Afloat in Champagne
Luigi, Shaw, Dodge, and Manly, 1984


Although the earliest of canals were for irrigation purposes, their use for navigation is an ancient one, having been known by the ancient Egyptians and Assyrians. The Romans were builders of canals in their empire and even built a few in a place as remote as England. Charlemagne made a project of connecting the Main, the Rhine and the Danube by waterways, and the Chinese had constructed a grand canal before Marco Polo's voyage to that country. However, navigation canals are of limited use when they cannot serve land of more than one given elevation. In the latter part of the sixteenth century the use of locks began in Holland and Italy, and soon spread to France. The Canal du Midi, which, with the Garonne River and the Canal Lateral a la Garonne, joins the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean is regarded as one of the first on the modern canals in Europe; This waterway was completed in 1681 and is 148 miles long, rises 620 feet above sea level and has 118 locks. Since that time the French have built about 3000 miles of canals to complement the 4600 miles of navigable rivers in that country.

In olden days a barge was towed by a horse or mule which walked on a towpath next to the canal; when the barge came to a tunnel the animal was unhitched and the crew members propelled the barge through by putting their feet on the walls and roofs of the tunnels and pushing. I suppose the beast was taken aboard for those occasions, but don't really know that it was not replaced with a fresh animal at the end of each tunnel. In any event the tow paths which run along the canals and many rivers do not proceed through the tunnels. Now in the absence of draft animals, the tow paths are nevertheless maintained well, and are pleasant to walk or ride a bicycle along.

Canals have characteristics which, should you consider the matter, you would realize are necessary, but which those of us who don't deal regularly with canals might not think of. For example, there is always a need to keep water in them, and to keep them as nearly full as possible in order to enable barges of maximum draft to use them; if the water is low, a barge cannot take so much cargo as it could at high water because it would scrape the bottom. Yet pumping enough water to fill a canal and keep it full would be very expensive. Therefore, when designing a canal, it is necessary to find a source of water and to make sure that no part of the canal rises above that source. Since the water must be transported from the canal if no river is handy, the canal is often deliberately built to pass near a high source of water. If, as often happens, the elevated water source is on a hill, it may be necessary for the canal to cross that hill to get to wherever the designer wants the canal to lead. Yet the canal must not rise above the water source; so the solution is to dig a tunnel through hill below the water supply, and to fill the canal near the tunnel.

Another characteristic of canals is the need for standardization of the depth of the canal and the width of the locks. A barge's allowable draft is necessarily limited by the shallowest part of the canal it is to float on. Greater depths are wasted. On any given French canal all locks are likely to be of the same width, usually five meters or so, since the widest lock on a canal won't be used by any wider traffic than the narrowest. Because of this, the uniform headroom allowed under bridges and the standard minimum depth, the size and shape of barges which are to use the canals are determined. Indeed, it is not unusual to find a total of fifteen centimeters of clearance between the sides of a barge and the sides of a lock. As a result, locks are entered slowly, with a certain amount of scraping along the sides.

One use of canals which had not occurred to me was to put them next to rivers to shorten journeys by cutting out the meanders. The river is close enough to the canal to serve as a source of water, and when a straight section of river is encountered, going in the desired direction, it is simply incorporated into the waterway. The current of the river is also avoided, since a canal does not flow downhill, it descends gracefully, one step at a time, by locks. Such a canal next to a river is called a "canal lateral" in French or a "side canal" in English.

The barges that use the canals in France now are usually owned by individuals who operate them and, with their families, live on them. These people make their livings by carrying bulk cargoes from one point to another along the canal system of Western Europe. A barge holds about 250 tons of cargo and has sleeping quarters for a family. It is not unusual to see a barge with the family automobile parked on top, up near the bow.

An organization named "Editions Cartographiques Maritimes" prints excellent guides to the canals of France; with them you can get all the information you're likely to want if you should happen to be guiding a vessel along those canals. Canal by canal, virtually meter by meter, the maps in the guide show not only the course of the waterway, but also the availability of food at various points along the canal, the crossroads, the cities nearby, and the locks and bridges.


