|Epinal to Corre and Port-sur-Saone (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)|
Highlights: Epinal's Imagerie - The Canal des Vosges - Intensely picturesque rural route - Wonderful wooded scenery - Great cycling or walking opportunities
You'll join the barge in the gorgeous park like setting of the Port d'Epinal. Saturday is market day in Epinal, so if you'd like to arrive earlier, you are welcome to drop off your bags at the barge before walking into town. 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.
The city is surrounded by forests that open up endless possibilities for walking, cycling and off road mountain biking. Epinal's also a great place to eat out. Because we are mooring in remote locations for much of the week, I suggest you take the opportunity to dine ashore on your first night, possibly splurging at the Michelin rated 'Relais des Ducs de Lorraine' or any one of a number of excellent restaurants in town. We can enjoy my 'welcome aboard dinner' later in the week.
Our cruise begins on Sunday morning by following the tranquil Epinal branch of the Canal des Vosges. We soon find ourselves working the barge through a flight of fourteen locks known as the Montee-de-Golbey. Tonight we'll be mooring miles from anywhere, high in the Vosges. Today's route, like much of this weeks cruising offers fantastic opportunities to cycle or walk alongside the barge. In fact, from day two, it's all downhill! You could probably coast the whole way. Now that's my kind of cycling!
Navigating the Canal des Vosges 'over the top' takes the barge 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. We'll be mooring in wonderfully quiet locations to soak up the wonders of nature providing excellent opportunities to BBQ, dine al fresco and explore new locales by bike or on foot. Much of the route shadows the River Coney and on occasions the barge follows narrow steeply sided cuttings barely wide enough for two boats to pass. The area is rich with deer and wild boar. You never know, we might be lucky enough to see some?
Monday night's mooring is another super 'wild' spot where we'll self cater aboard or BBQ on the canal side. We might find ourselves in the company of other boats, and impromptu parties are not uncommon! A 10km return cycle could take you to the Roman founded spa town of Bain-le-Bains. Alternatively, enjoy a glass of wine and soak up the natural surroundings.
On Tuesday we encounter the fascinating industrial 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 manufacturing buildings constructed in the 1700's. Unfortunately, due to lack of suitable moorings, we'll have to cruise by. Should you wish to wander round its parkland setting, you can return by bike later cycling the four kilometres back along the towpath from our mooring in Fontenoy-le-Chateau. The once fortified Fontenoy is another delightful little spot set in the valley and the village and church are definitely worthy of exploration. The place has, I understand, a population that's 30% Dutch.
After an early start, Wednesday's a full days cruising through to the agricultural village of Ormoy. In contrast to the the wonderful woodland encountered between Epinal and Corre, 'La Petite Saone' offers the contrast of broad pastureland and meadow through to our arrival in the thriving town of Port-sur-Saone on Thursday afternoon. During our final days cruise we pass by the ruined chateau of Conflandey sitting overgrown on an island in the river.
Port-sur-Saone is a nice little place and it's worth checking out the 18th Century St. Etienne church. There is a good choice of restaurants so dining ashore might prove of interesting after all those meals self catered aboard.
You are due to leave the barge after breakfast on Friday, but it's market day in the town, so if you want to have a look round, you're welcome to leave your bags aboard and pick them up later in the day. The journey from Port-sur-Saone to Paris (via Vesoul) takes around five hours and Paris to Epinal as little as 2 hours 15 minutes. If arriving by car, the rail journey back to Epinal takes about two hours from Port-sur-Saone.
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.