped up and not working so boats from there had hooked onto the one working power point meaning there was no space for our plug, but our two cables joined together wouldn’t have reached anyway…… We headed up to the tourist office to ask them about it and the very nice but slightly ditsy girls didn’t remember us, were very sorry that the power wasn’t working but it had been reported to ‘Services’ a few days back but they had no idea when it would be fixed. We really needed to hook up while we were away in case the weather was bad and our solar didn’t have enough juice for the batteries, so we were relieved (again!) when one of the girls advised that one of the boats on pontoon 4 (which had working power and water) was leaving in the morning and we could take their spot. We asked when we should pay and they said someone would come round and collect the fees, or we could come to the office and pay at the end of our stay – they didn’t seem that bothered about it to be honest, but the next day we did have a little slip on the boat saying how much we should pay, 4 euros 50, but only if you use electric or water, which we didn’t the first day, so it was free. That sorted we picked up a few bits and pieces at the supermarket, then headed to the station to see if we could catch a taxi to the cheese museum, that the lovely lock keeper at Varreddes had told us about. There were no taxis so we took the opportunity to check the bus to Charles de Gaulle airport for the next day and headed back to the boat. There were buses to the cheese museum but it was too late by now, so it would have to wait.
The next day, Thursday 20th, we had a lovely lunch at L’Authentique restaurant for a second time then caught the bus to Charles de Gaulle airport, which was a revelation in that it’s an hourly service, takes 40 minutes direct and cost 2 euros!! Bargain. So, any boaters collecting friends and family from Charles de Gaulle airport – Meaux is a great place to do it from!
A smooth flight and car collect from Edinburgh Airport and we were eating curry at my mum’s by 8pm, also meeting her guest, Tania, from Belarus. Tania is chaperon to six Belarusan children who were brought to Dalgety Bay for a month via the charity Chernobyl Children Lifeline. My mum and dad got involved in this charity after dad retired in 1996, with dad taking the role of chairman for a few years for the local branch of the charity. The charity was started after the Chernobyl disaster and would bring children to the UK to stay with families here for a month and they would get eye tests, dental checks, new shoes and clothes. A month in our clean air eating uncontaminated food could extend their lifespan by four or five years. The children were tiny little scraps, it was quite heartbreaking, but the work done by the charity was amazing and you could see the improvement in the kids in the few short weeks. Mum’s role has always been ‘The Shop’, for which she collects and sorts new and good quality second hand clothes, jewellery, shoes and the children’s first stop when they arrive is to go ‘shopping’ down at the church hall. Mum also hosts the leader for two weeks of the month, so hence Tania was with her. Sadly they are the last chapter of the charity in Fife and I believe the Edinburgh one is now closed as well, and it looks like the Fife chapter will not last much longer. The problem is getting families to host the children for two weeks or a month. It’s a huge commitment and quite hard work and sadly not many people are volunteering. Mum’s lot only had 6 children this year as that was all the families they could get to take children – they used to get 12-14.
It was a flying visit to my mum’s and on Friday we packed the camping gear and set of for the Deer Shed Festival in Yorkshire.
|Relaxing with a wine before the evening's entertainment|
|A typically British-Summertime-Sky|
|Yes! The reason we're here - The Fannies!! Saw them at their first festival of this tour and now at the last.|
|Mike moshed-down to Arab Strap but they were too loud for me.....|
|...so I went off an had some chocolate orange brownie and ice cream instead :)|
|What had been grass turned to mud - with friends Stewart and Debbie|
|Sunday Headliners: The Divine Comedy, and they were divine.|
I don’t think we’re cut out for camping. The ten minute wait in a queue to go for a wee in the morning after I got up was unbearable, never mind the mud, cold and rain……… The music was fab though, really excellent line-up.
A night of drunkenness with Dave and Melissa at Pocklington where we were joined by Mike’s first love Fran, and his long-suffering wife Sally, followed and then on Monday it was back in the car and up to Fife, via Whitby where we called in on Mike’s Uncle Ron. It was miserable, cold and wet when we set off but as we headed further north and into Scotland, the skies were blue and the temperature had soared from 12 to 20 degrees!! Bizarre!
On Tuesday whilst I packed the dry camping stuff away, Mike went for his eye test and then it was back to the airport and homeward bound.
Unusually, we both bleeped at security and had to be x-rayed, but even more unusually Mike’s bag was pulled aside. As frequent travellers we know the rules and are always well prepared, so wondered what it was. “You’ve got two roll-on deodorants in there,” the chap said. “No I haven’t. I’ve never used a roll-on in my life,” replied Mike. The roll-on deodorants proved to be the two tubs of Smoked Paprika we were bringing back as we can’t find it in France. So, you have to ask, how good is their equipment that shows up two tubs of powder as roll-on deodorants???? As the chap was looking for the offending items he pulled out a little plastic box and asked what it was, “It’s a mini-socket set,” one that we’d bought in the UK as it was £60 cheaper to do so than buy it France. “Ah. You can’t take that through, it’s on the banned list.” Mike disagreed and explained that we’d taken small tools through before, the last time when we went through Leeds, we had a spanner in the bag! They took Mike to a computer and showed him the list which mentioned, tools, which may be considered a risk…….. Mike pointed out he’d be more able to knock someone out with his laptop than the tiny sockets, but they weren’t having it. He’d need to check his bag in if he wanted to take it. This was at 12.40pm and our flight was 1.25pm, but the chap called the desk, they said they’d take the bag and they both headed off.
At 1.25pm a pale face appeared through the bus door just before it closed and pulled off to the waiting plane – Mike had made it, just, but the socket set hadn’t. By the time he’d got back to check-in, navigated the broken self-service machines, found someone to speak to, they told him baggage check was shut. He was fast-tracked back through security, decided to dump the three inch handle from the socket set, but was pulled aside and told he couldn’t take the little metal, ¼ inch (and smaller!) circular sockets on the plane. So he dumped them out on their desk, kept the plastic case and then had to run to the gate which, typically, was the furthest away it could be – and all because of one person’s interpretation of what tools are a risk…. We weren’t happy.
Back at Meaux, it was warm and dry, although it had been raining which meant the plants were happy, and although it was Tuesday, we decided we needed a glass of wine.
The next morning we were up sharp and got the bus to the cheese museum.
|After tasting, you gotta buy!|
We then went to pay our mooring fees, decided to stay another night and enjoyed a new drama on the BBC iPlayer after dinner.
This morning we set off under heavy skies on a lockless cruise along the tranquil river, and after only getting half on a pontoon at Poincy have settled on an unusual wall mooring a bit further on under a ruined bridge at the little town of Germingny-l’Eveque. It’s nice to be back on board and underway again.
|Lovely little treehouse - think we might need something bigger though.....|
|Moored under the ruined bridge at Germigny l'Eveque|