Monday, 26 June 2017

5 Days in Gray

Founded in the 7thC Grey grew to prominence in the 12thC as the principal commercial port of the self-governing state of Compte as Franche-Compte was known then.

Try as hard as we could we were unable to find the hotel we had stayed in in 2012 and to tell the truth, not much of the city was familiar which, for me, is unusual as I normally have a pretty good memory for places we have been to. After wandering around the fascinating old town we eventually popped into the incredibly efficient and friendly tourist office (the one young lady even came to the boat to take a picture of us and the South African flag) and emerged with a map and brochures and had booked a walking tour for Friday, one which we were advised was somewhat unique as the guide was allowed access into many buildings not open to the public.

The rest of the week was spent

- panting in the heat with 37C being recorded inside the boat on two of the days. The others were not much cooler.

- provisioning up at the enormous Intermarche almost across the road from the mooring – there is also a big brico (hardware shop) in the same complex and we came away with spare tubes for the eBikes as well as a new front tyre for mine

- helping boaters out with electricity ‘splitters’ and extension cords for which I was ‘rewarded’ by a Hungarian group to a tasting of their homemade schnapps…

- having the battery in my watch replaced and in the process learning that luminescent watch faces are no longer allowed in the EU because “…the radium is unhealthy”.And cigarettes are still allowed?!

- listening to some drumming and guitar music at a café on National Music Day, June 21st.

Municipal police in summer uniform.

- on the recommendation of the British couple who have stopped over in Gray many times (their over-winter port is Savoyeaux) we had a delicious lunch at Le Crato which we found out subsequently is the Trip Advisor top rated restaurant in Gray!

Not to say that Lynn's cooking isn't just as good!

- cycling around the suburbs and generally having fun.

We are moored on the wall top left of picture near the trees.

The British restaurant adviser couple's boat

Part of the city from the fortress.

The stunning 16thC Town Hall

Church of Our Lady of Gray in the background.

13thC Keep.

The 18thC Chateau built for the Govenor
We even had some commercial traffic.

This was the booat which was being used as a dive platform in Epinal.

Probably the highlight of our visit was the tour of some of the landmarks of the city conducted by retired teacher and volunteer Ria, a Dutch lady who settled in Gray sixteen years previously and fell into the role by accident. At €3.40 per person (plus whatever you feel like tipping) it is a bargain and Ria opened our eyes to many small details that we had walked past and never even noticed like the alcoves above house doors where statues of saints were placed before street numbering became the norm.

A couple of notables of the tour were

- the Cathedral of Notre Dame De Gray

A seat for the priest who was tired of standing

The heat of St Pierre Fourier is
inside this piece

-         - visiting the manuscript library of the city library (which was closed but Ria organised us entry),

-          - a tour of the 19thC theatre,

-          - and the Gauthiot D’Ancier mansion with its revolving staircase hiding the room where Pierre Fourier, later Saint Pierre Fourier, hid from Cardinal Richelieu’s persecution.

The revolving staircase

The hidden room

Neither of the latter two  sights can be viewed without a guide.

The motto of Gray is ‘Triplex Victoria Flammis’ or ‘Three times victorious over the flames’ as the then wooden town was accidentally burned down in 1324 and then by mercenaries in 1440 and finally by troops of the invading French in 1479 after which the construction of buildings in wood was banned and many of the houses in the town date from the late 15th and early 16th century. A really fascinating place!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

La Petite Saône: Corre to Gray via Port-sur-Saône, Scey-sur-Saône, Traves and Soing-Cubry-Charentenay.

12 to 19 June 2017.

118.5 kilometers, 18 locks, 2 tunnels.

Monday 12 June – Corre to Port-sur-Saône. 41 kilometers, 4 locks, 4 hours 45 minutes.

This is relaxing cruising at its best! Beautiful weather, tranquil countryside with small villages, most with a welcoming jetty for visitors, and hardly any locks.

A 'comtois steeple', recognizable by its often rounded shape and glazed tile roof.

A small town mooring - most adequate.

The marina at Port-sur-Saône is fairly large and well equipped but it is almost all reverse-in mooring and this makes taking the bikes off the deck somewhat of a mission. Luckily a boat left the end pontoon with its double finger shortly after we arrived so we moved and were much happier.

Port-sur-Saône is a strange town; not much to see or do

A mural depicting inter alia Ghandi, Anne Frank, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King

(there is however a Colruyt in the main road) but it is a busy thoroughfare for all kinds of heavy vehicles – apparently they are building a big interchange, including two massive viaducts over the Saône, which will divert the heavies around the town. Scheduled for completion in 2020 but we did not see any signs of the impending works.

7am traffic through town.

The staff at the marina were not the friendliest so after filling up with water (At 08h25, in French: “Pardon madame but is there a problem with the water? It does not come on when the taps are opened”. “Huite trante!” [“Eight thirty!”] and that was the reply - sweet person), the next day we opted to move closer to town to the one hundred and fifty meter long wall decked with bollards about fifteen meters apart, and do some sanding and painting. A very suitable and pleasant place to spend our last day in Port-sur-Saône.

Wednesday 14 June. Port-sur- Saône to Scey-sur- Saône – 11 kilometres, 2 locks.

The next morning, as soon as the big marina office opened, we crossed to their diesel pump and topped up with 200 litres at €1.45 per litre and then set off through the nearby lock and on to the prettiest piece of waterway imaginable.

Activating the lock.

