Sunday, 2 October 2022

Parroy (back in storkland)


We had a lovely surprise in the early hours of Tuesday morning as we heard about the birth of our fourth grandchild; Lauren and Lewis now have a brother for Ellis.  He was born at 26 weeks weighing about two pounds and he and Lauren are both doing well.  Arriving so early meant they hadn’t chosen a name even though they knew his gender, so he was called Elvis by the family until his parents decided upon Evan.  Of course, this meant another trip back to the UK, so we gave ourselves a week to find somewhere to leave the boat, retrieve the car from Metz, get Buddy to the vets and attend to all those other little things that need to be done.  Whilst writing this we've also heard that Chris & Cee's baby will probably arrive soon as she is booked in to be induced at the beginning of October so it looks like we'll be seeing grandchild number five too!

The lovely weather from the weekend continued so it was a few days of boat painting in the morning followed by walks in the afternoon and, for Karen, walnutting. Having been at Laneuveville-devant-Nancy for seven nights we both felt like moving on so, after taking on water at the lock we set off for Sommerviller on Thursday morning.

VNF contractors have been busy since we came along this canal in May as all the locks we’ve come up since leaving the Moselle have had traffic lights installed on the locksides.  The lights control when boats are allowed to leave the locks and are in addition to the existing ones at lock approaches that control when boats are allowed to enter. 

The new lights at écluse de St-Phlin

The building to the right of the lock is a factory producing sodium carbonate which, together with salt, is a popular product along this part of the canal.  A little further on we went over the river Meurthe which flows into the Moselle at Nancy giving rise to the name of the local département, Meurthe-et-Moselle.

River Meurthe to the north

Looking to the south the town of Dombasle-sur-Meurthe could just be seen with the imposing twin towers of the town church dedicated to the patron saint of bargees which we covered in the blog back in May.

River Meurthe to the south

One of the salt factories at Dombasle-sur-Meurthe

After another couple of locks, we were approaching the village of Sommerviller where we planned to moor so I could go and retrieve our car that we’d left in Metz when we'd returned from our summer holiday in the UK.  The mooring was empty and was next to an old boat towing locomotive shed.  As soon as we moored up, we spotted a pair of freshly emerged, second brood, grizzled skippers flitting around the vetch on the bank.  Actually, there are a few different species of grizzled skippers found in France and I’m not totally sure if they were the grizzled skipper found in the UK or one of the other French species.  

Moored at Sommerviller

Once we were settled in I looked online for a vet and found one that could see Buddy and give him his prescribed treatment on Monday that would allow us to go to the UK.  Travel has to occur between 24 and 72 hours following the treatment so we would be able to travel on the Wednesday.  We also booked a ferry crossing, deciding to try a ferry rather than use the tunnel, our preferred crossing method since it opened in 1995.  The tunnel is not only a faster crossing, but embarkation and disembarkation are a lot simpler, mind you things may have changed over the decades.  Another reason for staying with the tunnel is having a dog.  Buddy is nervous of metallic sounds, and we worry that he would freak out in a ferry where the vehicle decks are extremely noisy on all but the smoothest of crossings.  The noise is due to the sound of the chains that are used to fasten lorries to the vehicle decks for safety.  Until this year, pets had to be left in the car on their own while owners were upstairs in the lounges.  European Ferries have now opened pet lounges so that’s the reason we’ll try the ferry this time.  Depending upon how it goes we’ll decide which method to choose on the return trip.

In the afternoon we found a farm track that took us back to Dombasle-sur-Meurthe where there was a railway station.  The track eventually brought us back to the canal and then across some fields before heading into the town.

Looking back at the houses lining the canal before heading into town

It was a pleasant walk with plenty of butterflies on the wing including many clouded yellows which always make a lovely sight in the autumn.  Karen and Buddy left me at the station and made their way back to the boat whilst I caught a train to Nancy where I transferred onto a train bound for Luxembourg, alighting at Metz. 

Yet another salt factory by the station in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe

The impressive façade of Metz station and this is only half of it

The car was safe and sound when I arrived where we’d left it, and the hassle-free drive back only took just over an hour. 

On Thursday we cruised 12 km up three locks.


