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 May, 2014

A Picture Blog

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/05/2014

Excellent hor replacement

Excellent horse replacement

 

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Winding at Strepy

Going down

Going down

Going Up

Going Up

Going down

Going down again

going up or is it going down

going up or is it going down? a little of both

and down again.!

and down again.!

 

 

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No water, hung up (didn’t think it would happen to me) and Kevin escorted off by officialdom

Posted by contentedsouls on 29/05/2014

The day no-one wants. We all started off OK; lift bridge set and down the lift caisson, then into the local small boat marina, we were down to an egg cup of water.The language barrier met it’s finest dead end in our slowly improving French ; yes we could have water ; no we couldn’t, something about harbour masters and timings; yes, no. I bashed on the door and explained I was desperate for water and gave up and burst into tears. Finally we got water after paying for tokens and proceeded into a very deep self service lock. Debbie and Kevin have both posted tonight and have been very ‘delicate’ about what happened next. I attached a rope to the top of the ladder – thinking it a better option than the bollard a long way back. Got snagged, couldn’t loosen it; pulled the emergency ‘stop’ rod (no lock keepers), lifted it; pulled again;. water still going down. Kevin was closest to me and threw me a kitchen knife, by which time G had reached me and he cut the rope. The rope had snagged at the top of the ladder about 9 metres up. We were now safe and, of course, by then the emergency stop rod re-acted so we couldn’t re-start to empty the lock and get out. A lot of ‘phone calls and someone eventually came out and re-set the lock. I was shaking like a leaf. I know how it would have ended if Kevin hadn’t been there with his knife. Somerton Deep is a mere stop lock compared to where I tried to kill us all. A galley swimming in burst olive oil and broken china took some cleaning up. Dogs were not too bad and Daisy was still snoozing.

We then went into the Strepy-Thieu massive ascender which is a rise of 73.15 metres and Kevin was whisked (and maybe frisked) off by officialdom as we rose; missing it all. They weren’t happy with his Wallonie paperwork but all conducted in French and, like the earlier water incident, a completely mysterious interaction.

When we reached the top and we let the large scrap metal boat leave I couldn’t start the engine and G had to come back and change a fuse.

Moored breasted up in a little cutting where we have been warned it’ll be tsunami land again at 6 ish tomorrow.

 

Far too many adventures for me in one day.

The amazing pics can’t be accessed tonight either. My hearty admiration to the 3 people that stuck to a skinny day today – great fortitude. I salute you.

 

 

 

 

 

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There’s no peace to be had anywhere – except Sundays

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/05/2014

and even then the church bells are at it all day! Anyway a little bit of Tournai (if I can concentrate with the tractor mower back and forth passed the boat).

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I’m obsessed with old doorways and arches

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Bought myself some flowers

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Magnificent organ. I didn’t hear this one being played, but I did get lucky at another church I popped into

 

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Cathedral cloisters – a great deal of damage was done to the cathedral during a tornado.

So onwards to the tiny little canal Blaton D’ath, but first there was this to confront – looking at the picture you just know it’s going to be horrible -and it was! How marriages survive these big locks I don’t know, but pleased to report that neither couples have filed for divorce and no-one has been murdered (yet!).

(I think I’m going to have to cut this blog very short; I’m having terrible technical problems with WordPress and photos. They keep deleting and shooting about and I can’t type where I want).

Having got safely through the two big locks we found these lovely cat safe and peaceful village moorings just before the flight of 8 locks in the morning. Except we then discovered that the flight was closed for 3 weeks. Nothing posted on stoppages and we weren’t the only ones not to know as we were joined by another pleasure boat owned by a Swiss couple, Peter and Lucy. So we spent the weekend socialising and enjoying the tranquility. Debs and I had an excellent walk up the flight and beyond and it was really pretty. I think we’ve missed a real treat – oh well another day maybe. 

