Thursday 28 October 2021

Mouzon (stymied by low water levels again)

That means we have a granddaughter on the way

The previous blog update finished at last Wednesday when I mentioned that the weather was mild and grey with some rain during the morning.  Little did we know then what was in store for the night.  During the evening the wind got up and it seemed to get stronger as the night went on, with the occasional heavy burst of rain too.  We were due to get up by seven as we’d planned a surprise trip back to the UK as Polly, our youngest, was finding out the gender of her and Lochlann’s baby which is due in March.  As it turned out we were up and outside several times during the night to check on things and in the end, we stayed up for good at five having not had a wink of sleep.

We were moored on a pontoon at right angles to the riverbank so caught the brunt of the wind as it blew down the river causing large waves (for a river) to constantly crash noisily against the side of the boat.  Somehow the pontoon moved during the night, and we were really concerned it was going to break free and come to a sad fate at the weir downstream together with the boat.  If the storm had abated, we would have moved the boat to somewhere more secure, but the strength of the wind made that an unsafe manoeuvre, especially with a weir close by.  After repeatedly checking and rechecking how the pontoon was attached, we decided it would be OK to leave the boat where she was and set off back to the UK.  

I know the weir isn't high but we wouldn't want the boat caught on it

We had a really hectic weekend, with most of the children over to see us at some point and the grandsons having sleepovers too.  Our original intention had been to surprise Polly & Lochlann by turning up at their party on Sunday afternoon.  Thinking it through though, we realised it wouldn’t leave much time to see them and the family as we were returning to France in the early hours of Monday.  We surprised them when we got back on the Thursday night instead, and we did think at one point that Polly wouldn’t stop crying with happiness!

As well as cramming the days full of seeing the family we had the unwanted burden of a curtain rail starting to fall down, a roller blind mechanism breaking and to cap them all, the oven stopped working.  Well, the oven didn’t stay the biggest headache for long as we received an email from VNF the same evening saying that the canal des Ardennes was closing for at least a month due to lack of water.  It was unbelievable as we were about to cruise that canal, so it meant we would have to put our thinking heads on when we got back to the boat.  The next morning, we had a call from Alistair who is further upstream on the Meuse than us but was also hoping to do the same journey.  He’d had a conversation with the local VNF office, and they confirmed the canal was closed and they wouldn’t open it even for shallow draught narrowboats.  Alistair & Sabine are probably the only other narrowboat cruising in France at the moment and we still haven't physically met!

So far this year we’ve travelled the red line in an anti-clockwise direction.  We were going to complete the loop along the blue line until we reach Châlons-en-Champagne in time for going back to the UK in December.  It’s the first half of the blue line that’s now closed so we’re going to have to retrace our steps up the Meuse to the junction with the canal de la Marne au Rhin (ouest) and get back to Châlons that way.  At least most of the Marne au Rhin (ouest), the green line in the map below, will be new waters for us.

The re-plan

All this means a considerable amount of re-planning mooring spots to take into account water and food shopping stops.  It also means we’re going to have to pick up our pace as I have to be back in Châlons-en-Champagne for my booster jab on 3rd December and we now have over 300 kilometres and 127 locks to do rather than 200 kilometres and 75 locks. 

Knowing we’re going to be covering a lot of distance in the coming month or so we decided it would be best to dispense with the hassles of travelling with a car and dump it in Châlons-en-Champagne.  It took nearly two hours to drive there on Tuesday morning and a similar time on the train back to Sedan.  I popped into the port while I was there and had a morning cuppa with Bill & Jane who’d arrived there for winter a couple of weeks ago.  Guy & Ardon had arrived a few weeks previously and I was able to have a quick catch up with them too and pick up a few letters they’d been holding onto for us.

Wednesday was move day which made us both feel very happy as we’d not moved for the best part of three weeks.  Admittedly it’d been our decision as we knew we were popping back to the UK, and we felt Sedan was a good place to leave the boat whilst we were away.  We’d also been a bit spoilt at the mooring as the borne we were hooked up too wasn’t working correctly.  Rather than providing 24 hours’ worth of electricity and water for one payment, it gave us an unlimited supply while we were there.  I say spoilt because we have a small fan heater and were able to use that to take the chill off in the evenings without the need to light the stove.

We had an early lunch and then set off for Mouzon where we’d stayed at the town mooring on the way down.  Our intention was to stop on the edge of town at the start of the lock cut where there was a wide grassy bank which would be much better for Buddy compared to the centre of town.  I did set a stove during the afternoon as we wouldn’t be having hook up for the fan heater.  We both find the smell of the stove cosy, which is just as well when we’re standing on the back deck with smoke wafting over us.