The celebration of a joyous event and the sparkling white wine that bears the name of the Champagne region of France are so linked in popular belief that many cannot think of either without considering the other. A friend of my parents who lived in England and wrote a few books on French wine managed the break that connection in my own mind when he gave my wife and me a bottle of Champagne with one restriction placed upon its use -- that the bottle be consumed when we were not celebrating anything. My wife and I observed this wise restraint, and I commend it to others. An occasion when your mind is on something else is no time to pay proper attention to the enjoyment of what you are drinking.

The invention of Champagne wine is generally blamed on one Dom Perignon of the Abbey of Haut Villiers, near Epernay, about 100 miles east and slightly north of Paris. It has been suggested that the invention may have been a fortuitous result of his discovery of the use of cork as a means of stopping a wine bottle: only if a bottle is properly stoppered can it contain the five or six atmospheres of pressure developed by the fermenting liquid needed to charge the wine. Dom Perignon managed the cellars at Haut Villiers from 1670 to 1715, and if, now and then, he stoppered a few bottles of wine before it had completed fermenting, he would have achieved either sparkling wine or a series of explosions. Only the former has been recorded.

Until this day, the best sparkling wine is, as they say, "naturally fermented in the bottle." This does not mean that the entire fermentation process takes place in the bottle; only that enough fermentation goes on there to produce the right amount of carbon dioxide, while the major part takes place in much larger vessels before the wine is bottled. When a liquid ferments, yeast cells multiply and consume sugar and give off alcohol and carbon dioxide. In time the yeast cells die and fall to the bottom of the container, producing a residue which, if allowed to remain, would cloud the liquid and dismay the consumer. A modest amount of sediment is tolerated in still wines because the wine can be poured off and remain clear; but in a sparkling beverage any sediment is stirred up when the bottle is opened by the release of the pressure holding the gas in the liquid. Therefore the vintner must remove the sediment from the bottle after the conclusion of the final fermentation. The bottles are initially stored on their sides and then gradually, over a period of months, the bottoms of the bottles are raised and twisted a quarter of a turn at regular intervals until the bottles are nearly vertical. This causes the sediment to collect at the neck of the bottle where, with diligence and ingenuity, it can be removed without letting much wine or gas out. This process is called "degougement." In California and in some French houses the neck of the bottle is frozen enough so that the sediment comes out as a solid, propelled by gas pressure. In some French houses other techniques are used.

The province of Champagne, of which Reims and Epernay are the principal cities, is north of the other wine making areas of France, and the latitude might result in weather too cold to grow good wine grapes but for the soil, which is largely chalk. Indeed, the Romans used to quarry chalk at Reims. This soil retains the warmth long enough so that the grapes can mature, and retains water enough to keep them from drying out in the long days of summer. It also provides the balance of minerals necessary for a grape that produces a good-tasting wine.

Each year, acting on the advice of the growers, the prefect announces the opening day of the grape harvest. Everyone who is able turns to picking grapes so that the harvest may be completed before frost. Numbers of people from Paris and other parts of France turn up, having chosen to spend their vacations at this pursuit. The grapes are mostly Pinot Noir, a dark grape and Pinot Chardonnay, a white grape. The former particularly must be pressed promptly after picking so that the tannin from the skins does not color the juice.

Untroubled by anti-trust laws, the French strictly limit the amount of sparkling wine that can legally be produced in the Champagne region, and this ration is subdivided to each village and field in the territory. Further, different villages are assigned classifications measuring the quality of the wine produced from grapes grown in their fields; these classifications are expressed as percentages of the top price per kilogram to be paid as set by the growers' association, the shippers' association and the Comite Interprofes- sionel du Vin de Champagne. While the cost of making the Champagne, including the skilled labor, is not inconsiderable, the major expenses are incurred in buying the grapes and financing the storage of the bottled wine for four or five years until it is ready to be marketed.


