2019 Belgium & France

2019 Part 1

Diksmuide

Brugge

Deinze

Kortrijk

Menen

Sailly-sur-la-Lys

Saint Venant

Béthune

Douai

Bassin Rond

Cambrai

The Yser Tower in Diksmuide marked the end of our 2018 cruise and the beginning of 2019.

Anyone studying the history of The Great War should not miss Diksmuide as it marked the line held by Belgian troops for almost the whole war, enabling the BEF to be supplied through the Channel Ports, defended by the Dover Patrol.

Of course Zeebrugge, scene of the St Georges Day 1918, landing in order to destroy the port facilities, is just a few miles away on what was then the German side of the front line.

 

Yser Tower
The Coupure, Bruges

Cimarron is the fourth boat along the jetty in The Coupure, Bruges.  Needing a spare part for the Jabsco head we were delayed a few days trying to get the part locally.  ASAP in the UK provided the part with their usual speedy efficiency and next day delivery.  

The restaurant De Nisse, just a two minute walk, provides beautifully succulent beef from the Polders and gin and tonics to match.

A well run harbour with a husband and wife team as Port Captains.

 

Brugge is too well documented and photographed for us to compete.  The town square with horse drawn carriages help to make it a picture postcard town.

Deinze

Relaxation on the River Leie, rowing, fine dining and Cimarron making waves.

This very pretty river winds its way through meadows, expensive houses and is very much nicer way to reach Kortrijk than the straight and boring canal that cuts off Ghent.

Deinze yacht harbour, administered by remote control has a lovely little animal park nearby.

There was no-one to ask and no signs but I believe that the little brown sheep are Ronaldsay.  Certainly with a little bit of encouragement with human bleating it was possible to start them playing in the dusk.

 

Deinze Nature Park
Kortrijk

The first unscheduled change of plans started here as the Kortrijk-Bossum canal had a severe malfunction with one of the locks and no idea how long it would take.  As the Lille route into France had about ten locks undergoing maintenance so the River Lys became the chosen route by default.

The Menen-Halluin yacht harbour which has an entrance in Belgium and the harbour is in France.  To add to the confusion the border between Flanders and Wallonia is not too far away.  Both Menen and Ypres have dual spelling, Menin and Ieper or as known to WWI Tommies, Wipers.

Menen Yachtharbour
Menin Gate

The Menin Gate, Menenstraat, Ypres or Ieper was the legendary route to the long drawn out battle of the Ypres Salient.  It is a memorial to the 54606 casualties.

The lovely Halte Nautique at Saily-sur-La Lys.  A little village with an interesting restaurant made it a quiet and enjoyable stop.

Sailly-sur-la-Lys
Saint Venant

The little harbour of Saint Venant is all rural peace and charm but was the scene of very fierce fighting in May 1940.

We see plenty of fishermen on the banks but this one was a first!

 

The town centre of Béthune is a very long walk from the harbour.  We had just started out and asked the way.  She very kindly stopped what she was doing, gave Molly a drink of water and drove us into town.

It was then our turn for a drink avoiding the Burger Geant and settling for French food, well, moules et frites probably!

We kept seeing the word ch’ti, as a boat name, house name and other places. Nobody could quite define it until I discovered it is the Northern dialect of Picardy and ch’tis roughly translates to a hayseed or chookter.  There is a saying that a visitor to the North cries twice, once on arrival and again on leaving.

Bethune town centre
Bethune port

The harbour of Béthune was a bit of a rural backwater compared with its recent past.  

Close to the mining centre of Nord-Pas-de-Calais it has not quite benefitted from the UNESCO world heritage site nearby at Loos-en-Gohelle where the enormous slag heaps are now protected.  Bethune is situated at the North Western end of the coal seam that ran from here to the Belgian border and onwards through Wallonia to Charleroi and beyond.

 

The enormous tonnages of the coal industry have vanished and the scores of underused or laid up barges are a testament to the way of life that disappeared around 1990. The harbours in Douai offer moorings for these barges.

This picture shows a barge awaiting a cargo and another being converted into a leisure barge or houseboat.

Douai barges
Bassin Rond

The Yacht Club de Douai has a home in the Bassin Rond.  Here we found youngsters learning to sail in una rig dinghies.  There must have been twenty or more racing around buoys in the basin where Cimarron had moored ten years before.

