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Compiegne to Berry au Bac via the River Aisne and Canal Lateral a L’Aisne

So then we got to the R Aisne, a very pretty area, with lots of trees, and stopped at Soissons. The weather turned a bit wet, but still warm, and we had some sun, with mist in the a.m. Subsequently it cleared up, and got very warm and sunny again.

One night we could not find a mooring place and we were locked in between two locks. We had no alternative but to tie to a tree but we were then aground. So we had to get up at 6.30 a.m. to get underway before the big working barges came by and their wash might shove us high & dry. But it was well worth it, lovely, with loads of wildlife out and about, and the mist rising off the river. Very few places to tie up along the rivers so far, which is irritating when you read that there is something particularly interesting to go and see. We have, however, found some lovely spots, some quiet and/or with interesting neighbours.

At Berry au Bac we turned right onto the canal de L’Aisne a la Marne as far as Reims, where the French kings traditionally went to be crowned, and where Joan of Arc brought the Dauphin to be crowned. We were in Reims a few years ago, but didn’t get to see anything, as it was the day we were going home. The Cathedral was impressive; but then, there is so much fascinating history associated with this part of France. Reims is also the capital of Champagne, and all the famous cellars associated with it are to be found there, but that’s another story.

Aquarelle was left in Reims for 9 days, tied up outside a barge in the ‘Relais de Plaisance’ while we went gallivanting off on the TGV (moving at a mere 160 m.p.h. according to Mike’s GPS, a change from our usual pace!) to Italy, for a wedding. On our return we retraced our route back to Berry au Bac.

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Conflans St Honorine to Compiegne on the River Oise

Then, up the Oise from Conflans St Honorine, the ‘home’ of the barges & bargees, to Soissons, meeting all sorts of folk, and making friends along the way of various nationalities.

Most places we stopped at we stayed in for 2, or even 3 nights as there are, in general, very few mooring places and we have to do 60 Km or so between them, and we are NOT in a rush. We stopped in Creil, famous for earthenware, and spent the afternoon on a large barge that rarely moves. It is 45m x 5m and has been fitted out by the owners. It is much bigger than most houses. They had a conservatory/garden on deck all very tastefully done, where we sat & had drinks.

Then Saturday night in Compiegne, not so good, as my bike was stolen from the aft deck, locked to the rails with Mike’s with a proper bike lock, not just a chain and padlock. M chased them the first time, but they came back an hour or so later around 1.30 and must have had a cutter of some sort, as they were gone with the bike before we could get them. We were just unlucky as to where we were moored. We had a boring run around with the police, then by phone, & on Sunday, when we at last got the correct station after a lot of walking and asking, but they were too busy, they said, (and weren’t one bit interested). An Aussie guy had the flag and flagpole stolen from his boat the same night, but nobody else had trouble, and they had bikes etc., too. These things happen everywhere in big towns, not just here, so we try to avoid staying o/night in dubious areas, when possible.

The ‘up’ side of Compiegne was the chandlery, which is one of the best we’ve seen anywhere, with loads of varied stock. Mike had a happy time there buying essentials such as fenders, gas for the hob, and a regulator, and then poked around and found various other bits and pieces he’s been looking for. We’ll be back there again in better weather sometime, and get to see the chateau and forest, favourite hunting ground of the kings of France.

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Conflans St Honorine to Compiegne on the River Oise

Then, up the Oise from Conflans St Honorine, the ‘home’ of the barges & bargees, to Soissons, meeting all sorts of folk, and making friends along the way of various nationalities.

Most places we stopped at we stayed in for 2, or even 3 nights as there are, in general, very few mooring places and we have to do 60 Km or so between them, and we are NOT in a rush. We stopped in Creil, famous for earthenware, and spent the afternoon on a large barge that rarely moves. It is 45m x 5m and has been fitted out by the owners. It is much bigger than most houses. They had a conservatory/garden on deck all very tastefully done, where we sat & had drinks.

