2020...the year that tried to ruin our holiday plans! We’d originally planned our boating holiday for May – visiting the newly opened Nicols base in Tokaj, Hungary. As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic was in full force by then and travel became impossible due to various borders getting closed. An attempt to postpone the trip until September also came to nothing due to travel restrictions preventing us from going to Hungary. Finally though, thanks to some excellent work by the team at Nicols, a solution was found for us to get away on a canal boat at the end of September 2020. Whilst many regions were already flagged as “risk areas“ for German holidaymakers the Grand Est region (also known as the northern quarter) in France was not, so we spontaneously snapped up the opportunity to head to the Nicols base at Saverne in Alsace where we were to begin what would be a wonderful boating holiday on a stylish Estivale Octo canal boat.
Even if the weather did not always bring 100% sun, and in fact threw in the odd rain shower that caught our crew outside in the cold while navigating a lock, we had many memorable moments enjoying calm, serene and wonderful moments in nature, such as:
After the first night at the port of Saverne, we went to Hochfelden. This section of waterways was great for getting familiar with the handling of the canal boat. After arriving in Hochfelden, we went to the first of many highlights from our holiday - the Meteor Brewery. (photo)
We had a great time here learning everything you need to know about beer brewing followed by a tour of the operations to see beer making in action. A brewery visit has to include beer tasting and we got to taste all of the varieties of the METEOR brewery. It seemed to me that the waiter was having fun seeing us try a new beer every 15 minutes and thus enjoying ourselves more and more as time went on! Of course, after trying so many beers, there was no question of resuming navigation that day so we returned to the canal boat for a barbecue and spent the night in the port of Hochfelden.
Continuing on, our cruising itinerary brought us to Strasbourg, where we passed the famous European Parliament building. Due to the Covid-19 situation we decided not to moor up and go ashore in Strasbourg, instead continuing along the Canal du Rhone au Rhin to Krafft where we stayed overnight. In the morning we picked up locally baked fresh bread before navigating along the famous waterways of the Canal du Rhone au Rhin towards Waltenheim-sur-Zorn. We ended the day with an evening stroll to Fort Rapp (amazed at seeing cattle walking on the roof) and a short city tour through the typical Alsatian village of Waltenheim-sur-Zorn.
The following day we continued our adventure (with drizzle that didn't spoil our mood) until we reached our starting point in Saverne. Of course in the evening we went back to our favourite pastime of barbecuing, after all, we wanted to start the next day stronger because two highlights were waiting for us - the boat lift and the Arzviller tunnel which we’d heard were two really impressive structures. Due to the fact that there was little waterways traffic thanks to the Covid-19 situation, we were able to enter the boat lift without a long wait. The views that you get looking out over the Alsace as you ascend are amazing. This boat lift is a true masterpiece of architecture for shipping structures. Just as you’re coming to terms with the impressive boat lift it’s time to move on to the next highlight, the Arzviller tunnel. It's amazing how the boat sounds in the tunnel and how the lights sparkle on the canal water.
After we arrived in Niderviller, we turned straight away and drove through the tunnel again to reach our destination for tonight, the berth at the tunnel keeper's house. The next morning we experienced a wonderful farewell present, passing once again through the boat lift – this time enjoying it in bright sunshine. Many locks later, which we were flying through now thanks to our well-rehearsed crew, we arrived back in Saverne in the evening. We ended the evening in the S'Zawermer Stuebel restaurant with delicious Alsatian wine and delicious local food specialties.
Unfortunately, this wonderful holiday passed too quickly. The handover of our smart Octo boat back at the base went perfectly. The Nicols staff were not only very friendly but they also adhered to the new hygiene rules that needed to be in place. The year 2020 wasn’t going to be an easy one for anyone, but this week long boating holiday had taken us away from everyday life with Covid-19 and provided many beautiful moments. We are very grateful!
We feel so lucky that we were able to re-book and still get away and we will definitely be back.
And Hungary, let's try again very soon without any Covid-19!
Thank you very much and best regards from Cologne (Germany)
Christian and crew