Sunday, 19 June 2016

Namur to Yvoir

Friday 17 June to Sunday 19 June 2016
Happy Birthday Sian for the 17th!

Another Belgium morning – grey, drizzle and a big muddy river flowing fast…but we are committed to leaving.

A load of washing done, a last vacuum of the leftover electricity and it’s lines aweigh and off we go, through the first lock, a wave farewell to Neeltje whose owners we will meet somewhere I’m sure, rained through the next lock and nearly blown onto the bank on exit,

and the GPS speed drops from 9.5kph at 1,800rpm to 3.5rpm. Eeish but I’m having visions of the current catching our bow and Elle spinning top-like back to Namur. But we plod on and eventually after 20 kilometers, four locks and five hours we slide into the delightful Port de Plaisance Yvoir, sodden green lawns and many Spurwing geese and their monkey sized poo. And the sun comes out and everything starts steaming – gotta love Belgium!

One condolence was that after lock #2 it stopped raining and we can now understand why this is called one of the most beautiful waterways in Europe – for us, and despite the iffy weather, it is definitely the most beautiful we have navigated.

The quay at Yvoir is small and populated mostly by half a dozen small motor boats, a smallish cruiser and ourselves.

The harbour master comes to take our money and then continues with sweeping the goose poo into a scooper. A walk around the delightful setting shows a clubhouse offering frites and other light meals and the coolest little chain ferry which, if you have paid your mooring fees and key deposit, you can use to cross to the town and back again (”Please return the ferry to the island side for security”).

The chain ferry - Elle is moored extreme right.


No turbulence from barrages or passing biggies gives us a great night’s sleep – we just need to figure out how to switch off the train-crossing alarm which rings intermittently right through the night; this is apparently quite a busy freight line between Brussels, Namur and Luxembourg.

The nearby town is pretty and sparklingly clean so we decide to spend two nights here.

One of the reasons we have for being in Yvoir is that there is a rarity here - a snail farm where they breed the 'petit-gris' snail; they are only open to individual visitors on Saturdays at 16h00 which is the day and time when Belgium heavens drop copious amounts of water on passing cyclists.

But the presentation was most informative (only buy processed snails with the description 'helix' on the container or you will likely be purchasing bits of the giant snail like those we get in Durban) and we departed with a selection of product including petit-gris soup which Lynn embellished and which was our supper.

4 times more protein than meat and no cholesterol.
Teen fashion...


The breeding ground for adult snails.

Sunday morning is dry but decidedly cool at 13C (did we mention that it is almost Midsummer’s Day) and we take a ride to Dinant to assess the mooring situation. Not much space available and the city looks a bit ‘gritty’ made more so by the bleak skies and the roadworks along the waterside, so we head back to our little port and will spend another night here, departing for Dinant tomorrow morning and, if there is no mooring available, we will keep going until we find something, even if it is in Givet (that’s in FRANCE!).

With bright sun outside it is time to find the Weber and prepare summer food for a late lunch - cuisse de poulet, pork and beef sausage, potatoes in garlic and butter, and a salad. Yum!

'Til next time.

Saturday, 18 June 2016


Sunday 12 June (Happy Birthday Michael Cullen) to Thursday 16 June.

With the current varying from a mild 2kph to a pretty vigorous 5kph depending on how much rain is falling upstream (that means southern Belgium, eastern France and western Germany – and Luxembourg too!) and how the barrages are being manipulated, we decided to wait until flows upstream abated to somewhere nearer to their mean – about 200 cubic meters per second would be fine even though the average for May before the rains was around 100. The 350 cubits which it was when we arrived is a bit much but it seems to be dropping – however it is still raining intermittently, but heavily, all over the catchment area.

Namur is a lovely city. Prehistoric fossils abound and there have been many artifacts uncovered from the Iron Age.

The 16th C meat market building which has been the archeological
museum for over 150 years.

Artifacts on display.

Fortified from before the Romans arrived its strategic situation at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre means that its history is intrinsically linked to siege and conquest - read all about it on Wiki here

[Touring the visitors center’s historical exhibition, one thing struck me, illustrating that nothing really changes: King Louis XIV of France’s siege of the city in 1692 was delayed for the whole of the month of June due to heavy rains and he only managed to breach the walls (and that means automatic surrender according to the rules back then) on 30 June when the weather cleared…]

And so we did lots of meandering through churches,


street markets,

battlements (yes, I cycled almost non-stop from the river all the way to the very top of the citadel – over three kilometres of steep uphill!),

A wine celler built into the battlements.

Half way up.
The amphitheater and events arena at the very top.


A less risque Lucien Ropps lithograph

and the odd pub and restaurant.

Lynn even paid taxes at the Casino.

We also met people:

- Alex and Louise from the barge Ricall whose blog Ricall Rambling was one of the early ones I devoured. They bought the ship as a rusting hulk and Alex single-handedly made it into the thing of beauty it is today; beautifully panelled wheelhouse, period bulkhead doors leading down a staircase (not a ‘climb backwards’ set of steps) to the raised dining area set apart by a curved wooden handrail of banister proportions. The sitting room would find favour with Sherock Holmes with comfy couches and a lovely fireplace. The guest quarters, as with the main bedroom’s en-suite, are hidden behind secret panels which open if you know what to push/pull/lift/twist. Stunning!