As we approached the first lock, we could see two red lights were on meaning it was out of service thus necessitating a call to VNF and an éclusier turned up after 20 minutes and saw us through.  As we re-joined the river, we passed a needle dam that was still in use, but it also utilised plastic sheeting which certainly wouldn’t have been used when the dam was first installed.

Needle dam with different coloured aiguilles (needles)

The second and last lock of the day worked OK until I started going in.  Two red lights came on as well as the green, which took the lock out of operation.

Not what you want to see

We tied up inside and made another call to VNF.  The same guy turned up again to see us through but within five minutes this time.  I know it sounds like we have a lot of hassles with locks but generally they work very well and if we do need to call out an éclusier they are always prompt, helpful and friendly.

We were going to moor by the grassy bank above the lock, but the undergrowth was so high that we decided to press on a bit further and ended up mooring nearly opposite the town mooring.  I know it seems odd mooring in a town when there’s so much open countryside but the lock cuts at this end of the river tend to be in towns and it’s not easy finding somewhere to moor on the actual river.

Moored in Mouzon on Wednesday evening

On Wednesday we cruised ten miles up two locks.

To finish this entry, here are a few pictures of Dexter and Ellis who will soon be joined by our first granddaughter. 

We're counting by the look of it
Cheeky croissant breakfast with Oma

Oh no!  Opa/Grampy's going to tickle us


Thursday 21 October 2021

Sedan (bat ducking)

Sunday sunset

Country borders can be deceptive.  We’ve been thinking we’re a good way away from Belgium as we know there are a further 100 kilometres to travel north on the Meuse before it reaches the border and then makes its way onwards to Maastricht and then through Holland to the North Sea.  Studying the map for likely places to drive to over the weekend we suddenly realised that we’re only 13 kilometres from the north-eastern border.  No wonder we’ve been seeing so many Belgian cars lately.  They’ve wrongly made us think that there’s lots of Belgians on holiday, but the majority are probably just going about their daily business here in Sedan.

Thursday morning was set aside for our weekly bridge lesson followed by an hour or so of play.  Later in the afternoon we moved from the pontoon mooring and moored up against a quay where we would be better placed to catch more of the sun.

Our new mooring in Sedan

After doing a few odd jobs on Friday morning we drove to Montmédy for a good look around the place.  Karen had never visited but I’d been a couple of times as I’d left the car there while we took the boat from Stenay to Sedan.  The only public transport between the two towns involved a bus from Stenay to Montmédy and then a train up to Sedan.  Timetabling made it impossible to do the bus and train journey in one day, so I split it into two by leaving the car at the changeover point.  That’s a long explanation for why Karen had never been but from what I’d seen it was definitely worth going back to.

We parked outside the mairie and devised a circular walk up the hill to the old town and back down around the other side.  After leaving the lower town we followed a cart track that zigzagged its way to the top and was still cobbled for most of the way.   

Montmédy has changed hands many times over the centuries and since the Gallo-Roman period it has belonged to Belgium, Luxembourg, Burgundy and Germany.  Immediately before it finally became part of France in the mid-1600s, it had been under Spanish rule.  Its strategic position on a hill in the Meuse valley meant it had to be fortified from its early years.  Most of the heavy fortifications seen today were built in the 1650s and are certainly amongst the most impressive we have visited.  There are two main walls completely encircling the town with a moat between.  Apparently, the moat was never watered but still formed an important line of defence.  

The never watered moat

The outer wall and the moat are open to the public and are free to walk around.  We went through a doorway in the main wall and, after climbing up an interior passage, came out into the town by the tourist office where we handed over €5 each so we could walk around the ramparts both on top and through passageways within.

Outer wall and moat from the ramparts
The outskirts of the lower town
Lower road entrance

There was an extensive area of passageways inside the inner fortifications, many of which can still be explored.  It was slightly unnerving as we had to share them with bats swooping over our heads in the often-confined space.  Even though we knew they wouldn't fly into us it was slightly disconcerting for a while.

Other than a guy who was leaving when we arrived, we had the place to ourselves and when we finished, we had a quick look around what was left of the town inside.  The only bar wasn’t open, so we made our way back down the other side of the hill, this time, following the road.

Upper road entrance

We felt quite tired by the time we’d finished but in a good way and it wasn’t long before we were back in Sedan and could relax on board for the evening.  We would thoroughly recommend a visit to Montmédy and its citadel if you’re ever in the area.

