Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vicarious adventures

So much has happened in the past twelve months that dreams of going faring for any length of time have had to be shelved along with my planned sabbatical. The dream will come true, but just not yet, so I'm having to satisfy my craving to go travelling by vicarious means (don't you just love that word? It's what Jodie would call a purring word ;-)).

At the moment there are three wonderful blogs that I'm following in particular, apart from my usual rounds, and they all involve long distance journeys on the waters. The blogs in question are NBHerbie, the almost daily log of a three month plus cruise round England's canals, rivers and Fen ditches; Blauwe Vis, our friend Philip's tales of his travels through France and Wandering Snail's Wanderings, stories and photos of an English Narrowboat's meanderings through Belgium.

Reading their stories has been fantastic. I've followed their progress and both laughed and gasped with them at every twist and turn. Neil of the Herbie blog writes in a lovely, friendly self deprecating way, but reading between the lines, you just know he knows how to handle his boat (and himself) in some pretty scary situations. He also gives heaps of information about the wildlife, countryside and birds that they see on their way. I never realised England had so much truly rural and unspoilt fen land, and I check his blog every day as I hate to miss an update. He takes some mean photos too.

Philip's blog is like following my own dream of going to France on the Vereeniging, but apart from that, his story telling is so vivid and colourful, it should be a book not a blog. Sadly most other people won't be able to read it as he writes in Dutch (naturally) and also in quite an informal and colloquial style. Sometimes I have to read his posts two or three times before I really understand everything, but all the same, I love them and it's like hearing him speak. He always was good at spinning a yarn..... And, these accounts are full of local life and characters, but with probably just a few small embellishments here and there to add a bit of sauce to the flavour! His photos are also terrific and tell the story of his travels really beautifully too.

The last one, Wandering Snail's Wanderings, is a recent find and I discovered them through Saltysplash, whose blog is another on my list of favourites. When I saw that Wandering Snail was a narrowboat cruising through Belgium, I read the blog from start to finish, and am now following it regularly. What was even more of a thrill was that we came across them ourselves when visiting Ieper last weekend. We'd decided to have a day out, and were originally going to go to Bergues in France on the strength of one of their posts. After slogging a hundred km's through the pouring rain, though, we decided to cut our losses and go to Ieper (or Ypres in French) instead. Well, imagine our surprise and excitement when we found the Snail herself moored up in the harbour there. It was like seeing a celebrity after having read so much about this most fĂȘted of English barges.

The owners, Oll and Annie were clearly around but we couldn't make ourselves heard, so had to leave a note to say we'd called. Later that evening I got an email from them saying they'd been there but were watching the F1 racing so hadn't heard us! Who says that life afloat needs to be limited? Satellite TV and all mod cons, not to mention a stunning Royal Enfield motorbike. Of course I took some photos to prove it (see below). The good news is that we will probably be catching up with these two blogging boaters when they arrive in Ghent in the coming days.

You can just see my note under the mat there

The beautiful carving Oll did for their roof. The story behind it is on their blog.

The Wandering Snail from the stern

And the Royal Enfield motorbike tucked into their foredeck

I can really recommend following the links. See what I see and see what I dream about too. If you can't go travelling, sharing the experiences of these three very different waterways cruisers will at least give you a taste of what it is to have this wonderful way of life that all we boat people aim for - always. These three have succeeded in making it happen. I wish I was one of them.


  1. But Val, since we are having a stay-cation in the new house, I was going to live vicariously through your travels!

    I am swamped in last minute school duties and have inbound travellers from California due on the doorstep tomorrow night, but I will definitely check it out once I am in summer mode.


  2. Me too! Thanks for the links!

  3. Hi Val,

    thanks for the links to these three new (for me) blogs. I think I can understand Philip's blog. The Dutch language is sometimes near the German. I had a look yet. I will go round next weekend.

    Have a great evening.

  4. I was going to say what Anne Marie said. I live vicariously through your travels. I find your blog very travel fulfilling! I recommend your blog too!

  5. I like the word "vicarious", as well!
    I've never equated it to a cat... but one of the things I noticed after my first child, Beth, was born, was that I was now able to live my childhood over again "vicariously" through her...

    Sorry to hear that your sabbatical has to be postponed, but just look at your lifestyle. So much to do and see, even if still moored at home!
    Your way of life, although you might find you've become used to it, is in no way mainstream... no pun intended.

    I have checked in on Saltysplash and Philip every now and then. What adventures!
    I will have to seek out Wandering Snail, as well.

    Although you might remain docked, I will keep on visiting!


    it'll be easier to find you... ;)

  6. Thanks everyone. I'm sure you'll enjoy theses blogs and photos if you have a look at them.

    Anne Marie, by now your summer visitors will be with you and you will be far too busy to blog. I have a feeling I'm going to miss you!

    String, being in the UK, you'll probably know narrowboats better than I do. I find them so charming with all their beautiful art work.

    Hey Stefan, that's great that you can follow Philip's blog. German and Dutch do seem to have similarities, although I can't see them ;-( Enjoy reading them and have a good evening yourself!

    Grace, that's a lovely thing to say. I'm really glad you enjoy my tales of travel...even if it's just from one harbour to the next!

    Dale, the idea of words that purr comes from Jodie's studies. She's doing Linguistics and her professor talks about words that purr and words that snarl! Some words make you feel good, so they are purring words, and others have a jarring nasty sound (like acrid and rancid) so they are snarling words. I'm very relieved to hear you will keep visiting me, dear! xx

  7. I like that analogy, Val.
    Then we can take it a step further and reach onomatopoeia...

    Another one of my favourite words.



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