Saverne to Toul. Fun in the locks…

51A438C6-D882-45B6-8E71-4A5FD7F07452Saverne is a big and very prettily flowered town with the stunning Chateau Rohan opposite the boat harbour. The Grande Rue is cobblestoned and has lots of shops, bars and restaurants.

The last lock into Saverne takes you past the Chateau and on our first glimpse we saw a llama which seemed incongruous! Turned out there was a horse-clown show on the lawns in front of the Chateau! Unexpected! This is the Chateau Rohan from the town side (left) and from the water (right).

We stayed in Saverne for five days, enjoying the ambiance and festivals including a wheelbarrow race around town and two nights of music on the quay. We visited the Cloisters des Récollete,

had a look inside the Chateau (now housing a museum) and took a taxi up to the Chateau du Haut-Barr and then walked back down through the forest. This Chateau was nicknamed The Eye of Alsace and was built on three rocks 470m above the plain. The original medieval castle was ruins from the 12th century but it occupied a strategic position between the Lorraine plateau and the Alsace plain and the current Chateau was built in 1583. We could just make out the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral in the hazy distance from the ramparts.

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This is what it used to look like in 1644

Eventually it was time to move on and having come as far east as we will be on the boat this year (we visited Strasbourg by rental car from Epinal in June) we were up early on Monday morning (20 August) and at the first lock (5.5m deep) at 7.45am. The red light was on and nothing was happening so I called the 0800 number for the VNF and a sleepy sounding woman agreed she would open the lock for us. That’s when things took a turn for the dramatic. 

Can I just say I do feel sorry for the rental boat hirers who get thrust into an often large boat with very little instruction (and if there is instruction you can count on it being in French so too bad if you’re not boat-speak-french fluent). 

So what happened was a rental boat followed us into the lock. We put our ropes on and so did they. All good so far. They agreed we could set the lock in motion. What we couldn’t see was the Italian guy in the hire boat had tied the back rope to the insert bollard in a knot. So as the water started filling (we were ascending) the  knot tighten and the back of their boat stayed at the bottom of the lock while their front floated up. That’s when the screaming started. The Italian was yelling “Stop. Stop!!”, his Indonesian girlfriend was screaming at him, “You should never tie your rope in a knot”, Alan was trying to get the emergency stop mechanism (a red pull bar) to work which didn’t. He was yelling back “Get a knife, cut your rope!!” The back of their boat was in a vertical angle and half the stuff on the back deck slid into the water. We were still ascending and Alan climbed the ladder with our knife but the girlfriend had finally clicked and raced into their galley for a bread knife and finally this poor hire boat was freed, bouncing up with a nasty grinding sound. This drama was played out to an audience of about 10 tourists who had stopped to watch the boats going through a lock and got more of a spectacle than they bargained for. I bet they’ve all been put off any thoughts of canal boating in their future. 

That was the first half hour of our day. After we motored out and got far enough away that we couldn’t hear the shouting match going on behind us we cruised onwards and finally stopped for the day in the basin below the Plan Incliné d’Arzvillier, the boat lift. 

Instead of going up the lift straight away we decided to bike up to the old 17 locks that the lift replaced. All overgrown now with some sad looking old lock cottages but one or two were renovated and looking rather pretty and it was a pleasant bike ride. We lucked into the only spot with power in the basin and enjoyed a warm evening watching the sun go down behind the surrounding hills. 

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A doer-upper, ex lock cottage.

Up at 7am the next morning we moved to the space to queue for the lift and were first in at 8.20. Up and out and then back through the tunnels, we stopped at Hesse for a baguette (5min walk into the village) and we continued on the lovely long stretch of canal with no locks. Hurrah!89A8071B-15D2-40D5-86F1-4D5E69BCFC02

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On our way up.

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Through the tunnels.

We tied up on the side of the canal that night and enjoyed the quiet.

From there we cruised through to Parroy and stayed 2 nights as the mooring there is lovely, shaded and quiet even though there are some campers there as well, the cost was €5 a night plus power which you activate by jetons (tokens) bought from the office, €2.50 for 4 hours so you can choose whether and when you want it. Another bonus of Parroy is a boulangerie van calls at 9.30 every morning. Very handy as there aren’t any shops nearby. There is a lake though, l’Etang de Parroy, a bird sanctuary and fisherman’s paradise. We also saw some yachts on the far side.  

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A great mooring in Parroy

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L’Etang de Parroy

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Two of these machines passed by, really close! What are they, Sarah?

From Parroy we spent the next day or two cruising on to Nancy, the weather having turned cold and raining so not a pleasurable time although the rain stopped for long enough for us to tie up beside a big supermarché so we could stock up our sadly depleted grocery supplies. We finally arrived in Nancy during torrential rain but the weather cleared up the next day and we really enjoyed the sights of Nancy especially the Son et Lumiére, sound and light show, on every evening at 10pm from June to mid September.

