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.


Monday, 4 September 2017

16th August - 2nd September 2017. On along the canal Marne au Rhin(est) to Vitry-le-François, followed by the canal Latèral à la Marne to Condé. From there it was up the Canal de l'Aisne à la Marne to Reims by 25th August. Debbie and Matt joined us to return to Condé, cruising on to join the Marne at Epernay, finishing their trip at Isles-les-Meldeuses.



We continued slowly along the canal Marne au Rhin(est) to Vitry-le-François, then on the canal Latèral à la Marne to Condé. From there it was up the Canal de l'Aisne à la Marne to Reims, where we met our daughter Debbie, and her partner Matt. They were delayed for four hours by fog in Paris, but made it safely, being in time to enjoy the Son et Lumière at Reims cathedral.



We started their trip by retracing our steps, southwards, and Matt was straight on to rope duty at the first lock!


We stopped in Sillery to visit the war graves there.


Sunday was extremely hot, but the water was good for cooling the feet!


Having come through Mont de Billy tunnel, it is downhill all the way. Debbie is in charge of lifting the blue pole to operate the lock.


In Epernay we started with a walk round part of the town, and visited the cathedral. It is quite a long walk to even get to the town from the mooring, due to the railway being in the way.


We found this ancient arch, but I am not sure of its name. The gang are all there anyway!


Next it was a visit to the champagne cave of Georges Cartier.
We had a guided tour of their cave, in the cellars far below the streets of Epernay, and learned how they make champagne. These bottles, having lain on their sides for at least 18 months, are now turned regularly to ensure that all the sediment collects in the neck. The neck will then be frozen, so that the sediment can be removed safely. These caves were created originally, by the removal of stone for building. They were used as safe accommodation for French people during World War I, and inhabited by the Germans during World War II.


Back upstairs, we tasted four different champagnes, which all tasted slightly different, as they should!


Toad thought it only right that he should have a taste too, even though he missed the tour.


Moving on, Matt found a better view from the roof of The Puzzler!


At Reuil, the vineyards stretch up the hillside behind the village.


The grapes certainly look ready for picking!
At Dormans we found some boats, which is a rare occurrence on the Marne at the moment. One boat invited us alongside, but we are as long as two of their boats, but the other boat thought that we would be too heavy for their boat. We ended up inside the jetty, which was fine.

Some good research by Matt found the Battles of the Marne Memorial 1914 – 1918, just a short walk away from the port in Dormans This was well worth a visit. It is one of four Great War national monuments, which were built soon after that war as a memorial to all the victims of the war.




This stunning stained glass is to be found here. Christ watches over Joan of Arc and Saint Michael, who are surrounded by angels and allied soldiers.

We climbed the 105 steps to the top of the monument, and looked down on the ossuary, far below us. It contains the bones of about 1500 soldiers from both German and allied armies.

Looking out on the other side, the vines stretched away into the distance.


Moving on downstream, we passed Chateau-Thierry. We chose not to stop, as we are tending to stop at villages, rather than towns.

Mooring above the lock at Azy-sur-Marne, we enjoyed playing pétanque. It is a good game, even if played on grass.


The sky is threatening now, but Debbie and Matt are still enjoying themselves.


Stopping for lunch at Nogent-l'Artaud, we walked round the village, which has this splendid mairie, or town hall.

It is now 1st September, and we can see people picking grapes in the vineyards on the nearby hills. We were told that all vineyards begin to pick on the same day, but are not sure if this is the case.


By 4pm we are in a heavy downpour. My clothes may not be fashionable, but I am dry!


We liked this mooring above Courtaron lock, and again it was time for pétanque.


Matt and Debbie are now at ease on the tiller as we head for Isles-les-Meldeuses, for their train tomorrow morning.

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