DBA rally at Veurne

Having arrived on Piedaleau on Weds 8th Sept we went to Veurne on Friday to join Andy and Grainne on JoNi for the DBA rally weekend.

There is an annual Dutch Barg Association rally – we attended one in Ghent 3 years ago …. but obviousl last year it was cancelled because of Covid. At Veurne there were 22 boats and about 50 attendees. The organisers had to be careful regarding the activities provided and the weather was a little unkind at times …. but it was great fun none the less. We got to meet up with friends and fellow boaters which made life seem almost normal again! Needless to say there was much eating and drinking and sharing of boaty type escapades and stories.

Shared lunch along beside the boats

We shared a bottle of Champers with Andy, Pat and Grainne (aka Boozey Boaters) on JoNi to celebrate our nuptials.

We returned to Piedaleau on the Monday morning and I vowed to stay off the booze for a while ….. but the continuing saga of the starter battery didn’t help my will power! Hey ho!

Back on board at last!

After getting married we were off to Piedaleau in Valenciennes for a few weeks. We left her here just over a year ago expecing to return within a few weeks. She was dirty but we were very pleased to discover everything dry and protected inside.

We did various checks ….. oil & water fine; fuel test showed all well in the tanks!

So we tried to start her up! Absolutely NO GO! Dead as a Do Do, as they say down under! Probably the starter battery had died but we wanted to be sure it was not anything else, eg corrosion around the contacts. After discussion with Andy we checked and sandpapered the contacts to the starter motor in the engine. As always not the easiest of tasks but we persevered. We tried to start her again ….. NO GO!

About this time a nearby boat started their engine up and then guy apologised for the noise / fumes. I made some comment about being jealous since we couldn’t start Piedaleau. A rather bizarre afternoon / evening ensued!

The guy, Oscar, came over to have a look! He told us (I forget now just how many times) that he is the only boat mechanic in the area and had been working on the other boat. He is from Peru and has been in France for many years. Now divorcing French wife and looking for an English wife, even though he doesn’t speak English but, thanks to British TV, thinks this would suit him better.

His apprentice, Julie, her fiance, their dog and the guy from the end of the pontoon, and his dog, then arrived looking for Oscar. Julie was beside herself because they had had no idea where he had disappeared to and all were worried he may have fallen in the water! Apparently this has happened before! Needless to say drinks were required to soothe worried brows……..

But Oscar did manage to get the engine to start (think he jumped across from anothere battery) thereby confirming that it is a dead starter battery. We tried charging it overnight, to no avail, so then we had to source a new one.

So we drove to the Neptunia chandlery boat at Antoing. No luck. Sent us onto a battery place at Tournai where they sourced one for delivery Monday or Tuesday. Hopefully that will work out and we will be able to get a little cruising in before we have to return home late October. Got to do some cruising since we’re here!

In th meantime we took the opportunity to walk around Valenciennes and enjoy a coffee or a beer or 2! Lovely sitting in front of the Gare watching the world go by!

At Last!

4th September 2021

Adrian and I were married in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

We had originally planned to marry in July 2020 …. then early December ….. then 30th December 2020. Covid kept putting a spanner in the works but we finally got there!

We entered the Vancouver Suite together to Etta James singing ‘At Last’!!!! Even the registrars were amused.

We had a lovely ceremony with Freddie our ‘ring bearer’ and Lisa and William our witnesses.

Most of our family joined us and we had a most enjoyable afternoon and evening at The Bank Hotel beside the estuary.

All in all a truly memorable occasion!

Neither of us are changing our names …… we will respond to Mr Risdon or Mr Fennell and Mrs Fennell or Mrs Risdon!

Visitors

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Frankie and Greg (my sister & bro in-law) have been trying to come to the boat for some time but things & life kept getting in the way! They arrived on 4th Aug by Eurostar to Lille and we went to pick them up by car, so as to reduce their use of public transport as much as possible. Eurostar was well organised, pretty empty & they kept their masks on throughout, so no worries. Haven’t seen them for yonks so it was really great to get together. We all thoroughly enjoyed our few days together.

After a bit of difficulty getting out of our mooring, we went for a short cruise to Antoing and back. Being amongst the big boyos & in the big locks was a new experience for them!

