Saturday, July 23, 2016

Valenciennes to Antoing

I've almost been reluctant to continue our travel blog. I suppose it's because I'm still trying to get used to the fact that it's over and we are back home in the Netherlands - not that I don't like it here, of course. I do! But I loved the itinerant life on the water so much that I think I've been suffering from a bit of post holiday blues, and finishing this blog will be the final confirmation that it's back to normal business. The good news is that we are already planning another shorter trip this summer; maybe it'll just be for a long weekend, but it's something to look forward to.

The last of these blogs ended at Bassin Rond again, where we had another lovely night and encountered this very special boat in the morning. It's an ex-salvage boat from an oil rig and the young couple who were living on Milda (as the boat was called) had crossed the channel in her and were on their way to Paris. Isn't it fabulous?



We left Milda and co. late Saturday morning and started on our way to Valenciennes. This involved some negotiating round the thick weeds at the exit onto the main canal of the Escaut/Schelde, but we made it without getting our propellor mixed up with or attached to any hangers-on. Almost immediately, there was a big commercial lock, and after establishing by means of my recently dusted off and sort of serviceable French that the lock at Bruay beyond Valenciennes had been re-opened since 1 July, we knew we could continue with this route (we'd had to change routes on the way south because it was closed for a week or three - the length of time seemed to vary depending on who we spoke to). In this first lock, we tied up to one of the commercials whose skipper was clearly delighted to have another man to talk to and proceeded to regale Koos with all his opinions on life and politics as well as on the Dutch, including why Amsterdam is so much better than Rotterdam. I left them to it. His opinions didn't leave much room for comment or debate.

After another two locks on this wide, beautiful river, we reached Valenciennes around six o'clock and, joy of joy, found a marina with showers as well as electricity and water! Luxury!

On the way along the Escaut

A loading bay for the commercial barges

We lost our lovely Sunbrella in a gust of wind
 on the Canal de Saint Quentin, so I rigged up a replacement

Luxury mooring in Valenciennes
We spent a very refreshing night in Valenciennes (thanks to our first real shower of the journey - see  previous post re camping shower if you are now mentally holding your nose) and after a Sunday morning walk through the town and some internet catch up time outside McDonalds (yes, it did work, even though they were closed!) we set off again down the Escaut. There were three big locks to get through and then no more before Antoing where we wanted to spend the night. It was hot. And it was glorious. Waiting for the locks was no pain at all, and at Fresnes, the last one before the Belgian border, we had to wait quite a while. We only later discovered it was because here all the commercials had to produce their paperwork. As we had our vignettes (stick on boating permits), we didn't, but of course we had to wait for them. Fresnes took about an hour and a half all told.

More riverside loading quays

Waiting for the lock at Fresnes - not a bad life!

After a long stretch of rather lonely canal lined only with bushes and reeds, and where the only entertainment came from the busy activities of the water fowl, we arrived at the Belgian border. Almost immediately, the scenery changed. An avenue of tall trees replaced the bushes, towpaths were suddenly alive with cyclists and there was generally more to see altogether. Unfortunately, the weather also changed and we got well soaked on the stretch of canal that took us into Belgium. But it cleared up and by the time we moored up in the side basin at Antoing, the sun was out again. 

The old customs house on the border


Crossing the border into Belgium - note the trees!

Approaching Antoing with the castle as our beacon

Mooring at Antoing

We liked it so much in Antoing, we stayed there for two days. The town is not particularly beautiful although it does have a lovely castle (which was, sadly, closed). However, the people were really friendly and made us feel extra welcome; there were barges to watch and a great bunker station with a treasure trove of barge goodies; there was also an Aldi supermarket within a short walk of the boat. Tournai was an easy bike ride away too, and I cycled there to buy more cooking gas. On our second morning, we went to the market, where again we were treated with such friendly interest, it underscored for me once again why I love Wallonia so much. We met lots of lovely people in France too, but Antoing will remain in our memories as somewhere extra special.

Oh and yes, I bought Koos a hat at the market to protect his poor neck from too much sun - although from this photo, it looks as if his eyes do better out of the deal.


