My Travel Blog

Rabelo’s Winter Home – The History of Alesia

We’re finally at our winter mooring.  With the canal low on water it took some doing, but we made it.This year we didn’t do an exact calculation of the miles we covered or the number of locks we transited.  My guess would be that Rabelo sailed around 1,000 miles and went through 400 locks. We have never been to Veneray les Laumes, but on our arrival we were pleasantly surprised. The town itself is not much to look at, but there were plenty of things to do in the area.  Lisa and I especially enjoyed the late fall walks which were especially peaceful, beautiful, and at times inspiring.

Note how low the water is.

The beautiful French countryside.

Just two miles outside of town is the Alesia Museum. The town of Alesia was established roughly 2,000 years ago on a site best know for the battle between Julius Caesar and the Gaulsin 52 B.C. The Gauls were the indigenous people of the area, and would eventually populate modern day France.  But in 52 B. C. when Caesar defeated the Gauls they were mostly a group of competing tribes.  It took a leader like Vercingetorix to bring the indigenous people together to fight Caesar’s Roman Legion.  While the Gauls put up an impressive fight ultimately the Romans were just too strong.  Even so every French child knows the story about the battle of Alesia and Vercingetroix. France may be the only country to celebrate a defeat as the start of their nation.

The Museum at Alesia.

Roman and Gaul warriors.

Some of the tools and weapons found at Alesia.

A modern museum designed by Bernard Tschumi Architects was set in a large field once occupied by Caesar and his troops.  Someday there will be a second museum on the hill above the current museum where the Gauls had set up camp. There were not a lot of antiquities in the museum, but the displays were some of the most interesting we have ever encountered.  They were a timeline of the great battle showing where and when the competing forces attacked one another. Tens of thousands of warriors fought on the Alesia battlefield.  The Romans eventually had to build miles of trenches and barriers encircling the Gauls mountain top defenses.

Outside the museum there were examples of the Roman fortifications.  I tired to imagine myself as a General attempting to break through the Roman defenses.  Alas, I concluded that my talents were better suited to barging than military sieges.

Replicas of the Roman defenses.

Wooden stakes designed to slow the opposing forces.

Inside the museum they had a live demonstration showing how the combatants used their shields as not only a defensive weapon, but as an offensive weapon.  The guys demonstrating the use of their ancient weapons were serious, and it looked like they were trying to hurt each other.  I’ve never seen so realistic a demonstration.


An Onagre is a kind of catapult inspired by the kick of an ass.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.