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.  

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Pont-à-Mousson (ruinous ruins)


We set off for our next destination as soon as Karen returned from her morning run as rain was forecast from late morning for the rest of the day.  In the end there was just one very short shower and that was later in the afternoon but there was a stiff wind which hadn’t been forecast, making cruising fun.  Since we’ve resumed our travels after our UK break over the summer, we’ve not been aware of any commercial traffic during the night and there’s also been fewer boats during the day.  We’ve been recognising the names of all the passing commercials having seen them before on either the Sarre or Moselle rivers.  The only one we didn't recognise was Maranta that passed our mooring quietly on Thursday evening.  Our boat tracking app showed us it was on its way from Frouard, near Nancy, to Spyck on the German/Dutch border.

172 metre Maranta on Thursday evening

Unlike further downstream, the stretch of the Moselle we are currently cruising is running through a wide plain thus hillsides and vineyards are no longer with us. 

Passing through Corny-sur-Moselle

We saw very little traffic and once again we were the only boat using the one lock of the day but this time, rather than being ready, we had to wait for it to be emptied.  With the strong wind we had to hover diagonally across the river waiting for the lock as there was nowhere for us to tie up to while we waited.  Understandably, the high walls with bollards at the top, are built for commercials but usually a few bollards are set at intervals near the water level for use by waiting pleasure boats but not so at this lock. 

Nowhere to moor on the waiting area which is to the right

I’ve mentioned before that some locks have a boom by the bottom gates to prevent boats coming downstream from damaging the lock gates.  The ones we have seen so far can be raised to allow boats to pass through the gates when they are opened.  This lock had a boom, but we noticed it was solid and immovable, presumably because it was a deeper lock and boats with the highest air draught would still fit underneath when passing through the open gates.

Solid red boom just behind the bottom gates

Just after going through the lock was an entrance to a disused canal where we’d planned to moor for a couple of nights, so we set about reversing in.  After a couple of attempts I had to give up as the wind was too strong for me to keep the boat straight; not a problem that would be encountered on boats with bow thrusters or bow engines.  In the end I gave up and went back out to turn in the lock approach and drove forwards into the disused canal, hoping the wind wouldn’t be an issue when we want to leave in a couple of days as we will have to reverse out to the man channel.

Moored at the start of the old canal in Pagny-sur-Moselle

In the afternoon we went for a scout around the town which, these days, seemed to be based around a company called Mersen who manufacture anticorrosion devices for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.  There were ten trails advertised starting from the centre of the town although the one entitled, “Factories of yesteryear and today” didn’t seem that interesting especially as all the extant buildings belonged to this Mersen company, all the others having been demolished.

The town’s marketing material was most impressive and made the place sound very interesting and well worth a visit.  To be honest though, we were disappointed by the time we’d walked around most of the streets.  In the past the town had been a large wine producer but nothing remains of the industry today other than a few street names such as rue des Vignes and rue du Pressoir.  Plaques also indicated which houses were involved in wine production but didn’t explain in what capacity.

Railings in the centre of town had knitted and crocheted tapestry-like items attached along the lines of those made by locals for pillar boxes in the UK.  This one reminded us that we haven’t seen many butterflies over the last week or so:

Opposite the church stood what an information board explained was the oldest house in town although no date was given.  The only other piece of information was that when the town was last part of Germany the arches were filled in and it was used as a guard house.

Oldest house in Pagny-sur-Moselle complete with a dovecote in the roof

Sad looking mairie

Michelin sign from 1937

On Friday we cruised 10 km up one lock.


We stayed in Pagny-sur-Moselle again on Saturday taking in a couple of waterside walks.  In the morning we followed the Nancy-Metz cycleway/footpath back towards Metz.  From our mooring the path rang alongside the disused canal where we were moored.  It was a most pleasant walk, mainly through woodland and we were surprised that we only saw two cyclists and no other walkers.  In the afternoon we followed the path in the opposite direction; this time it ran alongside the lock cut until it re-joined the Moselle just north of Pont-à-Mousson.  Unlike the morning walk it was nearly all in the open with lovely views to the low hills at the far side of the flood plain.  As with the morning we only saw two people, again they were both cyclists.

Walking along the lock cut towards Pont-à-Mousson

Although the clouds rolled in and out all day, we had hardly any of the forecast rain and were lucky to avoid what little fell on both walks.    With hardly any of the forecasted rain actually falling since we’ve been back it’s meant that our cruising, sightseeing and walking hasn’t been impacted.  On the flip side the rain is desperately needed before any of the closed canals start reopening, otherwise we won’t be doing much travelling for the rest of the year.


Sunday dawned grey but rain wasn’t threatened, and it remained that way during our journey to Pont-à-Mousson where we planned on stopping for a couple of nights.

