(51) Andrew and Kathryn’s Visit – Late July 2013.

The scorching hot weather (~35C) continued unabated and I decided to take the plunge to cool off. The river was lovely and much cleaner than it looked from the barge. Surprisingly, the current was still quite strong and I had to work hard to stay in one place. Swimming against the current was very tiring and after checking that the bow-thruster was clear of weed and debris, I tried to get back on the barge unaided.  This necessitated grabbing the ropes on a glissoir (long black rubber fender) and pulling myself up onto it……………easier said than done; and then climbing onto the barge. Contrary to popular belief, Peter was not being chauvinistic and unhelpful; we just wanted to see if such a thing was possible. At 55 and not as strong as I used to be I almost gave up, but with a final effort (pride at stake) ….I finally managed it. However, this confirmed the fact that we do actually need a workable boarding ladder in case of emergencies.

Warm enough for the pool.

Andrew and Kathryn arrived early evening after a trouble free journey, flying into Paris-Beauvaism and hiring a car. We enjoyed the first of many meals on deck as we caught up with our news. The next day, after Andrew and Peter had shuffled the cars around leaving one at Meaux, we cruised down to the little village of Mary-sur-Marne and moored on the pontoon, enjoying more al fresco dining in the evening. It was here that we toasted the long awaited arrival of Baby Windsor.

En route.

Our next stop was for lunch at Trotville-sur-Marne – a shady spot on a quay but rather too shallow for an overnighter. We reached Meaux mid-afternoon and found a mooring spot just downstream from the turning into the canal that we would later take. While Peter relaxed, Andrew, Kathryn and I walked into the town which boasts it’s ‘Art et Histoire’, but it was too hot to venture far. Our mooring spot was evidently popular with young people as a swimming spot, but they were no trouble and were soon on their way as we settled down for aperros.

A stroll around Meaux.

We spent a couple of nights in Meaux, enjoying sitting out on deck each evening. With no break in the weather, we decided to visit the nearby Museum of the Great War the next day. This proved to be an excellent choice as not only is it air-conditioned, but also contains very interesting exhibits. We spent a good three hours there and would thoroughly recommend it – 10 euros (each) well spent.

The ultra modern exterior of the museum near Meaux.

Underneath the building which had the appearance of floating without support was a huge relief map of the battle grounds.

Inside, immaculately displayed uniformed manikins march while their ghostly doubles appear to walk through the glass.

Most, but not all of the exhibits are behind glass, here even the pigeons look like they are flying from the coop.

Many of the displays feature video footage showing the items in use.

If you’re ever nearby this place is well worth a visit.

Sightseeing uses up a lot of energy so on our way back to La Ferte-sous-Jouarre to collect the Micra, we found a pleasant little restaurant with outside dining where Kathryn treated us all to a lovely meal.

After a late start owing to a rather boozy previous night, we left Meaux hoping to reach Lagny-sur-Marne. Our trip was slow as we encountered several commercial barges which were either loading up or manoeuvring into port. We expect this to be standard from now on. In fact one of the barges looked so big we thought it wouldn’t fit into the tunnel we had just exited.

Commercials mating !

Someone throws cold water over them and we are able to get under way again.

Square peg, round hole ?

We eventually reached Lagny-sur-Marne mid-afternoon and were pleased to see Paula and Chris (Claes Compean) on the pontoon. They moved up a bit and we just managed to squeeze in. There is a place on the nearby quay for barges over 25m, but we didn’t know this at the time, so like all the other longer barges already moored, we stated our length as 19 m in the Tourist Office when we paid for 48hours electrics (6 euros).  Andrew and Kathryn went for a walk into the town despite the sweltering temperature which remained with us until well into the evening.

Lagny-sur-Marne. Yorkshire Pudding, Confit de Canard, mash and French onion gravy. Entente Cordial or what !

We were awoken in the early hours by a terrific thunderstorm. I got up to close the windows and port holes and a few minutes later, to check that the grass wasn’t waterlogged. (If it rains very hard, our grass fills up with water and it can’t drain quickly enough off the deck and ends up coming inside the windows. We usually prop some sticks under the grass over the drainage holes to stop this from happening when it is raining hard.)

Andrew and Kathryn were also awake and rain was gushing through the saloon hatch. While they mopped up inside, I went out in my nighty to cover the hatch with a tarpaulin and was absolutely soaked by the time I came in. Peter meanwhile slept soundly!!

The storm did have the effect of lowering the temperature slightly for a few hours, so Andrew, Kathryn and I had a walk along the riverbanks and up into the town. Later we caught the train back to Meaux to collect the cars.

Sunday is one of the market days in Lagny, so we all walked up for a look around.  The chaps shuffled the cars once again and found a lovely mooring a few kilometres away in the weir stream at Vaires-sur-Marne.  We enjoyed a final lunch on deck including some tasty giant prawns that Kathryn had bought in the market; before cruising the short distance to Vaires-sur-Marne.

Lunch at Lagny before the short cruise to Vaires.

Here we relaxed on deck until it was time for Andrew and Kathryn to leave for their drive to the airport. We had all enjoyed another fabulous week together.

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