(69) Meanderings on the Meuse August/September 2014.

After Kate left we spent several more days in Dinant and were joined there by Carol and Jeremy –’Anthonia’.  An eye problem that had bothered me for a week or so was sorted at the nearby hospital within a couple of hours and a walk up to the Citadel via a steep road reminded us that we are not as young as we used to be. The weather took a turn for the worst and we were both soaked on a cycle ride along the towpath. Our summer seemed to have come to an abrupt halt. Gordon (an ex colleague of Peter’s) and his wife Linda motorcycled over from Germany to see us one Saturday, taking time out from their week’s tour.

Aperros with the Halls.

A short guided tour of the town then Gordon and Linda resume the motorcycling.

With no particular itinerary in mind, we pottered upstream to the pretty village of Waulsort which is nestled at the edge of the river a few kilometres south of Dinant. We were getting low on water and at 12 euro a night including electrics and water, it was a reasonable price. A chain ferry links the port to the village, or you can walk around via the lock and barrage a few hundred metres upstream. As the ferryman was keen to tell me in his charming English – “Hello Mrs…..there is nothing over there you know……” well a couple of restaurants, but no shops. I managed to drag Peter out for a stroll in the afternoon and we inadvertently ended up on a ‘severe’ 6-8km walk as we followed the dark green diamond trail up hill and down dale most of the time. En route we were rewarded with fine views across the Meuse and surrounding countryside although at one point we wondered if we would actually end up back in Dinant.

A ‘little stroll’ ….mmm ok.

Turned out to be quite a trek but worth it for the views.

Keen to reach the border with France, we left the next day and cruised towards Givet. It was here that we had visited our first Dutch Barge – ‘Swan’ several years before. We moored at Heer-Agimont, meeting a couple of friendly Brits as we moored up. Walking across the border with France just a couple of hundred metres along the towpath felt rather strange, as did our cycle to Givet (France) the next morning.  We were disappointed that the Aldi there did not sell the Confit de Canard we had hoped for, although we were able to replenish our vittles to some extent.

Heer-Agimont at night over a fishing rod.

On the way back to Dinant, we stopped overnight at Waulsort again and Peter caught three barbel. We also stopped on the mooring adjacent to the lovely Chateau Freyr, although we didn’t go inside.

One of three fine barbel that day at Waulsort.

Back in Dinant, our friends Chris and Erf arrived with their Jack Russell Toby. After a short walk to take in the sights and a burger to line the stomach, we visited the Maison de Leffe which houses an interesting display in its chapel. Following that we all enjoyed a ‘degustation’ in the splendid bar and were all given a free glass as we left. Excellent value at 7 euro each.

At last, my kind of religious establishment!

Behind the bar at the beer tasting, a ‘Lefferechaun’.

Sadly, Chris and Erf had to return to England to a funeral which cut into their holiday. They left Toby with us overnight and he and I enjoyed four long walks in and around the town. While we were in Dinant, the centenary of the dreadful massacre of 674 innocent civilians in the town by the German soldiers at the start of WW1 took place. A group of local actors and actresses, supplemented by townspeople, put on a realistic re-enactment of the massacre. It began outside the prison and then moved to the banks of the river.

Just 100 metres from our mooring, a memorial to 116 civilians murdered against this wall on the 23rd August 1914. 674 were killed that day throughout the town.

At intervals along the towpath, cameos of incidents based on eyewitness accounts were played out before us. The crowd of onlookers was separated into groups and herded along by ‘German Soldiers’. There was a particularly realistic ransacking of a building and civilians being forced out into the streets at gun point. It culminated in the chilling ‘shooting’ of townsfolk by the memorial wall at Anseremme.

The memorial wall at Anseremme, 80 killed here, the youngest being just 3 weeks old.

Quite a spectacle and one that that was repeated twice more during the evening, in front of hundreds of people.

Once Chris and Erf had returned we cruised down to Rouillon, where we enjoyed sampling several Belgian beers in a local bar, on their final evening. Our next stop was Namur, where we intended meeting our daughter Laura. We cruised through increasingly wet weather to get there as I once again bemoaned the fact that my waterproofs aren’t.  We moored at the same spot as before – the very end of the Bateaux Mouche quay just below the Pont de Jambes.

Nicci getting wet at the sharp end.

The next morning we had the first of three encounters with the local river police in as many weeks. These two arrived in a car and were very pleasant, requesting all our various ships papers, radio licences and so on. When they asked for the ‘Certificat Communitaire’, we were at a loss. What was it? Fortunately they were happy to go on their way as we puzzled over what seemed like yet another hoop we would have to jump through. After checking on Google we were relieved to discover that it was aka the TRIWV………….well we still haven’t got that yet although all the work has been done and we are awaiting the paperwork. The rain continued to fall as I took a steamy bus ride back to collect the car and do some shopping. The forecast was not good.

Laura duly arrived at Namur station where I had spent several minutes wondering which platform to wait on. Belgian stations seem to cater only for people departing; not arriving ….as there is only a Departures board!

Laura’s arrival and poor weather prompts comfort food!

We enjoyed a lovely week together despite unseasonal cold and rainy weather. We had decided to take a look at the Meuse down to Liege, hoping it would be as pretty as the more southern stretch. It wasn’t; with many commercial quays, barges loading and unloading and steady stream river traffic. In fact we used our blue board several times in the space of a few days…..nice to finally get some use out of it.