Monday morning at 6.00 am all hell broke loose! The commercial traffic started going passed the end of the canal; sucking the water out and then pushing tsunami style waves back up again. Rise and fall of a foot crashing down onto concrete. We left quite early after a quick walk in to the market. Where we are moored now at Strepy on the Canal du Centre historique we had to be safe as we are up a lift and on a dead end. Well, you’d think so wouldn’t you but there was a bloody trip boat moored further round that comes roaring back and forth (complete with loud speaker commentary) and a fleet of bloody tractors mowing the towpath for hours on end. Daren’t let the cat out, oh and I’m nearly out of water!

I’ll have one more go at putting the pictures and typing back , but no guarantees; sorry if it’s all out of sync. No it won’t let me so I’ll stick them in here regardless.

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Our brugs have turned into ponts!

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/05/2014

We’ve crossed from Flanders into Wallonie. Two major differences; the first being that we can understand the signs and have some conversation with the locals as the language of choice is now French. The second is that Tournai is covered in litter and dog poo. Definitely ‘shabby chic’ and ‘faded elegance’ although the people are delightful. We met a lady yesterday who teaches English as a foreign language to mature students and we invited her to bring three of her students round tonight. One of them was so grateful that she came back later with a present of beers and a special glass (the Belgian beer glasses are myriad and lovely) to say thank you! The day started lovely but deteriorated into heavy rain and then ended in sunshine so haven’t seen a great deal of Tournai yet. Again the cathedral is in bandages so can’t take full photos without scafolding included. How the ship ‘Big Ben’ got through the arches I’ll never know!

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On our cruise to Tournai I found it fascinating to watch the professional guys being loaded and unloaded

 

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We pulled over to let this ship go into the lock first and the skipper hopped over the side to take my rope. They had to wait for us to catch up again at the next lock! Made me feel a bit more significant.

 

 

 

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Oudenaarde – looked nice but the only free mooring we could find was against a high wall and that’s WB Avalon coming through and then under the hydraulic bridge – they do have a million ways of lifting bridges; I love the engineering.

 

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I love this  letterbox in Gavere.  We went to visit Belgian/English friends of Graham’s there and had dinner with them which was lovely. Our dogs had a good romp in their garden with their two Standard Poodles and we were able to pick up our post. Thanks guys.

Unless you are moored, the big guys don’t mess you up anywhere near as badly as the little ‘fast zone’ stuff

 

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Our first scary moment. Moored at Kerkhove on the River Schelde

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/05/2014

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged for ages but it’s the usual problem – time to blog and nothing to blog about or tons to blog about and no time to do it. We’ve been having a really interesting and varied time. I left you having just moored up at St Marten Latem where we had a terrific storm; after which the light was amazing. The garden of the Police Station had an incredible statue (I think she buried her head in shame after eating all the patisserie) and Herbie greeted the locals. We had to be ever so careful when we left for fear that we’d blow the Coot’s eggs out of her nest – she seemed to be single parenting.

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And then we moved on to Gent. Gent has an M25 ring road for the big boys around it and us pleasure craft people can wind our way through the city for a couple of hours singing ‘one Corneto’. We moored on the  park which was cycle free and found some decent dog walking. The park has a DIY bbq area and was packed out over the weekend with youngsters – quiet, friendly and utterly charming young people. The sort of place in England you wouldn’t dream of mooring ’cause of lager louts jumping on your roof, but here they just wanted to play with the dogs and engage in conversation. 

City turtles

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G told Kevin to go under the bridge and turn right – what he really meant was turn right and go under the bridge! So I hovered whilst waiting for Kevin to wind at the dead end and catch up with me (yes, we are still speaking). Daisy loved the park mooring.

 

 

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Now a  time jump to our moorings from Saturday at Gavere – a  ‘proper’ mooring in a small town but still on the Class 5 river (2,000 ish tons) which was actually tidal. At low tide big ships (they sure as hell aren’t boats) came past, sucked us down and pushed us in and under the pontoon. Neither the dogs nor us were very happy and it was sad to see the happy-go-lucky Muttley upset. Things were slung off of the surfaces and we were rudely awoken periodically during the night. All is well and we have a safe haven tonight; in fact tonight is telly night (our satellite has broken) and Avalon let us round on Tuesdays for Holby – oh and we’ve got some proper milk. I’ll try and catch up tomorrow but no promises

 

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Graham’s thoughts so far on boating in Europe.

