Uzemain - Richardménil

Last week we ended saying that on Monday we'd travel to Épinal. That proved to be a bit too ambitious. We cruised for almost 5 hours, climbed 17 locks and ended up in a place called Girancourt - see the picture. This was it for the day! Only one more lock to climb, tomorrow, and the summit level will be reached.

Before leaving Girancourt we looked for a bakery and discovered this 'lavoir', a public place for the washing of clothes. And exchanging the latest news, perhaps gossip, during the process. This one is dated in the second quarter of the XIXth century.

A bakery (boulangerie) was not to be found in Girancourt, simply because there isn't one. This is, unfortunately, no exception as a great number of small shop have disappeared from the villages. But, oh miracle, we found this vending machine. We knew of vending machines for cigarettes, sweets, soft drinks, snacks and even contraceptives. And now we can add bread to the list. The same price for everything, be it a baguette or a croissant: one euro. The machine accepts all coins, so do not despair if your purse containes only small change!

Just before leaving Girancourt village we noticed this nonsensical slogan, used by the supermarket-chain Intermarché. It makes one think of one of Tesco's outrageous slogans 'Helping you spend less every day'. They are all genuine altruists, aren't they?

Tuesday the 4th of June we left informative Girancourt, climbed one lock and reached summit level on the Canal des Vosges, 360,57 meters above sea level. The builders were able to avoid the construction of a tunnel. As you can see the only difference is the absence of a roof. Well, it is a little bit wider than most tunnels, to be honest. Passing an oncoming boat is do-able, though tricky.

Beside most locks on the Canal des Vosges this type of small lock keeper's shelter (with control panel inside) is erected. As all the locks on this canal are automated by a remote control, given out to every single boat, a shelter is only opened/used in case of an emergency - subsequently unmanned, in particular during the night. This gives the odd idiot a change to cause some senseless destruction - sometimes to the equipment inside too. No further comment; we leave that to your own imagination....

When approaching Épinal we crossed La Moselle for the first time. So 'water-wise' speaking we are on the 'Atlantic-side' of France again after descending from the summit level of the canal. La Moselle after all is a tributary to the Rine and its water will eventually end up in the North Sea/Atlantic Ocean. Good bye 'Mediterranian-side', for the time being that is.

Épinal Harbour, reached on that same Tuesday after 5 hours of cruising including 15 locks - one uphill, fourteen downhill.

La Moselle divides Épinal into two parts: the old city on the right bank and the new(er) city inescapable on the other. All European countries (at least that's what we think) are honoured by their national flag. For our fellow countryman -and every one else who might be interested- we are the third on the right. Did you know that the flag of The Netherlands is the oldest tricolour and an inspiration for the flag of other countries - and New York City?

The old city of Épinal is well worth a visit. This is the Place des Vosges, where we had lunch. Outside! Summer seems to be approaching slowly. We hope. (We discovered a Lidl-supermarket too. No picture of it. Sorry.)

After having stayed at Épinal for two nights we left on Thursday the 6th. It took some 6,5 hours of cruising and descending 16 locks before we ended up in a charming place, subsequently called Charmes. There was just one spot left that accepted a 60-foot (18,31 meters) boat, so we felt very pleased. It was next to the bridge over the canal. For a change we were able to make an aerial picture. The sun burns merciless, forcing us to cover the windows of the wheelhouse, thus reducing the heat from unbearable to unpleasant. Just joking, we're glad it's possible to sit outside during the evening at long last. There was even a choise between shade or not. Yes, we preferred the shade.

Some people in Charmes demonstrate an unlimited trust in their fellow human beings. Or is it stupidity? Carelesness? Forgetfulness? Simply hurry? Window open, the bag there for the taking, no owner in sight. This is obviously not the best way to reduce the crime-statistics...

Still being narrowboaters, we bought this funny little barbecue set at least 4 years ago. At Tesco’s in Kidlington, close to Oxford, when moored at Thrupp on the Oxford Canal . (This for the insiders.) Memories, memories! Anyway, we never used the thing until Saturday the 8th of June in Charmes. It worked, more or less. We still have to define whether the set is substandard or the (male) operator. Or perhaps the meat... Lidl-meat, what can one expect?? (For the second time Tesco as well as Lidl. Enough of them for this time.)

The situation in Charmes is like this: the camper car-inhabitants gaze at the boats - and the other way around. Boats in the water, camper cars safely behind the canal dike, sharing the grassy strip in between. The weather was very good, electricity (only 6 amps, we need 16) and water were available. We stayed not for one but even for three nights.

Sunday the 9th of June we finally left Charmes to cruise further to the north/northwest towards Nancy where a family member will join us in a few days. On the way we again encountered an aquaduct crossing La Moselle, immediately followed by a lock. It's one way traffic, hence the traffic light. Dubble red: don't even consider moving; single red: stay where you are; red and green combined: it's registered what you want, we're working on it; green: go! We once crossed the red/green combination unconciously. The system had to be reset by an alarmed VNF-employee - friendly as ever. Once bitten, twice shy. Or, in Dutch: een ezel stoot zich in 't gemeen...... etc.

We cannot resist the temptation to present a second picture of the combination aquaduct/Moselle to you. It's sooooooooo pretty!

Just before descending the lock behind the aquaduct (the gates are closed already) our helmswoman photographed the rearview. Les Vosges are very pretty indeed! And this pic gives us the opportunity to show you that our boat recently was decorated with (three) flower boxes. In it are Impatiens - we forgot which variant.

Late on the Sunday-afternoon, around 6:45, we reached Richardménil after eight hours of cruising. The 15 locks of this day included, we negotiated a total of 91 locks on Les Canal des Vosges. As you can see this spot looks really idillic. Tomorrow Nancy! About that, and more, next week.