Saturday, September 09, 2017

More magnificent moorings in northern France

As promised, here are some more of my favourite moorings in northern France with a bit of blurb about what makes them special. We had some idea of places we really wanted to stay, and oddly, these were not always the ones that appealed to us. For instance, we wanted to go to a place called La Bassée (not far from Bethune and Lille) after visiting it once by car, only to find that what we thought was a lovely quiet mooring was actually plagued by noise from the two bridges it lies between. As a result, although it was great to go there (which we did - twice), it wouldn't rate as one of my favourites.

So here again, in no particular order other than that in which reached them, are the ones we did like.

Halte Nautique Menen
These two photos are from Menen. It was a lovely mooring off the Leie river against a quay. We had electricity, but no water, although we learned the next morning that the power was not really for visitors, but they didn't seem to mind. I loved all the bird life on the water here!

The local community at Menen

This next photo  is from one of our absolute favourite spots in the Gare d'Eau at Bauvin, near the locks at Don on the Canal de la Deûle. It was just before the junction with the Canal d'Aire that heads towards Dunkirk. I don't know why no one else seems to use it, but it's been empty both times we've been there.

The Gare d'Eau at Bauvin
There are no services but it's really beautiful and we stayed overnight twice on this last trip. The mooring is easy with good bollards and you can get off straight onto the tow path. There are some lovely walks through the woods and along the canal as well. A very precious place.

Bethune town centre 

The first place we stopped after turning into the Canal d'Aire was La Bassée, mentioned above. It was good and convenient for the shops but doesn't rate as a favourite. However, after La Bassée we stayed a night at Bethune, which by contrast was a delightful surprise. This mooring is at the end of an old canal arm and you have to motor past several old péniches to reach the pontoon. There's water and electricity available if you have the VNF key, which you can also buy just along the road into town at the VNF office. Bethune itself is a lovely place and well worth a visit. Apart from the old belfry, it has been completely rebuilt since the war, but in the original style. It looks very authentic and I found it very attractive.

Mooring pontoon at Bethune

This next mooring is at another of my favourite places: Aire sur la Lys. It's at the end of the stretch called the Canal d'Aire (no prizes for guessing why) and is where La Lys, the river, crosses the canal. This halte nautique is on an off-shoot side arm, which may or may not have something to do with the river Lys. I wasn't too sure how that all fitted together, but it was off the main channel.


Halte Nautique at Aire sur la Lys

I don't honestly know why I liked it so much. There were no services, the pontoon creaked like crazy with every barge that passed on the main canal and the nearby grain processing plant hummed constantly. Maybe it was because the weather was so beautiful and Aire sur la Lys is such a lovely place, but I fell in love with it and would have happily stayed a while. One other plus for the mooring is there's a big shopping centre just a five minute bike ride from the pontoon with, joy of joys, a great DIY store. It's away from the centre, but not that much.

The Lys river in Aire sur la Lys

Here we are at Les Fontinettes or Arques (below) on the Canal de Neuffossé. It's the same canal as the Aire, really, but changes its name after La Lys crosses it. I'm cheating a bit here as it wasn't the mooring I liked as much as the old boat lifts that we could see from where we tied up. That said, there is electricity, but We didn't use it as we didn't have a key at this stage. Being there was one of the highlights of the trip for me!

Les Fontinettes: historic boat lifts, sadly out of use

Our mooring: spot the electricity box on the side

And the last special mooring for this week is this one on the same waterway. We stopped here on our return journey. It's the halte nautique at Garbecque, a name we had great fun with, especially as its neighbouring village was Berguette, which in turn was on the way to Isbergues. For those with associative minds, you can make a meal of this! 


Halte Nautique at Garbecque
 
That said, although the mooring was right on this busy route to Dunkirk and carries a lot of very large barge traffic, it was incredibly peaceful. There weren't any services at all, but it didn't matter (we never worry too much about that, anyway). What was special was the stillness. We couldn't hear a thing except the ducks and other water fowl, which as always, I loved. A memorable spot.

Wonderful evening light and tranquillity

That's enough for this week, I imagine. I don't want to bore you all to bits. Next week, I'll tell you about some more of our special places further south and why I liked them so much, but for now, enjoy the rest of the weekend allemaal and have a great week.


16 comments:

  1. Lovely Val. I can picture it all. Sounds beautiful xx

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    1. Thank you, Caryl. Special spots, all of them! Xx

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  2. Great blog Val, the boat lift caught my fancy and I looked it up on Wikipedia. It's apparently based on the Anderton Boat Lift (which we've been on) and works in a similar way. I'm sure you've enjoyed reminiscing your recent faring as you're going through your favourite photos. x

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    1. Les Fontinettes would benefit from some TLC, the way the Anderton lift has been restored! I hope it gets it at some stage, Carol! And yes, it has been nice to go through them all. I wish I was still there :) x

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  3. Thank you very much for this lovely post Val. You have opened up a whole world which I knew nothing about. Having just seen the film
    'Dunkirk ' it is especially heartwarming to see such beautiful countryside and waterways in the area, your photos are beautiful and give off such tranquillity , the last photo looks like a painting by Monet or Renoir! Brilliant xxx

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    1. Bless you Angela! Yes, that last scene was stunning. It was like being in a painting! Xx

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  4. Hi Val - I imagine you get that range of moorings ... but fun to know about them for the future - so you can choose suitable moorings ... I'd love the quiet ones: so lovely photos you're sharing with us - cheers Hilary

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    1. They are mostly lovely, Hilary! I have a few more special ones to share too! The quiet ones are rare, and therefore very precious! Thank you!

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  5. All very interesting places to stop, Val, but Gare d'Eau won me - what a beautiful setting, just like a painting. And the last photo is a winner too - do you have room on your walls to hang pictures??

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    1. Thank you, Patricia. I don't really have space for photos, but I might make a book of some of the nicest spots. Those two were really lovely!

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  6. We were sorry that we didn't have a chance to reconnect on the Somme. Maybe another season we'll cross paths. We'll probably be spending next summer around northern France. We're following your blog now so let us know your plans.

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    1. Oh yes, I do hope we cross paths again too! I'm enjoying your blog very much as well. By the way as an addendum to my comment on your blog, I've recently finished reading a book called The Leaky Iron Boat by Hart Russel. It was published in the 90s, but he writes beautifully about their travels through France and his descriptions of the area you're in now are great. Nice to read what it was like to travel on the canals in the 80s!

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  7. Congratulations on your photo's Val and like Hilary M-B above I too would appreciate the silent moorings !
    I recall a night spent camping in Yorkshire once with an iron railway bridge on one side and a busy road at the other. This gave us a night of interrupted sleep needless to say we upped sticks and departed before breakfast!

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    1. Thanks, Mel! Yes, railway bridges, especially iron ones are not recommended!

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