Of all the waterways that we’ve experienced since Wanderlust arrived in France in September the Marne was our favorite. From the vineyards of Champagne to the historic towns on the approach to Paris, the river is lined with pleasures. Indeed, it has been so nice on the Marne that we found that we’d become sticky. Each departure from a mooring came with reluctance. But we had to move on. We needed to reach our winter mooring in Burgundy. So all good things must come to an end. And in the case of the River Marne, the end occurs at the confluence with the Seine on the edge of Paris.
After leaving Meaux, with overnight stops at the Parisian suburbs of Lagny-sur-Marne and Maisons-Alfort, we reached the end of the Marne and the start of our journey on the Seine. At the confluence we could turn right to go downstream to Paris or left to head upstream to Burgundy. As attractive and close as the Paris option was, there was no time. If we delayed, our route to Auxerre in Burgundy would be blocked for months behind the closing locks. There was no real choice. So when we reached the confluence, we turned left turn. For now Paris would have to wait.
Even without the Marne’s water, the Seine above the confluence is a major commercial river. The locks are huge, nearly 600 feet in length and 37 feet wide. And as you might imagine, the barges that use these locks are also enormous. In these waters, Wanderlust, 65 feet in length, is a lightweight. We do what we can to keep out of the way. On the big commercial waterways we’re just visitors lucky enough to catch an up close glimpse of heavy river transport on the Seine.
Moving up the Seine the river-facing industries on the outskirts of Paris soon fell behind us. The utilitarian edge of the City of Lights gave way to a stretch of large riverfront mansions. We were still close enough to Paris for easy access but far enough away to avoid the urban crush. Living on the river here, if you could afford it, would certainly be nice.
French law requires that both Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun be only made from raw cow’s milk. As a consequence, neither is allowed onto the shelves into the United States as the State’s regulations dictate that young cheeses can only be made from pasteurized milk. And trust me, there is a difference in the taste between what is sold as Brie in the States the true Brie produced in Melun and Meaux. For us it simply would not be possible to just cruise by and not stop in for a taste of the famous fromage in its hometown.
Geographically, Melun is a miniature version of Paris. Just as in Paris, the Seine branches through Melun creating a central island. And like Paris’s Île de la Cité, Melun’s island has many of the town’s historic buildings. Beyond the geography, the similarities between Melun and Paris fall away quickly. Nonetheless, Melun is an interesting town full of life, history, and, of course, cheese.
With a population around 38,000, Melun is spared the urban chaos of a large city. At the same time it is far more vibrant than the typical sleepy small French villages that we pass so often. Melun is a bit of a Goldilocks type of place; it is not too large and not too small. We stayed in Melun for three nights; we could easily have stayed longer.
Lagny-sur-Marne is 19 km, 3 locks, and 1 tunnel from Meaux. The town has new pontoon between the bridges near the tourist office. Mooring is limited to boats under 19 m. But, as they say, no one has a tape measure. And we are not very good at math; converting 65 feet to meters sometimes gives us problems. The maximum stay on the pontoon is two days. Water and electricity are available for 6€/day payable at the tourist office next to the bridge.
From Lagny, Maisons-Alfort is 26 km and 3 locks away. There was also one last tunnel for the season. It was our sixth underground passage on the way from Calais to Auxerre. Without a workable layby, we had to loiter mid-stream waiting for the tunnel light to turn green.
In Maisons-Alfort we stopped at the unserviced VNF pontoon approximately 600 m upstream of the last lock. It is difficult to find good moorings so close to Paris, so we were happy to find the pontoon available when we arrived. The pontoon is in a river front park area and it is a surprisingly pleasant place to stop. Reportedly there is a Paris metro stop approximately 800 m from the mooring. Per the sign, moorings here are limited to 48 hours. There is no charge.
Le Port aux Cerises:
By river, Melun is 99 km and 12 locks from Meaux. Likely a commercial barge would take less than two days to cover this stretch. In Wanderlust we took four.
Our pace created a challenge. Going slowing meant that we would be mooring more frequently. And on the river so close to Paris, finding a spot for the night is more difficult than usual. So for this leg we did something we hadn’t done so far on the journey; we called ahead for a spot at a marina. The marina we phoned, the Port aux Cerises, had space. If we could squeeze through the tight entrance channel we could moor on the first hammerhead in the harbor.
Being near Paris comes with a price. The Port aux Cerises or in English the Port of Cherries is a residential marina. They charged €34 per night for a full service mooring for our 20 m barge. It is the most we have paid for a mooring since Calais. It was a nice enough spot and our dog Gigi was delighted with the large park that is next to the marina.
From le Port aux Cerises it is 37 km and 3 locks to Melun. The long concrete public quay at Melun extends on both sides of the bridge. Water and power are available at one service bollard upstream of the bridge; it was not clear whether the other bollards functioned. A charge of €12.00/night is collected in the evening. This mooring is on a narrow bend of the river and heavy commercial barges pass frequently. It was important to deploy suitable mooring springs.