By now, it was Tuesday and we were nearly halfway through July. I was beginning to get work emails and as I'd originally said we'd be back at the end of June, I thought I should get back and get busy again, so we left Antoing for the last of the legs home.

This was really our goodbye to France and the French-speaking waterways. The next stop would be back in Flanders, so I'll leave that for a final blog.

Kortrijk, Astene and Gent deserve their own piece, don't you think?

This is by road as close as I can get to the route we took going.
We went by way of Gent, Oudenaarde, Roubaix, Lille, Douai and Cambrai,
then south.

And this is as close as I can get to the return route. We returned by way of Cambrai,
Valenciennes, Tournai, Kortrijk, Deinze and then Gent.

22 comments:

  1. A very enjoyable read Val and it comes across that in similar vein you and Koos had a great time. Very good photo's too,
    I was fascinated to learn that Milda came across the channel and seemingly without any navigation lights either ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a very good point, Mel! I can only suppose they made the complete crossing in daylight. They do have a sprinkler system, though... :)

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Isn't it fun? I was flabbergasted when I saw it bouncing into the pontoon.

      Delete
  3. It's hard coming home, isn't it - but one of the great things about writing travel is reliving all those fab times!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know exactly how I feel, Jo. But yes, reliving it through writing helps. I think there might even be an e-book about this trip, just so I can relive it all over again!

      Delete
  4. Fabulous and fascinating blog as always! Antoing sounds wonderful and I loved seeing the line of trees as you came into Belgium. All the photos are great - especially the one of you. I love Milda! What character! So glad y'all had such an awesome time. You deserve it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thank you, Steph! I just want to go again now! Xx

      Delete
  5. Once again I am fascinated that you can travel by water through several countries, Val, and the trip looks dreamy. I like the idea of a luxury mooring, which sounds very welcome. Milda is the cutest boat ever, and it amazes me the items people can convert into a home. The Castle of Antoing looks beautiful, like a fairytale, and that is a great picture of you, relaxing in the sunshine. What a great life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was the trip I've been dreaming of, Patricia. Just wonderful! Even the rain was part of the experience,

      Delete
  6. Hi Val - loved Milda - brilliant name and fascinating conversion - people are doing amazing conversions of all sorts now-a-days. Wonderful photos ... and I've loved the journey - we covered some of it in our history of Europe - both geographical and changing course of rulers as different eras came along in the course of life as history.

    I'm sure you want to go again ... looks glorious and I hope you can - though at least you have a shorter trip to look forward to ...

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Hilary. Yes, this region was very much part of the WW1 tragedy. Coincidentally, I was reading about the period during the trip!

      Delete
  7. I can understand why you are reluctant to let the memories of this holiday go - it sounds like a really special one - but that's the good thing about blogging. They're always here to remind you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was special, Ros. Possibly the most special ever. I have never been away on holiday for so long before. 10 days has been my maximum, even tomSouth Africa, so that has made it even more memorable!

      Delete
  8. Thanks for sharing that, Val. So glad you both had such a good time. It all looked and sounded splendid!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Splendid it absolutely was, Roger! One more to go :)

      Delete
  9. I have loved reading about your trip and seeing the pictures. I am so glad you enjoyed yourself and a dream came true. You deserved some time out to relax xxx

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you, dearest Fran! Next on my wishlist is to visit you. I'm going to do it before this year is out., xxx

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sounds wonderful, and the fact that you are missing it now only means it was really, really good. You'll have some good memories, specially as you have chronicled the trip well.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sounds wonderful, and the fact that you are missing it now only means it was really, really good. You'll have some good memories, specially as you have chronicled the trip well.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is like having my own holiday - the unfolding scenery of the canals, the stopover spots to cherish and the pleasure, when it comes, of lovely weather!

    ReplyDelete
  14. You were born to sail the waterways Val. The best thing about having a blog is reading last years holiday. I think if we didn't write it down we would forget so much.

    ReplyDelete

Apologies for switching on comment moderation, but this is to make sure everyone can comment without jumping through captcha hoops!