We returned to Belgium on the Sunday, always a good day to travel we have found. Fortunately, ‘Aurigny’ was just as we had left her and the marigolds were none the worse for a week’s neglect.
We enjoyed three more hot sunny days at Ronquieres during which we restocked our empty fridge and freezer and dropped the car up to Auvelais on the Sambre. Late afternoon we craned the motorbike back aboard and caught the last ‘bassin’ up to the top of the inclined plane. Here we had the whole of the mooring to ourselves and as the sun began to set I dusted off my inline skates and whizzed up and down the quay several times. Being so much higher up we had the benefit of a cooling breeze.
Great views on a sunny day.
We left by 9am the next day anticipating a long day. We were right. The first section along the top was quite pleasant and I relaxed on deck while Peter steered. The three locks above Charleroi had floating bollards which always make life easier, although we had to wait at one as the lower gate wouldn’t open. Fortunately we were down in the lock out of the sun, as it was a very hot day.
After forty minutes we were on our way and approaching Charleroi, wondering if the section of the River Sambre to the east would be as attractive as that to the west. It wasn’t. At the first lock in the Sambre we waited several minutes as the lock keeper hadn’t answered Peter’s call on the radio…..in fact this happens quite often and can make things awkward. We had just secured to a bollard to stop the strong wind from blowing us across the other side of the canal, when the green light appeared and we were able to enter the lock.
The narrow, walled cut beyond was challenging, especially with a huge commercial barge approaching, but we were soon past the many barges loading and unloading and into some slightly prettier countryside. We had already decided to stop at the first available place and ended up squeezing in just above the lock at Auvelais among a variety of cruisers and commercial barges. There was only a short distance to our intended mooring on the other side but the lock was closing for the night anyway.
The following morning we passed through the lock to the pontoon mooring in the town centre. We had four days until my sister Kate’s arrival so we relaxed in the spell of warm, sunny weather and watched the big barges passing by. Luckily there were some tight bends for them to negotiate so they had to slow down. The nearby Lidl was useful for shopping and we were able to park right next to the barge.
Auvelais. Nice pontoon right by a bend which slowed down the big commercials a bit.
Kate arrived after a trouble free train journey from England, although she nearly missed the stop as many of the stations in Belgium are poorly signposted- Auveais being no exception. We enjoyed catching up on news and hoped the worsening weather was only a glitch.
We cruised east towards Namur sharing the big locks with several Dutch cruisers, one of which took exception to us leaving the engine on tick over while waiting outside the lock (common practice for barges when only a front bollard is available.) He hadn’t secured his bow rope and blamed us when it came adrift. He and Peter exchanged a few words and the Dutchman came off worse. He and his equally unpleasant wife went away even more agitated!
At the junction with the River Meuse we made a snap decision to head south towards Dinant, leaving Liege until later in the season. Peter spotted a mooring by the Pont de Jambes, below the Citadelle and we were soon moored up.
Namur near the bridge.
Kate and I headed into the centre and found a pleasant cafe in a small square where she enjoyed her first Belgian beer. The mooring was good and as the river is wide, passing barges had little effect. We enjoyed our first meal on deck of the year….farewell barbie at Cambrai excepted.
Before it got too hot the next morning we all walked up to the Citadel for a look around this interesting and well preserved edifice. Fabulous views from the top and another beer were our reward after the climb.
The view from the Citadel. A big commercial turning into the Sambre from the Meuse.
Looking up the Meuse towards France.
Well it was a bit of a climb!
Our next day took us up the River Meuse through some very pretty countryside, wooded hills and rocky outcrops on each side. Some beautiful houses and small villages nestled along the riverbank. We stopped for the night above Rivieres lock and Kate and Peter cycled to Yvoir to check out the mooring there.
Making good use of an old ship’s hull, now a swimming pool!
Lovely evening at Rivieres Lock.
Next morning with Dinant in our sights we cruised through some more lovely countryside and arrived early afternoon, mooring on a pontoon adjacent to the pavement cafes near the bridge. Kate and I went up to the Citadel by the cable car…..oddly it was the same price if you walked up the 400 steps, not that a reduction would have made any difference on such a warm day! The view from the top was lovely and there was an interesting WW1 exhibition which told of the dreadful massacre of 674 Belgian civilians by German soldiers on the 23rd August 1914.
Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone was born in Dinant and it is the bicentenary of his birth. As well as the Maison de Monsieur Sax with its interesting exhibits and life size sculpture of the man himself, the town has models of saxophones on the bridge, in a square and even a water clock shaped like a sax.
Mr Sax outside his house.
View from the top.
To commemorate the centenary of WW1 there are huge posters in strategic places which show that particular part of the town after the devastation caused by the war.
One of the posters showing the bridge having been blown up.
Feeling rather like a goldfish in a bowl on our very central mooring, we decided to move further upstream to the much quieter quay by the Hotel Ibis.
100mtrs from our mooring outside the Ibis, a memorial to 116 civilians murdered against this wall by the Germans on 23rd August 1914. 674 were killed that day.
It was from here that Kate and I took the train back to Brussels, enjoying a day sightseeing and where I was treated to a lovely lunch. The Manneken Pis statue seemed much smaller than we both remembered from our visit to Brussels on a family camping holiday over forty years before.
Fairly typical action for this part of the world.
We parted at Brussels Midi station having had a lovely week together. Kate caught the Eurostar back to England while I hopped on a train back to Auvelais to pick up the car……and I too almost missed the station!