contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

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Archive for April, 2014

Now in week 3 in Belgium

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/04/2014

Our learning curve gets no less steep – in a way it gets steeper as our expectations become higher, but we don’t become more knowledgeable.

To start with, I want to know who is eating all this patisserie. We’ve yet to see a ‘fat’ person anywhere on the Belgian plains; someone is eating the chocolates and cakes but it isn’t the locals … oops, perhaps it’s us. I have to say England (apart from Radio 4) has been pretty much abandoned. My breakfast now consists of a cappuccino (I can’t handle this milk in tea – anyone want to make me an offer for 20 boxes of PG Tips? ) a lump of cheese, a handful of grapes and a banana – we still have a fry up once a week though. There is not a scrap of fat on any of the meat although it is still surprisingly flavoursome.

We were wrong about our comms costs. A text to my English mates costs 0.37 euros and their texts to me costs them 10p – we continue to be very wary of internet charges and I oh so miss browsing through my mates’  blogs at random with no worry about costs. In fact, everything in the garden is not rosy tonight – I expect it will be tomorrow, but there is no point in this blog if I don’t tell it like it feels.

On my new Belgian phone number, I have unlimited texts to other Belgian phone numbers – that’ll be me and Debbie then. Quite handy as I can text Debbie to find out what clothes/shoes shop she is in and she can text me to find out what bar I am in; all for free

The lockies aren’t really here to help us enjoy life – we’re expected to comply with whatever makes their lives easier. They do not like the fact that we keep setting up base camps in the middle of nowhere and they expect us to do groups of locks and bridges together whether we want to go that far or not. We wanted water yesterday – I’d done loads of washing ‘knowing’ that we could water going back through the lock but I was told, “no” because there was too much traffic. The definition of ‘too much’ was the two locks set for us to go down and one waiting to come up so we couldn’t stop and fill in the lock. We suggested that the other boat came up and then we could fill with water as we went down – no, too much traffic. Things happened that I probably shouldn’t publish here, but we do now have a full tank of water as we don’t know where the next ‘free’ water is coming from for a little while. Rapidly coming to the conclusion that it’s better to tell neither lockies nor harbourmasters our plans and just bumble along pleading ignorance where necessary. Sorry it all sounds a bit down tonight but I must be feeling homesick – I’d give a ransom for a nice flat bank mooring on the Nene right now where the dogs and Daisy could have a good romp away from the incessant cycle tracks.

I left you Sunday afternoon heading for glorious roast beef on Avalon and then we moved back out to base camp in the evening when the canoeists had finished playing polo. We found a flatter bit of pre-strimmed bank although it was a bit shallow so we compromised by sticking the front in and hanging the back out. Monday we spent In Flanders Field Museum which needed to be done but became sad, dark and claustrophobic after nearly three hours so I headed back out into the sunshine – how lucky that I could just make that choice – this trip to Flanders has been extremely humbling.

I then trundled off for a last tour around the, now unnavigable, ‘narrow’ canals around Ypres

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The photos are all in the wrong order but I expect you get the gist.

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Ieper/Ypres

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/04/2014

We arrived in Ypres Friday and set up base camp; the ‘usual’ palaver of scythe, long mooring pin, climbing rope and footstool.

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Saturday morning we woke surrounded by legs with strimmers and told we would have to move as the kayak club were holding kayak polo comps today (Sunday) morning. There was only one place for us to go (other than leave) and that was into the harbour where, so far, they charge so much per metre – ouch! Kevin did some negotiations with the harbour master and arranged a 24 hour stay at 15 euro per boat if we breasted up. I must admit it’s nice not having to climb out for a while.

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We went back to the Menin Gate today so we could see the actual monument (without the 2,000 people that were there for the last post last night).

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 I’ve done a few recys out with the camera. For such a big tourist centre everything is remarkably ‘shut’ on Sundays. The architectural detail is amazing even on the new buildings which replace those destroyed.