 

A useful part of the learning curve!  The club also had radio controlled model yachts for pre-sea training.  Mbappé plays for Paris Saint Germain and is renowned for his dribbling.  These young gentlemen were much better behaved and were racing competitively without diving.

Le Bassin Rond boasts a yacht harbour, according to Fluvia Carte and this appears to be improving since our last visit, still inaccessible but a nice new unserviced jetty awaits underneath the rusty footbridge in the sidearm on the northern corner.

Bassin Rond
Cambrai Cantimpre

After climbing the hill from Le Bassin Rond you reach Cambrai Cantimpré port.  It is a sign how busy this waterway once was that all the locks were paired, now downgraded to a single working lock in each of the four pairs.  After the Canal du Nord was opened there must have been a considerable loss of the traffic from the North to Paris.

The port of Cantimpré on a calm day.  With a bar alongside it is a friendly place and a restaurant called Les Trois Marchands, just out of sight.  This restaurant is probably one of the finest small restaurants with the most pleasant and efficient staff.

Cambrai Cantimpre
2019 Part 2

Cambrai, Cantimpré

Vendhuile silos

Séraucourt-le-Grand

Chauny

Pargny-Filain

Bourg et Comin

Ecluse Fontaines 7

Reims

Between Cambrai and Tunnel de Macquincourt is the pretty rural setting of Les Rues des Vignes.  It is unserviced with a little park alongside.

A walk along the towpath past geese and poultry leads to a pretty country cottage garden.  The owner kindly invited Vivienne in and showed her around giving her a floral memento.

Les Rues des Vignes
Vendhuile

Early morning on the Canal St Quentin.  I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever counted all the mallard on the canals, rivers and lakes of Europe.

We were towed through Le Tunnel de Macquincourt, also known as Riqueval, by the electric tug visible in the distance.  Overhead live cables provide the power to the tug that pulls itself along a cable running over slotted pulleys.

The barge ahead, Black Pearl, was a real nuisance in the tunnel.  He told me to slow the engine when mooring to pass ropes when Cimarron, having a left hand propellor, comes alongside smartly when given a good kick astern.  He then tried to place the ropes as a straight tow and was really put out when I insisted on the crossed over tow ropes which work much better, and is recommended by the tug crew.

To add insult to injury he then ran his engine in the tunnel.  While we were choking from his exhaust (no ventilation in the tunnel) a VNF worker loomed through the mist on the towpath.  We pointed out the exhaust fumes and he ran ahead to tell them to stop their engine.  Two minuted later he restarted it and continued to choke us for another half hour.

Riqueval Tunnel
Riqueval Tunnel

Before the fumes got too bad Molly thought she was supposed to keep a lookout in case of on-coming traffic.

It was hard work having to breath carbon monoxide so Molly went below to have a nap with her pet monkey.

Riqueval Tunnel
Lesdins Tunnel

Oh no, not another tunnel!  Tunnel de Lesdins is shorter so you use your own engine to sail through.

back to Séraucourt-Le-Grand, not much has changed in eight years except the weed has grown considerably.

The weed has encouraged the frogs who entertained us every night with deafening mating calls.

Seraucourt-le-Grand
Les Plongeurs

Divers again!  To clear the propeller in which a piece of polypropylene net had been picked up in Courcelles-Les-Léns.

The owner of the restaurant was game to do it for us but when he found that the coypu had infected the water with leptospirosis (aka Weil’s disease) he wisely got the St Quentin diving club for us, they had current vaccinations!

Each year we are in France a Bastille Day firework display entertains us, but not Molly.

Bastille Day 2019
Chauny

No free berth in Chauny so we rafted alongside a friendly local boat.  The following morning we took gasoil from a road tanker on the opposite bank.

Canal de l’Oise á  l’Aisne, straight and narrow and very green!

Aisne Marne
Ships that pass

Not a whole lot of room to spare in Canal de l’Oise á  l’Aisne!

Bourg-et-Comin demonstrated the occasional benefit of having a lot of power cables on board.  The Halte Fluvial was fully occupied but the unserviced berth around the corner was within reach!

Bourg et Comin
Two horse town

Bourg-et-Comin seemed like a bit of a one horse town.  But then we found that there were two of them.

