As announced on, the site that promotes my Inland Waterways of France – the book, the associated map and the downloadable pdfs – I’ve embarked on a new challenge: covering the 9000 km of French waterways by bike, on foot (or occasionally by boat where there is no alternative) over the next couple of years. This has to be done in segments, returning home at least weekly to pursue my other activities.

Day 0 – The diary of this new challenge starts on Tuesday May 16 in a cycle shop in the 2e arrondissement of Paris. Padraic Neville, fellow member of Inland Waterways International, from Fairport, NY, rented our touring bikes at AlloVélo, 2 rue Beauregard. A surprisingly easy ride through the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis took us to Gare de l’Est, then three regional trains (TER) to our starting point, Charleville-Mézières. (Note that bikes are not allowed on most TGVs.)

The prologue involved cycling round the loops of the Meuse in this charming town with its yellow sandstone town houses and monumental Place aux Armes, and the memories of poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose poems are painted on to the walls of the small comfortable Hôtel de Paris opposite the station.

This blog will be the day-by-day account of this ‘rediscovery’ of French waterways, looking at all aspects of their landscape, their structures, management and uses, on and beside the water.


The ‘prologue’ on day 0 – round the northern loop of the Meuse, where a modern weir is under construction to replace the dangerous and labour-intensive needle weir.