After leaving Soissons we headed towards the Canal des Ardennes and a series of staircase locks. There are 27 locks covering a distance of a little over 9 kms and it can take about 7 hours to complete the set.
However, before we reached them we had the opportunity for a little peace and tranquility on the side of the canal. There was a lovely bankside mooring near the village of Variscourt.
Our final day on the canal des Ardennes saw us travel to Pont a Bar through some very picturesque countryside and then onto the Meuse. We finally reached Charleville Mezieres on Wednesday in time for Ryan to meet us. He was driving across from London to spend the Easter weekend with us. The journey on the Meuse was a lot quicker than the canals as we were heading downstream with quite a fast current so a speed of 12 or 13 kph was the norm whereas on the canals we were lucky to be doing 8kph and going upstream on the Oise we barely managed 4kph.
|Bankside at Variscourt|
Our next stop was Rethel, home of the boudin blanc, a meat sausage with no blood and mixed with cream. This is then cooked (boiled) for several hours. Once cooked it can then sliced and grilled to serve with eggs etc for breakfast or as a side on a charcuterie plate. After Rethel we travelled, on Saturday, in drizzly rain to the small town of Attigney where we waited for finer weather to tackle the 27 locks. One of the lock keepers suggested we wait till the Monday as we should have finer weather by then. She also helped us in one of the locks so Kevin gave her some chocolate slice (always good to have a supply for helpful lock keepers) and she then followed us down the canal to ensure that everything was working properly.
Monday morning arrived and there wasn't any rain so we set off to tackle the staircase. After only 5.5 hours and a few halts due to lock malfunction and clogged engine filters we made it to the village of Le Chesne.
|One of the 27 locks|
Believe it or not the following day was miserable so we decided to stay put for the day. We found a little restaurant in town that served a good home cooked meal then went across the square to the bar/tabac to avail ourselves of the free internet. The locals were playing a game of electronic darts so when they left we asked if we could play. The owner was only too happy for us to have a go and a few other locals joined in. It was a good night and it just shows that speaking a little French and understanding body language goes a long way to establishing a camaraderie. We also managed to jag another market in this town so stocked up on rotisseried chicken and roast potatoes for dinner with left overs for lunch on our travels.
|panorama of Charleville town square|
|Church in Charleville|
|Market Square and the town Hall at Charleville|