Heading east again reminded us we would soon be back in white stork country, but we probably won’t see any this time as their winter migration back to Africa will have already started.  Amazingly, due to the tailwinds, it takes them half as long to fly back in the autumn than it does to arrive in the spring: an average of 25 days as opposed to 50.  When we visited Sarralbe, the first town we went to with a large stork population, we were fascinated by a live webcam that had been installed on the roof of the mairie in 2017. Since then it has been trained on the nest of a ‘famous’ pair of storks, Mélodie & Maurice, but it now shows an empty nest so they and their young are probably on their way to Africa - click here.

Having retrieved the car on Thursday and booked Buddy into the vets the next main thing to sort out was finding somewhere to leave the boat, which was the objective for Friday.  This task was made easier by having the car of course, as we could drive to the likely places to sus them out.  We’d been in touch with the mairie in a small village called Parroy which is by a large reservoir that feeds the canal we’re on.  There are some moorings by a campsite in the village and the mairie had told us there was space for us to leave the boat there.

After breakfast we set out in the car for Parroy and were immediately remined how remote this part of Lorraine is.  The mooring seemed ideal, on a large expanse of water so the wake from any passing, speeding boats would be negligible.  It would also be in the sun all day so we could leave the fridge and freezer on, powered by the solar panels.  There was no one at the campsite but a notice in the window of the reception building informed us someone would be around at 6.00pm each day to look after any boat or camping arrivals.  The mairie had pointed out that the facilities would be closed by the time we get back from the UK so we would have to pay in advance which we’ll do when we arrive.  

On the way back we also checked out the moorings at Einville-au-Jard but couldn’t find any information about leaving boats there.  We found out that jetons could be purchased at a restaurant for four hours of electricity or 300 litres of water.  As some places charge for overnight stops we didn't want to come back to the boat and find a bill for €12 a night or similar so we decided to stick with Parroy.

As we now had the car with us, we’ll need to car-hop every day until we reach Parroy.  Rather than driving all the way back to Sommerviller we stopped at Crévic where we left the car and walked back the last few kilometres to the boat.  We walked along the same route that Karen had run along in the morning so she already knew where every walnut tree was.  The most fruitful ones were away from the locks as she finds that the locals living by the locks seem to be constantly on the look out for the nuts, evidenced by the trampled ground undergrowth around the trees.  She's also noticed that nutting is predominantly a female occupation.

This season's haul so far


As we’re cruising every day until we go to the UK, we left Sommerviller after our customary Saturday breakfast of pancakes.  It was one of those half cloud half sun days but still lovely and warm and we had a pleasant cruise to a place called Maixe.  We passed Crévic where we’d left the car on Friday and I was pleased to see it was still there, although why I would think it mightn't be is a bit beyond me.  The whole journey was very rural and surprisingly, as we normally see many herons, we only saw one and also only one kingfisher.  What we did see, that was unusual, were about two dozen mallards; they're not very common on French canals and if we see any it’s usually just a pair.

There was a lock at Maixe and Karen got off the boat before the point where we have to summon the lock with the télécommande and walked up to see if there was somewhere to moor either below or above it.  She found we could moor either side of the lock, so we decided to moor below to start with, walk back to get the car and then decide whether to move to the top or not.

Buddy settle in below the lock at Maixe

After lunch we went back to get the car and, being on foot, we could appreciate how quiet it was which made it feel even more rural than when travelling with the sound of the boat engine.

Walking back to Crévic

The V52 cycle route that runs between Paris and Strasbourg follows the valley of the river Marne from Paris for 200 km and then uses the towpath of our canal which links the Marne to the Rhine for another 300 km to reach Strasbourg.  Many sections are tarmacked and in good condition but some, especially along the part of the canal we’re on at the moment, are cart tracks.  A major improvement programme is underway on the 22 km section we’re currently on and according to a sign it’s costing 4.3M€.

A whopping 200,000€ for each kilometre!

Arriving back at the boat we decided to stay where we were below the lock so remained put for the rest of the day.  When we parked the car opposite the boat, we could see for the first time, the side that’s been repainted and were very pleased.  It just needs the cream of the coachline repainting to bring it back to how it looked when we took delivery.