The Tunnel de Braye-en-Laonois with a barge approaching as we wait our turn.

Tunnel de Braye-en-Laonnois
Reims Place Drouet d'Erlon

After great discussions we finally settled on the proper pronunciation of Reims. Grrhem seems to be the correct spelling though Wikipedia prints it as  ʁɛ̃s,  whatever that means.

This is the main secular street in town, the Subé Fountain in Place Drouet-d’Erlon where mammon, in the form of bars and restaurants are worshipped.  Not far away is the cathedral!

Facing the other way in Place Drouet-d’Erlon is this fountain, hiding Louise Creperie, definitely the high spot of dining in Reims.

The failure to find a decent curry house became very frustrating, either closed, defunct or unable to make a good curry.  It isn’t high on my list of importance but the total absence does whet the appetite.

Reims
2019 Part 3

Reims

Condé-sur-Marne

Jaugonne

La Ferté-sous-Jouarre

Meaux

Joinville

Paris Arsenal

 

The little town of Condé-sur-Marne is situated on the Véloroute de la vallée de la Marne and has an interesting way of showing the way. These busy little vélo riders hang from lamp-posts and elsewhere through the town.

Véloroute de la vallée de la Marne
Conde sur Marne farmshop

We have come across the occasional coin operated machine offering baguettes, even a pizza machine once, but this was the first coin operated farm shop and what a good idea.

This little locomotive was owned by ‘Compagnie Générale de Traction sur les Voies Navigables’ (CGTVN) and used for the towing of barges.  CGTVN was formed in 1926 as part of Office National de la Navigation, the forerunner of VNF until 1993.

Astonishingly the electric traction reached from Dunkirk to Basel and comprised:-

1047 km of rail-operated lines, using 1,700 metre gauge 600v DC electric locos powered from overhead cables from 6-40Kw power:

139 km of non-rail-operated lines, using 161 electric tractors using similar power system but on tyres;

2545 km of non-rail-operated lines, using 609 diesel tractors.

Towing was compulsory on canals fitted with towage for all barges that were not mechanically propelled.

In addition to this one in Condé-sur-Marne others are to be seen in Toul 

Conde electric mule
Jaulgonne

The charming little single berth Halte at Jaulgonne.  Short on facilities advertised by Fluvia Carte but well worth the stop.

A bamboo built biplane sits in front of the American War Memorial for their 3rd Division.  Ironically this division fought here in both World Wars.

Chateau Thierry
La Ferté-sous-Jouarre

The harbour at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre shows there would be minimal water under our keel according to the chart.  The island that separates the port from the river has an entrance at both ends.  The downstream end actually had plenty of water but rather than swing in the channel (one foot less than our length) we went astern to leave.  The upstream end looked fairly dodgy for a boat of any size.

The town is fairly typical of rural France.

The port of Meaux, situated on a short sidearm.  The lock to continue down the Marne is beyond the bridge to the right of the photograph.

The yacht is registered in Denver CO.  I have never seen a boat registered in a “port” so far from the sea, both horizontally and vertically.

Meaux
Notre Dame

Everyone must have heard of the tragedy of the Notre Dame fire.  From this distance it would appear that stabilising and reconstruction is proceeding at a healthy pace. 

The Paris Arsenal port at night, looking towards the Bastille.

With a Metro station at each end it is perfectly situated for tourists coming by water.

The infamous prison was demolished by July 1790, after the French Revolution.  The column is known as Colonne de Juillet and celebrates the July Revolution of 1830.

Arsenal Port
Tribute to the children

A touching memorial to the child victims of WW2.

Only on the Paris Metro have I seen groups of buskers and even an orchestra!

Who knew that the musicians have to audition to become official badge holders?

Paris Metro
Mona Lisa

Probably the most photographed painting in the world.

Giovanni Paolo Panini painted the most incredibly detailed works between 1718 and 1759 (approx).  

Giovanni Paolo Panini
Train Bleue

If you are lucky enough to have a long wait for the next train from Gare de Lyon a visit to the restaurant Train Bleu.

The walls and ceilings are covered with paintings depicting places that could be reached by  the Paris, Lyon and Mediterranean Railway, Dijon, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille, Nice, the French Alps, Switzerland, Italy & Barcelona.  Artistic licence allows North Africa and other ultimate destinations by sea.

