Hello everyone and welcome to the latest blog on July 30th 2021.
This week we left the River Saône and turned onto the Canal du Rhône au Rhin. This takes us in a north easterly direction, the opposite way that we want to go to reach our winter port, but we have some spare time on our hands and this canal is reputed to be very beautiful. It runs for 236 kilometers, through 114 locks and rises up 340 metres through mountain scenery and gorges. We don’t have time to go all the way to the Rhin, but we should still see a fair portion of it before it is time to turn around and head south again.
The atmosphere changed markedly within the first few kilometres. Life shrinks down on the canals and we swap the wide open expanses of the river for banks that we can sometimes almost reach out and touch. This first photo is a good example of this, a narrow stretch even for a canal, with the banks lined with reeds. Thankfully we didn’t meet anything coming the other way.
However there are long stretches of this route where we revert to the river, the River Doubs, and so a day later we might find ourselves looking at vistas like this.
We also passed through a hazardous chemical industrial site. Signs beforehand warned us that there was no stopping in this section of the canal and that if the sirens sounded we were to close all windows and doors and motor through as fast as possible. The picture below captures just a small section of the site. It was massive, with its own railway siding, and we saw huge storage tanks marked with ‘Chloroform’ on the side. I looked it up on line but could get no details of what was made there.
We didn’t reach our mooring spot until 5pm on our first day on the canal, a long day for us, but it was a beautiful place to stop and we had it to ourselves. Reeds lined the banks, with warblers flitting in and out, perching on stems so thin that they bounced up and down with the weight of these tiny birds. Water lilies were spread out like a carpet in front of us, providing useful stepping stones for a young moor hen chick who struggled to keep up with its mother as she paddled off with a complete lack of concern. At one point I heard a munching sound, like someone noisily eating a very crisp lettuce, and eventually identified the culprit as a coypu, methodically chomping its way through the lily pads. I sat on deck and watched the wildlife going about its daily business and felt something inside myself easing, a sense of letting go, not that I was aware that I needed to let anything go.
How do you define tranquility? Is it a state of mind, or a simple reaction to a place? Perhaps it’s a bit of both, a state of mind that needs a trigger whether it be a place or an activity like walking or yoga. Like so many of the best things in life it is elusive, visits only briefly and delights in being capricious because I know from experience that I can go back to a special place and whatever it was that made it special has magically disappeared, although the setting has not changed at all.
The next day we cycled into Dôle, the birthplace of Louis Pasteur, and a very pleasant place to while away a morning. We popped into the market to top up with fresh veg, visited the church and then just ambled about the pretty streets.
We found the end gable of one house had been painted, a trompe l’oeil, where an artist creates an optical illusion. The following picture is a close-up of one section and the second pans back to show you the entire mural. I particularly like the horse in the top window. Apologies for the man’s head – lots of people were taking pictures and I waited ages for him to move and he didn’t, so here he is, part of my blog.
And now for a bit of nudity, as this is France and there is no need to be inhibited about such things. All in the name of art.
And that seems a good place to leave it for this week! Next week we shall be heading to Besançon, possibly a little beyond and then turning back. Hope all is well with you.