On Saturday we cruised six km up two locks.


Our morning routine has been the same for years; I get up first to make a pot of tea for Karen and a cafetière of coffee for me and Karen appears when she hears the kettle whistling for her tea.  Sunday morning was different as she was up before I’d filled the kettle and I suddenly realised what was happening.  She was going to go to the large walnut tree on the other side of the cut to gather those that had fallen in the night before anyone else got there.  When we opened the curtains and blinds on the water side, we could see she’d already been beaten to it by the guy from the lock cottage.    

Lock cottage man thwarting Karen

After our tea and coffee, I took the boat to Einville-au-Jard while Karen drove the car to Bauzemont where she would leave it in the village and then run back down to meet me at Einville-au-Jard.

The locks on this canal have rather ugly buildings alongside the bottom gates but they house some important equipment.  The equipment is used to generate hydroelectricity from the overspills at each lock when there is a surfeit of water in the canal.  The buildings also house a pump which operates after each use of the lock to pump water back up above the lock, an operation we’ve rarely seen in operation elsewhere.  Maybe the back pumping is one of the reasons this canal has remained open all summer.

Turbine and pump building

Turbine and pump

The water that is pumped back up to the top of the locks runs along an open channel:

Overspill (runs the other way when pumping upstream)

Overspill water is channelled through a large bore pipe buried underground to reach the hydroelectric turbine.

I arrived at Einville-au-Jard before Karen and had just finished mooring up and putting the cruising paraphernalia away when she arrived.  We had a late breakfast and then set off for Bauzemont where Karen had left the car.

Moored for breakfast at Einville-au-Jard

At the far side of Einville-au-Jard was an old commercial quay and we spotted a large walnut tree on the quayside.  The area wasn’t accessible to the public as evidenced by the large number of nuts on the ground, so I had no choice but to pull up for Karen.  Whilst I held the boat, she got herself quite a haul; hopefully she now has now completed this year’s harvest!

20 minutes work

Once again it was a fairly grey day, but we had a pleasant cruise though the quiet countryside:

It wasn’t long before we were approaching Bauzemont and moored up below the village lock.

Sunday night’s stop in Bauzemont

In the afternoon we went for a walk, first taking in the village of Bauzemont which, considering the population was only 160, had more housing than we were expecting.  The census shows that 200 years ago, in 1821, the population was at its highest recorded: 432. 

The mairie is the building on the right

It’s amazing how such a small place supports a mairie but then reading the notices it transpires it’s only open on Mondays and then only between 17.00 and 18.30.

The church seemed large for such a small place which often seems to be the case and not just in France.  We do wonder if there is any congregation these days though but then the main religion is Catholicism where believers are traditionally expected to attend mass.  Although currently 40% of the French have no religion, 47% say they are Catholic or were brought up as Catholic compared to just 2% who say they are Protestants.

Village war memorial

A château stands at the edge of the village, originally built in the 12th century for the Bauzemont family.  The current building was erected in 1712 and the round turrets at its entrance later in the same century.

Entrance to château de Bauzemont

View from the entrance to the château

The main street leading down to the canal

On Sunday we cruised eight km up two locks.


At about 8.30am we thought we could hear the sound of a boat approaching which was a little strange as the locks don’t open until 9.00.  Sure enough, a 22-metre Dutch barge pulled up alongside and asked if we knew anything about the lock not working.  We explained about the opening times, so they pulled into the bank opposite us to wait until the lock opened.  We then realised that they must have spent the night at Einville-au-Jard as there were no locks between that mooring and ours, but it was still odd that they weren’t aware of the opening times.  Anyway, when the lock opened two red lights came on indicating it was out of action which we assumed was because they’d tried to summon it too early. 

They rang VNF who told them they would send an éclusier to sort it out and then we noticed a hotel boat had pulled up behind us, obviously waiting for the lock too.  We had been planning to leave soon after 9.00am ourselves but with a queue forming (the first we’ve encountered over here) we decided to move the car first and then cruise later.

Lock queue

It didn’t take long to drive to the day’s destination which was écluse 16 and we managed to park alongside the lock itself and then walked back to the boat.  On the way the Dutch barge and the hotel boat went past so we knew the lock had been sorted out and would be clear for us.  At one point we were close to the river Sanon and could see three white storks standing in a water meadow so clearly they haven’t all started their winter migration yet. 