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There is a beautiful park to enjoy (Parc de la Pépinière) and lots of historical sights. The main square, Place Stanislas, is massive and all around the edges are bars and restaurants. The port, Bassin St-Georges, is conveniently close to this old part of Nancy and we loved our few days there. We wandered through a ‘vide grenier’ or antiques market, running through the cobblestone streets. Nancy is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture.

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The Craffe Gate, the oldest party of Nancy’s fortifications, 14th century

 

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And now for something completely different! Is it just me or does this apartment hotel look like a cheese grater for a serious wedge of cheese?

Finally it was time for us to move on to our boats winter home of Toul. From Nancy we sailed 35kms, past 3 lifting bridges and through 8 locks, most of which were the big commercial locks which we had to radio through to let them know we wanted to pass. At one of these locks as we cruised though the entrance gates the lock keeper stuck his head out of his control tower window and yelled, “Nouvelle Zelande!” and cheered. We yelled back our greeting and it was a great feeling knowing kiwis are liked around here. And a great last day on the canals!

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A chateau along the Moselle near Liverdun

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Under the bridge into Toul.

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Our last lock of the year perhaps. Shared with a Swiss barge flying the Luxembourg flag.

After 6 hours we arrived in Toul, moored up for probably the last time this year apart from turning the boat around as we do a little maintenance on some scratches we’ve accumulated this year. A bit of TLC and Silver Fern will be back looking as sharp as she usually does. 

We still have 5 weeks before we fly back to NZ and we may do a little train travel to keep us out of mischief so I will probably post again before we depart.

Here are the stats:

Savern to Plan Incliné de St Louis

Engine hours: 4.2

Kms: 17

Locks: 13

Plan Incliné de St Louis to PK216.5

Engine hours: 6

Kms: 35.5

Locks: 4

Tunnels: 2

Boat Lift: 1

PK216.5 to Parroy

Engine hours: 3.7

Kms: 16.5

Locks: 6

Parroy to Crévic

Engine Hours: 3.2

Kms: 15.5

Locks: 4

Crévic to Nancy

Engine hours: 4

Kms: 20.5

Locks: 7

Nancy to Toul

Engine hours: 5.9

Kms: 35

Locks: 8

Swing/lifting bridges: 3

Total year to date:

Engine hours: 154.3

Kms: 860

Locks: 226

Tunnels: 6

Lifting/swing bridges: 7

Boat Lift: 2

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Posted in Canal boat, Canal Marne au Rhin, France, French Canal boating, Holiday 2018, Moselle, Nancy, Parroy, Plan Incliné de St Louis Arzviller, Toul, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Saarburg to Saverne. Back into French waters.

Last time I wrote we were in the pretty town of Saarburg on the Saar river in Southern Germany. It made a lasting impression and we probably should have stayed longer than 1 night. Next time!

We were up and on the water by 7.45 the next morning (August 6th) and ready to face some big locks. 14.5m, 11m and 8m in depth in 7 hours within 50kms kept us busy all day. What we like about the German locks is you call them on the radio and they actually (usually) reply, the locks, while deep, fill from the bottom and with inserted bollards you move your ropes from bollard to bollard as you rise (or fall). No huge gush of water (usually) and everything runs very smoothly. 

We arrived in Saarlouis to find the small 2 boat quay free although the other space was quickly taken by a British couple who live on their boat full time. 

We had a swim in the river followed by a beer in the nearby biergarten. Very refreshing after a long day.

The next day the temperatures soared to 37° as we continued south to Saarbrücken (can you guess we are on the Saar river with every place name starting with Saar…). We had a wee mishap in one of the locks, losing our ropes as a sudden surge dragged the boat away from the side. It was a strange set up whereby, although a long lock we had to go up to the front and a door half way back closed the front off.  But we got the boat under control without loss of life or limb. Or any scratches of the paint work so that’s a win. We tied up in the Osthafen marina, just out of town. That night a storm blew through causing thunder lightening and, at 4am, gale force winds which found us out on the deck in our undies trying to tie down the Bimini to save it blowing away. The temperature was still warm though. We succeeded and went back to bed. The storm blew itself out and the. Next day was 29°, a mild temperature compared to the day before. 

We left Germany that day and cruised into France, tying up in Sarreguemines, a mooring in front of the old Casino and bandstand both beautifully restored. We wandered around town in the evening. 0CEBEC6E-AB73-4EDA-B530-392858C8894BThe next day another storm hit, this time torrential rain catching us while we were exploring the ruined castle on the hill. We sprinted down the hill and through town, stopping to shelter under storefronts and in the bandstand, finally making it back to the boat soaking wet but enjoying the break in the drought. It rained on and off all day but not enough to help with the water reserves in some of the canals. There will be closures before the season ends again this year. Global warming etc.

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Pottery kilns seen throughout this area. This one was built  in 1860, one of 30. The firing lasted 60 to 70 hours and used 9 tons of coal.