On a Friday in mid-June of 1984 my wife, Luigi, our nineteen- year-old daughter Shaw, our sixteen-year-old son Dodge and I flew from Chicago to London and thence to Paris, where we were to be picked up and taken by bus to a barge that was waiting for us on a canal near Epernay. As we were to be met at 11:30 Sunday morning, I wanted to allow plenty of time, so we left a day earlier than really necessary. Also, to make sure we did not miss our connections, we stayed at the Hotel Scribe, near L'Opera, where we were to connect. Arriving in Paris about mid-day Saturday, we had lunch at a small and inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant near the hotel, loafed all afternoon, dined at a nearby restaurant and went to bed about ten o'clock. Expecting to awake after eight hours or so, as is my wont, I did not set an alarm clock.

At eleven-thirty Sunday morning I awoke. My wife and children were still asleep. I hurriedly called the front desk to inquire if the people who were to meet us and thirteen other people were still there. I spoke with Dick Hunt, who, with his wife Jane, own the barge Zeelands Luistre. He asked me why we were not at the Scribe with everyone else. I told him we were. He said the desk clerk denied it. I said we were here anyway but had overslept and would be downstairs in 15 minutes. He asked if we would really be there that soon. I said yes we would. My wife and children were diligent in preserving my veracity and, about 14 and a half minutes later we were in the lobby, unwashed, unshaven, uncombed and hungry, but dressed and packed. The other guests had been diverted to the bar to wait, and were not in so bad a mood as they might have been; by the time the bus took us all to the barges, about a three hour ride, all signs of animosity had been replaced by signs of hunger.

On our arrival at the village of D'Amery the four of us were led down an embankment to the Zeelands Luistre which we boarded by means of a green painted plank about a foot wide. The other thirteen guests boarded the Linquenda, a somewhat larger barge, a few meters away. Both barges are the standard five meters wide, but ours was slightly less than 30 meters long. A few bicycles were leaning against the starboard rail across from the gangplank, a pot of geraniums was at the head of the gangplank and the lunch table was awaiting us amidships on the top deck in the warm sunshine. Jane Hunt, the co-owner, welcomed us with a delicious repast.

Dick and Jane not only owned the Zeelands Luistre but also were in charge of the Linquenda for the company that owned it. Jane usually stayed on the former while Dick seemed to spend a roughly half of his time on each. The crew on our vessel included John, who took command in Dick's absence, Malcolm and Victoria, the cook. All are British; John and Vicky spoke French. John was a scientist with one of the oil companies for a number of years. He decided to take leave of such work to spend his time writing music, so accepted the job on the Zeelands Luistre to support himself while doing so. The fact that the oil company had stationed him in Manaus, Brazil, 1000 miles up the Amazon, may or may not have had something to do with this decision. Malcolm had been a butcher in England, but decided he preferred life on a barge and got a British barge pilot's license. He expected to get a French license soon. Vicky, who was half a year younger than our daughter Shaw, had recently taken a course at the Cordon Blue cooking school -- instruction from which not only she, but all of us benefited.

After we unpacked, learned how to operate the toilet and the shower and relaxed for a few minutes it was time to go ashore and visit a local winery. The other 13 and we walked about three blocks to a short street along which half a dozen small Champagne manufacturers had their operations. The rest of the street seemed to be taken up with vacant houses, used to hold the workers who would come for the harvest each fall and left unoccupied for the rest of the year. We were taken to the Christian Louis winery where we dutifully observed the various rooms where the grapes are crushed and pressed, where the bottling occurs, where the bottles are stored and where degougement is performed into a device that looked at first glance like a wall-mounted urinal. In this winery the fermented must is bottled with enough unfermented juice to provide the sparkle and then capped with an ordinary steel cap, such as you might find on a beer bottle, though I believe it has a cork liner. When the time comes, a skilled worker takes the bottles one at a time and, holding them upside-down so that the sediment will not fall back into the wine, removes the cap and permits just enough wine to escape to carry away the sediment, then he rights the bottle and sends it to be corked. A well-splattered wall testified to the occasional failure of a workman to keep all the spillage in the intended place. The owner, A. Louis Privoilau, met us and told us something of the winery; at Dick Hunt's suggestion he even agreed to sell us a little Champagne if we wished to buy any. Thinking quickly, I decided it would be well to enjoy the local produce before dinner each evening of the trip, so I bought seven bottles. This was a wise decision, and the fact that on two evenings our daily ration of Champagne was supplied from other sources left us a couple of bottles which we later used as gifts.