Strangely, when we got back to the boat, the lock was already ready in that the gates were open and the light was on green as if it had been summoned.  We couldn’t see any boats around, so we went straight in and had a short and uneventful cruise to écluse 16 where we moored at the top.

Buddy settled straight in at écluse 16

In the afternoon we drove to the vets in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe for Buddy’s pre-UK-entry treatment and also popped into a supermarket to stock up on those items we like to have in the UK.

On Monday we cruised five km up two locks.


Tuesday was our final day in France before going back to the UK for a fortnight, so it was a day for getting to Parroy where we were going to leave the boat followed by packing.  Karen took the car to Parroy and then went for a run while I took the boat down to Parroy.  When I saw the mooring in the distance, I could see there was a large hire boat moored there and also a large cruiser that I believe was there when we cruised past four months previously but there was plenty of room for us.

As I pulled up, the people on the hire boat, four French men, came over and asked if they could take pictures of the boat.  I, of course, agreed and we exchanged a few pleasantries and then they returned to their boat and set off for the day.

Our mooring at Parroy

It didn’t take long to pack as we were only going back for two weeks so we had a nice and easy day on board.  We also lit our first fire of the autumn but began to regret it after a couple of hours when the sun came out.  

The view at Parroy

On Wednesday we cruised one km through no locks.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Laneuveville-devant-Nancy (le corps parfait)

Sun rising at Millery


With only one more stop on the Moselle before leaving the river and heading into Nancy, we set off under grey skies on Tuesday morning.  It was remarkably warm considering the sun wasn’t out and it felt so muggy we expected rain at any time.

Leaving Pont-à-Mousson on Tuesday

After going through our one and only lock of the day the sun started to appear, and it stayed that way pretty much all day with temperatures back in the high 20s.  I know it seems like I mention the weather constantly these days but please bear with me as we are desperate to get some decent rain to have any chance of some canals reopening this year.


Amazingly, after passing Autreville-sur-Moselle, we started running into weed and in some places it was completely across the river.  I say amazingly because the flow tends to stop any weed building up on rivers but with so little rain this year the flow is negligible hence the presence of weed and we could soon feel it getting wrapped around the prop.  We pulled up on an island where there was a quay for loading gravel onto boats for our first ever trip to the weed hatch on a river.  

The main channel ran to the west of the island and the other channel, which was still quite wide, ran past Millery, our destination for the day.  After clearing the prop we carried on and soon found the 30-metre pontoon we were looking for and as it was empty we tied up.  Being on the non-navigation side of the island meant we wouldn't be getting any passing traffic so we would have a quiet couple of days not worrying about wash.  As I've said before it's not wash from commercials that bothers us but the wake of speeding river cruisers and speed boats who either don't care or are not aware of the impact of their speed.

Moored at Millery

The pontoon wasn’t completely empty as there was a small day boat tied up on the bank side so not taking up space for visitors like us.  Soon after we arrived a man came along, looked at its large outboard motor and then wrote down details of it in a notebook.  It transpired that he was from the mairie, and the boat had been left there for four months and they had been unable to trace the owner.  I never found out why he was taking details of the outboard motor.

Millery was a smart village, and we were surprised to find it had no commercial outlets whatsoever, not even a baguette dispenser or a hairdresser let alone a bar or restaurant, although there was a fully restored lavoir which we were pleased to find:

The lavoir was originally built in 1811 but was badly damaged in WWII after which is was rebuilt along the same lines as the original using war compensation funding.  Unfortunately, the wooden frame began rotting and it had to be dismantled in the 1970s.  In 2010 it was rebuilt on the same lines again, using local oak and reclaimed tiles with the help of la foundation du patrimoine or heritage fund.

The lavoir’s guttering down pipes

We did find a small cottage where the owner re-upholstered chairs which I suppose could be considered a commercial outlet and there was also a large mairie, a church, a war memorial and a concrete stringed instrument with breasts.

