Toul

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While the real “Tour de France” wheels through Toul each year in July (see the bicycles stacked in front of the Porte de France), our tour ends here!

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We don’t mind so much, because the harbour is great and conscientiously looked after by Jean Pierre (harbourmaster extraordinaire), the town is beautiful and there are lovely people all around. 

Most of the skippers are English speaking, which means that I don’t see much of Austin. He goes off on a suspect flurry of helpfulness, like “I am taking out the garbage”? and returns a couple of hours later with news about everyone’s journeys and full of new ideas. 

We had some lovely foody-winy evenings with our friends Jan and Bill, were surprised by Aileen and Graham from NZ and met a lot of friendly new people here in the harbour.

In between “hellos and "good-byes” we tried to ready the Freshwater for winter, involving all kind of “Touls” (haha): anything really, from paint brushes to hammer and saw right down to humble needle and thread.

With just the cleaning now to do we took a day off and explored town. 

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The harbour annexes immediately the amazing antique rampart circling the old town with the canal and river building part of a natural moat. Three beautiful main gates give access to the centre. Of course Napoleons military strategist and architect Vauban had his hand in it again!

Prior to the military significance, Toul had a name as seat of bishops over three towns: Metz, Verdun and Toul.

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The ostentatious gothic St. Etienne Cathedral bears witness to the bishopric. Inside are kept the relics of 3 skulls: 1 of bishop and originator of the cathedral, St. Gerard, one of a former bishop’s sister who is said to have killed a dragon with her spinning spindle and one of the companion of Saint Ursula, the holy martyr of Cologne.

The statue of the White Madonna or “Notre Dame au pied d’argent” (Our Lady with the silver foot) is treasured by the locals. The story of the statue tells about a pious woman and man who were warned by the madonna that an army was about to stage a surprise attack on Toul. As proof the foot of the madonna pointed into the direction of the approaching enemies, who could therefore be fended off. As thanks the citizens gave the White Madonna a silver shoe and a golden sceptre.

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We followed the narrow lanes around the city and it took us eventually to the hotel where we had stayed on our first visit to Toul in June of this year. From the tourist brochure we learned that the hotel building had housed the first theatre of Toul. It later became the “Café De La Comédie” , an upper class establishment being frequented by many famous personalities. Apparently the Café turned into a luxurious brothel in the evenings”! 

We also had a lovely night with Jill and Graham on the Matilda Rose. Our first time on a narrow boat! We had to help them empty part of a Gin bottle, so that resourceful Jill could make some Sloe-gin from the sloe berries she had picked on the side of the canal.


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Yesterday afternoon there was a wonderful get-together with all the boaties on the greens of the harbour. It continued until late at night with guitar playing by Austin and Perry, mouthorgan renditions by David, and resulting in a general sing-along. Lots of fun! Unfortunately the night ended bad for Perry. He tripped in the dark and broke his ankle. 

You really see the great camaraderie among skippers rolling into action when something like this happens. Breakfast was cooked for Perry’s wife the next morning and everyone helped to get Perry’s boat onto another pontoon with easier access for his homecoming from hospital in a couple of days.


As a farewell from Jan and Bill we had a last lunch out today. We chose a restaurant near the harbour, called “Maison Battavoine”. The meals and presentations were absolutely divine. A fitting end to a beautiful year’s cruising!

Pictures below, just to make you all jealous:

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        Foie Gras ————————---—————————————————---------Scallops in 4 different sauces

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——-----------Fish dish---------------------—————————————squash soup, duck, chèvre foie gras toast

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© Austin Robinson 2019