Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Locked in and "Locked" out!

Wednesday 1 June 2022 2:16 AM

Canal Des Vosges

At Corre, the canalised Petite Saône meets the Canal des Vosges. We were hoping this canal was equally clean and free of weeds. 

It was good to see that back in Port-sur-Saône all effort had been taken to free the canal of old bikes and other debris.  

Corre has a large marina with all the services. We filled the Lodi with water and our bellies with fish and mussels at the attached restaurant. A nice Danish man in his sailboat joined us on the pontoon later on. He had come up the Rhône from the Mediterranean and was on a mission to make it back to Denmark by the end of July.

Being kind and a bit lazy, we let him go ahead the next morning. But as there were no boats coming down the canal towards us and all the locks had been filled for our Danish friend, we had to wait for all to empty again. This took considerable time, and it was late in the afternoon when we finally reached the mooring of Fontenoy-le-Château. 

This little medieval township has its own heroine. In 1861, Julie-Victoire Daubié was the first French woman to do the HSC. She later became a journalist and dedicated her life to standing up for women’s rights. 

The next day, before getting our obligatory baguette at the local bakery, we climbed to the top of town to the ruins of the former castle. 

Luckily, after breakfast, a couple of boats had come down the canal, and so this time the locks were prepared for us. We enjoyed cruising through what seemed to be an enchanted forest with nothing but bird twitter disturbing the serenity. Even being “locked in” at lock No.27 couldn’t spoil our awe for the beautiful scenery. After a phone call, an apologetic lock keeper arrived, opened the lock door and sent us on our way again. We stopped at a green mooring for the night before continuing to climb another 20 locks the next day. Again we passed nothing but forest, some scattered rural areas, a remnant of a tin factory and finally, on the summit, the great water basin which fills the canal. The next 14 locks were going down which was a breeze, but still, at the end of the day, we were totally “locked” out! We turned off into a sidearm of the canal leading to the port of Épinal, tied up and dropped into bed. 

The last time we were in Épinal was by car in 2014. I wrote then that after the French Revolution, Épinal was the first town to pay taxes to Paris. The tax officers must have done very well, as one of them a certain Christophe Doublat got to own the large park surrounding the remains of the former castle and treated it as his private garden. Even now, after the “Parc du Château” has become the property of the town a fruit, herb garden and a small vineyard are still in place. A Chinese-style Pagoda Tower, which Christophe Doublat had built, still links the gardens to his former residence downtown. 

A lot of work has been done to the port of Épinal which conveniently lies between Moselle and the canalised embranchment. There is a restaurant, a playground, outdoor exercise stations and an amazing white-water-rafting park. It draws the water from the river, and after bumping and twirling the daring canoeists through the track, returns them back to the river. From there a conveyor belt transports them back up to the rapids. We saw kids as young as 6 or 7 years old attempting to negotiate the white water and having a lot of fun in the process. (Click on Austin’s movie below)

The walk from the port to the old city passes a beautiful Italian-style house “Maison Romaine” with its garden of 500 rose varieties. On the other side is the Cité de l’Image, comprising two museums. One shows the history of print from wooden printing blocks to the eventual use of zinc plates and from stencils used for colouring the images to lithography using oil and chemical reactions. Initially, master paintings were copied into simplified engravings. From ancient wall art to printing on paper, making the images and texts available to everyone, those single “pages" gained importance.

When peddlers were starting to sell printed material in rural communities, authorities became increasingly worried about their impact and influence on country folks. They started to regulate distribution by approving or disapproving the printed matter. In the early 19th century, for example, the restored monarchy banned all publications praising Napoleon, after he had been banished to Sainte Hélène. There was no freedom of the press until the law was passed in 1881. Épinal had two major printing houses, specialising in printing playing cards, clock face dials, educational pages and books for children.

The second museum of Cité de l'Image deals with the manufacturing side and has among others a Gutenberg printing press on display.

By this time we got very hungry and sauntered back into the centre for one of the nice French lunch menus or “formules”. Ours was an amuse bouche of artichoke cream, a salad with cheese-crusted baguette slices, a beautiful curry pork dish and a chocolate mousse. Incidentally, the restaurant we chose seemed very popular with the locals, maybe due to its name  “Au Bureau” ("At the Office”), giving long lunches a good alibi. When we return to Sydney, we’ll check with our accountant Chris, if our lunch could be tax deductible.


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