 Marie to the right and behind the memorial

The instrument with the left breast thrown over its shoulder was entitled 'Le corps parfait' or 'The perfect body'.  There was no other information on it and searching on the web was problematical as you can probably imagine, especially with Karen in close proximity.

We spent most of the rest of the day sitting on the pontoon having occasional chats with passers-by who all seemed to take an interest in us or at least the boat.

On Tuesday we cruised 12 km up one lock.


Karen was happy when she returned from her morning run as she'd found a few walnuts and feels the walnut harvest may have started.  She’ll also be happy as we’ll soon be off the river onto a canal where it’s easier to stop by walnut trees and do some gathering.  While on walnuts, those that she picked and pickled earlier this year are now ready and I’m rather glad I’m the only one who likes them.  During her run she’d crossed the Moselle further upstream and saw the bridge had a sign similar to that on the bridge we’d crossed in Pont-à-Mousson at the weekend.  This one indicated that the bridge had also been destroyed in September 1944, but it wasn’t restored until more than three years after the one at Pont-à-Mousson.  Ferryboat owners must have been extra busy for a few years in this area of France.

Being on a pontoon at Millery meant it was an ideal spot for starting to repaint the sides of the boat.  Most places we moor on rivers tend to be against high quays so the vast proportion, if not all the sides of the boat are hidden from view; much of my day was consequently spent prepping one of the sides.  Without too much direct sun it was ideal weather for working outside and it was also dry, although there were the odd short showers later in the afternoon after I’d packed up for the day.


It rained hard while we had breakfast on Thursday, but it had cleared up by 10.00am so we set off on our last cruise before leaving the Moselle.  About three km from our final large lock, we were aware of a commercial bearing down on us.  We quickly checked our traffic app and saw that the boat was only 110 metres long so there would be plenty of room in the lock for both of us.  As we let her pass us, we could see she was full of coal which wasn’t surprising as the app had told us she was going to Frouard, the commercial port of Nancy, where the main goods transported seem to be coal.

Sharing Custines lock

Arriving at Frouard, we turned off the river and headed into a lock cut where there were two locks.  On the left was a large one leading into the port and we could see the coal boat already on its way up.  We had to take the smaller one on the right which marked the start of the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est).  When we rose to the top, I went up to the éclusiers’ control room to pick up a télécommande that is used to operate the locks on the canal.  Whilst there I asked if we could take on water and he kindly set the hose up for us.

Goodbye to the Moselle

Regular readers may recall that we travelled along the canal in May this year on our way to Strasbourg so we would be retracing our earlier steps for a while.  Leaving the lock, we started passing through the outskirts of Nancy and had 15 km to travel before reaching the other side where we planned to moor.  As we neared the centre, we passed an Alstom factory that had had some artwork installed since we came through earlier in the year.  Alstom are major producers of rolling stock and the artwork seemed to complement both the art deco design of the building and the products made inside.  The artist was a girl called Koralie who rose to fame as a graffiti artist and is now world renowned for her works on buildings such as this one in Nancy.

The artwork installed in summer 2022

We had two lift bridges to go under before going through the centre of town and both were being readied for us as we approached.  As we came through the second one, we were in the port of Sainte-Catherine where we stayed when we visited Nancy before.  The port is on the road leading under Sainte-Catherine's gate which is about 200 metres from the famous Stanislas Square.

Porte Sainte-Catherine in the centre

Almost immediately afterwards we went through the main pleasure boat port in Nancy, and like all pleasure ports we pass it was packed with boats, not surprising with so many canals closed.  Another reason ports are packed is because of Brexit. Unless non-French resident Brits get a long-term visa, they are limited to the time they can spend cruising so many have already finished their summer cruising and left their boats in ports for the winter.

When we reached the outskirts on the other side of Nancy we stopped at a handy canal-side supermarket where I filled up with fuel while Karen did a food shop. Setting off again we went past the junction with the Embranchement de Nancy or canal de Jonction and up one more lock.  We were then out in the countryside and moored just above the lock where we could see the river Meurthe below.  It was an ideal spot to get on with painting and if we end up staying a while, and start running short of water we could always pop back into the lock which had a water tap. 

On Thursday we cruised 23 km up five locks and through two lift bridges  A long day for us, and we’d been fortunate that all the locks had been ready, and the lift bridges opened as we approached them.


