In the meantime….

Whilst trying to sort our transmission problem we have time to visit around & about……

Lens

Adrian very much wanted to visit Lens where he lived for 2 to 3 years whilst working for Hygena about 25 years ago. We were quite impressed with Lens, particularly with the new tourist office. Newly opened in an art deco building which was a porcelain shop (La Ville de Limoges) previously, left to decline but then bought by the town and converted for use as tourist office. The young staff were extremely pleasant, helpful & make excellent coffee!

 

Terril du Marais de Fouquierres

We also visited a nature reserve that has been established on the old marshes and mining area near Lens. In fact it was the dumping area for both the mines and for the coal fire ash from peoples’ homes. In places you can still see smoke rising from the deep pits within the marshes. We spent a most pleasant afternoon wandering around the reserve with time to stop, listen and look at nature all around. The birdsong was superb but even Chris with his humungous camera could not capture them!

Loved the wild flowers, a moorhen on her nest with her baby, emerging caterpillars & a swan carrying out his ablutions!

 

And so here we sit watching the world go by but enjoying northern France, the Pas de Calais, and hoping we can get sorted and on our merry way again soon!

 

Canadian National Vimy Memorial 

 

A magnificent monument on the Vimy Ridge, designed by Canadian sculptor & architect Walter Seymour Allward to commemorate the sacrifice of Canadians in the First World War.

The limestone monument is stunning, overlooking the Douai Plain, with symbolic figures carved into the stone. A cloaked figure stands at the front, a sorrowful figure of a woman, representing Canada, mourning her dead.

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Carved on the walls are the names of over 11,000 Canadians who died in France but whose final resting place is unknown.

We visited restored tunnels & trenches with a young Canadian volunteer (they come to France for 4 month stints) who made it clear just how close the allied and German trench lines were – at some points only 25m – and how awful life in the trenches must have been. The network of trenches originally ran the entire 7 kms length of the Canadian sector at Vimy.  5 British tunneling companies excavated 14 ‘subways’ in the Canadian sector, the longest being 1,700m long. They were used for communications, safe movement of soldiers to front line & other support services eg dressing stations.

In the Visitor Centre we read about the contribution of the Canadian Corps in recapturing the strategically important high ground of Vimy Ridge as part of the Battle of the Somme, April 9 – 12th 1917.

Grazing sheep – much of the site is off limits to visitors because it is still littered with unexploded munitions. Sheep graze the rough terrain and craters to keep the grass down. The craters were created by heavy artillery fire & by powerful underground mine explosions. Some were even named eg The Montreal Crater at Vimy Ridge.

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There are also 2 cemeteries for more than 3000 soldiers of the WW1 – including more than 370 Canadians who lost their lives during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

 

Problems problems problems

I mentioned in my last blog that things did not run entirely smoothly as we cruised from Wambrechies to Don. Every so often the engine revs would falter. We’d had this towards the end of last season and had changed the fuel filter, which seemed to do the trick. So Adrian tried to ‘bleed’ the fuel filter again. Lots of air came out so we reckoned we couldn’t have done this properly last time.

All seemed good when we set off from Don to Courchierres. But no, it came back again. So at Courchierres we decided to take the fuel filter out to have a proper look-see. Discovered we had the dreaded DIESEL-BUG! Nasty little micro organisms that like to live in your fuel tank & cause problems. We took samples from the fuel filter and both tanks to check – all had been clear at the end of last season but not so now! Dealing with this can be difficult – there are powerful preparations to put in the tank but if they don’t work the tank may need to be emptied and cleaned. We are carrying about 1000 litres of diesel. Luckily we had bought some ‘mega-jollop’ last year as a precautionary move, so we poured it in and waited 36 hours for it to do its work, took new samples and were amazed!

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Memo to self: always remember to add jollop when filling tank

2nd memo to self: buy more mega jollop asap – to be prepared, just in case…..

 

Whilst dealing with the BUG we were made aware of another problem. Water in the bilge. Original photos of the boat show no water in the bilge. The transmission shaft is water cooled and now we seem to always have water in the bilge. Can now see it spraying out of a gasket as the transmission shaft turns. It shouldn’t do that. And the automatic bilge pump should clear it anyway. The bilge pump wasn’t operating as it should either.

So Adrian spent ages trying to sort the bilge pump – thought it was kaput but he now thinks there’s some fault in the wiring to it. So that needs further investigation. In the meantime we can operate the pump by using the manual setting.