We moored in the little harbour at Antoing for the night – just in front of our neighbours from Valenciennes! There was quite a bit of cabaret whilst we were moored there, what with cranes lifting heavy stuff right over our heads onto a building site ….

and then watching a guy on a commercial barge across the river load his car from the side into the hold.

We had a pleasant walk around the town and discovered that Antoing was the first town in Belgium to be liberated by the allies in 1944. But, like everywhere else, there’s no getting away from Covid and masks are obligatory throughout the town centre.

The Chateau towers you see from the river and above the town are really gorgeous!

And then, as we cruised back to Valenciennes we saw another first – camels on the river bank!!! Whatever next, I hear you ask……..

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Raclette for dinner on the top deck back in Valenciennes, that’s what was next…….

We were all suffering from the heat and the temperature was still climbing (saw 40C outside a couple of times) and so we decided we needed a nice dose of air conditioned culture on the Friday. We went to the Louvre at Lens and it was bliss! Needless to say Frankie and I were particularly enamoured of the Egyptian artefacts and she tried to read the hieroglyphics having been doing an on line hieroglyphs course throughout lockdown!

Frankie had jokingly said that we needed to find a nice big space in the air con to sit and rest and have a little doze. And that’s exactly what we found – complete with deckchairs – and exactly what we did for an hour or so! Liam commented that Adrian looked the ‘epitome of culture’!

 

Then on Saturday 8th Aug we drove them back to Lille for their return home on Eurostar. On our way back to the boat we decided to return home ourselves – heat was too much and we had heard that quarantine might be introduced for travellers from France any day. Eurotunnel was already very booked up so we had to take a booking on Sunday 9th Aug. We returned to find some new, nice quiet neighbours….

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Not sure when we will get back to the boat but we would very much like to get some final bits and pieces done and we would like to do some cruising.  But we cannot say where or when. Everyone is having to change plans both because of Covid and because of the weather. Many french canals are now closed due to lack of water. Being on the Grand Gabarit network means these waterways remain open at least.

We’ve cruised for 6 days so far this year and we have got Piedaleau to her new mooring. If that is all we manage this year then so be it. Many of our friends from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the States can’t get to their boats at all this year.

There probably won’t be many more Piedaleau blogs from me in 2020……

We just have to wait and see how things progress……

Valenciennes continued

We returned to Piedaleau in Valenciennes on 25th July having really enjoyed the couple of days visiting Grainne and Andy & Jo and Tim. We stayed put and wandered around and about the town as the temperature increased! Looked at buildings, Churches and statues.

And then, when it really became unbearably hot we went to visit the air conditioned Musee des Beaux Arts. Covid precautions were in place – masks, sanitiser and a one way system. We were informed more than once not to miss going downstairs to see the archaeological exhibits and the toilet! We preferred the statues & paintings ….

One bust of the gentleman of a certain age, with a rather special moustache, reminded me of my dear old dad!

I have been making bread throughout lock down in my trusty bread machine and had to order yeast and flour online when I couldn’t find any in the supermarkets. I was now running out of flour and so we took ourselves off for a delightful drive through the countryside to visit the Moulin de Sebourg, a working flour mill, I had spotted in a local guidebook. What a find! Absolutely beautiful village and mill. We were able to buy 5kgs of superb wholemeal flour. And the resultant bread extremely tasty! Result!!!

 

 

Around and about Valenciennes

We reached Valenciennes on 17th July and, luckily for us, the flow of water beside the moorings was not too strong. There is a weir at the end of the moorings so if the water is high and the wind is up it can be a difficult approach. We had been warned; but we were lucky and Philippe, Capitaine, was on hand to help us. The boat beside us has cameras set up and the next day we were surprised to learn that the owner of that boat had contacted the Port to express concern at the speed at which we entered our mooring. We haven’t seen the video but we certainly didn’t come in fast so we presume it must be something to do with the camera shot. Pasqueline (from the capitainerie) keeps warning me that anything I do might be ‘on camera!’

We’ve been here a few days and are taking things pretty easy even though there are always more jobs to do on a boat.

We walked along to the Etang des Vignobles on Sunday which was lovely and we saw some lovely wild flowers.