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Imagine the pollution 30 of these kilns caused.

From there we stopped at Sarralbe, a free mooring and a nice village with a working water wheel and then Mittersheim where we biked up to the lake with a beach and a busy camping ground. It was a beautiful evening and we celebrated the mild evening temperatures with takeaway pizza, Chianti and listened to blues on the deck. Very pleasant.

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We biked to this nearby lake.

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Pizza, red wine, blues music. Tick.

We have seen quite a few of these pillboxes, a type of blockhouse guardpost, as we are in the area of the Maginot Line, here on the Saar river.

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The next day we finally finished the Saar river and canal and headed east onto the Canal Marne au Rhin (east). Suddenly we started seeing hoards of rental boats, a shock after not seeing any for weeks. They were everywhere, far out numbering any other boats and causing some mayhem in the locks and on the canal. We had tied up for the night on the side of a bank when 4 boats passed by going way too fast causing our mooring pegs to be pulled out and we lost one of them into the water. Very annoyed we decided to move on to a nearby marina and pulled into Niderville, shoe horning ourselves into the last little space on the visitors quay, much to the concern of the Germans in their boat behind us. We now only had one mooring stake so the next day Alan asked at the boat base if they would sell us a new one and the lovely guy came back with 3 old stakes and gave them to us, free. Isn’t that nice!

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Canal de la Marne au Rhin

A couple of days later we headed through 2 tunnels (2.3km and 475m) and then came to the amazing Plan de Arzviller, the boat lift, a highly anticipated event!

The boat lift is pretty incredible. It was built from 1964 to 1968 with the first boats going through in 1969.. You cruise in and tie up in the caisson, essentially a basin of water just like a lock. But instead of the water filling or emptying like it usually does the whole basin is cranked up or down (depending on your direction of travel). It does this with counterweights that move to create the power to lift or lower. This replaces 17 old locks and instead of taking a day it takes 25 mins and most of that time is taken up with squeezing as many boats in as possible, in our case three. 

The vertical height is 44.55m. Filled with water the basin weighs 850 tons! 2 years ago something jammed and the whole thing was shut for a couple of years all up. Luckily for us there were no problems and there’s actually almost a festive mood as tourists line the top and bottom to watch the spectacle. There is a tourist boat that goes up and down and lots of hire boats. A fun experience!

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Approach to the boat lift caisson.

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Tying up inside the caisson

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View from the top before our descent.

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These are the two counter weights moving up as the basin moves down

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Floating bath tub. (Not us)

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Exiting at the bottom.

After we came out we tied up and hooked onto the one free power plug and went for a walk back up to the top. 

Later we cruised on to Lutzelbourg, another four locks away. Two of those locks weren’t working but we sorted it out and tied up after a long but exciting day. There are three areas to moor in Lutzelbourg and the village is lovely with lots of happy friendly people and an epiciere and patisserie/boulangerie.

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Chateau ruins near Lutzelbourg.

We grabbed a very acceptable baguette (I have high standards when it comes to baguettes!) the next morning and headed on to Saverne, following a German cruiser who knew what they were doing, a relief after the dramas with hire boats in the last few days!

We will stay in Saverne for a few days as it’s a lovely town with lots to see and do.

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Saverne marina.

Stats so far this year:

Saarburg to Saarlouis

Engine hours: 6.9

Kms: 49.8

Locks: 3

Saarlouis to Saarbruken

Engine hours: 4.2

Kms: 29.3

Locks: 2

Saarbruken to Sarreguemines:

Engine hours: 3.1

Kms: 17

Locks: 3

Sarreguemines to Sarralbe

Engine hours: 4.1

Kms: 24

Locks: 7

Sarralbe to Mittersheim

Engine hours: 3.9

Kms: 19

Locks:6

Mittersheim to Niderville

Engine hours: 7.5

Kms: 39

Locks: 13

Niderville to Lutzelbourg

Engine hours: 2.9

Kms: 13

Locks: 5

Tunnels: 2

Boat Lift: 1

Lutzelbourg to Saverne

Engine hours: 2.6

Kms: 10

Locks: 9

Total Year to Date;

Engine hours: 127.3

Kms: 720

Locks: 184

Tunnels: 4

Lifting/swing bridges: 4

Boat Lift: 1

 

 

 

 

Posted in Canal boat, Canal boating in Germany, Canal Marne au Rhin, French Canal boating, Holiday 2018, Saar River | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Luxembourg and Germany. Photos.

Here are the photos that go with the last post from the Moselle river in Luxembourg to Germany and the Saar river.

My next post will be out soon.

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Porta Nigra. Roman gate, Trier, Germany

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Trier has many beautiful churches including The Cathedral of St Peter.

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House of the three Magi, built c.1230 when Trier’s medieval city wall was not yet finished each house had to defend itself so the entrance was the ‘window’ on the right accessible only by ladder or wooden staircase that could be pulled up.

