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.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

11th - 17th September 2017. Off to Northumberland for my niece, Emily and David's wedding.

A couple of days cruising took us to Souppes-sur-Loing, where Andy and Shannon were to wait for me.
On Friday I was off to the north of  Northumberland, where the scenery is wonderful. I am here for my niece's wedding tomorrow. This is the superb view from my bedroom window, where I am staying with my cousins.

Here is my niece, Emily, and her new husband, David, in the Threshing Barn at Doxford Barns. These barns have been renovated and make a great place for a wedding, being full of character.

The bridegroom's family photo just beat the rain.

However, the bride and her family kept dry, here in the Great Hall!

Cousin Oliver watches my brother, John, with his daughters Emily, the bride and Harriet, her chief bridesmaid.

Back at Doddington, the three cousins, Oliver, Sally and Jonathan are in the orchard. It has been such a good weekend, catching up on family news.

A long-time family friend, Susan, was staying at the house too, which was great fun.

Meanwhile Shannon is working on her best photographic smile, as she and Andy have spent a quiet few days at Souppes.

Monday, 11 September 2017

3rd - 10th September 2017. On to Meaux, still on the river Marne, and on to Lagny-sur-Marne. In Paris we turned left on to the river Seine, then upstream to join the river Loing at St. Mammes.

When we arrived in Meaux, there were five boats here, including Puddleduck and Oribi, but the others all left us! We hear that the Marne is to close at the end of this week for three weeks, which is a surprise. There is still plenty of time to get to the river Seine though.

From Meaux we were on the Canal de Meaux à Chalifert, which runs alongside the Marne. We managed to pick over 400 walnuts there, mostly from the roof of The Puzzler.
Our next mooring, back on the River Marne, was Lagny-sur-Marne, which was an important centre for the Resistance in northern France during the second World War. The bridges from the quay to the jetty are apparently removed in winter, which is a nuisance for continuous cruisers.

We visited the 13th century abbey of Notre Dame des Argents , which was also visited by Joan of Arc in 1430. It is interesting how the houses here are built directly on to the abbey.

The sun is shining in through all the stained glass windows, and reflecting on to the pillars.

The pictures are painted on to the glass in these older stained glass windows.

We were told that these windows are more recent, with each piece of glass being a different colour.

While on the next canal section, a barge, carrying containers, filled the waterway. Barges do not seem so big out on the main river.

Back on the Marne, we are now in the outskirts of Paris, with trees everywhere, and some very fine houses to be seen.

As we approach the River Seine, this sand barge is a sign of things to come!

The junction of the rivers Marne and Seine is dominated by this enormous Chinese restaurant. We have just come down the Marne, from the left, and are now going up the Seine, to the right of the restaurant.
The Seine is built up for a long way upstream from Paris, but this mooring, just 20 kilometres from the junction, was recommended to us by friends. A mini oasis amid the houses!

Further on, there are many smart houses along the banks.

There are also large communities of residential barges.

When the wind blows, it can be quite bleak out on this river!

I think that Endurance is the largest barge we have seen on the Seine.
However, Exelmans comes a close second. He swung his stern in to the bank behind us, and then quickly off-loaded his car with his own crane, before continuing. He left his wife with the car, throwing the car keys to her, across on the bank. Luckily, he could throw well, and they did not end up in the river!

After we had moored above the lock at Bois-le-Roi, a double barge squeezed in behind us. There was just room for him, or rather, them! They were a pair of barges lashed together, with one pushing the other. The captain craned their car off the barge VG, ready for an evening out.

There was an interesting sunset over the lock that evening.

Next day we completed our journey on the Seine, turning on to the river Loing at St. Mammes, to moor at Moret-sur-Loing. Last June this mooring was under water.

Moret is upstream from the mooring and the town bridge crosses the river Loing here.

Moret was badly flooded last June, as can be seen by the height of the water level, marked by the red arrow, well above Andy's head, by the town bridge.

50 yards upstream of the bridge, to the right of a small island, would not have been the place to stand then!

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.