Nancy - Commercy

At last, on Monday the 15th of July, we left Nancy for Toul. Reluctantly, because of the beautiful and interesting city, the free mooring spot, lovely (German) neighbours and the relaxing period of over nine days. Before really leaving we visited the marina on the opposite bank and topped up our water tank. We needed almost one-and-a-half hours to refill our tank and payed a handsome € 10,00 for over 1.500 liters. The tank is in the front of the ship and a full one makes for easier manoeuvering and a better view forward. We had to descend one lock on the canal before reaching La Moselle. On the river we traveled upstream and had to climb again four locks – huge ones, as there are big commercials on the river. This picture is a view of the river just after we entered her.

Another lovely view from La Moselle, this time the romantic situated ‘Château de la Flie’, situated on the bank opposite of the city of Liverdun.

In the late afternoon we left La Moselle, entering Le Canal de la Marne au Rhin Ouest (between Toul and Strasbourg it is the same canal, but with the addition ‘Est’) and planning to go to ‘Port de France’, Toul’s Marina. We ascended the first lock around 6:00PM, needed to do two more locks for the marina and found the remaining two locks closed… So we failed at the last hurdle, so to speak, and although having reached Toul as a city it was not exactly the intended destination. We were forced to wait in front of the lock and wait for the next morning 9:00AM. This picture shows the situation the next morning, when the switched on traffic light shows that the lock is back into service. After contacting the lock keeper on duty (there is an intercom at every lock, not even wrecked by vandals!!) he asked for some patience (‘dix minutes’) as there was a boat coming towards us. We were able to enter the lock at 9:36AM. One has to multiply ten minutes in France by a factor 3,6 apparently…

Toul’s sophisticated harbour, named ‘Port de France’ and reached around 10:00AM after only two locks. This harbour is very popular and offers ample accommodation for cruisers up to a length of around twelve meters. Barges of our size, however, are not really easy to moor here. After some looking and deliberation we were able to moor alongside another barge by the name of ‘Marianne’ - a proper name in France we’d say. We were told the owners were gone for a few weeks. Not that they would have refused us –we like to think not- but this of course was just a convenient circumstance.

Toul is a nice little town and looks attractive, certainly with the flowers blooming, the sun shining and us just enjoying life sitting on an outdoor café, having a cup of ‘café crème’ for some reason suddenly accompanied by a piece of cake.

La cathédrale Saint-Étienne is Toul’s most important church. It is built in gothic style in the 13th century. The cathedral was seriously damaged on the 19th of June 1940 by a bombardment. On the outside a lot of spaces for statues of saints are still visible, but there is not a single statue in sight…

The cathedral has a lovely garden alongside. This abundance of flowers is just too overwhelming to withhold it from our followers.

When wandering the alleys of Toul we spotted a special breed of cat in an open window and wanted to immortalize this striking animal. He/she choosed not to be photographed and disappeared quickly inside the house. End of story one would think but there was the obvious owner of several cats (the first one has blue eyes) with another one and he insisted on us making a picture of a second cat while he sang a song and made the cat dance. We still have not decided whether to laugh or cry about it…

Many towns and cities in this area make us aware of something with ‘La Renaissance’. Toul is no exception. One way of attracting the attention is this couple, evidently representing two people from that particular era. We finally decided to make a picture of these two merry human beings and have examined them thoroughly. We came to the unavoidable conclusion that the male looks like Captain Haddock (from The Adventures of TinTin) (Kapitein Haddock uit ‘Kuifje’) and the female looks like Aunt Sidonia (from Spike and Suzie or Willy and Wanda or Bob et Bobette) (Tante Sidonia uit ‘Suske en Wiske’).

After two nights in Toul we left on Thursday the 18th of July for the next stage of our voyage in the Lorraine region. Although pretty as always the journey was obviously not eventful enough to make pictures on the way. Or it was just too hot – because hot, hot, hot it is already for a pretty long period! That afternoon, after four hours of cruising (working?) and having done twelve locks and a tunnel (‘Souterrain de Foug’), we moored around 3:20PM at Lay-Saint-Remy and that overnight stopping place is what is shown by this picture.

No more locks on Le Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Ouest) today; only a few on Le Canal de la Meuse, our next canal. The latter is a combination of the river Meuse (Maas) and a lateral canal, as the river is still an infant one and not as vast as it will become in Belgium and The Netherlands. When entering Le Canal de la Meuse we passed this huge factory –part of an open air quarry of a specific sort of stone- which is completely covered in a white powder, originating from the quarry. It is stuff that is used everywhere (at least where we have been) in France to pave the surface (of paths, pavements, minor streets) and seems to become more or less solid after having been pulverous initially. The stuff is hard to remove from the outside of, for instance, our ship so we tried to pass the factory as quickly as possible – especially as the wind was blowing from the factory in our direction.

La Meuse comes from the left and will replace the canal for the first time. The sandbanks are formed by the river and the first (green) buoy is visible in the distance. For the odd laypersons among our followers: a green buoy is situated near the left bank and a red buoy near the right bank – always looking downstream. To make things a bit more complicated dig this: when going upstream the right bank is on your left side.

Friday the 19th of July we reached a place called Commercy, a little bit over 1:00PM after having done only five locks and less than 4 hours of being on the move. A piece of cake really! (But the heat wave is still there.) Here we are, moored together with other boats with Dutch people on them (there are far more Dutch than any other nationality, the French included, on the waterways) who wave feebly or try to pronounce the simple word ‘hello’ – if you are lucky, that is. To put it mildly, the Dutch boaters that we have seen are a bit stand-offish. Perhaps the heat is to blame… Having said this, barge owners are mostly friendly and interested in each other -whatever nationality.

To end with, some pictures of the town we still are moored at on Sunday the 21st of July, Commercy. Stanislas Lesczynsky (yes, there he is again) built his favorite palace here. This picture shows what it looks like today. We are not going to bury you with a lot of facts and figures, not only because it is already late at night, but particularly because it is still uncomfortably hot.

Place Charles de Gaulle in Commercy. Just pretty, no more details. Sorry!

Commercy is famous (even world-famous, they claim) for its ‘Madeleines de Commercy’. This are small sponge cakes made famous by the story of Madeleine, a servant of count Stanislas, who made him the cake after the count’s baker had a quarrel in the kitchen and left the palace infuriated, wrecking all the desserts he had created on the way out. Stanislas was very pleased with the cake Madeleine made him and the cake is famous ever since.

This town, Commercy, even has got a genuine velodrome – one of the best in France, according to the information board in front of it. And were we lucky to witness a real cycling trial on the Saturday, or what? It gives an attractive picture of a sport, now abused by doping but once immensely popular.