Memo to self: remind Adrian to do this after each day’s cruising

 

In the meantime we went to see a boatyard near where we were to ask what he thought re the water / gasket issue. He put the wind up us – gallic equivalent of ‘sucking air in through teeth’ – saying it needed sorting so as not to cause damage to the prop shaft. This involves getting the boat out of the water. His is a big yard, for big boats (40m ish) and therefore may not be suitable for us. Adrian has sent him photos of the hull so he can decide. We are also contacting other yards & keeping fingers crossed that we can get this sorted in a reasonable timescale.

At Courchierres we were moored in a lovely park but without any facilities. We were also having difficulty identifying moorings further along our proposed route without very long days. And since we had to go down the Canal du Nord and through a long tunnel to get to the Somme, we decided this would now be foolhardy. We aborted the plan and decided to return, gently, to Wambrechies where we have all facilities and can try to find suitable assistance.

So that’s where we are now. Chris decided not to continue on his own so he came back too & will return to Belgium soon.

Arrived on 14th – now 19th – but no joy yet. Alain the Capitaine here is very understanding & realises we may be here for sometime…….

As Liam once asked Adrian ‘and you do this for fun!?!?’

Even the local wildlife seem to think we’ve taken root. We were woken this morning by noises on the top deck ……… moorhens looking through the back window and generally rummaging about!

 

 

Lille

From Deulement we headed onto Lille on 27th April. Keith had told us about the port at Wambrechies, which is on the outskirts of Lille & an easy bus ride into the centre of town. We also saw that there was to be a big carnival in Lille that weekend and so decided not to moor in the centre, especially as Chris was nervous having had his bike stolen in Kortrijk ( where there had also been a big fair). So we moored in Wambrechies and it really is a lovely little port with several pubs and a superb boulangerie close by. We booked for a week so that we could go into Lille several times.

On the Tuesday the 3 of us went into Lille for a general wander about and had lunch in one of Adrian’s old haunts – Les Trois Brasseurs (three brewers) beside the station. Its a micro brewery so we each tried a different beer and had flammacouches – the local equivalent of pizza. All really rather good!

 

On Wednesday Adrian and I walked around Wambrechies and visited the Doll & Toy museum. Rather quaint I would say – the dolls are displayed in little tableaux, including WW1 scenes – we particularly enjoyed playing with some of the old fashioned games. Adrian had the audacity to beat me at draughts!

 

We noted that the celebrations in Lille had been deferred to the next weekend, rain & wind had stopped play on the 28th April. Lucky really because Rachel & Jonathan were due to join us on Friday 3rd May for a few days! I went off on Thursday to visit the Musee des Beaux Arts – unfortunately Adrian had managed to pull something in his back so was rather incapacitated for a few days. Very nice museum – not too big – and houses some excellent works. Good coffee too!

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Rachel and Jonathan arrived fairly late on Friday evening but we managed to share a bottle of Cremant de Bourgogne (or 3) while we caught up. Had a little jig on the top deck as a party boat went past. Love them to bits!

On Saturday Rachel, Jonathan & I (Adrian’s back still sore) headed into Lille for the Eldorado parade and celebrations. After walking around for a while we followed TripAdvisor’s suggestion for a beer and ended up at Les Trois Brasseurs! And we were ideally placed to ‘watch’ the procession as it started through the old town. Couldn’t see it all from our table in the bar but saw enough and heard lots more! Lots of music and dancing on the floats. There were bands and illuminations in front of the Hotel de Ville & the Place de Gaulle. There were lots of police around but the atmosphere was great with people (Rachel & I included) dancing in the street. One way to keep warm!

Then around 10.30pm, beside the canal, there were fireworks! And a very good display it was too. All in all a very good day!

And then we went to try and find a bus …… or a taxi ….. none to be found! So Adrian drove in to pick us ‘dirty stop outs’ up! What a star!

On Sunday we all went in search of a huge market. Unfortunately it had loads of food and clothing but no brocante which is what Rachel & I had been hoping for. Still you can’t win them all!

Monday 6th morning everyone was up early & we cruised the 16kms & 1 lock to Don. Although Rachel & Jonathan had joined us on board last year in Ghent at the DBA rally, this was the first time they had actually cruised on Piedaleau. We moored at Don, had lunch and then Rachel & Jonathan had to head off home – needed to visit a large supermarket en route to stock up on beer and wine.

 

The engine did not behave itself properly so at one point we thought we might have to stop ……. but the burning-type smell was coming from a waste disposal place outside, not the engine! But we did spend the next day bleeding air out of the fuel system and changing the gear box oil. The joys of boat ownership!

