Thursday, 14 July 2016

Haybes to Revin

Monday 27 June

15 kilometers, 4 locks, 1 tunnel, 3 hours 40 minutes (current between 2 and 4.5kph).

A lovely day so off we go, past the still deserted Fumay quay,

Fumay Port
and along the pretty waterway.

Tatty houseboat.

In no time at all we are at the 290m Revin tunnel where the lights come on automatically as one enters.

Through we went without incident, exited the lock at the end of the tunnel, swung hard downstream (right) and idled at 9kph to the beautifully manicured PdP of Revin where there was one space left – “It’s 13 meters so you will fit – just reverse in” say the team of willing helpers. Nope, reversing down-current is not a great idea so we back-up past the enormous (to us), brand new, 17m ‘ship’ and edge nose-in in front of it, almost bumping the smaller boat off our bow, occupied by a terrified Dutch couple who did not make an appearance until we were made fast 1m astern of them…I don’t make a hash of it and by some miracle we park 12.25m into a 13m spot (we’re actually 13m tip to stern but don’t tell a soul) with davits folded in. Thanks to Trevor the Aussie and the team of Belgium (some ex-Belgium Congo) and Dutch helpers who made it possible.

Tight fit!

The port, looked after by the same delightful lady for the last 18 years is like a private garden with creatively laid out flower beds, mown lawns and a duck-poo free quayside. Great place for a stop-over.

The Captainerie
In Dinant we had briefly met a New Zealand couple, Neville and Aynsley aboard Oso (means ‘ox’ and has links with the previous owner’s surname but we thought “Oso nice” or “Oso pretty” seemed a better interpretation) and they also arrived and moored up at the quay in the 'speedboat' section.

The town of Revin has two distinct sides to it: The more industrial and modern side where the mooring is (and with a big Intermarche nearby), and the old part with a couple of restaurants, boulangeries etc.

The next day we Googled somewhere to have lunch and Lynn decided on a restaurant called ‘La Ferme du Malgre Tout’ (‘The Farm Inn Nevertheless’???) which, on Trip Advisor’s map, was only a 2.7km ride away, partially up a hill. So off we went, into the industrialised part to get to a bridge which would take us across the canal (not realising that the very nearby railway bridge has a pedestrian path running next to it…), into the old part of town and up the hill. After about two hairpin turns we came across a lovely war memorial

and, after another three, a viewing spot with wonderful views of the Meuse River, the tunnel entrance and the canal – and the town of Revin.

Revin: Meuse River on right, tunnel entrance foreground of bridge, canal on left and old town center.

But no restaurant – not even a signpost. At the bottom of the hill I had noticed a sign on the side of a house announcing ‘Annexe – La Ferme du Malgre Tout’ so we decided to go back and make some enquiries; an elderly couple spring-cleaning their house indicated that we needed to go back up the hill for about three kilometres and we would find the place. So we did, hairpin after hairpin, through lovely forest and tinkling waterfalls until the slope flattened out and still we rode on, eventually coming to a split in the road with a faded old wooden sign indicating that the restaurant was 400m down the left fork – and there it was! ‘Ferme’ indeed (for any non-French speaking readers, ‘la ferme’ is ‘a farm’ and ‘ferme’ is ‘closed’) – not a soul in sight and no indication of opening times so after knocking a few times we set off for a lovely 3.7km, 380m freewheel descent back to Revin where we had a below par lunch at our second choice restaurant ‘La Bonne Source’.

Tomorrow we plan to set off bright and early for Charleville-Mézières, our last town on the Meuse before we turn onto the Canal Des Ardennes.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dinant to Fumay (almost) and then to Haybes

Saturday 25 June

50 kilometers, 11 locks, 1 tunnel, 9.5 hours (current up to 4kph in places).

And finally, off we go to France.

An early departure, past Jean-Pierre who is up and about to wave us on, past the Bayard Rock (, through the ‘striking’ Anseremme lock, past Gem at Waulsort, and finally up to the Givet lock where we see the lights go to red-green (preparing the lock) – and only one door opens. Oh bloody no! But it is wide enough for the boat inside to exit and, thankfully, for us to squeeze into – France at last, despite being three weeks late. The brilliant lockie, happy to converse in English, gives us maps and brochures and the tele-commander and instructions on how to use it.

The locks from here to Charleville-Mezieres, some 50 kilometres upstream, are automatic.

