The Saône: Verdun-sur-Doubs to Tournus

Ships pass in the night: In this case it’s Swiss Gloria, one of the many large river cruise ships that work the Saône and Rhône rivers.

After two nights in Verdun-sur-Doubs we pulled the ropes and pushed away from the bank. Without a bow thruster it was work and bit unnerving to get Wanderlust turned about as she drifted downstream with the Doubs’ current. Eventually Wanderlust’s bow was pointed downstream and she was headed down the short section of the Doubs to the Saône. Once on the Saône we turned to port and headed downstream with the flow.

Wanderlust making waves on the Saône.

We were again uncertain of our next destination. It would have been nice to moor at the port in Chalon-sur-Saône but the commune’s port de plaisance does not accept boats over 15 meters in length. At 20 meters, Wanderlust was too long. In theory there are other mooring options in Chalon but we knew from prior scouting that finding a usable place would be difficult. Nevertheless we slowly drifted through Chalon hoping to prove ourselves wrong. It was to no avail. We found no mooring that we were comfortable getting into without a bow thruster. Moving the throttle forward we continued on down the river.

As we headed on we considered our options. The best place ahead, according to our guides, seemed to be Tournus. With no capitaine managing the moorings, it would be first come first served. It was not possible to phone ahead to reserve a spot as we had done in Verdun-dur-Doubs. As we were arriving a little later than was ideal, even after the early start, so there was a risk the quay would be full.

Wanderlust at the quay in Tournus

Small boats moor below the bridge in Tournus.

Fortunately when we arrived in Tournus we found a space at the quay on the right bank available. The river here is wider than the Doubs; turning Wanderlust about above the bridge was straightforward. Once turned we let the current ferry her towards the shore. This time we judged things correctly: This day’s cruise ended with a gentle bump against the quay in between the two moored boats.

`Tournus is an interesting town with a comfortable mooring. It was good for at least a few nights. Though the arrangements are a bit awkward both power and water are available for free not too far from the quay. The mooring allows convenient access to the old town.

The Benedictine monastery, Saint-Philibert of Tournus

Inside the abbey’s church

History often follows the course of rivers. As civilization developed rivers provided water, sanitation, communication, fertile farmlands, and trade. It was natural for communes to develop and prosper on the riverbanks. Thus many of the most historically interesting inland cities and towns in Europe are located near the rivers that supported their founding. The old town centers, like the one in Tournus, are usually close enough to the waterways to benefit from the advantages of access to the water and yet positioned in a way that they are protected from all but the biggest floods.

Tournus was once the site of a Roman garrison. After the fall of the Romans, the town became an important religious center with the founding of the Benedictine monastery, Saint-Philibert of Tournus. The abbey’s church still stands today, one of the largest Romanesque monuments in France. It is the town’s biggest attraction and worthy of a visit.

Inside the Hôtel-Dieu de Tournus

Beds in a row

With an attractive medieval street plan and three Michelin one-star restaurants the town of around 5,700 people attracts many tourists. By our estimation, most of the tourists in Tournus that we saw were French. The French are great tourists within their own country but they don’t focus on the same destinations that foreigners do. The French, it seems, have already seen Paris. They don’t need to go back there for every vacation. The French think that there are plenty of other places worth seeing in France. We couldn’t agree more.

Tournus from the water


There’s one lock between Verdun to Tournus. On this last leg Wanderlust’s engine ran 5.4 hours. calculates the total journey from Saint Jean de Losne as 75 kilometers.

Clicking on this link should bring up a map of the route from Saint Jean to Tournus.

The map of the moorings in Tournus: If you look closely at the right you can see the minimum stay is 36 hours.

Inside the abbey, looking

A closer look at the organ

…and mosaics on the floor.


5 thoughts on “The Saône: Verdun-sur-Doubs to Tournus

  1. Pingback: The Saône: Tournus to Mâcon | Wanderlust

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.