Avalon’s Herbie bounces better than Tigger; I just caught this photo at the ‘top’ of his bounce to see if he was missing out on anything

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Then I rounded off the weekend with a bit of window shopping

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That’s all I’ve time for at the moment as we’re off round to WB Avalon for roast beef now

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Posted by contentedsouls on 26/04/2014

We have been very busy being tourists and doing the necessaries of boaty life so it’s gone midnight and I’m just going to throw up a photo or two of Ypres by night after we attended the very moving last post at Mennin Gate tonight

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Starting Week 2 (Jill) Fintele

Posted by contentedsouls on 24/04/2014

As per my last blog you can see that the mooring pontoon at Fintele, and the steep steps up from it, are the thin open mesh squares which are loathed by dogs and cats alike. So using two mooring planks we rigged up our own boarding system which avoided using the steps altogether – the use of which is demonstrated here by Daisy

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“Now watch carefully Muttley, ’cause we’ve got to do that next”. “I can’t do that”. “Yes you can”.

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The Lockie turned up in the evening to inform us that we had to move on in the morning as they had received notification that, with immediate effect, there was a new 24 hour mooring rule – this was as much a surprise to the Lockie as the two local harboumasters  moored behind us. So, ready to leave yesterday morning, the Lockie had his first excuse for non-movers ..no, not the old broken down excuse, but ‘my cat hasn’t come home’. Daisy frightened me to death by not coming to my call or home for breakfast. Two hours later she joined me when I was out with the dogs – she was soaking wet and covered in mud but looking very pleased with herself.

So we cruised from Fintele (first three photos) to just outside Ieper (Ypres) after hanging a right onto the IJer/Ieper Canal. I love these little picnic sites/info areas. Is this a fancy pigeon house do you reckon?  It was just perched on the top of a house in a nearby village which I can neither remember the name of nor spell.

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This house had it’s own cable ferry. Right turn Clyde!

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Wild mooring here, so far, involves a bit of a bank. so a quick bit of gardening with the scythe, a rope pinned to the top by a long mooring pin, the small stool and the job’s a good ‘un.

I should also have mentioned that we still managed our traditional Sunday roast on MR and a BBQ on Avalon – Brits abroad hey? It’ll be knotted hankies all round next. Ah – that might have already happened!

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Cheers guys!

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Our first week in Belgium (Jill’s perspective)

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/04/2014

I cannot believe that at, almost exactly, this time last week I was booking into a hotel on the seafront at Nieupoort. I say ‘I’ because G was haring around the countryside in our car with MR’s transport driver trying to find where we should be to put the boat in in the morning – the reason we didn’t know was because I thought he’d packed the ipad with the info on into the yellow rucksack (which I picked up before leaving) but it was in the red one (which I didn’t bring), together with toothbrushes, toothpaste, coats, clothes, etc., etc. Why we didn’t think to try and borrow a ladder and get up and retrieve it I can’t explain except for total exhaustion.
Anyway, there I was trying to book into this hotel in my best (appalling) French and smuggle Daisy and her giant litter tray up to our room. Two shocks here – French is not spoken (despite our proximity to the border). Access to our room was from the centre of a very busy restaurant: bloody difficult to look casual in the midst of a foreign restaurant with a cat under one arm and a litter tray under the other!!!

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This was the view from our hotel room. At least the dogs could have a much needed romp on the beach but it was dark and blowing a freezing hooley and we had no coats.
The hotel room of course had a tiled cold floor. We had no dog beds. Daisy slept on my fleece. I was so wired and so cold that I didn’t get ANY sleep and we got up and left to return to the game of hunt the crane. Anyway, all that is history now and data is expensive so I’m not going to duplicate Avalon’s pictures (or, rather, my pictures on Avalon’s blog) if I can avoid it. So if you’re interested you’ll just have to look at both.

We stopped outside Nieupoort for a few days trying to sort out boats, gas, unpack etc., before moving on to the beautiful small town of Veurne where our plans had to change a little. It seems boat/marina politics are the same Europe over – there has been a takeover at Veurne marina and free moorings withdrawn, residential moorings increased eightfold and water now has a price tag of 1 euro per 100 litres – not for us so we moved to just outside of town.
Today we moved onto the river IJzer at Fintele. Kevin’s blog will give you geographical info, so here are a few of my favourite pictures of the last few days and some random ‘Jill type’ thoughts and observations. Herbie’s practice run in the ‘boatswains chair’ was priceless – totally unphased bless him.