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/05/2014

If you are looking to carry on the same lifestyle as you have on the English and Welsh waterways, forget it.

We Landed in Belgium just over a month ago, finding the lorry and boat was the first problem to overcome. I had given the driver an address which I had been given as what I thought to be the crane lift, no it was the main HQ of VVW, one of the largest Marina operators in Belgium, having found MR we had then to find the crane.

Licences, well…..how long are you going to be in Belgium, if your only staying a couple of months and you fall into their date categories then it’s relatively cheap, but hey a full annual ticket is only £100 or €125

Getting online was the next objective. Driving around Nieuwpoort we saw a sign about tele….. In a local shop so in we popped and bought Sims….put them in the phones…..nada…after a couple of days of frustration and cruising down to Veurne we found the Mobistar shop where the very helpful assistant got us all phone and internet operational.

Moorings, firstly from previous information, gleaned from several sources, we were under the impression that town moorings were free, this is not the case, in majority of the larger towns they are run by the local Yachthaven and in the main charge €1/Mtr per nite. Now on Class 1 waterways finding suitable moorings is not a problem, with long pins and a couple of springs we found it safe and secure, however, one also needs to have a spare rope and pin for use as a mountaineering safety line, the banks on nearly all of the Belgium waterways are steep and high. We have only forked out €15 so far for moorings.

Beer, well you only have to look at most of our photos, there always seems to be a bottle or can lying empty, no real ale but Belgium beer is infamous around the world and it’s reputation will stand up to the severest scrutiny. It’s good, but as one barman said to us “you English can’t drink our beer it’s too strong” and as most beers start at 5% ABV he’s not far wrong although so far my Favourite is Leffe Bruin at 6.6% and it really slides down a treat, Too well in fact.

Diesel, is available on the waterways at Yachthavens, but it is pricy compared to going to the local garage. €1.33 or £1.09 a litre isn’t too bad and as the licence fee was only £100 it takes an awful lot of engine hours to loose out.

Language here in Belgium depends on which part you are in, in the North, Flanders it is in the main a variation on Dutch, but in the south, Wallonie it is very much French based. However, most speak English very well but there are a few, elderly mostly, who can’t or won’t!

Cruising these large waterways is fun and awesome all at the same time, a good lookout is essential at all times, how many of us have cruised UK and rarely looked behind well failure to do so here could see a 2000 ton barge 85 Mtrs long and 9 Mtrs wide, bearing down on you at 7.5 knots 8.6 mph and as most Narrowboats will only do 6.5/7 mph then they tend to catch and overtake you with ease and during that time as they start to pass, your forward motion seems to halt then in the next second you appear to be dragged into their stern, so a neat steering away manoeuvre is called for.

It takes a little time to settle back into a normal pattern of life, or near normal, except fresh croissants and French stick everyday cannot be normal please my waist line won’t take anymore, help me!

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Brugge to St-Martens-Latem. The river Leie

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/05/2014

We passed through one lock and a series of Bridges as we skirted round Brugge. This one is a footbridge and the vertical wires wind round the overhead drums to lift the whole thing horizontally into the air. There were two ‘fortress’ lift bridges and one that swung and seperated down the middle allowing passage on both sides. I love the bottom row of windows in the hotel barge – you could almost make the mistake of thinking they were reflections at a glance.

