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.|
|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!