Well here we are two and a half weeks into our travels. I can hardly believe we've been away so long already. This last week since we left Douai has been simply magical.
It took us two days to reach Cambrai in the end and we stopped for a night at one of the places we'd long dreamed of visiting, Le Bassin Rond, a lovely lake at the end of a side branch of the Canal de la Sensée at its junction with L'Escaut or the Scheldt as most English speakers know it. We've been there a few times by car but never before by boat, so this was really special for me. On a much more mundane level, it marked the point where the weather had improved enough for me to use my camping shower. For any of you who do not know this marvel, it is a big plastic bag, one side of which is black and the other transparent. It has a handle and a pipe with a shower head . The idea is that you fill the bag with water, leave it in the sun and the water gets hot enough for a good shower. I can confirm it was just wonderful and I've used it several times since...another indication that the weather has remained good.
From Bassin Rond, we continued to Cambrai where we had a great lunch with our friends Alain and David at The Jolly Sailor, their restaurant. This was another long time dream - to arrive by boat, moor up and have lunch there.
|Honnecourt sur Escaut|
We spent the night in Cambrai and the following afternoon, we started off on the gorgeous Canal de St Quentin that winds its way south. Five dreamlike days when we barely knew what day it was as one sun-filled day merged into the next. All I need say for now is that we went through something like seventeen locks and three wonderful overnight stops before reaching the Tunnel de Riqueval, the end point of our journey. We visited the villages of Marquoing, Vendehuile and Honnecourt sur Escaut, the last being somewhere I would love to park my barge forever. During this time, I got my hillside cycling legs back to some extent when we discovered any decent shops were always 7kms from where we were. Luckily, we always managed to find a bakery and my favourite place, Honnecourt, also boasted a limited grocery store.
I will be writing much more about the magical Canal de St Quentin in due course, but now we are back in the Bassin Rond ready to start the return journey. Tomorrow, we will be in Valenciennes and then we will head north, which is downstream on the Escaut/Scheldt towards Tournai. Homeward bound, but a different route, so still more of an adventure to come.
PS Apologies for the poor photo quality. These come from my not very smart smartphone.