You'll join Barge Nilaya in the gorgeous park like setting of the Port d'Epinal. Saturday's market day in Epinal, so if you'd like to arrive earlier, you're welcome to drop off your bags at Barge Nilaya before walking into town. Epinal's 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.
This morning we cruise out of Epinal along the tranquil, but incredibly shallow Epinal branch of the Canal des Vosges. We soon find ourselves working Barge Nilaya up through a flight of fourteen locks known as the Montee-de-Golbey. It's easy to hop on and off as we go. Once we reach the summit of the canal, we'll moor for lunch before heading on to Girancourt, a small agricultural hamlet high in the Vosges. Today's route, like much of this weeks cruising offers fantastic opportunities to cycle or walk alongside Barge Nilaya. In fact, from day two, it's pretty much all downhill and you could probably coast the whole way. Now that's my kind of cycling! Tonight we'll enjoy a gorgeous dinner aboard.
Navigating the Canal des Vosges 'over the top' takes Barge Nilaya through the watershed dividing north and southern France. Water from here flows to either the North or Mediterranean Sea. It's an intensely rural route passing through extremely picturesque, densely wooded countryside and for the most part, small villages. Today we shadow the River Coney and on occasions Barge Nilaya follows narrow steeply sided cuttings barely wide enough for two boats to pass. The area is rich with deer and wild boar, so if you keep your eyes peeled, you might even be lucky enough to see some. Assuming we get a good start, we hope to decend to Melomenil and take lunch ashore at an amazingly simple Ferme Auberge 'time capsule' that specialises in home grown and reared food. We might decide to stay the night here or decend further to the pretty moorings at the Pont de Coney. The spa town of Bain le Bains lies an energetic uphill bike ride away!
During todays beautifully meandering cruise, we encounter the fascinating industrial copper smelting village of La Manufacture nestling in its sleepy valley setting. It started life as a tinplate factory in the 18th century reaching a peak production of 5000 tonnes a year. The owners grand home and church are surrounded by the canalside manufacturing buildings constructed in the 1700's. Due to lack of suitable moorings, we'll cruise on by but have an opportunity to return later by bike or car and wander round its parkland setting. Todays mooring is once fortified Fontenoy-le-Chateau. Its another delightful little spot set in a deep valley and the village and church are definitely worth exploration. The place has a population that's 30% Dutch. We'll arrive in time for lunch and dinner will be taken ashore in the evening at your own expense.
Waving goodbye to Fontenoy le Chateau, we navigate our big barge though a very narrow traffic light controlled canal cut blasted through solid rock. We then decend through loads more locks and beautifully meandering bucolic landscapes. I can't stress how stunningly gorgeous this route is! We'll have a light lunch on the hoof as we reach another little hamlet called Selles. Selles has a magnificent 'Pont Tournant' or rotating bridge dating back to when the canal was built. This will have to be manually opened for us by special appointment. Selles has an interesting cheese producer, great boulangerie and small restaurant where you can dine ashore tonight.
Our last days cruising takes us through to the small town of Corre. Once a great manufacturing centre, its sort of lost any purpose in the modern world, but now is slowly reinventing itself as a tourist centre by development of a large pleasure marina. Corre marks the terminus of the Canal des Vosges and beyond its last lock lies the highest navigable reach of the River Saone which heads south, forms the Rhone and drains into the Mediteranean sea.
In the afternoon, we'll drive you to visit France's oldest glassworks at La Rochere. They still produce the most amazing quality lamps and tablewear, some of which we use aboard Nilaya. Donight you'll take dinner ashore at a simple little restaurant overlooking the towns marina.
You'll be leaving Nilaya after breakfast, by about ten and we'll drive you to a nearby train station for your onward travels. Corre's a little remote hense our needing to have 'Frodo', our Ford mini van with us and possible onward desinations might mean one of three different mainline stations serving different parts of France. Most guests opt for Vesoul.
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.