Up the Magical Meuse Barge Cruise
|Dinant in Belgium to Charleville-Mezieres in France (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)|
Highlights: The beautiful River Meuse - Ham Tunnel - Boucle of Montherme - Charleville-Mezieres Place Ducale - Dinants' Citadel
stretch of waterway is without doubt my favourite cruising ground due to
the breathtaking canal and river scenery it offers from beginning to end.
In the book "Cruising French Waterways" by Hugh McKnight, he
wrote of the Meuse (Canal de l'Est) "It is a
marvel of French bureaucracy that one of the country's most attractive
river navigations should be officially known as the Canal de l'Est
(Branche Nord)" He wrote further, "Now
begins one of the finest portions of river landscape in Europe."
His comments refer to the stretch of the Meuse from Charleville-Mezieres
to the Belgian border. I wholeheartedly agree.
You will join the barge in the spectacularly located Belgian riverside town of Dinant, dominated by the bulbous tower of its collegial church and immense citadel high above.
I normally cook your welcome aboard dinner on the first evening aboard, but because some of our moorings are very rural this week, I thought I'd give you the chance to dine out in the town. Dinant has some lovely eateries and a casino near to the mooring.
On Sunday morning, you'll get a chance to have a wander around but remember that shops will most likely be closed. If you fancy a shopping spree, arrive earlier the previous day and drop your bags aboard. We'll cruise out onto the Meuse and possibly encounter some large commercial barges and the industry that supports them. After a few formalities, we cruise across the border into France and upstream to the charming riverside town of Givet which too, has some lovely restaurants and if you enjoy Moules a la Mariniere, then you've entered heaven. It's a great place to dine ashore.
Mondays cruising involves an early start in order to beat the rush to the Ham Tunnel entrance. We'll take breakfast on the hoof. Ham is always a pretty exiting experience, not least because its rough hewn tunnel roof passes only inches above the top of the barge's wheelhouse. In fact, the lock keepers at either end of the tunnel lower the water level by half a metre just for me. That is a lot of water given that the tunnel is half a kilometre long by five metres wide!! We cruise through more wonderful wooded scenery, mooring at the pretty riverside hamlets of either Fumay or Haybes. Both are lovely locations with a great choice of eateries.
On Tuesday we'll continue our voyage upriver to a rural mooring close to or actually in the village of Laifour. Cruising the Meuse is rarely less than spectacular, with densely wooded cliffs sweeping down into the water, endless forests and small riverside hamlets. The whole area is also steeped in legends such as the Quatre Fils Aymon and nearby cliffs host another, namely that of the Roches des Dames de Meuse, the tale of which I shall regale you with while cruising. If you fancy a stiff climb to a viewpoint offering magnificent views over the 'boucle' or 270 degree curve in the river below, we could consider mooring in Montherme instead. Tonight I will cook you dinner aboard.
Wednesdays destination is near the small village of Bogny-sur-Meuse. It's another truly beautiful spot. If you fancy getting some exercise, it's will be possible to cycle between tomorrows mooring points by following a path along the riverside. If you like, you can pack yourselves a picnic lunch and enjoy it at your leisure while we move your accommodation to Charleville. There is a great bistro in Bogny serving tasty food at reasonable prices. It's your best bet for a fun night out!
Thursdays destination marks the end of the weeks cruise. Charleville-Mezieres is a pleasant town laid out in the 17th century around the Place Ducale, one of the most beautiful Louis XIII style squares in France. It's home to a museum celebrating the life and works of French poet Arthur Rimbaud as well as the International Marionette institute. The institute's building has an hourly automaton that recites the local legend of the Four Aymon brothers or Quatre Fils Aymon as it is known locally. It's well worth seeing. Charleville offers some excellent dining opportunities plus has a great bar in the hold of a cavernous French Freycinet (Barge). If you fancy something light with a glass of beer or wine, why not try the 'tarte-flambe'. It's a bit like a pizza with cheese, onion and bacon. Very tasty! You'll be leaving the barge after breakfast on Friday morning.
Getting to and from the barge is simplicity itself should you wish to arrive by train or car. A 40 minute scenic rail line and 30 minute bus from Dinant follows the river between both our start and end points providing an easy way to get back to the start. Charleville is 90 minutes TGV train from Paris.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Unforeseen circumstances sometimes affect our cruising schedule. These can include, but are not limited to: illness, floods, weather, canal closures, canal maintenance, lack of moorings, bureaucracy, strikes, civil disturbance, acts of god, the engine, and whims and fancies of both skipper, guests and crew. All of these things might cause last minute changes to the above and cruise routes. Although rare, we reserve the right to alter any and all routes accordingly. Flexibility is the name of the game and any such changes cannot be considered grounds for cancellation of the cruise.