Read about this trip from the start – here.
|Mist leaving Revin
The next morning there was a mist on the river. It looked so beautiful. Luckily we could see where we were going. It was a long day ahead and we’d gotten up nice and early as we had another lengthy trip planned My other half dashed up the road to the Boulangerie which opened at 06.30am and bought us each a pastry. Unbeknown to us they had a 2 + 1 special. It’s hard enough having to resist the baked food in France and then they go and give you a freebie. Oh my word they were good. He also came back with a freshly baked loaf of wholewheat bread. We’d figured out how to ask for one in French.
The French guide said the automated locks open on a Saturday the same times as on weekdays which is 07.00am. As we approached the lock, we noticed it didn’t have any lights burning. Two reds = closed for the night or a problem. One red = the lock is busy from the other side. One red and one green = get ready the lock will open. One green or two greens = enter or exit the lock. We pushed the button on our remote but nothing happened. We phoned the number in the guide. No reply. We phoned the number on a board next to the lock. No reply either. Dejected we motored back to the mooring at Revin to the surprised looks of other boaters. They came to help us tie up and we explained there was a problem at the lock. Turns out the guide is wrong and the lock opens the same hours as a Sunday. We lost two hours of much needed travel time.
I re-read the Imray French waterways guide and the author is at pains to explain that there is a massive shift in France away from a centralised waterways management system toward a devolution or handing over of the management of the waterways to local regions and towns. It’s not been easy as the skills and resouces – as well as the will to take on this function – is not always there. One possible reason for the later opening of the locks and the discrepancy is shorter hours due to cost saving.
|Laundry in the car park in Revin
The region from Givet to Charleville-Meziers is known as the Ardennes. It has forests and valleys. It’s a particularly beautiful part of the world that attracts not just boaters on the River Meuse but also cyclists, campervans, hikers and ramblers, rock climbers, fisherman and I saw a stall with animal heads so maybe even hunting? We travelled to Charleville-Meziers on a Saturday and saw people setting up stalls and info kiosks for some event along the banks of the river. The French waterway maps give suggested walks and talk about birdlife in the woods and on the waterways as well as a few local legends. It would have been nice to have more time to go for a walk in the forests but we had a long way to go to our final destination at St Jean-de-Losne.
|Greenie going for a run along the tow path
I decided to go for a run on the tow path while my other half drove the boat. It’s really difficult trying to throw the ropes around a bollard in the locks when you’re locking up. The boat is so low down in the lock that you can’t even see the bollards. They paint yellow arrows on the walls inside the lock but you still don’t know how far the bollard is set back at the top. There are ladders on the walls of the locks but I’m too scared to use them. It would useful if I could be at the top of the locks and help with the ropes. Running alongside the boat would force me into a bit of exercise. Our boat doesn’t travel very fast. But aside from that, there are speed limits on the canals to prevent wash causing the banks to deteriorate. Our boat was going 8 kilomtres per hour. A reasonably fit person could probably do a jog at that pace or ask the captain to drive a touch slower and walk it.
I mentioned hire boats earlier. Hire boats are a favourite for bloke holidays. These guys usually come in big groups and squeeze as many of themselves as they can onto their hire boats. They tend to drink copious amounts of beer, play loud music and hang about the deck of the boat sunning themselves with the odd swim to cool off or sober up. A hire boat with about 10 guys that fitting this description came hurtling at break neck speed past us creating an almighty wash only to do a swift U-turn and charge back the way they came. We passed them a while later on the side of the canal. A few of them were holding the boat in place hanging on a tree while another was sawing branches off the tree. One chap was standing on the river bank. Next thing they dashed off leaving him behind. And after a short while they did yet another abrupt U-turn and went screaming back to fetch him. We weren’t keen to share a lock with them so took a tea break at a mini mooring spot.
Our stop for the next two nights was Charleville-Mezeirs. It’s actually two places – Charleville and Mezierres – that have merged. It was created in the 17th century by a wealthy man who wanted his own town. You can see it was planned because of the square layout. It has lovely golden stone buildings and a massive town square. It’s the biggest town in the Ardennes region. We arrived Saturday evening so popped up the road for a drink at the square or Place Ducale. Who should we bump into, but the Germans who did the locks in convoy with us a few days ealier. We had a quick conversation about where both of us had been. Late that night a night club next to the river got going and the music got louder and louder. It only stopped about 05.00am so that put paid to a decent night of sleep. I’m never sure if it’s better to be in a tiny village where that kind of thing won’t happen, but then you strruggle to buy food. All these towns have a market day one day a week but we kept arriving on the wrong days.
We got a free map with a mini walking tour of Charleville-Mezieres the next day from the tourism office. And did a spot of shopping at the local Carrefour supermarket. We’ve been so lucky with the availability of vegan foods in almost all the supermarkets in the Netherlands and in Del Haize supermarket in Belgium. Various plant milks, different soy yoghurts, meat substitutes like burgers and sausages, tofu, tempeh and even superfoods. We also found International shops where they sold Indian and Asian foods and ingredients such as gram flour, almond flour, rice paper wraps, agar-agar and heaps of spices in cities in Holland and Belgium.
The story continues – here.