Louise, Alex and Ricall

- The very pleasant young man from the Antwerp (Willendok) based cruiser Chouffe who, not being on board when the port captain arrived to collect fees and planning to be on his way early the next morning, left 8 Euros with us to pay for his mooring when the port captain did his rounds the next evening.

- The Dutch couple from the cruiser Synergy, whose names escape both Lynn and I, who invited us aboard their gleaming, feature filled, home constructed beauty for Irish coffees.

And not forgetting Guillame the port captain for whom nothing was too much trouble. A teacher by profession, learned logistics working for Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) in Burundi where he met his Belgian wife-to-be. Now married with three young boys, they manage the three ports (Casino, Jambes and d’Amee) as well as assisting in a mainly sports orientated promotions enterprise with a colleague. Thank you for your hospitality and service young man (including swopping out an empty gas cylinder even though it was not the same brand which the captanerie carried – no cost for the cylinder)!

Dr Guillame House?
A really lovely city Namur but on Thursday morning we discovered that during Wednesday night some slimeball had come aboard and stolen our flag. So we have decided to forgo the free music weekend beginning tomorrow and be on our way.

An aside:

Sometimes life among the Walloons can be tricky.

Le (or should that be ‘La’?) Acer Computer screen is not happy and will not show a picture so Moi takes the stupendous decision to buy a new one in a foreign city with no computer store of any note to be found on the internet; we asks departing-very-nice-Meneer-boot-Chouffe-owner what he thinks – try a big department store like Carrefour and you might get lucky. And lucky we are as there is one – a Hyper to boot – just 2.6 kilometers away. Go bike, go!

Eventually after trawling gondolas of the fairly large store to no avail, Lynn spots, at the very back of the furthest corner, a sign saying electronics/clothing/gardening UPSTAIRS (well, no stairs but something resembling a service lift) so up we go and lo and behold, computers. Battling through Frenglitalian, a Lenovo at €399, being the second cheapest in their range is selected, paid for and off we go, cycling tenuously back to Elle only to find that no-show Acer screen has come alive again. But now we can relax as we have a laptop with screen designed for one another. Slit the seal, remove the packaging and out pops the new acquisition – but not the one I had selected and much bigger than I would ever buy for travelling with. So back to Carrefour to be greeted by the following scenario:

-          The €399 Lenovo computer I had looked at and selected was inadvertently coded for another computer.
-          On the computer of choice the price was now showing (on its screen) as €449 so I said I would pay in the extra €50.
-          Non. €449 was the new price for the €399 ‘wrong’ computer even though it was showing on the screen of the ‘right’ computer.
-          The price of the ‘right’ computer was €499 even though the price on the damned machine was €449 – that was also yesterday’s price and the special could not be repeated today. Not even the Assistant Manager could get Carrefour’s stupidity reversed in favour of a customer who would, by the end of this intervention, have cycled some way to buy their goods.

Carrefour Belgium is now on my boycott list despite being Lynn’s favourite department store.

And to cap my day, the specialist “cheapest-computer-prices/widest-range-in-the-country” store, only had one attendant who could speak English or Dutch (yes Dutch, the other official language of Belgium, something almost unknown to most Walloons) and he was busy with another couple. Even after 20 minutes when I walked out. And Delhaize Hyper does not sell computers…

Floreffe to Namur: Goodbye Sambre, hello Meuse.

Friday 10 & Saturday 11 June 2016.

A day spent exploring Floreffe included
-          riding a couple of kilometres to a Match store for provisions; there was a Hubo adjacent so we rode back like gypsies adorned with window boxes and potting soil.
-          A visit to the gorgeous abbey-now-international-school,

-          A really good Floreffe Abbey blond beer served by a lady who really shouldn’t have raised herself from her bed in order to be miserable to her customers, and
-          An interesting frogs legs (cuisses de grenouilles) starter which we shared, followed by a fairly mediocre pasta dish at the pizzeria in the town center.

Cuisses de Grenouilles
Our mooring here is great (the biggies - well most of them anyway - have to slow down at the bridge to take the corner so there is not too much wash) and the town and surrounds are quite pretty so we are quite surprised that no other cruisers ha even attempted to stop here.

Saturday dawned and, with great trepidation on my part, we cast off to face the mighty Meuse River. The short ride down the last of the Sambre was a doddle and after clearing the second lock we were in Namur with the Meuse ahead – what an anti-climax! Elle headed into the current (which was in slack mode fortunately) to the manner born and we made fast to the mooring against the casino wall which, contrary to what we had been led to believe, had electricity (50c/kilowatt) and water (50c/100 litres) and at €7 per night it is a bargain.

Bikes unloaded, we rode upstream, crossed the lock and weir,

Water over the weir.

visited the Captainerie (which is actually in Jambes, not Namur) and then crossed back over the old (reconstructed) stone bridge into the centre of Namur. The two week long Francaise Provencal market was in its last two days before closing so we availed ourselves to an assortment of salamis, garlic, olives, and garlic cloves in brine.

And had paella for lunch.

A slow amble through the crowed old center

and then it was back home to a quiet evening washed down with a glass of Blance de Namur, which won the World Beer Awards title of “World’s Best Wheat Beer” in 2009; light and refreshing with a flavour of lemon.