Puppets, Boars and Battlefields 

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Charleville-Mezieres to Verdun (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)

Highlights: Charleville-Mezieres Place Ducale - Europe's largest fortress at Sedan - European Beer museum - Verdun's monuments and Battlefields

Our wonderful BBQ mooring!You'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, reputed to be 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 and to 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.

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 (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!

Place Ducale in Charleville-MezieresWe'll be steaming out of Charleville on Sunday morning having consumed a hearty continental breakfast. Waving goodbye to the attractive port, we cruise through a particularly deep and rather tricky lock before emerging onto a broad stretch of river. Cruising south, we pass the entrance to the Canal des Ardennes en-route to today's destination, the City of Sedan. Sedan offers an immense castle to visit. In fact it's the largest fortress in the whole of Europe and well worth the tour! In some places the walls are twenty metres thick. Moorings here are limited and tricky at best so if none are available I will moor 2km out of town and get you a taxi into town. Tonight I'll cook your welcome aboard dinner. 

On Monday we'll leave at the crack of dawn and head through to a wonderful mooring in the middle of nowhere at Alma. It's one of my favourite spots and hopefully we won't be beaten to it by other boats! If the weather's good, there really is no better spot for a walk followed by a barbeque. If we spot a mooring in Mouzon en-route, I'll moor there instead.

The restaurant in VilosnesOn Tuesday we head through more lovely rural canal scenery to the village of Stenay. It was from here that the Germans coordinated their attacks on Verdun but now finds itself home to the European Beer museum. A most enjoyable place to visit! The small town also has a park laid out with places to play Petanque. Maybe we'll give that a go too. Beyond Stenay, reminders of World War One become far more evident. There are a number of nice restaurants to choose from.

On Wednesday we cruise through Dun-sur-Meuse and enjoy an evening moored in either the pleasant village of Vilosnes with the option to dine out at 'Au Vieux Moulin' or alternatively we'll self cater a little further on at Consenvoye. Consenvoye offers you the chance to visit a thought provoking first world war German cemetery set just above the village.

Barge Nilaya cruising on the Canal des Vosges near EpinalOn Thursday, just five kilometres beyond Consenvoye, we pass through the lock at Samogneux. The ecluse is the only remains of a once thriving village utterly destroyed in 1916. A little later we reach our final destination and the City of Verdun. It's a place forever synonymous with the loss of about 1,000,000 lives in just one year during the carnage, tragedy and bloodbath that was the first world war. Today, as European city of peace, it's a cosmopolitan place with riverside bars, restaurants and throughout the summer months, a superb series of concerts right on the main quay. Commemeration of the 90th anniversary of the battle of Verdun in 2004-2017Verdun has some nice restaurants, so dining would be your best option tonight. Another boat owner raved about a restaurant he'd been to called 'Le Forum', just outside the centre of town. It's possible to visit all the main war monuments and memorials from Verdun, such as the trench of Bayonets, Ossuary at Douaumont, Citadel and villages that were simply never rebuilt after the war. Some 90 years on, it is still unsafe to stray from the well marked paths in the old battle area. I'll walk you to an amazing Rodin statue close to our mooring. I personally I find it extremely haunting but nevertheless very moving and impressive.

The tourist information office have a guided tour that operates by bus, but during Barge Nilaya's last three visits, the commentary was only available in French. Because this tour has to be reserved 24 hours in advance, it would need to be arranged on Thursday for Friday, the day you are due to depart Barge Nilaya after breakfast. If you'd like to take the 25-30 Euro tour which leaves at 2pm and gets back at about 6pm, I'm happy to store your bags aboard until you get back . Friday is also market day in Verdun. Trains from Paris to Charleville-Mezieres take about 90 minutes and Verdun to Paris about two and a half hours.

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.