Wednesday 4 May 2022

Richardménil (up the junction)


Considering we were in France’s 20th largest city we were expecting Nancy to be noisy with revellers into the early hours especially as there were so many tourists around.  In the end it was unbelievably quiet overnight and the same when we awoke in the morning.

Before setting off on a tour of the old town Karen dug out her camera and found that she last used it exactly two years ago during the first covid lockdown.  After seeing Ian & Lisette's recent blog update we were reminded how much better SLR camera pictures can be compared with those taken with our phone cameras.  This was the last picture she took which was from the side hatch when we were confined to our mooring in Châlons-en-Champagne.

The park was closed for two months during lockdown

Having a decent camera means that Karen's pictures have a lot more detail than those I take with my phone camera.  We took both with us on the town trail, so some pictures were taken by Karen with the camera and others were taken by me with my phone.  Just across from our mooring stood Sainte Catherine’s gateway where we had a few comic moments while Karen got used to the camera again.  First she couldn’t find the on/off switch and then, standing in the middle of the road to get a picture of the gate, she found the timer was set!

Sainte Catherine’s gate built in 1761

Each item on the old town trail was marked with a raised number on a brass plaque inlaid in the pavement depicting the layout of the town as it was in 1611:

At no. 10 - rue des Dominicains

The tour started as expected in Place Stanislas that we briefly visited on Friday.  The square and surrounding buildings were built to commemorate the King of Poland who, when he was deposed in 1709, fled to Lorraine.  The area was built between 1752 and 1756 and we both felt it was up there in the list of the most stunning squares we have come across.   Even though traffic is not allowed in the square nowadays it seemed a sacrilege that it was used as a car park between 1958 and 1983.

Approaching on the road from the port

To the left the hôtel de ville takes up one entire side:

On the side opposite the hôtel de ville the buildings were built lower, apparently for defensive purposes but I don’t quite understand why:

The gateways leading into the square were incredibly ornate:

As were the statuettes along the edges of the roofs on all the buildings:

Another gate, Arc Héré, stands on the roadway between the square and the governor’s palace:

The governor’s palace was yet another building that was erected in the 1750s:

The old town of Nancy lay to the left and behind the governor’s palace with plenty of narrow streets and yet two more old gateways:

The 14th century porte de la Craffe

Both sides of the The 16th century porte de la Citadelle

Although the gateways are still standing there are very few remains of the original walls that protected the town at the time.  Some of the streets were lined with shops and bars whereas others were purely residential:

When we finished the tour, we walked back to the boat via the parc de la Pépinière where there was a grand art nouveau bandstand:

The 1875 Mozart bandstand

Although the outside cafés were packed with tourists lunching, we felt that it just wasn’t quite warm enough to join in, so we went back to the boat.  As much as we could have stayed and continued exploring Nancy for another couple of days we decided to move on.  We wanted to complete the boucle de Nancy before carrying on towards Strasbourg: the boucle is an 85 km ring of waterways around Nancy.

Last year we joined the boucle from the canal des Vosges (6 o'clock) and went along the bottom left quadrant which is the river Moselle. We left the boucle at Toul (9 o'clock) and turned onto the canal de la Marne au Rhin (ouest).  This year we re-joined the Moselle at Toul and completed the top half, again along the Moselle followed by the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est) through Nancy where we are due to continue west (3 o'clock).  This leaves the short bottom right quadrant which is called the embranchement de Nancy (aka canal de jonction de Nancy).  

The embranchement links the Meurthe and Moselle valleys and is only 10 km long with 13 locks on one side of its summit and five on the other.  It fell into disuse for a while but was fully restored in 2004.  It has no natural water supply, so the summit is fed by water from a pumping station.

Before reaching the embranchement we stopped outside an Intermarché where I topped up with fuel and Karen picked up some supplies.

About to turn right onto the embranchement

As we were going up the first couple of locks, we’d noticed a guy following us and taking lots of pictures.  When we got to the top of the second lock, he came to talk to us.  It turned out that he lived in Nancy but helps crew on commercials based over at Vitry-le-François.  We were able to suggest names of boats like Draakar and Dhana that we’ve often seen that way and he was pleased we knew them as he'd crewed on them.

Once we were out in the country, we moored at Fléville-devant-Nancy for a late lunch before watching the English girls beat the French in the six nations decider.

On Saturday we cruised seven km up three locks.


Early morning mist at Fléville-devant-Nancy on Mayday

May the first is a strict holiday in France for Labour Day so, along with everything else, the canals were closed.  We thought we’d chosen a good spot to stay put for a couple of days until Karen saw that there were lots of wild cats around.  Alongside the towpath were little huts with bowls inside, some also had cats in them.  Every so often a cat would wander along the towpath beside the boat.  The hopes of letting Buddy laze outside in the sun for a couple of days wouldn’t work so when we were around the boat he had to be tied up on the back deck.

Coincidentally we heard from Dave & Helen on Brontë who are making their way towards us from Strasbourg on their way to the south of France.  They’d been through a lock up near the inclined plane at Arzviller where there were lots of wild cats being fed by locals too.  When I say wild cats, I mean feral cats as they looked like domestic cats as opposed to true wild cats.