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Cloister of the cathedral.

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Loitering in the cloister.

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The Electoral Palace is considered one of the most beautiful of the Rococo palaces in the world.

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Roman Ampitheatre, now used for concerts.

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Hauptmarkt. Trier’s market square.

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When in Germany, eat sausage. Thems the rules. 

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Kiwis catching up at the bar in Konz marina.

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Old Moselle crane

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We took the train to Luxembourg city. This is the Corniche that runs along the Alzette valley on the ramparts. Built by the Spaniards and the French in the 17th century.

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View from the Corniche

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Street view in Luxembourg city

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Grand Ducal Palace, Luxembourg

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Mooring in Konz, Germany

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Sunset, Konz marina.

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Marina in Saarburg, Germany. Steep vineyards all around.

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Crazily steep vineyards all through this part of the Saar river.

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Beautiful Saarburg, Germany

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Restaurants and bars line the pretty waterway in Saarburg, Germany.

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We stopped for a beer!

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Seen from the river this is the ruins of Saarburg Castle, founded as early as 964 by Count Siegfried of Luxembourg. It is one of the oldest mountain castles in Weatern Germany. 

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Saarburg from the river as we left our mooring. 

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This was our view as we motored into this lock on the Saar. At 14.5m deep the Serrig lock is the deepest lock we have been in so far but it filled slowly and was drama free.

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A long way up!

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Half way!

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View from the Saar river.

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Posted in Canal boat, Canal boating in Germany, Canal boating in Luxembourg, French Canal boating, Holiday 2018, Moselle | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Luxembourg and Germany.

Well, sorry it’s been so long since I posted! (Our internet allowance outside France is only 25Gb so no photos on this post. I’ll do a catch up pictorial post when we have more GBs). We’ve had an interesting time including breaking down, getting a rope caught up in a lock while descended and spending an unexpected 9 days in Konz, Germany. 

It all started after we left France behind and cruised into Luxembourg. Maybe the boat wasn’t happy about leaving France. We heard there is cheap diesel in Luxembourg so after the debacle with the rope (we had to cut it with our serrated knife as it caught up on the cleat and the boat was hung up momentarily), we passed Schengen (as in the Schengen Agreement) and stopped in Scheebsange in Luxembourg for a night and to fill up. Fuel was €1.10 as opposed to France’s €1.55 so well worth the stop. We had lunch in the port restaurant and tried to cool off but there’s a heatwave on and the temperatures are in the mid 30s+ everyday. 

After Schwebsange we headed down the Moselle further into Luxembourg and that was when the engine started making a funny noise (technical boating term) and puffing some smoke. Not good. We struggled to find somewhere to moor and as this waterway is busy with commercial traffic and cruise liners we needed somewhere secure. 

We limped into Wasserbillig, onto a rickety old wooden quay and tied up. We found the ‘harbourmaster’ who told us there were no mechanics nearby. It wasn’t ideal but we would have to continue up to Konz. But first we decided to stay put for the night and have a look around Wasserbillig, a small town with a convenient train link to Trier and Luxembourg city. One we would have used from here if we weren’t in urgent need of a mechanic. So the next day we headed out, very slowly, and a very nice Belgian couple, also heading that way, followed us just in case the engine stopped. As I said this waterway is both busy and winding and the thought of having to put the anchor out in the middle of the river and call for help was very scary! 

Anyway we puttered up over the border from Luxembourg and into Germany, to Konz, waved goodbye to our Belgian escort and moored up in the Yachthafen marina, our home for the next 10 days. 

With help from a very nice (and English speaking) local guy, Tassilo, we finally got a mechanic out to the boat (from 40kms away) the following Wednesday and he diagnosed a fuel injector problem. We needed a new one.

During the wait and phone calls we made use of our time. Apart from exploring Konz, we took the train to Trier, a beautiful old city, settled by the Celts 4th century BC and then conquered by the Romans 300 years later. It might be the oldest town in Germany.  We travelling into Trier with some fellow boating Kiwis in port for a couple of days, Mike and June on Contessa and Allen and Sue on Suzette. Evening drinks in the port bar were well deserved after a long hot day sightseeing! 

Another day we biked back into Trier, a 23km round trip in 36° heat probably wasn’t that great an idea but we did it anyway. The bike path along the Moselle is excellent and mostly shaded. 

On Saturday we took a train in the opposite direction, back into Luxembourg and to the capital, also called Luxembourg, 45 mins away. A wealthy city with lots of building going on and lots of history to explore. It was 37° but we still checked out the sights including the Palais de Grand Duke (Luxembourg is a Grand Duchy), the fortifications, towers and beautiful squares. There was a market on in the main square opposite the Hotel de Ville and we stopped for un cafe and to people watch. 

Parked next to us in Konz was a couple, Georg and Viviane on Georiane, who live in Luxembourg and spend weekends on their boat in Konz, Germany. Just lovely people and so helpful, giving us info on the Saar river, next on our trip. Excellent English too which helps since our German is atrocious. 

