So we’ve been moored in the Toul town marina, Port de France, for a month now. The locks into Toul are now shut until late October as they work on the lifting bridge. But if you’re going to spend a lot of time in one place Toul is a great option. There are only a few people on their boats as most have gone home but there are plenty of things to keep us occupied.
The town is so pretty and I’ve written about the history in a post when we were here earlier this year. There is always a new view or another cute house to photograph.
One Sunday we jumped on our bikes and headed to Villey-Le-Sec and it’s 19th century fortress. The ride there and back took a lot longer than expected and with the 2 hour tour going for 4 hours we barely made it back before dark! The tour was all in French but we kept ourselves entertained by chatting to a group of 4 English guys who tour old forts on the same weekend every year as a bit of a boys trip. They were very knowledgeable and without them we would have been a bit stumped although there was a paragraph in the brochure in English.
The fortress of Villey-Le-Sec was part of the defences of Toul following the 1870 war. General Séré de Rivières had it built enclosing the village houses with a wall making it the only fortified village at the end of the 19th century. Built from 1874 to 1879 then modernised up to 1914, it has a 155mm Mougin tower, the only surviving example in working order in the North of France and was equipped with a machine gun turret and two turrets for 75mm cannon, one of which they let off as a demo during our tour. A blank shell of course!
As well as lots of armaments they have imposing concrete barracks with an extensive museum, all beautifully renovated. There is also a 1879 Hotchkiss revolving cannon. All this over a beautiful view towards Toul plus a train ride around the fortress. It was all amazing if only we could have understood the guide who was obviously had a real love of the history of the area. Biking home in the twilight was very pretty and downhill!
Inside the guns
Another day we biked to nearby Choloy where there is a French and Commonwealth War cemetery including New Zealand Airforce personnel who died and were interred elsewhere and brought to Choloy later. We saw the graves of a Stirling Bomber crew from 75 (NZ Squadron) RAF, initially buried in Reims and later moved to in Choloy. A very stirring and humbling visit.
We also attended a local classic car show in front of the Hotel de Ville with lots of gorgeous old Citroen’s and Peugeot’s as well as cars and motorbikes from around the world and just by chance on a walk one Saturday when we went for a walk to old l’Arsenal we came across the annual ‘Forum des Associations’ when all the local associations and groups held a huge open day, touting for new members and doing displays. It was packed and we saw so many people joining up to learn how to ride horses, gymnastics, genealogy, wild life groups, Thai boxing. You name it! Outside the army had a display as did the local skateboarding club. It made me happy to see how the local Touloise participated in their community. Christchurch could learn a thing or two.
We have had the local boat mechanic Jean-Paul Bier on board to fix a few bits and pieces and change the oil etc. He may not speak a word of English but he has a great sense of humour and didn’t seem to mind our fumbling conversations. I think he used to work at Blanquart in St Jean de Losne, our usual wintering port. Boating is a small world.
We met some local wildlife. This is Henri the Heron who uses our boat as a fishing spot.
These are coypu, sort of a cross between a beaver and a water rat. These two were small and quite tame. Very cute.
Every evening hundreds of the local rook community arrive for a chat and swoop before resting in the trees surrounding the port. Talk about raucous but I love it.
Now with only have a few days before we head back to New Zealand. On Wednesday we plan to take the train to Nancy, celebrate my birthday with lunch out somewhere nice, then pick up a rental car and bring it back to Toul. On Saturday having finished the cleaning and winterising of the boat, we’ll drive to the airport in Paris. The plan is to stay the night at an Airport Hotel (Holiday Inn Express this year) so we are close to the action on Sunday, our checkin time is 10am. Hopefully this all goes to plan and we arrive home on Tuesday morning, October 9th.
This year has been a real highlight of our travels so far. We loved the rural feel of the Canal des Vosges and so glad we hired a car and visited further into the Alsace region, to Strasbourg and Colmar. Cruising up into Luxembourg and Germany was amazing, even though we had a little engine issue, the German mechanic was excellent, albeit expensive. The cheap tax free fuel in Luxembourg helped! The Moselle is a beautiful river, well worth seeing and the Canal des Sarre was another highlight. I guess the most exciting thing this year was the boat lift, the Inclined Plane at Arzviller. An experience not to be missed if you ever get the chance.
Looking ahead to next year we may head further north to see Verdun and then perhaps on to Belgium. We shall see! Once back in NZ we have plans to hit the road on our soon to be purchased motor home which we are planning on calling ‘Riley’ as in The Life of Riley so stay tuned for our next adventure!
Here’s a recap of this years Silver Fern stats:
Total engine hours: 154.3
Total kms: 860
Total locks passed: 226
Total tunnels: 6
Total lifting or swing bridges: 7
Boat Lift: 2
À la prochaine fois!