The River Marne has inspired artists, such as Cézanne and Pissarro, for years, and continues to inspire all who encounter it today. A barge holiday in France is an ideal way to experience the Marne’s rich history, as well as learn more about the feats of engineering which helped make it an important trade passage across the country.
The Secrets of the River Marne
Heading for the Seine: The River Marne Basics
This French waterway is 514 kilometres long and begins in the Langres plateau. The river makes its way westward, joining the famous River Seine upstream of Paris. On its journey through the French countryside, the Marne passes through charming locations such as Meaux – renowned for its ‘Prince of Cheese’ brie – and the village of Jouarre, which houses a fascinating twelfth-century Benedictine abbey. Along with its centuries-old heritage, this region of France has an impressive wine-growing tradition.
The Oldest Canal in France?
The Canal de Cornillon in Meaux was built around 800 years ago at the beginning of the thirteenth century. This canal is the oldest in France and was constructed as a 500m short cut, by-passing a particularly generous meander of the river. In the nineteenth century the Marne became an important trade route, connecting Paris with eastern rivers, therefore many lateral canals were built to aid its navigation. The most impressive canal is the 64-kilometre-long Canal latéral à la Marne, which tackles a height difference of over 30 metres with 15 locks.
If you are fortunate enough to be cruising along the Marne during your barge holiday in France, there are a few sites you shouldn’t miss. The countryside surrounding the river was of great importance in both the world wars. In fact, Château-Thierry – notable for several war cemeteries and memorials – was at the centre of the last German offensive of WW1. Visit the moving memorial in Belleau Wood, erected in honour of the 4th Marine Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The remains of trenches and shell holes nearby serve as a visual reminder of the battles that took place in this area.
On a lighter note, you must visit the delightful town of Epernay – the capital of Champagne. The famous Avenue de Champagne is lined with impressive mansions and is home to the most prestigious wine producers in the region, if not the world. You’ll discover the likes of Moët et Chandon, Mercier, Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger and de Castellane. As you wander around the town remember that over 200 miles of underground caves are beneath your feet. Stocked with some of the world’s most covetable bubbly, some of these cellars are open for tours, a wonderful introduction into the magic world of Champagne.
Perhaps this glimpse into the culture and history of the River Marne has encouraged you to venture onto its waters for your next barge holiday in France.