Finally today, Sunday, we headed out of Konz port and up the Saar river. The first lock was 11.75m deep, quite confronting when you tie up at the bottom and watch a massive concrete door close in on you. But these big locks fill from underneath so the passage up the 11.75m is easy. There are inset bollards which we tied our front and back ropes on and just moved them up to the next one as we rose. No dramas. The engine seems to be ticking along very nicely now. 

We arrived at Saarburg and moored in the small port, just off the river. We biked into the beautiful town with a little canal running through it, lots of outdoor restaurants and bars. Later on we had drinks in the bar at the marina with fellow boatees. 

Next up we head south, further up the Saar river, towards France. 

Stats since last post

Basse-Ham (France) to Schwebsange (Luxembourg)

Engine hours: 3.7

Kms: 24

Locks: 2

Schwebsange to Wasserbillig (Luxembourg)-

Engine hours: 4.1

Kms: 31.2

Locks: 2

Wasserbillig (Lux) to Konz (Germany)-

Engine hours: 1.2

Kms: 6

Locks: 0

Konz (Germany) to Saarburg (Germany)-

Engine hours: 1.8

Kms: 11.7

Locks: 1 

Total so far this year:

Engine hours: 92.1

Kms: 518.9

Locks: 136

Tunnels: 2

Lifting/swing bridges: 4

Posted in French Canal boating | 2 Comments

Toul to Basse-Ham marina, north of Metz.

C007EF7A-531F-4539-8A43-01AFBF22FB37Hurrah! France won the Fifa World Cup final and thank goodness for that. The cacophony of car horns went on for hours with people hanging out of their car windows waving flags and banners and driving round the town. What a great time to be in France. Luckily in Toul we didn’t have the rioting and tear gas dramas of Paris. What is it about football that turns some people so angry. And surely it’s anger as happiness isn’t usually the state of mind one associates with tipping cars over and attacking police. But what do I know. 

Anyway, it was wonderful to see the Toulois (people from Toul) out with their families celebrating and later that night when it was dark, not until 10.30pm here at the moment, the fireworks started in a truly festive spirit. 

Tuesday, July 17 we departed Toul in tandem with fellow kiwis John, Terri and Clarke on Gewa. Boats are being gathered at each lock to save water. The first three locks are small and fine for two boats but later we passed through the enormous commercial locks and two boats already in the lock had to wait for us. 

We stopped for the night at Liverdun, a petit mooring with no power, and it filled up by the evening with 6 boats rafted up. We walked up the steep hill into the town, known as Little Switzerland in Lorraine. The view over the Moselle valley was stunning. It’s such a pretty river. We looked around the church of St Pierre, built from 1184, which holds relics of St Euchaire who was decapitated in 362 in nearby Pompey and sent back to Liverdun on horseback carrying his head in his arms. Lovely. DA5D9C95-D30A-4B36-8A72-7E5767192C1F

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Mooring in Liverdun

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Liverdun’s winding streets

 

The renovated Chateau has the most amazing view of the river from its gardens which were open to the public.

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Le Chareau Corbin

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The Moselle river, view from Liverdun

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That evening we had aperos on our boat with the kiwis from Queenstown and had a lovely evening.

Next morning the two Dutch boats plus an English barge left at 7.30am but I did my yoga and we had a leisurely breakfast, leaving the tie up with Gewa and a German yacht at 9.20am. The first big commercial lock was filled up with 2 big barges, plus the yacht and and our 2 cruisers.

Eventually Gewa turned off towards Nancy and we carried on with the rest of the traffic north and on to Pont á Mousson. The port there is very smart with all the usual services. For us the cost was €15.50 for one night. After a walk over the bridge into town and a delicious Paniché (shandy) at a bar in the square (actually a triangle) we headed back to the boat and tried to cool down. It was stiflingly hot. I’ve been attacked by biting insects during the last week (they do love me) even though I cover myself twice a day in Deet and they are VERY itchy and sore. (I’m pouting). 

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Pont-à-Mousson

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The next morning we were up early and set off for Metz. We entered the first commercial lock which had 3 boats already waiting and the éclusier came down to say they were waiting for another 4 so we had a coffee and talked to the Dutch people we moored with in Liverdun. Once out of the lock 4 of the boats motored past us. I assumine they wanted to get the best spots in the port at Metz but before then there was another lock which we all had to pass together so why race off like that? There’s a whiff of alpha male competitiveness on the Moselle. The psychology is interesting. My ‘engine’ is bigger than yours?

Eventually we took the turn off to the port in Metz which, while big, does fill up fast but we managed to squeeze in on a pontoon amongst mainly German and Dutch boats.

Metz is amazing. Full of history and stunning architecture.