Our morning walk took us back to the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est) as Karen wanted to check if water was available at a lock that she’d been told had a water tap.  She checked the tap when we found the lock and sure enough it was on, so we’ll top up when we go through in a few days and hopefully clean off yet another dumping of Saharan sand.  We then walked down to the river Meurthe, crossed on a footbridge and carried on along the riverbank for a while.

Crossing the Meurthe

We came back via Fléville-devant-Nancy where a brocante was in full swing.  It felt like the whole town had turned out, many of them setting up a stall to sell their unwanted items.  Nearly all the streets were closed off to traffic and given over to the brocante. There were also plenty of sprigs of lily of the valley to be seen.  It’s been a tradition for many centuries in France to give a sprig to family members on Mayday to bring them good luck for the coming year.  Karen's even received them in previous years and once she was presented with a sprig in an épicerie.

We’ve been looking for a replacement fold up table for using outside and couldn’t believe it when we saw someone walking away with one under their arm.  If we’d have visited the brocante at the beginning of the walk, then we may have been the lucky ones.  I’ve never been to a car boot sale in the UK but suspect the same sort of items are on sale.  Charity shops are rarely seen other than in the large cities in France.  Instead, all départements have at least one large second hand store called an Emmaus where people take their unwanted items.  The money made by selling the items back to the general public is then distributed to the homeless and other needy folk.

As we left the town to make our way back home, we found a lavoir but unfortunately it was locked so we couldn’t see inside.


The aim for Monday was to get to the southern end of the embranchement, or the canal de jonction de Nancy to give it is proper name, where it joins the canal des Vosges.  We set off after Karen had a morning run and were watched by a couple of the wild cats as we left.

At the first lock was a warning sign about moth caterpillars as those of both the oak and pine processionary moth can be harmful when their hairs touch the skin of animals and humans; in the worst case bringing on an anaphylactic shock.  It was just as well there’d been the wild cats around as it had meant Buddy had been kept on his lead on the towpath for the last couple of days anyway.

At another lock an éclusier was using his van to drag a tree trunk from the water:

After 11 locks we reached the summit where we stopped for lunch and, soon after setting off again, arrived at some narrows.  These were controlled by traffic lights as there was a bend halfway along so large boats wouldn’t be able to see if the way was clear.  We understood why they were traffic light controlled as for example two commercials wouldn't be able to pass each other, but it did feel a little over the top for us as we went along.

The narrows at the summit

The style of the lock cottages was quite different to those we’ve seen on other canals as they were single storeyed.   They did have the usual small footprint but with only one floor they must have been quite cramped inside.

Most of the locks had a cottage

After the summit we dropped down five locks to reach the end and moored at the junction with the canal des Vosges at Richardménil, a spot we’d moored at when we came down the Vosges last year. 

Moored at Richardménil on Monday night

We’ve now completed the whole loop around Nancy so will now go back up the junction canal to re-join the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est) and continue our journey eastwards.  With so many locks over a relatively short distance we’d rather thought the junction canal was going to be purely functional.  We were pleased to find that it had been very pretty both climbing out of the Meurthe valley and then down the hill to where we were moored on the Vosges.

On Monday we cruised eight km through 16 locks (11 up and five down).


As we didn’t investigate the area around Richardménil when we stopped over last year we spent Tuesday out and about exploring.  The weather was still nice and warm and with plenty of waterways around Buddy was able to have the odd dip to cool down.  We started by walking further up the canal des Vosges and crossed over at the first bridge we came to and followed a path into town.  Apart from yet more signs about the processionary moth caterpillars there wasn’t too much to report as most of Richardménil turned out to be quite modern, potentially a commuter town for Nancy maybe.

Sign recruiting people to look for and report the caterpillars

As we reached the town, we crossed a feeder channel that takes water from the Moselle further upstream to feed the pumping station opposite where we were moored, a visit we’d planned for after lunch.  It was here that we came across a lavoir on the banks of the feeder channel so not everywhere was modern although it didn't look particularly old.

We had a letter to post so sought out the post office and luckily it was one of the three days it was open.  Not so lucky though was that we’d missed the opening hours of 8.00-9.30am by a couple of hours.

View of the oldest part of town

We made sure our walk was a circular one and ended back at the boat in time for lunch.  In the afternoon we went off to explore the area around the pumping station that provides water to the summit of the junction canal.  There were several information boards explaining how the pumping station worked aimed at people with varying degrees of intelligence.

The simple version…
…more comprehensive…
…and one for the engineers

By the time the feeder channel reaches the pumping station it is below the level of the junction canal so has to go underneath the canal.  It does this at the junction under the stone banking with the green railings on top in the photo below.

Pumping station from our mooring

We were able to get down and peer into the building, but the windows were so grimy that we couldn’t get a clear picture of the turbines inside.  When we go back up the junction canal tomorrow, we’ll keep a look out on the summit for where the water feeds in.

The Moselle on the other side of our mooring

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