Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Belgium day out

Despite the pouring rain, lowering grey skies and wind that set the trees swaying wildly along the roadsides, we took a trip into Belgium on Saturday to visit a much loved haunt - La Louvière.

Driving south against the clouds, we eventually passed out of the gloom and into sunshine at Lessines, a charming market town on the French side of the language border. After taking some photos of the local colour (people and things), we headed still further south to Strépy Thieu where Sindy reckoned she needed a quick dash around the great ship lift there. So to avoid the typical "s'not fair" look, we parked the car and got out.


Market stalls at Lessines



The scenery there was, as always spectacular and as luck would have it, we saw a large tanker, the Redoutable, entering the lift in the lower basin. Watching the lift in action is always fascinating and even awesome. These huge tubs that can take ships of up to 2000 tons are lifted by the downward force of equally huge counterweights, and the speed with which they do it is incredible.

We climbed to the top, 73 metres above the lower basin, and watched the Redoutable making its exit followed by a very pretty historic barge that had sneaked in behind it.





The rain then started again, but this time in earnest, so we drove into La Louvière to seek out our favourite café and have their very excellent coffee in subtly genteel surroundings. The town had its wet weather face on, though, and we were not inclined to spend much more time there, other than to do a bit of necessary shopping, so we headed out again. Driving round the area is always a treasure trove and it took us to re-visit a little house we seriously considered buying a year or so before we found our Westdorpe get away. It was good to see the place again and be reminded of why we'd been so tempted.

The return journey brought new delights, though. Driving towards the town of Ath, we found sunshine again at Soignies, another attractive place with a truly magnificent church that was founded a thousand years ago. I love this photo Koos took of the town square with the church high up on the hill behind it.



But then the real treasure of the day came. One of the pleasures of exploring Belgium is taking a dive off the main roads and seeing where it takes you. The evening light was turning the landscape to gold and the greens, yellows and browns of the meadows and ploughed fields glowed agains the vivid blue of the sky. Koos has taken some heart wrenching photos of the scenery, which you can find on his Flickr page, but below is one I took from my place in the car.



We drove through it all with mouths agape at the sheer beauty of the world. Eventually, though, we had to move on, and Ath, our final stop of the day, also proved to be a grand new discovery. What a lovely, lively place. It has both style and character and the feeling of a living, breathing urban heart. Even better, it has a river and a canal, and although I hadn't visited the town before, it has a special place in my memories. It was here on our first ever trip out together, more than nine years ago, that Koos showed me a lock on the town's outskirts. The day was very hot and the tar between the stone slabs was warm and soft, so in a fit of romantic togetherness, we put our thumbprints in it. I wonder if they are still there. I like to think so.

16 comments:

  1. That's a moving account of a very special day, Val.

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  2. Aww, what a lovely day out- the town square looks adorable, something we do not have here, alas. i was reading right to the end to see if you would go to the locks to check up on your thumbprints.

    xx
    AM

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  3. That sounds like a lovely day out, beautiful pictures. I like the touch of romance at the end, we tend to get so wrapped up in every day life that romance seems to come last on the list these days. Perhaps we should make the effort more. xxx

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  4. It sounds like a great day out and from the photos looks really impressive.

    The boat lift sounds really cool to.

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  5. Gosh..! A boatlift? I didn't know that such a thing even existed!

    Sorry Val, I have been occupied with a new project lately so I have not checked in her lately. Hope everything is well!

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  6. I love this town Val. It's like a storybook a fairytale Village.

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  7. You and Koos make me so curious about Belgium! Every time i read your stories and see the pictures, I am happily surprised about it's beauty!
    And it's just 'next door'.
    Maybe one day...
    How's your eye doing? And when can we see your improved barge? :D We would love to see it.
    Maybe we can meet up with Koos as well and discuss things for the wedding. Anyway... we'll be off next week friday for a lovely week in London. And after that it's only 3 weeks to our wedding. Time is gong very fast at the moment! Will you, like Koos, also join us for dinner on our weddingday? xx

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  8. Thanks Koosje, it was a special day wasn't it?

    Anne Marie, the town square is pretty impressive with the church towing above it like that. Very appealing it was. By the time we'd 'done' Ath, it was too late to go to the lock to see of our thumbprints were still there, but maybe another time :)

    Fran thanks, yes romance gets put on the back burner a bit too much these days. Something I've realised just recently.

    Stu, you'd LOVE the boat lift - in fact ALL of them because there are four other old ones in the vicinity too.

    Hans, you too would be fascinated by them I'm sure. Something to see when you come visiting!

    Grace, Soignies was very pretty, but Ath was even more so - just without the imposing church on the hill.

    Simone, Belgium is a well kept secret. The main roads are dreary because of all the houses built along them, but once you get off the big routes and take the smaller roads, it's really beautiful, especially the further south east you go. Yes, we need to have a meeting with you about your wedding, don't we. When you come back from London, we'll make a plan for you to come for supper and we can kill all the birds with one stone :)

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  9. Maybe someday you show me :)

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  10. Ah, Val, these photos are truly moving. Such beauty there is in Europe! How I long to go! :)

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  11. Grace, I'd love to show you, so come on over.

    Lemon, you too. You'd be more than welcome, and thanks for the comment. There is more beauty here than ever meets the eye at first sight.

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  12. I love the fact that you in The Netherlands can visit more than one country and return home within one day.
    We were gone for several days - and never left the county... never left the province, for that matter!

    And your lift puts mine to shame! Yet, I will still put it up on my post-in-progress.

    xx

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  13. sounds and looks great - nothing like our experience of the french part of belgium in april ;)
    hope all is well.
    ingela
    xxo

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  14. Mmm, the Blaton-Ath canal. Our favourite in Belgium and one we will re-visit next April on way back to France. Team of mad lockies race ahead on mopeds to have all the locks ready. Don't know how fast they thought Snail could go!

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