Nancy, The Meuse & Verdun

Nancy to Verdun (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)

Highlights: Nancy's fabulous Place Stanislas - Toul's Fortifications - The Foug Tunnel - Moselle River - Verdun's Monuments and Battlefields

The stunning Place Stanislas in NancyBarge Nilaya moored just outside the village of Pagny-sur-MeuseYou'll join Barge Nilaya at her mooring right in the heart of the stunning city of Nancy at around four on Saturday afternoon. It's a short walk or tram ride away from Place Stanislas, an architectural gem of a central square created in 1750 and recently fully restored by UNESCO as a breathtaking world heritage monument. Nancy's old town was founded in the 11th century but transformed in the 18th by Stanislas Leczinski, Duke of Lorraine. It is a masterpiece of 18th century town planning. There's lots to see and do in Nancy and you shouldn't miss seeing the Historic Museum of Lorraine while there. Nancy's tourist office can organise private guided tours if you are interested and it's also market day. The opportunities to dine out are vast so its definitely your best course of action tonight. I'll save your welcome dinner for one of the nights when dining out is NOT an option. If you want to arrive in Nancy earlier in the day, you are most welcome to store your bags aboard Barge Nilaya.

During the course of this week Barge Nilaya cruises a variety of different scales of waterway. On Sunday we will pass through two swing bridges and industrial suburbs of Nancy before breaking out of the city onto the mighty Moselle River. It's possible that we'll encounter huge 1500 tonne scrap barges which are en route to the steel works at Neuves-Maisons, maybe even sharing one of the vast ecluses (locks) with them. We'll pass through one of these huge locks at Pompey, moments after joining the Moselle. Barge Nilaya cruises up a stretch of the Moselle overlooked by the impressive 12th century hilltop village of Liverdun below which, subject to one of the very limited spaces being available, I hope to moor and give you a chance to look around the village and its fortifications. Liverdun on the MoselleAfter lunch we cruise up a magnificent, wide, heavily wooded stretch of the River Moselle with our destination today being the City of Toul. After the huge locks encountered on the river, we turn off and enter the 'Canal de la Marne au Rhin' and far more snug, 'Freycinet' sized locks that we'll encounter for the rest of the week. Entering the City, we actually pass under its defensive city walls before mooring in, or just outside the 'Port de France'. In Toul, we have the chance to admire its incredible defensive walls and moats laid out by Vauban in the eighteenth century plus take a look at the intricately detailed facade of the St. Etienne Cathedral built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Toul is another place where I suggest guests dine ashore, because soon we are going 'wild' ish. Sundays can be a tricky day in France because many restaurants are closed. If it's open I recommend 'La Belle Époque' near the station. Alternatively, we'll self cater aboard. 

Commemeration of the 90th anniversary of the battle of Verdun in 2004-2018On Monday morning we'll climb through 12 locks in very quick succession. One thing that becomes clear as we rise is the water! Unless we've had inordinate amounts of rain, the water at the summit is almost transparent and you can see huge fish right under Barge Nilaya. We'll stop for lunch on what we affectionately know as 'picnic island', before cruising through the 500 metre Foug tunnel. Tunnels are always exciting and this is no exception. At times Barge Nilaya's wheelhouse roof will come perilously close to the tunnel ceiling! Tonight, if we can't get on the small pontoon, we'll moor up at a wild location on the towpath near the pretty village of Pagny-sur-Meuse. It's a great place for a barbeque with all the food we stocked up with in Toul. Alternatively you can wander off where a simple restaurant called 'La Favourite' awaits. 

Our mooring at Le KoeursOn Tuesday we branch off the 'Marne au Rhin' onto the beautiful, narrow and mostly rural 'Canal de la Meuse' passing through gorgeous tree lined stretches of meandering canal. We cruise close to the town of Commercy which is famed throughout the world as home to the small sponge cakes known as Madeleines to my closely guarded secret location in a truly wonderful spot a short walk from the villages of Koeur-la-Grande and Koeur-la-Petite. Big and little hearts respectively. The location certainly captured my heart the first time I moored here! Unfortunately amidst all that beauty and just short walk from Barge Nilaya, lies a small unassuming monument on a ridge high above the valley stating that during the first world war between 1914 and 1918, 60,000 men died at this spot for every square metre of land that changed hands between France and Germany. Such a tragic past for what is now such a beautiful spot. 

The Koeurs provide another opportunity to self cater aboard, enjoy a BBQ on the canal side in a perfectly chosen spot that often benefits from unusually terrific sunsets. Occasionally, a wood fired Pizza van visits the village and if its there, we might even pick up some tasty Pizza and have a feast aboard. I usually ask our guests to venture forth to the village epicerie (grocer) for baguettes the following morning. The place is run by a very friendly proprietor. Our wild mooring near VerdunOn Wednesday, while making further progress toward Verdun, we'll stop for a short visit to the small but well kept town of St. Mihiel. Tonight's mooring (unless occupied) is nearly always overgrown but wood supply and weather permitting offers a great place to enjoy an impromptu camp fire under the stars and the chance to put the world to rights until the wee small hours should that take our fancy.

Barge Nilaya cruising on the Canal des Vosges near EpinalOn Thursday, we reach our final destination and the City of Verdun. It's a place forever synonymous with the loss of about 1,000,000 lives in just one year during the carnage, tragedy and bloodbath that was the first world war. But  today, as European city of peace, it's a cosmopolitan place with riverside bars, restaurants and throughout the summer months, a superb series of concerts right on the main quay. It's possible to visit all the main war monuments and memorials from Verdun, such as the trench of Bayonets, Ossuary at Douaumont, Citadel and villages that were simply never rebuilt after the war. Some 90 years on, it is still unsafe to stray from the well marked paths in the old battle area. The tourist information office have a guided tour that operates by bus, but during Barge Nilaya's last three visits, the commentary was only available in French. This tour would need to be arranged on Thursday for Friday, the day you are due to depart Barge Nilaya after breakfast. I'm happy to store your bags aboard until you get back if you'd like to take the 25-30 Euro tour which leaves at 2pm. Friday is also market day in Verdun. The rail journey from Paris to Nancy will take in the region of 90 minutes and return from Verdun to Paris, in the region of two and a half  hours. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Unforeseen circumstances sometimes affect our cruising schedule. These can include, but are not limited to: illness, floods, weather, canal closures, canal maintenance, lack of moorings, bureaucracy, strikes, civil disturbance, acts of god, the engine, and whims and fancies of both skipper, guests and crew. All of these things might cause last minute changes to the above and cruise routes. Although rare, we reserve the right to alter any and all routes accordingly. Flexibility is the name of the game and any such changes cannot be considered grounds for cancellation of the cruise.