A Peaceful Time on the River Marne
on our way between Damery & Epernay
As mentioned in the last blog entry we left Damery with wonderful fresh vegetables on board thanks to Ali and headed toward our original destination of Epernay. When passing through the next village of Cumieres we noticed that this was the home base of the paddlewheel boat that we had seen in Damery with the numerous tourists checking out the vineyards on the hillsides. They also had numerous metal cutouts lining the canal showing some of the various jobs associated with the growing of grapes. They had the person pruning, the person tying up the vines, the turning of the bottles and others. We were somewhat surprised that they even showed the spraying of the vines – we weren’t sure if they would typically advertise that!
Epernay was only a short distance away so we were able to get to the place we were going to stay early enough in the day to do some things in town. When we registered and paid for the night we were given a discount slip for the Champagne de Castellane House which looked like it was just behind the marina where we were tied up. This is quite an impressive building with a
Cumieres - Home of the Paddlewheeler
Cut outs showing stages of growing grapes
tower that is quite the landmark as you come into Epernay via the water. Later that day after we cleaned up and settled in we walked into the town of Epernay as the marina is on the outskirts. As always with a Sunday most everything was closed so it was quite quiet. We had called Champagne de Castellane and found they were open so made plans to head there. Looks are deceiving as we found out. There was a railroad track between the marina and the champagne house so our short walk became quite a long one in the hot mid-day sun.
The famous Avenue of Champagne runs the length of the town. It was quite an innovative idea at the time as the champagne merchants built their production buildings lining this one road in the late 18th
century. They then decided to build elegant residence in the early 19th
century for the owners along this same street, either in front of or next to their production building. What people can’t see easily is the extensive underground cave system that exists here as well. The caves make up a 110 km (68 miles) underground system that at one point
As You Come Close to the Marina in Epernay
this champagne house stands out - we visited this one
had been interconnected. There were passageways between them in order to transport the more than 200 million bottles of champagne to their point of transportation - either barges on the River Marne or later via the railroad.
We visited the Champagne de Castellane and as it is a little before the tourist season we were on the tour with only one other couple. During this tour we got a chance to see some of their 6 km. of cave system and were told that once competition between producers of champagne became more important, the connecting pathways between cellars were filled in. We were sorry to hear that as we thought it would be a great way for us to return to the River Marne without walking all the way around again – too bad!
As it was a Sunday we were not able to see any of the production of the champagne, but still the woman giving the tour explained the process very well and with our knowledge of seeing wine bottled in the Finger Lakes area it was quite similar. Each champagne house is different in the number of tastings you are given – here it was
This Champagne Label Design Incorporates a Red X
they are creative with their advertising as well
only one, but we were very happy with that one. As a matter of fact of the champagne houses we have visited we enjoyed this one the most. A bonus was getting a chance to talk to the other couple during the tasting. The woman is from the US and serving in the military in Italy and her companion is from near Naples so of course we told them we would be coming by boat this year near there. He told us that we will not be that far from him or the military base so we exchanged emails and hopefully will connect again later this year!
Many people we talked to had really enjoyed Epernay and stayed a few days, but we found that as we had been to a couple of the houses now we didn’t feel as if we needed to go to any more. We now had been to one that showed us the vineyards, another that showed us the production and we have seen the caves at a couple of them. As much as we definitely enjoy champagne, we decided we only have so much room on the boat and there are numerous other
Numerous Champagne Houses Are Elegant Mansions
with production rooms & caves under the street
places to explore along the canals so planned on moving the next day.
Monday we found that we had quite a bit of heavy rain so decided that even though we could travel, we didn’t have to. It looked like it was going to stop later in the afternoon which it did so we walked to a nearby large store for shopping. We had passed the Super Intermarche on our way in on the canal so knew it was here. Being a “super” one it had a large grocery store, but numerous other departments as well. We just took our time and “moseyed” through. With it being close to the boat we decided to stock up on our heavier items that we needed (or at least wanted!)
When we returned to the boat we found that an item that Bob bought didn’t work out – who would have guessed that the handle for a broom/mop would be the same diameter but a different thread size from the one that we bought in the US?? It wasn’t that expensive, but we really didn’t need to store another handle so returned it giving us another chance for a 2nd
This is One That Everyone Recognizes
We by-passed this one - a little too rich for our budget
of “heavy items” that we just had to have!
We typically try to get back on the water at 9AM when the locks open, but Tuesday morning it was pouring again, but promised to lighten up some later. Fortunately we were off the dock by 10:30AM, but just as we did another boat ahead of us on the dock went out in front of us to get to the lock first. This resulted in our having to wait for them to go through the lock and for it to empty again for us to enter. Oh well. Unfortunately this kept happening to us with this same boat. They had pulled over for a lunch stop and just as we were coming close to them, they pulled out in front of us – not very nice manners indeed. The 3rd
time we encountered them was when we got to the marina where we had planned on stopping (and we had discussed with them at the dock before leaving Epernay) they took the last dock! Out with the book to find another place to stop. Thankfully we found that there was a place just above Juvigny lock with bollards to tie
to. It didn’t have any services, but with running the engine all day and the gain we receive from the solar panels we really don’t need to plug into electricity each night. It was a very peaceful place to spend the evening so it all worked out well. This definitely isn’t typical behavior of others that are on the water thankfully.
Epernay marked the end of the River Marne and we now travel on the Canal Lateral a la Marne. This canal was opened in 1845 and runs between Epernay and Vitry-le-Francois. We will go through 15 locks on this canal with a total height difference of 34 meters (111.5 ft). These locks are operated by our turning a pole that hangs over the canal (Bob gets us close to it, Janice goes to the bow to grab it, turns it while walking it back to throw it “out” from the boat to miss the arch on the back of the boat). Once it is turned it will activate the lock to either open immediately or to empty from the last boat that went through so we can then enter. When we first heard about this process it sounded
confusing, but after doing the first one, it was quite easy to handle as long as Bob got us close to the pole to reach (which thankfully he has done very well). Thankfully we found out that the pole that they told us about in the book is actually a rubber pipe so it isn’t too hard in case you get hit.
With no water or electricity to disconnect in the morning, we will be off again as we definitely need to make some distance as we have a long way to go to get to the Med.
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