Our Barge, Odysseus

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Toul and the Fete de Musique June 21-23

The Solstice is cause for a country-wide celebration of music in France. Almost every town has some sort of program planned. Our first year in France we were in Ferte sur Jouarre and heard chanson, a trumpet-organ concert and old guys playing guitar (sorta badly) in the city park. Last year we had just finished Odysseus engine difficulties and weren't anywhere near music. This year we pulled into Toul just in time to enjoy a real fete!
Toul is one of those smaller medieval cities we refer to as "egg shaped." The old part of town is surrounded by walls, moats or the remains of those and is sort of circular. The city had set up music stages all over town, it wasn't raining and everybody from town was there. We saw beginner guitar players from the music school, a piano teacher and his students, and a DJ who played a remix of "Cotton Eyed Joe." (Cathy couldn't remember the steps although she assured me her relatives would have!) The Holy Rollers were there trying to drum up some support, the "Portland contingent" with their black t shirts emoted their angsty songs and the "progressive rock" band with no hair was playing some 80's American "hair band" music. But we saw the topper as we were leaving town. Inside the Bar Au Soleil d'Or was a group of 60 to 70 year olds dressed in Beatles outfits like those on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album playing Monkees songs. Classic rock, indeed! We chuckled all the way back to the boat.
The weather forecast said rain Wednesday but clearing on Thursday so we decided to stay put for another day in Toul before heading further up the river.

Liverdun? June 20

It was overcast when we left Nancy but not raining. It wouldn't do that until we were in locks and had to be outside. One we got to the Moselle River, after about an hour, we turned left instead of right as we had last year. We were on new water!
Our next objective was the town of Liverdun, the so-called "Switzerland of Lorraine." We had a chuckle over that.
Perched on a hillside over a sharp bend in the Mossell, the site has been occupied since the Paleolithic era. Archeological digs have yielded bronze implements from Celtic times. The Romans called it Liberdunum, "Fortress on a Rock," and an act of the Merovingian king Dagobert gave the town to the bishopric of Toul in the 12th century, when it became fortified.
Now it's just a picturesque village in France, the home of the "Veritables Madeleines de Liverdun." We had to buy some. Delicious!
Cathy Jo on the streets of Liverdun.
Liverdun from the river.
The tie-up in Liverdun was really beautiful. A little arm leads off the river where a landing has been constructed. There's only room for a couple of boats but there was plenty for us and a hireboat from Lagarde.
The halte below Liverdun.
The next morning it was off for Toul.

To the Moselle: We Retrace Last Year, June 16-19

So far the weather this year has been pretty marginal.  There's been some rain almost every day, although at least until we got to Nancy it had been warm.
Thursday morning we waited for a shower to pass and then shoved off from the canal bank and headed west, retracing our trip down the canal.  Last year the first night out from Lagarde we just stopped along the bank at the town of Sommerviller.  This year we passed through one more lock to the town mooring basin to spend the night.  Friday morning the skies had cleared a bit as we headed for our stop in Nancy.
The locks along this part of the canal are all automated.  A "garage door opener" device triggers the lock's operation and, just like last year, until the last three locks before Nancy, it had worked perfectly.  Just like last year, the locks stopped "seeing" the "telecommand" just before Nancy and we had to call the lockkeepers to operate them.  There is a call box at each lock and the mobile "eclusiers" are good about showing up quickly.  We never had to wait more than twenty minutes but it was a little annoying.  We made a quick stop for groceries at the convenient waterside supermarket and by 2:30 we were tied up along the bank in Nancy.  We made a quick trip to the tourist office at the beautiful Place Stanislaus (see last year's pictures) and made our plans for a couple of days.
Saturday morning we walked over to the big covered market to stock up on more groceries and then spent the afternoon at the Musee des Beaux Artes.  The "School of Nancy" was one of the principal originators of the Art Deco movement and the museum contains a huge collection of art glass from the Daum company that is located in Nancy.
We'd made reservations at a restaurant we wanted to visit last year (it was closed - August!) and had a great meal at Pissenlits (Dandelions).
Every year the city of Nancy puts on their "Son et Lumiere" (sound and light show) in Place Stanislaus.  They use high-tech projectors to show scenes on the buildings surrounding the square.  Lucky for us, Saturday night was the first night of this year's show and it stopped raining long enough for the show to proceed. Very impressive! It was cold, though.  Jackets were required.
Sunday the weather was just plain nasty; cold, windy and rainy.  Books were read.  Tomorrow we'd enter some new territory.

