These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.

Friday, 12 August 2016

6th -9th August 2016. From Courcy to Sillery, via Reims, on the Canal de L'Aisne à la Marne. Dwarf beech trees are to be found near the Champagne village of Verzy. On to Condé, then the Canal Latéral à La Marne to Chalons-en-Champagne.

Having enjoyed drinks aboard Johanna Maria with Holly and Michael last night, we set off, heading for Sillery, via Reims.
This part of the Canal de L'Aisne à la Marne is very straight, but at least it has a pretence of having a towpath, which both the Canal de L'Oise à L'Aisne, and the Canal Lateral à L'Aisne were sadly lacking in many places, with trees in profusion right to the water's edge.
While cruising through Reims, there were a great many oarsmen and oarswomen to avoid, although this ladies four was of quite high quality.
Having “done” the city last year, we did not stop in Reims this time.
There are war graves at Sillery, with over 10,000 men being remembered there.
Moving on, we could see Verzy, a Champagne hill village, over to our right. It is below the red arrow, and looks a long way away! We are going to cycle to it this morning.
We left The Puzzler at Beaumont-sur-Vesle, and cycled up the road through the vineyards to Verzy. As it was Sunday, all the Champagne caves were firmly shut! We left our bikes in the village, and walked up the hill beyond to find the famous Dwarf Beech trees. According to our book, they were only 300 metres from the village, but we think that was to encourage visitors, as it must have been at least three times that! There are quite a lot of them, hiding in among the normal size trees in the woodland.

Cycling back was a great deal easier! We moved on through one lock to moor under some trees, and had a visit from Paul, which was a pleasant surprise.
We were following a blue barge, Miamorpat, towards Mont-de-Billy tunnel, anticipating a slow crawl behind him, but he pulled over to let us through. We have been impressed by the consideration of most commercial boats this year.
Shannon loves to look ahead in tunnels.
We soon reached the chain of 8 locks, leading down to Condé. We activate the first lock, then all the others know that we are coming and prepare themselves for us, which is very clever! Lock 22 was really pretty – so well cared for.
In Condé we saw the narrowboat Termujin, which has travelled all over Europe.
Turning right on to the Canal Latéral a La Marne, we cruised as far as Tours-sur-Marne to spend the night rather close to a barge, which came in after us.
All the shops in Tours were closed for their summer holidays!

A lovely avenue of plane trees flank the canal, soon before Chalons-en-Champagne.
The port at Chalons was nearly full, and everyone was very friendly, with the English and Irish outnumbered by the New Zealanders!
Just to be different, this large elephant floats at the far end of the port.

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