Verdun, Meuse & Moselle to Nancy Barge Cruise
|Verdun to Nancy (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)|
Highlights: Fabulous Nancy - Place Stanislas - Toul's Fortifications - The Foug Tunnel - Moselle River - Verdun's monuments and Battlefields
You'll join the barge at around 4pm on a Saturday in 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 the barge's last three visits, the commentary was only available in French. The tour has to be booked 24 hours in advance and leaves from central Verdun at 2pm. If you'd like to take the 25-30 Euro per person tour and are arriving in time, I can organise the reservation for you when the barge arrives on Friday morning. You can drop your bags into the barge, grab a quick shower then head off on the tour. The opportunities to dine out in Verdun are good, so its definitely your best course of action tonight. I'll postpone your welcome dinner until tomorrows wild mooring.
On Sunday, we are heading through to the first of the weeks 'wild' locations unless we find it occupied. The site is nearly always overgrown but wood supply and weather permitting, it 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. Tonight I'll cook your hearty welcome aboard dinner.
During the course of this week the barge cruises a variety of different scales of waterway. On Monday we cruise the beautiful, narrow and mostly rural 'Canal de la Meuse' passing through gorgeous tree lined stretches of meandering canal. We pass the town of Commercy which is famed throughout the world as home to the small sponge cakes known as Madeleines. We'll make a brief stop for a visit to the small but well kept town of St. Mihiel before cruising on to tonight's 'secret' location and 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 the barge, 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 place.
The Koeurs provide an opportunity for you to self cater aboard or 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.
On Tuesday, we'll be mooring up at a another wild location on the towpath near the pretty village of Pagny-sur-Meuse. It's yet another great place for a barbeque with all the food we stocked up with in St. Mihiel. Alternatively you can wander off into the village where a pleasant restaurant called 'La Favourite' awaits. You'll have noticed that as we've cruised, the canal water has become amazingly clear (unless we've had inordinate amounts of rain). So much so, you can clearly see huge fish under the barge!
On Wednesday we cruise through the 500 metre Foug tunnel en-route to what we affectionately call 'picnic island'. Tunnels are always exciting and this is no exception. At times the barge's wheelhouse roof will come perilously close to the tunnel ceiling! After a light lunch on the island, we'll descend through 12 locks in very quick succession, mooring in, or just outside the City of Toul's 'Port de France'. We have the chance to admire the 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. If it's open, I recommend 'La Belle Époque' near the station for some reasonably priced tasty food. Alternatively, you can self cater aboard.
On Thursday we actually pass under Toul's defensive city walls before cruising up a magnificent, wide, heavily wooded stretch of the River Moselle with our initial destination today being the impressive 12th century hilltop village of Liverdun. 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. After the snug 'Freycinet' sized locks we've encountered so far this week, you'll be staggered by the vast ecluses encountered on the Moselle!
Later, we cruise further down the mighty Moselle river, possibly encountering huge 1500 tonne scrap barges which are en route to either the steel works at Neuves-Maisons or The Rhine in Germany. We might even end up sharing one of the vast ecluses (locks) with one of them. The final approach to Nancy is through a rather shabby industrial suburb but our mooring is a lovely spot, right in the heart of this stunning city. It's just 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's a masterpiece of 18th century town planning. There's lots to see and do 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. Dining out in one of the Cities chic restaurants would round off you cruise nicely.
You are due to leave the barge after breakfast on Friday. It's market day and there is probably still lots you want to see or do, so you are most welcome to store your bags aboard the barge and pick them up later in the day. The rail journey from Paris to Verdun will take in the region of three to four hours and Nancy to Paris 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.
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