Monday morning the tranquility and peacefulness of the rural French countryside affected me. Few people were visible, and those I saw were not in a hurry. The view across the river to a country inn on the bank and a pair of old rowboats moored nearby, with a few trees and a ridge of hazy green hills in the background should have been the subject of a French Impressionist painting. I walked across the nearby bridge to the inn and observed a modest monument bearing the legends "Aux Enfants du Pays Morts pour la Patrie" and "Souscription Publique, 1890" and the names of one who was killed in Tonkin and another in Tunisia. The names of the places in this part of France include Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, Argonne Forest, Armentieres and the river on which we floated, the Marne. Verdun is not far away. Returning to the barge I noticed a poppy blooming on the embankment and thought that the people here had earned peace.

At D'Amery the river is sedate enough for barge traffic and the two barges proceeded easterly, sometimes on the river and sometimes on the Canal Lateral a la Marne, which appeared and disappeared as needed to avoid fast water or large horseshoe bends. We stopped for a visit at a small museum established in Haut-Villiers at the monastery where Dom Perignon lived and invented the Champagne-making process. The museum is run by the Moet & Chandon Company, and, I suppose, recreates faithfully enough the physical surroundings in which the unofficial patron saint of the area lived. As a reward for sticking out the tour we were each given a glass of good Moet Champagne in the manicured garden back of the museum which looks out onto hectares of growing grapes. I noted that the glass was neither of the tulip shape traditional for still wines nor of the purported shape of Marie Antoinette's breast. The bowl was narrower at the middle and the top than at the bottom, as if the glass-blower had started out to make an ordinary tulip shaped bowl from the bottom up and then discovered that he did not have enough glass. This shape was common to the glasses in nearly all the places where we were served Champagne.

In the afternoon Luigi and I decided to walk along the tow path between a pair of locks. It is very comforting to be able to take a long walk in the countryside secure in the knowledge that you don't have to walk home because your home will follow you. However, it is wise, before you start on such a walk, to learn how far it is to the next lock because it is awkward to board a barge between locks, except when it is moored. This information is conveniently posted on the lockkeeper's cottage, as well as being available on the chart. There is little auto traffic on such paths; they are narrower than most cars; I don't know whether automobiles are prohibited by law. We saw a fisherman sitting on a folding stool under a red umbrella next to both a small automobile and a bicycle. We also saw a woman pulling a tricycle along the path while a five-year-old boy stood defiantly by himself for a few seconds. Some of the houses along the way on the other side of the river were immense, looking like the pictures you sometimes see on the labels of chateau bottled wine.

Our barge proceeded a little more slowly than we, and we waited at the lock until it arrived. We could see first hand (and even help with) the work. The barge entered the lock through the open gate at the downstream end. This gate was then closed by turning a crank mounted on a shaft sticking up from the gravel at the edge of the lock. Crew members or passengers next turned the wheel on the upstream gate to slide open the doors through which water poured until the water in the lock was at the same level as that in the canal at the upstream end. Finally, the upstream gate was cranked open and the barge proceeded into the canal.

After re-boarding we could see the country as well as if we were walking, and at almost the same speed. There are traffic signs along the edges of the canals; I was surprised to see how much they resembled ordinary road signs with their red borders and black arrows. At times the hillsides turned into white cliffs displaying the chalk that is responsible for the character of the wine. As if to prove the thesis, the land at the top of the cliff, which sloped gently, bore row after row of grapevines. The rows ran with the slope of the hill, a practice that is more likely to drain than to conserve the soil.