 

The centre of town is pretty busy with lots of people in the shops, bars and cafes but we have decided to keep a ‘low profile’ (as me dear old mum used to say!)

On Wednesday we went into town to get photocopies of a map book and to visit the weekly market. As ever we thoroughly enjoyed the market and the banter with the stallholders!

Then on Thursday Andy drove over from Bruges to pick us up so we could collect our car. We had a delightful overnight stay with Grainne and Andy and the dogs and went to the Brewery for dinner – complete with live music.

 

On Friday we drove over to see Jo & Tim in Veurne and spent another delightful evening with them before returning to the boat on Saturday for a well earned rest!

Leaving Bruges

After our fun filled, gastronomic extravaganza of a weekend we took a day to recover and to prepare before finally leaving Flandria and Bruges. We are really sad to leave both the city and all the wonderful friends we have made there over the last 3 winters.

But….. we hope new adventures await us in northern France…..

We left on Tuesday 14th July and headed off in the pouring rain en route to Valenciennes. First night we stayed in Merelbeke boathaven before heading up the Bovenschelde. We were making good time until we got to Oudenaarde lock where there was a problem and a bit of a traffic jam. We moored up on the halte nautic just before the lock to have some lunch but when things seemed to be taking a long time we decided to stay there for the night. Good decision apart from the wash from passing commercials – one was particularly vicious and caused one of our ropes to break when all 30 tonnes of Piedaleau were thrown about. Not pleasant.

Onwards the next day to the little harbour at Antoing, a place we haven’t stopped before. It looks quite an interesting place to visit again with the Chateau des Princes de Ligne & a Chinese restaurant recommended by Grainne & Andy. There is a stone plaque to commemorate Charles de Gaulle spending a year at school there which was proudly pointed out to us by one of the locals at the nearby Bar des Remparts! Most interesting sunset that evening.

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We finally reached Valenciennes on Friday 17th July in conjunction with a German couple, Hans and Heidi, on their yacht,  Sy Undine (Mermaid). They are en route to the South of France, the Med, Spain and the Greek Isles. Their departure from the Netherlands was delayed by Covid.  They keep having to change their carefully planned route & are now hurrying through France because of diminishing water levels – being a yacht they have a greater water draft. Thoroughly enjoyed talking with them – Hans was a Centrifugal separator specialist for the brewing industry. He has his own micro brewery at home in what was the garage complete with external tap so that their neighbours can share his produce!

Still we took time to all have a beer in the Capitainerie and for Hans & Heidi to join us for a glass of champagne to celebrate our arrival in Valenciennes.

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Celebrations!

Adrian finally finished adapting the panelling over the new tanks. It took ages as each support strut had to be adapted individually. The air turned a little blue a few times – particularly when he had just finished and discovered the torch was left inside!!!!

We decided to stay in Bruges until after my birthday and to do a little sightseeing whilst there were few tourists because of Covid. It got gradually busier and busier and the tourist sightseeing boats & horse drawn carriages started plying their trade again by the time we left.

We enjoyed wandering through the streets, visiting San Salvator’s Cathedral….

walking through the peaceful grounds of the Begijnhof …..

and generally ambling through the almost empty streets & squares.

 

Weekend 10 to 13th July

This was to have been a big family celebratory weekend for us in Norfolk. Adrian & I planned to get married on Sat 11th July and then to celebrate my 70th birthday on the 12th. We had rented a large converted barn for us all for the weekend. Covid put a stop to that!

Rather than downsize our plans we decided to postpone our wedding until Christmas time when we hope we can get the family together again. But we couldn’t stop my birthday so we planned a weekend of alternative fun in Bruges! It became quite a gastronomic feast!!

On Friday we walked around Bruges in the sunshine and had lunch in Den Gouden Karpel fish bar. I had been a couple of times but Adrian hadn’t and we’d promised ourselves we would do it at some point. Lovely! And we bought a range of salads from the delicatessen for supper!

On Saturday we took ourselves off to the seaside at De Haan and walked along the golden sand & watched the kite surfers speeding along. So lovely to breathe the sea air, stretch our legs & paddle.

