Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Châlons-en-Champagne (Le Jour de Souvenir)

We went for a walk along the banks of the Marne during Sunday morning.  I know we often walk along there, but we wanted to find a longer walk and a route that would cut across the fields to the canal thus making a circular walk.  We ended up retracing our steps as we couldn’t find a way across, but it was a very pleasant walk nonetheless and Buddy enjoyed chasing sticks as we went along.

France marks Armistice Day (Le Jour de Souvenir) on the 11th November each year with a public holiday when even the locks on the canals and rivers are closed.  The main street in Châlons was due to be closed on Monday for the parade and we went along to join in and see how the French remember the anniversary, especially in this area that was heavily affected by WWI.

Even though it was cold there was a large turnout and we felt rather sorry for those involved, especially the soldiers who didn’t move for nearly 45 minutes. 

The soldiers with school children in the garden opposite
It did feel very French as it was relatively laid back and it felt like no one really knew who was in control which led to some long pauses and, no, I’m not referring to the minute’s silence.  I said the soldiers didn’t move but every so often they alternated between presenting arms, saluting and standing at rest.  There was also a brass band that played the chorus of La Marseillaise on at least four occasions and finished with the traditional last post.

The VIPs are to the left of the band
We rather expected people to be wearing blue cornflowers as those in British Commonwealth countries wear red poppies.  The only cornflowers we saw were held by the children and presented to a line of, who we assumed were, veterans of wars other than WWI.  The parade/ceremony didn’t start until the mayor and his wife turned up and were introduced to many of the VIPs.

The mayor and his wife wearing the tricoloured sashes
The parade was moving for obvious reasons even though we obviously couldn’t understand everything that was said.  The atmosphere was very solemn and we were particularly impressed with the children who were chosen to read poems as they spoke slowly and very clearly.

When we returned to the boat, Nikki and Ardon came around for coffee, cake (walnut of course) and a chat.  As they left it started raining and it carried on for a fair bit of the afternoon, so we got on with indoor jobs.

We went to the next level of planning our cruising route for next year.  You may know that we had talked about going to Strasbourg and having forays into Luxembourg and Germany but that was really as far as we had got.  Other criteria were that we wanted to go on an inclined plane, avoid places we have been to before and also those that were problematic due the lack of rain this year.  

The current plan has us:
  • Travelling the length of the Canal Marne au Rhin over to Strasbourg
  • Heading up the Canal de la Sarre which will take us onto the River Sarre for the German section
  • After joining the River Moselle, we will journey through Luxembourg then back into France to Nancy
  • Then we will pick up the Canal des Vosges which will take us through the Ardennes down to the River Saône
  • We will then join the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne and head back north again

The current plan takes us 1,300 kilometres through 500 locks which is somewhat less than the 1,850 and 650 we did this year but gives us plenty of opportunity to take detours or change our minds!  The purple line on the following map shows the planned route for 2020, the black line is where we cruised in 2019 and the arrow is pointing to where we are currently, at Châlons-en-Champagne.

Purple = 2020 plan.  Black = 2019 actual
As the shops were closed today we will do our weekly food shop on Tuesday.    

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