We loved it so much we stayed 5 days. The Son et Lumières shows from 10.30pm to midnight every Friday to Sunday are well worth staying up for with a light show on the cathedral, artists work projected onto lots of different buildings and a water fountain display set to music in the park near the marina.

6E6DE6A3-EB04-4562-902E-19B5FC452E87There is a large covered market and on Saturday a huge outdoor market snaking through the cobblestone alleys and narrow streets. We spent many hours just wandering and stopping for a cafe crème before picking up our lunchtime baguette and heading back to the boat to try and stay cool. The temperatures have been early 30°s and look like going up to mid 30°s for the forecasted future! Cold showers in our togs and then sitting on the deck to drip dry are the best way to bring the body temperature down! 

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Captain with a bit of shopping back to the mooring

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View from our boat in Metz

After our wonderful time in Metz we left port on Tuesday 24th July heading in the direction of Luxembourg. The early morning temps are nice and cool and the day was all blue sky and sunshine, the Moselle wide and gently winding. Later though we went through a canalised portion of the Moselle and it became almost choppy! After the commercial lock in Talange we passed an industrial area with piles of coal or graphite I think. 

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Dropping water on the mounds

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This guy was 172m long!

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A bit of a squeeze. Us leaving a lock, them going in

By lunchtime we had arrived at a new marina just off the river called Basse-Ham at PK261 and we decided to moor there until tomorrow when we will continue north along the Moselle, out of France and into Luxembourg for a couple of days and then we’ll turn off the Mosel and onto the Saar river and into Germany. This will be the first time we have taken the boat out of French waters so we are pretty excited about that. We don’t have a chart book for this area so we’ve cobbled together some info from different sources and I’m sure we’ll be fine. 😂

So here are the stats:

Toul to Liverdun

Engine hours: 2.8

Kms: 16

Locks: 5

Lifting bridges: 1

Liverdun to Pont-à-Mousson

Engine hours: 4.3

Kms: 26

Locks: 3

Pont-à-Mousson to Metz

Engine hours: 3.7

Kms: 30

Locks: 2

Metz to Basse-Ham(pk261)

Engine hours: 4.8

Kms: 38

Locks: 4

Total this year so far:

Engine hours: 81.3

Kms: 446

Locks: 131

Tunnels: 2

Lifting/swing bridges: 4

Posted in French Canal boating, Holiday 2018, Metz | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Charmes to historic Toul.

Last time I wrote we were in Charmes and it has pluses and minuses as a place to moor. The power and water at €9.44 (including tourist tax) was a reasonable price (showers were available at an extra price) and there are shady trees but under those shady trees are parked lots of camping cars, at least 25 while we were there. Also the large overhead bridge was very busy and loud on a Monday morning. Still it was 33° so the power to run the fans was well worth the noise and busyness. 

Still we decided to just stay one night. Up at 7am thanks to the church bells tolling for 10 minutes I did my yoga in a nice cool temperature, Alan nipped into town for baguette, and we were at the first lock when the lights went on at 9am.

We cruised down the canal, leaving the département of Vosges and entering the Meuthes et Moselle. Cycleways run alongside the water and we have seen quite a few cyclists as well as walkers, some stopping to watch us descend in the locks. 

The countryside is full of trees and agriculture, a lot of corn, maize and hay and the heat picked up as the day went on. F9814BA8-A367-41DE-B042-FD5119B317F0

After 6 hours and 13 locks under the 33° sun we called it a day and tied up along the canal under a tree and then an hour later moved over to the other side with better shade in the evening. A lovely quiet spot. 

The next day we leisurely moved 4 kms and 2 locks (one of which broke down and we had a bit of a wait) then pulled into Richardmènil, a quay side mooring with power and a town 800m up a steep hill. The forecasted rain didn’t show up and other than thunder the evening continued to be stiflingly hot. 

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Richardménil 

That delayed rain (further afield there was a lot of hail but we were lucky and the storm bypassed us) eventually arrived in the late afternoon but not before we trekked up the hill to the supermarket and boulangerie for supplies. 

The following day it rained consistently so we stayed put and enjoyed much cooler weather. Well I enjoyed it. Only 18°. Bliss!

So Friday morning dawned a beautiful day and after yoga and breakfast we headed off at 8.50, clearing the next two 3m locks and placing the télécommande (lock remote control) in a metal box at the second lock. From there we were heading into commercial lock country, onto the Moselle. The next lock was a big deep one, 7.10m deep and long enough to fit a 172 metre commercial barge and pusher, luckily there wasn’t one waiting. There are lack of water issues along the Vosges and Moselle at this point in the summer and we waited an hour and a half to complete this lock process due to waiting for another boat to catch up (45 mins) and the slowed down filling and emptying of such a massive lock. The éclusier did come down from her control tower to let us know about the wait so we had coffee and sat around until the other boat (a Finnish yacht) finally arrived. We could have stayed in bed an extra hour but it was fine and the lock filling so slowly made it an easy trip down.

