Meaux - La Ferté-sous-Jouarre

Monday the 11th of August we were still moored in Meaux, waiting for an engineer to replace our batteries the next Tuesday. While having a walk, together with our daughter and two grandsons, serious rainclouds developed rapidly. Returning home ‘on the double’ we dared to stop for a few seconds to take the opportunity to make this picture.

Last week’s blog page contained a picture of the old batteries. Here are the new ones, fitted on Tuesday. A bit more powerful than the replaced ones, 110 Ah each as opposed to 100 Ah. The new ones are deeper and higher too, making it necessary to lower the pieces of wood that separate (protect?) the batteries from the engine-exhaust-silencer.

At last, after 7 nights in Meaux (the maximum number of nights is officially 2) we were able to leave on Wednesday the 13th of August 2014, 12:26PM. We had no idea where we’d end, as we have never been on this river before. So we just thought ‘we’ll see’. On the way this structure came in sight, at first without recognizing what it was. When approaching it turned out to be a diving tower, offering the opportunity to dive (jump) from different levels. The highest level was, well… high. We certainly would not volunteer, to be honest. The river must be of sufficient depth, no doubt.

After a bit more than three hours of lock-free cruising over a distance of some 21,5 kilometers (over 13 miles) we approached the first lock, Isles-les-Meldeuses – namesake of the adjacent village. We informed the lock keeper about our choice to remain downstream of his lock for the night and moored at a small floating pontoon at 3:40PM.

This is exactly the same spot as shown by the picture before this one. It’s safe to say this one is taken from a different angle. There’s no particular reason to show it to you. We just like this one, that’s all…

This is the lock Isles-les-Meldeuses. Contrary to England and partly France, the weirs of the smaller locks on the river Marne are completely unprotected. One can imagine that going upstream one will soon become aware of a faulty course, but going downstream it might be dangerous for a helmsman that should have been wise to visit Specsavers before going out on a cruise… Going upstream the lack of a separation between the weir-stream and the lock-approach causes a choppy lock-entrance. A combination of intensified concentration, a bit more revs and a dash of aggression does the job perfectly.

Next to the lock we saw this huge walnut-tree, full of nuts. Not fully matured yet (the nuts), but who knows when we pass here on the return-journey…

Thursday the 14th of August we woke up to find our voltage-gauge still indicating 25.33 volts, which meant that the level of voltage had dropped scarcely during the night. The new battery-bank did its job as expected. So in the near future our generator will hardly be needed. Yippee! We contacted the lock keeper by VHF, informed him about our wish to start cruising and that we should wait for the green light on his lock. That took some time making him apologize when we entered the lock. There was no reason to do that whatsoever – we are in no hurry and told him so. It did not take long to realize why it took him longer than one would expect. The electronics of his lock were ‘en panne’, causing him to operate one of the downstream gates manually. The combination transmission/heavy gate forced him to turn a crank seemingly a few hundred times before the gate was closed again.

We started on Thursday the 14th at 10:10AM, again without knowing where we’d end up. La Marne is a real beauty. The thing is, though, that one encounters more than a few islands and it’s wise to have a good ‘Fluviacarte’ at hand, as it is not always clear where to go. This is an example of what we mean. Admittedly there is a sign at the front of this island, indicating on which side to pass. However, the signs are often overgrown and/or faded, as this one is. So we put our brain in gear (always the first thing to do), consulted the map and passed between the right bank (we are going upstream) and the island. Believe it or not, in a book called ‘Varen in Frankrijk’ (‘Cruising in France’) there’s a story about a commercial boat, taking the wrong way on La Marne, causing him to lose a full day!

Isn’t this charming? On –or in front of- this river’s banks numberless possibilities for fishing are created. From the simplest to the more sophisticated. The most original ones, in our opinion, are the ones as shown on this picture. Some of them look like little cosy rooms - they have a real door for an entrance and only lack some pictures on the walls. Of course you’ve noticed that it is all green one sees. One exception: the red float. That reminded us of the great rivalry between the famous English painters Constable and Turner. At the Royal Academy exhibition in 1832, Turner upstaged Constable by adding a dash of red to his own painting at the last minute – and Constable was none too pleased. See:

After 2 locks and 23 kilometers (over 14 miles) we moored at a place with the complicated name of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. It took us four hours of cruising. Our ship is visible through the middle arch of the bridge (Pont Charles de Gaulle).

The same spot again, this time seen from the bridge. We like the scene that much and hope you’re not bored! The river is divided by an island, L'Île Cartier – uninhabited, not connected to the main land, 100% owned by flora and fauna.

A cormorant resting and drying on a buoy in the centre of the river. The buoys are placed downstream of the island to prevent boats, eager to moor behind the island, going aground. It’s very shallow in the middle of the river, visible on this picture.

La Ferté-sous-Jouarre’s town hall, constructed in neo-gothic style between 1884-1885. It is said that its interior is worth visiting. Perhaps on the way back…

France not only knows a long lunch break (2 hours is no exception, we tend to call it a siesta), there are seemingly more days off than in any other country. This picture is taken on the 15th of August, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary. A shopping street looks like this during lunch break, every days off and at present even more so because of the holiday period. By the way, what on earth happened to The Netherlands?? When we were young(er) the 15th of August was a day off in The Netherlands, too!

As one local told us, France had two capitals in the past: Paris and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. The latter because it once was even the capital of the world in making millstones (‘capitale mondiale de la pierre meulière’). From quarries in the area sandstone containing a sort of acid (no questions, please!) was dug out, providing 23 companies, employing between 1.500 and 2.000 workers, with enough raw material to sell 20.000 millstones every year all over the globe. This picture shows ‘l’Atelier de Montage’, undated unfortunately. The industry ceased in 1958. Even the museum –which we intended to visit- is now closed never to be reopened.

Millstones are to be seen in a lot of variations in La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Here 4 of them are used very elegantly as part of a balcony-like something (belvédère) at the end of a garden.

Yet another example of the use of millstones nowadays. A lot of them are forming a quay-wall to protect La Ferté-sous-Jouarre from the river when in spate. That was it for this week, dear reader – for a considerable part unknown, unfortunately. Till next week, same space, (more or less) same time.