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

  • May 2017
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for May, 2017

Dinant and Namur

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/05/2017

It was three years since we had been this way and I was really looking forward to coming back. We found free mooring and free wi-fi outside the local Casino at Dinant, so that was all good, but what a mess they have made along the waterfront for the entire length of the town – they appear to be removing nearly all the pleasure boat moorings.

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We didn’t do any climbing, as we had done it before and my legs were still getting over the shock of doing Montherme twice. You can probably guess, from the amount there are about, that this was where the guy who invented the saxophone was born. No different from France really – still the same attention to detail about precision parking of cars, lorries, coaches, etc.


French is still spoken and the only differences really are that wine and food are a lot dearer, there is a lot less dog poo on the pavements and everything is a lot tidier and more affluent.

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Having remembered where he left the car, G headed off to the train to go and collect it. Everytime he does this task I ask him if he has money (for train ticket), phone (for sat nav), glasses (to read aforementioned sat nav) and car keys (well…). I know that it would annoy the hell out of me if the roles were reversed so this time I said nothing, trying to be a more agreeable wife. Outcome; he left to collect the car without taking the car keys.

The boat was rocking and rolling from river swell until way past midnight as the commercials were still roaring passed at 11pm – goodness knows what time the locks shut. Perhaps they don’t. Without Wi-Fi, other than a tiny limited amount on our phone account that we need to reserve for e-mails and money transfers, we can’t Google the stuff we don’t know and life becomes even more of a mystery and rather fun – clichés are clichés because they’re true and, “ignorance is bliss”. The rocking started again in the wee small hours and we decided to move on having had very little sleep. It’s amazing how quickly you learn to walk around the boat with flexed knees; to turn them into shock absorbers.

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Anseremme and my bad decision

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/05/2017

It was clear that we wouldn’t reach Dinant until late in the afternoon and so, rather than pay for an expensive mooring that we wouldn’t get any use out of that day, I suggested that we moor short at Anseremme and then move into Dinant first thing in the morning so that we could get our money’s worth. At 8 pm there was a knock on the boat with someone calling for 24 euros of overnight mooring fees – the locks were closed by this time of day so we had no choice in the matter – it didn’t even include leccy or water (ironically, when we arrived at Dinant the next day, we not only found free mooring but also free Wi-Fi – I’m still not sure if that made it better or worse!). Wisely (for once) G managed not to make any comment.

On my usual walkabouts I found loads of men pulling up their trousers in the car park – this made me even more cross because, not only had I been fleeced over the mooring, I had also arrived too late for the orgy. The sight of two beautiful police horses being polished up for their role in the funeral of a local dignitary cheered me up a little.


The whole area turned out to be a massive cycling, canoeing, climbing centre which explained why men were putting clothes on having pulled off wet suits (my original thoughts on the subject were much more fun).


Leaving Anseremme in the morning, we were somewhat amazed to be joined in the first lock by another tjalk – not only that, it was owned by another Facebook friend of mine. Apart from the commercials which routinely trudge up and down on relatively short haul jobs, we have only seen one other boat heading North and that was a little sailboat – the phrase, ‘rats leaving the sinking Holland’ is one that has come to  mind quite a lot recently. The hooligans roared passed us as we pulled into Dinant, so it was to be a day or three before we were to meet up in person.


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Into Belgium and moored at Hastiere

Posted by contentedsouls on 24/05/2017

I was deeply disappointed to miss out on Givet again. We can’t be the only boaters who are discouraged from stopping there and boosting the town’s coffers but, with elderly crew, it was not for us. As France ends and Belgium begins there is no train between Givet in France and Dinant in Belgium – I find it extraordinary that there is no ‘through country’ train link – so it’ll be a bus to recover the car. There is a railway line but it’s freight only.

Paperwork and new flag at the ready, we left France through the last lock and headed through the first lock into Belgium. Despite it being listed as a mandatory check-in point and douane, no one paid us the slightest bit of attention.


This might seem a bit strange for a Brit abroad; but I could feel quite a big lump in my throat. I entered France just over three years ago and have never left. I love France with all it’s foibles and I understand, basically, how it works – I am heading now for new and unknown territories, languages, customs and waterway operations and feeling very unprepared.

Southern Belgium, or Wallonie isn’t a great deal different as they still speak French and eat their main meal at 12 with lots of bread. The border crossing, therefore, was a bit of a non event but these holiday chalets are able to play ‘hop the border’, as some are in France and some in Belgium. Yet again our intended mooring at Hastiere had enormously tall quays.


All was not lost as we found this little pontoon at the opposite end of the town, with the added benefit of a small friterie less than 20 metres away and quite a nice view from our windows across the river. The town was pleasant enough (once you had diced with death to get across it’s busy by-pass), but I’m not sure what this dirty great hole in the middle of the town was about – the photo gives no idea of scale but it must be 40 feet across and sat there a bit randomly.


Following a change to our route, following advice from my friend Veronica, we now have 640 kms to go.

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Fumay, Vireux-Wallerand and Givet

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/05/2017

On Tuesday morning we all went our separate ways and the next 3 days disappeared in a bit of a blur. The next two night stops, Fumay and Vireux-Wallerand respectively, were where we dropped Sarah and Andy off and picked them up when we first crossed into France over 3 years ago. I remember asking Sarah to translate the menu! Everything looked and seemed different because we didn’t have a clue as to what was happening and how things worked then – some days we’re not very sure now, but it’s altogether a more confident, ‘not very sure’.

