Ryan was speeding his way back to London via the TGV and Eurostar so we decided to start our journey to Auxonne. We were meeting some very good friends, Stewart and Pauline, there and taking them to Dijon on the boat.
We decided to go via the Canal des Vosges as many people had commented on how pretty it was but we were also mindful that many had hinted that water levels could be a problem. Travelling early in the season, we hoped, would alleviate this issue.
This canal is indeed very pretty and the landscape is very undulating. This however, means there are lots of locks. Between Nancy and Auxonne we travelled through 129 locks and covered close to 300km.
Our first night was spent in Richardmenil on a free mooring (at the height of the season local volunteers do collect a fee) at the edge of the village. While there was electricity there was only a water spout so you can't fill up your water tank. The sunset this evening was spectacular.
From here we travelled south but up the river/canal to Charmes where we met a lovely Swedish couple, Britta and Lars, travelling in their ex rental boat. We played hopscotch with them all the way to Corre and got into the habit of daily 5pm drinks either on our boat or theirs.
Charmes hasn't had a very charmed life having been demolished several times through various wars and getting the plague twice in the span of 2 centuries but there are still a few charming views in this town. The mooring was next to the camper van park but it was still very peaceful.
Epinal was our next destination. This lovely town is set on the Moselle River down a side canal from the Canal des Vosges. A number of people suggested we stay here but did warn us that water levels can get really low. It was a lovely Friday afternoon as we cruised along the side canal. We couldn't believe how many people were out enjoying the warm weather - why weren't they at work or school! We started to feel a bit like royalty as we were waved to by every person and had numerous photos taken. If we were given a Euro for every photo we would be very well off!
The mooring here is a little way out of town - maybe 1.5 km but it is set on a lovely park where locals come and stroll, run, cycle, picnic.
From Epinal we headed up the Vosges Mountains via a staircase of locks. Going up in a lock is much more work than going down so after 14 locks in the space of 3.5 km in warm weather I was getting a little weary. We had, however, reached the summit so had a good 10kms of plain sailing before we started our downwards voyage and our stop for the night at Girancourt, where we, once again, had very welcome evening drinks with our Swedish friends on their boat Queen Elizabeth.
Corre was our final destination on the Canal des Vosges. From now on we would be on the Petite Saône and the Saône. This is different cruising as we are now on a river with a much greater current and generally more depth. Kevin reckons our boat responds much better on rivers than it does on canals. We are also now on the edge of Burgundy so are starting to see different styles of architecture, particularly in the churches and the colourful roof tiles.
Gray was another stop on our journey to Auxonne. We chose here to stay for the May Day long weekend. This is one of the few days when the canals are not in operation so we wanted to ensure we had a good base for a few days. In fact we stayed 4 days - the mooring was good, the electricity and water were free and there was a supermarket just a short stroll from the boat. Our Belgian friends, Vinciane and Ivan, were at St Jean de Losne for a barge rally so drove across to join us for dinner.