Strasbourg to Xouaxange

Sorry for the gap between updates. Work has been busy for me and we had a few long days towards the end of the Rhône au Rhine canal and our arrival in Strasbourg.  We thoroughly enjoyed the upper section of the Rhine with the big locks, floating bollards and more places to stop than we had anticipated.

We had also not anticipated the fact that the lock taking you from the Rhine into the Canal Du Rhone au Rhine Nord at Rhinau was closed due to siltation.  It doesn’t look like they see it being open anytime soon as there is a large yellow bouy with a “No Entry” sign anchored right in front of the lock and strings of smaller bouys are stretched from one side to the other giving the distinct impression they’re a permanent feature.  This meant we had to complete 2 more of the last 4 locks on the Rhine, entering the canals at Strasbourg Nord lock – which we did at about 7 o’clock Sunday evening.

The navicarte books are generally out of date, we’ve found, and the Hopital Port in Strasbourg, where we believed we would get a few days of rest, has been closed for some time.  We had passed the new port on the way, but that seemed to be chocka block so we stayed at the lock for the night, it now being about 8pm.

The following morning we headed back to the other port and landed on the fuel quay – and were pleasantly surprised that their diesel was just €1.38 per litre!  This is unheard of in marine circles with other places charging in excess of €1.55.  Frank went off to speak to the boss and came back with the news that the fuel price was correct, we could get the scooter off where we sat and there was a berth available if we rafted outside a similar sized and uninhabited Piper barge.  That’ll do nicely, thank you!

20200713 01 Strasbourg

We had a very enjoyable stay in Strasbourg, using the scooter to zip round the sights and get some much needed shopping. The old town is just beautiful with an incredible cathedral towering over the good people of the town and so hemmed in that it is impossible to get a photograph that does it justice.

20200714 07 Strasbourg

We found The Dubliners, an Irish bar, and had the BEST fish and chips we’ve ever had in France!

20200713 04 Strasbourg

Opposite the port is a large park with places for kids to play, basketball courts, football shoot out places and outdoor gym equipment to test your muscles – plenty to keep young and old entertained.  The only downside is there is a strict rule that dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.  But still a great place to walk them.

We were pleased to be in Strasbourg with Bastille Day being on Tuesday 14th July, but alas due to COVID19 all celebrations had been cancelled so no fireworks to judge against the incredible display we saw in Reims in 2018.

Frank headed off to visit the European Parliament on Wednesday and as with many public places in France he had to wear a mask.  He said security was interesting because his hip set off the metal detector and they wanted to know if he had a certificate to prove he had a false hip.  Satisfied he wasn’t concealing a weapon they let him in and he spent a couple of hours doing the tour.

20200713 06 Strasbourg EU Parliament

On Thursday we moved on into the Canal du Marne au Rhine, heading for the Plan Incliné de Saint-Louis Arzviller.

We had a couple of lovely night stops, the first being in a tiny village with a grand name of Waltenheim sur Zorn where we had a free berth with water and electric available.  We met a lovely German couple and their family who had just picked up a hire boat for their holiday – all spoke perfect English of course and had spent several holidays in Ireland, so the craic was mighty!

The following night we planned to stay in Saverne but there was no room at the inn and we ended up in an idyllic setting amongst the wooded slopes climbing above us and on our walk with the dogs we found an enchanted nook, where you could imagine fairy folk and magic!  It was so peaceful and quiet during the night that you almost felt like you had left the earth.

20200717 04 Fairies and magic

And so on Saturday we completed the last few locks and rounded the corner to find ourselves, at last, looking up at the Plan Incliné de Saint-Louis Arzviller – one of our bucket list events for this trip.

It wasn’t late, about 2pm, and as we set up camp and settled down for the afternoon the Gendamerie arrived to speak to the Dutch couple who we had moored in front of.  Soon another police car arrived and after a while they got into the police car and off they went.  It was hours later when they arrived back at their boat and came to tell us what had been going on.  It transpired that they were plugged into one of two electrical supplies and a French boat arrived soon after.  The French man plugged into the other socket but it wasn’t working so he unplugged the Dutch man’s electric.  This is a real no no in the world of boating.  You can ask but never just unplug as you have no idea what they might need the electric for and if, like us, their invertor doesn’t quite manage the washing machine, then unplugging the electric mid-cycle can be disastrous to your electrical systems.

Any way, it seems a bit of a tussle ensued and the French man went back to his boat to get tooled up and a Nerf de Boeuf (you’ll have to google it but a flexible strong baton used as punishment or as crowd control) and a very nasty looking knife.  He hit the Dutch lady on the leg with the baton and when the Dutch man stepped in he got hit on the wrist and threatened with the knife.  What a piece of work!!  Anyway, thankfully the police caught up with the French man and he was arrested that night but the poor Dutch couple were understandably upset and dismayed that such a thing could happen on the same day that they fulfilled one of the dreams by descending the Arzviller incline.  What a nightmare!

Sunday morning we did the lift!  It is an incredible bit of engineering, relying on counter-balance weights to lift and drop 900 tonnes of water and boat combined at an angle of 41 degrees up and down a hill that had previously required 17 locks, each scaling 2.5 to 3 meters at a time.  Now you can do the 44.55 meters in just 4 minutes!!  As the lift started to rise I Facetimed my Dad and Fran so they could experience the lift with us while Frank took a video.  It was a lovely experience enjoyed by us all and I’m so glad we were able to share it.  Unfortunately Frank’s video didn’t work so we only have a couple of pictures as reminders.  Never mind!

20200719 02 Saint-Louis Arzviller

The Dutch couple who’d had the problem the day before were allowed to join us on the lift as an exception, due to the lady’s leg being injured and bruised, so they took lots of pics and a video so hopefully they will be able to send something to us.

Going in our direction the lift is immediately followed by a 2306 meter tunnel then a 475 meter tunnel, making it a tiring day, even though there are no locks for about 35 kms!  Our stop for the night was a lovely little village called Xouaxange (can’t pronounce it!) and the only thing they have is a Taverna across the bridge.  We decided to give it a try and the Madagascan woman who served us confirmed that her French husband was the chef – and boy what a fantastic meal we had!  Meat samosas followed by faux-filet avec sauce au poivre rounded off with a crème brule, espresso and a snifter of Cointreau…….heaven!!

20200720 02 Xouaxange

I have omitted to say that first thing in the morning we forgot to move the small ball fender that protects the port stern along with the dinghy engine and it suffered the same fate as many fenders that have gone before it – burnt through on the exhaust.  As we landed on the wooden staging at Xouaxange the big ball fender protecting the port bow caught on a nice piece of metal that was helpfully sticking out and it too deflated in seconds.  The first job when we stopped was to get the dinghy repair kit out and get gluing!!!

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