Down the Magical Meuse 

Charleville-Mezieres to Dinant in Belgium (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)

Highlights: The beautiful River Meuse - Ham Tunnel - Boucle of Montherme - Charleville Mezieres Place Ducale - Dinants' Citadel

The beautiful River MeuseThis 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.

Charleville Mezieres Place DucaleYou'll join Barge Nilaya 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!

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 a great place for your official welcome aboard dinner. If you fancy getting some exercise, it's possible to cycle between today's mooring points along the riverside. The village of Laifour on the MeuseCruising 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!

The Boucle at Montherme on the River MeuseOn Monday we'll head downriver to either another rural mooring close to or actually in the pretty village of Laifour. 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 I will cook you 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 eateries.

The river meuse at GivetWednesdays 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.

The incredible citadel and bulbous church tower of Dinant in BelgiumAfter a few formalities, we cruise across the border into Belgium and down a slightly more grown up river 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.

Getting to and from Barge Nilaya 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.