Saturday, August 12, 2017

On the way home: From Douai to the Canal de Roubaix

Evening sunshine in Douai
We are now approaching the end of this two month long adventure on the French waterways and are back in one of our favourites, the Canal de Roubaix, moored at Marquette (officially here it's the canalised Marque river with the real canal beginning a few kilometres further on). Anyway, this morning, Koos mentioned how much he loves being here, but then yesterday he loved being in Haubourdin on the Canal de la Deûle too. We agreed that maybe it's because he loves being on the boat and travelling from place to place. It's that special experience I certainly sought from a barge when I first bought the Vereeniging: being able to travel around and take your home with you.

On the way to Courcelles
We wake up in a different place almost every day, but our home is still full of all the familiar things that make life comfortable when travelling. Okay, in our case on the Hennie H, we are camping in comfort as we have few of the basics that we really have at home (no running water, no electricity unless we use our little generator and then it's a maximum of 1200w, no shower or bath) but even so, we have managed very well and it is much cosier than being in a tent, especially when it's raining.

I have done the washing by hand and apart from duvet covers, I've managed everything else; we have had showers in the marina where we stayed for a few days last week and also earlier on in the trip. Then there's the camping shower when the weather is warm enough to heat the water, and a bucket and sponge when it isn't. We use LED lights in the evening and just go to bed early instead of staying up to the wee hours as we are accustomed to doing at home.

Since last Saturday, we have only travelled from Douai to just north of Lille, so there isn't much to tell about the faring. We did this stretch going south too and the only difference is the weather, which is much cooler and rainier now than it was then. All the same, the light is always changing, and we are facing northwards instead, so Koos has taken heaps of photos on the way. This has given me more opportunities to steer, which I've also enjoyed. It's good that we can take turns, although Koos still does more of it and he does all the tricky manoeuvring. Of course, I do lots of practise for that in my head...😁

Morning mist over the marina in Courcelles
We spent several days at the gare d'eau marina in Courcelles where Koos' son visited us on Saturday and we had a visit from our friend David from Cambrai on Sunday. There is a quirky and quaint bar on the bank of the gare d'eau, where we enjoyed chatting to the locals about how things used to be there. Apparently, it used to be used extensively by passing péniches as an overnight stopping place, and it had a working ship yard as well. I chatted to one elderly gentleman who was on a real nostalgia trip about how good things used to be, and I must say, I'd have loved to have seen it in those days.

Looking out over the Gare d'Eau, Courcelles
Boat cats!

We left Courcelles on Thursday morning, as both of us felt ready to move on. What struck me (which I hadn't appreciated before) is that there are only two locks between Douai and Lille. They are both large and fairly deep, but nothing like those on the Canal du Nord. I think that having done all nineteen of those deep caverns in a couple of days, everything else will seem relatively tame by comparison.

Against the quay in Lille

Disused lifting bridge on old Canal arm in Lille

Another lovely bridge on the old canal arm, Lille

A pretty muse behind the quay in `lille

In Lille, we spent an hour walking around the Bois de Boulogne in the sunshine, taking photos of the old canal and its pretty bridges. Then we did the final stretch to the beginning of the Canal de Roubaix, picking up our tĂ©lĂ©commande from a very friendly lock keeper at Le Grand CarrĂ©, where I gave it back last year. This tĂ©lĂ©commande  is only needed for the first lock operated by the VNF. For the rest of the locks on the system, we will be guided through by the organisation that maintains the Canal de Roubaix (whose name I have forgotten at the moment). For that, we have to wait where we are until Monday, as it seems they don't work at weekends. Never mind. It's a rainy day and we are just relaxing on this lovely tree-lined stretch of river. Next week, we'll work our way slowly through the system to the Schelde/Scheldt at the eastern end and from there, we'll head home. For now, though, have a great weekend everyone.

Lovely Hennie Haha in Lille

Entering the Canal de Roubaix 


  1. Love reading your adventures. Lille looks really pretty, I had no idea! We have only seen it from the train going London-Paris, and it looked boring and industrial from that angle :) Safe travels and good weather as you head for home Val.

  2. Hi Val - looks to have been an amazing trip - two months - it's great to see you as you travel along, and to read about some of the sights and your thoughts - just glad it's been so happy ... cheers Hilary

  3. Thank you so much Carol, Patricia and Hilary! It's been a wonderful journey in so many ways! Xx

  4. Nice to catch up with you "3" again. You are right, Val, moving along with all your familiar things with you is special. We've just finished our wonderful week on the SaĂŽne and Seille rivers in Bourgogne. Myriam and I were not at all ready stop the cruise! I was often comparing your experiences on the canals with our river experience. I think they both have their own charms. More water, bigger commercials and less locks on rivers. But still the same comraderie amongst the Bateliers. Happy Faring on the rest of your voyage!

    1. Thank you, Colin. I love being with the commercials. It feels so real. I shall now go to your FB page to see where you've been!

  5. What a wonderful time you're having!

    1. We have done, Jo. On the way home now!

  6. A long holiday this year Val. It looks like great fun.


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