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We had to pull over and hover whilst we waited for this to come out of the lock

 

 

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This, and something even bigger, overtook us whilst both crews waved enthusiastically

 

 

 

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One of the fortress lift bridges

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The hotel barge

 

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Great joy as I managed to off-load 3 bags of stinky rubbish at the lock and we moored up for the night (late) on some god forsaken bank at Alterbrug – trying to loose Avalon by mooring up behind the bushes and anchoring the bow to a tree. We did have our own private ‘beach’ though and poor old Daisy could be let out again. Muttley had his first rabbit in the morning and was very pleased with himself (OK; so it was washed up dead on the beach but he was still happy). I was a bit concerned that Daisy might disappear for hours in the morning but I hadn’t taken into account Herbie the Airedale’s herding insticts when they encountered each other unexpectedly in the long grass! Daisy came home very quickly with a lot of indignation and a huge tail!. You can just see a bit of Avalon sticking out behind the bush – Kevin had to shin up the bank with both dogs whilst we could get out on the level – not the most salubrious of moorings but OK for an overnighter given that it was so late anyway.

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Kevin spotted an alternative route into Gent so we turned right off of the Brugge/Ostende canal onto the Afleidingkanal De Leie and Thought we’d lose the big ships. Then this overtook us

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And Avalon looked a lot smaller too. So we turned left onto The River Leie which is Class 1 (restricted to shipping up to 300 tons) and that fixed it. We moored up in the sweet (but very dead on a Sunday) little town of Deinze.

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Moored here (free) for the night and went for a shufty around the town and park before retiring to Avalon for Sunday ‘lunch’ of roast pork. Lovely.

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This is the biggest vessel that can get in here and it’s heading for the wharf just ahead of us to be loaded before winding and heading back

After a quick trip to the Carrefour (I still can’t get used to supermarkets being closed on Sundays) and a bit of dog walking we headed off at 10.00 am down a much narrower and winding River very reminiscent of the Thames – including some of the most magnificent water frontage properties I’ve seen (and that includes Thames property). Moored on a little pontoon in the pretty and up-market village of St-Martens-Latem. This is much more how I’d imagined it would be.

Footnote: some of the photos maybe slightly out of geographical sequence – as well as still learning WordPress, we’ve had a few problems loading several days of pictures from more than one source.

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City Lights

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/05/2014

Although the wind was horrendous yesterday, at least it wasn’t raining for once. We’d eaten late because G and Kevin were doing something in Kevin’s motorhome – I think they’ve turned it into a man shed with DVD player and dodgy magazines! I put the radio on to long wave for The Archers at 8 pm and all I got was the cricket! So we made the decision at 9 pm to go out and went at 9.15 pm. Somehow it didn’t seem right to stay in on a Friday night in one of THE most stunning European cities. It makes it easier because we’re on ‘double’ summertime here, so it was still light. I’m so glad we made the effort.

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These ‘inner city’ canals are screaming to be explored in the kayak – it’s driving me nuts with frustration, but the strength of the wind is way outside my operating envelope. Maybe the weather will pick up by the time we reach Ghent. The shop windows seemed more interesting at night too!

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One for the girls

 

 

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One for the boys

 

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And one for the children

 

 

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Then we hit a bar

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Despite the fact that G had tucked into a bowl of strawberries (so much tastier than our English ones) with Marcello’s chocolate and hazelnut spread with slag room (Flemish for squirty cream), we got the munchies and had to stop for frites and mayo on the way home – it was well gone 1.00 am.

The wind had dropped a little this morning but it was raining hard again. We called up for the amazing ‘rocking’ bridge to be lifted and were told there was an obstruction and we wouldn’t be going until 12.30 so we had an early lunch and I prepped dinner. The bridge is even more amazing when you go under it.

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As we cruised passed the city it quickly became apparent that we hadn’t seen half of it! Might have to finish the job off when we come back for the car. More amazing bridges and mechanisms for opening them but that’s for the next blog although, before I go tonight, I must rescind my previous statement about how boring the navigable canals are – today they got pretty; we left the ubiquitous road with crash barrier one side and cycle track the other and found ourselves on Thames-like waters.