Much of Sunday was spent driving along the length of the next canal we will be cruising on, the canal des Ardennes, checking for mooring spots with good internet signal for the days Karen works and also to find where we could pick up water along the way.  It’s wasn’t as onerous as it sounds as the canal is short by French standards, only 88 kilometres long, and we’d already checked the first section we'd be joining when we leave the Meuse.  Not only that, but we were making a day of it with some sightseeing and lavoir hunting along the way. 

We’re finding lavoirs are few and far between in the Ardennes département, quite different to some we have been in this year.  For example, in Haute-Saône it was unusual to find a village without a lavoir and many villages had more than one.  Whereas in Ardennes we’ve been struggling to find any and those we have found have often been closed to the general public; however, one we found during the day was open.  Being built over a stream it was also still in water and had lush plant growth around it.  I'm including a picture of this lavoir as it was the first of over 200 lavoirs we have seen, with a brick lined basin.  The water was so clear that you could be mistaken for thinking there was none in the basin at all.

Lavoir at Tourteron

The canal is very rural so the moorings were few and far between and without services but it does run through a couple of towns, Le Chesne and Rethel, both of which had working water points.  Internet signal was generally good though so Karen shouldn’t have any issues either.  Rethel had a train station linking Châlons-en-Champagne with Sedan, so we’ll probably dispense with the car pretty soon and leave it in Châlons until December.

Lots of room in Rethel with water points and a couple of small, abandoned cruisers

The slow cooker had been on all day so we had a lovely roast soon after we got back home to the boat.

Monday was mild and dry, so I spent the morning putting the final topcoat of blue on the rear deck areas.  In the afternoon I took Buddy to the local vets for his annual check-up.  Having worked out we were so close to Belgium earlier in the week I wasn’t surprised to find out the practice was run by a Belgian couple which also explained the two Belgian plated cars in the driveway.

I had an interesting phone conversation with a fellow British boater on Tuesday.  He and his wife had a Dutch barge and cruised in France for a few years then sold her and explored Europe in a camper.  They now have a narrowboat in the UK and are thinking about bringing her out to France.  As we are one of the few people with narrowboats over here, he’d made contact a while ago and we’ve been exchanging ideas ever since.

The main thrust of this particular conversation related to the impact on bringing UK boats into the EU post Brexit. VAT and import duty are payable when bringing a boat over but there is a temporary transition relief period whereby if it returns to non-EU waters within 18 months then the taxes aren't payable.  Also, it can be immediately brought back for another 18 months, VAT and duty free.  Transporting a narrowboat boat on a lorry back to the UK, even for 24 hours, and then back to France again would be ridiculously expensive.   Also, taking a narrowboat halfway across the Channel to reach non-EU waters and then returning to France or Belgium is rather risky.  This raised the question, is it worth coming over at all as they would only get 18 months’ cruising in at the most?

While giving the roof a good wash and scrub later on I got to thinking about the 18-month non-EU problem and the nearest non-EU countries.  I’ve known for a long time that it’s technically possible to sail a narrowboat over much of mainland Europe and even as far as the White Sea in the Arctic via Moscow and St. Petersburg.  Ukraine is one of the nearest non-UK countries and can be reached by travelling through northern Germany and then Poland and, after updating the boat log to show it’s entered non-EU waters, our friend could immediately turn around to re-enter the EU.  I know Serbia is on the cards for joining the EU, but it can be reached by heading through southern Germany and then Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia.  If Serbia joins the EU, then it would mean carrying on through Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania before reaching the non-EU state of Moldova.  Fascinating stuff but it would mean not a lot of time was spent in France which is the main country our friend wants to cruise in.

Since we've been moored on the quayside in Sedan we've noticed that the river level has been steadily dropping.  Each day it's become increasingly difficult to get on and off the boat so I moved the boat back to the pontoons during the afternoon.  As the pontoons rise and fall with the water levels we shouldn't be affected by any changes for the rest of our stay in Sedan.

Dark foreboding sky above our mooring in Sedan on Wednesday morning 
After the lovely sunny weather of recent days it was a shock to wake up to grey skies on Wednesday but at least it was still mild although the wind was beginning to get up and it rained for about three hours. 