Toward evening we reached Tours-sur-Marne, a small city with the canal and the river running side by side along the south edge. Our mooring spot was across the canal from the local church which rang its bells every fifteen minutes. Fortunately they stopped at 11:00 in the evening and did not start until 8:00 the next morning. Sometime, if I should ever decide to collect the tunes that church bells play, I shall return to Tours-sur-Marne where the bells play the opening measure of the old Gershwin tune, "Love for Sale." Jane Hunt took Luigi and me on a quick tour of the local churchyard, mentioning that we should see a rural French graveyard, which is not like those in England or the United States. On one grave, covered by a slab of grey granite on which lay a lighter grey stone cross with a brass crucifix on it, we found two pots of geraniums, three pots of begonias, two other plants, a plastic plaque with pink and white flowers and the legend "Souvenir a Mon Epouse," another such plaque with the legend "A Notre Maman," a third with a brass-colored representation of Mary holding the body of Jesus in front of a cross and the legend, "A Mon Amie" and yet another plaque with some yellow flowers and the legend "Souvenir."

Tuesday morning the other 13 and the four of us visited the Laurent Perrier winery which was within easy walking distance of the barges. It was far more like a factory than was the one in D'Amery. Indeed, Laurent Perrier has an assembly line for the labeling of bottles, wrapping the wire around the corks and then putting the foil over the wire. Again, there was wine in the garden overlooking the fields of grapes.

Shortly after leaving Tours-sur-Marne we came to an intersection with the Canal de l'Aisne a la Marne which led to the left. On the bank was a sign advising those who read it of the name of the canal and bearing a large black arrow pointing to the north followed by the word "Reims." We turned in that direction and passed through several kilometers of farmland. Some of the land was well below the level of the water in the canal, which obediently flowed between a pair of dykes. On one of my walks along a towpath I went down into one of the fields to see the barge pass by on what appeared to be a low ridge with no visible sign of water, since my eye level was below the edge of the dyke. In time we came to the first of two tunnels encountered on our trip. The literature we received before deciding to take the trip referred to entering, at Billy le Grand, "a two-mile canal tunnel for an unforgettable canalling experience." Nevertheless, I hope to forget it sometime. Wide enough for only one barge in either direction, it was lit by fluorescent tubes every few meters, and the air was so thick with the fumes from previous vessels that we could see the light grow progressively yellower and dimmer with distance. The knowledge that inhaling this mixture of gasses and suspended solids was necessary to survive conflicted with the suspicion that it would shorten the term of that survival. I kept recalling a comment in a paper Norman Parker read to this club several years ago involving a barge trip in England: that when barges shifted from mules to coal-fired steam engines it was not infrequent that a crew died of asphyxiation in a tunnel. However none of us did die of asphyxiation on diesel fumes, nor have I heard of any such episodes. The next time we went through a tunnel I retired to my bunk and lay down to reduce my respiration rate as much as possible.

The afternoon was the sort of hot, lazy summertime that is meant for taking ease. The foliage along the banks was so thick for a few kilometers that we could not see beyond it and the privacy gave a feeling of great seclusion. Shaw borrowed a bicycle and rode it for a few miles and Dodge was allowed to steer the barge for a while. I am not sure whether Shaw's decision -- to pursue the shore bound transportation was due to her brother's being at the helm. We met a few barges carrying their cargoes and families, including one where the bow was occupied by a young woman doing laundry and circular screened tent in which were a plastic wading pool, a few toys and a naked four-year-old child.

