We left St Mihiel early on 30 May and headed north, stopping at Lacroix-sur-Meuse, only 9kms along the canal. We were tied up for the day by 10am! It was Ascension Day and on our walk through the village we saw families gathering to celebrate. The village is quiet with an Epicerie/boulangerie which was closed the next morning although the hours on the door said it would be open. Viva la France.
The next morning we arrived at the first lock of the day to find our éclusier ready and waiting as promised when we spoke to them the day before. Fantastic service! It was a longish day, 27kms, 7 locks and 5 hours with 3 different éclusiers. At the final lock before the Verdun mooring we passed under the city walls and into the lock where we had to wait 20 minutes for the local tourist boat to enter the lock behind us and we descended into Verdun. There was a Silver Fern sized space on the Quai de Londres right in front of the bars and restaurants. Parfait. We moored up, plugged into power (free) and decided to stay a while!
Over the next week we did all the touristy things you do in a town with such history. The local Visitors Centre set us off on a self guided walk, checking out 20 must see sights including Porte Chausée, a fortified gatehouse dating back to the 14th century when Verdun was made an “imperial free city” which meant the town had to maintain its own ramparts to defend itself from attack.
The Monument to Verdun, built after WWI, has 73 steps leading to an enormous statue of a Frankish warrior leaning on his sword and looking to the Eastern frontier and symbolises the French victories of the Battle of Verdun 1916 and Armistice of 1918.
Another war memorial erected in 1928 and dedicated to those who died in both World Wars, shows five arms of service, a cavalryman, an engineer sapper, an infantryman, an artillaryman and a reservist. The motto of the city, On Ne Passe Pas, They Shall Not Pass, is inscribed here and is the Verdun’s motto. At night the statues light up in red white and blue. Very moving.
We also checked out the Souterrain Citadel, the Underground Citadel and went on the tour which includes a train ride. The citadel was constructed from 1623 when France was defending itself from Germany, (not much changes). The Franco-Prussian war of 1871 saw Verdun become a major fortress close of the frontier. 16m below the surface the Engineers carved out munitions stores, barracks, kitchens and war rooms. The tour shows the daily life of French soldiers in 1916 with light and sound (we each had an English language headset) and it was excellent, well worth the €9 each.
Suffice to say Verdun is an amazing town with so much to see, not all of it war related, going back 30 centuries. We stayed a while, fixing a small fresh water tank issue and then Alan has been watching the Cricket World Cup. We’ve walked all over the town, every evening enjoying another stroll amongst the diners and drinkers on the quay.
One night, at about 2.30am, we had a couple of ‘visitors’ on our swim platform, perhaps trying to steal our flag, and Alan had to confront them and tell them to f*** off which they did. Unfortunately they came back carrying a couple of rubbish bins, dumping them on our neighbours deck. Idiots. It hasn’t happened again but each night we bring our flag in just in case!
The vast majority of boats coming through here are Dutch, heading south for the summer, but that changed in the last couple of days with enough Kiwi and Aussie boats to warrant sharing a few drinks on the quay. The port is always busy, both on the water and on the bustling quay with all the bars and restaurants. We are really loving it but have to leave sometime so we’ll be off on Monday morning heading further north towards Belgium.
Market day is Friday.
Here are a few other photos from our Verdun stay.
There was a military recruiting drive while we were in Verdun.
The journey this post:
St Mihiel – Lacroix-sur-Meuse
Engine hours : 1.5
Kms : 9
Locks : 2 (manual)
Lacroix-sur-Meuse – Verdun
Engine hours: 4.7
Locks : 7
Tunnel : 1
Year so far:
Engine hours : 16.6
Kms : 85
Locks : 31
Tunnels : 2