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Onto the Moselle river and the big commercial base at Neuves-Maisons.

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Waiting in the big commercial lock, all by ourselves. 

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Busy crew.

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Finally we were underway after descending 7.2m

We had to wait for the yacht at the next commercial lock as well, their speed much slower than us but it was only 45mins to pass through. Between the big locks the Moselle River has trees all the way, very quiet and peaceful and we took turns lounging up at the bow while the other one drove.

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A friend waiting with us in a lock

By 1430 we arrived at the first of 3 locks in Toul. I called the éclusier on VHF channel 20 and he set up the lock for us, 4.4m deep but only 37m long. The yacht followed us in but once through the lock they carried on while we turned onto the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, through three more locks and a lifting bridge, finally arriving in Toul at 4pm and just managing to squeeze into a mooring space. The port was looking pretty full. 

The reason the port was almost full could have been because that weekend they had a water festival in the port which included water jousting! Small boats with 4 paddlers, 1 person at the rudder and the jouster himself suspended on a metal platform over the top of the rear of the boat wi5 a long metal pole in hand. Teams compete in rounds of jousting, the idea being to paddle at each other then try to push the other jouster off his little ledge. Hilarious to watch! We had an awesome view from the back deck of Silverfern. The event went all weekend with music, food trucks, and lots of other contests. 

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Action shot, jousting in Toul.

Toul, originally known as Tullum Leucorum by the Romans, became a Free Imperial City by the Middle Ages and was annexed to France by King Henry ll in 1552. By 1648 it was one of the Three Bishoprics, the others being Metz (where we are heading soon) and Verdun. This was a province of pre-revolutionary France. The town was sieged during the Franco-Prussian In 1870 and was a primary US air-base during WW1. There is a memorial to the Resistance of this area near the port. So a very long and fascinating war history here. The town is very pretty with a lovely square, loads of bars/restaurants and the remnants of the town’s fortifications everywhere. From 1874-1914 the Toul was one of the strongest fortified towns in the world. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the old masonary and cut stone forts built by the famous fortifications architect Vauban, LouisXIVs military engineer, and the modern Maginot Line concrete and artillary turrets. You can walk all over the ramparts and into the old moat and there are lots of parks and flowers.

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Sheep grazing in the old moat

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The ancient drawbridge  

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Fortifications around Toul

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We have tried four boulangeries and found our favourite. There is even a baguette dispensing machine near the big Cora supermarket which we couldn’t resist trying. The baguette was a little doughy for my taste but not stale or hard. You can smell the baking inside the machine. Heavenly!B001F7D6-CDEF-449F-B6D0-F0BA0C1E4378

The cathedral of St Etienne (1221-1500) dominates the town and gives a Toul the wow factor. With a Romanesque plan and Gothic construction it has a Flamboyant Gothic facade and an amazing cloister built 11th and 14th centuries, one of the largest Gothic cloisters in France.  There is a sound and light show during the summer on the facade which we will be checking out soon.C8D13FFC-A1B6-457F-9073-0525ED071164C94B26B3-1ED4-4E80-B1E6-C2676C5F8DDAC26F113C-5714-498A-A37C-C65BB458EC23

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The cloisters had some very interesting modern art sculpture 

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Wandering back streets of Toul

We’ve met some lovely people here too. Years ago Alan and I were in Paris before we had bought our boat and walked to the Arsenal port to gaze longingly at the lucky people on their boats and ended up chatting to an American couple who had a lovely barge. Here in Toul we met up with Perry and Fran again on Le Canard Qui Rit and they came over for a drink one night. We also had an aperitif with Barry and Margaret Craig on their boat one evening. It turns out they are from Havelock North and actually live in the same street Alan grew up on, Tauroa Rd. Small world is it not?

Deciding how much we liked Toul we inquired about making it our home base this year and a berth was available so we are staying in the North Eastern part of France for at least another year. There are so many sights to see here, especially if you are interested in the history of the two World Wars, but also beautiful cities and stunning architecture. The facilities are good at the port with showers and rubbish disposal and there is a boat mechanic nearby who we introduced ourselves to after a wander down the canal.

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Map of Toul. We are moored near the Porte de France.

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Silverfern amongst the jousting action.

This weekend is the 14th Juillet, France Independence or Bastille Day and we will be checking out the festivities and fireworks. Of course also there’s that small matter of France being in the World Cup Final with the playoff against Croatia on Sunday night to consider. Lord help us if France don’t win is all I’m saying about that! The cacophony of car horns when they won the semifinals went on half the night which just goes to show how much this game will mean on Sunday!

