(42) To Mulhouse with Colin and Mary – Mid September 2012.

We decided to stay an extra day at Baume-les-Dames and took advantage of the electrics and water there as we were still unsure of how reliable our batteries and inverter would be. The weather remained fairly settled and we enjoyed more stunning scenery as we cruised east.

An unusual single gate lock.

Our only problem was our ever-malfunctioning zapper which continued to register ‘Battery Empty’ even though it had been left to charge all night! Well it was the end of the season I suppose? Fortunately, with help from the odd passerby- to phone the VNF and get them to activate the lock, there being nowhere for me to get off; and by keeping the zapper plugged in and using it from the wheelhouse, we managed to keep going.
We stopped below the lock at Pompierre-sur-Doubs just before a huge thunderstorm struck and were joined by a small yacht which, like us, soon battened down the hatches for the evening.
At the charmingly named Isle-sur-les-Doubs we were able to buy some more diesel at the nearby petrol station (using our two trolleys) and I caught a train back to Baume-les-Dames for the car.
The approach to Montbeliard was tight in places and we were nearly caught out by an underwater shelf on a narrow section which required rapid lowering of our long rubber fenders to avoid scratching the hull. The two lift bridges were interesting and we were the cause of two minor hold ups as a main road crossed each of them.

The port at Montbeliard did not look very promising at first but we managed to moor in a free space outside the VNF office. We had a day to prepare for the arrival of our Swan Upping friends Colin and Mary who were enjoying a few days in Strasbourg before catching a train to join us. While I caught yet another train back to collect the car, Peter did some engine room maintenance and finally had the chance to replace the errant tap washer in the stern cabin’s sink.
We enjoyed a walk around the town with its splendid Chateau dominating the old part, as well as the various churches, which bear witness to the changing fortunes of the region in recent centuries.
Saturday’s market in the adjacent car park was rather disappointing, although we did manage to buy some very good vegetables at the fruit and veg stall before driving across the canal to the Intermarche for the rest of our vittels.
Colin and Mary arrived bang on time at the station and we spent the rest of the day relaxing and catching up on each other’s news. I rang the VNF as required before 3pm to arrange the locking procedure for the following day.

Colin and Mary settle into the barge routine.

In improving weather we left Montbeliard at about 10am, anticipating a two and a half hour cruise to the infamous Lock 8. Here we gratefully relinquished our now defunct zapper (which I had nursed through the remaining locks) and enjoyed lunch on deck in the sunshine.

Our zapper was replaced by a very pleasant lock keeper who accompanied us all the way to Montreux-Chateau where we were able to plug into electrics at 5 euros for 24 hours. We had reached the top of the Canal and would begin our descent at a staircase of eight locks the next morning, accompanied by various lock keepers along the way.

Downhill staircase.

Holding up the traffic again.

At Dannemarie we were welcomed as promised in our waterways guide by a very pleasant and helpful ‘Capitaine’ and ~14euros secured electricity and water for the night.

Colin, Mary and I walked into the town which was full of pretty, well kept houses painted in various bright colours. The German influence was becoming increasingly evident in this part of France – Alsace. We quenched our thirsts at a bar before doing some shopping and returning to the port.

A hard day trudging to the shops !

It was a very rural mooring with cows in the surrounding fields and rolling hills in the distance. Bunkers at the lock were a further reminder of the World Wars and chequered history of the area.

Dannemarie, signs of unhappier times.

The fine weather continued as we cruised towards Mulhouse, reaching the port at around 5pm. We were treated to a lovely steak meal at a nearby restaurant and decided to explore properly the following day.
Awaking early I took the opportunity to catch the 8.23 train back to Montbeliard to fetch the car. On my return we strolled into the centre and had another lovely meal there. Peter and Colin tried the Tarte Flambee- a regional dish, I opted for the Moules Frites and Mary the Pizza.

Mulhouse mooring.

Suitably replete, we headed for the tram which would take us the ‘Cite de l’Automobile’ a magnificent car museum begun by two brothers who loved Bugattis. It was amazing; filled with around four hundred luxury, vintage and racing cars of various makes and models as well as associated displays including robotic welders.

Just one of many, many fine Bugatti cars.

Plus many other makes and types.

The ‘Royal’…too many to show here, a really fine museum.

We spent several foot weary hours there and even I was impressed and interested, although I must admit I still regard a car as simply a means of getting from A to B….. (an opinion not shared by the Captain !)

All too soon it was time for our friends to leave and the following day we walked the short distance over the canal to the station and said goodbye. We had all enjoyed our few days together very much.

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