We got a little help in slowing our cruising pace down from a collapsed lock wall on the Canal des Vosges between
Corre and Epinal. A lockkeeper came to fix a lock that we were passing through that was having problems and
suggested that we stop at the next village of Fontenoy le Chateau as they were having problems with a lock further up
and there was a very good possibility the canal would be closed for a number of days. He said the village had a nice
mooring where we could get electricity and it was pleasant enough of a stop to wait a few days. When we arrived, we
checked with the canal control and they confirmed that the canal would be closed to all navigation for at least eight
days. Imagine an important freeway/autoroute/motorway being closed for a week. The Canal des Vosges is one of two
North - South water routes in France, and therefore has a moderate amount of commercial traffic.
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The VNF must pay the commercial vessel a fee for each day that the vessel is unable to travel because of canal
closures. I think there were about 15 commercials waiting to travel by the time the lock was repaired. We took
advantage of the closure by doing small projects on the barge, taking long bike rides along the canal each day, and
relaxing and visiting with other boaters involved in the delay.
Fontenoy le Chateau is a small village with minimal services, but there was a boules court in the port, as well as a
play area for children. One night when we were finishing dinner up on deck, we noticed there were many more people
in the port than usual. Then we heard drums and saw a line of people in costumes entering the port. They performed
local folk dances and we enjoyed the entertainment. About three days before the canal reopened, a rental boat came in
to the port and I (Lisa) took their lines as they came in. The man onboard was speaking german to another boat that
they appeared to be traveling with but since I didn't speak any german, I asked them in french if they knew about the
canal closure. He looked at me oddly and so I said in french, "french or english", and he said "oh, english please". I
asked him if he was american, and he said "yes". I asked him "where from?" He replied "California". I said, "oh, so are
we, from where?" He said "a small town in southern California". Oh, oh, this is sounding a little too familiar. OK, I'll
bite. "Where? Us too" I said. His reply .... Ojai! "Nooooo, where in Ojai!" His reply ... a street that's about 100 metres
from us, and I even knew that he had a St. Bernard dog. Now that's a small world story!
We stayed put for one day after the canal reopened to let the crowds pass through and then continued on to Epinal
and Richardmenil. From Richardmenil we took the Embrancement de Nancy and stayed in Nancy for almost a week. It
was wonderful to be walking distance from the Place Stanislaus and city center. Nancy is filled with museums and
boutiques of every sort. The Place Stanislaus is a pedestrian area that is lined with cafes and magnificent buildings. We
describe the Square as a blend of St. Marks Square, Venice and Versailles. Magnificent and not to be missed, though it's
a pity the port isn't more conducive to boats over 15 metres. The larger ones that are in the port are in derelict states
and probably rarely, if ever, move.
We then traveled from Nancy on the Canal du Rhône au Rhin towards Strasbourg. We really enjoyed this part of our
trip. We had some pretty exciting locks that we transited. One was 15 metres in height, and we also had the Arzviller
Lift, which was really exciting. Traveling towards Strasbourg, one passes through two tunnels and then you arrive at a
waiting area at the top of the lift. The Arzviller Lift replaced 17 locks and makes a 45 metre elevation change in 10
Instead of a lock where the water inside the lock goes up and down, one goes in to a water contained structure, like a
tub, that is then sealed and you travel down the side of the hillside inside the water filled chamber. When you get to the
bottom (or top) you simply drive out of the chamber and continue traveling on the canal. Because the chamber is the
standard size of a lock there can be waits for up to three hours during peak times in the summer. We were fortunate
both times with minimal waits. Since there are no lines to tend in the process, you can enjoy the scenery during the
There is a paved bike path that starts at the bottom of the lift and goes all the way to Strasbourg. There are many
well marked hiking trails in this area also. Lutzelbourg is a lovely little town that has more of a german feel than
french. Matter of a fact, there are many people in this region that don't speak french, only german, as this part of
France changed hands 7 times in the 1800 and 1900s. The area is rich with history and has a totally different feel to it
than many parts of France. We slowly made our way from Lutzelbourg to Saverne.
Saverne is even more flowered than Lutzelboug and a little more populated. The center is a cobble-stoned
pedestrian area lined with beautiful timbered homes with blown glass windows. There's lots to see and do in this area.