Our Barge, Odysseus

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reims and Paris, Sept. 12-17

After the 2 hour bus/train trip from Pont a Bar, we stopped in at the Riems tourist office, booked a room for two nights and headed out onto the streets.
A brief word about the French tourist offices ... WONDERFUL!! The employees usually speak at least a little English, will help you book a place to stay, making the phone call for you after consulting their exhaustive list of available rooms, provide you with maps and information and are just generally very helpful. It makes traveling in France very easy.
Reims, along with Epernay, are the champaign headquarters of France and we wanted to tour some of the cellars but the only ones available for visits without reservations are the big houses like Mumms. We'd rather visit the smaller houses and since we'll be heading through here next spring we decided to leave the tasting til next year.
We did, however, visit Reims fabulous cathedral. Cathy Jo says it was her favorite gothic church of the summer; and we visited a few, as you know.

It has some fantastic stained glass windows and the carving around the inside of the entrance doors is amazing.

Sunday we had a 45 minute ride on France's fast train, the TGV, to Paris for three days of food and fun before we caught our flight home. We must have walked a million miles and had some great meals. We also had a great location for our room, right on the Rue de Lyon, just steps from the Bastille Monument. When we were here three years ago I took some pics of the Bastille but the weather was cloudy and grey. Not this time.

And what would a visit to Paris be without at least one picture of the Tower.

The Tour Eiffel from the Tuilleries and the Louvre.

Wednesday morning early we caught the Air France bus to the airport. About 20 hours later we landed in Los Angeles. This summers adventure was done.

Heading North, Sept. 2-9

After a brief stop in Stenay we headed further up the Meuse under grey skies with occasional rain. We spent the night tied to the bank at a nice little park above a lock and the next morning headed back to Sedan.
When we last stopped there our second wandering day was washed out and it appeared as if it would be this time too. Luckily the rain stopped, although the skies were still very threatening, and allowed us to visit the huge fortress that looms over the city.

Begun in the 13th century, greatly enlarged in the 15th and modified continuously since, the fort has walls that are about 100 ft. high.

This a view of town
from atop the walls.

There is a very enjoyable walking tour that takes you all through the fort and there Cathy Jo tried to distract some soldiers from their duties.

Unfortunately, the guys were made of plastic and didn't respond well.

The next day is was just a couple of hours to the entrance of the Canal des Adrennes.

The first lock opens on the Canal des Ardennes.

From there is was only about 2 km to Odysseus' winter resting place, Pont a Bar.
The weather was terrible for the first couple of days but after the weekend it cleared and we were able to complete the fall chores we had planned: a little painting and lots of cleanup.
You can see the shadow of the photographer as he
takes this shot across the countryside from the back deck.

Pont a Bar

There's really nothing in Pont a Bar; about 10 families live there and there is a bar but the "bar" in Pont a Bar is actually for the River Bar which is close by, thus the bridge over the Bar - Pont a Bar). The Madame at the bar will take your order for bread so you can pick up your baguette and breakfast bread after the truck arrives at 8 am. The closest real shops are in Sedan, about 8 km, and Charleville, about 15 km away.
On the right is the charter boat base and up on the left, past the flags, is where Odysseus will rest for the winter.
On Friday about noon we said goodbye to Monique and Cedric who will be looking after the boat for the winter, and boarded the bus for Charleville. We'd be catching the train to Reims for a couple of days stay and then on to our last stop for this year, Paris.

Friday, September 19, 2008

One Last Food Posting

Hopefully my sister is still paying attention so she can see these pictures taken at the Reims Saturday market.

A whole table of shrooms.

And this one of a patisserie, also in Reims.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Oops! Aug. 30-Sept. 2

Ah boating! Just when you think things are going great you get bit on the ass!
We left Verdun in the bright sunshine, the first in a couple of weeks. We're pulling into our second lock of the day when the control cable from the upper steering station to the transmission snaps. No brakes! In addition, the boat was stuck in gear. Luckily Odysseus is not a high power machine so no great damage was done to either boat or lock; some chipped paint on the bow of the boat and a broken handrail on the lock gate. We made our report to the friendly waterway official (his name was Pascal ... really!), creating our own little piece of paperwork for the famous French bureaucracy, and headed on our way.
We stopped again in Consenvoye to lick our wounds and unhook the cable to prevent further mishaps and the next day stopped along the bankside beneath the lock in the village of Dun-sur-Meuse.

Our first chore was to walk up to the church that looks down on the town. This was the view over the Meuse Valley.

When we were headed upriver we saw the church at Mont-devant-Sassey off in the distance. We wanted to investigate.
We unloaded the bikes for a ride to the village, just about 5 kilometers down the river.
Our guidebook told us that "This small village (100 inhabitants) has a very interesting church. Built in the 11th century, it was heavily modified later, to the point of being transformed into a fortress by armed bands during the wars of the 17th century.
It is very imposing.

Unfortunately, the church is open for visitors during July and August. It was September 1 so we couldn't get inside.
Back in Dun we wandered through town and discovered a small holiday camp by a little lake. They had found a unique way to reuse an old "peniche," the French commercial barges.

The brochure advertised "Bowling Americain." Two lanes!

The next morning is was off to revisit Stenay.

Verdun, August 26 - 30

We've been through so many old towns recently that we've become a bit blase about antiquity but this town is really old.
Verdun was already a major city in 843 when the Treaty of Verdun was signed. That was the document that divided up Charlemagne's empire among his three sons. But it's most recent notariety arises from "The Hell of Verdun"; the WW I battle that resulted in the deaths of over 700,000 soldiers. The climactic battles of the Great War were fought just after the arrival of the American troops in Verdun in early September 1918. The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 at 11 am.
There still seems to be much good feeling for Americans left over from that time, even though it was 90 years ago. There is even an exhibition in town celebrating the event.
In all over 9 million were killed in the war, 3.4 million wounded, the majority on French soil. When you see the monument in each little French village inscribed with the names of their "Sons of France killed Defending Her" between 1914 and 1918, almost an entire generation, it's easy to see why they just didn't have the heart for another fight just 20 years later.

The Monument de la Victoire stands at the top of 73 steps. Beneath it is a crypt containing all the names of those who fought at Verdun.

But aside from all the war monuments, Verdun is a very pleasant town. Being the largest city in the area, most people do their major shopping here and there's a very picturesque central city.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is also very impressive. Begun in 1048 it sits on the highest point in Verdun and has a beautiful vaulted walkway around a central courtyard.

The "halte nautique" is very nice; reminding us of some up north where you can tie up right in the city center.

Verdun is as far south as we're going to get this year. After 4 days is was time to head back north, down the Meuse to our winter stopping place.