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City living in Brugge

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/05/2014

We had intended to leave today but the wind is, again, horrendous and cruising in strong winds leads to domestics so we stayed put. At least it’s not raining today but it does mean Daisy has to stay in again I’m afraid so we’ve converted the shower tray into a playpen. Good job this mouse is only stuffed with catnip – talking of mice, G fixed my radio speaker today returning the audio from mono to stereo – little mouse with clogs on (long term mouse resident that Daisy dropped in the boat alive last year) had chewed through the speaker cable.

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Also playtime for dogs – Herbie and Muttley give it some wellie in the park

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There is a smaller park near our moorings and it has a superb adventure playground for older children. Debbie and I decided to have some play time too, but I forgot I was 60 and overdid it a bit. Once I’d gone up the ladder, shimmied across the wobbly rope and up into the tree house I wasn’t at all sure about reversing the process and the alternative routes down were even more scary! No, I don’t have any photos but I’m pretty sure some will turn up somewhere sooner or later with me looking petrified. Kevin was wondering if he should go and tell G his wife was stuck 20 ft up, or just cut to the chase and call the fire brigade – well, they get cats down.

Kevin was off doing a city tour on a Segue yesterday (in the pouring rain) so Debbie, G and I had a further look around the city and the two of them managed to persuade me to buy a bag. Debbie bought one without needing persuading. I also bought some nice brightly coloured pottery – so that’ll be me shopped out for the foreseeable future! I did find this amazing coffee machine which reminded me of The Dreamers and Greygal (can’t think why!)

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Although I’m not much of a shopper, the shops here do look much more enticing and I love all the gateways and arches

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Nights lights reflected in our paintwork

 

ImageImageTo be honest, the weather forecast is not looking much better until at least Wednesday. As I type this the wind seems to be getting even stronger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eau de poisson

Posted by contentedsouls on 08/05/2014

 

 

14-05-06 8087_IMG_8958Muttley did a mega roll in rotten fish – Debbie recommended tomato ketchup but I couldn’t face it so it was fairy liquid, dettol and chanel no 5. Disgusting boy. I am so far behind with the blog now that it might be a bit ‘random thoughts’ again. Our satellite dish has gone tits up and we’re not really missing the telly – Graham talks to me sometimes now which is quite nice but we do try to find an excuse to pop ‘next door’ and get a ‘Holby’ fix on Tuesdays (OK it’s sad). We’re into week four now and we’re bumbling along quite happily. I don’t feel out of sorts any more; in fact I’m feeling very settled – the big difference between here and there is that we used to cruise for the joy of cruising. Here, in this bit of Belgium, we cruise to get somewhere of interest – leaving on Tuesday we tossed up for the two jobs; bored on the helm or bored folding and putting away the washing. Must admit the somewhere of interest is pretty fabulous. There is no point in my repeating all the pics that Debbie and Kevin have already done, so go to http://debwade.wordpress.com and wbavalon.blogspot.be. Please do it, because I’m not going to repeat all the stories and pictures of tankers and main roads that swish into the air and stuff because tonight’s blog is about the other stuff as they have covered the physical/geographical journey.

My first little bit of ‘romantic Europe’ was being greeted at our mooring by Marcello, who ‘wanted to speak to the lady’ . Eggs, potatoes and Nutella? He was rather cute.

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Now Herbie and I have a bit of a relationship going – I love him; he wants to eat me. Caught here just before he pounced on me – Ted is so much easier to cuddle. I knew Marcello was back in the morning, as I could hear Graham speaking English as a foreign language, trying to flog us more stuff. Sometimes you don’t mind being ripped off.

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So there we were with no base camp required – free water and free electric – knackered after doing a night shift in the launderette and G has been charging about on Kevin’s electric bike to recover the car; that involved a serious conversation and a beer (or two?) with a fellow cyclist after swallowing a fly (that’s his story and he’s sticking to it).

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For my own records I must put a couple of the bridge photos in, but please go to Kevin’s blog and look at all of the other.

So here’s the motley crew ‘outside the city wall’ at Brugge.

 

 

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And I can’t finish tonight without these.

 

 

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