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Alsace and Lorraine are two of the smallest and least populated mainland regions of France. However their location along the French borders with Germany and Switzerland mean they have long been the crossroads of Europe. Thanks to historic towns and cities, beautiful natural scenery, and home to one of biggest feats of Europe’s canal engineering, it’s also one of the most popular regions to explore by canal.
Your Alsace-Lorraine adventure starts in the regions biggest city of Strasbourg. This important city is home to about 800,000 people, as well as being the seat of parliament for the European Union. However the most impressive features of this city sit on Grande Ile, the wonderfully well preserved medieval town centre. Dominating the UNESCO World Heritage site is the impressive Strasbourg Cathedral. At 142 metres, the cathedral was the tallest building in the world when built in 1647, and stayed the tallest building in the world for a staggering 227 years! The building is decorated with beautifully ornate features, stunning stained glass windows and many gorgeous paintings and tapestries.
Your accommodation, transportation and kitchen for the next week is the Panache. Over 50 years old, the Panache has been lovingly restored and brought back to life as a canal boat cruiser. She has only six cabins, meaning there will be a maximum of 12 guests along with 6 crew. Two special features of the Panache in particular are the piano in the lounge, and the heated spa pool on the deck. Read more about canal boating in general here.
On day two after having the morning to explore more of Strasbourg, you get your first taste of cruising canal barge style as you depart for the towns of Waltenheim-sur-Zorn, Dettwiller, and Saverne. The countryside around these towns is covered in vineyards producing local specialties, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Of course, there’s ample time to visit said vineyards and sample the wine. However if you’re not a wino, do not despair! Here you’ll also find the 375 year old Meteor Brewery. If it’s been open that long, it’s gotta be good! Staying on the beer theme, the particularly beautiful town of Saverne will also be visited. The name Saverne translates to ‘Caesar’s Three Taverns’ and it’s believed the town was a stopping point for soldiers of the Roman Empire. Today it’s known as the ‘Versailles of Alsace’ thanks to the grandiose Rohan Castle, which just happens to be right next to wharf you’ll tie up to for the night.
Day five will be a favourite for art lovers. After visiting the medieval castle in La Petite Pierre, a stop is made at a gallery featuring over 500 pieces of amazing glasswork by René Lalique. Famous around the world, particularly for his art deco designs, Lalique specialised in making perfume bottles, vases, jewellery, chandeliers and perhaps most impressively, glass hood ornaments!
Your final full day onboard will be yet another one to remember as you descend the Vosges Mountains. However there’s no whitewater racing going on today, instead you’ll descend using the unique Arzviller Inclined Plane. An inclined plane is basically an elevator for boats… Yes, an elevator for boats! Originally the canal boats had to descend the mountain via a series of 17 locks over 4 kilometres, which took an entire day to do and created a terrible canal style traffic jam. After an international design contest, the inclined plane was completed in 1969 and reduced the journey to simple 20 minutes. You stay onboard as you descend 136 metres and then if the lift wasn’t interesting enough, you then travel through two tunnels before mooring in Niderviller for your last night. A special Captain’s Dinner is held tonight, and you’ll be transferred back to Strasbourg the next day by car.
So to summarise, castles, cathedrals, vineyards, breweries, cheese, art, scenery and some seriously cool machines. Plus you barely have to lift a finger. Make your next visit to Alsace-Lorraine by canal barge!
> READ MORE ABOUT CANAL BARGING HERE
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