We stopped on the quay at Sclayne and were unexpectedly joined for supper by Paul and Martine Chopping who were on their way home from England. It is always nice to catch up with friends who are passing by.

We missed the chance of stopping at Huy which we had been told is a pleasant town, but made it to Liege for the weekend. We had to moor on the wall outside the port as we were too large to enter. As a result of this we only stayed for two nights as the narrow river and frequent speedy commercial barges combined to move us around too much even though Peter had knitted the barge to the bollards.

Liege, a quiet little port but we get bounced about on the outside wall.

The area by the port was full of road works. Despite my backache which appeared from nowhere, we dodged the showers a couple of times to walk into the centre where we enjoyed a tasty meal one evening and a chocolate waffle and Cafe Liegeois the next day.

Liege, on the way out to a lovely meal.

A lovely meal – Steak and Dauphinois Potatoes

Leaving on the Sunday morning we found ourselves in the middle of a rowing regatta. We were hailed by several rowers and then told to moor up until the races had finished by the men in the safety boat. For goodness sake – they don’t even close the River Thames for the Henley Regatta! “Where had we come from?” they asked. I told them we had just left the port and that there had been no signs telling us of the river closure. A police launch arrived on the scene and eventually, after several minutes of frantic radio calls we were allowed to continue on our way – “doucement, doucement” ….which we did. Both the police launch and safety boat however, sped off creating lots of wash and almost swamping one of the skiffs!

Our police escort through the regatta.

A few kilometres further on, we passed a huge barge and wondered how he would get on as he was going at a cracking pace. With Laura’s visit coming to an end we took advantage of the first warm and sunny day of the week and drove to Dinant. Unfortunately, it was Peter’s turn to feel under par so while he rested in the car, Laura and I explored the Citadel, joining the guided tour this time and spotting Frank Spencer among the manikins.

I found him very scary!

Selfie from the top of the Citadel.

The view towards our mooring.

Inside the network of tunnels, this one on a severe slant due to previous bombings.

With a few days until, Peter’s brother Paul joined us, we headed back through Namur and stopped at Anhee opposite Houx with its fortress on top of the hill. This is illuminated by night and looks amazing.

Our back garden at night.

Having offloaded the motorcycle to collect the car, we rode up to try and find the fort.  After a longish unproductive walk (well Peter did get a couple of blisters as he was wearing motorcycle boots,) we returned to the bike and eventually found the fort……closed until the weekend.

And so to Dinant…..again. Paul eventually arrived after a hellish journey from Alderney and he and Peter were soon on deck fishing. They dragged themselves away from their rods to visit the Citadel and Maison de Leffe (well you can never have too many beer glasses can you?)

Had to be done.

Inside the subsided tunnel.

We had a pleasant couple of days back at Waulsort where they caught several barbel. I meanwhile repeated the ‘severe’ walk we had done previously and unexpectedly came across a ‘Rubanesque’ naked lady posing for a photographer by a stream. As she turned away in embarrassment hastily donning her peignoir, it snagged on a branch and I was treated to the sight of a huge expanse of dimpled bottom!

No pictures available of the dimpled bottom I’m afraid so here’s Waulsort fish instead!

I took a different route the next time, a circular 9km walk to Hastieres which turned into a 14km one thanks to poor signage. I ended up in a fenced chalet village feeling rather like ‘The Prisoner’ and annoyed by the unnecessary uphill climb required to get back on the right path.

We arrived back in Dinant to find the quay full of boats and barges as the lock was “Kaput”, to quote a lock keeper. Fortunately we were able to moor alongside ‘Anthonia’ which was still there as Carol and Jeremy awaited their shipyard slot downstream. More fishing for the chaps and for me a pleasant cycling, climbing and caving exploration of the River Lesse which joins the Meuse at Anseremme just south of Dinant.

The Lesse.

With the lock gate repaired over the weekend most of those waiting left on the Monday. We spent a pleasant hour or so enjoying a couple of Leffe beers in the appropriately named ‘Confessional Taverne’  near the actual Leffe Abbey.

In front of the tavern the house where 117 were murdered on the 23rd August 1914.

The ‘Confessional’ tavern.

Happier times and a Leffe beer about as close as you can get to the brewery without donning a silly frock !

We finally left Dinant in hazy sunshine the following day and headed back to Namur.

Leaving Dinant in the morning mist.

En route we had our third encounter with the boys in blue who shared a lock with us. On leaving the lock they came alongside and very pleasantly told us that our tyre fenders were “Forbidden”. Suitably “desole” I removed them and we continued on our way to Namur. Here we moored in our usual spot and were soon joined by a pleasant Dutch couple who had also been at Dinant. They had been approached by the same launch that day and had received four fines for that and other offences. Lucky us. We spent another couple of nights in Namur; the highlights being the best ever Croque Monsieur in a bar by the Pont de Jambes, another lovely walk up to the Citadel for me (where I nearly got locked in) a tasty Greek meal and a largish catfish for Paul.

Cracking Croq.

Nice catfish.

The lowlight was waiting over half an hour for a bus to Dinant that no longer runs, despite there being a timetable for it at all the bus stops.

With Autumn approaching, we left Namur and headed back onto the River Sambre towards our winter port at Erquilinnes.

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