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Our friends the Hockeys arrived at Dole in very hot weather so we ate out on deck while behind trees ashore adjacent to our mooring, about 30 balloons proceeded to take off. There was even a powered Swiss Blimp floating around which we christened "Zeppelin" as it looked like it was making a bombing run over the city!
The Canal du Rhône au Rhin follows the River Doubs for a lot of its course and it is at Dole where you first meet this beautiful river. As you proceed upstream increasing use is made of the river with shorter canalised sections. It also becomes more and more beautiful with every kilometre. Due to the revolution the navigation was first started towards the end of the 18th century but not completed until 1834. It climbs to 340 m above sea level through 73 locks and 160 m then drops down to the Rhine valley 106 m through 39 locks over a total distance of 236 km.
Our first mooring was at the little village of Ranchot before continuing on to the city of Besançon. Built on a huge bend of the river it is dominated by the huge citadelle, another Vauban masterpiece, in fact almost every hill around is crowned with some kind of fortress. A tunnel took us under the citadelle, cutting off the huge meander the river takes through the city, where we turned downstream to a new pontoon, 260 m long which cost €3 million and which cost us €20 a night to moor onto. Opposite was a club which blared out pop music until 2am after which thunder kept us awake for the rest of the night. The nearest shop was 15 minutes walk away and there was no bread to be found as it was Bastille day. We ate at the Casino restaurant then walked across to one of the bridges to watch the fireworks, returning to Harmonie just before it began to rain once again.
The weather slowly improved the next day as we stopped for lunch at Deluz so I resolved to climb up to a belvedere on the Montagne Notre-Dame d'Aigremont high above the river valley.
It was a steep climb of about 250 m vertical distance and it was hot and humid so I was leaking profusely by the time the summit was reached. As you can see the view was well worth the effort.
On the way back down via a circular route I came across a large butterfly so I snapped it and when I examined the result, found I had also snapped a couple of waspie thingies doing something naughty - I think - or they might just be playing leapfrog?
Whilst on the subject of the natural world we have noticed these strange growths on steel piles and lock walls of many canals. What are they? Can any reader identify them I asked at the time? The explanation came on a visit to New Zealand in 2011/12 where they are trying to eradicate it. It is an algea called didymo which has a common name of rock snot which is a good description!
Our next stop was at Baume-les-Dames where the Hockeys treated us to a gourmet meal at the Château d'As.
The meal was excellent and they kept bringing out little delicacies which were not on the menu; I think we had about five puddings.
This was the Hoks last night with us and we did rush to get to this part of France as we knew they would enjoy this stunning scenery. The next morning they caught the train back to Dole. It took about an hour and we had taken six days by barge!
The weather turned nasty again after they left so Sue spent the day catching up with her washing while I watched the England cricket team make a splendid last wicket stand in the second Ashes test, Anderson making shots worthy of a top order batsman then steadily demolishing the Oz batsmen with his bowling. Eight Oz wickets down for only 150 odd runs at the close with Ricky Pontings nails almost down to the quick! Luvverly to watch. What with their saving innings of the first test I think Sir James Anderson, Sir Monty Panasar, not forgetting Lord Collingwood (who fought with Lord Nelson) are deserving of honours.
The Oz tail did wag a bit but they were all out for 215, Strauss did not enforce the follow on and England declared their second innings leaving Oz 522 to win but with two full days to bowl them out. Their top order batsmen failed but, notably, North and Haddin stuck in for an epic partnership. Oz were finally bowled out just before lunch on the last day with Freddy Flintoff taking his first (and probably last) 5 wickets at Lords and Oz still needing 115 runs so England go one up in the series with three to play.
We stayed on a couple of days at Baume-les-Dames as the Tour de France was passing through. About 3 hours before the riders arrive the commercial circus passes through throwing out all sorts of promotional junk at the assembled throng. The French seem to love this free junk and collect bagfuls of the stuff, throwing themselves into the path of the speeding traffic to retrieve it. We heard that the previous day a spectator had been killed when they were hit by a Motorcycle Gendarme.
After two hours of being pelted by junk thrown from cars and trucks disguised as the products they were promoting (a bit like Bridgwater carnival at speed and without the lights but even more boring), you wait for another hour for the pleasure of watching a few dozen cyclists flash by in about 10 seconds. Cricket might be slow sometimes but at least you get your moneys worth if it doesn't rain!
French towns are always famous for something and Montbéliard is no exception. Its claim to fame is a huge Château perched on a big chunk of limestone above the pastel colour washed houses of the city and a big Peugeot factory, the main employer and where the firm was founded. It was 32 degrees C in the shade when we arrived so our walk around was somewhat curtailed as we retreated back to Harmonie for Gins & Tonic under the umbrella on deck. Montbéliard Château was built by Henriette du Wurtembourg in 1397 who, although she herself was the descendant of an old French family, decided to ally the city with the German Empire so it became a German principality within France for four centuries before France annexed it in 1793.