Someone sitting not very far away from me mentioned, as we cruised into the last lock of the day, that the locks had been brilliant and that we hadn’t had to call VNF once! Subsequently, we found ourselves admiring the view at the bottom of the last lock for a considerable amount of time (the first one in the morning didn’t work either). Note to self – gag husband.

All the way along this stretch, work continues on the weirs – I’m amazed that there are enough skilled construction companies to work on so many simultaneously.


Awoke Wednesday morning to a wet and miserable day but to find a little market happening outside the boat, so that was alright then – especially as it was over a week since we’d been shopping and had been entertaining in the interim.


Onwards again the next morning to ‘Old Wallonie’ where at least there was a basic shop.


Then into Givet where I had hoped to spend a couple of days. The last time we stopped there the quay was so high that we had to lift the dogs off in the Bosun’s chair that Sue’s Wendie had made for us before we left; so we had only stayed one night. Kevin told us of a better place to moor but, sadly, that had now become trip boats only. The quay we moored alongside was not as bad as where we had stopped the last time but it was still pretty grim. G managed to lift the dogs off but I really struggled and ended up going off of the roof. G decided to get a train to fetch the car – this time remembering where we had left it – and the next morning we did a major shop before parking the car up and leaving. Leaving meant crossing the border into Belgium and, subsequently, losing all our Wi-Fi which – as it was two days before we had intended – resulted in an undignified scrabble to let people know that we would be out of contact for a week or two, sort out our bank account and forget to load books onto our Kindles.

Belgium here we come!


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A brilliant weekend in Montherme

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/05/2017

Returning to Montherme in brilliant sunshine to find a beer festival underway and Aurigny moored up was rather more delightful than our arrival on Friday in the peeing rain. I was right, the boat was familiar and, although we had never met, belonged to Facebook friend Nicci and her husband Peter.

I decided to scale the mountain very steep hill before returning for a beer or two with G at the festival and then calling around to Aurigny for another beer. It was hot and steep (the hill that is) and the beer was desperately needed. It’s amazing how sound echoes around the valley and, if my French was up to it, I could have picked up on the conversations of the people picnicking below me at river level. We were expecting Kevin and the boys about 8 ish but, in the end, it was gone 10 so we had a late night/early morning.


After a late start on Monday morning, Kevin and I collected Nicci and headed for the mountains hills again in a different direction from the one I took Sunday. This route was by a narrow track which would have been wonderful if we hadn’t experienced thousands fifty or more hill runners coming down towards us carrying big walking stick pole thingies – the front (and more serious) runners weren’t mega impressed by encountering meandering Muttley and the large and enthusiastic Herbie as there was no way we could put them on leads in that rough, steep terrain, without becoming even bigger hazards!!!!!!!!!!!!! After the front runners passed us (without any legs broken), the rear markers were a lot more friendly and the path widened. Both Nicci and Kevin are serious walkers and I found myself eating their dust and begging for an opportunity to, ‘stop and admire the view’ at ever more frequent intervals.

If you saw some of these photos in the hasty note I flung up the day we crossed into Belgium then, tough, you’re going to see them again. I climbed that bloody mountain twice in two days – the least you lot can do is look at the photos and be impressed at the agility of this knackered OAP!



“Can I get up here Mum?”


“Are you coming up Herbie? The view is great”

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Just to round off a great walk, we found somewhere for a beer on the way down; well, it would have been rude not to.

Between the two boats and the motorhome we managed to cobble enough stuff together to have dinner on Francoise; a great night/early morning ……..again!

PS Wi-Fi courtesy of the Casino next door. Free provided we spend an hour at the roulette wheel later.

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Posted by contentedsouls on 08/05/2017

What a sad decline here since we last passed through just over 3 years ago. Northern France has become an immensely sad place now – so run down that they even have to tie down their telegraph poles.


The electric bournes at the pretty little Halte Fluviale have been removed and plated over; it would seem that the village is now too poor to provide electric and too poor to pay someone to collect money for said electric/moorings. The shop, butcher, baker and candle stick maker have all gone; even the depot de poste is no more.

The locals still strive to cheer up their run down village though


VNF are still pouring money into replacing the old, labour intensive, pin wheel weirs with the new automatic ones but the work is being carried out by Belgians


Whilst out and about avec the Mutts I saw this large barge, flying a red duster, pass us. I took a photo because seeing another boat was unusual and, also, because the name looked vaguely familiar.


There was nowhere here for Kevin to park his motorhome either, so Sunday morning we retraced our steps to Montherme. This turned out to be a good plan for a number of reasons. Not before I had a final poke around though.


PS Wi-Fi courtesy of the nearby port at Anserenne

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Time to go for a little while

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/05/2017

We shall be crossing into Belgium later today, at which point we shall lose our Wi-Fi. As we are, basically, just passing through Belgium this time we will leave the Wi-Fi until we can establish something in Holland. I will continue the blog off line so that I can hurl a load of blogs at you when we are back on line – you never know; we might (only might) visit a McDonalds to get a connection.

Thank you for the comments on the previous blog which I don’t have time to reply to! See you on the other side


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