One of the beautifully trained waiters who glide through the restaurant with trays held high.

This one is preparing steak tartare at the table, seldom do you see such precision.

Steak Tartare
Notre Dame

Another view of the less damaged end of Notre Dame.

Paris Arsenal

Saint Fargeau Ponthierry

Saint Mammès

Moret-sur-Loing

Ecluse 7 Coudray

Paris Arsenal

Rueil-Malmaison

Cergy

Beaumont-sur-Oise

Compiegne

Peronne

2019 Part 4
Beijing in Paris

Going upstream through Paris, at the junction of the Seine and Marne is the most enormous Chinese restaurant and hotel.

On sailing further up the Seine we saw a boat steam straight into the woods on the riverbank!  

As we got closer the tiny unmarked entrance for St Fargeau-Ponthierry appeared when we were literally on top of it.  There was enough water (despite Fluvia Carte showing 1.2) to let us sail right in, with the sounder unable to give a depth for the last hundred metres.

The port captain gave us a quick run down of the facilities, waterskiing and a snack bar.

St Fargeau Ponthierry
No boat waterskiing

The waterski site is a circular rope and pulley system, including ski jumps.  No tow boat involved.

The snack bar serves good simple food, beer and wine.

These barges are berthed in Saint Mammès. Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) painted here and painted barges as they lay alongside this same jetty.

Sisley painted impressionist pictures in England, Paris, Saint Mammès and Moret-sur-Loing. Moret is a slow 30 minute journey from here so no strain getting there.

 

Saint Mammès
Moret-sur-Loing

Moret-sur-Loing is at the lower end of the Loing just before it joins the Seine and there is a concentration of barges, boats and a repair yard.

The ladies who run these two ports are extremely good at their jobs. As we had not been able to download the stoppages for some time, poor port wifi and even McDonalds did not solve the problem. (must learn about tethering!)

The port captain sadly told us that the Canal du Loing and Canal de Briare were not open for us due to water shortage and lock problems.  This was a great shame as the Loire valley is one of my favourite parts of France.

With water being short from the Meuse to the Loire and beyond it seemed logical to go to low ground.  The Somme seemed a good idea after a few days enjoying Moret.

Moret-sur-Loing really is a picture postcard town.

Ironically , just below the right bottom corner of this photograph, is the flood mark for the Loing indicating that 1770, 1802 and 1910 were only a few centimetres above the 2016 level. Nothing really changes, despite the hysterical headlines.

Moret-sur-Loing
Underneath the arches

Remember Dean Martin?

How would you like to be
Down by the Seine with me
Oh, what I’d give for a moment or two
Under the bridges of Paris with you

Darling, I’d hold you tight
Far from the eyes of night
Under the bridges of Paris with you
I’d make your dreams come true

How would you like to be
Down by the Seine with me
Oh, what I’d give for a moment or two
Under the bridges of Paris with you
 
Darling, I’d hold you tight
Far from the eyes of night
Under the bridges of Paris with you
I’d make your dreams come true

It must be the most famous and most photographed man made object.

At 324 metres it is now the second tallest man made structure in France after the Millau Viaduct.

Construction was begun 1887 and finished in 1889.  For anyone who thinks their barge or boat consumes a lot of paint the tower takes almost ten tons of paint per year.

Gustave Eiffel had a hand in many engineering projects from the Douro bridge, the structure inside the Statue of Liberty and the Aqueduct at Briare.

 

Eiffel Tower
Miniature Statue of Liberty

On the Île aux Cygnes there is a quarter scale Statue of Liberty.  As a return gift, the original was a gift from France, in 1889, three years after the full size version went to America.

It was an original model of the statue used to show the Americans what was going to arrive.

There are two other Statues of Liberty in Paris and several more around the world.

Further downstream is the suburb of Rueil -sur-Seine.  This is opposite another suburb called Chatou separated by the Île de Chatou.

The Lebanese restaurant called Le Pays du Cèdre formed the high point of the town.

Rueil-Malmaison
Missions to Barges

Just as seaports have Missions to Seamen so the inland waterways have their church barges.  Conflans-Sainte-Honorin is a convenient junction for vessels coming up the Seine and for those that have used the Canal du Nord to come down from the North and Belgium.

