|Nancy to Epinal Barge Cruise|
Highlights: The Canal des Vosges - Nancy's stunning Place Stanislas - Epinal's Imagerie - Liverdun and the Moselle - Toul's impressive fortifications
You'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 tomorrow night 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 for the night and give you a chance to look around the village and its fortifications. Tonight we'll enjoy the welcome dinner aboard.
On Monday morning we cruise a wide, heavily wooded stretch of the River Moselle with our destination today being the City of Toul. We turn off the Moselle and enter the 'Canal de la Marne au Rhin'. Entering Toul, we actually pass under its defensive city walls before mooring in, or just outside the 'Port de France'. You'll have the opportunity to admire Toul's 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. Mondays 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. On Tuesday after retracing our steps back to the Moselle, we cruise a broad reach of river that initially provides a great view of Toul's cathedral. At Neuves-Maisons we trade in the vast ecluses (locks) of the Moselle in favour of the snug 'Freycinet' sized locks which we'll encounter for the rest of the week. Crossing a short steelworks loading area from one of these monster locks built in the 1970's into a Freycinet sized one built a hundred years earlier clearly demonstrates the dramatic difference in scale a century makes.
Right through to Thaon-les-Vosges, the ecluses are manually operated using age old mechanical technology to raise and lower the water level within. The eclusiers are often students on summer leave and grateful for a bit of assistance should you fancy helping out. Tonight we moor at or just beyond Richardmenil. Tonight we can self cater aboard or you might rather walk up the very steep hill to the Auberge in the village.
Wednesday's cruising is a tranquil tree lined section of canal and I plan to stop in either Charmes or the small village of Nomexy somewhat further on . Charmes has a pretty tragic history having suffered plague, famines, fires and war with great regularity. One of the most recent tragedies was committed by retreating Nazi's at the end of world war two. Just 7 days before the town was liberated by the Americans, 160 inhabitants of the town were transported to the death camps never to return and that same night a terrible fire razed the town to the ground. I'll make sure that we're careful with the BBQ! Charmes has a couple of restaurants, so eating out is also a possibility.
On Thursday we cruise more scenic waterway and after a short, slightly industrial stretch beyond Thaon, instead of continuing up the Montee de Golbey flight of locks and beginning a route that could end at the Mediterranean, we turn left entering a tranquil branch of the Canal des Vosges, eventually arriving in the park like setting of the Port d'Epinal. Epinal is a pleasant Vosges town offering good shopping, a wide selection of cafes, bars and restaurants together with museums and the world famous Imagerie d'Epinal. The Cite de l'Image museum has an outstanding collection of over 23,000 17th-20th century prints and woodcuts (print blocks) from all over France. Epinal's also a great place to eat out. You might fancy 'splurging' on your last night at the Michelin rated 'Relais des Ducs de Lorraine' or any one of a number of excellent restaurants in town. 'Le Capitainerie' right in the Port would also be an easy and excellent choice.
You are due to leave Barge Nilaya after breakfast on Friday. The rail journey from Epinal to Paris will take in the region of four and a half hours and Paris to Nancy in the region of four hours. More detailed train times can be researched at SNCF the French rail operator.
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.