Upon our arrival in Paris, it was too late to go to Penelope’s Ark, so we stayed at an airport hotel and impatiently waited for the following day. We were up bright and early and took a cab (a large cab with our 9 bags!) He dropped us off at the corner of the marina – but it is large and we didn’t know exactly where she was moored, we had a slip number, but that is all. I went down the steps ( maybe 30) to the marina and started walking along the pier looking for her slip. Then I spied her at the far end several blocks away. Hmmm – now we had to move 9 bags 2 blocks and all of them down 30 steps. Down below was cobblestones, so we moved them along the sidewalk above about 10 feet at a time, and going back and moving the rest, etc. We finally got to the far end and now had to get them down the 30 steps. Gene was elected for the job and I stayed on top watching the bags. Poor guy! Well – someone has to supervise!
The Paris Arsenal Marina – right in the heart of the city
The partner, D.T., who was turning her over to us was not at the boat, so we were able to take our bags aboard and see her for the first time in person all alone. She was represented well by the seller and was everything we had hoped for. We were on cloud 9. This was really happening! D.T. then arrived and he went over the boat with us showing us the ropes. We unpacked and then went to a lovely restaurant D.T. and party had found a few blocks away. After dinner, we walked back to sleep our first night on board. We were exhausted and found our bunks to be very comfy, even though we would have to sleep apart for 6 weeks – we were water “camping” after all.
The following day after our arrival in Paris was “La Fête nationale” or just “le 14 juillet” (the 14th of July), commonly called “Bastille Day” but that moniker is an American invention and not used by the French! The locks were going to be closed as everyone celebrated, so we decided to wait until Saturday and just enjoy settling in the boat. I announced on a Facebook group that I belong to, “Women on Barges”, that we had arrived at the Arsenal Marina – and lo and behold – there were several other American boats there and we were invited for dinner and drinks the following day for our first “fête” in France. It was a wonderful welcome to the start of our cruising time in France.
The following morning was quite nerve racking as Gene had to drive the boat for the first time, by backing out of the slip and turning the boat to leave by the lock to our right, and then heading out on the Seine river! We backed out fine, but then we starting turning to the left, and ending up doing a complete circle. We figured the guys in the office were having a chuckle over that. We made it into and out of the lock and then we were out on the Seine. I had been worried about the current, but we were going against it with no problems and we were on our way!
Our overall plan was to cruise for about 3 – 4 hours a day and then explore the town or village where we stayed overnight. Our first overnight stop was Neuilly-sur-Marne. Let me just say since it was our first docking, it was not pretty, but with help from another boater, we managed. The next morning we traveled to Langy-sur-Marne. Langy in a wonderful small village – the mooring is free with just a small fee for water and electricity. We liked it so much, we stayed for three nights.
While there, we also took the bus to Disneyland Paris – only 1/2 hour away. We did what one does in Disney – went on rides and ate junk food. Smile, laugh, and believe in magic!
Our next day was a nice easy cruise to Meaux – going through 3 locks and one tunnel. What a beautiful town with a great mooring. The weather was nice and we stayed two nights. We loved eating out on our terrasse and seeing St. Etienne’s Cathedral lit up at night only a couple blocks away.
St. Etienne’s Cathedral was magnificent!
We then traveled several days along the Marne river through some beautiful scenery, stopping for the night at some lovely moorings, and finally reaching Épernay. This was one of our destinations on the trip, being in the heart of champagne country! We stayed for 4 nights and did some sightseeing and champagne tasting.
We finally reached our farthest point on our outbound trip – Chalons-en-Champagne – where we were stalled for about 10 days trying to repair an electrical problem. If you have to be “stuck” anywhere – Chalons is a beautiful place – 10 euros a night for mooring, electric, water, modern bathroom with showers, and adjacent to a park, walking distance to the rail station, stores and restaurants. We went on more champagne tastings, took a night river cruise where they illuminated buildings and bridges, biked, walked and had a great time. We also took a 2 day side trip to Reims – see below.
A funny thing happened one day – we were leaving our boat and a lady stopped us and asked if she could interview us (in French!) – I said “Oui” with trepidation, but we both managed with her limited English and my baby French. We were featured in the local newspaper as “Tourists of the Day”. How cool is that?
While moored at Chalons, and waiting for our replacement part for the boat to come from England, we decided to take a side trip by train to Reims for a couple days. The weather was gorgeous and Reims was awesome. Lovely food, more champagne tasting (and buying) and a fantastic Cathedral – Notre-Dame of Reims.
When we returned from Reims, the replacement part we were waiting for, had arrived early, and that will be the opening for the next blog article – Part 2 of Life on the Marne.