The port of Cergy, a terminus on the RER train service from Paris, used to have a sign to Le Weekend pointing down the road (to a holiday site across the river).  Unfortunately it has disappeared.

Cergy
Beaumont-sur-Oise

Beaumont-sur-Oise offered a free unserviced jetty with access to a supermarket across the river.

The little harbour of Compiègne (it looks bigger in the photograph) made a great stop with quite a walk into town.

With 68km and seven locks to go to Peronne a wee rest and revictual was important.

Compiegne
Pont-l'Évêque

Pont-l’Évêque and Noyon two towns situated at the junction of the Canal du Nord and the Canal de la Sambre á l’Oise.  Full of barges waiting for orders, laid up and converting to leisure barges.

After a long day we reached Peronne.  The port there is attached to a camp site complete with bar and frite stall.

Peronne
2019 Part 5

Peronne

Cappy

Corbie

Amiens

Corbie

Cappy

Peronne

Maquion

Bassin Rond

Cambrai

The museum in Peronne showed many items from the Great War, it was laid out with stark simplicity showing weapons, uniforms and machinery of war.

 

Peronne Museum
Fisherman

The Somme has more fisherman per metre of canal bank plus the fresh water etangs.

The name Somme comes from a Celtic word meaning “tranquility”.

The Sommme is not run by VNF but by the Somme département.  The locks are run by travelling lock keepers, most blessed with a sense of humour, who also operate the bridges.

It is hard to overstate the calm and quiet of the Somme.  Even the city of Amiens could not affect the river with its bustle.

Dawn Mist
Typical Somme Lock

One of the locks complete with one of the orange vans driven by the lock keepers.  The lock is filling and he will appear shortly to open the gates.

One of the many summer houses along the Somme.

Summer house on the Somme
Beautiful security bridge

And there are beautiful iron gates and bridges leading to the hortillonnages.  These are the market gardens on little islands between the Somme and Avre.

Travel between the islands is accomplished with barque à cornet.  The shape of the bow gives the name and is important for easy landing without damaging the island shores.

 

How the office in Amiens keep track of barges and boats on the Somme.

All colour coded and very low key.

Somme Control Desk
Quay of restaurants

The quay in Amiens, full of restaurants and empty of boats due to the low bridge upstream.

While we were in Amiens the Rotary held a duck race during the Medieval Festival.  This duck was for advertising not racing!

Duck Race
Ducks launch

The ducks being unceremoniously bundled into the water.  

It is anybody’s guess what a Crusader on a paddleboard is doing mixed up with this lot!

The Crusader cavalry have frightened Saladin and the Saracens away.

Sir Lancelots
Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme

On the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme the little engine simmers in the sun waiting to take the afternoon train to Saint Valery.

The town quay (amont) in Amiens.  Right beside the way into town and for those with a car there is parking at a reasonable rate.

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral took around fifty years to build after being started in 1220.

 

Corbie town hall, looking more like a chateau than a home for local government. 

Corbie Town Hall
Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux

The Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial near Fouilly and Corbie.  The site contains the Sir John Monash Centre which contains details of the Australians troops fighting on the Somme, with exhibits and personal memories. It is named after General Sir John Monash, GCMG, KCB who commanded Australian troops in Egypt, Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Part of the old town of Amiens

Amiens old town
Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme

Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme again.  Molly and I walked past all the signs saying entry forbidden and we were greeted enthusiastically, well Molly was as they recognised a steam dog!

The Thiepval War Memorial.

Thiepval
Le P'tit train de la Haute Somme

Le P’tit train de la Haute Somme

A short train ride up the hillside starts beside the canal.

The Froissy Dompierre Light Railway
The Froissy Dompierre Light Railway

The Museum contains quite a few well preserved items of rolling stock, models and even miniature caps for the staff of different railways.

For those who remember the MP’s expense scandal they should be ashamed.  This is a real duck house!

Duck House
Cambrai

Back in Cambrai again.  A wintry evening scene is appropriate as we pour antifreeze into the engine and drain the water systems.

So, home to Spain again, with a kind offer from the Sargeants aboard Plover to clear leaves for us.

The totals for the season are 1450 km and 182 locks.  Our totals since 2009 are 15462 km and 1420 locks.