Then Saturday night in Compiegne, not so good, as my bike was stolen from the aft deck, locked to the rails with Mike’s with a proper bike lock, not just a chain and padlock. M chased them the first time, but they came back an hour or so later around 1.30 and must have had a cutter of some sort, as they were gone with the bike before we could get them. We were just unlucky as to where we were moored. We had a boring run around with the police, then by phone, & on Sunday, when we at last got the correct station after a lot of walking and asking, but they were too busy, they said, (and weren’t one bit interested). An Aussie guy had the flag and flagpole stolen from his boat the same night, but nobody else had trouble, and they had bikes etc., too. These things happen everywhere in big towns, not just here, so we try to avoid staying o/night in dubious areas, when possible.

The ‘up’ side of Compiegne was the chandlery, which is one of the best we’ve seen anywhere, with loads of varied stock. Mike had a happy time there buying essentials such as fenders, gas for the hob, and a regulator, and then poked around and found various other bits and pieces he’s been looking for. We’ll be back there again in better weather sometime, and get to see the chateau and forest, favourite hunting ground of the kings of France.

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Rouen to Conflans St Honorine on the River Seine

Rosaleen arrived by air next day, and cruising began. We had a super trip up the Seine from Rouen, a truly beautiful river. The first 40 Km of that stretch is tidal and Rouen is already 115 Km from the sea. We passed Chateau Gailliard, the castle of Richard the Lion Heart, which is quite spectacular, built high up on the chalk cliffs above the river. We moored outside a barge that belongs to a friendly French couple for a couple of days with whom we’d been in touch previously. Their barge had Shannon registration, as it was simpler to get than registering it in France! The hull was built in Warwick for them, & Gerard had fitted it out himself, so he & Mike had a load to talk about, & compare notes. His wife speaks good English, so between us all we managed through technical terms! They took us back to the castle by car to see the fireworks display in honour of Bastille Day. The next day we visited Monet’s beautiful garden at Giverny, the water lilies and all that, and his house which is pretty amazing, too, simple but lovely, esp. the kitchen, and the dining room, which is all a bright yellow and must have been even more stunning to his contemporaries.

We also saw a museum of old engines. They had a huge diesel engine that had a 20-ton flywheel and used air start, and also air injection for the fuel. Mike, particularly, enjoyed talking to the guys that run it, and they appreciated his interest.

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Rouen Docks

We all then slept in our own beds – boat, truck and V. P -.and were ready to start again at 08:30. I managed to get most of the starboard side antifouled before we left, having done all the sanding down while waiting in Rosslare. There were no problems from there to Grande Couronne, which is part of the Port of Rouen, except it was rather hilly and 37 tons (boat + trailer) takes a lot of pulling and stopping.

On arrival at the dock entrance we phoned Somar (Dockers) who sent out a van to lead us into the docks.

I can recommend D & A Marine Transport very highly. David (the D of D&A) took great care to have Aquarelle well loaded, chocked and tied down, taking extra precautions as the skeg was low, and was quite far behind the rear trailer wheels. Nothing moved on the boat the whole way other than a tin of beans that fell out when I opened one of the lockers later.

Once there, David took off the straps and gave me a hand to put things back in their places. I finished the antifouling, and we put the dinghy back on the davits.

At 17:00 the Somar crowd were ready to put Aquarelle in the water. We drove under a huge gantry crane, capacity 260 tons, and fitted the slings. David and I stayed on board and were lowered into the Seine. After a slight hitch we let go the slings and were on our way, as we couldn’t stay in the dock area. We tied up to an old barge for the night in a disused basin. I then went shopping for our dinner, and had to walk miles before I found anything.

We left the basin the next morning and motored up to the’ Port de Plaisance’ in Rouen proper. David went shopping this time while I washed the decks. He found that all the shops closed at 12:00 and it was 12:20! Thin pickings for lunch!

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