Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Down the Marne, July 29-August 5

We were now truly in champagne territory, the vines covering the slopes on both sides of the river.

We wanted to stop on the pontoon at Cumieres where we had stayed several days on Odysseus in 2009  but the mooring was full. We backtracked up the river to Epernay to the end of the navigable portion of the river. The marina there was not as we remembered; we thought there were pontoons and a short quay but the pontoons were gone and there was no room on the quay for us. Luckily we had spotted several possible mooring sites on the way in so about noon we grabbed a spot on the bank right across the street from a large shopping center and supermarket. 
We spent the afternoon wandering around town, visiting the tourist office for the obligatory champagne tasting and took the small tourist train on a trip down the appropriately named Avenue de Champagne and the old part of town.

Wednesday morning we headed back down the river through just one lock and by 10:15 were tied up at our next stop, Dammery.
All of these villages are home to many small producers whose champagne you’ll never see on store shelves. As we were informed at the Epernay tourist office tasting, small producers own 90% of the land with the big champagne houses owning the other 10%. The small growers sell most of their crop on contract to the big houses but most of them hold back a portion of their harvest to produce small bottlings of their own.

This is a map of central Dammery, population about 1,500.
Each one of those orange glasses is a champagne producer.

We wandered the streets of Dammery looking for a producer with a tasting room and found the Caillez-Lemaire house open. We sampled several of their offerings and settled on a rosé, 65% meunier and 35% pinot noir. Delicious!

While we were tasting another couple arrived. They had driven down from Antwerp, Belgium to visit their favorite champagne producer. After stocking up for the upcoming birth of a grandchild, they were going to be heading back; just a day trip.

The view from the back deck at the Dammery mooring.

There would be more pictures of the Dammery mooring but the big wheat fields across the river were being harvested and that creates a huge cloud of dust. When the wind was blowing in the right (wrong!) direction it was like a fog bank on the river. We had to close the windows to keep the interior from being covered with the stuff.

Unfortunately, we were still feeling a little pressed for time, so Thursday morning we were off, stopping for the night in the early afternoon just above one of the locks on the river so we could be in Chateau Thierry first thing on Friday morning. 

Friday morning it took us just an hour to get down the river to town and, though the pontoon was already full, we found a place on the wall just downriver. Actually it was a better, quieter spot as they had set up a small fete foraine, mostly rides for kids, right next to the pontoon and it was a little chaotic.

The market is held in the parking lot and just to the left, behind the building. 
By the time I took the picture the stalls were all packed up and gone 
although the rotisserie chicken man’s trailer is still there.

Friday was market day so we trekked up the hill to the square to gather some fresh produce and, since we finished just about lunch time, we stopped at the restaurant in the square, Il Carina, for a bite. Unfortunately we were right next to the market as they broke down the stalls and the street sweeper made it’s rounds, and rounds, and rounds, and rounds. About the time he finished, they started up the concrete saw for the work they were doing in the square (in the middle of the picture above). A peaceful lunch it was not! (but the fish was good.)

The next two days we just traveled down the river, leaving the moorings about 9 in the morning and stopping at moorings near locks in the early afternoon.

This is the lock and barrage at Isles-les-Meldeuses.
We were tied up above the lock.

Another short day on Monday took us to the marina in Meaux and we were tied up by 11:30.


  1. What fun to buy your champagne from the source. It looks like lovely country there too. Nice to know you were still going strong at this stage!

    1. We like to support the small farmers, winemakers, butcher, etc. They provide some real variety to commerce and they take pride in what they're doing since their name is on it.

    2. I agree. Supporting small producers is much more rewarding for everyone concerned than just buying from the big suppliers.


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