We returned to Bruges for dinner at the Gouden Harynck (Michelin 1 star restaurant) to celebrate our non-wedding.

 

On Sunday morning we had a family zoom meeting with balloons & banners (their end) & cards and flowers decorating the boat at our end! Patrick, the harbormeester had been kept busy delivering post and parcels all weekend.

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Then back into the centre of Bruges to the Hotel Orangerie for afternoon tea courtesy of my niece Rachel. Excellent.

And finally in the evening Graine, Andy, Chris, Janette & Ian joined us for champagne on the poop deck followed by dinner in the clubhouse. Janette made me a birthday cake and the young waitresses, Lindy & Maite, led the singing of Happy Birthday.

A thoroughly indulgent and superb weekend! With lots of cards, pressies, flowers, phone calls and messages from family and friends all over the world.

I feel very loved and chuffed!

Thank you all xxx

 

 

 

 

Return to Piedaleau

Along with many other boaters, we have been eagerly awaiting our return Piedaleau…..

As the lockdown strictures began to ease we were able to visit Lisa and Freddie a couple of times to sit in her garden…..

Then we visited David Almond (Carmen) in Frinton on Sea. Lovely to see him, to walk along the beach, breathe the sea air and have an ice cream! (Can’t not have an ice cream at the seaside!)

Then, as soon as we were able to ‘bubble’ with someone living alone we went to visit Mary (alias scary-Mary-from-the-dairy but she moved!) in Shrewsbury. I had managed to leave my camera at her house just before the lockdown so wanted to retrieve it before heading back to Belgium. Both Mary and I were missing our hairdressers and so decided a little mutual assistance was required. Mary, however, got a little carried away behind me!

 

As soon as we were sure we could get through the tunnel, across France & into Belgium we were off. Chris Hanley was coming with us in order to complete the plumbing of the tanks which was so rudely interrupted by Covid! Unfortunately we had to go in separate cars or he couldn’t get home (no foot passengers on ferries) or we might get involved in quarantine in UK (if we drove him home!). We all set off really early and both cars arrived in Bruges by 10 am. Chris immediately set to work – took him 2 long days due to a dastardly leak in one inlet pipe. You know the one ….. the most awkward, inaccessible pipe in the whole installation. After various contortions (he’s over 6ft),  he managed …. and now all is good!

I cannot believe how excited I got about our new plastic TANKS!

At the bar Graine and I decided a little decoration was required…….

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Cheers!

Adrian is now fighting hard with the woodwork ……… changes to the plumbing mean that nothing just goes back into place. He is having to do a lot of jiggery pokery! But hopefully the rear cabin will soon be back to normal and ready for visitors.

We hope to set off in a few days but in the meantime we are enjoying Bruges as we have not previously seen it ie without the millions of tourists. And being able to sit outside for a beer or go to a restaurant for dinner again. The restrictions are less than at home, which feels a little strange, but seem to be working well.

 

Update June 2020

I am writing this in the hope that with the easing of the lockdown in the UK that we can rejoin the boat very soon.

As for many people the last 3 months have been a rather surreal experience! We have been fortunate in that we live outside of any town or village, have personal open space and extensive rural walks accessible from our front door. We have found some really good walks, watched the crops change and exchanged greetings with lots of other walkers. We’ve averaged about 3 miles a day …… we’ve also developed a liking for youtube pilates sessions. Adrian replaced his bike that was stolen from the bike shed here and got back into the swing of it, ready for the boat.

I have even taken up sewing again and made up palazzo pants and a kaftan from lengths of material that I have had for many many years!

We have avoided supermarkets as much as possible (worn our home sewn masks when we’ve had to venture there) & found various alternative shopping options ….. deliveries of veg boxes, frozen fish and local micro brewery beer! So not all bad!

We have kept well and luckily so have all our family members ……. for this we are very grateful. We loved going up to Lincoln for pizza in Lisa’s garden once things started to ease. Freddy has certainly grown (soon be 13!) but won’t be back at school until September.

There have been some interesting and amusing things thrown up through this lock down period and I thought I’d end this short post with a few pictures from a local house – they have displayed a daily Bear scenario over 58 days! Such creativity and dedication! Loved ’em! And hope they produce a calendar for 2021…….