As we continue our journey from Franche-Comté through the tiny Territoire de Belfort into Alsace, the place names, architecture and spoken language become increasingly German. We leave the Doubs valley here and follow the rivers Allan, Bourbeurse and St Nicholas to the summit of this navigation and our next port of call, Montreaux-Château. We call it the summit pound whereas the French call it the Bief de partage and after only five kilometres you begin a rapid descent down a flight of 16 locks to the pretty little town of Dannemarie. Our rapid descent continues down a further 22 locks to the yacht basin at Mulhouse where we moor up against a quay under some trees. We are grateful for the shade as the temperature is in the low 30's but did not like the leaves, twigs, black sticky seeds and sap that they covered Harmonie with, neither did I like the rat that ran across my sandals as I walked along the quay! I kept that one quiet from Sue who would have insisted we set sail immediately had she known!
Mulhouse is the home of the Schlumpf Automobile Collection which houses over 400 classic cars including the largest collection of Bugattis in the world. Even if you don't much like cars you will like this place and the way the cars are presented under ornate wrought iron street lights.
When I was at college in the late fifties, my old mate Dick Goodey and myself used to amuse ourselves driving Austin Seven Chummies which we modified to try and make look like "Bugs", a car we lusted after! Bugatti was making cars in Mulhouse for over 50 years but only produced 7,800 in total so they were always a bit special. Contrast that with Peugeot, who was France's first car manufacturer, is still in business today and had its ten millionth car on display! There was even a Trabant there which used to be Sues favourite car!
Mulhouse is an industrial city but much of its ancient centre remains, in particular its Hotel de Ville which is covered in trompe l'oeil. In case you are unfamiliar with this French term it means "trick of the eye" and there are several places around town that have used the technique particularly in the main square. There is a free museum in the Hotel de Ville providing much local history.
The River Rhine requires us to take a pilot on board so we turn around here and retrace our steps back up to Dannemarie where we eat out in the hot evening sun at the lively Italian restaurant next to the church cruising back up to the summit level the next day. We then began the long descent to Montbéliard followed by Isle-sur-Doubs where there is a very convenient quay right next to a big supermarket so I staggered back with a replacement gas bottle.
Back again to Baume-les Dames where we spent another couple of days spudded on the end of the only mooring for a barge our size. This place is a really attractive town set in scenery to die for but we eventually dragged ourselves away back to Deluz where they had turned the electricity off and directed us to the new marina. Unfortunately the new marina is completly infested with fingers. These are floating gangplanks which are only any good for "noddy boats" and impossible for real ships like Harmonie to moor on to so we were sans electricité. It is a continuing niggle that those responsible for providing mooring facilities in France do not have the first clue how to go about it! Coming upstream it was free electricity at that mooring. Progress was to cut it off when they could have charged us for both the mooring and the electric.
On then to Besançon where we moored between pontoons at the downstream entrance to the tunnel for which we received the plaudits from the Dutch skipper of a lovely little Tjalk who reckoned that most owners of barges our size moored inconsiderately. In our experience it is the smaller boats who are the main culprits particularly little Dutch boats but we didn't mention that! Coming upstream on our last visit to Besançon we did not visit the citadelle so this time we climbed up hundreds of steps in 30 degree temperatures to visit this Vauban masterpiece.
If you do not have a head for heights then this is not the place for you as the 20 metre high battlements are built on the edge of a 200 metre high limestone promontory overlooking the city and the views are outstanding.
Here you are looking north downstream and on the bottom right hand side of the picture you can just make out Harmonie moored behind a little narrow boat in the basin but for those with poor eyesight click on the picture above for a closeup!
Here is the view north east across the city looking down on the river Doubs before it sweeps around to the previous picture. You pays your ten Euros and gets your audio guide so you are free to explore this huge construction. Contained within the battlements are a Zoo, a museum of local arts, the museum of the resistance and deportations (It was used as a prison during WW2 and resistance fighters were executed here), an aquarium, an insectarium and loads of other 'ariums. You can spend a day here and still not see it all and you get two free tickets for other museums down in the city.
Our journey continued back downstream to Ranchot then to Dole which completes this page. Our plan was to head off up the Burgundy canal, River Yonne, River Seine to Paris then up the River Marne to stock up on the "Shampoo" and back to Belgium via the Canal des Ardennes and the River Meuse, most of which has already been described on this web site but we will record anything interesting that happens on the way and put it on the next page. These plans have once again gone aft agley with the closure of a vital lock at Berry-au-Bac so we now will go back up the river Oise and canal du Nord then the Escaut into Belgium and up to Gent.
We bunkered at St Jean de Losne where we bought a couple of fenders from Tim, a son of Cornwall who we met last year at Joinville.
The two day voyage up the dead straight boring canal up to Dijon was wet and plagued by idle eclusiers who could not even be bothered to keep their locks free of weed with the result our suction pipes for the wet exhaust kept getting blocked and coming astern entering a lock had very little effect due to the quantities of weed around the propeller. In order to open some top gates it was necessary to clear weed before they could be properly opened and most eclusiers just stood and watched us do their work for them.
We arrived in Dijon on the 9th of August to find three Australian barges tied up so we naturally partook of the amber nectar to cleanse the effect of England being thrashed by an innings and 80 runs at Headingly!! We then managed to visit our favourite Chinese restaurant in Dijon for another excellent meal. It was about 15 years since we ate there first. Then it was off to Pont d'Ouche.