We reached a mooring place near the village of Sillery at stopping time and were met by a group of balloonists with three hot air balloons. One of the opportunities made available to people on barge trips is riding in a balloon if one chooses. Several of those on the Linquenda had signed up for the occasion, but there was room for two more on the second flight, and Dodge and I took them up on it. Or rather, they took us up. A flight lasts about an hour plus whatever time it takes the balloonist to find a suitable spot to land. The ballooning party consists not only of those who operate the balloons and the passengers, but also those who come along to help with setting up the operation, chasing after the balloons in pickup trucks and other vehicles, folding and stowing the balloons when they land, and then taking the passenger back to wherever they came from. Dodge and I were driven in one of the vehicles that followed the balloons on the first trip and then, when they landed in a field, were led to the gondola in which we were to fly. A pleasant intellectual-looking young Frenchman named Denis Germain was our pilot; he spoke English pretty well and mentioned that he had been to balloon meets in the United States and had, for a while, held the American altitude record for hot air ballooning. We lifted off promptly after boarding and flew in a southeasterly direction at an altitude ranging from treetop level to 200 meters. Sometimes we would descend toward a field containing sheep or cattle and then turn on the gas with a roar that would frighten them into running -- a practice that probably does not endear balloonists to farmers. On a couple of occasions we stirred pheasants into flying and rabbits into scampering away. Eventually it became time to land, especially as there was not much daylight left, and M. Germain proceeded to look for a suitable place. In a balloon you have little control over your speed or direction of motion, except as you locate winds blowing at different velocities and in different directions at various altitudes. After several swoops over various fields he eventually found a satisfactory site, in a field with no electric or telephone wires nearby, with no crops near to harvest and in the lee of a row of trees. Dodge and I were advised to flex our knees as we landed, and then the gondola bumped a couple of times on the ground and stopped. M. Germain got out promptly and indicated that Dodge and I should stay. Not wanting to be borne aloft by the remaining lift in the balloon when the weight was reduced by the pilot's absence, I clung to his hand, but was eventually assured that sufficient heat and hot air had been lost so that this would not happen. M. Germain was able, by pulling the correct lines, to persuade the gasbag to fall to earth so that it lay stretched out along the ground. Dodge and I helped fold it. I had been advised that to do so was proper passenger etiquette on my one previous ballooning experience in Arizona.

By the time the bag was folded the chase crew had arrived. Champagne was served to all passengers. Unlike Arizona practice, Champagne was not poured from the bottle onto the heads of the unsuspecting first-time passengers. Dodge and I and the other passengers from the same flight, as well as those from the previous flight, were then bundled into a van and taken back to Sillery and the arms of our less venturesome companions. It turned out that we had flown some 20 kilometers (about ten kilometers per flight) in a southwesterly direction, ending up somewhere the far side of D'Amery, whence we started two days before. Back on the Zeelands Luistre about 10:00, we ascertained that Luigi and Shaw had dined but that the roast quail which Jane Hunt and Vicky had prepared was still warm and very tasty.

Wednesday was the day for so much of Reims as did not include the Cathedral. A bus took all 17 passengers plus Jane Hunt into the city, stopping for a tour of the Dom Ruinart winery with its wonderful cellars deep in the chalk. Dom Ruinart was a friend of Com Perignon and carried on the latter's noble works. On Dom Ruinart's death in 1729, his responsibilities to the drinkers of Champagne were carried on by his nephew, Nicholas Ruinart, a linen dealer in Epernay. In order to enhance the sales of his linen, Nicholas gave bottles of Champagne to his customers; after a few years the linen business fell by the wayside and Nicholas and his son Claude were in the wine business. Claud moved the firm from Epernay to Reims, and it remained in the Ruinart family until 1963, when it became associated with the Maison Moet et Chandon.

The cellars are build in an area where the Romans used to quarry, and tunnels extending from the bottom of the old quarry are now used to store Champagne at the appropriate temperature. Here we were introduced not only to two varieties of Dom Ruinart Champagne, but also to ratafia, a combination of still wine and brandy, both made from the same grapes as Champagne. In good years when the amount of available grape juice exceeds the area's limit of sparkling wine, the juice must be turned into something else. In this instance, the something else turned out to be very good indeed.

While the passengers were in Reims the crews moved the barges through the city, having advised us that the canal went through an industrial area which was not very scenic. We boarded north of the city near Courcy.

