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.
Luxury Barge Cruise
You'll join Barge Nilaya
at around 4pm at her mooring in
Charleville-Mezieres. It's a pleasant little 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 home to the International
Marionette institute. The institutes building has an hourly automaton that
recites the local legend of the Four Aymon brothers or Quatre Fils Aymon
as it is known locally.
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. Charleville offers some excellent dining opportunities plus 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!
Alternatively, I can recommend a number of great restaurants.
We'll be steaming out of Charleville on
Sunday morning having consumed a hearty continental breakfast. Today's
destination is a lovely location near the small village of Bogny-sur-Meuse.
It's a beautiful spot and If you fancy getting some exercise, it's
possible to cycle between today's mooring points along the riverside. Cruising
on 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 Roches des Dames de Meuse. There is a great little bistro in Bogny
serving tasty food at reasonable prices. It's your best bet tonight for a
fun night out! There's also a choice of two magnificent viewpoints high
above the village if you fancy the climb!
Monday we'll head downriver to
another beautiful rural mooring near the pretty village of Laifour or head
on a little further to the small town of Revin. The cliffs nearby host another local legend, namely the Roches
des Dames de Meuse, the tale of which I shall regale you with while
cruising. If you fancy a stiff climb up to a viewpoint offering
magnificent views over the 'boucle' or 270 degree curve in the river
below, we could consider mooring in Montherme instead. Depending on the
time of day, we might even be able to stop there and cruise on after the
walk. Tonight we will cook your five course dinner aboard.
We cruise through more wonderful wooded
scenery on Tuesday morning mooring at pretty riverside hamlets of either
Fumay or Haybes. Both are lovely locations and Fumay has its weekly market
on Wednesday morning if we are lucky enough to get a space. It would be a
great opportunity to stock up with fresh produce before cruising through
to Givet on the Franco Belgian border. Both Fumay and Haybes are lovely
locations with a choice of simple eateries.
Wednesdays cruising involves passing
through the Ham Tunnel. Always pretty exiting stuff given that the rough
hewn tunnel roof passes inches from the top of Barge Nilaya'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!! Givet 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 and I have a great restaurant recommendation
that's right next to our mooring!
After a few formalities, we cruise across
the border into Belgium and down a slightly more grown up river. We'll
stop for lunch at the magically located Waulsort and if time permits, you
can persuade the boatman to haul you across the river in a hand pulled
ferry thats been in operation since Napoleonic times. A little later we'll
cruise in to the
spectacularly located riverside town of Dinant, dominated by the bulbous
tower of its collegial church and immense citadel high above. We encounter
much bigger barges and the riverside industry that supports them. There's
lots of restaurants in Dinant, so dining ashore is your best bet. I can recommend
one particularly excellent restaurant just a stones throw from the barges
be leaving us after breakfast. Dinant railway station is just a ten minute
walk from our mooring and from outside there, a 30 minute bus ride plus 40 minute
scenic rail line follows the river between
both our start and end points providing an easy way to get back to
Charleville-Mezieres. Charleville is around 90 minutes superfast TGV train
ride from Paris.
Click HERE to
read what two guests wrote to online TravelMag about
their Barge Nilaya cruise on this stretch of waterway.