Approaching Pont-à-Mousson under grey skies

There were three places to moor in the town, the first of which was on a quay on the left bank but with rings 40 metres apart it wasn’t suitable for us even though it was empty.  The marina was off the main river in a large inlet, but we didn’t fancy that either, so we carried on to check out the third mooring.  This was on the entrance to another canalised section that was abandoned when the works of 1964 to enlarge the locks on the Moselle were carried out.  It looked lovely and quiet with no boats moored there so we pulled up.  It was just before a lock which we found was still in use but only by workboats needing access to the VNF yard just beyond it.  The sun came out as we moored up and it stayed that way for the rest of the day turning out a lot warmer than we were expecting.

Moored in the old lock cut at Pont-à-Mousson

Unusually for a tourist town on a Sunday the office de tourisme was closed so we set out exploring on our own without any trails to follow.  The town exists on both sides of the river and is joined by a single bridge, although there is now a modern road bridge carrying a bypass some way to the north of the town.  The town bridge was first built in the 12th century and was replaced many times following floods and unrest, the current one being erected after it was destroyed during WWII.  We decided to look around the town on the left bank or west side of the river leaving the other side until Monday.

A serious fishing competition was in progress as we walked along the quayside.  It was so serious that the quay was closed to non-competitors, and we had to walk on the road running alongside and overlooking it.  It was the first time we’d seen a competition where the competitors were in pairs: it did look a more sociable way of fishing.  Looking across the river we could see the marina with a large campervan section and, on top of the hill behind, the remains of Pont-à-Mousson castle.

Marina entrance on the right

When we reached the bridge, we found a lavoir built against the market halls.  The lavoir was closed to the public and the windows bricked up which was a shame especially as it was only built in 1926.  The market halls had modern glass frontage which, to us, looked OK.

Market halls

Our walk took us past and through many narrow streets and very little modern housing as we made our way to the station at the edge of town.  As we crossed over the railway, we could see blast furnaces in the distance.  We wondered if it was another iron works museum like the one that we visited in Dillingen but found out later that it was one of three sites in France still in operation.  The works are owned by the massive French company Saint-Gobain and still has three blast furnaces in operation making manhole covers and cast pipes.

The iron works of Saint-Gobain

We’d been noticing a lot of signs on the streets and buildings around the town had the letters PAM as a prefix or suffix and it took a while before we suddenly realised PAM was short for Pont-à-Mousson.  This was confirmed later when researching the iron works when we also learnt that the inhabitants of PAM are called Mussipontains.  This explained the sign on the lavoir that we hadn't understood:

The main square was unusual in that it was triangular and fortunately it wasn’t spoilt by being used as a car park and from what we could ascertain it was used for markets and fairs.  The buildings around the outside were of many different ages but all had traditional Renaissance arcaded fronts.  Here are a few pictures from different directions where the arches can be seen as well as the large water fountain erected in memory of the dedication of American ambulance workers in France during WWI.

Hôtel de ville (left) built in 1780s

16th century château d'amour or house of seven deadly sims

The fishing competition had just finished as we made our way back to the boat and we spent a while watching the catches being weighed.

Packing up

Crossing the VNF lock on our way back we could see our mooring

On Sunday we cruised 10 km through no locks.


It was due to be a hot day on Monday, so we went exploring in the morning.  Our aim was to cross the town bridge and make our way up to the ruins of the château at the top of the hill.  As the fishing competition was over, we were able to walk along the quay to the bridge rather than the road alongside.

The town bridge

Sign explaining when the bridge was last destroyed and rebuilt

On the far side of the bridge stood the church of St-Martin, first built in the 13th century, but the current building replaced it being finished at the start of the 15th century.

Église Saint-Martin

A track ran almost dead straight up to the castle and was consequently very steep.  We were stopping half-way up to take a detour to see the Red Fountain.  From pictures we could find on the web it looked like it may have been a lavoir but when we arrived, we found it was just a good old-fashioned drinking fountain.  We could see why it was called the red fountain as the local iron ore was staining the water red as it emerged from the spring.

La fontaine rouge

There was very little to see of the ruined castle when we arrived, but we had some marvellous 360º views including north to Metz and south to Nancy.  We could also look down on Pont-à-Mousson



The Moselle running through PAM

The castle was in use until the 1600s during which century it was destroyed and never rebuilt.  It was probably the most ruined ruin we’ve come across with just a couple of stretches of walling partly standing but it was well worth the walk up, particularly for the views.

The remains of the only gateway that remains

We’d imagined the 20 or so dwellings at the top would be a few if not many centuries old so were really surprised to find the majority of the houses were probably built in the last 100 years.  In amongst the housing stood a partially restored Templar’s chapel:

Back at the boat we spent a relaxing afternoon sitting outside watching the local fishermen and the occasional commercial passing by.  One boat in particular made us smile as its name was Happiness and we remembered smiling when it came past us when we were moored in Wasserbillig in Luxembourg waiting for Ian and Helena to visit us.

Tomorrow, we plan to move on a little further upstream.