We dutifully saw the Reims Cathedral on Thursday, with some of us demonstrating more interest in the establishment than others. After admiring the interior (including the stained glass windows by Chagall) as much as I felt obliged to, I went outside and looked at the gargoyles. Representing creatures of the Devil, they seem more interesting than the angels ans saints that are scattered around the inside and outside. One angel did attract my attention -- a statue near the entrance -- it appeared to be pregnant with a moronic smile and bullet holes in the wings. Closer examination was disappointing: the bullet holes were only places where bolts had been attached to keep the angel from falling (as angels are wont to do), and the smile was probably beatific rather than moronic -- it's hard to tell. And the appearance of pregnancy may have been due only to obesity. Yet cherubs must come from somewhere. Next to the Cathedral is a museum with various bits of statuary and paintings and displays. One of the statues was of a young woman holding a small infernal beast with the head of a bearded dog, no front legs, hind legs like a dog's, and a tail like an alligator's. Its mouth was wide open displaying ferocious upper teeth, no lower teeth, and what appeared to be a golfball stuck at the back of the mouth. None of the signs identified the creature nor explained why the young was holding it yet not trying to take the golfball out of its mouth.

Back on the barges the trip continued through the French countryside, now with few vineyards and more woodlands and farms growing grain. At Berry-au Bac the Canal de l'Aisne a la Marne joined the Canal Lateral a l'Aisne, on which we changed from a generally northwesterly course to a westerly one. After dinner we attended a bonfire on the far side of the canal with wine, food, and song. John, the scientist who preferred music, played the guitar for the rest to sing to, and did very well, ending the performance with a delightful song of his own composition.

Friday morning involved a trip to Soissons where we encountered a cathedral that I much preferred to the one at Reims -- the structural lines were cleaner and less hidden with the trappings of piety. I think the people who built Soissons must have loved their work. Also at Soissons, not far from the Cathedral, is the Abbaye de St. Jean-des-Vignes. When I first heard it pronounced I thought someone was speaking of St. John the Divine, but it turned out that "des vignes" is two words and refer to a saint "of the vines." A highly appropriate sort of saint to have in this area. Most of the abbey is in ruins, but the facade is still standing most photogenically with only the blue sky on the other side of the glassless windows. The abbey is being excavated and restored; we encountered a young American archeologist who was supervising a number of French students in the work. The subterranean part of the abbey was in good enough shape for tourists to walk through, and we could admire the way the builders used thick, short columns which branched into low strong arches to support the weight that was to be placed on them.

We also stopped to clamber about the remains of the Castle of Sept Monts, destroyed except for the keep and a portion of a wall. Never a fighting castle, it was built for recreational purposes a few centuries ago and fell into disrepair and then ruins; castles had little value between the advent of artillery and the advent of tourists.

Back on the Zeelands Luistre for lunch, we proceeded along the Canal Lateral a l'Aisne until the Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne branched off to the northwest. We were then treated to the spectacle of a canal crossing a river, the Aisle, on an aqueduct at a height several meters above the river. Later we came to the second tunnel of the trip where I lay on my bed to lower my respiration rate. The tunnel was somewhat over two kilometers long, and eventually we were out of it. We reached our evening's mooring and final destination a few kilometers later, close to the village of Pargny-Filain (near Urcel). A delicious gala dinner on the Linquenda where the talents of our barge's cook were added to those of that barge's cook marked the end of the voyage. The next morning we were taken back to Paris by bus.

One interesting consequence of the trip bears relating. Both of our children had, for a few years, been given small amount of wine at those dinners in our home at which my wife and I drank it; they would have liked more. In France, where the Calvinistic laws and morals of our own country do not so strongly pertain, we decided not to restrict their consumption of this beverage. They were given wine with lunch and dinner. Their consumption never exceeded reasonable bounds, yet when we returned to Paris Dodge maintained that he had had enough wine for a while, and insisted on having Coca Cola with lunch. One restaurateur strongly opposed this decision; at the beginning of out meal he poured a small quantity of Coca Cola into a saucer and then dropped a grimy coin into it. When the meal was over we examined the coin and found it clean and shiny; the restaurateur considered this conclusive evidence that the soft drink was deleterious and that Dodge should be drinking wine with the rest of us. But he preached in vain.