Then it’s through Givet with its still-closed-Port de Pllaisance, and up to the small lock just before the Ham tunnel when the heavens, just on cue, opened. A lovely young lady (student?) locked us through (no, the locks are not automated until after the tunnel) and with a bit of claustrophobic induced trepidation we entered the tunnel only to find that the exit some 600 meters away seemed right in our faces and the reportedly uber-low tunnel was like a cavern.

Maybe they had lowered the water for the tourist boat Charlemagne behind us but we loved the experience. Good lights are necessary however.

The rain eased and we enjoyed a scenic cruise to Fumay apart from the small lock just before the town which had a wicked cross-current and against which I lost our first paintwork.

The Fumay quay was ribbon'd off for a fishing competition the next day so we about-turned and tied up at the delightful Haybes quay – despite what others might say, a better option. And here we were in France at last!

Haybes is a quiet little town which suited us perfectly.

The Marie right outside our saloon window.

We cycled to Fumay the next morning where a broucant had been set up parallel to the quayside (which was deserted, the fishing competition taking place further upstream), visited the stately church (closed despite it being 10h00 on a Sunday morning), and moi struggled to the top of the hill (with Madame buzzing back and forth enquiring as to the steepness of the hill) to get provisions from the Carrefour. The more we saw of Fumay the more pleased we were to be moored in Haybes. Also met a delightful English couple, Peter & Mary, aboard Second Melody.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Yvoir to Dinant and out and about - Dinant, Wausort and Bouvigne.

Monday 20 June 2016

8 kilometers, 2 locks (very slow), 2 hours.

A considerably more mellow current although in the narrow sections it was quite strong and we arrived in Dinant with some relief.

Dinant from our saloon window.
The first night we rafted up against a Belgian cruiser which, we were told by the couple in front of it (the same couple who had been moored in front of us for a couple of days in Namur) had been left in situ for the week. The following morning we took over the very front berth

– a really convenient place on the wall with the saxophone lined bridge in front of us,

the tourist office and captainerie across the road and a magnificent view of the citadel crowned rock and old city across the river. A tad noisy though but this is the center of a city. Most pleasure boats choose to moor upstream outside the Ibis hotel

but we had the advantage of being almost city center; once the works on the road and new quay are finished there should be plenty of space for everyone.

The new wharfside under construction.

Dinant tourist-life seems to revolve around the life of Adolfe Sax (we visited the very underwhelming ‘museum’),

the Citadel (€12 per person to go up in the cablecar which we deigned to do), the Gothic Eglise Notre Dam (on our first visit we interrupted a funeral which I had thought was a wedding – but a magnificent stained glass window)

and river cruises.

Jean-Pierre popped in and took us for a ride to Givet (so that we could stock up on wine at French prices)

Picon vin blanc, ??? & Picon biere.
 and then across the country side to his birthplace village

The old mill in Jean-Pierre's village.
where he had to retrieve a vermin trap. The drive gave us an opportunity to see scenery from a different perspective and the view over the Meuse to the Chateau Freyr (which we did not visit) was a stunner.

Chateau Freyr
The next day we took a cycle to nearby Wausort and had a beer at the charming Café 1900 while trying to figure out how to cross the river so we could go and say Hello to Mike and Gloria aboard Gem but to no avail. We also took the bikes to the downstream village of Bouvigne and explored their lovely little church and then found our way to the ruined fortress which sits on the rock outcrop opposite the Dinant Citadel and from where the views up- and down-stream were magnificent – and we did not have to pay €12 each for the privilege thereof.

Dinant barrage

Bouvigne looking upstream to Dinant
Thursday 23 June the news comes through that the Ham tunnel has finally been re-opened to pleasure boats so we went off to Bouvigne again for a ‘farewell to Belgium’ lunch at the little restaurant next to the church – very good food (the seafood terrine starter might have been frozen and defrosted but the rest was delicious).

Early the next morning we set of against a fairly stiff current but at the first lock (Anseremme) we are advised that the lock-keepers are on strike! So back to our place in Dinant we go and France will have to wait for another day. Later in the day we see a gaggle of boats coming through the Dinant lock and hear from Mike on Gem that the Wausort lock is working; eventually Jean-Pierre, who has now brought his barge to Dinant, gives the Anseremme lock a call and we discover that this is the only one still not operational as it is being picketed – just our luck. So instead we are invited aboard Jean-Pierre's barge for a midday aperitif 

and stagger home at 17h00 after consuming three year old Orval beer, some really delicious French sauvignon blanc and some of his home made 'firewater' Much appreciated, Jean-Pierre!

We will try for France tomorrow...