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There is no ‘fresh’ milk – full fat is red top but only long life (not looking forward to breaking that news to Daisy). You can be fined if you let your dog off of the lead within town environs BUT they are allowed in every shop and restaurant except butchers and wet fish shops. The bread, cheese and pate is to die for.
All Belgian beers come in small sizes with horrendously high alcohol strengths. Eggs are cheap – vegetables are expensive; we found an Aldi today and wanted to see if veg were still expensive but it was closed, so still don’t know. I went into the pet shop in Veurne to buy a catnip mouse for Daisy – he knew who I was, our boat names and what type of dogs we had. We are a complete and slightly wondrous novelty: my kingfisher painting on the side shutter is becoming famous. G invited a lockie on board to look round MR with three weeks of dirty washing including my knickers spread across the bed. Boat services are like passing ‘go’ in Monopoly – when you go through a lock you on load free water and off load rubbish – if you don’t pass through the lock you get nothing. If you can’t speak the local Belgian dialect then speak German – if not try English or just wave your arms around a lot. Forget ‘translate’; it took a week (with two resident experts) to get internet and we will have to reduce our ‘consumption’ by about 60%.

After that little lot I bet you wished I’d left the blog in G’s hands!

PS I’ve continued to get The Archers on Long Wave.

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We have arrived, where? Belgium ofcourse.

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/04/2014

Monday was a complete day of stress, which once we had arrived in Belgium, one would have thought would have subsided. NO. we drove of the ferry at Dunkirk, to receive a phone call from our boat transporter to say, “where am I supposed to be, I can’t find anywhere that looks like we can lift your boat in?”.

Oh No, its a marina in Nieuwpoort and from what I could see on Google Earth, there was only one. Not the case says he………..oh …k says I. We are about 30 mins behind you (god knows how?)  I’ll sort it when I get there, park up where you can and I’ll come and find you.

All the information we needed was in my rucksack, which I had left on the boat….whooops!

We arrived some what frazzled, to say the least, but soon found MR. I went to an office which was at the address I had on an email from the company who were going to put us back into the water. It was the Politei, however, they told us where to put the lorry overnight. I told Tony, the lorry driver where to park told him I would be back as soon as I had booked Jill and the animals into our hotel.

30 mins later I picked Tony up in my car and we set off on a mission to find the Crane which would put us back onto the wet stuff. It was nowhere to be seen. Stressed or what…………..

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here’s what Baxter thinks of Belgium, oh look who is parked behind MR……its Kevin and Debbie of WB Avalon awaiting her arrival.

ah….. we have found the crane…….it was tucked away for the night.

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The photos never lie, the picture above is of MR suspended some 30ft above the water, we were being put in at low tide, dont ask me how it felt suspended  that high above the water……

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phew arriving safely on the Pontoon, albeit somewhat at Sea, Yes this is the Sea………but look who has followed us in….

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That was one hell of a day, but it was not over…..more to come. Bye for now.

 

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Leaving the UK

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/04/2014

Monday came and so did the stress, well Jill says “it arrived a little before then” We had been preparing MR for the lift out at Watford since about Friday midday.

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Everything that was on the roof had to be brought inside, which left space for day to day living at a premium. We both managed to keep our cool and that was a miracle in it’s self.

8:15 Monday and the transport arrived driven by Tony a very friendly but professional driver. But before the Lorry arrived so did this lot:

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More about what has happened with those in the picture above from Jill later.

Then the Lift.

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Now we could breath again. Our goodbyes were said to Sue and Vic, NB No Problem, Kevin Too, taxi driver extroadinaire and Carol and George WB Still Rockin (who had driven for 2 hrs to visit and say goodbye)

Then a 2 hour drive down to Dover which was increased to 2.75 hours by a 5 Mile queue to cross the Queen Elizabeth bridge at Dartford.

I must mention here what wonderful friends we have, Kevin Too who lives in Derbyshire, drove from his home to pick-up Sue and Vic on NB No Problem who were moored in Llangollen and then drove down to meet Jill and I on Sunday evening, arriving whilst we were socialising on NB Indigo Dream (who had been in contact with us during the previous few days) who were moored outside Bridgewater Marina.

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All of this was unbeknown to both Jill and I and was a lovely surprise, needless to say we all went out to Dinner and that included the Indigo Dreamers, Sue and Richard.

words are not always enough to say how grateful we both are.

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