After days of a chance of rain being forecast but little, if any, actually falling it’s ironic that the reverse happened on Friday.  The reason for stopping at Laneuveville-devant-Nancy was to get on with some painting and with dry but cooler days forecast for a while it seemed ideal.  Having done a lot of prep over the last week or so the plan for Friday was to get a first coat on one of the sides.  As I began mixing the paint, I felt some rain in the air so immediately stopped.  The clouds grew thicker and within a couple of hours we had a short shower, so I was glad I hadn’t started. 

Karen's walnuts taking over one of the fruit bowls

Having been on the river where commercial traffic passes 24 hours a day it was strange being on a non-commercial canal where the locks are only open between 9.00am and 6.00pm.  We were expecting quite a bit of passing boat traffic during those times as we were on the only open canal in northeast France.  Sure enough, two hotel boats passed during the day both of them on their way into Nancy where they would spend the weekend before returning to reach Strasbourg by next weekend.  When we’d passed the port in Nancy, we’d noticed half a dozen hire boats on the visitors’ moorings and two of them also came through on Friday on their way back to their hire bases near the inclined plane halfway to Strasbourg.  


Saturday, again promised to be a sunny day but we awoke to grey skies with no sign of the cloud cover shifting so painting was cancelled for the day.  Two more of the two hire boats came through at about 10.00am when we were leaving for a walk.  The sun came out as we left and we had a good long circular walk with the return half on the towpath beside the Embranchement de Nancy until we hit the junction just down from where we were moored.


The temperature had certainly dropped overnight and we both felt that if it remains low it won’t be long before we start lighting the stove in the evenings.  Saying that, it was a lovely sunny morning on Sunday which meant I could look forward to a good session of painting.

Sunrise on Sunday at Laneuveville-devant-Nancy

The painting was semi-successful in that I got what I wanted to do done.  The trouble was the colour; the original blue was a mixture of 50% Oxford blue and 50% black or so we believed.  When I repainted the blue on the roof, we’d decided to go for 100% Oxford blue rather than faff around mixing paints.  Since doing that we have found it too bright so decided to darken it down for the sides reverting to the 50/50 mix.  By the time I’d painted one panel and it had started drying it was almost black so I’ll be trying a 25/75 mix on the next painting day which looks like being Monday.

During the afternoon we found another circular walk this one taking in the banks of the Meurthe and the village of Art-sur-Meurthe where we hoped to be able to look around a large 17th century monastery.

Crossing the Meurthe on an iron footbridge

When we arrived in the village, we found that the monastery was now used as a private school so wasn’t open to the public.  The little church in the village had a couple of stone plaques in memory of those who died locally during the Napoleonic wars.

The monastery was used as a hospital during the wars and the lefthand plaque commemorated those who died of typhoid in the hospital.  The righthand plaque commemorates the hundreds of soldiers who were buried in the ‘Dead Pond’ in the woods outside the village.  The nationalities included Rhinelanders who came from the Rhineland (French Rhénan), the area to the east of the river Rhine that has changed hands between France and Germany many times over the centuries.

Outside the chapel stood the village war memorial with the names of three young men from WWI and one from WWII:

A little further on we came across yet another war memorial, this one commemorating locals who died in the 1793 French Revolutionary war and again those in 1813 during the Napoleonic wars:

On a cheerier note, we also found two Michelin road signs from 1935:


With a lovely sunny start, I was able to get on with more painting before watching the funeral procession which followed the London service for the Queen.  I used new proportions for the paint and we both think it’s right now and matches the original colour.  We cannot believe how much it has faded over six years, but then it has been exposed to a lot of sunshine.

Having been moored in the same spot for nearly a week we’ll probably move on on Wednesday.  We’ll have to carry on eastwards which is the opposite direction to the way we want to go but with no improvement in the water levels we have no choice.  Karen’s been researching likely spots to moor by reading our blog entries from when we came along this way in May.  She had in mind one particular pleasant spot but couldn’t find any photos of it so concluded it must have been a lunchtime stop.  It made us realise that we should take pictures of all places we moor, not just the overnight stops, but don’t worry they won’t necessarily be included in the blog.