We arrived at Verdun too late to get a mooring on the pontoon. There were already 9 boats in place with two others “double parked”. So we had to fight against strong wind and current to turn 180 degrees and squeeze in between 5 barges and a “No Mooring” sign on the other quay side. A friendly French couple helped us tie up and assured us that we would have a good chance to get a spot on the pontoon in the morning.

Tired from "a long day at the office", we only managed a short walk but immediately liked the place. 

The next morning we were woken by a big exodus as 3 boats left for the locks at the same time. It didn’t take us long to scuffle over to one of the vacated spaces and be ready to explore Verdun.

Leaving the Quai de Londres (London), named in honour of Great Britain's help in rebuilding the quay after WW2, we passed through Porte Chaussée.

Unfortunately only a couple of gateways are left from the former ramparts. A lovely green park runs along the canal with an impressive sculpture from Rodin called “La Défense”. 

73 steps lead to the Victory Monument which can be seen towering over the city from afar. 

Close by is the Bishops Palace and the 10th century Notre Dame Cathedral, a must visit for all history buffs. From there narrow lanes snake back down to the old city, the theatre and market halls.

In the afternoon while relaxing on the Freshwater,we were rattled by a rap followed by the friendly voice of Bill, the self proclaimed “women magnet". Bill and Jennifer had only left Toul 2 days before and had already caught up to us. While we had our "Nanna Nap" they had tied up and had done the hoovering, well, Jennifer had, and now invited us for drinks on their beautiful and clean boat. Jennifer, having a great sense of humour, was well prepared for Austin’s stories about Bill and the 2 French ladies which is by now part of Porte de France's history. We had a great night with lots of laughs and, on my part, being seduced by Bill, too much red wine!

The indulgence of the previous night didn’t do much to lessen the sad impact of our tour of the Battlefields of Verdun, where during WW1 800,000 people where injured and 500,000 soldiers lay buried.

The charming landscape surrounding the town belies the horrors these young men faced. Though as you near the battlefields you can see the untouched surface of the grassy hills full of bomb and grenade craters. The so-called bone house at the top of the cemetery contains what is left of thousands of unknown soldiers.

Interesting are the insides of the underground forts, especially Fort Douaumont.

If you don’t want to visit the battlefield or forts, you can take a 30 minute train ride through the Citadel Souterrain in town. The galleries come to life via video scenes, soldier’s voices and reconstructed command centres and living areas of WW1 times. Just make sure you wear a warm jacket - it’s freezing in the galleries!

On a lighter note, we had front row seats on the Freshwater to this weekends Music Festival. All day, the Verdunians were out in force enjoying freshly baked crepes, a drink on the terraces of Quay de Londres and the diverse musical bands and performances. 

I wonder if the French family appreciates that Austin captured their selfie!?

© Austin Robinson 2019