After the hectic, lock-intensive Canal des Voges, in Lynn’s words, “It’s like being in a different country!” Gently putting along at ten kph past green trees lining the wide ribbon of water is an absolute pleasure. We took the small detour to the town of Chemilly to have a look at the castle but the very limited moorings were full and the boat at the one small jetty who probably left ten minutes we cruised past him looking for a place did not bother to indicate that we should wait as he was leaving. Anyway, on we went to the small wooden municipal jetty at Scey-sur-Saône (not the big Locaboat marina down the main branch of the river) where a hire-boat was just leaving and where we joined two others in the most perfect surroundings; a grassy park, water and old buildings hiding the most scenic little town anyone could wish for! And €4 per day for mooring and €2 for unlimited water is a gift and shortly after we tied up the other two boats left leaving us in blissful serenity.

Bikes off and around the gorgeous village we rode, eventually happening on the tourist office where we collected a map with a suggested walk/ride which we duly did and thoroughly enjoyed.

The Mairie

Note the air raid siren!

Want to buy a 16thC forge?
Church of St Martin.

The Wash house

19thC Fontaine Larie

Ma cherise!

We have never seen a white peacock.

The stable gates

The stables!!

Maison Bel: Property of M. Perrenot, the Lord of Granvelle
and Charles the 5th's (?)  Exchequer
An earlylunch at restaurant Le Chanoise, (a bit of a way out of the village center but worth going to) from which we emerged like engorged little ticks

Duck pate and a croque arrangement.
Pan roasted pork and sweetmeats on a skewer.

followed by a ride to the Locaboat base

View over the bridge to our pretty mooring.

and then it was back to Elle via a ‘brocante’ shop where a decanter jug was calling to me but despite three visits, all during the advertised open time, the doors stayed stubbornly shut; the lady at the tourist office next door said that the proprietor opens when he feels like it.

But perseverance pays!
After two lovely days we departed Scey-sur-Saône, now on our list of favourite villages, to continue our southward journey.

This eventually became a full blown, all night rainstorm!
Friday 16 June. Scey-sur- Saône to Traves. 12.5 kilometers, 2 locks, 1 x 680 meter tunnel.

An uneventful but pretty cruise took us through the 19thC Saint-Albin tunnel,

past the ruined castle at Rupr-sur-Saône

before we turned off the canal ‘deviation, upstream

A minor blockage.

to Traves which is basically a riverside resort below the town of the same name.

Not needing water or electricity, we paid (an arbitrary it seemed) eight Euros for one nights mooring and then took a cycle tour of the area as proposed by a map on a notice board, one which we did not fully complete as the battery on the GPS went dead and we got a bit lost.

On the way to Getting Lost.

Just a village


Repunzel's address.

A most beautiful 18thC partially restored church interior in Traves.

Lots of these - great camaraderie. 

Guillotine or old well mechanism?
We did however find a tiny charcuterie where we bought some farm chicken and two specialty-of-the-region sausages which looked like the dreaded andoilettes but turned out to be coarsely ground pork bangers – absolutely delicious!

A nice enough marina if not a bit sterile and we were a bit sinus-challenged by the snowfalls of plane-tree ‘fluff’ which swirled around us, something which has been a bit of a feature this trip so far.

Snow in mid summer.

Saturday 17 June. Traves to Soing-Cubry-Charentenay. 20 kilometers, 3 locks, 3 hours 10 minutes.

More of the same idyllic cruising over wide riverway

interrupted now and then by dead straight ‘derivations’ or cuttings which by-pass shallow or impassable stretches of river and which are home to the locks, flood gates and flood locks, the latter only being operational during times that the river is in flood.

Soing-Cubry-Charentenay is actually three villages combined and the mooring was on the skirts of Soing-Cubry (most people we have spoken to refer to the place as Soing, pronounced almost like ‘swung’) and borders a large park and camping area – tranquil during the week but thronged over the weekend and we were lucky enough to be entertained the whole of Saturday afternoon by the non-stop tantrum of a particularly miserable child – how the parents and their friends put up with the racket is beyond belief. And the bikers came for lunch!

The town of Soing has not much going for it but there is a very popular restaurant, a wash house and fountains (not working) and a shop which was closed for the week

The main road

The small jetty is busy with craft, mainly hire-boats coming for lunch and then disappearing at speed downriver, arriving and departing.

Oops, a bit off course...

...let's try again...


...and with a change of skipper they are in!

We met a lovely Swedish couple on their beautiful 2004 replica Luxemotor Jana – it’s a pity that we were heading in opposite directions to make rendezvous as we would have liked have gotten to know Lennert and Dolores a bit better.

Monday 19 June. Soing to Gray. 42,5 kilometers, 5 locks, 1 tunnel. 6 hours.

Jana departing

With provisions running low and the shop not opening for another five days, it was back downstream

A travelling companion.

A (Ummm) private boat - but a lovely Luxemotor.

past the detour to Ray-sur- Saône with its magnificent hilltop castle, past the cluttered marina at Savoyeaux and the Savoyeaux tunnel

where we were joined by a British couple who locked through with us at the next lock but whom we soon left behind (but who tied up behind us in Gray). Two locks later we were fortunate to have the lock kept open for us by a German sailor travelling solo south with his dog and we locked through with him to Gray,

passing the big Le Boat marina where we departed on our first hire-boat trip in 2012. The long quay below the weir was pretty full and we were fortunate to find a place near an electricity bourn albeit we were aground in less than one meter of water. By evening there were fourteen boats lined up on the quay!

We feel that we have come full circle.