Tours-sur-Marne (are we trapped?)

Some plants are showing their autumnal colours 
With the weather forecast to be in the mid-20s from Friday we decided to stay put yet another day at Damery and move on Thursday.   We had the odd rain shower during Wednesday, but it didn’t stop us having a walk to a couple of new villages during the morning.  Having forgotten to take any pictures there’s nothing to show in the blog but, to be fair, there wasn’t really anything new to report either 😉

After lunch we watched yet another good rugby match as Wales just avoided defeat by Fiji and then we spent the rest of the afternoon on Puddle Duck with the girls.  I spent some time with Nikki showing her around the revamped VNF web site.  VNF (Voies Navigable de France) is the French inland waterways authority; the UK version is the CRT (Canal & River Trust) and VNF have just relaunched their website.

It has a much-improved route/journey planner that takes into account factors such as closures, restrictions and daily opening hours.  As the girls, like us, are heading up to Reims and maybe beyond, we used the tool to plan the journey.  To our surprise it showed that we couldn’t start the trip until 11th November as the first lock to go through was closed until then.  This was a bit of a shock as we went through it a couple of times on Monday when we went shopping and there was no sign of its imminent closure, neither did the éclusier say anything.

We knew that the lock two locks down in the other direction from us was closed until then and rather suspected the tool had a bug.  Just to be sure, Gorete rang the éclusier at the supposed closed lock and he assured her it was still open.  We agreed we would all start the journey on Thursday just so we could get through the lock anyway.

The girls left at about 10 on Thursday morning and headed off down the dog leg to Épernay to do some shopping.  

Nikki & Gorete off shopping
We left about an hour later and were soon leaving the River Marne and joining the Canal latéral à la Marne.  We knew we were then ahead of the girls as it would take them far longer than an hour to get down to Épernay, do the shopping and get back to the junction with the canal.

Approaching our last lock on the Marne
In all we have spent two months on the River Marne; five weeks when we first went on it from Paris back in August and more recently, we have spent a further three weeks.  It really is a delightful river to cruise on with some wonderful scenery and surrounding countryside.  The villages are a bit different the villages we have visited elsewhere in France as they seem to be wealthier due to the champagne, but they are generally quiet and pretty.

Goodbye River Marne
We rather wondered where the boat in the picture above was going as the only place he would be able to moor before the closed lock was where we had just left.  Of course, they may well have not known the lock was closed.  We’ve been surprised at the number of people we’ve met who travel around Europe by boat but are not aware that they could arrange for email alerts for closures.

As soon as we joined the canal and went up the first lock, we passed the hotel boat C’est la Vie that we have seen several times before in this part of France.  Judging by their accents as they called out to us from the cocktail deck, the guests seemed to be American as usual.  After another couple of locks, we moored up at Mareuil-sur-Ay for lunch and to get rid of the recycling.  Other than the ubiquitous bins for glass, it’s been over two weeks since we’ve seen recycling bins.

Moored at Mareuil-sur-Ay for lunch
As we were having lunch, Hirondelle came past; this is another hotel boat that cruises the Champagne route that we have also seen several times before.

Hirondelle passing us during lunch
We planned on cruising to Tours-sur-Marne after lunch and mooring at some bollards just above the lock, but as we approached the lock we could see a large boat already moored there. 

Pretty lockside at Tours
You can see from the picture above that the lock has what Karen calls ‘slidey-poles’.  These make it easy to go up a lock as she just loops a line around the pole, making sure it doesn’t get caught as we go up.  So much easier than clambering on the roof and lassoing a line around a bollard 😊

Once we were up, we tried to moor behind the big boat but it just wasn’t possible due to the spacing of the bollards.  Well, it would have been possible, but we couldn’t keep the front of our boat away from their rudder.

We carried on a little further and moored in a way we have never tried before.  The metal pilings supporting the banks on this stretch have rope-sized holes at the top.  We tied to these holes which at least meant we were far more secure compared with putting pins in.  Just after mooring a large boat came past and the wake would have ripped out pins if we had used them.  Mind you we wouldn’t moor using the holes for more than one night as the lines would soon start fraying with the pull of the wash from passing boats.

Buddy basking under walnut trees at our Thursday evening mooring
We had a walk around Tours before settling in for the evening finding that it was a town rather than the village we had been expecting, but other than champagne houses, the mairie, a school, a butcher, a boulangerie and a church there was nothing else.  We were surprised it didn’t support a supermarket but, more sadly for us, we couldn’t find a lavoir

Relatively modern église de Tours-sur-Marne
Karen did more walnut harvesting when we got back to the boat and we noticed locals walking up and down all evening shaking the trees and picking up nuts.  One enterprising couple were carrying a laundry bag stuffed with nuts, but it was clearly very heavy as they were struggling.  We now think we have enough to keep us going and once they are dried I’m looking forward to a coffee & walnut cake 😉

Walnut pickers we passed earlier in the day
We heard from the girls later and found that they had passed us when we were out for our walk and they had carried on a few more kilometres to moor at Condé-sur-Marne for the night.  No doubt we will bump into them over the next few days cruising to Reims.

During Thursday we cruised 19 kilometres up five locks.

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