During the morning I came up against yet another Brexit issue, this one one impacting us.  I'd received an email from the French tax service saying they would soon be making an annual credit to our account.  As in the UK, charitable donations attract the equivalent of gift aid.  In France, taxpayers are credited with 66% of that relief at the beginning of the tax year based on their tax return for the previous year (France operates on calendar years).  The email was a reminder to check if we plan to make any significant changes to these payments as they want to avoid crediting too much or not enough.  I know this doesn’t sound like an issue, and it was our choice to stay in France, but from the beginning of 2021 the relief can only be obtained for EU based charities.  So, I now need to go through the rigmarole of claiming relief in the UK and stopping it in France.

It sounds strange having this credit in place until you realise that charitable donations are treated like childcare costs in France.  Up to 50% relief can be obtained for childcare costs so getting a credit for the following year’s payments upfront must be a boon to many young families.   

Oh, and in case you were wondering why we’ve spent nearly two weeks in Sedan, then all will be revealed in the next update.

Thursday 14 October 2021

Sedan (five years old)

First thing on Saturday I caught the train down to Montmédy to pick up the car.  I mentioned the other day that I always get nervous when fetching the car in case something has happened to it, which I know is daft but it’s the way I am.  With most rural routes having only one bus or train a day in each direction I worry about how I would get back to the boat if the car had been towed away.   

Looking down on our mooring on the way to Sedan station

This time, after carefully checking parking restrictions, I’d left it in the large square in Montmédy overlooked ny the mairie.  My worry while on the train was that I’d misread signs for which day was market day and that I’d arrive and find the car surrounded by stalls.  Needless to say, my fears were groundless and it was really good to visit the place in brilliant sunshine having been there in the pouring rain the previous week.

When I returned, our plan had been to follow one of the Sedan town trails but neither of us were particularly enamoured with the content of the leaflets we'd picked up from the tourist office the previous day.  That, coupled with a couple of disappointing trails recently, made us decide to do our own thing so headed along one of the waterfronts to find the château, the fort at the top of the hill overlooking the town.  

The Meuse splits into three as it runs through town and with a long lock cut too you are never far from water in the lower part which, like many waterway towns, has an area called Petite Venise or Little Venice. 

One of the non-navigable branches of the Meuse at Petite Venise

As we made our way along the river we noticed an abandoned pontoon.  This was the third we’d seen since being on the river Meuse and suspect they were victims of the summer floods this year and haven’t yet been rescued.

A sorry looking pontoon

Leaving the river and heading towards the hill we went through a square where the hôtel de ville stood.  By being relatively small, it went against the town hall norm of being disproportionally large for the population.

Town hall on the right

The fort was really quite amazing, and the fortified walls were among the highest we’ve seen.  It was one of those places where it wasn’t possible to get a picture that reflected the size, so I’ve cheated and included one from the town’s website:

Unfortunately, the public weren’t allowed to walk along the ramparts though I suspect parts are open if a guide was hired.   Our one and only picture is from one of the courtyards inside and shows the gate we’d come through.

As far as fortified towns go, Sedan was very disappointing because the tall trees and buildings meant it was very rare to find a spot where the château could be seen from the town below. 

When we got back down we didn’t do much more sightseeing and as there were so many squares, we couldn’t resist going to a bar for the rest of the afternoon to sample some ales from the Ardennes.

It was hardly sunup on Sunday when we noticed people out on the riverbank setting up gazebos and a RIB going down the river installing marker buoys.  They were getting ready for a day of canoe and kayak racing and not just the local club as we saw teams from places farther afield such as Mulhouse and Strasbourg.  The mist had only just cleared from the river by the time the first youngsters' race started at 10am.  

A bit fresh first thing for getting wet

We watched the racing for a while and, as we had the car, we went out to explore mooring places on the canal des Ardennes which we will be travelling on soon.  First stop was a place called Pont-à-Bar which is at the start of the canal where it leaves the Meuse.  There was a small hire boat basin and the moorings around there had to be paid for.  There was also a long line of overwintering boats a bit further away with a converted commercial at the end.  A guy was on deck playing with a child and he explained that even those moorings belonged to the boatyard.  He pointed out a short section where overnight mooring on the bollards was free but it was taken up by a commercial that had stopped for the weekend.

By the lock leading off the river were some interesting uses of aiguilles, or wooden needle dam needles arranged as easels holding boards with waterway photographs.

The racing on the river was still going on when we got back but had clearly progressed through the age groups as seniors were now competing in different events.

Monday was put aside for painting and turned out to be just the right temperature for working outside.  Vans continued to come and go all day at the campervan park next to the quay where we were moored.  The majority were Germans with Belgians, Dutch and French making up the rest in equal numbers.  Many of the campers came down for a chat when they arrived or before they left.

