During the four weeks that we've been away, internet access has been very difficult, so I have only been dipping in sporadically. As for blogging, it's been virtually impossible. I only had my iPad and Blogger does not work well with iOS, so my only post was a somewhat jumbled collection of photos. Now I'm finding it difficult to know where and how to start telling the story of our magical month-long trip.
Maybe I shouldn't even try; perhaps I should just confine myself to anecdotes or reflections on aspects that struck me most particularly.
What can I say that I haven't already said in previous blogs and books?
Well, perhaps I should sum things up in four ways: what were my favourite places on each of the main waterways we travelled? What impressions struck me most forcibly? What meetings gave me the greatest pleasure? And what were the best things we had with us to help us travel more comfortably?
I'll probably do four separate posts to cover them all, so I'll start with my favourite places this time because although we've done much of this trip before, we stopped at different moorings and explored different towns as well. We also went further along the Canal de la Sambre à l'Oise than we have done previously, mainly so we could reach the aqueducts that closed the canal from 2006 until 2021, so without further ado, here are my personal favourite places on the Schelde/Scheldt, which we followed upstream as far as Antoing, south of Tournai. We also returned along the same stretch, so we had the opportunity to spend the night at different moorings:
On our outgoing travels, we stopped first at the Kloron marina in Kerkhove, which was really pleasant, despite the somewhat overcast weather. The harbourmaster was welcoming, there were full services (shower, leccy and water) and a good supermarket nearby. But it was also in a lovely setting, a sort of lagoon-shaped short arm off the river. Of course, it was enhanced still more by the fact we met some very special friends there, but more on that next time. The second two photos here were taken by our friend, Peter. It's always so nice to see our Hennie H on the water from another perspective.
|Our mooring was right at the end of the arm|
|To leave, we had to reverse to the wider basin and turn|
|On our way out|
Also on the outgoing trip, we stopped in Antoing, an old favourite where the mooring has no services at all but it's close to the town, which I like very much, and it has a great view of the main waterway with its constant flow of barges heading north and south. I should also mention we stopped in Antoing going home as well for all the above reasons, and also because it has a bunker station where we could top up with fuel.
|A favourite mooring in Antoing|
|The handy bunker station at Antoing|
On our return journey, we not only stopped at Antoing, but also in Tournai and Oudenaarde, both of which were great for different reasons. The mooring at Tournai is very new, very secure and very hi-tech. We loved the first two features (clean, safe etc.), but the hi-tech part was a challenge. Long story short, it took us an hour to pay for €1's worth of electricity, which had to be achieved by scanning a QR code, registering on a website with name, address, telephone number etc. and then paying by bank transfer. It became even more complicated when the QR code of the electricity point next to our boat didn't work involving a phone call to their help desk. Luckily, we both read French and Koos speaks it very well, but I can't imagine how people cope if their French isn't good. While part of the site was in English (if requested), much of the important information was still in French. Madness for €1. Tournai was beautiful, though, and we enjoyed our day there, and the mooring, very much.
As for Oudenaarde, we know the town well, but had never been into the marina before, always opting to tie up against the quayside. The marina was a delight: an attractive setting, a lovely harbour master and all the services too.
|Tournai: A delightful city|
|The spanking new and secure mooring|
|Photo showing the protective 'wall' in the river|
to prevent too much disturbance
|Oudenaarde marina. A lovely tree-lined setting|
There's not much more to say about our overnight moorings until we reached the Sambre. We spent a night on a quay wall in Mons, which offered us the most beautiful sunsets (I'd have to pinch some of Koos's photos for those) and another night at Marchienne-au-Pont in the outskirts of Charleroi, which we like very much but is not particularly photogenic. The real treats came when we reached the French border, so in short order, my favourite places to stay were Erquellines marina, Tupigny on the Canal de la Sambre à l'Oise and Vadencourt (likewise)where we saw the brand new aqueducts I've been so excited about.
Erquellines doesn't look much from the photos, but it was so peaceful, so serene and so open. We loved it. Added to these qualities, it had an immaculate shower block and, to Koos's delight, the train trundled past every half hour (or maybe more), but it was the peace that struck both of us the most. We'd happily have stayed there much longer.
|Erquellines marina: peace incarnate|
|Permanent moorings for these old classics|
Tupigny was something of a Mecca for us. We've been wanting to take our boat there for a good ten years and missed the opportunity in 2018 owing to some incorrect information we were given. We first went there on a road trip and were smitten by the beauty of the setting of the village, nestling as it does in a deep valley. We saw the canal had an 'arrêt d'ammarrage' (mooring stop) with bollards and decided this was where we wanted to be one day. We finally made it this year and were so pleased to be able to spend two days in our dream spot, exploring the village. We also met some lovely fellow travellers, but again, more of that later.
|The empty lock keeper's house by the Tupigny lock. Oh what I|
could do with one of these! There are so many.
|The arrêt d'ammarrage we have dreamed of so long|
|Looking along the towpath from the lock. The Hennie H is|
just visible in the distance
Vadencourt was just five kilometres, three locks and three moving (turning and lifting) bridges further on from Tupigny. As our second Mecca, our main delight in mooring up on the arrêt d'ammarrage there was that we could see the restored aqueduct, which is more than impressive. I can scarcely believe it was a collapsed and overgrown mess just three years ago in 2019, but it was opened in 2021, so within two years, they have rebuilt and restored the entire system of aqueducts, locks and bridges that had been closed for so long. The village had a small épicerie, where we could buy baguettes and wine, so even better. A real highlight, it was!
|Our arrêt d'ammarrage just before the aqueduct|
|The river from the aqueduct|
|The aqueduct from the river|
Of course, there were other lovely stops, but in some places we only stayed an hour or two. We also spent a night on the old Canal du Centre in Belgium at La Louvière, but I'll do an entire post about that because the historic lifts we went down deserve more attention.
Next time, I'll write about the people we met and other special encounters, but I hope I've broken the blogging drought suitably with this post. Tomorrow, we are off to the shipyard with my Vereeniging. Time for an inspection again, so wish her luck! I haven't seen her for nearly five weeks now, so it will be a happy reunion in any event.
Have a good weekend allemaal!