Bluegum wins the race………….

After stocking up again we move off and enjoy sauntering up Le Doubs. A feature along this stretch is the varnished tiles of Franche-Comté bell towers.

Typical church roof
Typical church roof

Archbishop Antoine-Clériadus de Choiseul-Beaupré wanting to please his master arranged for the roof of the old cathedral of St Jean at Besancon to designed in the style of a Polish church – this was completed in 1729and more than 700 bell towers now grace the Franche-Comté countryside.

Beautifully ornate
Beautifully ornate

We are travelling upstream which for non boaters means that we are going up locks and depending on the depth of the lock can make getting the ropes up onto the bollards difficult – it is always recommended to have a bow and stern rope attached and this is especially important when going up. We enter Lock No 62 Moulin des Malades which translates to Sick Mill which may be prophetic….. I have to climb out of the lock to secure the stern rope just as a small yoghurt pot (our name for fibreglass cruisers) suddenly appears behind us. Charles takes the bow rope and I decide to stay at the top. We start the lock and the force of the water is horrendous causing Bluegum to rock quite violently but not as violently as when the bow rope snaps and I do not have the strength to hold the boat steady so for the first time I pull the emergency stop and Charles manages not to fall in and get back into the wheelhouse to control the boat and we are terrified we are going to squash the little boat behind us – we are both pretty shaken up and amazed that nothing broke inside. We now have to wait around for an eclusier to turn up and reset the lock – as the locks are all under surveillance they would be well aware of what had occurred. When we pass Blanquarts on our way south we are buying new thicker ropes – we don’t want a repeat of that experience.

Good mooring at Ranchot
Good mooring at Ranchot

It is quite late by the time we arrive at Ranchot and not surprisingly all moorings are taken but a kind Swiss couple invite us to moor alongside their 22 meter barge. They move off early in the morning and as it is a very pretty area decide to stay for a day or two. We enjoy some running, walking and cycle rides.

Andy and Sally brought their narrowboat 'Puzzler' across to France!
Andy and Sally brought their narrowboat ‘The Puzzler’ across to France!

Friday we make a move and moor up at Thorais between a lock and a tunnel where we find just enough room for us next to a narrow boat named The Puzzler; the owners Andy and Sally bought the shell and did all the work in their back garden in the UK. We invite them on board Bluegum for drinks and hear about their interesting adventures of taking the boat to Ireland before having it transported to Holland. In the morning we enjoy a coffee on board their boat which brings back happy memories of our time on our own Ebony No1 – we wonder how she is getting on. The Thorais tunnel itself is an attractive structure but only the French add a waterfall at each end of the tunnel which stops when a boat passes a sensor. The roof is covered in little lights that chase each other which provides a unique experience when travelling through it – it creates a beautiful synergy between light and water.

The 'waterfall' at the entrance to the Thorias tunnel
The ‘waterfall’ at the entrance to the Thorias tunnel
And then a light show!
And then a light show!

We keep hearing bad reports of mooring in Besancon with drunkards,  youths causing a distrubance and bottles being thrown at the moored boats but we like to find these things out for ourselves so on Sunday (16th August) we set off through the tunnel (which really is a unique experience) and take the long route around the river loop at Besancon where I have a rare treat – a self operated lock!

Sally in her element!
Sally in her element!

We  moor up on the quay in Besancon opposite the Arts College – fortunately it is holiday time.  Being Sunday afternoon everything is closed – but we stumble upon the Leffe Café which has every Leffe imaginable – en pression! Too good to miss we decide to have Sunday lunch.

The citadel overlooking besancon
The citadel overlooking Besancon

We spend an enjoyable two days visiting the town, taking the bus up to The Citadel which also houses a small zoo.  Designed by Vauban it is considered to be one of the finest Citadels in France covering 11 hectares and lies more than 100 meters above the town.

Great views across the city
Great views across the city
A lookout!
A lookout!
On the Citadel walls
On the Citadel walls

We visit the musuem of French Resistance and Deportation designed with the help of a concentration camp survivor Denise Lorach – it certainly provides and in-depth and emotional portrayal of this dark period of history through photographs, original documents and texts. The location of the museum is highly symbolic as 100 resistance fighters were executed by firing squad here during the Occupation – it certainly left Charles and I feeling sombre so we visit the zoo for some light relief but neither of us enjoy seeing large animals like lions and tigers being kept in such small areas so instead take the little train back down to the town centre.  Whilst we did hear a few people shouting and singing around mid-night on the second night we did not encounter any problems and will certainly visit again in the future.

Our boat's down there somewhere!
Our boat’s down there somewhere!

It is now time to return to The Saone and make overnight stops at Osselle, Rochefort sur Nenon and Choisey enjoying some cycling and running when time allows and  visit to the Grotte d’Osselle – a vast cave system where we are given a guided tour.

Stalagmites, stalactites and pillars
Stalagmites, stalactites and pillars

This cave was discovered in the 14th century and organised guided tours began in the early 16th century! There is a stone bridge, over the underground river, which was built in 1751 on the orders of the steward Moreau province of Beaumont. No one could explain why Mr Beaumont decided to build this bridge – as it leads to a dead end!

A bridge to nowhere!
A bridge to nowhere!

Now its time for a confession which we are not proud of or at least I am not…… On Friday around mid day we arrive into St Jean de Losne and notice a mooring on the quay but we also notice a hire boat coming in the opposite direction also heading for the same spot – well; we are bigger and heavier so Charles maintains the speed which results in us being shouted at by a French woman trying to enjoy her lunch but we have pressing business so I just nod to her and give her one of those looks that says ‘Men, what can you do with them?’  We WIN but I am feeling guilty which is made worse when we learn the crew are all English – probably wouldn’t have felt so bad if they were from anywhere else.  As it happens there is room for both of us and I jump off to help them moor up – its the least I could do – Charles on the hand just felt the best man had won!!!  We buy our ropes which was a shock to the old wallet but we both agree that our safety is a priority but wonder if we have over done it with the thickness and length of ropes purchased – time will tell.

Verdun-sur-Doubs
Verdun-sur-Doubs

We don’t normally ring ahead to book a mooring but the little port at Vurdun-sur-le-Doubs is not really set up for boats of our size and it is quite nice knowing we have somewhere to stay as moorings along this stretch of the Saone are sparce.   We take a walk around the little town and are pleased to find three boulangeries – we haven’t had had our Sunday morning croissants since Laura left and have been getting withdrawl symptons. We are also chuffed to find a little bar vibrant with lots of locals that sells our favourite beer Fischer Ambré and feel it would be rude not to enjoy one in the sunshine.

A favourite tipple!

During dinner I decide I would like to run 15 miles in the morning but have second thoughts when the times arrives.  Charles on the other hand is raring to go so bobs out to buy our breakfast for when we get back from our exercise – he is not taking any chances that they might sell out of croissants!!!

There is no getting out of it so off we head and we are very pleased with ourselves to complete the task in reasonable time and I experience running in rain for the first time – no blisters or other ill effects so we get back and thoroughly enjoy a leisurely breakfast – the heavens open and it seems we are in for rain all day so decide to stay put.

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