Los Angeles, London, Paris, Nancy, Lagarde. Whew! June 7-15

Tuesday, June 7 was the beginning of this years Europe trip; work and family obligations delaying our usual mid-May departure.  Air New Zealand whisked us from Los Angeles International Airport, leaving at about 4:30 pm and depositing us (early!) about 10:30 am at London's Heathrow Airport.  From there is was a 1 hour Underground ride to the St. Pancras station.  The Eurostar to Paris didn't leave until about 4 (we wanted to leave plenty of time for the connection) so we settled in for a leisurely lunch.  
Two and a half hours after leaving London we were at the Gare du Nord, one of Paris' four big train station.  The room we had booked for two nights was just a five minute walk from the station; we didn't even have time to get lost! After our host, Peet, showed us our room, we stashed our bags and hit the streets.  We wandered along the Canal St. Martin, found some pizza to go, a bottle of red wine, headed back to our room for a quick meal and tried to defeat Mr. Jet Lag.
Thursday we visited the Musee d'Orsay for a big Manet exhibition and had dinner at a typical Paris bistro.  For those who will be visiting Paris' 10th arrondissement, Philou was excellent! Friday morning it was on to Gare de L'Est, about 10 minutes walk from "Our Room in Paris."  An hour and a half later we were in Nancy just a short walk from the car rental location.  After getting thoroughly lost trying to get out of the city, we finally managed to find the road to Lagarde.  We arrived to find Odysseus in desperate need of a bath but otherwise in good shape.  After unpacking the bags we settled in for the next three months.
Saturday morning was cleanup time and the afternoon meant a trip to the supermarket; the shelved needed to be restocked.  Sunday and Monday were boat maintenance days; a little painting, some engine chores.  We had reserved the car until Friday but we really didn't think we would need it that long.  The weather was not cooperating; showers just about every day.  We decided to take a drive over to Alsace on Tuesday, drop off the car on Wednesday and head off down the canal on Thursday.
Alsace was it's usual beautiful self, although there was quite a bit of rain.  We revisited Saverne, one of our favorite places, and drove down part of the "Route du Vin," Alsace's wine road.  We had a hearty lunch in Westhoffen and headed back over the Vosges Mountains to Lagarde.
We also bought cherries.  Yum.  Sweet. If you need to buy them (they're falling off the trees everywhere), they cost about euro 2.50 a kilo; that's about a two bucks a pound for us American types.
Wednesday was the "Return the Car" adventure.  There is no public transport to Lagarde.  The nearest train station, about 10 k away across the rolling fields, gets maybe 4 visits a day.  Our plan was to load the bikes into the rental car, chain them to the railing at the train stop (hardly a station) in Igney-Avricourt, drive to Nancy, drop off the car, catch the train to Igney and then ride the bikes back to Lagarde.  We only had to leave enough time to get lost trying to find the car rental place in Nancy! And we weren't looking forward to that bike ride.  Rolling hills means some downhills followed by killer uphills.
Wonder of wonders, it all worked exactly as planned.  Cathy Jo's excellent navigation skills allowed us to drive right to the car rental place with only one, easily fixed, wrong turn.  We were about an hour early for the train so there was no panic.  The bikes were where we left them when we arrived in Igney and the bike ride turned out to be not nearly as bad as we thought. Thursday morning we waited for it to stop raining and headed off down the Canal de l' Marne au Rhine toward Nancy.