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, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

23rd - 26th August. On to Demange-aux-Eaux, through Mauvages tunnel to Sauvoy, then on via Void to Pagny-sur-Meuse.

Autumn is approaching, as the wheat fields are ploughed.

We pass some lovely country properties.

At Demange-aux-Eaux is another pleasant jetty.

This is the main street of Demange.

This lady is the only person about, making sure that all is perfect in front of her house.

Moving on, the water has never been clearer. There are a lot of small fish to be seen in front of the bows here.

Mauvages tunnel approaches. We will be accompanied by a cyclist through the tunnel to make sure that we are OK.

Thisraight tunnel is nearly 5 kilometres long, and is lit throughout, with parts of it reinforced with metal girders.

There were three VNF men waiting for us at the other end, but they just smiled at us as we emerged.

Sauvoy was another mooring with a handy tree for shade. Well, we are near to the mooring, but the tree looked better than the bollards did!
In Sauvoy several of the houses had barns as part of the buildings. We saw one small tractor put away for the night in one of these, nearer to our mooring, but it was too dark for a photo.

Moving on to Pagny-sur-Meuse.
Last night there were 8 boats here, and we had to double up, outside a Dutch barge. They all left this morning, so we moved on to the jetty. Since I took this photo, the sun has moved and so must we! We have backed up to the end of the jetty, for a cooler afternoon under the tree. Inside the boat the temperature is 34 degrees, or 35 degrees in the open cratch.

Friday, 26 August 2016

18th - 22nd August 2016. On to Ligny-en-Barrois, Givrauval and Tréveray.

The scenery along this part of the canal de la Marne au Rhin is very pleasant.

The current church of Notre-Dame des Vertus in Ligny-des-Barrois dates from 1552, although there has been a church here since the 10th century.

This window was made in 1548. It is interesting how the style of stained glass in churches has changed over the centuries.

This blue one was made much later.
The port at Ligny has room for several boats. We were moored behind the Dutch family, on the right, and Shannon made friends with their granddaughter, who was visiting. Great Britain beat The Netherlands in the Olympic hockey final, much to their disgust!

At Givraul we found this small pontoon, in a lovely rural setting.

Half of this house in the village of Givraul has been renovated to a high standard, while the left side is awaiting development.
The church is hidden up by the trees, but we found an interesting walk above the church, along the edge of the forest. These wood piles are everywhere, and seem to have been there for years.

This painted building was in the middle of some fields. Is it a country cottage?
The Puzzler is crossing the river Ornain at Menaucourt here. Some people were swimming in the river, but sadly we could not get down to it. The weather is extremely hot.

This is a pretty wooded section of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Ouest)

There are a great many locks, but each one is a little different. This approach is more scenic than most.
We found shade at Tréveray under a plum tree. The back hatch is resting on the solar panels as we have been repainting the back slides. This could not be done in Roanne in the spring, because the satellite dish was in the way! It makes it cooler in the boat at night with no back hatch on!

Monday, 22 August 2016

10th - 17th August 2016. We join the Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Ouest) at Vitry-le-François, and continue to Bac-le-Duc.

We had hoped for a choice of bankside moorings on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, but found it to be a rough canal. This was the best we could do on this first section, although the marked moorings are quite good.
The locks too, have seen better days, although they work well enough, with magic eyes to see us coming.

This goat was very possessive about his lock, when The Puzzler came too close to him!
Beyond Fains-les-Sources we moored on two Ducs d'Alb, which are these pillars designed for barges, rather too far apart for comfort. It was worth it though, as we could bring the Intermarché trolley very close to the boat here. Bricorama was next door too, so we could at last replace the missing hammer, which might have been left by someone in the long grass a few weeks ago! We had to stay here overnight, as by the time we had been to both stores, aswell as filling up with diesel, the locks were closed for the night.
Two locks further on, we reached Bar-le-Duc, which is a sizeable town, with many historic buildings. The Rue des Ducs-de-Bar is a supreme example of an aristocratic street, dating from the 16th century.
The buildings in this street, which lies parallel, are much simpler in design.
The brothers, Pierre and Ernest Michaux, are remembered here for their invention of the pedal bicycle in the 19th century. They were both born in Bar-le-Duc.
The house with the tall slate roof is the Hôtel de Florainville, in Place Saint-Pierre, and was built in the 16th Century, but the ornate decoration was added in the 18th century, when it became the Town hall. Since 1949 it housed the magistrates court, followed later by the Assizes. The small house next but one to it is particularly different in style, but they all have their own character.
The îlot de la Halle was first built in the 13th century as a covered market, with the 16th century arcaded galleries opening on to this central courtyard. The green building is a recent extension to the restaurant, where we had a pleasant lunch with fellow boaters, John and Karen.

The Château of Bar-le-Duc, of 10th Century origin, was rebuilt in the 17th century.

There is a superb view of Bar-le-Duc from the castle walls.

Shannon and I decided to rest in the castle gardens, although we might have seen a no dogs sign, if we had been looking!

This is the biggest plane tree we have ever seen, in front of the Town Hall!

In the Eglise Saint-Antoine were the oldest church pews, in a box style. The altar in this church is made of a solid piece of marble.

In Bar-le-Duc, the river Ormain is very pretty.

Bar-le-Duc Cemetary, which is quite impressive

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.