It was forecast to rain after lunch on Tuesday, so I played safe and gave painting a miss.  As it turned out it was a lovely sunny afternoon so I could have got on with it after all.  For our midday walk we went further down the Meuse through a place called Floing which I didn’t find easy to pronounce correctly.  Many French places have ‘gn’ in the middle rather than the more common English ‘ng’ and I have only just mastered the French pronunciation of ‘gn’ so coming across an ‘ng’ caught me unawares.

In the middle of Floing we came across a memorial to 38 French resistance fighters from Sedan who were tortured and killed just a fortnight before the town was liberated in WWII.  They had been lured to three separate fake resistance meetings or maquis and ten of them died in a cave behind the memorial.

La grotte du Gaulier

A little further along stood a memorial to the 1870 war.  It was carved from stone in the form of the trunk from an oak tree coming back to life.  It also has a woman using a sledgehammer trying to break a cannon.  An unknown number of soldiers who died in Sedan are buried at the site.

Le chêne brisé (broken oak)

Later in the afternoon there was a knocking on the boat, and I went out to chat to a Frenchman from one of the campervans.  It turned out that he and his wife had seen us last year on the Somme and he remembered our boat.  They have a boat themselves, a converted commercial moored permanently on the river Somme.  We remembered seeing it as we dropped out of the first lock on the river from the canal du Nord.  He said they saw us when we were moored at St-Valery where the river Somme enters the sea.  This guy also met friends of ours, Alistair and Sabine, near Strasbourg a short while ago.  They too have a narrowboat and he wondered if there was some sort of club we all belong to as he’s interested in buying one too.

On Wednesday it was five years ago to the day that we moved from the old Chalkhill Blue to the current one.  Back then we hadn’t even decided to definitely move to France although we were in the early stages of planning.  As we’d been living on the previous boat permanently for two years, we needed a few days to effect the move.

The old and the new

Our old boat was a 70-footer so 13 feet longer than the new one, which meant we had to be quite ruthless in deciding what we could and couldn’t keep during the move.  As we had the two boats moored together for a week, we were fortunate and could take our time completing the move.  

Buddy had lived on the boat since we’d got him from the RSPCA as a very young dog.  He found the move a bit traumatic as he would spend as much time as possible sitting on the back deck of the old one almost willing us to move back again.

Since being on Chalkhill Blue 2 the engine has run for 3,178 hours and seen us cover 3,441 miles through 2,248 locks of which 2,265 miles and 1,183 locks have ben in France.

We’re still deciding when to move on from Sedan but will probably stay a while longer and maybe have some trips out in the car to visit places further afield.

Saturday 9 October 2021

Sedan (needle puzzle continues)

Porte de Bourgogne, Mouzon

Having been at Stenay for five nights we left on Wednesday morning hoping to reach Mouzon before the forecast afternoon rain arrived.  We weren’t in luck as the rain started soon after we left and it was on with all the wet weather gear, Buddy included.

Wet for nearly all of Wednesday’s cruise

We lit the stove while we were on the move as there was no way our gear was going to dry out overnight without any heat.  We tend to burn logs over here and only put coal on when the overnight temperatures drop, and we want to keep the stove in.  It’s really difficult getting hold of coal in France as everyone seems to burn wood still, so if we need any, we have to bring it over from the UK.  As it’s turned out we’ve hardly used any coal over the last two winters so we still have a bag and a half left from when we first came over.

Still raining as we left the third and final lock of the day

We pulled in for the night at the port in Mouzon and left exploring until the good weather returns on Thursday.  The port was on winter hours so was closed but the capitaine does a daily round in the evening to collect the fees from boats and camper vans.  We paid our €12 plus tourist tax so will make sure we’re topped up with water before leaving on Thursday.

On Wednesday we cruised nine miles down three locks and crossed the border from the Meuse to Ardennes département

We popped into the tourist office first thing and picked up a self-guided tour of Mouzon.  Karen, as usual, led the tour and was immediately stumped because although items on the map were numbered, there was no legend explaining what they were.  We decided to press on anyway and soon found that a board was placed at each site with the relevant number on it as well as a QR code which explained in some detail what we were looking at. The background of each board was a picture of the site from around the 1900s with a current photograph in one corner for comparison purposes.  This approach meant I didn’t have to worry about doing a similar thing by searching for old pictures on the web.

This example shows the port in the early 1900s complete with a bateau lavoir.  If you look closely, women can be seen doing their laundry inside the boat:

By coincidence we’re moored in the same place as the bateau lavoir:

We were really taken with the town and thought it really pretty.  Sandstone was the main building material and with its soft hues we were reminded of Cotswold towns and villages. 

