Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Arques to Watten

Saturday 30 May 2015

Arques mooring - Elle in distance against the trees (behind the white boat).

Having read that there was a morning market in nearby Saint-Omer we tootled the five kilometres into the city guided by the imposing, hilltop belfry landmark of the Notre-Dame cathedral. As we entered the outskirts we were confronted by the amazing ruins of the original 7th Century Abbey of Saint Bertin.

Photos duly taken, we rode up the cobbled streets into the city centre and parked the bikes while the mandatory stroll and purchases were made; Lynn found winegums and veggies and I found delicious teeny, mini salami’s made from duck.

 Then onto the cathedral with its magnificent 15th century rose windows in the north and south transepts, fascinating 16th century astronomical clock and the odd looking, 13th century ‘Great God of Therouanne’ sculpture – odd because it was originally apparently placed 20 meters above the ground and proportioned appropriately and now, viewed from a much lower perspective, the head looks too big for the body (unfortunately I did not take a picture).

South transept

Astrological clock.


 Saint-Omer is a really lovely city and if it had been a bit closer to our mooring we would have stayed a lot longer but the canal which passes close by has fallen into disuse, like many of the minor waterways we are seeing in France. Read some of the history here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Omer

Back onto the bikes and into Arque, the hometown of D’Arc Crystal and Arcorac dinnerware; we need proper whiskey tumblers and the D’Arc factory shop must surely be the place to find some. What a disappointment! The ‘crystal’ is a cheap version of the genuine stuff and the designs are modern interpretations of some real classics which does neither any favours. But Lynn managed to find medium sized Arcorac coffee mugs which are quite fun. Arques is not really a place to dally; apart from a very pretty Hotel de Ville it is quite shabby.

 We somehow did not enjoy the feeling of the Port de Plaisance at Arques so, looking at the waterway guide, we decided to take the short, downstream ride to the Halte Nautique at Watten which was described as having showers, water, electricity, fuel, rubbish bins and a restaurant; the Cruising Association’s ‘Cruising the Inland Waterways of France & Belgium (17th edition) describes the marina thus: “Enter through small cut on L bank. 2.8m air draught, 1.4m water. Free and safe although run down although rubbish cleared daily. Port reported closed early April 2013”. Well, the waterways guide, despite being the 2015/16 edition was wrong and Brenda Davison’s book was correct (except for the 2.8m air draught – the footbridge gives an air draught of around 4m and we cruised under it with mast up and plenty of clearance so it must be at least 3.6m being our maximum air draught). How sad - all the facilities available in lovely buildings and all closed. The pontoons are rotting, the taps are sealed and the electricity has been disconnected and lies in tangles of wiring – but the lawn was neatly trimmed and tidy and the bins were empty and clean.

Watten mooring

Mobile home park as viewed from our window.

 A visit to the Tourist Centre to pick up a map and inquire about internet (still no signal anywhere), a quick walk through the cemetery and church, a beer at a pavement cafĂ© and then it was back to Elle for a braai and planning…having turned back downstream we are sadly now on the start of our journey home. Tomorrow, with rain and strong winds predicted (according to the lady in the Tourist office) we will stay put.

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