As I discover more and more of the Île de France region, I’m increasingly pleasantly surprised by the sheer volume of rural countryside on offer in the area. After all, from ancient forests to lesser-known river trails, there’s no shortage of stunning vistas to discover. And one of my favourite more recent finds is that of the Canal de Meaux à Chalifert, a delightful waterway between Meaux and Esbly. Here’s how to visit, as well as things to know before you go.
Please note that while the Canal de Meaux à Chalifert also runs parallel to the River Marne, as does the Canal de l’Ourcq, though the two waterways are not one and the same. Instead, they run either side, parallel to the River Marne. If you’re looking at cycling, then the Canal de l’Ourcq has more suitably sized pathways.
Canal de Meaux à Chalifert
Though the name Canal de Meaux à Chalifert is not incredibly inventive, the waterway runs a beautiful course through sun-dappled woodland. As you can tell from the name, the water runs from the medieval city of Meaux to the village of Chalifert, passing by Mareuil-les-Meaux, Condé-Saint-Libiaire, Esbly, and ending at Chalifert.
Stretching 12.6 kilometres and fairly level, with a walking route by the water level all the way between the towns, construction of the canal began in 1837, though the waterway was not in use untim some time later, in 1846. There are three locks; one at Meaux, one at Lesches, and one at Chalfiert.
Thing to know before walking from Meaux to Esbly
If you want to enjoy the pleasant waterside walk along Canal de Meaux à Chalifert for yourself, then I highly recommend it, particularly considering that the green space is the perfect nature escape from the hustle and bustle of Paris, as well as the fact that both the start and end points are easily served by train from Paris.
The walk between Meaux to Esbly (both served by transilien train line P, with Esbly being one stop closer to Paris than Meaux) takes just over two hours, though took us a lot longer than this considering our frequent stops to snap photos, and later on enjoy a beer (but more on this later).
I would personally hop on a train to Meaux and explore the historic town (check out our full Meaux guide here) before heading on the 9.9 km walk. Since there are no restaurants en route, I would also recommend either enjoying a picnic with supplies purchased in Paris or sampling some local cuisine in Meaux.
As well as being famous for its own type of mustard, Meaux also lies in Brie country, i.e. the area of France which produces authentic soft brie cheese. Brie de Meaux is the largest wheel of all Brie cheeses and many restaurants serve the speciality in Croque Monsieurs (toasted cheese and ham sandwiches), as well as other dishes.
We personally dined at a bistro which lies in the shadow of the grand cathedral, Brasserie L’Esplanade Meaux (62 Rue du Général Leclerc, 77100 Meaux), and found the service to be great. An added bonus was that glasses of rosé wine were priced under €3- the perfect addition to a lazy Sunday lunch. Should you also visit Meaux on a Sunday, you should note that many businesses, as is common with France at the end of the weekend, are closed.
Walking along Canal de Meaux à Chalifert
After several hours exploring the museums, gardens, narrow streets, and, of course, cathedral of Meaux, it’s time to head out on the walking route. The initial part of the walk will take you through the fringes of town, which are slightly less aesthetically pleasing than Meaux’s city centre. En route, you’ll also pass by the WWI museum (one of the largest of its size in Europe).
Once you’re on the waterfront, it’s a pleasant 8km walk or so before you reach Esbly. Though the canal continues on to Chalifert, there are no direct public transport links back to Paris, meaning that Esbly is a more convenient finish point. As mentioned before, there are few facilities on the trail. This is with the exception of one restaurant, L’Ile des Cygnes, which is situated within the village of Condé-Sainte-Libiaire.
A cash-only spot that’s reminiscent of sitting in the back of someone’s garden, we actually had to ask the proprietor “are you a restaurant or not?” in order to determine whether or not we would be able to order drinks! Soon enough, we were sat sipping on beers and relaxing, with just a couple of kilometres to go before reaching Esbly.