The joy of summer cruising is never knowing what you will find around the next bend. If you worry too much about sticking to your original itinerary, you may rush right past the most interesting little village or an opportunity to make new friends.
Studying our charts told us that we should save our plans to travel on the Canal de l'Est to Nancy for another season, and that instead we should take the Canal de la Marne à la Saône. That would get us to where we wanted to be mid-summer without having to hurry.
Since we were also in need of time to regroup after all of the events and dinners with friends in St. Jean, this rural canal fit right into our new plans. The weather was lovely, and for a week or two, we were out in the middle of nowhere enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. Cruising past farmland, seeing more hay rolls and cows than people, we slowly made our way north from the Saône river to the Marne river.
After leaving the canal, we entered the Marne, arriving in Epernay the day before Bastille Day. We learned that the parade on the 14th of July was to begin at 10 in the morning at the Place de la Republique. We went there early with our friends who were visiting from San Francisco, found a table at a café and watched, over coffee and croissants, as the parade started forming.
Band members sat at the next table, and we relaxed until we saw them leave. Then we followed them out. We had time to say hello to some of the firemen, and then we settled in to enjoy the parade.
The Veterans took their places in front of the war memorial, each carrying the flag of their unit, and the band began to play. Metals were presented to men in uniform, the band played La Marseillaise, and everyone paraded off down the Avenue de Champagne.
We dashed back to the port, hopped into our friends rental car and checking our map found the caserne de pompiers on the outskirts of town.
The Epernay fire department is a combination paid and volunteer department. Daniel Legrand, a volunteer for over 30 years and also a local champagne producer, took us under his wing. Because of the fire department brotherhood, a friendship was quickly formed.
To the Epernay Fire Department, "Merci et soyez prudents".