So here are the stats for this week:

Charmes to a wild mooring at PK(per km) 33: 

Engine hours: 5.7

Kms: 27

Locks: 13

PK33 to Richardmenil

Engine hours: 1.5

Kms: 4

Locks: 2

Richardmenil to Toul

Engine hours: 6

Kms: 30

Locks: 9

Lifting bridges: 1

Total this year so far

Engine hours: 65.7

Kms: 336

Locks: 117

Tunnels: 2

Lifting/swing bridges: 3

Posted in Canal boat, Canal des Vosges, Canal Marne au Rhin, French Canal boating, Holiday 2018, Moselle, Richardménil, Toul, Water jousting in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

La Linge, Colmar and Strasbourg by car.

What a week we’ve had. After a few days in Epinal we decided to rent a car and go further afield. The mooring fees are really reasonable (€8 a night) so leaving Silver Fern moored up for a few extra days was a great option. I booked a Peugeot 208 from Europcar on their app for 4 days and the first thing we did was drive to the American war cemetery not far away. It was sobering as these sites always are and immaculately kept.

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The American cemetery in Epinal.

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So many white crosses with quite a few Star of David’s 

We headed up into the mountains, past 1000m, through thick forest until, turning a bend, there was a gorgeous alpine lake at Gérardmer. In winter this is a ski resort and we saw chairlifts and a luge further up. It was a stunning day and we ate our lunch on the waterfront. Spectacular and unexpected. 

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Gérardmer 

After lunch we continued our way to Le Linge high up in the Vosges Mountains, one of the sites of trench warfare between Germany and France in 1914 in what became a fierce unrelenting battle when wave after wave of mountain infantrymen laid siege to the German trenches, hidden in the forest. The German trenches are well preserved on the higher ground and we were able to walk through them. You can’t get into what’s left of the French trenches as there may be unexploded ordinance but the distance between opposing sides in some parts is only a few metres. The statistics are sad. Thousands lost their lives and neither side advanced. Between 1915 and the Armistice both sides had to be content with their positions. 

We looked around the onsite museum and watched a film about the battle. 

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Walking the German trenches

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A small but excellent museum on life in the trenches.

After that fascinating look at a terrible time in France’s history I’m glad to say we continued on to Colmar. What a stunning Alsace town with a little canal running through the old town and pretty buildings and flowers everywhere. We stayed at Hotel Quatorze right in the old town centre and had a fabulous time trying the local cuisine and wines. The Pinot Gris was outstanding. 

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A brief stop in Niedermorschwihr to check out the quirky houses.

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Colmar took my breath away.

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Interesting architecture 

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Loving it!

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The photo ops are endless…

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We hit the local covered market before we left.

The next day we drove to Ribeauville a beautiful alpine village where we had lunch and sampled more Pinot Gris at Louis Sipp’s tasting rooms, purchasing a case of their 2016 vintage. We decided we prefer it to Riesling here. 

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The name of this winemaker is so apt. We may bring some of this purchase home but I’m not making any promises!

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Sipp vineyard on the hill.

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Ribeauville  

After a walk up on the hills, surrounded by vineyards and a large Chateau, we continued down the mountains and into Strasbourg where we stayed two nights at the Hotel Gutenberg, again right in the middle of the old town near the cathedral. 

Strasbourg is much larger than Colmar but the old town is filled with the half timbered houses of this region and a great place to wander the streets. It’s biggest attraction has to be the massive Cathédrale de Notre Dame, in the evenings bathed in light and quite spectacular, inside and out. 

We ate and drank our way around this capital of Alsace and I managed to fit in a little shopping as well! The Sales are on!

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Notre Dame Cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of high or late Gotuic architecture. Construction started 1015, completed 1439.

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Research. Taking one for the team. The beer was gut!

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Finally it was time to drive back to the boat and some eating and drinking rehab (not really). Going back through the mountains we stopped at a couple of war memorials including one to those that lost their lives either escaping the Germans or hiding and assisting escapees aka The Resistance. Their bravery is commemorated in this Raon-sur-Plaine memorial. 

Back in Epinal our boat was still floating, always a bonus, haha. Actually this waterway is slowly getting shallower as the temperatures push 33° and early this morning we untied and carefully retraced our steps along the Epinal Embranchement, grazing something on the bottom only once. Result!

We headed North along the Canal des Vosges, continuing to descend, through 16 locks in about 26kms. The thermometer on the deck hit 38° with the canopy down, a necessity due to the low lock bridges. But that’s in the sun so it’s probably around 33° and there was lovely breeze as we cruise at 8kph, the speed limit on canals. After 6 hours we found a spot to moor in Charmes, tying half on a concrete edge and half on the bank. There are about 10 boats and 25 camping cars all along the banks of the canal so there’s not much privacy to be had. At €9 per night it’s not a bad spot and we recc’ed the town finding the closest boulangerie for tomorrow.

So here are the stats for the last week, keeping in mind we had 4 days away from the boat.

Epinal to Charmes:

Engine hours: 6.2

Kms: 26

Locks: 16

Total this year:

Engine hours: 52.5

Kms: 275

Locks: 93

Tunnels: 2

Lifting/swing bridges:2

Posted in France, French Canal boating | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments