Read about this trip from the start – here.
From Pargny-sur-Saulx we did another 21 kilometres plus 8 locks and arrived in Vitry-le-Francois at 15.00pm. The region we traveled through is known as the Valley of Seventy referring to the 70 locks descending into the valley. And the seventy ascending up and out the valley. From brochures and travelling through we could see it was a lovely region. There is a green cycle route that follows the canal. I must say the tourism office at Vitry-le-Francois were outstanding. We mentioned we had a key from Bar-le-Duc and they got hold of the regional office for us. They paid us back our deposit and we returned the key to them. We knew we needed extra fenders with all the bouncing in the locks and they located a boating shop who were happy to drive out to meet us on the waterways with fenders. They also gave us a weather report. Kudos to them. We did a quick walkabout in Vitry-le-Francois and resolved to get going the next day for Saint Dizier before the rain set in.
When we arrived back at the marina we noticed a noise coming from our boat. And could see water pumping out the bilge. Instant panic! We turned off the water pump and opened up the decks to hear water dripping and saw the hull was full of water. Have I mentioned how lucky I am that my husband is a handy guy? He checked the water tanks. Empty. He took off his shoes and as he stepped onto the carpet in the bedroom he noticed it was waterlogged. That gave him a clue. He checked the shower and it turned out a pipe to the basin had slipped off. The water pump reads that situation as an open tap and pumped 750 litres – our entire water supply – through that pipe. The water had run all over the cupboards, spilled out the bathroom and into the carpet in the bedroom.
Luckily we have a boat full of tools and spares. And someone who knows what to do. My other half re-fitted the hose and clamped it back on. He checked all the other hoses. And added that to our growing list of things to ultimately have replaced. We lifted the carpet, placed it on the back deck and mopped up the water. Fortunately we had access to unlimited water and were able to fill our tank. At a wild stop this would have been a disaster situation.
The next day was another full day with 30 kilometres and 14 locks. Except we were ascending again. More deep locks. I walked between the locks if they were close together but would jump off the boat just before the lock if they were too far apart. Naturally the remote failed a few times. The itinerant lockie exchanged it for us. And the lights didn’t work at one of the locks. But by now we were getting used to things not working. We were also travelling with a carpet draped over the front of our boat which might have appeared unusual.
|Waiting for a big barge to squeeze through a lock
We arrived in Saint Dizier at 17.00pm on a Sunday evening. Not a lot we could do at that time except have a quick walkabout, then back to the boat for a shower and a glass or three of wine. The approach to Saint Dizier is industrial and not particularly appealing. The first mooring point is next to derelict buildings and the second mooring point is a mass of concrete opposite a huge big empty looking place called Centre Nautique. There are electrical and water points at the second stop but they require tokens. We spoke to a French couple tied up there and they had no idea how or where to purchase these tokens. If locals couldn’t figure it out what chance did we have? So we resolved to stay put next to a glass recycling point. Cars drove up and flung bottles into this thing all night long. My other half had business to take care of the next day which required wi-fi. We would have to find a wifi cafe or some way to get Internet.
Our next day was a much needed slow start. I got on top of clearing and labeling my photos, caught up on this diary and cleaning. My husband spent the day sorting out a bunch of issues via e-mail and on the phone. He was back and forth from the Tourist Office so he could have access to wi-fi. I should have tried to see Saint Dizier but it was raining and I had no desire to. It’s amazing how a mooring spot can affect a person’s feelings about a place.
One thing we could have used is an honest and truthful account of which places to stop and which to avoid. I found a book called Barging into Burgundy by Gerald Morgan-Grenville in amongst a stash inherited from my husband’s cousin lurking in a cupboard on our boat. It was printed in 1975 yet it’s surprisingly apt in many respects. He describes Saint Dizier thus – “Soon we were entering the vastly unattractive industrial complex of St Dizier and from here to Vitry the canal runs straight, through plain scenery without distractions.” So maybe it wasn’t just me. The French waterways guides paint every place in a perfect light. But I think it unwise to tempt people to the less attractive places. Those become memories and associations.
Truthfully, the trip from Void to Saint Dizier wasn’t the most exciting. Morgan-Grenville wasn’t impressed the upcoming part of our trip either. He says of Chaumont – “The town has been badly damaged and is not worth a visit.” His main beef was two airfields nearby and supersonic planes flying so low that apparently windows shattered. We heard those planes a few times and had planned an extra night there but after reading that decided to give Chaumont a miss.
I’m reluctant to be unkind about a place because people live there. There is beauty in everything if you look deeper. On the way into Saint Dizier at one of the lock houses a super friendly guy was bragging about the wonders of this region. About MIKO ice cream and local Champagne. I barely understood him but he believed Saint Dizier was too wonderful. To be fair once we left Saint Dizier, the area on the other side of the marina heading south was much nicer. And the scenery only got more and more beautiful. Not far from Saint Dizier was a gorgeous little stopping place called Chamouilley. By the time we got to our next stop Joinville we were feeling a whole lot better about our holiday.
And . . . we realised that the trick to getting the remote control to work, was to ignore the VNF sign telling us when to push the button. This section of the canal the receiver was inside the lock and the closer we got to the lock the greater the chance it would work.
The story continues – on this link.