Charleville-Mezieres on the lovely & v twisty R. Meuse was our next major stop, and then we headed for Belgium, where we planned to go as far as Namur and get a fill of red diesel, which boats are only allowed use in France if bought outside the country, and have a receipt . We reckoned that we would have to stay a few days there – tough! – to show that we were not just hopping across the border to take advantage of the fuel prices. Then we would turn back to France, down the R Sambre to the Oise again and head for Paris. As it happened our stay in Charleville became longer than anticipated as once again we’d been having French phone problems, and were going berserk (well, more than usual!) trying to get our new SIM card, and keep the same number and our credit.
These are a most attractive pair of towns each situated around a huge loop in the Meuse. Charleville has a good sized river port for pleasure craft, built a couple of years ago, with floating jetties to allow for the huge difference in levels in winter/spring and summer. The Meuse is one of the main routes bringing Germans, Dutch and Belgians south, so they are the most usual folk we meet. We were not actually in the harbour, but alongside the campsite, under the trees and looking across the river, which is nicer. The town is famous for puppets and we had a look at the Instutut des Marionettes when up in the Place Ducale, the lovely main square built by a local Duke who was jealous of the Place des Vosges in Paris. It is also the birth place of the 19th C gifted poet Arthur Rimbaud, who died young. A lovely old mill beside us dating from the same time as the Place Ducale now houses a museum to him. There was thunder and very heavy rain one night after a couple of very hot days when we got some painting done, sitting in veritable puddles of sweat – sorry, perspiration – so the enforced stay was productive!
We find our satellite dish works very well provided there are no trees or buildings close to us towards the south east. We did hear Colin Becker(IWAI) on RTE Radio 1 interviewed about the old Blackwater Feeder. He came across so well and so knowledgeably, as always.
Indeed, we had a good week in Charleville-Mezieres, where we had not expected to be for so long. Having come across few English folk we were suddenly surrounded by them, and then Irish friends turned up too!
We had become quite friendly with an English couple who were tied up astern of us and arranged to go to an organ recital in the Basilica in Mezieres together. It was excellent, with a mezzo soprano of Bulgarian origin with a wonderful voice singing European Romantic items, from Chopin to Debussy and Mendelssohn, as well as some Bulgarian folk music. A (lady) French organist accompanied her, as well as giving a virtuoso performance herself. Her playing was relayed on a large video screen below the organ, so that we were able to watch as well as listen. There was a very good crowd there, which was great, especially as it was at 6.00 p.m. on a very warm & sunny evening. The musicians have played and recorded together for some years. So that was a treat.
Next day we were all invited to drinks on another English boat that had tied up, and were sitting up on deck when Mike spotted a friend of ours from the Shannon walking down the jetty. She was invited on board, too, quickly followed by her husband and the owners of the (new) boat, they were staying with. The English folk were quite amazed at the sudden Irish take-over with not even a phone call made! So, a good time was had by all, with much chatting and catching up on news. They were on their way back to Holland to get the boat shipped to the Shannon, having had a couple of weeks getting used to it and enjoying the waterways of northern France, Belgium, and Holland as well. We were together there for a couple of days before splitting up, with quite a bit of socialising between boats, which was fun. The Irish boat was heading the same way as ourselves as far as Namur in Belgium, so we met up a couple of times again, catching up and passing by as suited each. The weather was very warm, then turned wet, and then gradually cleared again, and got very warm by the time we found ourselves in Namur.