Saverne is a big and very prettily flowered town with the stunning Chateau Rohan opposite the boat harbour. The Grande Rue is cobblestoned and has lots of shops, bars and restaurants.
The last lock into Saverne takes you past the Chateau and on our first glimpse we saw a llama which seemed incongruous! Turned out there was a horse-clown show on the lawns in front of the Chateau! Unexpected! This is the Chateau Rohan from the town side (left) and from the water (right).
We stayed in Saverne for five days, enjoying the ambiance and festivals including a wheelbarrow race around town and two nights of music on the quay. We visited the Cloisters des Récollete,
had a look inside the Chateau (now housing a museum) and took a taxi up to the Chateau du Haut-Barr and then walked back down through the forest. This Chateau was nicknamed The Eye of Alsace and was built on three rocks 470m above the plain. The original medieval castle was ruins from the 12th century but it occupied a strategic position between the Lorraine plateau and the Alsace plain and the current Chateau was built in 1583. We could just make out the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral in the hazy distance from the ramparts.
Eventually it was time to move on and having come as far east as we will be on the boat this year (we visited Strasbourg by rental car from Epinal in June) we were up early on Monday morning (20 August) and at the first lock (5.5m deep) at 7.45am. The red light was on and nothing was happening so I called the 0800 number for the VNF and a sleepy sounding woman agreed she would open the lock for us. That’s when things took a turn for the dramatic.
Can I just say I do feel sorry for the rental boat hirers who get thrust into an often large boat with very little instruction (and if there is instruction you can count on it being in French so too bad if you’re not boat-speak-french fluent).
So what happened was a rental boat followed us into the lock. We put our ropes on and so did they. All good so far. They agreed we could set the lock in motion. What we couldn’t see was the Italian guy in the hire boat had tied the back rope to the insert bollard in a knot. So as the water started filling (we were ascending) the knot tighten and the back of their boat stayed at the bottom of the lock while their front floated up. That’s when the screaming started. The Italian was yelling “Stop. Stop!!”, his Indonesian girlfriend was screaming at him, “You should never tie your rope in a knot”, Alan was trying to get the emergency stop mechanism (a red pull bar) to work which didn’t. He was yelling back “Get a knife, cut your rope!!” The back of their boat was in a vertical angle and half the stuff on the back deck slid into the water. We were still ascending and Alan climbed the ladder with our knife but the girlfriend had finally clicked and raced into their galley for a bread knife and finally this poor hire boat was freed, bouncing up with a nasty grinding sound. This drama was played out to an audience of about 10 tourists who had stopped to watch the boats going through a lock and got more of a spectacle than they bargained for. I bet they’ve all been put off any thoughts of canal boating in their future.
That was the first half hour of our day. After we motored out and got far enough away that we couldn’t hear the shouting match going on behind us we cruised onwards and finally stopped for the day in the basin below the Plan Incliné d’Arzvillier, the boat lift.
Instead of going up the lift straight away we decided to bike up to the old 17 locks that the lift replaced. All overgrown now with some sad looking old lock cottages but one or two were renovated and looking rather pretty and it was a pleasant bike ride. We lucked into the only spot with power in the basin and enjoyed a warm evening watching the sun go down behind the surrounding hills.
Up at 7am the next morning we moved to the space to queue for the lift and were first in at 8.20. Up and out and then back through the tunnels, we stopped at Hesse for a baguette (5min walk into the village) and we continued on the lovely long stretch of canal with no locks. Hurrah!
We tied up on the side of the canal that night and enjoyed the quiet.
From there we cruised through to Parroy and stayed 2 nights as the mooring there is lovely, shaded and quiet even though there are some campers there as well, the cost was €5 a night plus power which you activate by jetons (tokens) bought from the office, €2.50 for 4 hours so you can choose whether and when you want it. Another bonus of Parroy is a boulangerie van calls at 9.30 every morning. Very handy as there aren’t any shops nearby. There is a lake though, l’Etang de Parroy, a bird sanctuary and fisherman’s paradise. We also saw some yachts on the far side.
From Parroy we spent the next day or two cruising on to Nancy, the weather having turned cold and raining so not a pleasurable time although the rain stopped for long enough for us to tie up beside a big supermarché so we could stock up our sadly depleted grocery supplies. We finally arrived in Nancy during torrential rain but the weather cleared up the next day and we really enjoyed the sights of Nancy especially the Son et Lumiére, sound and light show, on every evening at 10pm from June to mid September.
There is a beautiful park to enjoy (Parc de la Pépinière) and lots of historical sights. The main square, Place Stanislas, is massive and all around the edges are bars and restaurants. The port, Bassin St-Georges, is conveniently close to this old part of Nancy and we loved our few days there. We wandered through a ‘vide grenier’ or antiques market, running through the cobblestone streets. Nancy is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture.
Finally it was time for us to move on to our boats winter home of Toul. From Nancy we sailed 35kms, past 3 lifting bridges and through 8 locks, most of which were the big commercial locks which we had to radio through to let them know we wanted to pass. At one of these locks as we cruised though the entrance gates the lock keeper stuck his head out of his control tower window and yelled, “Nouvelle Zelande!” and cheered. We yelled back our greeting and it was a great feeling knowing kiwis are liked around here. And a great last day on the canals!
After 6 hours we arrived in Toul, moored up for probably the last time this year apart from turning the boat around as we do a little maintenance on some scratches we’ve accumulated this year. A bit of TLC and Silver Fern will be back looking as sharp as she usually does.
We still have 5 weeks before we fly back to NZ and we may do a little train travel to keep us out of mischief so I will probably post again before we depart.
Here are the stats:
Savern to Plan Incliné de St Louis
Engine hours: 4.2
Plan Incliné de St Louis to PK216.5
Engine hours: 6
Boat Lift: 1
PK216.5 to Parroy
Engine hours: 3.7
Parroy to Crévic
Engine Hours: 3.2
Crévic to Nancy
Engine hours: 4
Nancy to Toul
Engine hours: 5.9
Swing/lifting bridges: 3
Total year to date:
Engine hours: 154.3
Lifting/swing bridges: 7
Boat Lift: 2