 

Chris then had a couple of friends come to stay with him for 2 days. John and Julie, narrow boaters and bikers. Huge bike with trailer on which they go off to rallies all over the place – literally covered thousands & thousands of miles. We had great fun all eating together first on Chris’s boat and then on ours. Very warm people with a great repertoire of stories! I even got to play ‘biker’s moll’ before they headed off….

 

 

 

 

 

Pat

 

Only some of you will have met, but many will have heard me talk about, my dear friend Pat Payton. He died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 97 years.

He worked with Tom at Jordan’s in Biggleswade and they would often ‘gang up’ together to get issues through the Board meetings. Pat was always active – working with Bill & David Jordan and playing cricket and tennis at Jordan’s into his 90s.

He was extremely upset when Tom died and helped me a great deal through that difficult period. He would come with me each March to Southwold to remember Tom, polish his plaque on the pier – calling him an ‘old bugger’ as he did so – & have fish and chips with a pint of Adnam’s beer for lunch. It’s only in the last 3 years or so that he was unable to come as his health was failing and he moved down to Rye to be close to his family.

In 2011 he joined me on Misty Morning in France for a week and I had great difficulty stopping him going up ladders in the locks. He did not like it that I was concerned for his safety. I was not impressed when a french ‘gentleman’ asked me why the Captain was driving the boat – or my husband (ie Pat sitting up the front holding the rope) when I explained politely that I was the Captain! We enjoyed the opening of the port at Auxonne with Sue & John Parker on the Aryani and the crazy jazz band!

Adrian and I managed to do a day trip from Belgium to Hastings to attend Pat’s funeral. It was good to put faces to some of the people I have heard about from Pat over the years. It seems that many others knew of me and Adrian too – referred to as ‘Jenny with the boat’!

I shall miss Pat.

 

Menen & Deulement

We left Kortrijk after a week and headed up river to Menen where we stayed on the town moorings for 3 nights. It was from here that Adrian and I made a day trip to Hastings to attend Pat’s funeral. Probably didn’t take much longer than if we’d have been at home! We left the boat at 7am, caught the 9.20am tunnel train. We got back to the boat by 7.30pm in time for a beer and kebab & chips (only place open) with Chris! A long day but really glad we made the effort.

Menen is in Belgium but is linked to Halluin which is in France. Whilst walking around we discovered a church with the most amazing stained glass windows!

I also found an excellent swimming pool 5 mins walk from the mooring!

Onwards to Deulement on Friday – Adrian was glad to leave the noisy neighbours behind!

Lots of commercials on the river!

 

Deulement is a small harbour outside a small village. Nothing there basically but at least we were off the river. The wash from the commercials going past can be quite disturbing and noisy. Since they start from about 6am it can interrupt one’s sleep!

We all went to visit the WW 1 cementery at Messines Ridge. Many New Zealanders are buried here following the Mine Battle of 7 June 1917 when the NZ division, with other troops, succeeded in capturing the Mesen salient from the Germans. Whilst we were there we saw preparations for a reception by the NZ Consulate to thank locals for the Anzac Day celebrations the day before. Impressive how efforts are still made to remember and recognise those lost in 1914-1918 war.

 

 

 

Roubaix

Villa Cavrois

Built between 1929 & 1932 as a family home for Paul Cavrois by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, to accommodate their 7 children and staff. M Cavrois owned local textile mills. He married his brother’s (killed in WW1) widow who already had 3 children and they then had 4 children. The villa is thought to be a total work of art – combining architecture, decoration and furniture.

It was occupied by German troops (1940-44) during which time it was damaged. The Cavrois family returned in 1947 and restored the villa, living there until 1985. A somewhat chequered few owners followed & the property went into disrepair. It was bought by the state in 2001 and given to the national monuments in 2008. Restoration started in 2003, in different phases, using old photographs and original materials and methods wherever possible.

The result is spectacular! I would willingly move in tomorrow!!

 

La Piscine

In 1932 Albert Baert built ‘the most beautiful’ swimming pool in France! It is an Art Deco masterpiece that was converted in 2001 to house the Roubaix art collection. The building’s original use has been used in a querky way to present the art and sculptures. The latter are displayed around the original poolsides and the water offers interesting reflections. The old changing cubicles are used to display contemporary collections. Short bursts of swimming pool noise (kids screaming & shouting) add a little ‘something’!     The extended galleries provide a huge variety of art.