Saturday 30 April 2022

Nancy (and a few days on the Moselle)


I set off from Toul at 9.00am while Karen and Buddy walked along the towpath.  After going under a bridge that formed part of the town’s fortifications the boat triggered a lift bridge into operation.  By the time the bridge was fully raised there was a queue of cars either side which had to be expected as we were in a large town and people were probably still on their way to work.  I waited for quite a while for the red light to be replaced by a green one so I could go through, but it just didn’t happen.  I was so embarrassed about holding the traffic up that I went through anyway.  It didn’t seem to cause any problems as the bridge started closing as soon as I’d gone through.

When I got to the penultimate lock on the canal before joining the river there was a boat waiting to come up.  They’d obviously had some sort of issue as an éclusier arrived and saw them through.  Karen and Buddy got on board, and we went down the lock, past the second port at Toul and turned right to go down the final lock.  This one had no lights on at all, so we moored up to the one and only bollard we could find and called VNF.  By the time an éclusier arrived a river cruiser had joined us with a couple of Kiwis on board.  They’d had their boat worked on in Toul over winter and were taking it out for the day to check it over. 

They were going the same way as us and we ended up following them all the way to Liverdun where we wanted to moor for the day.  Joining the Moselle meant we had now completed the length of the 131 km canal de la Marne au Rhin (ouest).  Until 1979 the canal continued on to Nancy and became the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est).  The section to Nancy was abandoned and boats now make use of the Moselle as we were doing.    

On the Moselle

The locks on the French section of the Moselle are 185 metres long by 12 metres wide so we’re rather dwarfed when we’re in them but like all the large river locks we’ve been in they’re really gentle.  We had two locks to go down to get to Liverdun and, as is sometimes the case, I got no voice response when radioing ahead at the first lock but using the binoculars Karen could see the ‘lock getting ready’ lights had been set.

Leaving one of the locks

Between the two locks we passed the only other boat of the day, the 110 metre long El Teide carrying scrap metal.  Coincidentally we’d seen the same boat two years ago, again full of scrap metal, when we were on the river Escaut up in north-eastern France.  It looked like they had the whole family on board this time judging by the number of people waving through the windows.

El Teide would only take up just over half of one of the locks

We couldn’t find out what this was jutting out of the water, but Karen suggested it was a toilet.

Toilet or duck house?

I got a really friendly response on the radio at the second lock and the éclusier was so jolly that he leant out of his control tower waving a piece of white cloth at us as we left.  We did rather wonder if he was locked in and was trying to get us to rescue him.

The mooring at Liverdun was on a pontoon a little way up a small inlet which was ideal as it meant we wouldn’t be bothered by wash from commercials.

Moored at Liverdun

After lunch we went exploring.  Karen had read that the old town was at the top of the hill overlooking the river, so we made our way up there first.  It was a steep climb up narrow cobbled streets with many pretty houses:

We were fairly near the top when Karen spotted a lavoir.  We hadn’t really been looking for one as they are usually down in the valleys. A plaque on the wall explained that it was relatively modern as it was only constructed in 1901 when water supply wouldn’t have been so much an issue.  A local benefactor had donated funds to have it built to save women walking down to the Moselle to do their laundry in a lavoir on the riverbank.  The plaque also explained that it was used by women into the 2000s.

At the top of the town was the old market square with a fontaine taking central place.  The houses around the outside had arcaded fronts which would have been used during market days.

The market square at Place de la Fontaine

There were so many cars and vans parked in the square that I thought I’d include a postcard from the turn of the last century too:

Leaving the market square, we went past the church and then came across a noticeboard containing a tourist route of the old town.  We then realised it was outside the tourist information office so, as it was open, went inside  to get a copy of the tour.

The tour of the town

As is often the case, we were amazed that the office was open as we seemed to be the only tourists around.  Even more surprising was that they felt that they could justify having not one, but two girls on duty.  Back outside we looked at the leaflet that we’d picked up and found that, apart from some houses with Renaissance doorways and windows we’d only missed a couple of other things.

12th century gateway to the town

The gateway was the only one surviving although we’d been through the vestiges of another as we’d climbed into the town from the other side.  The road through the gateway had great views over the meandering Moselle below:

We’d come down to Liverdun from the right and turned off into an inlet and we could just make out the boat from the gateway:

As well as the gateway, we’d missed some statuettes built into the sides of some houses.  It’s not clear why they were there but the popular thought is that they were location aids used instead of street names.  The ones we saw were all at the ends of streets thus rather supporting the theory.

Three of the statuettes

On the way back to the boat we checked out the Renaissance doorways and windows we’d missed and back near the river crossed a section of the now abandoned canal de la Marne au Rhin. 

We were moored in such a peaceful spot that we’ll probably stay at Liverdun for another day before heading off for Nancy.

On Tuesday we cruised 21 km down four locks and through one lift bridge.


We had a ‘no cruise’ day on Wednesday so we pottered around enjoying the continuing good weather.  It was also a chance to work on the job list and I don’t mean rewriting it but actually getting some of those niggly jobs done that have been outstanding for ages.  We also took the opportunity to have a walk along the river and potted up some more plants.

Liverdun on the hill, Moselle to the right, and us on the left


Karen had read that water was available on a mooring further down the Moselle at a place called Pompey.  Our plan for Thursday was to get there for lunch and do the washing before continuing on to Nancy later in the afternoon.