Once again it was a heavily fortified town and much of the ramparts could be walked on.  Sadly, only one gate remains, the Porte de Bourgogne shown at the top of the page.

We had a good view over town standing at the top of the gate

A large abbey dominated the centre of town:

The mairie with its air raid siren tower

It was a market day which was held in a square behind the abbey.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t realised the market was on, so when we arrived most of the stalls had packed up and gone:

Several of the sites were of narrow streets where a lot was made of the fact that many of the houses dated from the mid-1600s.  As these were narrow streets without cars there wasn’t a lot of difference between the then and now pictures.

When we got back to the boat we filled up with water and set off for Sedan.   We re-joined the river after dropping down the lock at Mouzon.  It was great to be cruising back in warm sunshine after getting drenched by the rain of the previous day. When we left the river to join the next lock cut, we saw some piles of wooden needle dam needles alongside the weir and eagle-eyed Karen spotted they had different coloured tops.  A friend of ours had told us that each needle dam used needles that were painted the same colour so if any were lost and washed away, they could be returned to the right place.  The piles we saw today might refute that, so more investigation is required into why the tops were painted in different colours.

Two of the needle/aiguille piles

We never made it as far as Sedan as we moored up for lunch in the second lock cut at a place called Remilly-Allicourt and ended up staying there for the rest of the day.  We moored using pins as we had no worries about large boats pulling them out when they passed as we knew there were no other boats on the move.  It was a perfect spot for Buddy as he could be off his lead – he was settled down on the bank before we’d even started getting the pins in.

We could just make out tracks along the top of the bank where intrepid fishermen drive their cars, so we made sure our pins were well out of their way and drew attention to them using plastic bags.

Plastic bags not so obvious but at least they were off the track

Walking further up the canal during the afternoon we were pleased to see so many butterflies still on the wing.  Lately, we’ve been particularly noticing that there are far more peacock butterflies around than usual at this time of year.  We’re used to seeing many red admirals in the autumn especially on ivy flowers and rotting windfalls but never this number of peacocks.

Sunset at Remilly-Allicourt on Thursday

On Thursday we cruised five miles down one lock.

Lauren and Polly were off to Yorkshire for the weekend for their first trip to see my dad since covid impacted visits to care homes.  Polly and Lochlann drove up from Reading and Lauren, Lewis and Ellis drove up from South Wales and, as you can see, Ellis is really into diggers at the moment.

Ellis on his way to see his great grandad for the first time in his life

On Friday morning Karen and Buddy went for a run on the cycle path running alongside the river towards Sedan and I set off on the boat. 

On the way to Sedan

I picked them up at a handy pontoon after I’d been through the one and only lock of the day and we continued on our way.  It wasn’t long before we were keeping a look for the port in the middle of Sedan which we found was a series of finger pontoons that were far too short for our boat.  Fortunately, the pontoons were parallel to the bank so we could fit in at the end.

Moored in Sedan

There was also a short section of quayside where two cruisers were moored.  We found out later that they were out for a weekend from a marina not too far from here.  They were very interested in our solar panel arrangement as they wanted to install some over the winter.  In exchange for letting them take plenty of pictures they explained that the water and electricity borne where they were moored was faulty and once the payment has been made for a day’s hook up you can stay connected for as long as you like.  We suspected they often came to Sedan for the weekend because of the broken borne.  They suggested we take their places when they left so we could take advantage too. 

Our plan is to stay at Sedan for a week or two so we may well want water before we go.  In that case we would take on water when we leave but we wouldn’t be taking advantage as we’d only want to do it once.  After tying up we did the usual thing when hitting a town, find the tourist office to pick up self-guided tour leaflets.  Apart from seeing the end of what’s purportedly the largest castle in Europe (many others claim this title too so I’ve no idea if it’s true), we didn’t do any sightseeing.

As well as visiting the tourist office we wanted to find good places where we could leave the car once I pick it up.  We also went to the station to check the train times back to Montmédy and there were none on a Friday but there was one at 9.30 on Saturday morning so it’ll be an early start for me to fetch the car.

As is usually the case at ports the facilities are shared with camper vans and the site was still busy even approaching the middle of October.  The camper van area overlooked playing fields across an area that probably floods regularly in the winter. 

Main road into town raised above the flood plain

At least picking the car up early means we'll have plenty of time for sightseeing over the weekend.

On Friday we cruised four miles down one lock.