Moving out into the wide basin below Ittre lock brought a wave of memories. We'd come here so often just to walk in this lovely valley, and at one time, we'd planned and even been given permission to bring the Ténacité here. Somewhere on the quay, there may still be the bollards we put in for mooring. We dug the holes and surrounded the bollards with concrete to create a basis strong enough to withstand the pull of the commercials entering and leaving the lock. It was a heap of work. As things happened, we never used them. I sold the Ténacité before we could move there, but the memory of those dreams lives on.
From Ittre, we continued through Clabecq, another spot where we'd spent happy times on the Ténacité, before crossing the language border into Flanders and going down the 7,7 metre Lembeek lock; not nearly as dramatic as Ittre, but still pretty deep. From here on the countryside reflects the cultural difference between Wallonia and Flanders in a special way. Where in Wallonia, verges are deliberately left undisturbed to allow wild flowers and grasses to flourish, in Flanders, they are neatly trimmed and orderly. Both have their own beauty, but the difference is more than a little clear.
What we hadn't remembered, though, is that it was quinze Août, the 15th of August, and regardless of whether you are in Wallonia or Flanders, everything (and I mean everything) is closed for this very Catholic public holiday celebrating the ascension of the Blessed Virgin. I know it, but always forget as it's not a Dutch holiday; nor is it an English or South African one, so it just doesn't sink in. We stopped in Halle to do some shopping, only to find the supermarket firmly shut, so we continued on to the next village of Lot, where we found a perfect spot to spend the night. It was below the lock and next to some handy picnic tables. Luckily for us, Lot boasted a night shop run by an Asian gentleman who was surely not aware of the holy Mary's ascension to the heavens and for a price, was happy to sell us a few necessaries.
During our walk through the village, we saw a white ringed dove with a nasty wound on its back. It looked as if it had been attacked, perhaps by a hawk or other bird of prey. The poor thing was standing in a doorway and seemed to be seeking a safe shelter. Worried about its fate, we asked the shopkeeper for a box so we could pick it up on our way back. He kindly gave us one, but when we retraced our steps, the bird had gone. I could only hope someone else rescued it and took it home with them.; it was such a pretty creature and it looked so vulnerable.
We enjoyed our evening in Lot very much. Although we knew the place from earlier visits, we'd never stayed there overnight, so in that sense it was new for us. In the morning, we spent some time cleaning the Hennie H before setting off again; our old lady needed a bit of a smoosh up before presenting her to Brussels.
As we neared the city, the memories crowded in. It was all so familiar and I could almost see my younger self walking along the towpath with Sindy, encouraging her into the water at her favourite spots. And then we were there, motoring through the gutter, under the bridge and into the basin where the row of barges lay that still included the Ténacité. Many of the boats seemed neglected and unloved, but times change and people have less energy for maintenance as they get older. It was particularly sad for me to see how much in need of some TLC my old girl looked.
|The row of barges that was once our home|
In many ways, getting through Brussels was a relief. Once past Molenbeek, it was all new watery territory for me, and I enjoyed the increase of commercial quays and docks. It was good to be out of the city area. The canal remains wide; it is lined with trees in many parts and interspersed with both commercial and residential areas to keep it interesting. Eventually, we stopped for the night on an old quay on what seemed to be the outskirts of Grimbergen, just beyond the bridge in the photo below.
|Typical canal lifting bridge|
Being such a warm evening, we decided to look for a café to have a beer. Grimbergen is a well known Belgian brew so we were convinced there'd be a hostelry on every corner, but we were much mistaken, not only about the cafés, but about it being Grimbergen too. There was a church and some houses around it although the road was dug up making it largely inaccessible; not that we'd have found anything there. In fact, the real town was some distance away and all we found was the local ladies' football club where they had a bar and welcomed us in with good cheer.
|Commercial quays outside Brussles|
We sat outside, chatting to one of the mums and watching a team of teenage girls at practice. Different, but probably more convivial than propping up the counter in a pub. Mum told us that at one time there'd been several cafés round the church, but that was about forty years ago. Dutch by birth, nationality and accent, Mum told us to our surprise she'd grown up in the Grimbergen area. She sounded totally Dutch – until she spoke to another local, that is. Then she was all Belgian. We had a lot of fun being part of the local scene, albeit it very briefly and it is encounters such as these that make travelling so full of rich memories, isn't it?
|Another typical Brussels canal bridge|
Well, it seems I still haven't reached the end of the journey and I'd better stop here before this blog goes on forever more. I'm so sorry I take so long to get to the point; it's just that there's always so much to tell and I have to cram it all in. Next time, I'll get you all back to Gent with me, but for now, have a great week allemaal.