After our next guest Ross arrived in Châlons-en-Champagne we headed east. Initially Wanderlust retraced her route on the Canal latéral à la Marne. Once we reached Vitry-le-François we moved onto the Canal de la Marne au Rhin for the first time.
The western portion of the Marne-Rhine canal is rural and sparsely traveled. Walls of lush vegetation line the waterway for long stretches. Traveling west from Vitry the first town of note is Bar-le-Duc former seat of the Duchy of Bar.
Bar-le-Duc is split into a high and low town. In the lower village along the River Ornain are the train station (convenient for our guest), the covered market, the town hall, and many services. The walled high town is the older historic district. It retains many of the narrow streets and the character of its medieval street plan.
Like many towns in France, Bar-le-Duc has a famous food. Bar-le-Duc’s prized culinary offering is its jelly. The jelly is prepared using select whole currants whose seed has been removed. Currants are small, about the size of a pea, and the seed is excised using a finely tapered goose quill. It is a delicate, labor-intensive process. Not surprisingly, the “Bar Caviar” is expensive; a jar which contains approximately 200 currants cost about €15 in Bar-le-Duc and $40 in the US (as of 2008).
Over the years Bar-le-Duc’s jelly has had many famous devotees. Fans include Alfred Hitchcock, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Winston Churchill. In Bar-le-Duc we purchased a single jar at the factory. In truth our jar still sits unopened on the counter waiting be tried. Apparently Bar-le-Duc jelly is either too expensive for us to try or we are waiting to become famous enough to eat it.
(Wanderlust arrived in Bar-le-Duc on the 15th of July 2015. From Châlons-en-Champagne it took 3 days to travel the 79 kilometers and 41 locks. In between we spent nights in Bignicourt-sur-Saulx and Revigny-sur-Ornain.)