Thursday, August 20, 2009

A grand new experience

Yesterday we went down to one of my favourite places in Belgium. It was a very hot day and the sun was fairly hammering at the car roof, so energy was flagging a little when we arrived at the first of the old boat lifts at Thieu just outside La Louvière. Koos and Sindy collapsed in the shade while I went walk about (As I don't wear a black fur coat nor am I bald, I'm not as prone as either of them to heat strikes).

I walked down to the house of my dreams, which is the old lock keepers residence next to the now disused part of the old Canal du centre. The lock itself is being used as a hang out for the local young bloods. I often wish I could own this house as it fulfils every requirement either Koos or I have of a dream home. It's beautiful and it's in the country (me); it's next to a canal and lock, albeit disused (both) and you can definitely throw a stone to the working railway on the other side of the canal (Koos). Lastly, it's in a French speaking area not far from the border with France itself and is definitely influenced by French culture (me, and probably Koos too). Still, I know it's not to be and would be totally impractical given the current state of our life and commitments.

When I got back I walked round the small marina there and noticed some additions to the permanent moorings. We tried to get a mooring here ourselves a year or so ago, but obviously didn't try hard enough as someone else has succeeded. They were clearly more actively persistent than we who faded at the first signs of apathy from the harbour master.

By now, Koos and Sindy had revived, thanks to liberal quantities of water and zeez's. We walked round to see a barge entering the lock from the new canal, which would take it up to the basin in front of the first of the old boat lifts. During the summer months, the first three are in use, and many holiday travellers go up and down them just for the experience of using these historically important, and rather impressive, pieces of machinery. The last one was broken about seven years ago and the barge that caused the breakage still lies sadly in the canal next to it.

The poeple in the barge were Dutch and Koos was busy taking photos when they called out to him and asked if he wanted to go up with them. Now Koos has done the lifts a few times, but I never have, so he sweetly asked them if I could go too while he held on to Sindy. Her only aim in life was to go back to the car (normal compulsive obsessive behaviour for Sindy), so she wouldn't have taken kindly to coming too. I agreed with alacrity!

The little film at this YouTube link will give you an idea of what it was like. I loved it although the film doesn't show more than just a fragment, but the two Dutch couples were lovely, kind folk, chatting to me and giving me a cup of tea. I can't remember all their names now, but there was Steef and his wife, Janette, who stood with me in the bows. I was particularly impressed that these four, whose average age was probably the wrong side of 65, had travelled so far on this barge without apparently having that much experience - although this can be misleading I know.

The trip was worth it just for this, but our journey home was also lovely as we went off the beaten track and explored some magical countryside at a perfect time of day. The sun was setting and the hills took on a lovely mysterious remoteness. What a country of contradictions! So many people find it dreary, messy and ugly, but as I've said before, you have to go off the main roads to find the real Belgium. People who do will find a treasure trove of stunning scenery and memorable images.


  1. What a great day Val.

    I wish when I was in Amsterdam I had gone off, out of the city , to see more beauty. The city itself is amazing, just wish I had seen the countryside. Next time!

    I am picturing your dream home in my mind. Did you or Koos take a photo?

  2. Yes, Grace, I did, and I'm going to add a heap of photos right now!. I'd just finished my post when a storm blew up and I had to shut all the windows, then got distracted by something else! You must come back here sometime and stay with me!

  3. Sounds glorious to go off the beaten track and see the wonderful scenery. Also nice to have some contact with some kindred boat people. Seems like you're having an idyllic August.


  4. lol Val! You began your post in the lull before the storm?
    I read it then, too, and watched the video, but I was thinking it was unusually devoid of photos...
    Now it's looking smart with added pics.

    Was it not a bit of an unnerving experience as you rose into the air on the barge?
    eeks! I'd have been clinging to the gunwales...
    If nothing else, I'd have been able to converse with the locals.

    It's amazing the places you can find when traveling off the beaten path!


  5. Your video reminded me of the lock I went through in Peterborough Ontario along the amazing Trent Severen waterway. We went down on it in our 36 ft. boat and when we did I couldn't help but sing Tom Petty's ditty "Free Falling". For your viewing pleasure here is a video of it - very impressive I must say (the lock that is).


  6. I love these blogs Val, as well as the photography.

  7. Lannio it is truly lovely, and August has been fantastic. Thanks for the link to the Peterborough Liftlock. Apart from being concrete, it works in the same way. I also had a look at a clip of the Big Chute. Fascinating!

    Too true Dale, it was the lull, but then I stormed into my blog and put the pics here too. The lift isn't scary at all, I promise. You'd love it! Go to the Peterborough liftlock with Lesley...

    String I'm so glad you enjoy these. It really is wonderful to be able to share all this beauty in this way.

  8. I went to Peterborough... I've seen the locks there before, but never in action.
    What goes down must go up?
    It's like a big scoop!


  9. What a wonderful day you had, Val!

    I'm just now catching up. The sunset picture of the fields, with the mist, is wonderful. I love that mood.

    Just today I out for a trek (as soon as I'd got back home from Tampere) in a place called Viikki where there's forests and fields and now ripening wheat golden in the sun. And I thought: late summer is a wonderful time.

  10. I've found myself again...didn't like the new me!

  11. I would love to come your way and stay with you. If I get that way again, I'll let you know.

  12. lol

    So, did you find it weird, Val?

    I tried the same thing a couple of times a while back and it didn't work for me... as i sit clinging to my identity... ;)

    That's why I told Lesley she's bold...

    There's something to be said about comfort in the familiar.

  13. Hi Val,

    Thursday is Coldplay day.

    Have a great sunday.


  14. Oh dear, I seem to have overlooked a few comments here.

    Maria, thanks so much, it was a really lovely day out. One that goes into the memory albums and stays there!

    Grace, you will be very very warmly received. I would love to meet more of my blogging friends!

    Dale, it did feel weird and not like my blog at all! I changed it back very quickly...feels much more comfortable again.

    Thanks Stefan, I'm looking forward to seeing your pics!


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