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

  • April 2014
    M T W T F S S
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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.

15 Responses to “Our first week in Belgium (Jill’s perspective)”

  1. Kevin TOO said

    Oh well then, it was all worth it as you have The Archers to listen to… LOL

    Excuse me, but did I not say this some while ago… “if not try English or just wave your arms around a lot.” LOL

    Your photos have the same problem as Avalon’s, too much blue sky & sunshine… 🙂

    Hope you get some proper milk for Daisy soon or she’ll get real grumpy 😉


  2. suenp said

    Only two words to say really… Bloody Hell!

    But hey BBQs, Shops and sunshine what more could you want?!

    Most European countries recognise sign language so you will be OK there Jill. Ho hum!

    Awww poor Herbie, but he looks totally relaxed in that.. Is that an order for another one then?.. They do look as if they are going to be handy and required just in case you have to wait on a lock waiting wall. It all looks good Jill, thinking of you xx


  3. Margaret said

    You will have aching arms by the end of a day then,better get cracking and learn some Flemish then.It may take years as Betty has been living there 27 years and still learning,and waving her arms about hehehe,lovely and sunny what more can one wish for then.Just Blue top milk for Daisy,will have to get carnation milk for her xxx


  4. Simon H said

    Good stuff!
    I follow you in spirit.


  5. Anne 'n Oll said

    Don’t try German, they are really not popular in Belgium. Almost everyone speaks good English. You’ll also get the Archers on satellite, I do here in north Holland. You cannot get ‘proper’ milk or cream, stop trying! Half fat (half volle) we find is better tasting than full fat. We very quickly got used to black coffee! We found the sooner we lived and ate like the Belgians, the better we found our new lifestyle.


    • We are very quickly learning Anne, but like every where else there are exceptions to the rule, I (Graham) went into a supermarket in Lo today and probably ended up being served by the village idiot, sign language didn’t work… We will overcome.


  6. Kevin said

    I went to the same supermarket and had a meaningful conversation with the checkout lady about how in the UK we supposedly only have the rubbish BIG peas not Pettit pois.


  7. indigodream said

    Sounds as if you’re doing really well, and everyone speaks the international language of “aaw isn’t your dog cute” 🙂

    Sue, nb Indigo Dream


  8. Karen said

    Glad to see you’ve arrived safely. How exciting now you’re there. We shall enjoy following your Euro cruise from now on.
    love Karen x


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