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Victor's and Barbara's Travel Diaries

Our visit to Belgium in 2011

In June 2011 we started our holiday with a canal boat trip with Robert, through Belgium into France.

We left home in Adelaide at 11:30 a.m. on Monday 6th June.  Rosslyn drove us to the airport. We took off at 3pm.  After an 8 hour flight we landed in Kuala Lumpur. Our onward flight to Paris was delayed an hour, so we waited in KL airport for about 3 and a half hours.
We landed in Paris CDG airport around 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday 7th June. We took the TGV fast train to Lille. Waited an hour for local train to Tournai, across the border in Belgium, then another wait for a tiny local train to Antoing. Robert met us at the railway station.  We walked down to his boat "Misty"  We dis some grocery and hardware shopping, then sailed to Peronnes. We passed through a steep lock, which was Barbara and Victor's first experience of working the ropes. It was pouring with rain, and cold, so we got thoroughly wet and dirty. We reached Peronnes Yacht Club, our mooring for the night.  We ate dinner in the Club Restaurant, a huge serve of steak and chips!
We left Peronnes Yacht club around noon.  At about 4pm, disaster struck!  A red light "water" came on. The alternator had fallen off the engine!  We eventually tracked down a boat mechanic.  We moored Misty beside his workshop for the night, at Hautrage.
Spent most of Thursday 9th June in Hautrage, waiting for the mechanic to complete the repair work, closely assisted by Robert.Barbara and Victor walked into Hautrage village, where the only shop open was a newsagent, so we bought a paper.We also walked a lot around the farming area surrounding the canal. Eventually, around 4pm, the engine was fixed, so we set off for Mons, and moored at a marina there around 6 pm.  We all walked into the city centre and enjoyed a glass of wine at a pavement cafe in the Grand Place.
We spent all day at Mons. Barbara and Victor walked into town, and explored the 14th and 16th century streets, admired the town hall (1600 AD), the belfry tower, and the collegiate church, really a cathedral. The main square, La Grande Place, was ablaze with colour, a flower market. We then ate a gourmet lunch at a splendid restaurant beside the cathedral. It was raining in the afternoon, so we walked back to Misty, shopping for warm clothes and groceries on the way.
We took a walk along the canal bank, then left Mons about 10:30. We went through two locks, and then the huge boat lift at Strepy-Thieu. This lifted a section of canal 73 metres up. We shared the lift with a large barge who was transporting an enormous turbine shaft weighing 180 tonnes! The view from the top of the lift was amazing. We then moored for the night of Sat 11th June at a tiny restaurant jetty at Familleureux, which is on the edge of the Charleroi industrial area. Barbara and I walked into the little village, which is now a run-down suburb with rows of house reminiscent of "Coronation Street". However, the village square boasted a church, a pub, and a "chateau", or largish stately home, rather run down.


Today we traversed the heavily industrialized region of Charleroi.  Huge black filthy factories and scrap metal dumps, slag heaps, chemical plants and derelict warehouses lined the canal banks.  A lot of the industry was clearly a decayed and defunct relic of the 19th and early 20th centuries. We had to navigate through 7 locks. We branched into the river Sambre, which is "canalizes" to make it navigable. We started to emerge from this zone in the evening, but our planned mooring was full up, so we moored against a wall in Auvelais for Sunday 12th June, it was part of a concrete factory dock, with no access to the land.
We had a lighter day, with only 3 locks. We passed a magnificent church perched high above the canal, the Abbey of Floreffe, founded in 1121.  We reached Namur, at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers, around 1:30 pm, and docked at the Port de Plaisance on the river Meuse. 

Whist eating lunch on Misty, we heard an approaching procession.  We then saw and filmed a delightful procession of bands, marching majorettes, and interesting floats. Today is a public holiday for Pentacost.  Later Barbara and Victor took a walk to the city centre.

We are spending all day here in Nammur today Tuesday 14th June. Firstly, all three of us went to the laundry and washed clothes. Then we went to the supermarket and bought food. Then Victor and Barbara set off on foot to climb the citadel. The views of the Sambre, Meuse, and the city rooftops is superb. The citadel towers high above the town, and it is enormous and ancient. We had a pleasant light lunch at a cafe at the top, and wandered down slowly. Robert met Annalise at the station, and we enjoyed dinner together on Misty.
Barbara and Victor walked for 2 hours along the river bank. After lunch we set sail, passing 3 locks, and moored at an attractive village called Profondeville We explored th village together, did some shopping and photography.It has a lovely long "Rive de Meuse", with attractive and varied houses along the bank.
We left Profondeville around 9 am, and navigated 4 locks to Dinant, arriving around noon on Thursday 16th June. After lunch, Victor and Barbara ascended the funicular to the high citadel and took a tour. Then we explored the town, and enjoyed tea and patisseries at a traditional cake shop/cafe. Dinant is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, so we visited La Maison Du Sax.
After a walk along the river, we left Dinant at noon. After one lock, we moored right outside Chateau de Freyr, a stately home with a moat and a huge hedge maze. It was closed! Our next stop, and our last in Belgium, was at Hastiere. With Annalise we found the Post Office and walked along the village street. It was quite nice but not stunning!  We then went through or last lock at the French border, and arrived in Givet, France for the night of Friday 17th June. The Belgian part of our holiday was over.