It was still when we left our little inlet at Liverdun

We only had one lock to descend before reaching Pompey and both an éclusier and an éclusiere responded to my radio request.  The girl seemed to be responsible for operating the lock which she got ready immediately.  The guy wanted to know which direction we were going in, either further downstream towards Metz and Luxembourg/Germany or through Nancy on the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est).  I explained we were leaving the river and would be joining the canal to moor in Nancy but omitted to tell him we planned on stopping at Pompey first.  

Arriving at Pompey with the wind picking up

Once we were tied up, Karen went to check the water situation only to find that it wasn’t going to be turned on until spring without any indication of what date that was.  Electricity was available however, but we had no need of that under bright blue skies.

When in the tourist office in Liverdun we’d noticed that there was a self-guided tour of the steelworks at Pompey so I’d taken a picture of the trail on my phone on the off chance we would visit.  The walk sounded really interesting as it had been a massive steelworks, opened in 1872 and closing down in 1986.

When we got to the first point of interest, words almost failed us even though the map was accurate and clearly indicated each of the sights.  Each site was numbered but not in sequence, but I suppose that would only bother logical people like us.  What we couldn’t believe was that there was only one extant point of interest!  It turned out that the works, that had spread along both sides of the Moselle had been demolished and were now high technology business parks.  The first item on the tour (labelled as 4) was a picture of the works in 1970 and also a comparable contemporary shot and showed the scale of the works:

Some sights actually had a picture of what it was like and some accompanying text in French …

The training centre for apprentices was here

…and other sights were just a QR code that allowed us to display the ‘then’ picture and text on a phone:

The office buildings were here

The only surviving sight was the pont bow string, a railway bridge providing access across the river between the steel works on either side:

Amazingly, daily guided tours are also available entitled ‘Discover the world of iron and fire of the Pompey steelworks’.  Reading the small print, you find out that you will actually be shown around the buildings of the high technology parks.

When we returned to the boat the wind was really quite gusty, so we decided to stay put and leave for Nancy in the morning.  During the afternoon an éclusier came to see us and explained he was the guy from the lock who’d asked where we were going.  The next lock had reported that we hadn’t turned up, so this guy was just checking we were OK and said it was no problem us staying there.

Moored on the far side at Pompey

On Thursday we cruised seven km down one lock.


We were getting ready to leave Pompey for Nancy on Friday morning when El Teide, the scrap metal boat from Tuesday, came out of the lock behind us now empty of its load.  This was good news as we had to pull out from our mooring and cross the route large boats take when leaving the lock.  As long as we left fairly quickly then the coast would be clear as there wouldn’t have been time for another boat to have come down the lock.  As soon as we started to cast off the 110 metre Amara arrived in the opposite direction heading for the empty lock, so we had to wait for her to pass first.


As I’ve mentioned before we don’t always receive a response when radioing for locks to be ready even though we’ve obviously been heard as the locks do get set for us.  As we approached the lock at Frouard we saw a sign telling us that we must radio ahead which we duly did.

There was no response, but we could see that the lock was being set.  Once at the top we had to walk up the steps of the éclusiers’ tower to pick up a télécommande for the canal we would soon be joining.  As it was, he came down and met me halfway and I took the opportunity to ask if we could also take on water.  He was happy to oblige and let us use the hose available for the commercial boats.  I also took the opportunity to ask if he’d heard my radio message to which he said yes but I’m afraid my French wasn’t up to asking why he didn’t respond.  Well, I could have asked but rather imagined I wouldn’t have understood the reasoning.

Our latest télécommande

There were no instructions with the télécommande and none of the four buttons were labelled.  I assume the red was for emergency but will have to use trial and error for the others.  We soon turned right off the Moselle onto the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est) and the first of 27 locks that will take us to the summit 68 km away at Gondexange.

It wasn't long before we were approaching the middle of Nancy where we went through two manned lift bridges.  Between the two bridges we felt like we were somewhere like the River Lee in Hackney with all the liveaboards lining one side of the cut.  The only difference was these were all converted 38 metre péniches.

Long line of liveaboards coming into Nancy

Once through the second lift bridge we moored on the quay opposite the commercial basin just down from the basin for private boats.

Moored at Sainte Catherine basin

During the afternoon we went for a walk further along the canal and then back across town to find the tourist office where we picked up a guide leaflet that we would follow on Saturday.  The tourist office was in the corner of the famous Stanislas square which was busy with tourists.  The sun wasn’t out so we weren’t tempted to take a drink or two in one of the many busy bars around the square.

Hôtel de ville on one side of the square

Looking diagonally across

We’ll do the tour in the morning but probably move on later in the afternoon as we suspect it will get noisy at night especially as Sunday is a big day in France being labour day when even the canals are closed.  Reading Ian & Lisette's blog during the morning made us realise that we really should start using our decent camera.  Their pictures are amazing so we'll try and remember to take it on our tour.

In the early evening a young couple started salsa dancing opposite the boat - it was so sweet as they were totally oblivious to the promenaders.  After a while another couple joined in and by the time there were half a dozen couples we realised it was probably something more organised than spontaneous.

Evening entertainment

On Friday we cruised 13 kilometres up two locks and through two lift bridges.


Unknown said...

We love Stanilas Square, in the summer and ballooning season, it is absolutely full of entertainers and coffee stalls. Reading this makes us miss la belle France! Next year when we have completed our time in the Masai Mara! Love to you all M & G xx

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Lovely to hear from you both. Our current plan is to go up to Metz and beyond next year so we can catch up with you then x